updated 4/9/2008 10:39:35 AM ET 2008-04-09T14:39:35

Guests: William Odom, Michael Eric Dyson, Jim Moore

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

Iraq: The administration will review it all in September.  This is not a rerun.  This is just like last year.  General Petraeus today telling the Senate, the last troop withdrawal is July, then, wait 45 days

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ:  At the end of that period, we will commence a process of assessment to examine the conditions on the ground and over time, determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) CHAIRMAN ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  What you‘ve given to your chain of command is a plan which has no end to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Waiting for September 2008, just as we waited for September 2007.

The hearings as campaign metric:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What condition would have to exist for you to recommend to the president that the current strategy is not working?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m trying to get to an end point.  That‘s what all of us have been trying to get to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator McCain trips on Sunni versus Shia again.  Al

Qaeda in Iraq he says, it‘s -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites or Sunnis or anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No.  Actually, they are an obscure sect of the Sunnis.

Nothing obscure about this: Racism as a Republican campaign plank. 

Senator McCain introduced at a rally on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. ARMY STAFF SGT. DAVID BELLAVIA, MCCAIN SUPPORTER:  You can have your Tiger Woods.  We‘ve got Senator McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Did he actually just say that and why did McCain then embrace him?

On the ground in Pennsylvania: Clinton: 50, Obama: 44.  The margin down to six, the Keith number: 8.7.

Worst Persons: The Democratic state legislator who tells an atheist witness at a hearing that, quote, “It‘s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists.”

And the crisis on the catwalk worsens: Models, with exit strategies identical to ours in Iraq.  Oh, the humanity.

All of that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Tuesday, April 8th, 210 days until the 2008 presidential election.  The Bush administration spent 2007 escalating the American troop presence in Iraq and laying the groundwork for an open-ended occupation, all the while insisting it would re-evaluate come September.  A reevaluation that concluded, stay the course.

The wool was so easily pulled over the eyes of much of the country that today, at the Senate hearing, the first half-general, half-politician in this nation‘s history, David Petraeus did it again, right down to symbolic using an identical calendar only with 2007 crossed-off and 2008 written in in crayon.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: After the last surge withdrawals in July, Petraeus says, add 45 days and then the military will re-evaluate Iraq.  July plus 45 days equals September again.

At the same time, President Bush with tears in his eye and his lower lip theatrically trembling, awarded a Medal of Freedom posthumously to an American hero, Petty Officer Michael Anthony Monsoor, who died saving his comrades from a grenade in Ramadi in September 2006.

While that was happening, his surrogates were in Capitol Hill arguing to keep more American troops in harm‘s way, apparently, indefinitely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETRAEUS:  I recommended to my chain of command that we continue the drawdown of the surge combat forces and that upon withdrawal of the last surge brigade combat team in July, we take a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation.  At the end of that period, we will commence the process of assessment, to examine the conditions on the ground and overtime determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And even in September 2008, just as in September 2007, we will not necessarily be any closer to knowing when U.S. troops can start coming home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVIN:  Are you giving us any ideas to how long it will take?  You say over time, could that be a month, could that be two months or it could be less than that?  Could it be more than that?

PETRAEUS:  It could be more than that.  It‘s when the conditions are met that we could make recommendation for further reduction.

LEVIN:  Could it be three months?

PETRAEUS:  Sir, again, at the end of the period of consolidation and evaluation, it could be right then or it could be longer.

LEVIN:  Let‘s assume conditions permitted things to move quickly.  What in your estimate would be the approximate number of American troops there at the end of the year?  Can you give us—just say you can‘t give an estimate?

PETRAEUS:  I can‘t give you an estimate.

LEVIN:  You‘re not going to give us an estimate on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Noticeably absent from both General Petraeus‘ and Ambassador Crocker‘s prepared testimony, the word benchmark, specifically the 18 benchmarks that the Iraqi government was meant to reach in order to make the president‘s surge an actual success, presumably because only four of those benchmarks have actually been met.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETRAEUS:  We haven‘t turned any corners.  We haven‘t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel.  The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator and the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.

AMB. RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ:  It means challenges remain and progress is uneven and often frustratingly slow, but there is progress.  Sustaining that progress will require continuing U.S. resolve and commitment.  What has been achieved is substantial, but it is also reversible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not enough to lead to withdrawals, but it is enough to run a presidential campaign on.  And as to what that continuing resolve and commitment will be, the ambassador detailed a security agreement currently being drafted between the U.S. and the Iraqi security, which despite Mr. Crocker‘s assurance that U.S. support need not be open-ended, appears to allow exactly that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROCKER:  U.S. forces will remain in Iraq beyond December 31st, 2008 when the U.N. resolution presently governing their presence expires.  Our troops will need basic authorizations and protections to continue operations and this agreement will provide those authorizations and protections.

