updated 4/8/2008 11:57:44 AM ET 2008-04-08T15:57:44

Guests: Dana Milbank, Richard Wolffe

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

Senator Clinton fires her chief strategist, unless she didn‘t fire him and he‘s going to be hanging around any way, only without a title, even though he‘s also working for the Colombian government, promoting free trade with the U.S. that Senator Clinton is supposedly against.

Senator, which is it?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CHIEF STRATEGIST:  You can use the word hypocrisy but there certainly questions that arise from this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And separately, from this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I actually started criticizing the war in Iraq before he did.

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OLBERMANN:  No, even buying this delusion that criticizing a war after you supported starting it, is better than criticizing a war before it started, she only started criticizing January 26th, 2005.  The other guy started criticizing January 18, 14 days after sworn in as a senator.

First, Bosnia; and then, the pregnant woman without insurance turned away from the hospital who actually had insurance and was in the hospital; and now rewriting history, with very poor “Penn-manship.”

The Republican nominee has his own Iraq problem.  We are approaching normal there, he again says today.  And in the middle of his speech, grim reality interrupts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the year that has passed our nation showed -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  And speaking of Iraq, we do have breaking news out of Iraq where at least four mortars have been fired into the heavily fortified Green Zone today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And when your refusal to ever pull out of the presidential race becomes a punch line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE IMPERSONATOR:  I think it would be in the best interest of the party if I stepped aside for the Obama campaign.  Psych.  That will never happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The dangerous combination of the siege mentality, the public ridicule, and this particular scene from the movie, “What‘s up, doc?”

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Monday, April 7th, 211 days until the 2008 presidential election.

On Saturday, Penn had the singular experience of being fired by an entire country, Colombia, to be specific.  Yesterday, he was fired again, this time by the woman who wants to run an entire country, Senator Hillary Clinton, to be specific.  The senator reportedly furious with Penn for taking her checks as a chief strategist, at the same time, he had a $300,000 contract with Colombia to push the very same free trade deal which she opposes.

Today however, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Mark Penn is back at work, not for Colombia but for Senator Clinton.  Even as today‘s “New York Times” reported benignly that, quote, “He will continue to do some polling,” Penn today did considerably more than just that, participating, just as before his firing, in the Hillary Clinton morning call about its daily message, the conference call with reporters.

Also, according to the “Atlantic” monthly magazine, Penn began prep work today with Senator Clinton for Saturday‘s debate and according to an unnamed senior campaign official cited by the magazine, quote, “is still going to be very much involved in the campaign” despite Senator Clinton‘s reported fury, despite labor union outrage with her about Penn.

Last night, Senator Clinton appearing to anoint a former president, Ronald Reagan who would cup his ear and shake his head as if he could not to hear whenever he did not want to hear a question shouted towards him.  Senator Clinton not stopping to hear a reporter‘s question about Mark Penn, let alone answer it, leading Penn‘s counterpart in the Obama campaign to fill in the vacuum about Penn‘s non-departure departure this morning on MSNBC.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

AXELROD:  She‘s stuck him with him through the revelation that his firm was working fro Blackwater and working for Countrywide, and, you know, so, it‘s kind of stunning.  Remember that the embassy said they weren‘t sure whether he was there as a representative of his firm or a representative of Senator Clinton.  I mean, I think there are issues associated with this.  I‘m not—you can use the word hypocrisy, but there are certainly questions that arise from this.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One question: Did today‘s Olympic statement from Senator Clinton calling for President Bush to boycott, to protest Chinese policy on Tibet and Darfur originate with Peen, pushing as this somewhat has his own story off the political front pages.  And we‘ll (ph) also ask what role Penn played in another Clinton statement today, urging her senators to vote against the U.S. free trade agreement with Colombia.

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine: Richard Wolffe.  Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  What exactly changed regarding Mark Penn‘s employment with the Clinton campaign and does it adequately addressed whatever reasons existed for his demotion/resignation/firing in the first place?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think, a fair amount (ph) actually changes for Mark Penn.  Penn himself w3as known for what they call in diplomacy a frank exchange of views and he would have this frank exchange of views with just about everybody in the campaign.  And it‘s much harder to throw your considerable weight around if you are physically demoted.

Other people pick up the slack, they fill in the vacuum, and it‘s just harder to have that as your M.O.  Having said that, he‘s obviously controlling the numbers and the polling numbers, and for the Clinton campaign, polling numbers drive a huge amount of strategy.

So, he still has his influence.  He still has his position with the Clintons themselves.  And as we heard, he‘s still on the conference call.  So, the campaign runs along regardless, but personally, obviously, this is a takedown for him.

