updated 4/14/2008 11:54:31 AM ET 2008-04-14T15:54:31

Guests: Dana Milbank, Maria Milito

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Breaking news at this hour: Senators Clinton and McCain attacking Senator Obama over the revelations of remarks he made about, quote, “these small towns in Pennsylvania” and how they include some voters who are, quote, “bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to those who are not like them.”

Full coverage: next.

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

Just when she thought she was out, he pulls her back in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  There was a lot of fulminating because Hillary one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.  Did you all see all that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today castigated by the media since she said it at least three times, castigated by the candidates because since she says she was wrong about Bosnia, the former president is contrite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON:  She‘s right.  I don‘t remember the facts right either.  So, she said, “Look, just let me handle this because you don‘t remember it, either.”  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He says he added: “Yes, ma‘am.”  But then he goes on to blame the media for the whole thing anyway.  What happened to these former heroes?  This is now sad.

The torture club: the “Associated Press” now confirms who to interrogate and how, decided by the top cabinet figures inside the White House, including the vice president.  And what‘s that reflected on his sunglasses?  Is that a—no, it couldn‘t be.  Must just be a large supply of cash.

Four years after being the tool of the swiftboaters, Bill-O, calls plans for anti-McCain ads, quote, “evil.”  Worst Persons.

And the candidates meet “American Idol,” Clinton asks for donations to charity, Obama asks for donations to charity, McCain goes all shaky (ph) on us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  “American Idol” is a lot like a presidential primary election, except for people who live in Michigan and Florida, their votes will actually count.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Vote him off, vote him off, vote him off.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Watch your back, Simon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening, this is Friday, April 11th, 207 days before the 2008 presidential election.

Breaking news at this hour: Both his Democratic and Republican rivals for the White House are tonight harshly criticizing Senator Barack Obama for comments he made at a fundraiser last Sunday, only revealed on the Internet today, 11 days before Pennsylvania holds it‘s crucial, possibly decisive Democratic presidential primary.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The small town Pennsylvanians, of whom Senator Obama said, quote, “It‘s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

There is a lot of context to that quote but to paraphrase Mae West, context got nothing to do with it.  At fundraiser in Marin County in Northern California, near San Francisco, last Sunday, Senator Obama appearing to attempt to explain the culture and politics and the skepticism about his candidacy that he perceives in communities in big industrial states, some of them anyway, like Pennsylvania and Ohio and other places across the Midwest.

Quoting from Senator Obama‘s comments: “Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there‘s not evidence of that in their daily lives.  You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing‘s replaced them.

And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not.  And it‘s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren‘t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The other two candidates in this race for president responding tonight, like star of LionsMight (ph), Senator Clinton from big city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania earlier this evening:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Pennsylvanians don‘t need a president who looks down on them.  They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, a spokesman for Senator McCain is saying in an issued statement: “The condescension and elitism inherent in the statement is remarkable.  The notion that because people are in a tough economy that‘s why they go to church, that‘s why they have guns, that‘s why they‘re anti-immigrant.  It is a remarkable series of condescensions to the heart and soul of this country, the people who live in small town America.”

In a return statement, the Obama campaign responding to the Senator McCain portion of the blowback, quote, “If John McCain wants a debate about who‘s out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but that he now wants to make permanent.”

Let us now - now we‘re calling Richard Wolffe, a senior White House correspondent for Newsweek magazine and MSNBC analyst as well.  Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  This statement in Marin County on Sunday was about cynicism towards government by voters, towards candidates by voters, it‘s pretty heady intellectual stuff.  Is any of that context is going to be included in this or are we watching a firestorm start?

WOLFFE:  Well, there are clearly grounds to attack Senator Obama for these comments and he misspoke pretty badly here, in the sense that he lumped together both economic and political disaffection with two cultural issues: guns and religion.  And that was a huge mistake which his opponents will seize on and have seized on already.

However if this debate is one about elitism and as the McCain campaign has characterized it, then, he also has grounds to attack his opponents both Democratic and Republican, because they are far wealthier than he is and their positions in life are of a more elevated status than his.  So, this is going to go back and forth.  I don‘t know how much of a firestorm it develops over the weekend, but he‘s going to have some explaining to do.

