updated 3/31/2008 12:11:23 PM ET 2008-03-31T16:11:23

Guests: Lewis Black

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Hi, this is the special 5th anniversary edition of our nightly idiosyncratic newscast on cable on MSNBC.  We call it COUNTDOWN.  It‘s a mixture of politics and humor and every once in awhile, I just kind of off with one of these special comment things like wait - we‘re in black and white?  I mean, I know the industry is going through financial restructuring - we can‘t afford color?

I mean this of all days, Senator Clinton staying she‘s staying in the race until kingdom come and we‘re staying in black and white? Hey, pay the $2. 

ANNOUNCER:  The following program is brought to you in living color on

NBC.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Till hell freezes over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And she agrees.  I have no intention of stopping.  Senator Clinton says in an interview she requested.  “Until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan.” 

For the Democrats, any exit strategy?  This was math so bad that Obama‘s daily tracking poll lead grows by 10 points today.  This with delegate numbers so bad, Clinton might be able to count Florida and Michigan and still not be in the lead.

Ever more delicate Iraq.  Al Sadr announces a truce, only it‘s the kind in which his insurrectionists don‘t have to give up their weapons.  And the president spins unrest as good news. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And by the way, we are withdrawing troops.  It‘s called return on success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Of course, they are only the troops even he can‘t legally keep there.

The commander in chief threshold task.  Senator Clinton speaks up.  We have found a copy.  Question 15, can you name the new president of Russia?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Medevdev (ph), whatever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Question 5B, have you ever been tardy to a show on this network?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Thanks, Keith.  Sorry we‘re a little bit late.  Hope we don‘t mess up the countdown. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Question nine, how often should the commander in chief joke about nuclear holocaust?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Bomb, bomb, bomb.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Lewis Black tells us whether the current commander in chief passed that test or if he hasn‘t even handed it in yet.

And the governor‘s favorite escort service.  Turns out it‘s number two woman executive was trying to make money to finish her college degree in—horticulture.  No, I‘m not kidding.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Sunday, March 30th, 219 days until the 2008 presidential election. 

She did not channel Winston Churchill.  She did not say we shall go on to the end.  We shall fight in Pennsylvania.  She did not say we shall fight in the primaries and in the convention.  She did not say we shall fight on the blogs, we shall fight on the Sunday news shows, we shall never surrender. 

No, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, in an interview she requested, Senator Clinton told the “Washington Post” she will never withdraw from the Democratic primaries nor bow out before the Democratic convention.  Quote, “That‘s what credential committees are for.” 

On the same subject, Senator Obama said, in effect, whatever.  He has not been specifically asked.  His reaction to another quote from Senator Clinton largely overlooked.  “This will all be for naught if we don‘t win in November.”  You might very well think so.  I could not possibly comment. 

After the first open plea that she bow out, Senator Clinton telling the newspaper she would not even consider dropping out for at least the first three months and beyond that, not until Florida and Michigan are quote, “resolved” on terms she finds acceptable.

Quoting here “I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong.  I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan.  And if we don‘t resolve it, we‘ll resolve it at the convention.  That‘s what credentials committees are for.”

The some people to which the senator refers, a substantial number of Democratic leader.  Among them only Senator Leahy of Vermont saying it on the record.  Leahy later clarifying his comments to say he has - or she has rather every right, but not a very good reason, to keep running. 

On the campaign trail this afternoon in State College, Pennsylvania, Senator Obama saying the long primary is good for Democrats.  Yesterday in Johnstown, Senator Obama saying his surrogate and colleague Mr. Leahy had been premature in calling for Senator Clinton to drop out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants.  Her name‘s on the ballot and she is a fierce and formidable competitor.  She obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best president.  And I think that, you know, she should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama‘s supporters tonight echoing—his staff tonight echoing that that statement is still valid after the comments have come out from Senator Clinton in the “Washington Post.”  Senator Obama also however believing that undecided super delegates should be able to reach their decision by the time voting has concluded in early June.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We will have had contests in all 50 states, plus several territories.  We will have tallied up the pledge delegate vote.  We will have tallied up the popular vote.  We will have tallied up how many states were won by who.  And then at that point, I think people should have more than enough information to make a decision. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Before starting along a parade route in a small Pennsylvania town yesterday, President Clinton - hint, he is the one in the green scarf—telling Democrats to relax.  In California this afternoon, yesterday‘s relax had become today‘s chill out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Don‘t you let anybody tell you that somehow we are weakening the Democratic Party by telling the people in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Indiana and Kentucky and West Virginia and Montana and South Dakota and Oregon and Puerto Rico that they count too.  We are strengthening the Democratic Party.  Chill out.  We‘re going to win this election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As for where things stand nationally, Senator Obama making it a little chillier for Senator Clinton.  In the Gallup daily tracking poll, it is now out of today 10 points and that is now behind the so-called Keith number of undecided voters, plus the margin of error, 8 percent, so-called by me. 

