updated 4/16/2008 11:28:59 AM ET 2008-04-16T15:28:59

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Alter, Joseph Biden, Charles Pellegrino

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

“Endgame”: While Senator Clinton continues to pound Senator Obama‘s bitter remarks, two of Senator Clinton supporters seem to be facing up to the likelihood she will not be the nominee.

Congressman and Clinton-backer, Barney Frank, The trailing Democrat should withdraw from the presidential race by June 3rd,” quote, “probably sooner,” even if it is Senator Clinton.

Governor and Clinton-backer Ed Rendell:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PENNSYLVANIA:  I think this might increase her margin up a point or two, but I don‘t think a lot of significant effect in the outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And since bitter-gate, the polls show an Obama surge in Indiana, no change in Pennsylvania.

What does Senator Clinton do now?  She‘d probably doesn‘t do what supporter, Bob Johnson just did, reignite two controversies at once.

Quote, “If you take a freshman senator from Illinois called “Jerry Smith” and he says I‘m going to run for president, would he start off with 90 percent of the black vote?  And the answer is, probably not.  Geraldine Ferraro said it right.  The problem is Geraldine Ferraro is white.”

Expect Johnson‘s factor bet (ph) as late as last October, Clinton led among blacks 57 to 33.

“When it comes to Iraq, there is no daylight between John McCain and George W. Bush.  They are joined at the hip.”

Is Senator Biden‘s speech tonight at Georgetown a vice presidential audition?  He is our special guest tonight.

Worst: Cindy McCain‘s recipes for plagiarism.  Her McCain family recipes are largely lifted from the Food Network.

Plus: Bill-O actually claims Americans are being killed in Iraq by

NBC.

And 96 years to the day after she sank: the latest theory about why the Titanic went down.  Poor quality rivets, kind of takes the romance away.  (INAUDIBLE).  I mean, seriously, rivets.  (INAUDIBLE).

All of that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on-camera):  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, April 15th, 203 days until the 2008 presidential election.

If this is the price Senator Obama has to pay for his remarks about guns and religion and bitterness, he may want to go on a “guns and religion and bitterness” tour.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The latest measures of the aftermath, if not necessarily the straight line results from those remarks, no change in the polls in Pennsylvania.  He‘s suddenly ahead in the polls in Indiana.  And two prominent Clinton supporters have held out apparent olive branches.

Day five of bitter-gate, the controversy that isn‘t, at least not yet, a whole slew of surveys seemingly unchanged by Senator Obama‘s remarks.  Senator Clinton leading by six in Pennsylvania, a margin identical to last week‘s Quinnipiac Poll.  The Keith number, of voters who don‘t know plus the margin of error, is just 8.1 percent.

A similar lead of only five in the Keystone State for Senator Clinton, according to the latest survey from the “L.A. Times” and Bloomberg News, undecided voters their 12 percent, Keith number is 16.  Senator Clinton is now trailing Senator Obama by five in Indiana.  Another Rust Belt State in the same survey.

So much for the shot of Crown Royal whiskey she‘s down in Jane Shepard‘s (ph) ancestral home in Hammond, Indiana on Saturday night.  Undecided voters in Indiana, nearly one in every five, making the Keith number there a whopping 23.

Nationally, Senator Obama maintaining his lead in the Gallup Poll, now up to 11 percentage points, his largest margin over Senator Clinton all year.  The current daily tracking average based on interviews on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, all after the initial reports of Obama‘s remarks had began to be reported and in fact reached a saturation levels in the national media, the Keith number in this one equal to the lead, 11 points.

As far why it doesn‘t appear to be any there-there, in an interview with the editorial board of the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” Senator Obama explained that what he said about the economic frustrations of small town American voters is not something he has not said many times before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The problem actually with this most recent episode is not that I was saying—that I was saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else in public.  The truth is actually, I‘ve made these same comments in a similar way on the “Charlie Rose Show” back in 2004 or 2005.  I have said it in town hall meetings in small towns.

