updated 4/10/2008 10:13:29 AM ET 2008-04-10T14:13:29

Guests: Elizabeth Edwards, Eugene Robinson, Paul F. Tompkins

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

The long knives are out.  “Clearly,” writes Lanny Davis, “Mr. Obama doesn‘t share the extremist views of Reverend Wright.  He‘s a tolerant and honorable person.”  “But,” clearly, Clinton argues, “the caucus states unfairly favor Obama.”

“But,” answers a Wharton professor, “they actually unfairly support Clinton‘s claim about the total popular vote.”  Had Nevada and Iowa and all the rest had primaries, not caucuses, he calculates Obama‘s lead would not be just 717,000 but closer to 1.3 million.

The numbers on the ground in Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘ve always believed this was going to be a close race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And it is.  One poll of middling reputation has her lead in Pennsylvania down to five.  Gallup national: 51 to 41 Obama.

One number on which both agree: McCain‘s 100 year war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He is willing to have a long term occupation of Iraq as long as 100 years.  In fact, he said 10,000 years.

CLINTON:  It would be all right with him if we kept troops in Iraq for up to 100 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Keeping Mr. Bush‘s Iraq warm-up act on stage for a second day, Petraeus and Crocker preached to the House.  Are we Iraq‘ed out?  Is neither party getting anywhere on the issue?

And what about the health care issue?  Shouldn‘t the Democrats they be pounding John McCain and his plan, a “band aid” and a prayer?

One who is Elizabeth Edwards joins us after giving what might be the closest she or her husband make to an endorsement.

And the other issue is: $5000.  How much the University of California at Davis says the Clinton campaign has owed it since a rally in January?  The school is ready to go to a collection agency.

On the night in question: President Clinton told a crowd at U.C., Davis, “I owe this campus a lot.”

You bet you do.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, April 9th, 209 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Weeks ago, the Democratic presidential race became the “yeah, but” campaign.  Obama ahead, “yeah, but” what about Florida and Michigan?  Clinton staves off elimination in Texas, “yeah, but” Obama actually won more delegates there.

Today, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Each candidacy now escalating the “yeah, but-ness.”  One study looking at the Clinton belief that the caucuses have unfairly favored among Obama.  The scholars saying, “yeah, but” if those caucuses have been primaries, Obama‘s lead now would be nearly double what it is now.

And one Clinton surrogate looking at Obama‘s apparently successful self distancing from Jeremiah Wright and writing in a national newspaper, “yeah, but” we‘re going to keep asking questions.

But candidates on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today, Senator Clinton selling her solutions for a strong military to Hopewell High School in Aliquippa.  This, while an op-ed in a Murdoch owned “Wall Street Journal,” Clinton surrogate Lanny Davis literally invoking a “yeah, but” about Senator Obama‘s relationship with his former pastor.

“Clearly Mr. Obama does not share the extremist views of Reverend Wright.  He is a tolerant and honorable person.  But that is not the issue.  The questions remain: Why did he stay a member of the congregation?  Why didn‘t he speak up earlier?  And why did he reward Reverend Wright with a campaign position even after knowing of his comments?”

While Mr. Davis was making what he claimed was his only personal non-Clinton campaign case against Senator Obama‘s electability, the Illinois Democrat now has a study conducted by a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania that finds something unexpected and in his favor.  Assistant professor Gregory P. Nini of Wharton concluding that if primaries had been held in the caucus states, voters in those states would have favored Senator Obama based on Democratic Party projections, making Senator Obama‘s lead in the popular vote more than 1.3 million votes right now instead of the 717,000 he is right now.

As for where things stand in Pennsylvania right now, in the new Pennsylvania poll from Strategic Vision, Senator Clinton with a narrow lead of five, 47 percent to 42 percent.  It‘s not a brand name poll per se.  The Keith number of undecided plus margin of error is nearly three times the margin at 14 percent.

And the Gallup national daily tracking survey, Senator Obama is holding a significant lead over Senator Clinton for a third consecutive day, 10 points still, 51 percent to 41 percent.  Keith number there, 8 percent.