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

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

OLBERMANN:  What is the reaction among Democratic leaders to Senator Clinton‘s declaration?  It‘s obviously not a surprise to anybody.  But is it a surprise that she said it so fervently and comparatively early?

WOLFFE:  Well the reaction is a bit like an invitation by Dick Cheney to go hunting.  People tend to duck for cover at this kind of thing.  And they duck for cover for a number of reasons. 

First of all, people want this thing over as soon as possible.  Secondly, every time someone has had the courage or the foolishness to stick their head above the parapet, it‘s been blown off.  Nancy Pelosi had a letter for 20 fundraisers, donors saying back off just least week.  Senator Leahy had everyone from Barack Obama down, telling him to shut up when he said she should back out.  So this is a difficult situation for anyone to get involved with.  The track record is pretty ugly.

OLBERMANN:  One thing that was specifically contained in those remarks.  Senator Clinton told the paper that Florida and Michigan would need to be resolved.  Maybe I‘m misremembering.  Were they not resolved before the votes there? Did Senator Clinton protest the decertification of either state‘s primary while no other candidate still seemed capable of challenging her? Had she not acquiesced to that which she is trying to change right now?

WOLFFE:  Well to be honest, it has been noticed in places like Iowa and New Hampshire that her former commitment to this whole process, the rules which some of her own top officials approved in the DNC, that has sort of been fudged and gone back on.  And now the whole system that was set up is obviously under question. 

To be fair, there is something unresolved about having delegates from big states not being seated at the convention.  But the rules were the rules then.  Everyone signed up for them.  And essentially the outcome back then at the start of this whole thing was that they wouldn‘t be seated.  So in a sense, it was resolved, but in an unsatisfactory way. 

OLBERMANN:  To the immediate and long-term future, what would happen, do you suppose, if Senator Obama stopped engaging Senator Clinton in the primary process? I mean, at all.  Obviously, they‘ve got the one debate in Pennsylvania coming up, for certain.  Otherwise, what would happen if he just started to campaign against Senator McCain and was very kind of off-handed as he was yesterday toward Senator Clinton?

WOLFFE:  Well he has been edging towards that.  He has two 800-pound gorillas in the room.  You cannot actually ignore the Clintons at any stage.  And when he has effectively done that, become complacent, it really hasn‘t gone well for him.  He was complacent in New Hampshire.  He was complacent or at least tired in Texas and Ohio.  He doesn‘t compete at his best when he is ignoring the very threat in front of him. 

So yes, he‘s got to prove that he can take on McCain.  Democrats want to see him doing that.  But if ignores her completely, that‘s a time when a surprise could come up and bite him. 

OLBERMANN:  Your colleague at “Newsweek,” Jonathan Alter, had a very fascinating story from a very highly placed Democrat who had a long history involving the Clintons.  And to boil it down, saying leaders have gone to her and said look, if you drop out after Pennsylvania, we could collectively make you perhaps governor of New York or you might have to face this prospect of going back to the Senate, get blamed for losing the election whether you‘re the nominee or you‘re not.  And good luck, by the way, in the Senate in which the big guns largely sided not with you, but with Senator Obama.  Is that particular scenario about the New York‘s governor race is still a long shot, is there anybody in fact bargaining with her?  Or to put it a little less delicately, offering bribes to her?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s a difficult conversation to have.  I mean, this is beginning to seem like the final scenes from “No Country For Old Men.”  I mean, it won‘t be over until everyone‘s dead.  And in this situation, they are just so premature to be even talking about this kind of thing.  Especially with the Clintons, who are trying to prove to everyone there‘s a reason to keep going.

OLBERMANN:  John Kerry says this ought to be done by July.  Today, Chuck Schumer of New York joined Howard Dean in saying June, get it done by June.  Nobody saying how.  Is there any indication what they‘re thinking of? What is the difference as if the statements by Senator Clinton suggests, she‘s not going to give up no matter what‘s proposed to her. 

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s incredibly important that Chuck Schumer was the one who came up and said this now, because really if there‘s any sort of scenario where some group of people could go to her and say maybe it‘s time to fold here, it‘s the New York delegation, the people who have stood closest to her. 

It‘s not clear that that actually would be enough.  Of course, we don‘t know how this is going to play out over the next few weeks.  Chuck Schumer could be one of those people who could bring down the curtain or at least be one of a group.  That‘s important.  The mechanism, the structure, we don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  2008, Barry Goldwater, for the former Goldwater girl, how ironic that would be.  Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always as during the week and throughout the last five years, great thanks, Richard. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  This will all be for naught if we don‘t win in November, she said.  What do the newest delegate counts tell us after caucusing yesterday that has shifted Texas from a Clinton win to clearly an Obama victory?