The agreement will not establish permanent bases in Iraq, and we expect that it will expressly forswear them.  The agreement will not specify troop levels and it will not tie the hands of the next administration.  Our aim is to ensure that the next president arrives in office with the stable foundation upon which to base policy decisions and that is precisely what this agreement will do.  Congress will remain fully informed as each negotiations proceed in the coming weeks and months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Congress may remain fully informed but apparently totally uninvolved as Senator Clinton discovered this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Does the administration plan to submit this agreement to our Congress?

CROCKER:  At this point, senator, we do not anticipate that the agreements will have within them any elements that would require the advice and consent procedure.  They intend to negotiate this as an executive agreement.

CLINTON:  Well, Ambassador Crocker, it seems odd, I think, to ask Americans who are being asked to commit for an indefinite period of time, the lives of our young men and women in uniform, the civilian employees who you rightfully referenced and thanked, as well as billions of dollars of additional taxpayer dollars, if the Iraqi parliament may have a chance to consider this agreement that the United States Congress would not?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, finding that even more just odd.  He deemed it unacceptable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:  Mr.  Ambassador, I would not presumed that if a security agreement in Iraq goes beyond any status of forces agreement that you need only inform the Congress.  You need to do much more than inform the Congress, you need the permission of the Congress if you‘re going to bind the next president of the United States in anything you‘d agree of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As to what else the American president might be bound to, the subject of Iran kept cropping up in the context of Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMANN, (I) CONNECTICUT:  Are the Iranians still trading and equipping Iraqi extremists who are going back into Iraq and killing American soldiers?

PETRAEUS:  That is correct, senator.  The special groups‘ activities have in fact come out in greater relief during the violence of recent weeks.  It is they who have the expertise to shoot rockets more accurately, shoot mortars more accurately, and to employ some of the more advanced material, the explosively formed projectiles and the like, that have not just killed our soldiers and Iraqi soldiers, but been used to assassinate two southern governors in past months and two southern police chiefs.  So, they are a serious concern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And as far as what if anything, might qualify as success in Iraq and to what extent al Qaeda and Iran‘s supposed influence there need to be diminished before U.S. troops can start to come home.  Senator Obama tried and largely failed to get a straight answer on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The problem I have is if the definition of success is so high, no traces of al Qaeda, and no possibility of reconstitution a highly effective Iraqi government, a democratic multiethnic multi-sectarian functioning democracy, no Iranian influence, at least not in the kind that we don‘t like, then that portends the possibility of us staying for 20 or 30 years.

If on the other hand, our criteria is a messy, sloppy status quo, but there is not, you know, huge outbreaks of violence, there‘s still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it‘s not a threat to its neighbors and it‘s not an al Qaeda base, that seems to me an achievable goal within a measurable time frame, and that, I think, is what everybody here on these committees has been driving at, and we haven‘t been able to get as clear of an answer as we would like.

CROCKER:  And that‘s because, senator, is, I mean, I don‘t like to sound like a broken record, but this is hard and this is complicated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for that.

Joining us now, former director of the National Security Agency, retired Lieutenant General William Odom.  Thanks much for your time tonight, sir.

LT. GENERAL WILLIAM ODOM, U.S. ARMY (RET):  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  You testified at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that that surge in Iraq has actually prolonged instability and is still doing so.  You advocated a rapid withdrawal and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops.  Did you hear anything from General Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker today that might change your mind?

ODOM:  I heard them make a few concessions that reinforce my judgment on this.  And I was impressed that an increasing number of senators are asking more pointed and specific questions.  They let them get off the last time with no grilling at all.

The major media in this country have also, I think, failed to report a lot about what‘s going on in Iraq.  True, there have been drops in violence, but they didn‘t look at what the consequences of that were and they didn‘t look at the politics of that.  If they looked at the politics, they‘d see more fragmentation, a weaker government and a much more hopeless situation than a year ago.

OLBERMANN:  General Odom, the administration is once again, asking the American people to wait throughout a long spring and a long summer until another September for even just a possible decision on withdrawing U.S.  troops, never mind the politics or the rightness of that or the long-term advisability of that.  Is the troop level sustainable for the U.S.  military?  Is a virtually open-ended stay in Iraq a physical possibility for our troops?