OLBERMANN:  But Mark Penn as issue in the campaign as opposed to participant.  If she‘s specifically campaigning in Pennsylvania in the last couple of weeks, stating she is against the Colombia deal and Penn has been lobbying for it.  And Penn‘s clients in the Colombian government criticized Obama for opposing the Colombia deal, but they‘d been silent about Clinton‘s opposition.

How does she reduce the appearance of some sort of conflict of interest by firing him, but not really firing him?  It would seem that magnifies the appearance of conflict of interest.

WOLFFE:  Yes, I think you‘re right.  She hasn‘t taken it off the table.  But there‘s another piece of this which isn‘t really addressed at all which is the judgment question.  This was a problem waiting to come out into the open.

In the sense that Penn was in an extraordinary position, not giving up his P.R. consulting lobbying job, where everybody else in the campaign, someone like Howard Wolfson, communications director, he gave up his consulting job to be a senior person of the campaign.

When you have the most senior person, most senior staffer, conducting work with his clients, also having said, I‘m only going to work for Microsoft and the Microsoft account and then getting in to this.  Who knows what other clients throughout there, what other business he was working on, while at the same time working for the Clinton campaign?  So, it‘s a judgment question, not just for Penn, but for Hillary Clinton herself.

OLBERMANN:  Fit the piece into the jigsaw puzzle, what has happened to this campaign as a political entity?  What is this representative of?  I mean, four months ago, we were sitting at our respective desks here talking about how her entire campaign for nearly a year had not made a major mistake and nobody could think of a thing that would stop her, barring the totally unforeseen and since Iowa, it‘s been nothing but unforeseen.  It‘s been like watching somebody fall down of by the stairs in slow motion.

WOLFFE:  Well, in some sense, the Penn battle plan worked perfectly until the first contact with the voters.  I mean, this was a plan designed around idea of strength and electability.  And you know, the strength argument and the electability argument couldn‘t take any hits because once she suffered the loss in Iowa, once they started to stumble, the faults --  the weaknesses behind that strategy all tumbled apart.

So, you know, the problem was the Penn strategy.  It took them only so far and there was no room to make up for any mistakes.  The problems were always there, we were just sort of blinded by this idea of people saying, hey, we‘re really strong, we‘re really electable.

OLBERMANN:  Damn voters screwing things up as usual.  The Clintons tax returns, they released their records on Friday afternoon, the time what, everybody had a weekend to review them and I‘m sure that‘s what you did this weekend.  Are there next day headlines emerging?  Is that still a story or did they manage to do a Friday afternoon dump?

WOLFFE:  No, it was a Friday afternoon dump for sure.  But I think there are also really important questions here especially about the Clinton Foundation and it was really interesting seeing how one of the first stories to come out of this was how the charitable donations were going to the Clinton foundation.  The question is: Who else has been donating to that foundation?  What do they get for it?

And the Penn story also raises those business ties and those questions about ethics.  So, I think, this is all rolling together in one big snowball.  They‘re going to have to deal with sooner or later.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, many thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If Senator Clinton did hope to shift focus today from her taxes or her campaign strategist, she probably did not hope to do by reminding viewers of her record on the Iraq war or adding more misstatements to the media‘s running tally, let alone to both.

At a town hall Saturday on Oregon, Senator Clinton was asked to discuss any decision she had made that had flown in the face of political and popular opinion.  In response, she first distinguished presidential decision-making from legislative voting and then asserted that merely saying something, as Obama did when he opposed the war in 2002, does not entail decisions.  Despite the fact that Obama decided to run for the Senate at the time when most Americans were supporting that war and he was in the middle of a campaign for reelection to the Illinois Senate when he committed to his opposition.

Senator Clinton‘s redefinition yielded a new metric from her for determining when opposition to the war actually counts.  According to her, the clock started ticking January 2005 when Obama took office and they both had to start making real decisions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  When you want to compare, compare decisions.  So, when Senator Obama came to the Senate, he and I have voted exactly the same except for one vote.  And that happens to be the facts.  We both voted against early deadlines.  I actually started criticizing the war in Iraq before he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oops.  Supporting her claim, the Clinton campaign pointed to this news release criticizing the war in a statement about the confirmation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dated January 26th, 2005.

But as ABCNews.com pointed out, a week before that, January 18th, 2005, Senator Obama, just two weeks on the job, having just been sworn in at Rice‘s actual confirmation hearing made several statements critical and/or skeptical of the progress of the war in Iraq.

Let‘s turn now to Dana Milbank, MSNBC political analyst, “Washington Post” national political reporter, and author, of course, of “Homo Politicus.”

Dana, great thanks for being with us tonight.

DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How could they have not check to see even if anybody bought the total redefinition of history here, if there was still an example that still gave the verdict on who was first to Obama?  I mean, this is like the joke about the guy executing the perfect 300-foot dive into the glass of water, only he forgot to put the glass of water in place.

MILBANK:  Well, as you know, Keith, Hillary Clinton has been under sniper fire and I think, we‘re beginning to see some of the post-traumatic stress disorder kick in here when the brain sometimes plays tricks on you.  What happened here is she‘s sort of took an arbitrary point in time, and when you are doing things in an arbitrary way, it sometimes goes against you.

So, in fact, she should have merely chosen the date of January 25th, 2005 and she would have been the first one to have criticized the war after that point.  But anytime you go down this road, since she‘s basically already ceded (ph) that issue to Obama, it‘s not going to come out well.

OLBERMANN:  Or closer to Keith‘s birthday, that‘s a good metric, too, at 27th.  But how do you define the idea that criticism of a war starts after the war has started and if you‘re there beforehand saying, no, this is a mistake, I‘m running only for local office here in Illinois, but I still have to get somebody‘s vote on this issue, that doesn‘t count somehow.

Is that being bought to any degree?  Is this going out and making this strategic mistake, in this convoluted logic?  If the convoluted logic doesn‘t work, is the whole thing worth it?

MILBANK:  It won‘t (ph), and certainly in retrospect, it wasn‘t worth it.  And arguably, trying to battle Obama on this whole subject isn‘t going to happen.  The problem is not necessarily Clinton‘s original vote.  I mean, the vast majority of Democrats voted to give Bush authority.  Her problem really came from her defense of that vote, or her unwillingness to do as John Edwards did, and say, look, it‘s a complete mistake and I‘d just try to wipe it off the table and start fresh.  So, she‘s down to this short of hair-splitting here and as we‘ve seen, you‘ve got—just got basically a whole mess of split ends left now.

OLBERMANN:  Well.  All right, also, we learned over the weekend that this story that Senator Clinton has told on the campaign trail repeatedly, this uninsured pregnant woman was not exactly precise.  Walk us through the story and whether or not she had earned a mulligan on that one.

MILBANK:  I think she probably does get a mulligan on the specifics of this story.  It‘s about a 35-year-old pregnant woman who had a stillborn child and then she died herself.  The question is: it was said that she could not go to a particular hospital unless she paid $100 upfront and she wasn‘t insured.  Well, she wasn‘t insured at an earlier time, and the hospital that wouldn‘t treat her unless she paid $100 isn‘t the one she actually went to.

But in the interview, as people have found out, well, basically the guts of the story are true and probably, this woman, had she gotten better care, things would have turned out better.  The problem is, when you‘re in this sort of exaggeration position as previously Al Gore and John Kerry found themselves in, it‘s very hard to escape this.  So, even a fairly innocent one like this, is just one more piece on the pile.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Giving her that one, you still have Bosnia, you still have the “I was critical of Iraq first,” you have the “Mark Penn is gone, but he‘s not gone” thing.

Is there a sense in the Clinton campaign that regardless of what happens in the campaign, I mean, if Senator Obama decided tonight, I‘m moving to Japan to play the cello professionally, that they may have painted their candidate permanently in the terms you just described, sort of serial exaggerator?

Or is it, are they really sitting there saying, no the media is against because they reported the facts rather than our versions of the facts, it‘s the media‘s fault all the way?  Do they really believe that?

MILBANK:  Well, I think, you‘re the first to report the Obama cello situation but the fact of the matter is he might as well have been off in Japan playing the cello this last several days because Clinton has had one serious of unforced error here—self-inflicted wounds one after the other.  This is the time when she needs to be having 100 percent of the focus on Obama and his problems and she, of course, having 100 percent of the focus on herself right now.  So, Obama can head to play the cello and unfortunately, Clinton seems to be listening to the fat lady singing.

OLBERMANN:  My sources told me exclusively, because they made it up.  Dana Milbank of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC.  Thank you, Dana.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Obama gets another superdelegate while two Clinton superdelegates go on the record saying, their undecided colleagues should be thinking about Jeremiah Wright.

And perhaps, even Senator McCain appreciated how much facts today made him look like a liar.  As he is telling an audience, Iraq is going great, comes breaking news of four mortars shot into American facilities inside the Green Zone in Baghdad.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No off the record hints.  Two Clinton superdelegates tell the undecideds, it‘s Jeremiah Wright, stupid.

Bushed: The latest victims to the administration‘s “do nothing” policy in the mortgage banking crisis, mortgage bankers.

And Glenn Beck is saying we should let all the polar bears die because they eat people versus Bill O., ripping us one minute for not making any money and then, ripping us the next minute for making too much money.