And other spinning, far more serious.  Basra is in flames, al Sadr has ceased fire, but will not surrender his weapons.  Have you not heard the good news from Iraq?  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on NBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In Ft. Worth, an eight-hour delay coupled with lack of air conditioning led to shouting matches.  In San Antonio, the owner of a facility threatened to throw people out for fighting.  In Houston, they literally called the cops in.  Scenes from just before Texas seated seceded from the union at the start of the Civil War?  No.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the unhappy dance across Texas yesterday as Democrats try to find their way through the latest stage of the labyrinth that is their primacaucusvention there. 

Close a million showed up to convene in 284 different places yesterday.  And by most account, the precincts were totally unprepared to handle the crowd.  Local newspapers reporting meetings stretched so long in the night, that many left without knowing whether their votes had even been counted.  The Texas Democratic Party still trying to tally the results.  But with just over half of all precincts reporting, the “Associated Press” reports Obama is ahead of Clinton 60-40. 

So while Senator Clinton won the March 4th primaries, giving her 65 pledged delegates to Obama‘s 61 delegates, Obama‘s campaign is claiming overall victory in the Lonestar State, projecting that the senator from Illinois will now get 38 pledged delegates from yesterday‘s caucuses, while Senator Clinton gained only 29. 

The Clinton campaign disputes that and says all votes should be counted before anybody declares victory.  Overall at this point, Senator Clinton trailing Senator Obama in pledged delegates, 1,408 to 1,251. 

Joining us now, MSNBC and NBC News political director Chuck Todd. 

Chuck, thanks for some of your time tonight. 

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

OLBERMANN:  So do the math for us, again.  Has Obama, as his campaign claims, won Texas?  And if so, or even if not, what does that do for the national picture?

TODD:  Well one thing folks should keep in mind.  In our NBC camp, we have already allocated all of the Texas delegates, sans nine.  We were waiting for these final caucus results to finish in to allocate the final nine. 

Now, what the Obama campaign is claiming is that seven of those nine belong to them as far as our totals are concerned and Senator Clinton will only get two.  We have allocated already the primary and most of the caucus results.  So at best, the Obama campaign is going to net all of five delegates, which would expand their pledge delegate lead to 150, almost 160 pledged delegates.  Throw in the super delegates and the lead is down to about 125. 

OLBERMANN:  Chuck, both sides acknowledged that a lot of the delays yesterday in Texas was Clinton supporters challenging legitimacy of delegates, every delegate counts, every vote counts strategy.  Not to endorse the no vote left behind theory of Senator Clinton, but riddle me this.  How does Texas‘ system with its sort of three parts to it not disenfranchise the actual voters there?

TODD:  Well it really is a mess.  If you think about it, here you had millions of folks come to the polls to vote in the Texas primary.  And they only allocated two-thirds delegates that way.  Then they had this caucus process, which only people who voted in the primary could attend the caucus. 

Then they held those results for three weeks, we didn‘t know the  results.  That‘s why we couldn‘t allocate those final delegates.  We knew about half the results, but we didn‘t get reports from the other half.  So it was a mess.  It does—I think the Clinton campaign, knowing that there was really a mess going on in Texas, wanted to add to the chaos because they‘re trying to sort of delegitimize a little bit, how many delegates that Obama gets via this caucus process, in order to try to make that claim that hey, that pledge delegate lead he‘s got, that‘s mostly because he‘s just figured out the caucus process better.  That really doesn‘t matter in the big primaries.  She still wins and she did obviously win the primary. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously it‘s not Texas, but central in this baton like march to Denver in the convention as the Clinton called, seat Michigan and Florida if there aren‘t going to be revotes there.  Is there a statistical threshold approaching at which Senator Obama might already have enough delegates that he could acquiesce to that seating of those delegates from Michigan and Florida and still lead in the overall count?

TODD:  On May 6th, by May 6th, Keith, there will be of the 566 remaining pledged delegates, 349 of them will be allocated between three states, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana and then also Guam has got four in there.  They‘re on May 4th, sort of wedged in between Pennsylvania and that May 6th primary date. 

At that point, when there are only going to be 217 delegates left to be divvied up after May 6th, at that point, if Obama is still sitting on this same delegate lead - which frankly, it‘s very possible.  The way Pennsylvania allocates delegates, his areas of strength in Philadelphia, he should over perform his actual vote total number.  North Carolina is a state he could do well in. 

If the numbers basically remain unchanged as far as the margin, about 150 to 160 in pledge, 120, 125 when you throw in the supers, then he can be the magnanimous one.  I believe this is the Karl Rove idea.  I think he wrote an article over the weekend suggesting this, that maybe Obama be magnanimous and say, here you go, Senator Clinton, take all the delegates you want out of Florida and Michigan you claim you‘ve won.  You still won‘t be ahead.  Add in the popular vote and you still won‘t be ahead.  Then all of a sudden it actually hurts her overall argument that this race can still go on because if he can sit here and say take these extra delegates that you‘re claiming that we thought were in dispute and take that vote, and you‘re still not ahead. 