ODOM:  Well, I haven‘t believed it would be for the last two or three years.  What‘s most interesting is, recently, the vice-chief of staff of the Army said precisely that, and also General Casey has said that, the chief of staff of the Army—that this is just not sustainable, and we are really brutalizing our troops, calling it supporting the troops.  We do have the option to not brutalize them, but we continue to do it.

OLBERMANN:  And the general you mention was, of course, encouraged to retire after expressing that opinion.  Both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker today kept pointing only to instances, almost to events representing progress in Iraq.  Since they are so involved in the day-to-day management of what‘s happening there, because they are representatives of this administration and this president, are they unwilling, do you think, or perhaps do they unable to step back and look at a bigger picture to assess whether the overall strategy of the Bush administration is actually working there?

ODOM:  I suspect that if they weren‘t there, they could, but given where they are, they‘ve got to pipe that tune or quit.  If you take the bigger picture, the first thing Americans should know is that if the government that eventually rules Iraq is not in the Green Zone now, it‘s not the Maliki government.

When we affiliate ourselves with the faction, it‘s already in trouble with the Iraqi people or some other faction.  The one that rules this country is the one that can win a civil war among several warring side and that‘s not going to come soon.  We don‘t have the troops to stay out there.

OLBERMANN:  We heard, of course, several times again today about Iran as we always do when Iraq is brought up.  Do you think maybe we have been misreading this entire Iran drumbeat?  Is the point of the constant murmur about Iran falsely claiming that there is a connection to al Qaeda in Iraq and the like, is that point of that not a precursor to attacking Iran, not saber-rattling but could it be an end to itself?  Is Iran simply the new name of the excuse to stay in Iraq?

ODOM:  It reminds me of when Nixon and Kissinger widened the war in Vietnam in 1970 and ‘71, caused the last 20,000 casualties longer than it need to.  They were elected with the mandate to get out, but chose to widen it instead.  There‘s this great resemblance to that.  What‘s really happened is while threatening the regime change in Iran, we‘ve given them a lot of incentives to cause us trouble there.  And the so-called liberalization of Iraq by Iran is actually due to our presence, giving Iran that opportunity.

OLBERMANN:  If we wanted to recreate Vietnam experience in the 21st century, it appears we have done so.  The retired Lieutenant General William Odom is joining us tonight from New Haven, Connecticut.  General Odom, our great thanks.  Good night.

ODOM:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That politics and Iraq have been intertwined is hardly news.  How the three presidential candidates, today fared in this meeting of policy and politics is?

And: The man who insisted he had no idea his warm-up act in February would refer to Barack Hussein Obama, today hugs a veteran moments after that veteran said of Senator Obama, “You can have your Tiger Woods, we‘ve got Senator McCain.”

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At the Petraeus hearing, Senator McCain again tries to confuse Iran, Iraq, Sunni, Shia, and al Qaeda.  Fear them all, let God straighten them out.

A McCain supporter introduces him at a rally by calling Senator Obama, quote, “Tiger Woods.”

And ahead in Worse: Coultergeist and Bill-O cannot compete with a Democrat state legislator who says atheists should not be permitted to express their viewpoints, that they are threats to children.

Much is still ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  With both Democratic candidates getting a chance at General Petraeus and the national media today, hopes were high for a winning sound byte today.  And we got it, John McCain.

We get to the Democrats but in our forth story tonight: The fifth time

Senator McCain has messed up Sunni and Shia either explicitly or in

reference AQI, al Qaeda in Iraq.  McCain‘s own campaign today is saying in

a statement that McCain, quote, “stumbled on his words and corrected them immediately when describing AQI‘s religious denomination. 

We should warn you, Senator McCain is so thoroughly wrong in this sound byte.  His correction is even wronger that his purported stumble, that sensitive viewers may suffer mild but immediate headaches.  Keep in mind, al Qaeda in Iraq is a small group of Sunnis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq.  Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?

PETRAEUS:  It is a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 months ago.

MCCAIN:  Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall, or Sunnis or anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In fact, AQI is an obscure sect of Sunnis.  Iraq has at least 8.8 million of the Sunni faith, while AQI numbers more than 1,000, according to the State Department, which may explain why General Petraeus did not answer the question after McCain after the senator reworded his question.

McCain‘s fellow Armed Service Committee member, Senator Clinton came to today‘s hearing having set the bar high for her commander in chief qualities, but neither she nor Democratic rival Barack Obama who questioned Petraeus later today on the Foreign Relations Committee of which he is a member, seemed to generate much in the way of headlines in either the heat or light categories.