Worse Persons in the World and the rest of COUNTDOWN are still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The emerging myth buster about all those superdelegates in the Democratic nomination has to do with possibility versus reality.  What they could do is give Senator Hillary Clinton their support, despite Senator Obama‘s lead in pledged delegates but what they have been doing since February 5th, Super Tuesday, is throwing their support to Obama.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Add one more to the column.  Senator Obama today is gaining a superdelegate from Montana, gaining a superdelegate from Montana meaning that since the 5th of February, he has won the backing of 55 superdelegates.  Clinton has lost a net of five.  Clinton still leads the overall superdelegate tally, but by a narrowing margin, and the overall delegate count, of course, still favors Obama, 1,641 to 1,507.

As for the Clinton‘s camp general election argument, in particular that Obama would be hurt by controversy over his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  That argument has now trickled down to certain Clinton superdelegates, from Congressman Brad Sherman of California, quote, “Her minister will not appear in McCain commercials.”  That may or may not true.

And for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is saying that in states (ph) yet to vote, the Wright “is a big vulnerability.”  And, is posing (ph) another Clinton campaign talking point in the most blunt terms, “All of his delegates stuff is artificial.”

Let‘s call in MSNBC and NBC News political director Chuck Todd who‘s apparently been watching these artificial numbers all this time.  Chuck, good evening.

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

OBLERMANN:  All right.  Senator Obama‘s chief delegate tracker describes the superdelegate trend for the last two months as a trickle.  Is the Obama camp being modest, prudent?  Did they know something the rest of us don‘t know?

TODD:  No, it has been a trickle.  I think that there were moments when it was going to be a rush to him, right after the junior Tuesday, March 4th primary.  Had he won Texas, there would have been possibly 40 or 50 superdelegates that would have come out almost en masse, and I think they have held back.

There are ones that the Obama campaign thinks they have in their pocket, but obviously, with any of these things, until they can get these people to publicly come out and do it, you know, you can‘t count on this stuff.  But that has been their goal, is to try to keep rolling out a couple a day, since they can‘t do the big grouping, but roll out a couple a day, almost to highlight the fact you just pointed out, which is, she is not, outside of John Murtha, she has not gained a prominent superdelegate endorsement in a couple months.

More importantly, her overall net, she‘s actually lost five, due, you know, confluence events from a resignation of Governor Spitzer to a death of a congressman.  She‘s actually lost five superdelegates since Super Tuesday.

OLBERMANN:  Regarding the remarks of Representative Sherman man Wasserman Schultz, is there evidence to go back of what they‘d said here that Reverend Wright is still an issue with the remaining uncommitted superdelegates?

TODD:  I think it actually is an issue for these uncommitted superdelegates.  In this respect, I think they want to see Obama on a ballot.  They want to see voters react.  They want to see he has yet to have sort of voters give their sense.

We‘ve seen polling, and the polling seems like he has survived this, but I think there are some of these superdelegates that are about - that are probably one step away from doing this, and they want to see what the voters of Pennsylvania do.  They want to see if Obama can hang tight.  They want to see if he does, you know, as well with the white vote as he did in previous primaries.  So, I do think that it is an issue with the superdelegates.

OLBERMANN:  So, one step is win Pennsylvania or just as you say, have the same in that white vote metric as in other states or is it lose within a certain—what is that one step?

TODD:  I think it‘s not get blown out.  It‘s sort of take what was, you know, a 15-point deficit when this started, when this march to Pennsylvania started right after the Ohio-Texas primaries and close it to competitive single digits, that if he simply does that, there will be more superdelegates that come on board.

Then, you fast forward a couple more weeks to May 6th, the date of North Carolina and Indiana primaries, if he just wins one, I think, any nervousness that some of these superdelegates have about Obama‘s electability, they may still be nervous about it, but at this point, there is a perception among them that she‘s just—makes them just as nervous on electability as he does.  The question is: if he becomes more unelectable than her and that‘s when they could start wring their hands.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  We have Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz‘s dismissal of the primary process which is a really a extraordinary statement for anyone who is elected to office anywhere in the western hemisphere to say.

TODD:  But don‘t forget, that is Florida where they don‘t, you know.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  But still, at least, there is the theatrics involved in making it looked like an election.  Governor Rendell said, there‘s 50 percent about Obama we don‘t know.  Why are Clinton supporters so utterly convinced there is some fatal truths to be revealed yet, and obviously, they are certain because many of them have burned their bridges behind them.  I mean, Ed Rendell won‘t get a nomination as dog catcher unless Senator Clinton wins.  What is this great deciding fact and if they know it all already, why don‘t they share it with the rest of us?