OLBERMANN:  Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News and MSNBC.  As always, Chuck, our greatest thanks. 

TODD:  You‘ve got it, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Waiter, there‘s a snake in my vodka.  Don‘t worry, sir, he won‘t drink much.

And how easy would your life be if you could lie to 22 million a week and not get fired?  Comedian Rush Limbaugh makes the finals of tonight‘s contest for the worst person in the world.

But first another nightly COUNTDOWN feature, the headlines breaking the administration‘s 50 running scandals of the administration, Bushed!  Number three, Katrina gate.  What happened along the Gulf in September 2005 and what didn‘t happen evidently was not bad enough.  One of the contractors hired to award thousands of federal grants so people could rebuild their homes is called ICF International of Virginia.  It is now hiring a collection agency to get a lot of that money back.  ICF says it may have overpaid as many as 5,000 recipients from the Road Home Program.  A group representing many of those recipients say that‘s not true, ICF is just exacting revenge against Katrina victims who complained about how little money they were awarded.

Number two, your tax dollars in action gate.  The good news from the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of government laptop computers disappearing from the DEA is down 50 percent from five years ago.  The bad news, the number of government guns disappearing from the DEA is up from five years ago.  And one of the weapons they just can‘t seem to find anywhere, a stunt machine gun. 

And number one, the nexus of politics and terror gate.  The Navy warrior for detainee at Gitmo has filed a legal document saying the terror prosecutions are rigged.  In it, he quotes a meeting from September 2006 in which the deputy secretary of defense Gordon England  told all the military attorneys to try to schedule any trials before you vote for a president this November.  “We need to think about changing—charging some of the high-valued detainees” the document quotes the deputy defense secretary as saying, “because there could be strategic political value by charging some of these detainees before the election.”  Of course, there‘s no reason to suspect that the administration has ever played politics with terrorism nor ever tried to scare you into voting for them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Forty-one years ago today was taken perhaps the most famous photograph in music history.  At the Chelsea Manor Photographic Studios in Flood Street in Chelsea London, using real wax models from Madame Toussad‘s, designed by Peter Blake taken by Michael Cooper was the photo for the cover of the Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  Sixty-one different people from Lawrence of Arabia to Bob Dylan.  A couple were cut out, Leo Gorcey from the old Bowery Boys movie who wanted to be paid, Ghandi.  The record company was afraid of backlash in India.  And, oddly, Senator Clinton claims she was in the photograph as well. 

At this point the comic relief provided by one of our nightly MSNBC staples.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin over to Bayou Bob‘s Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch in Texas where old Bayou Bob himself has been arrested for selling vodka without a liquor license.  And oh yeah, there‘s dead rattlesnakes in the booze too.  Police confiscated over 400 bottles of Vodka containing single baby rattle snake, saving the Lonestar Stake from a potentially killer cocktail.  Right, Texas law guy?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. CHARLIE CLOUD:  From what our research says, it‘s not poisonous.  We‘re going to take a bottle of it to our lab in Austin and have it further analyzed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Graphic kind of got in the way.  He‘s not a Texas alcoholic.  No truth to the rumors that the lab is in that guy‘s music and he will analyze it with some cranberry juice and a twist of lime.

At Waikato, New Zealand, where we join the annual running of the sheep, just like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, except the sheep have the streets to themselves and at the end of the line, they‘re turned into sweaters.  As for how many sheep participated this year, organizers could only offer an estimate of 2,000, because the guy in charge of counting kept falling asleep.

Iraq, violence in Basra continuing to escalate.  A sketchy truce in Sadr City and breaking news about a U.S. soldier captured in 2004.  It is not good news.  Rachel Maddow joins me.

And that famous commander in chief threshold test, we‘ve gotten a copy of it.  Lewis Black is here to explain how Mr. Bush did on it.

Stories ahead, but first time for another COUNTDOWN‘s nightly features, our top three best persons in the world.  Best is meant ironically.  Number three, best euphemism, Pastor Craig Rhodenizer from upstate Lyndonville, New York.  He had been missing since Wednesday and everyone feared the worth.  Not to worry.  They found him alive and kind of well, within 400 miles away at the KC Lounge Strip Club in Riverside, Ohio.  He told the missus he was headed out to Best Buy to get his computer fixed. 

Laptop, lap dance, what‘s the difference?

Number two best unintentional irony.  Akshay Thusu and the other students at the University of Texas in San Antonio.  They finally completed a five-year project to draft a new honor code, urging classmates not to cheat or plagiarize.  They put it online for feedback were and were immediately informed some of it had been plagiarized word for word from the honor code at another university.  They think they just left out the footnote.