With more on that, let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe and also a senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek.”  Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  If this was the closest we might get to a commander in chief quiz if not test, what were the performances like grade-wise?

WOLFFE:  Well, setting aside the substance question, in terms of style, they all did just fine, but this is really not the commander in chief test.  I mean, the test is so low here.  It‘s really a question of, have they flubbed it enough to embarrass themselves, and therefore disqualify themselves as commander in chief.

As we saw in 2000, you can flub any number of times and still be considered to have passed some notional commander in chief tests.  That didn‘t work out so well.  So, the question here is, you know, did they—is this setting really anything like what a commander in chief faces?

The answer is no.  They ask questions, they get replies, but it‘s not setting strategy, testing strategy against expert advice, communicating that to the American people or in this case, finding an exit strategy.

OLBERMANN:  But is this one—did we see in action one of the problems with setting a 3:00 a.m. phone call standard, saying you‘re the only one with White House experience?  Did Senator Clinton put a bar too high today that we see proof of that experience on display today because it would be impossible, as you suggest, to really prove your foreign intelligence and foreign relations bona fides in such a setting?

WOLFFE:  Yes, I don‘t think this was a test of her own claims.  And actually, I think, one of the mistakes the Clinton campaign has made is that this is her own best claim to foreign policy, national security experience.  The Armed Services Committee is indisputably an area where she has proved her own credentials and done it as a senator twice.  She got re-elected twice and this is her experience as oppose to what she gained watching as a supportive observer in the White House as first lady.

So, in this setting, I think, she did - she showed her mastery of the scene, of the subject matter and all that‘s great.  But it isn‘t the same as actually answering the phone call at 3:00 a.m., she didn‘t do it as first lady, but she‘s proved to be very competent, even a very successful senator on the Armed Services Committee.

OLBERMANN:  If that call comes in to a “President McCain” at 3:00 o‘clock in the morning, now the question has to be after that embarrassment about Shia and Sunni, whether or not he would know who was calling.  At first, rightly that AQI is not a Shia sect and he also said that it‘s not a Sunni sect, why is this one point, Iranian, al Qaeda in Iraq, the respective branches of Islam, is this tough for McCain or is this a deliberate conflation, a blurring?

WOLFFE:  Well, of course, what this really evokes is that embarrassing Lieberman moment and therefore that, you know, gets a lot of attention here.  I think the problem for McCain here is that his involvement with Iraq doesn‘t start with his criticism of troop levels as set by Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush.  It really starts before President Bush even ran for the presidency, when he was still Governor Bush, you had Joe Lieberman and John McCain pushing for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by force.

And if you take that position and you have to justify it long after the rationale for the war has fallen apart, then these conflations, these embarrassing moments point to something bigger which is: what is John McCain think America is actually fighting for?  In his view, it clearly is al Qaeda first.  So, you can fight al Qaeda in Iraq with core al Qaeda or is it Iran?  Whatever it is, it isn‘t what he argued for in the late ‘90s or even in the early 2000s.

OLBERMANN:  In fairness to Senator McCain, Senator Obama also had a misspeak moment today, he was referring to the Iranian government apparently and said Iraqi government.  Here‘s the clip and then I have a question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Do we feel confident that the Iraqi government is directing this aid to these special groups?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Does that rise to the level of other candidates misspeaks in this campaign and if not, why not?

WOLFFE:  Well, look, if he keeps on doing it, yes it is.  But as someone myself who has often try to catch my own mistakes about Iran and Iraq, I‘d say, you know, some things are understandable.  Again, the problem wasn‘t McCain‘s flub in this case, it‘s what it invokes in terms of the embarrassing Lieberman moment.  Again, if Obama keeps doing this kind of thing, people are going to raise questions.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I once referred to you as being with “Time” magazine, so we can understand that horrible mistake.  Richard Wolffe of Newsweek and MSNBC.  As always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You would think that we would be building better catwalks, safer catwalks, stronger catwalks, you‘d be wrong.

And yes, Bill-O and Coultergeist submit entries but when a state legislator actually tells an atheist, quote, “You have no right to be here.  We believe in something you believe in destroying.”  That has Worst Person in the World written all over it.

First: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Waiver-gate.  A conduct waiver is what the military gives a recruit when he has an event in his history that would otherwise disqualify him from being in the service, you know, like a criminal record for vandalism, or possession of marijuana, or trespassing, or disorderly conduct, or driving while intoxicated or felony.