At a news conference in western Pennsylvania: Senator Clinton discounting the polls in general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I don‘t really pay attention to any polls, because I think that they‘re just, you know, snap shots in time, and you don‘t want to really rely on them.  You just have to get up every day and work as hard as possible.  I‘ve always believed this was going to be a close race.  Clearly, Senator Obama is investing enormous amount of time and money in Pennsylvania.  So, he is running full speed toward April 22nd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today‘s mystery word is clearly.  Senator Obama running full speed, not just towards April 22nd, but beyond it at an event in Malvern, Pennsylvania, describing this election not in terms of Obama versus Clinton but in terms of Obama versus McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We‘ve got a very clear choice in this election.  I respect John McCain.  He‘ll be a worthy opponent.  He is a genuine American hero.  But if you believe that our economy is on the right path, then John McCain is the right candidate for you.  I admired Senator McCain when he stood up and said that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans offended his conscience, that‘s what he said, but he got over that and now he‘s all for them and for continuing to do the same thing that have taking us towards recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama, clearly closing the gap in Pennsylvania and leading nationally by 10 among Democrats.  Should we view the timing of the Lanny Davis op-ed about Reverend Wright in the “Wall Street Journal” as an accident?

FINEMAN:  No, I don‘t think it‘s an accident at all.  And by the way, the clips you‘ve shown convince me that the word “but” is the single most important word in American politics.  Obama was using it there, too.  No, it‘s not accidental, even if it wasn‘t commanded that it be written by Maggie Williams or Howard Wolfson.

The inner circle of the Clinton campaign can‘t believe that the Reverend Wright issue hasn‘t turned this campaign upside down.  The fact that it hasn‘t has them furious and confused and Lanny Davis is lashing out in place of the Clinton campaign directly, which can‘t afford it, they think to do it themselves.

OLBERMANN:  The poll that we cited may not be as reliable as some of the brand name versions that we like to quote there, which have it a little bit larger but regardless, Pennsylvania has tightened up.  Obama has 12 full days of campaigning left.  Is it now down to this for Senator Clinton and her surrogates and those campaigning for her?  Is the Reverend Wright issue the only chance that she has at this point?

FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t think so.  It‘s not working out that way.  I‘m fascinated, but knowing Pennsylvania as well as I do, by whose campaigning where.  Hillary is in western Pennsylvania, buttressing what should be her stronghold.  She shouldn‘t have to be there.  She‘s there.

Obama meanwhile, as you showed, is in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which should have been Clinton territories, or should be the battleground.  He‘s closing in on her turf.  He‘s also started Sportsmen for Obama Group.  He‘s not going to go hunting the way he went bowling, but he‘s going to get sportsmen behind him.

He‘s closing in and this was going to be the place.  Pennsylvania was going to be the place, so once again turn around the Clinton campaign as Ohio did.  The problem that the Clinton people have is that there were three—there was a month to go in Obama‘s momentum, his money, his message, are catching up day by day and that‘s Hillary‘s problem.

Hillary has ads on in Pennsylvania, citing endorsements in Philly from the mayor, her roots in Scranton, the endorsement of Ed Rendell.  It‘s a real micro-strategy, whereas Obama as ads on in the state talking about health care and gas prices.

OLBERMANN:  An academic study obviously is just an academic study and no more than that, but it is fascinating, this thing out of Wharton that there can be some sort of counter that does in fact, you know, sort of stroke-the-logic-cilia to the argument that the caucuses were undemocratic and favored Obama and saying that they actually cost Obama what would be a heftier lead in this imaginary total popular vote thing among the Democratic primary.

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think, I haven‘t seen the study, but I think that‘s probably right.  I mean, Obama was hot, he was popular.  Had they had a different system, he would—that would have reflected it.

The problem that Hillary Clinton has had is that she keeps making these procedural arguments.  The primaries are not the caucuses.  The big states are not the little states.  Beyond a certain point, it sounds like you‘re arguing with the refs and you‘re not focusing on the game and that‘s sort of the situation she‘s in now.

Pennsylvania, she‘s got to win, and she‘s got to win it by a convincing margin, because her campaign spent the last month saying that Pennsylvania was the place that was going to be the trampoline to springboard her back to the top.  We‘ll see if it happens.  It doesn‘t look like it right now.  It‘s probably going to be closer than she would like.

OLBERMANN:  As we suggested, the campaign of “yeah but‘s.”  And I think the “yeah but” is a John Madden term.  It certainly, it‘s originally a sports term from somebody who stole it from somebody.

Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, Howard, thanks for your time tonight.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton did get an important semi-endorsement

today for her health plan of John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth have so

far not said who they might support in the Democratic primaries.  Elizabeth

Edwards this morning says she has, quote, “more confidence in

Elizabeth Edwards this morning said, she has, quote, “more confidence in Clinton‘s health care plan than Obama‘s.”  That policy endorsement and her addition to the ranks of a largely Clintonian think tank, the Center for American Progress, today fueling speculation that both Mrs. Edwards and perhaps her husband, had decided to back Clinton and just as much speculation being fueled that this is as close as they will actually get to an endorsement until after a nominee has been chosen by the Democratic Party.