And number one best old joke disproved.  Grace O‘Toole, who‘s the

number two female executive in a prostitution ring.  According to the “New

York Post,” it was patronized by former Governor Eliot Spitzer.  A note she

posted on the Web in 2006 indicates she may have been trying to raise money

to resume her college degree, possibly in political science.  Or being that

she was a big botany fan, possibly in horticulture.  Horticulture?  That

old joke is you can lead a horse to water, but you can‘t lead a -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Breaking news tonight that a U.S. soldier missing in Iraq since 2004 has been found.  More specifically, more awfully, his remains have been identified.  The father of Sergeant Matt Maupin telling the “Associated Press” tonight he has received that word from the U.S.  military.  This just one week shy of four years since Sergeant Maupin was captured.  Capture videotaped, a subsequent video purporting to be his execution never verified. 

Four years later, John McCain and President Bush have been touting the success of the surge in Iraq this past week.  If you didn‘t hear them, it may have been drowned out by this week‘s mortar fire. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, it‘s so bad, U.S. officials in the Green Zone today used a phrase likely to starch the shorts of anybody who remembers the Cold War.  Duck and cover.  After Senator McCain‘s trip to Iraq last week, he called the escalation a success, the same day the Iraqi government launched an assault in Basra against militias loyal to Muqtada al Sadr, demolishing last year‘s cease fire, triggering new militia fighting in sometimes militia seizing towns of Nasiriya, Hut (ph), Killa (ph), Amara, Karbala, Shatrah, Zuwayre (ph), Baquba and others, Baghdad among them. 

Today, al Sadr called a cease fire, demanding that government release Sadrists who have not been charged be arrested and stop its raids on al Sadr‘s political allies.  But al Sadr is also refusing to disarm.  This it is unclear how long this cease fire of the fighting that ended the previous cease fire will itself last. 

McCain and Mr. Bush praised the government assault as evidence of Iraq‘s ability to shoulder its own military burdens.  Mr. Bush Friday talking U.S. withdrawal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We are withdrawing troops.  It‘s called return on success.  And our intention is to pull down five battalions by July.  Troops are coming out.  Five brigades, excuse me.  Troops are coming out because we‘re successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In fact, troops coming out will leave behind a force larger than before Mr. Bush‘s so-called surge began.  And by the time Mr.  Bush spoke those very words, Iraq‘s military proved insufficient and Americans had entered that combat.  Not to mention that some of the Iraqis, 40 Baghdad police officers defected to the militias yesterday. 

Joining us tonight, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, also host of her own program every weeknight on Air America Radio.  Thanks for your time tonight, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Bush‘s criteria for success, or of the escalation or the surge, however you want to phrase it, a reduction of violence, political reconciliation in Iraq, the ability to reduce U.S. troop levels to where they were pre-escalation.  On which of those criteria are Mr. Bush and Senator McCain basing their claims of success in Iraq?

MADDOW:  Well the reduction of violence did happen in some parts of Iraq for some amount of time.  Obviously from the footage you were just airing and the news we‘ve all seen this week, it is much, much worse in some other places. 

In terms of political reconciliation, that‘s hard to claim when some Shiite factions are now literally at war with each other.  Not in some political metaphor, but are literally waging war against one another in the south of the country and in parts of Baghdad. 

And in terms of U.S. troops coming home, in the last few months, we‘ve seen more U.S. troops in Iraq than any other time since the invasion.  As you mentioned, after the surge is over, we will have more troops there than before Bush announced this dramatic change in strategy after the November ‘06 Republican election losses. 

It doesn‘t look like Petraeus or Bush is going to plan to bring down the troop numbers down significantly before Bush is out of office.  So if the goal posts keep moving and if the grounds on which you are going to claim success are never remembered, are somehow moved down the field all the time, then success becomes just a political word that doesn‘t have any absolute meaning at all. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not just goal posts.  This is about the coin toss. 

This is the heads, I win, tails, you lose coin toss. 

MADDOW:  Yeah. 

OLBERMANN:  When violence dips, Senator McCain, for one, calls this a sign of progress.  When violence flares, he calls it a sign that progress is fragile, but both cases he says demonstrate why American troops need to stay there.  How does that argument play in November? Is it too simple even to sell to people who want a rationalization to stay in Iraq?

MADDOW:  That‘s the very simply thing that war proponents, whether it‘s from the Bush proponents now or whether it‘s from McCain and his advisers for the future.  That‘s the very simple thing you need to understand about what their argument has said, is that heads, I win.  Tails, you lose. 

Essentially, McCain has argued that if we are not incurring casualties, then U.S. troops can stay forever.  But if we are incurring casualties, then U.S. troops can‘t leave.  What that boils down to is casualties, no, they need to stay forever. 

Remember when the argument from Bush was we will stand up Iraqi forces so that American forces can stand down? In 2006, Bush and the Pentagon were saying they expected Iraqi forces to be completely in control of all of Iraq by some time in 2007. 