Rate of Army recruits with conduct waivers in 2004-2005 is just under 5 percent.  Rate in 2006-2007: 11 percent.  Rate thus far in 2007-2008: 13 percent.

Number two: Supporting the troops-gate.  Evidently, this is a two-way street, even if you‘re in Iraq.  After Vice President Cheney spoke to the troops in Iraq yesterday, ABC News got 11 of the troops to express an opinion on the presidential race.  Four said they were supporting Obama, one picked Clinton, two said they were conservative who‘d just somebody would pull them out of Iraq and two said they weren‘t sure who was running.

Only one of the 11 said he was supporting McCain because the military have been paying his salary for a couple of years and he hope it will continue to do so.

And number one: Why is the administration siding with the terrorists-gate.  Senate Majority Leader Reid last night proposed a 30-day revival of the expired extension of the revisions to FISA and the so-called Protect America Act while negotiations continued with the Republicans for the full extension offered it by unanimous consent.  Nobody votes, they would just all shout aye and it would pass.

The Republicans turned it down, turned down 30 days of an act the president pretends is vital to our safety.  Why?  Because as Republican leader McConnell said, it did not include the total immunity for the telecom companies which helped the administration break the law by spying domestically.

“It‘s time to get serious,” said Senator McConnell, “and protect the companies that protect us.”

Certainly you misspoke.  Protect America, protect the people.  Now, the Republican in the Senate actually placed his priority protecting the companies.  You wouldn‘t want just put a little daylight, would you, senator, between your party, and that concept of fascism?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date 80 years ago, a great and in this country at least unheralded actor was born, Eric Porter.  In movies and TV, he managed to portray some of the greatest villains of all time, Fagan (ph), Soames Forsyte from the Forsyte Saga, Macbeth, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and even the definitive Moriarty to Jeremy Bretts‘ Sherlock Holmes.  On that note, let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin in Charleston, South Carolina with an early peek at fall fashion.  It‘s just like Heidi Klum always says; in fashion, you‘re either in or you‘re out.  This is from the Internets.  We guess that was the designer at the end of the show trying to cut across the stage.  She didn‘t count on a soft, gooey center to the cat walk.

The tape, the latest in a series of events like this.  And before we see the lady return from the hole, assuming she just didn‘t stay down.  Hey, it‘s a metaphor for our policy in Iraq. 

Remaining on the Internets, with a report from a CBS station in Baton Rouge about the tough week Senator David Vitter is having.  Yesterday, after addressing his involvement in this week‘s DC Madame prostitution trial, Senator Vitter hopped into a car to speed away from the press, and he didn‘t get far.  Vitter was just a passenger in the car.  The driver almost took out the no parking sign.  The vehicle suffered only minor damage, which is about the best Senator Vitter could hope for after the DC Madame trial is through with him. 

Two shockers in the campaign trail; the Clinton lead in Pennsylvania is down to six and at a rally in Washington, John McCain is introduced by an Iraq vet who refers to Senator Obama as Tiger Woods. 

And the script for the Oliver Stone movie “W” leaks.  It portrays a president with a troubled relationship with his father, one who is baseball obsessed.  Baseball obsessed?  That‘s some sort of problem?  Those stories ahead.  First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best context, speaking of which, Shea Stadium in New York and Jamie Moyer of the Philadelphia Phillies.  This afternoon they began the last season at the not much loved, decrepit ballpark.  They‘re tearing it down because it‘s so old it opened on the 17th of April, 1964.  The starting pitcher for the visiting team today, the Phillies, Mr. Moyer, was born on the 18th of November, 1962.  They are not tearing him down. 

Number two, most memorable honeymoon.  Police in Vallejo, California, are not identifying the happy couple, but at their wedding reception Saturday night, things got so out of hand, police had to be called.  When they had to be called a second time, police say the groom and a cousin became aggressive.  They were both tasered and arrested, and so was the bride, on suspicion of public intoxicated. 

Number one, best indication of intelligence in parents, Barney, a seven year old Macaw at the Worcester Wildlife Sanctuary in Nunington (ph) in England.  Not only does he know a large number of popular Anglo Saxon expletives, but Barney also tends to use them when visitors stop by, like the city‘s mayor and its leading minister and two of its policemen.  And, says the head of the sanctuary, Barney has begun to teach his expansive vocabulary two other birds, a pair of African gray parrots named Sam and Charlie. 