Joining us now to address that dangling if true and such and many other things: Elizabeth Edwards.  How are you?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, SEN. EDWARDS‘ WIFE:  I‘m doing great.  How are you?

OLBERMANN:  I‘m pretty good.  But I want to go through the specifics of the health care issue here between the two candidates and your reaction to them in a moment, but I must ask you the politics first.  Was that an endorsement today, does it presage an endorsement?

EDWARDS:  No, I was answering a direct question, and I don‘t have much political capital to spend, Keith, and I want to spend it on the ideas I care about, and so, if I support one candidate‘s ideas over another, then I‘ll express that.  The important—I keep getting asked the difference between these two candidates and their policies and on health care, I prefer Senator Clinton‘s to Senator Obama‘s.

The difference—more important to me is the difference between Senator McCain‘s proposed plan, I said plan, with the ideas of either of the Democratic candidates, and you‘re talking about narrower differences between the Democrats and then this gulf that I was describing earlier, a solar system of difference between what Senator McCain is suggesting for health care and what these candidates are suggesting.

OLBERMANN:  Well, it‘s the difference between an emergency room and a band aid, and you took him to task about this online.  The health care plan that he has proposed, you‘re both cancer survivors, it would cover neither of you?  How does that not—how is it that that has not gotten enough attention?

EDWARDS:  Well, I don‘t think the policies of Senator McCain have

gotten—certainly his domestic policy has gotten very little attention,

either from the media or the candidates, I guess in the—I was never much

educated much by the Republican debate, but certainly now on these domestic policies, and it‘s not going to require coverage of preexisting conditions.  It‘s actually a really radical change in what we do on health care.

For example, employer-based health care, where most of us get our coverage, that could be eviscerated and replaced with tax credits.  $5,000 tax credit may cover some people, but it won‘t cover all people, and, you know, the chances of it covering health care for a family, as the employer based coverage presently might, is pretty slim.

People are going to find their coverage cut back if you have preexisting conditions not just cancer, a heart condition, diabetes, multiple sclerosis.  Anyway, in any preexisting conditions, you‘re very likely to find health care way out of your price range.

OLBERMANN:  So, is the McCain evisceration plan and this entire contrast to the Clinton plan, the Obama plan, is this thing happening?  Is the McCain thing getting a pass because among the Democrats, it‘s still Obama versus Clinton as opposed to Democrats versus McCain?

EDWARDS:  Certainly when we have a candidate, and there should be plenty of time after that time, after that point, to make the case and more Americans will be turning their attention to the race.  So, we‘ll be able to make it clearer then.  But you know, I‘m a little disappointed that the press hasn‘t helped the American people come to terms with what these plans will mean in their real life.

So maybe it‘s a faults of the candidates—we bear some responsibility in not being able to make things clear.  And—but some responsibility also for the press for not—and I‘ve been to Senator McCain‘s Web site.  If you read the plan that‘s described on the Web site, it all sounds, you know, it‘s a great big hallmark card, all sounds great.  Cut costs, more competitive, more people will get access but that‘s not actually the way it works.

You have to work through the details to find this out.  So the American public is going to depend on the press and the candidates who oppose Senator McCain to make it clear.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Well, it‘s obvious that you have done your homework and by extension, you‘re doing a lot of other people‘s homework in analyzing these campaigns and you did say you have more confidence in Senator Clinton than Senator Obama‘s.  For those of us who are not as in-depth on this as you are, give me the highlights, what are the differences because Senator Obama in each of the 20 debates so far, and no doubt, next week will again say that they‘re essentially the same plan.  Are they not essentially the same plan?

EDWARDS:  In a lot of the details, and he can certainly quote a lot of details that are the same between these plans.  But very essential ingredient is whether or, in my view, it‘s whether or not it is a universal plan, whether it covers everybody.  In order to cover everybody, it means everybody has to buy health insurance.

Senator Clinton has suggested that she would help people buy health insurance.  In fact, Senator Obama has suggested he would help people buy health insurance if they couldn‘t afford it.  But he‘s not going to require people to buy it.  In my view, that means that we don‘t get the advantage of some cost savings, you know, you‘re still—hospitals are still, because they need to stay in the black, they‘re still going to need to charge people $25 for an aspirin or $50 for a bottle of water.  Those kinds of things have happened.

As long as there are uninsured people, they‘re going to need to cost it (ph), they will not be able to get the costs down for everybody.  There are other reasons that are complicated I think, but related to the market and the health care pools that I think make it really important that we have this mandate, but I‘m convinced that a health care policy without the mandate is only half a policy.