And in January 2007, Bush said that would happen by November 2007.  Well, of course, now it‘s March 2008.  Iraqi forces aren‘t even in control of one quarter of Basra, which is Iraq‘s second largest city.  The Pentagon in its latest quarterly report has dropped all mention of when Iraqi forces might be expected to be able to control their own nation.  The goal posts just keep moving and keep moving and keep moving. 

OLBERMANN:  Perversely, do our elections play into events in Iraq?  Republicans really want political reconciliation in Iraq now if it mean that is a radical Islamic cleric like al Sadr might do well in Iraqi elections this October, one month before our elections in this November?

MADDOW:  Or that Nuri al-Maliki may shore up his political success by allying himself with the Badr brigade, which is the second largest Shiite militia in Iraq, which has even stronger ties to Iran than Muqtada al-Sadr‘s Medhi army does. 

What‘s going on, you have John McCain surrogates for example like Lindsey Graham, his very close associate on the morning shows today saying it‘s Iranians killing Americans and trying to turn the crisis in Iraq, the security crisis in Iraq right now into a call essentially for the U.S. to wage war on Iran.  It sounds to me like they‘re trying to push the situation in Iraq right now for their own political gain and toward the next war. 

OLBERMANN:  Gosh.  Who would have thunk that?  MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, who has of course her own radio show weeknights on Air America.  Thank you, Rachel, good night. 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The much awaited revelation of the commander in chief threshold test.  Yes, there is a physical coordination exam. 

And our infamous nightly segment, the worst persons in the world.  Wal-Mart, suing a brain damaged gold star mother to get back the money its health care plan paid her. 

One bit of self promotional dribble.  If you really like this show, there‘s a book filled with these special comments in which I‘ve criticized the current administration, if any.  It is called “Truth and Consequences.”  And after a glorious run, it is now 11th on Amazon‘s list about books about journalism, stuck between Oprah and something about George Orwell.  And it is now available without a prescription.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was Senator Clinton who revealed the existence of a commander in chief threshold on the 6th of this month.  Her adviser Howard Wolfson four days later who let the ultimate cat out of the ultimate bag, that there is a key commander in chief test.  Well get a pencil, a number two one, and some paper.  And find out right now if you or your favorite candidate are presidential tipper.  Because our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, it took us three weeks, but we have located a copy of the actual commander in chief threshold test. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Question one, where does the Green Bay Packers football team play its home games?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  An indifference to Lambert Field and Vince whom I‘ve quoted a few times, I have to go to this Packers fan here.

OLBERMANN:  Miss this one as that gentleman did and your marginal victory in Wisconsin is reduced to 12,000 votes.  Lambeau Field. 

Question two, there‘s a guy you don‘t like with a camera at a campaign spot.  Do you call him, A, our young visitor or, B, an obscure racial term from North Africa?

GEORGE ALLEN, FORMER SENATOR:  Let‘s give a welcome to macaca here. 

OLBERMANN:  Question three, the commander in chief physical challenge. 

Question four, have you ever hosted a failed show on this network? 

Question five, are there still air check tapes of these shows?

ALAN KEYES, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Welcome to making sense. 

I‘m Alan Keyes. 

OLBERMANN:  A yes to question four or five, and you have failed the commander in chief test.  Question 5a, have you ever been tardy to a show on this network?

OBAMA:  Keith, sorry we‘re a little bit late.  I hope we don‘t mess up the COUNTDOWN.

KEYES:  The very thought sickens me.

OLBERMANN:  Question six, the biathlon event, just the Olympics, a combination of cross country and shooting. 

Question seven, military experience.  If you have any, make sure you bring documents.  Question eight military experience, if you have any, even if you served in Korea, do not pose in a tank if you look funny in a helmet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  America can‘t afford that risk. 

OLBERMANN:  Question nine, what is the correct way for a commander in chief to address the subject of the presidential inseam?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  See if you can‘t leave me about an inch from where the zipper uh ends round under my - back to my bunghole. 

OLBERMANN:  Question 10, how often should the commander in chief joke about nuclear holocausts?

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.

OLBERMANN:  Let me repeat question ten.  How often should the commander in chief joke about nuclear holocaust?

MCCAIN:  Bomb Iran.  Bomb, bomb, bomb.  Anyway—

OLBERMANN:  Question 11, which previous commander in chief should you invoke most often during your campaign?

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK:  Ronald Reagan. 

MCCAIN:  Ronald Reagan. 

MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  President Reagan. 

MCCAIN:  Ronald Reagan. 

ROMNEY:  Ronald Reagan. 

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ronald Reagan. 

ROMNEY:  Ronald Reagan.

OLBERMANN:  Question 12, how close should you claim your relationship to that commander in chief was?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ve had triumphs and made some mistakes.  We‘ve had some sex—setbacks. 

OLBERMANN:  Question 13, are you now or have you ever been confused about who will be your right-hand man when you are commander in chief?

BUSH:  Left-hand now knows what the right hand is doing.  The left hand now knows what the right hand is doing. 