You know, the problem was that I just mangled it, you know, which happens sometimes.  And so, my syntax was poor.  But as a wise older woman who was talking to me the other day said, “You misspoke, but you didn‘t lie.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On the campaign trail outside Philadelphia today, Senator Obama‘s wife, Michelle is saying that if you‘re going to accuse them of being elitist, you have better know whence they came.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  There‘s a lot of people talking about elitism and all of that.  But let me tell you who me and Barack are, so that you were not confused.  Yes, I went to Princeton and Harvard, but the lens through which I see the world is the lens that I grew up with.  I am the product of a working class upbringing.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago in a working class community.  There were no miracles in my life, there‘s nothing miraculous about how I grew up, and I want people to know when they look at me, to be clear that they see what an investment in public education can look like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton in the meantime sticking with an old attack against her rival today, a variation on her claim that Senator Obama has not passed the commander in chief test.  Two surrogates for her campaign meanwhile, not passing the campaign talking points test.

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, on this network and at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Philly, said that the bitter comments might cost Senator Obama only a few points in next week‘s primary and would not leave him unelectable in November, and his, Rendell‘s people, were ready to work for him if he‘s the nominee.

Today, it was Congressman Barney Frank‘s turn to stray from the reservation, the Massachusetts representative telling the “Associated Press” that the trailing Democrat should drop out of the race no later than June 3rd, the date of the last primary even if it is Senator Clinton, the candidate he supports.

And the final word of this issue, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid is asked today about whether the ongoing fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is splitting the Democratic Party, and his answer, deliberate and perfect deadpan, quote, “It makes me bitter.”

Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, is senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine, in Philadelphia tonight.  Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What are voters there in Pennsylvania telling you about this stuff, about bitterness, because other than the three Clinton supporters who appear in her ad, it doesn‘t appear to be resonating, it doesn‘t seem to be resonating with the governor of the state?

ALTER:  Well, it‘s obviously very anecdotal but at the sense, it seems to be that it was a dumb remark, ill-conceived—shouldn‘t have used that word bitter, should have said frustrated or angry, shouldn‘t have brought guns, but that too much is being made of it.

I guess, the Ed Rendell comment, you could argue is some expectations getting spin.  He wants to make it seem like it hasn‘t had any impact so that if she wins a big victory here, it will be all the larger.  But I think more likely, what‘s going to happen is that if Obama loses by six or seven points in Pennsylvania, whereas before this gaffe, it would have been seen as a, you know, pretty decent victory for Hillary Clinton, kind of like Ohio.

Now, it will be, oh, we only lost by six or seven points?  We thought he was going to get blown out after that incident.  So, in some ways, the expectations game maybe shifting a little bit in his favor.

OLBERMANN:  Now, Rendell said six points for her would be a landslide. 

That‘s a little different now when it was 22 points.

ALTER:  Yes, nice try.  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  We will be getting into depth on this later on, but, might some of the things that Senator Obama was trying to talk about, the economic discontent, failed promises by politicians for decades to solve that, might that be a greater reality, maybe even than he knew to many people in the state of Pennsylvania and obviously Indiana as well, based on the polls there?

ALTER:  Well, so, I guess, your argument - your point would be that maybe some of the gaffe kind of got some of his real message across about people hurting?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ALTER:  That may be.  It wasn‘t a particularly elegant way of delivering his message, but I guess any, you know, messenger will do in this case.  But I think that we shouldn‘t minimize that it was a mistake, even if the basic point about people and trouble continues.  He has to be very careful that he not characterize Americans overall as being bitter.

You know, Keith, even on, say, on local news, if you see a situation where a gunman has killed the whole family, you know, the survivor is out there on TV saying, well, you know, we‘re very sad about this, but we‘re not bitter.  Americans don‘t like to think of themselves as bitter.  And his whole campaign has been based on hope and uplift.

So, he‘s got to walk a fine line between describing conditions as they really are and addressing the hurt that a lot of people feel, the pain they feel, but also keeping a positive idealistic patriotic.  And in the past, he‘s done a superb job of doing that and he fell down a little in this case.

OLBERMANN:  And one other thing here, there was a theory that went into, that was gone into in-depth at the Web site: Talkingpointsmemo.com that suggested basically, those who are offended by the Obama comments were already firmly in the Clinton camp.  Meaning that if there is long-term damage, it might not show up until November when those people could potentially cross and vote for Senator McCain or third-party candidate.  Is that where the actual and somewhat much more limited damage potential actually lies?