OLBERMANN:  The McCain punch is understandable if it does not leave him open for a return volley (ph) as you suggest.  But how useful is it for Senator Clinton to go after this with guns blazing as we heard in that clip right there because that sentence is right before the “bitter” quote reads in part and they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration?  How carefully does Senator Clinton have to tread on this one?

WOLFFE:  Well, look, she‘s—in the fight of her career, and trying to keep everything alive, she needs to have a very significant margin of victory in Pennsylvania.  So, really you throw everything here, it‘s back to the “kitchen sink” strategy.  And so, yes, of course, you pounce on a misstatement like this and try and make of it as much as possible.

The question here for Democratic voters, it is: who can understand the situation of people who are suffering economic hardship in Pennsylvania the best?  And Senator Clinton is reversing back to her classic theme of the fight candidate.  You know, Barack Obama, if he‘s sensible, will try and say, look, this is how I am coming to terms with voters not just in Pennsylvania, but the voter who is supported me in Pennsylvania and in parts of Illinois which have suffered, too.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any indication that there‘s partying tonight in the Clinton campaign because this obviously has the shape, if it is, whether or not we‘ll have to see, but it has the shape of the manna from heaven that they have been hoping for, does it not?

WOLFFE:  It does and it‘s a very useful diversion from this extended discussion about the Bosnia comments, and about former President Clinton and his revival of that whole issue.  So, when you‘re in a hole and someone else digs another hole, you celebrate.

OLBERMANN:  There is a statement just out from the GOP in Indiana calling on Congressional Democrats to denounce Obama‘s remarks, in part they‘re hitting here, “It‘s full” - Indiana that is, “is full of decent people who support gun rights because they believe in the Constitution and place a premium on religion because they‘re people of faith.”

Obviously, that‘s where the attack is going to be, the attack lines are going to go after Obama on guns and religion, correct?

WOLFFE:  Yes, absolutely, and what‘s important for Senator Obama is that actually he has established a reputation both through his own writing and his own speeches, as someone who actually communicates in quite a nuanced way, by the Second Amendment.  I‘ve heard him talk at campaign rallies about his support for the Second Amendment, and that is it‘s not just about militias, this is an individual right to have guns and also about religion.

So, he‘s got to revert back to a way of talking about these issues that is not as simplistic as this snippet from the fundraiser suggests.

OLBERMANN:  And the speaking of the snippet of the fundraiser, do we have any idea about the provenance of this?  How he says it on Sunday outside San Francisco and it gets on the Internet on Friday afternoon in the—as we get towards single digits in terms of days left in Pennsylvania?

WOLFFE:  We don‘t know, actually, but one thing that we spent through the day is waiting for the campaign to come up with a full context of these comments.  So, even they took some time coming up with audio and the full sound byte of this.  So, how it emerged, why it emerged now, we don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  Another sub-story for next week.  Richard Wolffe, our political analyst, “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent.  Great thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama is not alone on the foot in “Mt. News” tonight.  We‘ll return to the subject at the moment with Chuck Todd.

But if you grew up on baseball, in the ‘50s or ‘60s, it may have caused the images to pop into your head of the once, impeccable Willie Mace, age 42, on his knees, desperately pleading with an umpire to reverse an out call in the World Series in 1973.  If for you, it was football, maybe it was the photo of the great quarterback, Y.A. Tiddle of the end of his career, helmet lost, blood trickling from his head.  Or if you inhaled (ph) not sports but gossip, it might well be the picture of Walter Winchell, his column and broadcast cancelled pending out his mimeograph articles on street corners to any passersby who would read them.

Former President Clinton has not only inexplicably reignited the debate over what his wife said about her 1996 trip to Bosnia, he‘s also managed to paint her as forgetful and exhausted at 11:00 p.m.  The former president retelling his wife‘s story about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire not once but twice late yesterday on the campaign trail in Indiana, even throw the flap over Senator Clinton‘s repeated misstatements regarding her trip there have long since died down.

In Boonville, Mr. Clinton coming to his wife‘s defense with the series of inaccurate statements about her trip to Tuzla in 1996 to say nothing of the media coverage of the flap in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON:  Some of you may have seen that she took a terrible beating in the press for a few days because she was exhausted at 11:00 o‘clock at night and she started talking about Bosnia and she misstated the circumstances under which she landed in Bosnia.  Did you all see all that?  And oh, they acted like, you know, she was practically Mata Hari, you know? 

Just making up all this stuff.