OLBERMANN:  Question 14, the lightning round. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you name the president of Chechnya?

GEORGE W. BUSH:  No.  Can you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you name the president of Taiwan?

BUSH:  Yeah, Lee (ph).  The new Pakistani general who has just been elected—not elected, but took over office. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can name him?

BUSH:  General?  I can name the general. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the prime minister of India?

BUSH:  The new prime minister of India is—no.

OLBERMANN:  Question 15.  Who is the new president of Russia?

CLINTON:  Medvedev (ph), whatever. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

CLINTON:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Question 16, explain the fallacious reports of an interaction between secular groups of the 90 percent Shia population of Iran and the violent groups of extremists in 40 percent Sunni Iraq identifying themselves as al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.  And no help from the other students.

MCCAIN:  Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. 

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  You said the Iranians were training al Qaeda.  You meant to say they were training extremists, terrorist.

MCCAIN:  I‘m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. 

OLBERMANN:  I said no help. 

MCCAIN:  Bomb bomb bomb, anyway—

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, question 17.  The commander in chief field danger assessment.  Watch this sample videotape carefully.  Is this a dangerous situation on the front lines somewhere, requiring the commander in chief to run to his or her vehicle or is this a meet and greet photo op at an airport?

And for bonus points, is that a little girl with a poem or a sniper? 

Very short sniper with a poem. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So if you got between zero and four answers correct, you‘re not only not qualified to be president, you shouldn‘t be allowed out of the house by yourself.  Five to eight right, it probably wouldn‘t hurt if you visited Washington, but please don‘t stay over night.  Nine to 14 right, well, we‘ve done worse.  If you are going to run, we recommend you stick to trying to seek the nomination of the wig party or perhaps the Federalists.  Fifteen or more right, congratulations.  You are qualified to be president.  Why on earth are you wasting your time watching this show?

What does a current occupant get on that test?  Our friend Lewis Black from Comedy Central‘s “Root of All Evil” is here to do what he does oh, so very well, pass judgment.  That‘s next.

But first time for another one of our regulars features, COUNTDOWN‘s nominees for the worst person in the world. 

Our bronze goes as it will until they resolve this to Wal-Mart.  In 2000, one if its Missouri employees Debbie Shank was horribly injured by a semi, brain damaged, in a wheelchair in a nursing home, now.  She was left with $417,000 to pay for a lifetime worth of 24 hour a day care and Wal-Mart sued her for the $417,000.  There was a clause in her Wal-Mart health care that she did not know about, which allowed the company to get back any amount it paid for her recuperation.  So legally, Wal-Mart is right.  But Mrs. Shank‘s injuries are such that she has a hard time remembering new things.  When she asks about her 18-year-old son Jeremy every day, they have to tell her every day that he was killed in Iraq last September and she goes through that as if for the first time every day.  Wal-Mart, low prices, lower ethics every day. 

The runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh, standard manure here.  But as usual, every once and a while he goes overboard and gets caught in a flat out lie.  Now saying of Senator Obama, he‘s never reached across the aisles for legislation.  He‘s a blank slate by his own admission.  Except when he reached across the aisle for the Lugar/Obama initiative on nuclear proliferation, cosponsored with Richard Lugar in Indiana, who is a Republican senator.  Except when he reached across the aisle for the Congo relief bill, cosponsored with Republican Senators Brownback, Collins, DeWine and Inhofe.

But our winner, Dick Morris, he said this on FOX News the other day.  Now he‘s written it in a column for a lunatic fringe Web site and he‘s lied twice about this.  Talking about the quote, “elaborate yarn” Senator Clinton told on the “Today Show” a week after 9/11, that her daughter was jogging around the World Trade Center when it was hit.

Quoting Dick, “The kindest thing we could say was it was a fantasy or a fabrication.”  Problem is, Senator Clinton never said it.  See, even from the ancient past, 2001, Dick, we still keep the tapes from the “Today Show.”  And what Senator Clinton did say about her daughter and the World Trade Center was, quote, “She was going to go down to Battery Park.  She was going to go around the tower.  She went to get a cup of coffee and that‘s when the plane hit.  She was close enough to hear the rumble.” 

“A fabrication about 9/11 and Chelsea,” writes Morris, continuing to lie, “calls into question her entire credibility.”

No, it doesn‘t.  It would call into question your entire credibility, if your entire credibility hadn‘t been shot when it turned out when you used to let your hooker listen into your phone calls to the White House.  Dick, three-way calling Morris, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You want to worry about the future of the democracy?  Just remember that while there has never been a real version of that commander in chief threshold test we showed you before the commercial, until a couple of years ago, you had to pass an actual exam written and practical to get a license in Pennsylvania to be a taxidermist. 

Number one story on the COUNTDOWN, shouldn‘t we ask as much of our would-be presidents as we do of our say, ham radio operators or has that ship already sailed?