OLBERMANN:  Last question, and then we‘ll let you go with our thanks.  Combine everything here for me between the issues and having stayed out of the endorsement game, that old saying, song, lyric about if you do not choose, you still have made a choice.  What if not endorsing helps one of these Democratic candidates more than the other?

EDWARDS:  My—you know, my ideal is to have every candidate.  When John first announced his policies, what he was hoping to do, it would be great if he was the only one and everybody gravitated towards John, but really the best of our world has been (ph) everybody adopted the policies.  Because we really care less about the human being who occupies the office than we do that the human being embraces these policies, embraces—you were talking earlier, I heard something about the Senator Obama criticizing Senator McCain‘s embracing George Bush‘s tax cuts.

He goes further than that.  He has corporate tax cuts.  These health insurers were talking about, nearly $2 billion in tax cuts.  The oil industry, five couple of oil companies, $3.8 billion.  It‘s what the federal government really needs to continue to give tax breaks to oil companies.

But unable to make those—make that conversation to try to urge the candidates to these positions, because I don‘t have a dog in the race.  I only care about the issues.  So I actually think it makes me freer, gives me a little more freedom to urge—you know honestly, if John McCain wants to endorse a universal health care plan tomorrow, you know, I‘ll say that that‘s a great health care plan.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘re not holding our breaths about that, but what a wonderful thought.

EDWARDS:  Neither am i.

OLBERMANN:  Elizabeth Edwards, it is always a pleasure visiting with you, whether it‘s on the air or off.  Great, thanks and all the best.

EDWARDS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Day three of the administration‘s publicity surge and galling news that the much hyped reductions in tour lengths.  The president is about to announce tomorrow, will not apply to any of the troops in harm‘s way in Iraq.

And Clinton and Obama attack not each other, but rather Senator McCain and the 100 years of solitude in Iraq.  And he doesn‘t like that.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Troop tours to be reduced from 15 months to 12, not for any of the troops in Iraq, they forgot to mention and does it seem as yet umbrage at and support of Iraq have both been reduced.

Worst: The culprits in the Joe Lieberman Web site saga identified. 

He‘s own people.

And in Bushed, did you know, Mr. Taxpayer, that you have helped our government purchased Ecuadorian lingerie vital to the war on drugs?

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  With the conclusion of Petraeus-Crocker “waiting until last September works so well, you should now all wait until next September” hearings, it is on to the dramatic sacrifice emphasizing speech from the president tomorrow, his 48th attempt to convince you to just sit there, slightly rephrase from attempt number 47 and all that preceded it.

But in our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: Is it just me or is this year‘s fake debate about something that‘s already been decided just not resonating with supporters or opponents alike?

House Armed Services getting its chance today to question General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.  General Petraeus claiming that an additional troop buildup in Iraq would be unlikely even if security deteriorated, after some of the extra troops there returned here, quoting, “that would be a pretty remote thought in my mind.”  He conceded that the sheer strain on the military was part of his reasoning and still the timetable is unchanged.

Troops escalated in during the surge continue to return through July, then a phony 45-day freeze of troop levels along with an evaluation period followed by an indefinite period of assessment.  In other words, wait until September and then keep waiting.

President Bush speaks tomorrow to the American public.  And senior defense officials say he will announce cutting tours of duty from 15 months to 12.  That glimmer of hope itself is phony.  It will not apply to any soldiers currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other war theaters.

Today, Senator Clinton said the president should be talking about what Petraeus and Crocker would not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  What is our end game in Iraq given the failure of the surge to achieve the objective that the president outlined for it?  Second, that the United States Congress will have the chance to review and vote on any long-term security agreement he has negotiated with the Iraqis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent, MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe.  Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  That overall point at the beginning, is it indeed just me or did the Petraeus hearings really under-excite, did they land with a thud, not just for those who oppose this, but for those who have supported it?  Are we Iraq‘ed out?

WOLFFE:  No, it‘s not just you.  I mean, look, there are a couple of things going on here.  First of all, the real decisions about the war will be made by the next president and by the voters in the fall.  But secondly, I guess it‘s hard to sustain the passions of an argument that has been unchanged for so long.  Of course, it‘s terrible if people are disinterested in a situation where tens of thousands of troops are still on the battlefield.

But I think there‘s one ultimate reason that Petraeus‘ testimony landed with a thud, and that‘s that there was a huge mixed message at the heart of it.  The surge was a huge success apparently, according to the administration, but not enough of a success that the troops can come home.  I mean, what is it?  Is it a success or not a success, and that mixed message is part of the problem why this testimony really hasn‘t resonated.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  If it works, we have to stay.  If it fails, we have to stay.  If it‘s something in between, we have to stay.