And then the president of Bosnia said, “Well, it was quite dangerous when she came, there were snipers in the hills around.”  And then, General Wes Clark who was there trying to make the peace among the Bosnians said, “Yes, it was really dangerous.  Let me remind you, three Americans who were on my peacekeeping team were killed because they had to take a dangerous road because they couldn‘t go the regular way.”

And she had to go up in the cockpit with our daughter in a bulletproof area and all the other people had to sit on their bulletproof flak jackets because it was dangerous.  So, she immediately said, OK, I misremembered that, they didn‘t cancel the welcoming ceremony but it was pretty dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For the record, Senator Clinton‘s trip is 1996, not 1995.  In 1995, Bosnia had indeed been a more dangerous place, and Senator Clinton did not tell the story just once and she never told it late at night, twice, it was at 9:00 in the morning.  And her retractions such as it was, did not happen immediately and could not be described as an apology.

Senator Obama today is refusing to touch this mess saying only I will let the Clintons explain Bosnia.  Today in Indiana, President Clinton, if not quite backtracking on his backing of her backtracking, at least backing off his backing of her backtracking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON:  Hillary called me and said, “Look, I misstated it, you said I misstated it, but you got to let me handle this because you don‘t remember it, either.”  So, I‘m going to let her answer it.

The fundamental fact is, she went there, everybody who flew around with her—had Apache helicopters guarding them and there was some risks, of course, which Wes Clark had said, and many others.  And she did a good job and she did a good job for the troops.

But she‘s right, I wasn‘t there, I don‘t remember the facts right either, so, she said, “Look, just let me handle this because you don‘t remember it, either.”  I said, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let her handle it only after he had made yet another attempt to defend her with facts that were fundamentally wrong.  Meanwhile, Bosnia having become a story in the past 24 only because the President Clinton himself revived it but instead, the former president blamed the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON:  I regret that people like you care more about that than whether she served the troops and whether she‘ll put people back to work and whether she‘ll do the best job of getting the people out of Iraq.  And I also regret that there appears to be a double standard about misstatements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, if there was a double standard, it may have just gone out the window.  Tonight, we get to that in the moment with political director for NBC and MSNBC, Chuck Todd.

First with this, Clinton and Bosnia thing, Chuck, not to put too fine a point on it, but what in the world was the former president thinking?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  I—look, I‘m not going to guess, well, I‘m going to guess, I mean, because we don‘t know.  But one was, I think, he has always been somebody that believes you confront a bad negative and clearly this had hurt her in the polls when it happened a couple of weeks ago, we saw it on our own NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Poll.  I‘ve heard whispers that there are some in the Clinton campaign who believe this is why Pennsylvania has seen some tightening, that this story really took a toll, really hurt her on that trust worthy number.

And so, he believes in saying—you confront it and you see if he can diffuse it a little bit.  That was his practice during the ‘90s.  Any time came at it, if the negative looked like it was hitting, he would go ahead and re-talk about the negative and then try to reframe it in his own way.  So, I think that‘s where he was going here.

OLBERMANN:  But how does he help her by then explaining that her misstatement was due to her being exhausted at 11:00 p.m. or being a forgetful 60-year-old.  I don‘t know how that helps in a campaign which age is already an issue for one of the other candidates in which Senator Clinton‘s whole point to raise on that (ph) was the notion of the 3:00 a.m.  phone call?

TODD:  Well, and see, this is where it becomes a head scratcher.  And look, you know, I‘m sitting here wondering is—how would Bill Clinton have handled the 24-hour news cycle in the ‘90s?  You know, I mean, you know, it was always thought that the 24-hour news cycle sort of began in the ‘90s.  But it really did just begin.

Now, it‘s a much more intense news cycle and it moves, you know,

minute by minute and we can shift gears.  I mean, we‘re seeing it tonight

just with this story with Barack Obama and you do wonder if he just—what

would have happened had Bill Clinton had this same slicing and dicing and

dissecting of everything he had said back in 1992 and 1996, would he have

been able to take the heat?  Because right now, he‘s not handling the heat

(VIDEO BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For seven years, Nixon veterans and the Bush administration have sought to avenge Nixon, to transcend the parameters of presidential power to which he expired, Nixon, even after his fall, telling an interviewer, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Tonight, our fourth story: Congress fights back.  It started with seven U.S. attorneys fired, it appeared, for political reasons.  Congress carried out it‘s constitutional duty to investigate but both Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel and the current White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, claim they are above the law.  They refuse to comply with the subpoenas.  The House charged each with criminal contempt.