Lewis Black has a somewhat judgmental show on Comedy Central, “Lewis Black‘s The Root of All Evil” and in June, he‘ll have a new book, “Me of Little Faith.”  Good to see you sir.

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDY CENTRAL:  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  Why don‘t we have some sort of test?  I mean showing up with a number two pencil should give you some hope for the guy.

BLACK:  Yeah.  Actually, I think if you started with a urinalysis, they would still find a way to cheat. 

OLBERMANN:  There is the device that the football players use. 

BLACK:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Allowing you to bring someone else‘s urinalysis to the test.

BLACK:  But what I did like about the concept of a test is if would do that and then whoever got the highest score just won and we didn‘t have to go through this.  You know, seriously.  It‘s just too much that‘s gone on.  I don‘t know how you do it every single night having to watch this.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t have to go through it—a urinalysis test.  That‘s how I do it.  President Bush, commander in chief, in your estimation, studied the man now for seven years, other things in chief?

BLACK:  Vacationer in chief. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s true. 

BLACK:  He‘s the chief vacationer.  He takes every August when I‘m still doing stuff that really—there‘s no reason I should be working and there‘s like—and we‘re in the midst of another catastrophe, and he‘s out there. 

I go, well, he‘s doing it for me.  He‘s doing it for me.  And he also sleeps for us.  How can he sleep? He sleeps more than—I mean, we do these things where you kind of have days where you—you know, we do this kind of show, we get pumped up, hard to go to sleep.  He goes through it.  Boom, every day, it must be like an adrenaline rush.  How does he sleep? 

What‘s he taking?  Why doesn‘t he tell us?

OLBERMANN:  Well it‘s the other option, a phrase that was once used to me in sports—I‘m not saying it applies to anybody currently.  But no pain to gain.  But the corollary to that was no brain, no pain.  So I‘m not saying that applies.  All right, an actual threshold test.  Some minimum requirements, would it have been helpful for this administration? Would he have expected more of himself, perhaps?

BLACK:  Reading.  Just reading.  The ability to read a resume would have been nice, as opposed to kind of picking up a piece of paper and going, oh, yeah, that will work. 

OLBERMANN:  Who sent this guy? One thing, oh, yeah, I know him. 

BLACK:  And he believes in God. 

OLBERMANN:  The threshold moment of this administration, can we even keep track of them? The actual test in the field where you‘re already the president and suddenly people go, check, please. 

BLACK:  I think as a stand-up comic, if I were to go back through all of this that I‘ve talked about and made fun of, I would be on stage.  It would be a telethon. 

OLBERMANN:  Jerry Lewis out, Lewis Black in.

BLACK:  It‘s endless.  And then when you think, well, you kind of forget he‘s there for a little bit and then all of the sudden you turn around and you know the bank is going down.  Because he said the bank was going to be OK.  Everything is going to be OK.  The economy is OK.  Then all of a sudden, Bear Stearns goes to hell.  Then the next day they say, we‘re going to regulate it with the—we‘re going to use the federal regulated reserve system.  Then you go and read the paper.  They have really no plan.  And you just go, you have no plan at this point?

OLBERMANN:   Well, again, a test would have been helpful at some point.  Do you have a plan of any kind? Let‘s look ahead in the brief time.

BLACK:  Do we have to?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  McCain, Obama, Clinton, how are they scoring so far in our imaginary mental exam?

BLACK:  I think three.  That would be the score O would give each of them. 

OLBERMANN:  Out of what?

BLACK:  Out of 100. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.

BLACK:  Especially if they‘re going to keep this up.  My feeling is that I‘ve seen so much of them that I feel like they‘ve already been president.  I can pretty much figure out what it will be like and let‘s pick somebody else.  Let‘s move on. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re on the phone to Al Gore saying, this is how this should be resolved? You‘re going to intervene?

BLACK:  He can pass the test, but let‘s not push it. 

OLBERMANN:  Who is it? It‘s you, isn‘t it?

BLACK:  Oh, yeah. 

OLBERMANN:  Jon Stewart?

BLACK:  My mother won‘t allow me. 

OLBERMANN:  Well then who?

BLACK:  Santa. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, Santa.  Lewis Black of Comedy Central and the upcoming book “Me Of Little Faith” and the chairman of the Santa for president committee.

BLACK:  I am.  I‘ve been pushing this.  Well, you‘ll come around. 

OLBERMANN:  You keep pushing. 

BLACK:  Another month of this, you‘ll come around. 

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for coming in. 

That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,795th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  As unlikely as this seems, we bring you COUNTDOWN live every weeknight on cable on MSNBC at 8 Eastern, 5 Pacific.  This is our fifth anniversary week.  We‘ll be looking back at the wilder moments from the “Dragnet” episode about Senator Larry Craig to the journalistic innovation we call “puppet theater” to tomorrow night, replay of the first special comment of August 2006.

Till then, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  From New York, 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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