WOLFFE:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  If a year ago, you had suggested any level of disinterest in Iraq in the presidential race as it really heated up, the first thought would have been, that‘s trouble for the Democrats, but is that going to be the case?  Is that the case now or is this actually a bigger issue for John McCain because so much of his campaign is about exclusively the subject of Iraq?

WOLFFE:  Well, frozen argument about Iraq does not help John McCain, in the sense that the vast majority of American public opinion has decided what it thinks about the war and that‘s that the war was a giant mistake.  So, he needs something to change the dynamic, to make people revisit their opinions.  And as long as it is the status quo, it‘s not helping for him, in spite of what Republicans think is his best argument to the American voters.

OLBERMANN:  And the president speaks in this context against this backdrop to who tomorrow?  Who is in fact left to convince?  Who is there left to suddenly outrage?

WOLFFE:  Well, he‘s really talking to his successors.  I mean, this is where he‘s trying to lock his successes into the strategy, and in the hope that they‘ll follow, of course, you know, what a president does in the last few months, even with a war, is actually very hard, as he proves to President Clinton.  There is no reason at all why a success should carry on what the previous president did.

OLBERMANN:  And this little asterisk, the tour reductions that they‘ve been hyping for several days, that‘s just—they will not apply to the men and women in the theater, what happens when that one glimmer of light becomes snuffed out, when it becomes general knowledge that that‘s the case?

WOLFFE:  Well, look, it‘s great news for those families who‘ve been looking at these long tours, but really, again, the problem is for McCain who said that he‘s happy for these occupations to go on for many, many decades.  If the tours are still extended for those families, there‘s not going to be any confidence about when they can come home and that‘s what really counts.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  Thank you, Richard.  Good night.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The audience got so high that some spectators believed they saw one of the band members driving the guitar down the street.  It was a trip, man.

And wait, we gave corporate credit cards to 300,000 employees of the Bush administration?  And they only bought $20 billion worth of stuff?  Only $1,000 worth of online dates, only $360 worth of Ecuadorian lingerie? 

Bushed is next.

This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bushed and why we taxpayers just bought lingerie for DEA Agents in a moment.  But first, 43 years ago today, the model and sometimes actress Polina Politzkova (ph) was born in Czechoslovakia, meaning when she made her first appearance in a live national TV interview to promote her first appearance on the cover of the 1984 “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue, she was not quite 19 years old, meaning she was extremely nervous for the interview, which did not help the interviewer from CNN sports, who was himself understandably pretty nervous too.  Hi.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin in Storkow (ph), Germany, where an old guy dressed as Satan is pedaling a 40 foot guitar mobile down the street.  The price of gas is killing people.  The inventor‘s name is Dee Dee Senf (ph).  He has an entire museum filled with wacky vehicles, and in one of the most ridiculous sound bites of all times, Dee Dee explains why he did it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it‘s the biggest ridable guitar in the universe.  It‘s well over 14 meters long and more than four meters tall, which means you can‘t drive it on public roads. 

OLBERMANN:  I hate to correct the devil, but the 1970‘s rock band “Boston” lays claim to having the biggest ridable guitar in the universe, also 12 of the same song on that album. 

Finally, to Erk (ph), in the Netherlands, where a guy built a Viking ship made out of popsicle sticks.  Robert McDonald did this.  It‘s 49 feet long, took more than three years, and over 15 million popsicle sticks to make.  So if you‘re wondering why you haven‘t seen a new edition of puppet theater lately, blame this jerk from Erk.  You can‘t get the would, you know.

McDonald and a crew are currently sailing the vessel to London.  They say their only concern about the voyage is the prospect of Swede‘s colorful iceberg. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The pro war candidate bristles when his pro-war quotes are thrown back at him, especially that nick name, John 100 Years McCain.  And as George C. Scott said to Paul Newman in the movie “The Hustler,” so does a California university say to the Clinton campaign, you owe me money.  They may hire a bill collector.  These stories ahead, but first the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, Blackface-gate; the House Committee on Homeland Security‘s investigation has concluded that the president‘s assistant secretary at Homeland deliberately ordered the deletion of objectionable photos from a staff Halloween party, possibly to make sure that the photos and her first reaction to what they showed did not jeopardize her confirmation by the Senate. 

The photos were of a white employee at Homeland Security dressed up as a black detainee.  And the first time she saw the guy so dressed, Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers did not reprimand him or order him to remove the offensive getup.  She instead gave him one of the prizes for best costume. 