TODD:  I think they‘re trying to - the thing they fear is, you know, you‘ve got sort of two competitions going on here.  You have the Clinton campaign desperately trying to make people realize that the nomination is still in doubt and you have the Obama people trying to say, no, it‘s not a doubt, it‘s over.  We just have to run the course here because she won‘t withdraw from the race.

And so, I think, these comments from Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and Governor Rendell are designed to create - designed to make superdelegates and voters believe that there is some doubt, that this race is still not decided, that there is, you know, something that could happen.

And I think because of the Reverend Wright situation, and when that all came out, I think when Governor Rendell says, you know, there‘s 50 percent of him we don‘t know, he may not know that there‘s 50 percent, but he wants to create and plant that seed.  He wants to plant that doubt because biography is Obama‘s issue right now.  That is something we‘ve seen in polling, is that voters still are not sure they know him yet because he‘s the newest candidate on the scene.

OLBERMANN:  Then, we‘ll see if it‘s that or they‘re consulting tarot cards to suggest their asteroids on a way or something.

Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and MSNBC, thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And tonight in college hockey, it‘s University of California Bears—wait a minute, not wearing a helmet.

And: The administration‘s let them eat cake attitude toward the crisis in the mortgage industry creates a new and wonderfully ironic different crisis in the mortgage industry.

Bushed is next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Eighty years ago tonight, a moment as unbelievable then as it is now.  Game two of hockey Stanley Final and New York Rangers goaltender, Lorne Chabot is knocked out cold by a fierce shot from Montreal‘s Neil Stewart.  In those days, teams did not have backup goalies.  So, the Ranger‘s coach, 44-year-old former defenseman, Lester Patrick had no choice - he took off his street clothes, donned Chabot‘s uniform and pads, and played the rest of the game himself.  With their coach playing as the goalie, the Rangers won 2-1 in overtime and a week later they won the Stanley Cup.  On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”

And here is video from game two of those 1928 Stanley Cup finals.  Actually this is either a guy in a really good bear suit or an actual bear playing hockey.  He doesn‘t like the helmet rules.  Old time hockey.  Eddie Shore, eh?  It looks like an intermission act between periods of Russian hockey game.  Again, we don‘t know if it‘s a real bear or a player with the minor league Hershey Bears. But we just know put the biscuit in the basket.  A bear on skates.

So we have a Russian bear playing ice hockey.  Last Friday here was this Japanese baton twirling bear at a zoo in Hiroshima.  What kind of bear talent is America exporting to the world?  A passed out bear and a trampoline, USA, USA.

Let‘s head to Sydney, Australia, coverage of their annual Flugtag, during which competitors build ridiculous contraptions and run them off a pier into Sydney Harbor.  The winner, the team that gets the farthest before splashing down.  Nobody actually gets more than a few feet except this year.  I have a real good feeling about this pink birdie thing.  This could really soar.  This could - it could get to the other side, finally.  Or -

We interrupt this spin for terrible truth.  Timing is everything.  And today Senator McCain‘s timing was such.  His latest malarkey about Iraq was interrupted by mortars being fired into the Iraq Green Zone.

And we are awaiting Clinton backer Ed Rendell‘s announcement that “Saturday Night Live” is on the Obama payroll.

Those stories ahead but first, the headlines breaking.  In the administration‘s 50 scandals, “Bushed.”

Number three, Censorshipgate.  Without confidential news sources you would never have found out about the burning of Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, caging voters, nearly all the truths of this panoramically corrupt presidency.  So of course this panoramically corrupt presidency is trying to end confidential news sources.  It has started a Web site filled with letter and blogs and scare tactics opposing a congressional shield law for whistleblowers and other such news sources.  The Republicans have a right to oppose freedom of the press if they think that‘s a good idea but they‘re doing it using taxpayer money.  The Web site is being paid for by the Department of Justice.  So that turns this from opposition to government infringement on freedom of the press.

Number two.  Blackwatergate.  After its slaughter of Iraqi civilians last September, Blackwater‘s contract to protect State Department diplomats in Baghdad was up.  Obviously it was canceled, right?  Renewed for a year.  So we just used taxpayer money to rehire mercenaries who cannot who are killing civilians in the name of the United States of America.

Number one, mortgage-gate, closing on a huge office building in Washington.  The Bush administration following the Herbert Hoover “let them eat cake” economic plan is not intervening in the subprime lending crisis and that crisis has just hit a group just closing on the purchase for $100 million of a huge office building in Washington.  Since it agreed to buy this building, this group, a trade association, has seen 17 percent of its members drop out including the feeds they paid.  With the general downturn its own revenues this year will be at least $5 million below projections.  With lenders so skittish, the bank has demanded a higher down payment on this loan, 10 percent more.  With businesses so reluctant to commit, the group has been having trouble finding anybody to rent any of the space it was not planning on using for its own offices.