ALTER:  Well, I think that‘s a possible problem, although a lot them will end up back in the Democratic column.  It‘s the independence that Obama and McCain will be fighting over.  And we don‘t really know what their reaction is, because many of them aren‘t going to vote in these Democratic primaries.

So, if the Republicans can try to get this elitist theme going, and they don‘t really have anything else to go on because they‘re so out of touch on the issues, which favor Democrats, they‘ve got to use it.  They don‘t have anything else.  And so, you will hear a lot about this over the next several months.  It‘s not a dead issue.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” in Philadelphia tonight.  As always, sir, great thanks.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This campaign has now officially gone on so long that we‘re not only seeing controversies recycled, where actually seeing them recycled two at a time.

Clinton supporter, Bob Johnson resurrecting not only his own fiasco from January, but reintroducing Geraldine Ferraro‘s affirmative action candidate disaster and using some bad math in the process.  It was at Clinton rally in South Carolina in January, when the founder of BET, Black Entertainment Television, made a thinly veiled reference to Senator Obama‘s drug use as a teenager, then tried to deny having done so before he ultimately apologized for something he said he had not done.

Mr. Johnson is now picking up where Mrs. Ferraro left off, telling the “Charlotte Observer” newspaper that the Illinois Democrat would not be leading the race if he were white.  “What I believe Geraldine Ferraro meant is that if you take a freshman senator from Illinois called ‘Jerry Smith,‘ and he says I‘m going to run for president, would he start off with 90 percent of the black vote?  And the answer is, probably not.”

The problem with that, of course, is Senator Obama did not start off with any kind of overwhelming majority, or even the majority of the African-American vote, and Senator Clinton did.  A CBS News Poll in January 2007, having given Senator Clinton 52 percent of the black vote, 28 percent to Obama.  A month later, her lead was up 60 to 20 in that key demographic, according to another poll from the “Washington Post.”  As recently as last October, six months ago, Senator Clinton still maintained a 57 to 33 lead over Obama among black registered Democrats according to a polling done by CNN.

We are joined now to our own MSNBC analyst, Eugene Robinson, also, of course, associate editor and columnist for the “Washington Post.”  Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As with the statements from President Clinton about Senator Clinton‘s statements about Bosnia last week, would it help the Clinton campaign if somebody on that campaign got the facts right while making some sort of charge like this?

ROBINSON:  It would help I think.  It would—you know, they do always seem to kind of get it wrong.  I don‘t know why Bob Johnson couldn‘t recall that Obama started way behind in the African-American vote.  But if you step back from what he said, you know, there is a sense where it‘s less about race than about the sort of complacent attitude the Clinton campaign has had throughout.

If you want to know why Hillary Clinton is behind, look at the underlying attitude that it‘s impossible that Barack Obama could ever be beating her on substance or on hard work or on putting together a better campaign.  It‘s got to be something else.  So, gee, maybe it‘s because he‘s black.  That‘s the reason why he‘s ahead.

And you know, I think, if that‘s really an attitude that kind of is suffused throughout the Clinton campaign, it doesn‘t bode well for her catching up.

OLBERMANN:  But who is he talking to with this point?  Let‘s say, that‘s what it‘s about.  I mean, which constituency wants to hear this message that the black vote is, you know, automatically going to go to the African-American candidate and therefore, it doesn‘t really count?  Who does that benefit and how?

ROBINSON:  Well, Geraldine Ferraro was probably happy to hear it.  But

to hear that her remarks vindicated.  I don‘t know who that benefits at this point.  I don‘t think this could have been seriously a kind of planned by the campaign in any way.  I don‘t think they kind of wanted to bring this up.

Remember what happened the last time we heard from Bob Johnson—that was before South Carolina—and we all know how the South Carolina primary turned out.  The Pennsylvania primary is in a week.  I don‘t think you‘d want to repeat that experience if you are running the Clinton campaign.

OLBERMANN:  So, now, this is some snark is included in this, but as an African-American male, can you tell us about the advantage that you‘ve had in life that had given you a 90 percent to 10 percent head start over any white men or women against whom you had to compete?

ROBINSON:  How many more segments do we have?  I don‘t know we have time tonight really to go through all of them.  All the kind of fresh air and exercise as you get late at night when cabs don‘t pick you up, all of the personal shopper attention you get in department stores because security personnel is nice enough to follow you around.