The owner of the sanctuary can‘t imagine how such an atmosphere of obscenity and verbal shenanigans could have developed there.  The owner‘s name Jeff Growcock (ph). 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Though he had done so repeatedly on the radio, Senator John McCain insisted he had no idea that one of the people preceding him to a stage at one of his rallies in Cincinnati on the 26th of February this year would ever possibly refer to the junior senator from Illinois at that McCain rally as Barack Hussein Obama.  Tonight, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the McCain campaign has something else racial to deny, the newest comments mad today at a pro-war rally outside the Capital.

A grouping calling itself Vets for Freedom cheering an introduction for Senator McCain given by David Bellavia, a former Army staff sergeant.  Sergeant Bellavia is listed on the group‘s website as one of its six founders and as part of its national leadership team. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BELLAVIA, VETS FOR FREEDOM:  Rest assured that people like Senator McCain will be the goal and the men that my two young boys will emulate an admire.  You can have your Tiger Woods.  We have Senator McCain.  My friends, this is the real audacity of hope.  Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Senator John McCain.  God bless you. 

MCCAIN:  Thank you, Dave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain then launched into a speech extolling the virtues of the war.  He had utterly no reaction to the reference to golf legend Tiger Wounds who is, if you somehow do not know this, of one quarter Chinese decent, one quarter Thai decent, one quarter African American decent, one eight Native American decent and one eighth Dutch decent.  

Joining me now, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and the author of “April 4th, 1968,” Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.  Dr. Dyson, a pleasure.  Thanks for some of your time tonight.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:  Thank you, Mr. Olbermann.

OLBERMANN:  Those comments by Sergeant Bellavia, how would you describe them? 

DYSON:  I think they were pretty ridiculous.  I guess one multi-racial black man is interchangeable with another.  I think it indicates that the Republicans in broad stroke, and Mr. McCain in particular, have a huge problem with black people.  This kind of at least racial insensitivity suggests that there is something disturbing going on here and that they can‘t even make a distinction about who the right opponent is of Mr.  McCain. 

So I think that it speaks for a broad concern and a kind of legitimate skepticism about what his candidacy means, especially for black people in this country. 

OLBERMANN:  When you hear something said like that, is intent impossible to calculate and does it even matter?  Is the idea behind the remarks the same regardless of the intent? 

DYSON:  My pastor used to say, look, a mosquito‘s intent is only to get blood from you, but it could give you Malaria.  At that level, the intent will never exhaust the consequence.  The consequence here is huge.  Now, we can‘t discern the person‘s intent.  It may have been.  But that‘s even more problematic.  If there was no specific and particular and conscience intent to do harm, that means that this grows out of a pattern of habit that is just a natural reflex, and that one interchangeable African-American multi-racial person is as good as the other or they‘re indistinguishable.  And I think, at that level, it‘s probably pretty problematic.  The consequence here is much worse than one‘s discernible intent. 

OLBERMANN:  Since I first heard this today, I have been trying to figure out—with some sports background in my past—if the veteran there was not talking about race, what he could have talking about?  What is there to be dismissive about Tiger Woods?  He is an almost unbeatable golfer.  He is, in fact, a man who recalibrated what had been a very non-diverse sport, and because of that recalibration, everybody in it made more money than they would otherwise.  He brought people a lot of green, never mind any other color. 

If you are comparing anybody to Tiger Woods on a non-racial basis, the other guy loses, doesn‘t he? 

DYSON:  No question.  As great a man as Senator John McCain is, when one thinks about the climate and environment that Tiger Woods operates in, that he has produced in this country, one could only aspire toward that excellence in one‘s own field.  So it is hard to conclude that anything else was meant but a kind of veiled reference to race.  And one doesn‘t know how veiled, because Tiger Woods is a genius on so many levels.  Who wouldn‘t want to be Tiger Woods? 

Tiger Woods, ironically enough, has been quite explicit about trying to embrace the multiple ranges of identities that flow through his blood.  So it‘s not as if you have here a person who is explicitly expressing a kind of blackness that would find offensive.  That is even worse, because here you have in Tiger Woods a kind of man who would ostensibly embrace a wide variety of America and yet he is being dissed too. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, if you are going to take a sports analogy in there, saying that sports is less consequential than some sort of political or war hero figure, then you want to take—but if you take Tiger Woods, it was an extraordinarily lucky shot. 

Let me ask you one last question here; is there a parallel to that Bill Cunningham episode in Cincinnati that I referenced earlier, especially in terms of McCain‘s lack of immediate reaction.  There‘s still nothing from the campaign about it.  Does it constitute a pattern for Senator McCain‘s campaign?