In other words, this trade group is going to have a hell of a time paying the mortgage.  Which group?  The Mortgage Bankers Association.  Sometimes justice comes only in the form of irony.

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OLBERMANN:  If timing is not every, then juxtaposition certainly is.  “There is no doubt about the basic reality in Iraq,” the man said today, “We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.”  That‘s what Senator John McCain hoped to persuade the American people as his address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City was carried on national television this morning, but in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the real basic reality in Iraq was illustrated far more eloquently by what happened barely two minutes after Senator McCain got up to speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It was, I believe, a critical moment in our nation‘s history and a time of testing for our nation‘s political leadership.  In the year that has passed our nation showed its ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And speaking of Iraq, we have breaking news out of Iraq where at least four mortars have been fired into the heavily fortified Green Zone today.  It‘s unclear at this time if there are casualties or any major damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No one died in this morning‘s bombardment, unlike the attack on the Green Zone yesterday which left two U.S. service personnel dead and another 17 wounded.  In total seven Americans lost their lives across Iraq just yesterday, making it one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces in months.  Another soldier was killed by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad today as John McCain was extolling how much safer that country is.

(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)

MCCAIN:  From June 2007 through my last recent trip last month, sectarian and ethnic violence has been reduced by 90 percent.  Civilian deaths of coalition forces fell by 70 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Those numbers, echoed by Senators Lieberman and Graham in an op-ed in the “Wall Street Journal” today, only examined last June through this February.  McCain visited Iraq in March, a month when civilian casualties increased by 25 percent or 30 percent.  And even though violence in Iraq did indeed decline precipitously in the first half of 2007, it has unfortunately stopped declining and stayed steady around 2004 levels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic for the average Iraqi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Normal.  In February alone 700 Iraqis civilian died violently, 30,000 were newly displaced.  There were 65 daily attacks by insurgents and militias.  Twenty-one multiple fatality bombings.  Homes only got two thirds of the fuel they needed.  And millions of Iraqis didn‘t have access to clean water, sanitation or health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The once silent and deserted markets have come back to life in many areas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except the market which McCain himself visited last year accompanied by Apache gun ships.  It is now under the control of a militia and was deemed too dangerous for him to revisit this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local provincial grassroots level.  Sunni and Shia chased from their homes by terrorists and sectarian violence are returning.  The Sons of Iraq and Awakening Movements where former Sunni insurgents have joined in the fight against al Qaeda continue to grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain is grossly out of date in his information.  The Sunni organizations are continuing to grow in large part because the American government is continuing to pay them to grow.  Yet despite the money thousands of them stopped working last month in Diyala to protest the sectarian police force and thousands more are being excluded by the Shiite government supported Iraqi security forces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Four out of the six laws cited as benchmarks by the United States have been passed by the Iraqi legislature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Four in six laws may have been passed, but the other 14 benchmarks have not.  And the laws on de-Baathcation and insurgent amnesty are so carefully worded that their actual impact will depend on how they are implemented.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Iraqi forces recently battled in Basra against radical Shia militias supported by Iran.  A fight that showed both the progress made by the Iraqi security forces.  A year ago today they could not have carried out such operations on their own.  And the continuing need for coalition support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It emphasizes the need for coalition support because the Iraqi security forces didn‘t as McCain suggests carry out the Basra operations on their own.  They had to call in U.S. air power for help and even then over 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policeman refused to fight.  They abandoned their posts during the battle.  Including two senior commanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  There are those who today argue for hasty withdrawal from Iraqi.  Our allies, Arab counties and the UN and the Iraqis themselves will not step up to responsibilities if we recklessly retreat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yet no one, no Democrat, no Republican has called for a hasty withdrawal nor a reckless retreat from Iraq.  But 61 percent of Iraqis polled by the BBC in February thought the U.S. presence was making the security situation worse.  Forty-six percent thought it would get better if we left.  As to the American troops fighting their fifth year of war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We owe them compassion, knowledge and hands on care in their transition to civilian life.  We owe them training, rehabilitation and education.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We owe them education.  Yet Senator McCain aligning himself with this White House is refusing to support a new GI Bill that would give veterans full college funding and he has voted four times in the last four years increasing funding for the Veterans Administration.

A correction now and an update to a story mentioned here in my absence last Friday in our night “Bushed” segment.  It was reported that Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina had called a U.S. soldier in a facility McHenry was saying at in the Green Zone in Iraq a quote ,”two-bit security guard.”  The worker in question was actually a contractor.  Representative McHenry has apologized for his characterization of that worker.  We apologize for our mistake.