You know, the list is almost endless, Keith.  And I think we‘re going to have to do a one-hour special on all the great advantages of being born a black man in America.

OLBERMANN:  You know, this is off the point of the campaign, but does it tick you off personally because I have like a vague sense of this but I don‘t—I have no credibility on this subject—does it tick you off personally when somebody who has succeeded against the odds like Robert Johnson has in creating this communication empire that he did, says something this dismissive of somebody who‘s trying to achieve or has achieved many of the same things?

ROBINSON:  You know, I go back to your last question.  You know, if there is one great advantage that I‘ve had as a black man in America—and others have had the same experience—of being underestimated.  You know, you take your first job and they‘re kind of looking, and well, can this guy really write, does he really know what he‘s doing.  And sometimes, it‘s just great to go into situations like that.  So, you know, if I were Barack Obama, keep underestimating me.

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC.  Thank you for your prospective, as always, sir.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If 81 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, and a new poll says 70 percent of us think the president has butchered the economy.  Did Senator Obama actually right when he perceived a sense of bitterness?

And Senator Joe Biden says these two men are joined at the hip about Iraq.  What does he see there?  What does he see here?  Is he endorsing?  Does he think the battle will end soon?  Senator Biden is our guest tonight.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One of the reasons Barack Obama seems to have gotten a tiny bump after, not from his “bitter: remarks, a new poll today is suggesting seven out of 10 Americans believe the Republicans have wrecked the economy.

Did rivets and not iceberg wreck Titanic 96 years ago today?

And in Worst: What sinks Mrs. John McCain‘s recipe for rosemary chicken breast?  Now, it turns, it‘s actually Rachael Ray‘s recipe for rosemary chicken breast and the McCain campaign simply stole it.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Despite disagreeing with Senator Obama that some Americans are bitter, Senator Clinton argues that she, too, will bring change to America.  Change, of course, the solution whenever people are not content or happy.  The opposite of content and happy, the Roget‘s Thesaurus tells us is bitter.

On our fourth story tonight: Lost in the debate over the impact of the Obama statement, the debate over the truth of that statement.

A new “Washington Post” Poll finding that disapproval, another antonym for content, is in all-time high for President Bush‘s handling of the economy.  While fewer than three out of 10, 28 percent, a whopping—or they‘re unbitter about it, a whopping 70 percent are, if not bitter, then at least an unbitter.

Why?  As Obama said today, “Anyone filling up their gas tank gets angry.  Anyone who watched their community dies when a plant closed is mad.”

On a larger scale, every working American has some counts for bitterness.  In 2008, every five American worker produce just as much as six American workers did just a decade ago.  So, of course, incomes rose 20 percent as well?  No, they‘ve gone down.

The Bush recovery, the first in which average incomes fell.  Senator McCain‘s prescription today, included a one-year freeze on discretionary spending, the kind of spending that help to end the Great Depression.  But on removing the federal gas tax for the summer, which would cut 11 billion from spending to fix crumbling roads and bridges, possibly causing some laid off construction workers to get a little bitter.

Joining us now, content and happy as ever, MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow, who has a show on Air America, it airs on week nights.  Hello.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Were they clinging to guns, or just clinging to the side of the proverbial economic cliff?  Are Americans bitter, Rachel Maddow?

MADDOW:  Well, when we‘re looking at the possibility of nearly one in 10 Americas expected to be on food stamps next year, yes, I would say that Americans are bitter.  You know, but the specific claim that Barack Obama made here was that people are bitter about the prospect of getting economic help from Washington.

What he said is, if through 25 years of administration, through

Democratic and Republican administrations, if through all of that time, the

plants don‘t stop closing, and the good middle class jobs never come back -

if you don‘t ever get help from Washington no matter what politicians promised you, then you don‘t react like an insane person would and keep voting on economic issues, even though you‘re not getting any reward for that vote.

You instead stop voting on that basis and you instead start voting on values issues, and he cited guns and religion and immigration and xenophobia.  He could also cited, you know, flag pins, or abortion or other list of reasons that are just things that supplant the economic vote when you don‘t have a rational reason to continue to vote your economic self interest.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  He wasn‘t describing Americans as bitter because of these issues of the economy as much as being bitter at the fact that nothing was being done about these issues decade after decade.