Mr. Bush‘s protector, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, refused to enforce the law, refused to prosecute either Miers or Bolten.  So, yesterday, the House filed a civil contempt lawsuit against the pair.

The motion would serve future students of history well. Quote: “Not since the days of Watergate have the Congress and the federal courts been confronted with such an expansive view of executive privilege, as the one asserted by the current presidential administration.”

Quote, “Harriet Miers, a private citizen and former counsel to the president, asserted that the president‘s mere request that she not even appear to testify before and produce documents to the committee is enough to bestow absolute immunity upon her from a validly issued congressional subpoena.”

Quote, “Joshua Bolten contended that as White House chief of staff,

he is absolutely immune from congressional process and thus is not required

to comply in any matter with the committee‘s subpoena for documents.  These

extraordinary and wholly unsupportable claims flout established law and

suggest a return to the long-since discredited executive mantra of ‘When

the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.‘”

Let‘s get a unique perspective of this from the White House counsel during the early part of the Nixon administration, John Dean, author, of course, “Worse than Watergate: The secret presidency of George W. Bush,” and most recently, “Broken Government.”

As always, John, great thanks for your time tonight.

JOHN DEAN, AUTHOR, “WORSE THAN WATERGATE”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  With Mukasey refusing to enforce the law, how does the civil suit unfold?  I mean, President Clinton himself had to testify in the lawsuit against him, what would the endgame in this one be?

DEAN:  Well, the Clinton situation is a little different because it related to the civil suit, related to behavior before he became president.  So, it wasn‘t in his official capacity.

But we‘re really treading some new ground here.  We have an attorney general who won‘t enforce a law that‘s already on the books and they‘re trying to get a civil remedy to get some enforcement.  So, the interesting thing of this and maybe the unfortunate thing of this is that it‘s before a judge, new “Bush II” appointee who‘s very pro-president and executive branch.

So, I‘m not sure how far this will go in the lower court.  I do think, however, in the long run, if this goes all the way to the Supreme Court, the White House could lose.

OLBERMANN:  And what happens were a Democrat to be elected this year?  Could his or her attorney general say, give me that subpoena, I will enforce the hell out of it?

DEAN:  Absolutely.  And it would be very nice if one of the leading candidates, there are two of them on the Democratic side, would have declare indeed, that‘s exactly their position, that they would instruct their attorney general that we‘re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior and when there‘s a statute that says, we‘re suppose to take a contempt citation from the Congress to a grand jury, we‘re going to do it.  This would be a change in the Reagan-Bush law.  But it certainly is the way the Congress contemplated it and we ought to hope that they do it.

OLBERMANN:  Would Senator Obama or Senator Clinton or anybody else running for president be hesitant to do that because of fears that they might be restricting their own presidency in some way that you and I cannot conceive of here?

DEAN:  That‘s the typical argument, that‘s what the counsel is going to tell them.  But it may or may not be appropriate in this situation.  We‘re dealing with something that is really ugly here, it‘s firing U.S. attorneys, politicization of the Department of Justice, and I don‘t think they want that thing (ph).  So, they might want to clean this issue up.

OLBERMANN:  President Bush today, in just a startling thing that did not simply stop traffic, told ABC News that he was aware of what they reported last night or the night before, that his top officials, that Vice President Cheney and others, most of the cabinet, had met repeatedly in the White House to approve various methods of torture.  Obviously, he doesn‘t call it torture.

Is either the Democratic Congress or that hypothetical Democratic president obliged to finally answer the question in what ways has the president broken the law and what accountability does the law demand because obviously nothing is going to happen before the election, correct?

DEAN:  That truly was a jaw-dropper interview he gave, where he really appears to be trying to set it up as a ticking bomb situation, the equivalent of it was so urgent that they invoked toward torture because they didn‘t know what was going to happen next.  So, that‘s been the continued groundwork for this.

But you know, Keith, when they amended the Military Commissions Act to try to remove the threat of war crimes and war crime punishment, there‘s still an awful lot on the books.  These people do have exposure and a new administration could well bring this thing to an end, at least by revealing what happened.  I don‘t wish anybody to have to be prosecuted, but if people indeed have gone beyond just national security and done this for political reasons, then indeed, we‘re right smack into the same sort of Watergate things that did get prosecuted.