Number two, this is not a game of battle ship-gate; Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, well known lunatic, already in trouble for berating a guard in the green zone in Baghdad, is in far hotter water tonight.  He posted a video he made there during a rocket attack last Friday, in which he is shown explaining that some of the rockets, quote, hit just over my head.  And he precedes to give the names of two other places where the enemy hit pay dirt. 

A Pentagon spokesman says, like all visitors to Iraq, McHenry was warned not to discuss attacks in any way that would provide the enemy any better understanding of their effectiveness.  The D.O.D. has also told him not to show the video again.  Perhaps the Congressman was just auditioning for a job co-anchoring with Geraldo, let me give you the exact position of our troops, Rivera. 

Number one, corporate credit card-gate.  It was supposed to be an effort to reduce bureaucracy, issue so-called purchase cards so that they didn‘t have to waste time and paperwork, government employees that is, asking for contract bids for a box of 500 envelopes.  Surprisingly enough, 300,000 Bush administration employees who got these cards did not indicate that they were aware that they were supposed to limit themselves to things like boxes of 500 envelopes. 

A G.A.O. audit shows among the 20 billion dollars spent with these corporate credit cards, which you and I are paying for, these employees bought iPods, subscriptions to Internet dating services, cameras and laptops, a 13,000 dollar dinner at a steak house, a dozen computer servers costing 100 grand each and mortgage payments.  Car accessories, debts to casinos and checks for live-in boyfriends.  I forgot this one, 360 dollars spent by someone at the State Department at the Seduction Boutique in Ecuador for, quote, women‘s underwear-lingerie for using during jungle training by trainees of a drug enforcement program. 

DEA Ecuadorian jungle drug buster panties, truly your tax dollars in action. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Just as President Bush became a uniter, not a divider, perversely by uniting America against his presidency, so too has John McCain tonight achieved the unlikely goal of uniting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Our third story tonight, despite howls of G.O.P. protest, Senator Clinton has now joined Senator Obama in asserting yes, Senator McCain really did say he was OK with America staying in Iraq for 100 years. 

For days, G.O.P. groups have hammered Obama for saying first that McCain would fight the Iraq war for 100 years and then merely that McCain would keep U.S. troops there for 100 years.  Obama yesterday stood his ground. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  What John McCain was saying was that he is happy to have a potential long-term occupation in Iraq.  Happy may be overstating it.  He is willing to have a long-term occupation of Iraq, as long as 100 years.  In fact, he said 10,000 years, however long it took. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton today, despite G.O.P. complaints of dirty tactics, like, you know, quoting McCain, joined in this vicious truth slinging, referring to those 100 years during especially savage praise for McCain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  My friend and colleague, Senator McCain, whom I respect for his incredible service to our country, with whom I have traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to meet our troops and to survey conditions there, has said that it would be all right with him if we kept troops in Iraq for up to 100 years.  And again, yesterday, he basically reiterated his commitment to the course that we are on in Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, what did McCain really say? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Bush has talked about our staying if Iraq for 50 years. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Maybe 100. 

We‘ve been in South Korea—we‘ve been in Japan for 60 years.  We‘ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so.  That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So what‘s the G.O.P. complaint?  The party that says anti-war Democrats favor surrendering to al Qaeda is, of course, a notorious semantic sticker.  So let‘s address the point, it‘s not accurate just to say McCain would be fine with the U.S. in the Iraq for 100 years.  He said he would be fine with us being there for up to 10 million years.  Literally, 10 million years. 

After first rejecting the analogy, he now compares his 100 year scenario to the U.S. presence on the Korean peninsula, meaning we would only stay in Iraq if they stop shooting at us, which of course they insist on doing because we won‘t leave. 

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also, of course, columnist and associate editor at the “Washington Post.”  Thanks for your time tonight, Gene. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If John 100 Years McCain wants to claim that he would only stay that long if troops finally start getting the flowers we were promised five years ago, does that not oblige him to say how long he‘s willing to stay while they keep shooting at us? 

ROBINSON:  There you go again being logical, Keith.  I talked to you about this in the past.  You know, look, right now, American troops are being wounded, harmed, injured, and killed, OK?  I think those were his four criteria/  So therefore by his logic, we shouldn‘t be there, right?  If we‘re only going to be in Iraq for this century, if there were just flowers being tossed at us everywhere, well, then why are we there now?  There‘s just something—it‘s just completely kind of wacky about the whole thing. 