MADDOW:  Right.  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  Why would Clinton and McCain deny that there is this kind of discontent?

MADDOW:  Because it‘s so much easier to attack Barack Obama on this issue.  I mean, Senator Clinton has proposed some very progressive economic policies in this campaign, undoubtedly.  But pivoting to offense on the basis of what Senator Obama said, instead of attacking him for it, would undoubtedly open up questions about why the Bill Clinton presidency didn‘t produce a more resilient middle class.

I mean, former Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough of MORNING JOE here on MSNBC, yesterday, admitted on RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE that yes, Republicans vote, when working class and poor Americans vote Republican, they‘re often voting against their economic interest in order to kind of place their turf on issues of values and culture with the Republicans.

Joe is not running for re-election, so it‘s OK for him to admit that. 

It‘s toxic, politically toxic for John McCain.

OLBERMANN:  Obama is blaming both political parties for this.  Is that fair?  Is that useful to him in terms of the campaign as well?

MADDOW:  Whether it‘s politically useful, I think, remains to be seen because they both super (ph) these attacks on him, I think, have done some damage.  Whether it‘s factually true, well, I think it‘s kind of true.

In November of 2006, when economic populist Democrat like Sherrod Brown won the senate seat in Ohio, he didn‘t campaign on the basis of needing to get more Democrats to Washington.  He campaigned on economic populist terms that the—for people their looking out for the people who have to work for a living rather than just people who sign paychecks.  And that sort of economic populist message has resonated with people who are critical of the modern Democratic Party as much as the Republican.

OLBERMANN:  And last point, if you get John McCain today, trying to attack the Democrats for both being elitist and for raising taxes and he tries to make a play on Obama‘s book title and he winds up referring to the audacity of hope you don‘t mind.  Is that by itself a reason to be bitter or hopeless about politicians?  The guy can‘t even get the shot right.

MADDOW:  I‘m pretty bitter about Cindy McCain stealing their recipes from Rachael Ray.  I‘m bitter about that.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll get to that in a little bit.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America.  I haven‘t seen you since you filled in, nice job.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you for doing so.

MADDOW:  I was very happy to do it.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I‘ll get a few days here again.  Always a pleasure. 

Stay well.

As it is always a pleasure to induct a new member into the mug shot hall of fame.  These veteran stars will tonight welcome a new colleague.

And an old team rejoins in Worst.  Bill-O angry because of the ratings and to critics claims the dead of Iraq are the fault of - no, you won‘t believe it.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “Bushed” and how hiring debt collectors to go after that total of $1 billion in unpaid taxes wound up increasing the total to $1, 037,000,000.

But first: Our nightly snippet of strangeness.  And because April 15th is the anniversary of Jackie Robinson‘s debut in baseball, the events of April 15, 1976 are usually overlooked.  But 32 years ago today, Yankee Stadium in New York reopened after two years of reconstruction.  A ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Bob Shockey, who had turned out the real first pitch in the old stadium in 1923.  Shockey also had one dreadful year managing the Yankees in 1930.  Fired after one season, he never again appeared in a Major League uniform.  His successor, Joe McCarthy, won eight pennants. 

Walking onto the field 32 years ago today, 45 years after his dismissal, Shockey turned to the Yankees public relations director and grumbled, absolutely seriously and with a straight face, I should still be managing this team.  On that note let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Hala (ph), Germany with the incredible revelation of a lost musical composition by the late great Johan Sebastian Bach.  The work was found among the 19th century papers of the first complete works of Bach.  It is a variation of an old choral melody, and you are in luck because the car orchestra from last night‘s Oddball has agreed to play it for you. 

That‘s why it got lost. 

To the COUNTDOWN mug shot hall of fame, non-celebrity wing.  Tonight, a new inductee, joining the immortals, like the can‘t get enough of the huff guy and the smooth criminal, and the “I Heart Midget Porn” guy and, of course, Tom Delay.  Tonight, we welcome the dastardly Mr. Matthew Gibeault, arrested in Idaho for possession of drug paraphernalia and for kidnapping a woman and tying her to the railroad tracks. 