OLBERMANN:  Did we just find out on the last seven years why Gerald Ford‘s pardon of Richard Nixon was a bad idea?

DEAN:  Well, we found out that it does indeed make issues disappear.  And maybe it‘s for history only to judge these.  But we still don‘t have the facts and that‘s what we got to hope.  We did have the facts when Nixon was pardoned.

OLBERMANN:  John Dean, among everything else, co-author now of the very soon to be released, “Biography of Barry Goldwater: Pure Goldwater.”  Great thanks, John, as always.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  In sports, well, there was once a great boxer named Dick Tiger, so why not?

And a Red Sox t-shirt buried inside the New Yankees‘ stadium.  This is a curse?  No, no.  Twelve horses and mules buried alive inside a new ballpark, that‘s a curse.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best persons and ignoring Babe Ruth‘s childhood outhouse in a moment.  First, our mid-show comic relief.  On this day in 1947, one of our great character actors was born.  From Boon in “Animal House” to recurring roles on “Law and Order,” “Seinfeld” and “The Sopranos,” you name it, he can play it, even a young Richard Nixon.  Perhaps best of all, he was the obsessed oil trader redeemed in the unheralded classic, “Local Hero.”  Happy birthday to Peter Riegert (ph).  On that note, let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Let‘s all go to the Oddball zoo.  Last month we brought you the shocking story of a cow in India what milks itself.  Well, one of our bovine viewers must have seen that shocking report and decided to go one better.  From the Internets, we bring you the cow that milks itself with its very own mouth.  It‘s like that old saying, why buy the milk when the cow will bring it to you for free?  What a pleasant sound it makes too.

Obviously this lady has no shame about the whole thing being caught on tape. 

Neither did these fighting rabbits.  Somebody had to step in and break this thing up.  That‘s better.  We‘re not sure why the roosters don‘t like fighting bunnies.  We don‘t know where it‘s from other than the Internet.  There is a story that the rabbits then moved on out west—the chickens did and did some marshaling in Tombstone under the names of Wyatt and Virgil Earp. 

Finally, we remain on the Internets, where we find a kitty watching a boxing match and a shadow boxing along with it.  I get it, blame the media for all these angry animals.  Typical.  Actually, he throws punches better than anybody in the heavy weight division at the moment.  New meaning to the phrase cat fight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Why is this man smiling?  Because of whatever that is reflected in his sun glasses.  Could the vice president really be staring at a naked lady? 

Two of them make pitches for charity.  But when John McCain went on “American Idol,” he made jokes about illegal immigrants.  Oops.  These stories ahead, but first time for a special edition of COUNTDOWN‘s top there best persons in the world.

Just one of them tonight, best not understanding of how purses work, an unnamed construction worker at the new Yankee Stadium in New York.  He says he‘s a Boston fan and he buried a Red Sox t-shirt in the concrete poured to create the floor in the visitors clubhouse of the new ballpark, so the Yankees will be cursed.  In baseball stadium curse history, the team doing the building has to curse itself.  During the construction of Braves Field in Boston, a dozen mules and horses were buried alive in a cave in.  The Boston Braves won the World Series in 1914.  They moved into the new ballpark in 1915.  They didn‘t win the World Series again until after they moved out of Boston.  That‘s a curse. 

After 100 years of not winning and decades of their players complaining that the infield at Wrigley Field was rock hard in some places, the Chicago Cubs just dug up the whole field.  They discovered right under second base, the concrete supports for one of the goal posts from when the Chicago Bears used to still play football there.  It had never been removed even though the Bears moved out in 1971. 

And when their new stadium in Baltimore was being built, the Orioles were told by historians what had once stood where their stadium would be, yet they refused to make reference to it when they renamed the place.  It was Babe Ruth‘s childhood home, the street on which he probably first played baseball, the tavern his father operated.  They even found the Ruth family outhouse.  Did the Orioles name it Babe Ruth Stadium?  No Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  It‘s 17 years now and they have finished better than third place three times. 