OLBERMANN:  It sounds as if what he wants to do or the logical extension of his idea is to pull them out now and send them back in after everything calls down.  So if things in Iraq somehow magically reach the prosperousness, the stability of Japan or even the stability without prosperity in the Korean D.N.c., why would John 100 Years McCain want to stay there?  What is the scenario that requires both an American military presence there and makes it safe for our people there? 

ROBINSON:  I have no idea exactly what John Mc-Century means by that, Keith, but look, this is a good debate to have.  What is the proper role of permanent American military bases abroad?  Should we have one in Iraq?  Would that make the United States any safer?  I would argue that, you know, the long-term presence of large visible numbers of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia did not make the United States safer demonstrably.  And I can‘t imagine a scenario under which that makes our country safer if we stay in Iraq for 100 years, you know, even if somehow we manage to turn it into Switzerland. 

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Given that al Qaeda had declared war on us because Bush senior put troops like that in Saudi Arabia.  Last point here, political strategy, the G.O.P. trying to scare the Democrats into not calling him John 100 Years McCain or Mc-Century, whatever.  Did he not open himself up to another interpretation of that nickname when Brit Hume defended him by saying he had a senior moment, when he himself said his choice for the vice presidency was especially important because of his own age.  Is there a little something extra in this? 

ROBINSON:  I‘m not sure if this is a good idea, if I were on his—

doing his strategy.  I would say don‘t you bring up the age issue.  Maybe

others will bring it up.  But for him to essentially, you know, point a

finger at himself and say, remember, folks, I‘m really old, I think is not

again, is not good politics, not a good idea. 

OLBERMANN:  In his defense, I want to point out, he‘s not 100 years old, not as far as I know.  Eugene Robinson, columnist for the “Washington Post.”  As always, Gene, thanks.  Good night. 

ROBINSON:  Great to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Unpaid bills in a political campaign are not really news.  Unpaid bills unpaid for so long that the creditors talk about hiring a bill collector to get the money from the Clinton campaign, that‘s news.  And the solution offered for the attempts by protesters to extinguish the Olympic flame carried by relay runners.  Quote—seriously, quote, get faster runners.  The genius who dreamt that one up, a former top Bush administration member, identified next in worst person.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There used to be this commercial that ran about 17 times an hour on local TV in Los Angeles.  “I‘m Hugh Slate from the law firm of Slate and Lioney (ph).  Are bill collectors calling you at all hours?  We‘ll make bill collectors leave you alone.  That means, leave you alone.” 

The Clinton campaign may literally need the services of Slate and Lioney. 

That‘s next.  First time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Illinois Democratic state Representative Monique Davis, from whom it has been nothing but crickets, silence, since it was revealed that she attacked atheist activist Rob Sherman at a legislative hearing, claiming, quote, it‘s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists, and insisting he had no right to be in the witness chair and should get out.  Sherman himself running for a state seat from the Green Party has now written to the committee at whose hearing he was abused and asked it or the Illinois House to censure Representative Davis, whom he claims has made the House, quote, look like it‘s a bunch of religious fanatic right wing wackos.”

Mr. Sherman adds helpfully, it could be bad for tourism. 

The silver to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, now running, among other things, a sports communications company.  He has a solution for the worldwide protest about China hosting the Olympics and their continuing attempts to extinguish the ceremonial Olympic torch as it is carried by runners.  Right now it‘s pretty manageable, he says.  It‘s not like there‘s 250 protesters grabbing for the torch.  Maybe the best thing they could do is to get faster runners. 

Genius.  Hell, give the runners rocket-powered roller skates.  That would be even better.

But our winner, Senator Joe Lieberman; when his campaign website crashed the day before Connecticut‘s 2006 Democratic senatorial primary, Lieberman‘s supporters immediately blamed rival Ned Lamont, who beat Lieberman in that primary and lost to him in the general election.  The Lieberman campaign accused the Lamont people of hacking into their website and posted a greeting screen demanding that Lamont, quote, make an unqualified statement denouncing this kind of campaign trick and to demand whoever is responsible to cease and desist immediately.  The Lieberman campaign repeated the accusation in the form of accepted fact throughout subsequent campaign. 

The FBI investigated.  It has now been revealed that the crash of the website of the Lieberman campaign was the fault of the Lieberman campaign.  The server that hosted the Joe2006.com website failed, reads a bureau e-mail, because it was over utilized and misconfigured.  There was no evidence of an attack.  That conclusion by the FBI was reached on October 25, 2006.  We are only finding this out now because a newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request.  The Lieberman campaign, nor Connecticut‘s attorney general, neither of them ever revealed to the public in the week before the election that Lamont was blameless. 