OK, think about the current presidential race.  Does this scene from the Barbra Streisand movie “What‘s Up, Doc?” featuring the impeccable Madeline Kahn remind you of anything in particular?

And first he criticizes the network for being the “biggest financial network in broadcasting history” and a minute later he accuses it of “making millions of dollars by slanting its editorial content.”

Bill O‘s train comes right off the freaking track tonight in “Worst Persons.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The baseball season is now nine days old so if I‘m going put my predictions on the record, I damn well better do it right now.

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, this will only take a minute and 48 seconds and then we‘ll get to worst persons.

National League, boy are Mets fans are in for a long season.  Reyes, Wright, Santana, three of the best 10 players in the game and at least five huge holes in their lineups.  Atlanta wins the NL East and watch Washington.

For of the six teams in the NL Central have a chance, the Reds, and remember these names, Volquez on the left, Cueto on the right.  Not the Yankees, have the best young pitcher in baseball and if you get a bet that allows you to pick them or the Cardinals, take it.

Milwaukee behind sluggers Braun and Fielder will probably win the division.

The National League West consists of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the game‘s next two superstars, outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young.  They will go to the World Series.  Upton will be the league MVP and Jake Peavey its Cy Young winner.

In the American League West, nothing to see here besides Ichiroc and the Seattle Mariners and they still won‘t win a play-off game.  The 180 million the Detroit Tigers spent to trade for and lock up Miguel Cabrera and Dontrell Willis might as well have flushed down the rat hole.  Willis has lost it and Cabrera is on his way to throwing away as much talent as anyone in the history of the game.  The Cleveland Indians will win the Central.  The White Sox are resurgent.  The Royals may be Cinderella for a while.

And the last regular season game at Yankee stadium on September 21st will be the last one period unless they play outdoor hockey there next winter.  The Yankees have no first baseman, they are aged in the outfield, they are relying on too many rookie pitchers, even charismatic ones like Jaba Chamberlain.  The Red Sox, Toronto, and maybe even Tampa Bay are better.

Take Big Poppy David Ortiz as your MVP and Chin Ming Wang as your Cy Young winner and Boston over Arizona in the World Series.

Hillary Clinton and “Saturday Night Live” and the Barbra Streisand movie, “What‘s Up Doc?” the unmaking of a president, 2008.

First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”

The bronze to former White House undersecretary of state Douglas Feith.  A Donald Rumsfeld memo to President Bush pre Iraq War predicted many of the disasters that have befallen us.  Feith admitted in an interview last night that as the memo predicted the war what cost more, it caused us to ignore real terror threats, it would last more than four years, it would improve recruiting for terrorists, it would precipitate ethnic strife, it would hurt our relationship with our allies.  Feith admitted all of this and said, quote, “We certainly understood these are the things that might happen, that‘s why we wrote them down.”  Just to show later that you saw the cliff coming and you still drove us straight over it.  Gee, thanks.

Runner up, CNN‘s Glenn Beck, protesting with Oklahoma‘s troglodyte Senator Inhofe efforts to protect the polar bears.  “They eat people, for the love of Pete, they‘re big angry bears.  They eat people.  Not that I say we should go out and kill all of them.  But it doesn‘t seem to be a problem.  Senator, I can‘t take the lies anymore.”

You know why we have endangered species laws, Glennie?  To protect dumb animals from becoming extinct.  Like you and Senator Inhofe.

But our winner, back by popular demand, a Bill O double header.  Bonus Bill O.  Firstly criticizing the pregnant transgender guy.  “Can you imagine a poor kid getting born into that family going, hey, who are you today?”  Kind of like life at home for Bill‘s kid‘s.

Part deux.  First Billy posited why this network was not, as his is, trying to destroy Senator Obama.  “MSNBC is the biggest financial disaster in the history of broadcasting and its the only way they can get meager eyeballs.  And meager is the word, OK?”

We get 95 percent of your eyeballs a week ago tonight, Billy.  If we‘re meager, you‘re meager plus five percent.  For crying out loud, Billy, filling in for me Friday night Rachel had the second highest rated cable news show in primetime.  And biggest financial disaster in the history of broadcasting.  Don‘t you want to give Fox Business Channel a chance to lock up that honor?  A minute after saying that, he then said of us they are making millions of dollars.  Well, it turns out he was right.  I mean the second time.  The TV industry financial analysis firm SNL Kagan predicted this network would make a profit this year of $122 million profit this year.  And, Bill, we couldn‘t have done it without you.  Listen to me take this guy seriously.  A guy with a comb-over is telling me how he is the flipping no spin zone.