DYSON:  Sure, if it is not a pattern, it certainly is constituting a beginning of design.  I think that here we have to be very careful, because I think Senator McCain has to be on top of this.  It bespeaks a kind of racial insensitivity, at best, and at worse a kind of deliberate attempt to distance himself from black people.  I‘m sure that‘s not the case, not Mr.  McCain himself.  But the campaign has to be conscience of this and I think they have to grapple with this in a serious way. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and all of it done by just enough of a proxy to seem at arm‘s length, while still getting that most-unfortunate message across.  Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown, thank you, sir.  

DYSON:  Thank you, my friend. 

OLBERMANN:  Rare it is when headlines from the Democratic primary campaign become almost an after thought, but Senator Clinton has picked up one more super delegate today, an Arkansas land commissioner named Mark Wilcox.  And with the Pennsylvania primary now exactly two weeks away, a new poll showing Senator Clinton‘s lead shrinking.  The latest survey from Quinnepiac University giving her 50 percent to Senator Obama‘s 44 percent.  Clinton‘s six point lead down from nine in this poll a week ago, 12 points in the middle of March.  The Keith number, the undecideds plus the margin of error, is 8.7 percent in this poll. 

Amid rumors he‘s trying to cast Paul Giamatti as Karl Rove, the script for Oliver Stone‘s film about President Bush leaks out.  A shocker, it is not a flattering portrayal. 

Speaking of which, the Frank Burns of news turns back into the Finneas T. Bluster of news.  Bill-O‘s latest threats next in worst persons.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Oliver Stone‘s Richard Nixon was animated by the deaths of his brothers.  Stone‘s George W. Bush appears to be animated by alcohol and baseball.  I like this George W. Bush better.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst person in the world.

Tonight, the bronze to Coulter-geist.  She‘s pretty much a shell of her former self, but occasionally she reminds us of her former spectacular tone dead bone-headiness, such as when she writes of Barack Obama‘s autobiography, quote, “the book revealed Obama to be a F-ing lunatic. 

Obama is about to be our next president.  You may want to take a peek.  If

only people had read ‘Mein Kampf‘”

And we have to congratulate Senator Obama; compared to Hitler and Tiger Woods in the same week. 

Runner up, Bill-O, he has now declared the issue of racism in this country now at a state that it‘s too dangerous to discuss in public.  This would be after he to Sylvia‘s Restaurant in Harlem and then expressed his surprise that none of the clientele were shouting, M-Fer, I want more iced tea.  So he said the way to solve racism is to stop calling people racists;

“and the African American community has to join with me and condemn it.  That‘s what you guys have to do.  You race hustlers, race baiters out there, you watch it.  We‘ve got your number and the gloves are off.”

Get Billy, now he‘s the masked avenger.  Add race hustlers to the list of the people imminently facing the wrath of O‘Reilly.  “The Washington Post,” MSNBC, GE, the residents of San Francisco; he will be avenging himself against you just as soon as he can think of how, and it will be brutal. 

By the way, I went to Sylvia‘s for lunch two weeks ago.  Somebody mistook me for Chris Matthews.  And I had the best macaroni and cheese of my life. 

But our winner, Democratic Illinois state Representative Monique Davis, who wigged out at a witness testifying against a million dollar state grant to preserve a historic Baptist church.  The witness was an atheist activist and Representative Davis got angrier and angrier and louder and louder as she told him—this is on tape—quote, “I don‘t know what you have against god, but some of us don‘t have much against him.  We look forward to him and his blessings.  I‘m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois.  This it the Land of Lincoln, where people believe in god.  What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous.  It‘s dangerous for our children even to know that your philosophy exists.  Get out of that seat.  You have no right to be here.  We believe in something.  You believe in destroying.  You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.”

In the Illinois State Assembly this happens.  A declaration that atheism is somehow dangerous?  Obviously, Assembly Woman Davis owes the witness and everybody in this country who believes in freedom of religion an apology.  And if she can‘t figure that out, she should resign and take her prejudice with her.  She also needs to improve her own education.  That phrase, this is the Land of Lincoln, where people believe in god; Miss Davis said that in Springfield, where, when Lincoln first ran for Congress in 1846, the future great president was accused by his opponent of being an atheist. 