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In another one of what must be very satisfying, but ultimately disastrous bits of snark, mouthpieces for Senator Clinton have begun to jokingly ask if journalists who were not avidly, incoherently and delusionally supporting their candidates should be, quote, getting checks from the Obama campaign.  Except with Senator Clinton‘s organization in the middle of its recent credit crisis, the remark has been quickly one upped with the return volley that the real question is whether anybody is getting checks from the Clinton campaign. 

Number one story on the COUNTDOWN, all humor starts with a portion of truth.  This humor‘s portion of truth is now 100 percent.  A bill collector may be engaged by a California university which says it should be getting checks from the Clinton campaign.  The debt due to a January 17th campaign rally at the University of California at Davis gym.  The former president telling the crowd he owed the campus a lot and still does.  According to the university, three calls to the campaign requesting payment for the extra security, the cleanup and a marching band still have not been answered to the tune of a little over 5,000 dollars. 

Clinton campaign also left three other California schools more than 30,000 dollars in unpaid bills as of May 10, say the creditors.  It all goes to a collection agency and the 3:00 a.m. phone call in the middle of the night is someone named Bob who says ma‘am, I don‘t want to see this affect your credit score. 

We are in debt to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever” and frequent guest here, for showing up tonight.  Paul, good evening. 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH-1:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Hillary Clinton has a two million dollar fund raiser with Elton John right around the block tonight at Radio City Music Hall.  Do you think maybe I should go outside there, stand with a UC Davis Aggies drinking mug at the stage door and for spare change? 

TOMPKINS:  I would say good luck to you.  It has to be a terrible feeling to have a two million dollar fund raisers and know that two million dollars is not going to cover even the tiniest expenses of your campaign.  Two million dollars I guess the best you can say is OK, everybody, we can go back to having name brand sodas. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m thinking it probably wouldn‘t be a good idea for me to go to this event anyway, with or without a mug.  It‘s kind of unfortunate that the night of the event at Davis, President Clinton literally said, I owe this campus a lot.  Time changes the context of all these political quotes. 

TOMPKINS:  Yes, it‘s most unfortunate.  My favorite thing about that particular engagement is that he owes 500 dollars for the UC-Davis marching band.  And it‘s strange to me that the UC-Davis marching band isn‘t playing for free at UC-Davis.  I don‘t know if they‘re getting a lot of outside gigs and they can afford to be choosy or what. 

OLBERMANN:  Those reeds cost a lot, even in bulk.  Another kind of an embarrassment, political funny kind of thing, this week the Clinton campaign jettisoned advisor Mark Penn because he was working on behalf of the Colombian free trade pact that the senator has openly opposed, is running on in Pennsylvania.  Now we find out Bill Clinton not only supports the pact, but he made 800,000 dollars appearing on behalf of a trade organization from Colombia.  Did she, do you think, at some point this week think of firing him along with Mark Penn or demoting him? 

TOMPKINS:  Well, you know, the secret to any good relationship is communication.  So even over dinner, you have to make time to say, hey, you know that pact you opposed, I have indirectly accepted almost a million dollars from them.  How was your day?

OLBERMANN:  Now to be fair on another relationship in the same primary, to give it 50/50 here, Michelle Obama at North Carolina State University the other day sort of off-handedly saying, I‘m a big fan of accessories, I‘m married to one.  Now, can you translate this, either from a relationship or a presidential race point of view?  What in the hell does that mean? 

TOMPKINS:  I have absolutely no idea.  It‘s never good to hear your wife say I guess you want to rely on the old idea from Perry Mason that a wife can‘t testify against her husband.  I guess it‘s good she didn‘t say after the fact when she said that, or she didn‘t say I‘m a huge fan of accomplices.  At least accessories has more than one meaning. 

OLBERMANN:  She testified to something else.  She once jokingly said he‘s snorey and stinky in the morning.  I may be wildly off base on this.  But if they get to the White House, maybe even if they don‘t, but especially in the White House, would this not be the next great reality TV show, the next kind of, you know, you pick your choice and just apply it, one of the various reality shows, you know, what‘s his name from the Brady Bunch and the stick thin model? 

TOMPKINS:  From your lips to NBC‘s ears, Keith.  I think they need a hit because maybe the new Knight-Rider can‘t last forever. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow, you didn‘t have to go there, did you?  Did you have to?

TOMPKINS:  We all have hope. 

OLBERMANN:  They need to bring William Daniels back.  That‘s the big difference.  OK.  We‘ll just skip this.  Paul F. Tompkins, comedian, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” and critic of the new NBC Night Rider remake.  It‘s an homage, actually.  Thanks, Paul.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,805th 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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