The team has to curse itself.  Mules, check, goal posts, check, Babe Ruth‘s childhood outhouse, check.  T-shirts?  I don‘t think so. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When President Bush once looked into the eyes of former KGB official, current Russian Autocrat Vladimir Putin, Mr. Bush declared he got a sense of Putin‘s soul.  What however does he or anyone see when they stare in the eyes of Vice President Cheney?  Nietzsche once wrote, if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.  In our third story n tonight, a new official White House photo seems to show when you gaze into the abyss of Cheney‘s eyes, you see naked chicks. 

The Internets have gone all Tex Avery over this White House photo, a close-up of Cheney‘s face as he‘s fly-fishing on the Snake River in the state Idaho.  The reflection speculation has it that a comely lass is in the state of undress right there.  It‘s OK, you can keep looking.  Don‘t pretend that you don‘t see her. 

The White House denies that Cheney is putting some hot steamy vice in the vice presidency.  We‘ll tell you what they claim that is in a moment.  Here in the interim to assist in our special COUNTDOWN investigation, MSNBC political analyst Dana Milbank, also national political reporter of the “Washington Post” and doing his impression of the Fly from the movie “The Fly.”  Good evening, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I only have eyes for you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I noticed that.  And very becoming, they are.  If it‘s a nude woman in that reflection, not in your glasses but on his, is that why the vice president fought so hard to keep the identity of the members of his energy task force? 

MILBANK:  I‘m not going to take the bait on that one, Keith.  You know, the vice president‘s Secret Service code name is Angler.  So he clearly know house to work the angles.  We also know he‘s been spending a lot of time in undisclosed locations.  So I think we‘re beginning to get a big picture here. 

OLBERMANN:  We ran this photograph through a series of enhancement algorithms to reveal some of the possibilities of what the image might be.  I would like to get your quick responses as we go through these one at a time.  Here‘s the first one, that appears to be the alien from the movie “Alien.”  Your thoughts? 

MILBANK:  I see feint images of Donald Rumsfeld in that one, actually, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Next, please.  There we go. 

MILBANK:  Ah yes, I think quite clearly that‘s Harry Whittington.  He last went hunting with the vice president, this was on the fishing trip. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, the next one after that.  I‘m not sure what this might be.  What do you think of that as a possibility? 

MILBANK:  We can put two and two together.  This was the day that the vice president released his tax forms.  They were two million dollars, mostly in investment income.  That was probably the moment during the fishing trip that the accountant took the forms to him. 

OLBERMANN:  I promised we would give the official White House explanation.  They claim what that actually is is just the reflection of Cheney‘s hand holding his fishing rod, and that the two bulbous objects underneath the head, that‘s actually—you can see that‘s the rod and the fingers and the knuckles are what are shining in the light.  But this requires this explanation; is it plausible that a man who smiles so seldom, Dana, would really draw pleasure simply from the act of painfully capturing and killing harmless, helpless animals? 

MILBANK:  Keith, I don‘t fish so I‘m not going to judge how much pleasure the vice president can get from holding his fishing rod, but let‘s give the vice president‘s office some credit.  After figuring out what to do with this, they finally said that, in fact, they still don‘t get many requests to go hunting with the vice president, but after this there‘s been a sudden spike in the number of people asking to go fishing with the vice president. 

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s no truth that Senator Obama has said that it‘s not surprising the vice president got bitter or clings to guns or religion or fishing poles, is that true? 

MILBANK:  I don‘t even think the Reverend Wright has said that. 

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.”  Yes, we have now devolved a situation with the vice president of United States.  He is defending himself by explaining that‘s just an image of him holding his rod.  Thank you, Dana.  Have a good weekend.

MILBANK:  You too.

OLBERMANN:  “American Idol,” one of the favorites voted off.  And apparently they have merged the voting with this presidential election thing.  Senator Obama is a bit pitchy, dog. 

A 527 Group targets John Kerry.  Over a span of 19 shows, Bill-O devoted 13 segments to it.  527 group targets John McCain, using facts by the way, and Bill-O calls it, quote, evil.  Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  rMD+IN_rMDNM_John McCain in hot water because of “American Idol?”  Great, of all the worlds out there, these would have to be the ones that collided.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Senator John McCain, who told interviewer Tavis Smiley that he‘s going to reach out to African Americans by going, quote, all over this country.  I‘m going to go to south Philadelphia.  I‘m going to go to the Black Belt in Alabama.  Sir, good luck on that.  As the “Philadelphia Daily News” pointed out, South Philly is not really an African-American community.  It‘s now largely Asian and Hispanic and the area‘s black population is less than a third, far below the city‘s average. 