All right.  It was just a drug charge.  This one mug shot comes to us via MugShotDuJour.com.  While Mr Gibeault may be trading those handle bars for prison bars, he can take pride in knowing that he will be eternally recognized in the COUNTDOWN mug shot hall of fame. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What John McCain doesn‘t understand about the reaction in the Middle East to his nonchalant promise to stay in Iraq for 50 years or a million.  Senator Joe Biden explains why that makes us look like we are there to take their oil.  Senator Biden joins us next. 

And the ever-riveting story of the sinking of the Titanic 96 years ago today.  It turns out it was less iceberg and more rivets.  These stories ahead, bit first the headlines breaking the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, water boarding-gate.  Remember Steven Bradberry (ph), the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department, the guy who said that comparisons between our water torture and the water torture they used in the Spanish inquisition were wrong because they poured water into the lungs, while we only poured it over the nose and mouth.  He may have no legal right to be holding his job.  He has been acting chief of the OLC since June 2005, but it turns out there is a law called the Vacancies Reform Act, which limits how long you can be the acting chief of anything. 

Senator Pat Leahy may lead an effort to have Bradberry removed.  He should have been removed the moment he implied the administration was full of good guys because their torturers were not as bad as those from the Spanish Inquisition. 

Number two, GI Bill-gate.  The White House is opposing the measure to increase educational opportunities for our heroes, even though it is now supported by 55 senators from both parties.  Not appearing in that picture, John S. “Flag Waving, Mr Veteran, McCain.  He will not support the new GI Bill, echoing the Bush administration‘s tortured logic that if you make things better for servicemen after they leave the service, they won‘t stay in the service. 

Number one, privatizing the government-gate.  Since it‘s tax day, this happy note, since 2006, Mr. Bush‘s Internal Revenue Service has spent 86 million dollars to enable three private bill collectors to sue people who have not paid their taxes.  The three companies have managed to collect 49 million.  That means we tax payers lost 37 million on the deal, to say nothing of the fact that there‘s at least a billion in unpaid taxes still out there. 

The firms getting the privatized deal not only get commissions of up to 24 percent, but they happen to be located in one, the upstate New York district of Republican Congressman Tommy Reynolds, two, Iowa home of the program co-creator, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, and, three, Texas, home of the president. 

A billion dollars waiting to be collected and these companies found 49 million of it.  Congressman Reynolds, Senator Grassley, President Bush, why don‘t the three of you, among you, make up the difference? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Typically, this far into the primaries, the remaining Democrat candidate goes after the Republican.  These primaries have been anything but typical.  So it is today that in our third story, a Democrat is going after the Republican candidate, but the Democrat is one who did not became his party‘s nominee. 

Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in a major foreign policy speech today, deconstructed, demolished the various shifting rationales for staying in Iraq, as John McCain has put it 100 years, a million, ten million.  You knew it was a bad sign for McCain when Biden began by praising him as a man he admires and considers a friend. 

Sure enough, four sentences later, he blasted McCain as, quote, wedded to the Bush Administration‘s myopic view of a world defined by terrorism.  Unlike former presidential rival, Chris Dodd, who endorsed Obama, and Bill Richards, who also endorsed Obama, Senator Biden has remained silent about which of his two remaining rivals has his endorsement or whether he has even decided. 

Senator Biden is our guest tonight from Washington.  Always a pleasure, sir, good evening.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Good to be with you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  In this speech, you say McCain‘s 100 years comments fueled conspiracy theories about America‘s presence in Iraq.  What are those theories?  Why should we not think they do really apply to Bush and McCain?

BIDEN:  I do think they apply to Bush and McCain.  The point I was making was John McCain was making the point that, look, we stay for 100 years in Iraq if it were like it is Germany or Bosnia or Japan or Korea.  The truth is that we are there in each of those places because there has been essentially an armistice.  There‘s an agreement, a settlement.  They are not killing one another. 

But the larger point was when we say to the Arab world that we would stay in Iraq for 100 years, even in peaceful circumstances, it feeds the assumption that we are there to control their oil and to have a permanent military base.  That‘s what I meant when I said it feeds the conspiracy theory, the urban legend in the Arab street that the only reason we are in Iraq in the first place and stay in Iraq is because we want to control their oil and have a permanent base in the region. 

OLBERMANN:  And when the vice president says, by the way, if we pull out prematurely, al Qaeda will get control over all of Iraq‘s oil resources, I imagine that contributes to that conspiracy theory, as well? 