Bill O‘Reilly  today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When the essence of your presidential campaign, when the fact of it becomes a punch line, that campaign may have already jumped the shark or it may in fact have already ended.  Remember Mike Huckabee‘s appearance as the guest who wouldn‘t leave on “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” 11 days before he finally officially called it quits?  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Governor Huckabee, meet Senator Clinton, Saturday night on “Saturday Night Live.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Since it was discovered Bill and I know how to make money it‘s become apparent that I am the wrong choice for millions of Americans who don‘t seem able to make money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now at least my wife can return to the Senate in peace and I can go back to doing what I like to do best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Speaking engagements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just speaking engagements.  Nothing more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So at this point I think it would be in the best interest of the party if I stepped aside for the Obama campaign.  Psych.  That‘s never going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in comedian Christian Finnegan.  Also a regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Christian, good evening.

CHRISTINA FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN:  Hola, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That psych, I‘m staying in until after the inauguration, is that more than just satire?  Is that somebody slipping a statement past us via the means of humor.

FINNEGAN:  It is only satire if you exaggerate the facts rather than just state them.  Hillary is going to be like Max Cady (ph) in “Cape Fear.”  She is not go out until she‘s dragged under water while speaking in tongues.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of that, that bit Saturday night made me think of the film from the ‘70s, Peter Bogdanovich‘s movie “What‘s Up, Doc?” Barbra Streisand, Ryan O‘Neal and the late, great Madeline Kahn as O‘Neal‘s fiancee who would not leave.  It‘s a short seen, let me play it and think of it in the context of this campaign and I have a question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tell them who I am!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Are we at that point yet?  Is the next “SNL” skit going to be about Hillary Clinton‘s heel marks on the polished wood floor?

FINNEGAN:  I actually think the comedy shows are still pulling punches slightly on Hillary because they are afraid they will have to pretend we always loved her in the first place.  It‘s like when your brother separates with his wife and you let him know what you really thought of her and they get back together.  It makes for an awkward Thanksgiving.

OLBERMANN:  But you know the media is in the tank for Senator Obama against Senator Clinton.  Wasn‘t that established by a previous session of “Saturday Night Live?”  Is the wielding of influence over there in Lorne Michaels shop not registering around the country.

FINNEGAN:  They are hedging their bets.  Literally until Obama has his hand on the Bible swearing in, nobody is going to come out and really say what they think about Hillary.  Which is completely positive by the way.

OLBERMANN:  Of course it is.  I‘m going to be the only one going to Gitmo.

The other part of this sketch Saturday night, the principle part of it, making fun of the Clinton‘s income over the past eight years, making fun of that media Macauley Culkin moment of shock to discover they made $109 million when they had each written books where they got like $10 million in advance.  Were there two targets there or did the Clintons get it worse than the media did?

FINNEGAN:  I think the point of the sketch was yeah, they are rich.  Why would you think otherwise?  Candidates always downplay things that run contrary to their message.  Hillary is appealing to the working poor so she downplays her wealth and Obama downplays the rhetoric of his pastor.  And McCain downplays his role in the Taft administration.

OLBERMANN:  By the way, Senator Clinton was on Ellen DeGeneres today and she bowled.  As Obama did.  And Pretty much the same results.  It wasn‘t regulation but she got just as bad results.  There wasn‘t even a gutter for the ball go into.  Is that it, can Senator Clinton no longer expect the edge among bowlers?

FINNEGAN:  First of all, ouch.  Secondly, I don‘t want a president who has time to perfect his or her bowling game.  We are stuck in Iraq and the U.S. dollar is hovering in value around the price of a skeeball prize ticket.  Mostly because we twice elected the guy most likely to win a game of beer pong.  It‘s not the way to run a country.

OLBERMANN:  And you know who the president was that put a bowling alley in the White House, it was Richard Nixon.  So I think your point is taken here.

Last point here.  Somebody called Heidi Montag from the show “The Hills” which I think I‘ve skimmed past with the remote.

FINNEGAN:  Whatever you need to tell yourself.

OLBERMANN:  Said she is support John McCain, but apparently she‘s not registered to vote.  Is this a conundrum for the campaign for Mr. McCain?

FINNEGAN:  If Heidi Montag is so not into politics, how come I saw her snorting coke off a copy of Plato‘s “Republic”?  I ask you that?

OLBERMANN:  Hey, now.

FINNEGAN:  But seriously.  We like to ride celebrities for not voting.  But if our system depends on the participation of people like Heidi Montag, we‘re screwed.  These people are barnacles on the hull of democracy.  Maybe not voting is the most patriotic thing they could do.

OLBERMANN:  Heidi will give you a call if she can remember that many numbers.  Christian Finnegan, comedian and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Thank you, sir.

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,803rd day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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