Nobody‘s even sure what would have made McCain think South Philly had been African-American.  For decades it‘s well known cultural identification was Italian American. 

The runner up tonight, the vice president.  How can you tell he‘s lying?  His lips are moving.  Sean Hannity asked him about the consequences of pulling out of Iraq.  Cheney, ignoring the fact that al Qaeda in Iraq is not connected with international al Qaeda and our estimates of its membership are still around 1,000, answered, “if al Qaeda were to take over big parts of Iraq, among other things, they would acquire control of a assistant oil resource.  Iraq has almost 100 billion barrels of reserves, producing 2.5 to three million barrels a day.  You take a terrorist organization like al Qaeda and give it that kind of revenue, there‘s no telling the amount of trouble they could get into. 

Also they could get help from Martians.  The Martians and al Qaeda hooked up, that would be a bad day at the beech if you catch my drift.  Those who are tardy do not get a fruit cup.

But tonight‘s winner is Bill-O, whose programmers must really be screaming at him.  He is greeted the announcement of a new non-profit 501 C-4 group and a 527 group under the stewardship of David Brock, who has done a brilliant job using only the words of O‘Reilly and his ilk of making O‘Reilly and his ilk look like the helots they are.  The new groups will create and run advertising criticizing John McCain‘s presidential candidacy.  Bill-O said last night, I believe this is evil and the pipeline extends directly to NBC News, which will publicize every piece of slime Brock can create.  Only one word describes this, despicable. 

The next words out of his mouth were about how Obama once met two former members of the old ‘70s radical group Weather Underground.  Why is this evil?  Because the same people who exposed Bill-O for the fraud he is, using only his own words, now have a Republican in their sights.  When the reverse was done, and without the consideration for truth or fairness Brock will no doubt maintain with McCain, it was done by a group called the Swift Boat Veterans, and Bill O‘Reilly was one of the Swift Boat Veterans‘ prostitutes.  In August of 2004 alone, O‘Reilly devoted 13 television segments and two weekly newspaper columns to the attacks on John Kerry.

After the elections, he had one of the unemployed members of the Swift Boat group on the show and pleaded for somebody to give the man a job.  You claim to be a religious guy, Bill, does this ring a bell?  Be not deceived, god is not mocked.  For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our democracy has not yet eroded to the point where the three remaining presidential candidates will be sent out on the stage of “American Idol,” where they will make a final plea to the American public, or god forbid sing to see which one is voted off.  Although, give it a couple more months, it will look like a good idea.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the three candidates did make pitches for charity on Idol, with one of them also trolling for laughs. 

Meantime, the three that most Idol savants care about, the bottom three, included a shocker.  Last night, the top eight singers gathered to see who would be booted.  But with phone lines still open for the show‘s charity drive, our nation‘s presidential contenders made their pitch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  If we take steps to help our neighbors, whether next door or in another state or country, collectively we can make the world a better place and we can give our children a brighter future. 

OBAMA:  I would like to say a few words not just as a father of two young girls who are big “American Idol” fans, but as someone who believes deeply in what tonight‘s show is all about.  Whether it‘s across the street or around the world, Idol Gives Back is proving that when ordinary people come together, they can do extraordinary things. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now we rejoin the insults already in progress.  You get the idea of that.  Senator McCain‘s message, which was actually broadcast between those two, almost did not make it due to poor sound quality.  But he was invited to make another one, so he did including snark. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  “American Idol” is a lot like a presidential primary election.  Except for people who live in Michigan and Florida, their votes actually count.  Seriously, I hope every one of us will join in the spirit of Idol Gives Back.  When Americans unite as one and our generosity and compassion are unleashed, the results are nothing short of remarkable. 

As for me, it‘s back to work on my new immigration plan.  Watch your back, Simon. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Now back to your host, Jimmy O‘Neill.  Fabulous immigration jokes and when that guy with the Australian accent, Michael Johns, was voted off, that was fabulous too. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SEACREST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Tonight, we‘re going to say goodbye to Michael Johns. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in COUNTDOWN‘s “American Idol” princess, also mid day host at New York‘s Classic Rock Station, Q-104.3, Maria Milito. 

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3:  Hello.

OLBERMANN:  Hi.

MILITO:  That was interesting last night.   

OLBERMANN:  Was it? 