You not only spat on the fundamental American freedom to embrace religion, a religion or no religion, Assemblywoman Davis, but you also made a damn fool of yourself in the process.  State Representative Monique Davis, Democrat of Illinois, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A hard-drinking joker of a frat boy, the sordid life of a son of privilege, an obsession with baseball.  Our number story, wait, the baseball obsession is a bad thing how exactly?  Anyway, a script for Oliver Stone‘s film version of the life President George Walker Bush is loosed upon society and Stone may be treating him a lot less gently than he treated Richard Nixon.  A Hollywood reporter saying it got its hands on a script and that includes Bush as a frat boy drinking Vodka from a trash can, as a National Guard aviator, nearly crashing his plane drunk, in a poisoned paternal relationship that includes a fist fight with his presidential father, and later born again and teatotaling, but foul mouthed, obsessed with Saddam Hussein, and locked in a power struggle with Dick Cheney. 

After Josh Brolin, lately of “No Country for Old Men,” has already been cast to play President Bush.  Actress Elizabeth Banks, fresh from her role as an amateur pornographer, will play Laura Bush and, says “New York Magazine,” Stone wants Paul Giamatti as Turd Blossom, the president‘s long time adviser, Karl Rove.  The magazine predicting Oliver Stone‘s “W” could be a huge hit as a comedy.  No comment from the White House. 

James Moore has been covering George W. Bush since the late 1970‘s.  He co-authored “Bush‘s Brain, How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.”  He is also a contributor to “Huffington Post.com.”  Jim, good evening. 

JIM MOORE, “BUSH‘S BRAIN”:  Hi, Keith, good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  Casting aside, let‘s toss a few of the reported scenes your way.  Tell me if they ring true, based on your experience.  The young W telling his former frat brothers that being a politician like his father and his grandfather is the last thing in the world he wanted to do. 

MOORE:  I think that‘s true.  I‘ve heard that from more than one source.  The truth is, this guy wanted, when he was young, to reject everything his father did and his father was.  And as he got older, he decided to go play in the same field and try to outdo his father.  His father‘s shadow has been cast over not only this president‘s life but our lives.  He wanted two terms.  His dad only had one.  So he could upstage his dad, he wanted to go all the way to Baghdad and kick Saddam Hussein‘s butt.  His dad didn‘t couldn‘t do that. 

His dad was a baseball player.  W couldn‘t hit the curve ball, so he bought a baseball team.  All of theses things are just his psychological torture to prove to himself that he is as good or better than his dad, and we‘re all having to live with it. 

OLBERMANN:  Another scene, George H. W. Bush telling his drunken son, he shut call Alcoholics Anonymous and W cursing him out, as, quote, Mr. War Hero, Mr. Perfect, and they have a fist fight. 

MOORE:  Well, there never was a fist fight.  I heard that story.  Remember, it‘s secondhand.  It was only his father and him there.  But the people who have written about that, and there have been a few of us, that there was a confrontation.  He came home.  He was drunk.  He hit some garbage cans.  His dad came out and told him to grow up.  W confronted him.  There was some anger, but I think Stone has taken a bit of dramatic license here and is going to say that there was a fist fight.  There was never any punches thrown.  He waited until Iraq and Baghdad to get around to doing that. 

OLBERMANN:  Speak of fistfights, at least symbolic ones, supposedly there‘s going to be constant clashes between President Bush and Vice President Cheney and manipulation by Cheney and Rumsfeld.  That doesn‘t sound like it matches Cheney‘s success in finessing this guy for eight years now. 

MOORE:  No, but there was a power struggle inside the White House and it was over influence.  Cheney could come to the president with something and then the president would go back to Rove and say, what do you think.  If it didn‘t pass muster with Rove, the president would push back on Cheney and Rumsfeld.  Rumsfeld was out doing what he wanted.

I think this president—I‘ve always thought of him as a bit like a pillow.  He sort of reflects the last head that is laid against him.  That‘s the problem that we‘ve had all along, as to who is talking to him. 

OLBERMANN:  The Bush baloney and white bread kind of guy, obsessed sports, that he blew off a meeting about the invasion of Iraq to watch a football playoff game and that his real goal was to play baseball.  What‘s wrong with an obsession with baseball?  If they had made him commissioner of baseball in 1993, we‘d all be happy now? 

MOORE:  Yes, I think that‘s true.  There‘s nothing wrong with an obsession with baseball.  What I think is the greater question is where‘s the news in all this?  What is Stone telling us that we don‘t know and how did he convince his investors to make this movie?  What was the concept?  Was it Napoleon Dynamite and he‘s Hamlet?  What are you doing today, Mr.  President.  Whatever I want.  Jeez, I‘m going to invade Iraq.  I think we figured this out.  Maybe my work here is done.  

OLBERMANN:  By the way, Atlanta one, Colorado one, heading to the top of the second.  Jim Moore, the co-author of “Bush‘s Brain,” thank you ,sir. 

MOORE:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,804th 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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