MILITO:  First of all, did you notice with McCain, he was the only one they did a close-up on.  The other two were just standing there.  It was kind of odd.  It‘s like let‘s bring grandpa down from the attic to talk about this new fangled show. 

OLBERMANN:  In color. 

MILITO:  In color, exactly.  And a close-up on him and with bad jokes? 

OLBERMANN:  Would that offend even Idolaters?  Would people at home just going, what is this, all three of them equally? 

MILITO:  Yes, why are they here?  Barack was the best, saying he has two daughters who are really into Idol.  Hillary was all stiff.  McCain was like grandpa from—

OLBERMANN:  He could have said I have great grand children whose children really enjoy this show. 

MILITO:  I don‘t think they belonged.  And where was Ralph Nader, by the way?  That would have been kind of funny. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re his voter. 

MILITO:  Not really, but it would be funny.  Come on.

OLBERMANN:  Do they get—do Obama and Clinton get slight points for staying on message, for keeping it on charity and giving it a generic political announcement? 

MILITO:  No, I don‘t think so.  They don‘t belong there.  You know what, compared to last year with Idol Gives Back, and the last five minutes when George and Laura Bush came out, I‘ll take the three of them coming out last night.  

OLBERMANN:  Did you know it was them?  Did everyone know it was them or did they expect these guys to burst out into song?  Hey Jude. 

MILITO:  For the teens and tweens who vote, I don‘t think they know who they are.  Maybe the parents who are watching with them.  I mean really, all the kids who are voting—first of all, they‘re all kids who are voting, obviously, with Michael Johns being eliminated, because he‘s older.  He‘s like a rock guy.  So the teens and tweens don‘t know who he is.  So those kids who are voting, I don‘t think know who the candidates are.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of this guy they voted off, is that a shocker or am I being hoodwinked? 

MILITO:  I think it was a shocker. 

OLBERMANN:  Why? 

MILITO:  Because he was very talented.  He was a rock guy.  I liked him.  He was one of the guys I voted for every week.  OK, I a geek, I‘m sorry.  But he was kind of like Daughtry, I think, because Daughtry was voted off.  Everybody was shocked.  People booed last night.  I haven‘t heard booing on Idol since Sanjaya. 

OLBERMANN:  When I went to the show and said, get them off the stage, all of them.  We don‘t think of you as a geek, we think of you as a victim. 

MILITO:  I‘m not a victim. 

OLBERMANN:  Idol Gives Back drew a donation from Britney Spears? 

MILITO:  You like that one?  Twenty five thousand bucks or something. 

OLBERMANN:  Was it real money or just in her mind?

MILITO:  It might have been monopoly money.  I‘m not sure.  My favorite part about that is that she had to Google Malaria.  She either thought it was a new club in Vegas or a new Baskin Robbins ice cream flavor?  How could she not know what Malaria is?  She went to school in this country, didn‘t she? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, she has some sort of diploma.  Are any of the remaining candidates—candidates?  contestants, are any of them any good or are you pretending to care or what? 

MILITO:  I‘m half pretending to care, half kind of bored, but I do have a prediction.  I have a prediction.  OK, princess says, 10 seconds, either David Archuleta is going to win or Jason Castro, two young boys, very talented, all the teens and tweens are voting. 

OLBERMANN:  And in a shock, John McCain has won “American Idol.”

Maria Milito of Q104.3 in New York, our very own “American Idol” princess.  Have a good weekend.

MILITO:  You too.   

OLBERMANN:  An update to our breaking story tonight, reaction to Senator Obama‘s comments about small town America, Senator Obama responding tonight in Terre Haute,, Indiana a short time ago, saying in part, I‘m in touch.  I know exactly what‘s going on.  I know what‘s going on in Pennsylvania.  I know what‘s going on in Indiana.  I know what‘s going on in Illinois.  People are fed up.  They‘re angry and they‘re frustrated and they‘re bitter and they want to see a change in Washington, and that‘s why I‘m running for president of the United States of America. 

That in the aftermath of remarks of his from last week that came to light this afternoon on the Internet about people being bitter and clinging to their guns and religion for that reason.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,807th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Something special next here on MSNBC, the premier of the critically acclaimed documentary “Meeting David Wilson,” to be followed by a conversation about race, moderated by my colleague Brian Williams.  In the interim, enjoy that.  And in the interim, 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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