BIDEN:  It does too.  There is nothing rational about that statement.  I held two weeks of hearings, Keith, a week prior to Petraeus and Crocker coming before our committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, with a lot of former generals and foreign policy experts.  And they all reached the exact opposite conclusion that the administration and John McCain reaches about if we begin to significantly draw down our forces in Iraq. 

They think what happens is that al Qaeda shrivels up because the Sunni, the  Shia and the Kurds all hate al Qaeda.  The reason for being—the irony is, there would be no al Qaeda in Iraq were it not a Bush fulfilling prophesy having invaded Iraq.  So this whole notion that these catastrophic things will happen if we leave are very much at odds with what an awful lot of the defense establishment and the foreign policy establishment believes would be the case.  They think the exact opposite would occur. 

OLBERMANN:  You say in the speech you will be speaking over the next few months in detail about how the next Democratic president can exert leadership in the world.  Given the timing of this, it is no surprise perhaps that this has been interpreted in many quarters as something of an audition for a vice presidency of possibly secretary of state.  How much of those scenarios influence this speech?  Have you discussed either of those job openings with either of the Democratic candidates? 

BIDEN:  They do not influence it at all, Keith.  That‘s why I have not endorsed anybody.  The moment I endorse either one of the candidates, it would be put through the prism of Biden is doing it because he wants one of those two jobs.  I don‘t want either of those two jobs.  I have made it clear to both candidates that I have no interest in either of those two jobs. 

Let me tell you why I‘m doing this: I think we, as Democrats, should not shy away from a direct confrontation with the Republicans on national security.  The Democrat party and the Democratic candidates are stronger on national security than George Bush or John McCain.  George Bush‘s policy and to the extent that John follows it has put us in such a deep hole, made us weaker than we have ever been in the recent past, in the last 40 to 50 years, and we should relish this debate. 

While the two candidates are understandably preoccupied with one another, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I want to make it clear the Democratic party is not at all reluctant to debate national security with John McCain or George Bush.  We are stronger on it.  We will make America more secure and make it safer. 

OLBERMANN:  But certainly that is hindered to some degree by the fact that this debate continues internally within the Democratic party.  But Congressman Frank just told the Associated Press today that he thinks who ever is trailing in this race as of June 3rd, even if it‘s indeed his candidate, Senator Clinton, should bow out and he said probably sooner than June 3rd.  Do you agree with him? 

BIDEN:  I think that practicality is that is going to happen.  If there‘s not a decisive victory in Pennsylvania by Senator Clinton or if Barack Obama comes close, I think things will start to shut down.  Conversely, if Hillary Clinton, as one poll says—I find it hard to believe—as one poll says, beats Barack by 20 percent points, then she has a legitimate case to stay. 

I think we should all sort of calm down a little bit.  I think this race, this competition has generated an incredible benefit for the Democrats, 250,000 new Democrats in Pennsylvania.  Every state in the union, including mine.  I think it‘s good stuff.  I‘m not worried about what will happen.  The primaries, by the time it‘s over, it will be clear who the nominee is. 

OLBERMANN:  I can‘t say anything to calm down, other than amen.  So we‘ll leave it at that.  Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thank you for your time. 

BIDEN:  It‘s a pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  Take care. 

Never mind icebergs; on this anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, the theory the builders used number three rivets instead of the more expensive number rivets, which would have busted less frequently and decreased the sinking and the killing of the passengers. 

And Cindy McCain‘s family recipes.  She says family, of course, she actually means the Food Network.  They are plagiarized.  One appears to be plagiarized nearly directly from Raphael Ray.  Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps the real reason for the Titanic disaster; 96 years ago this morning, it‘s just as they say, sinking in.  They put the thing together with cheap rivets.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst person in the world.

The bronze to Bill-O, who is coming apart like a cheap suit.  Talk about cheap rivets.  Trying to tie the parent company of MSNBC and NBC, FE, to, wait for it, dead Americans in Iraq.  GE Chairman Jeff Immelt notes correctly that most orders the company used to receive in Iran were from European companies working there, but that by 2005 shareholders and the executives had had enough of Iran, and stopped accepting new business in or from Iran. 

By the end of June of this year, all the existing contracts will have expired and GE will officially be doing absolutely no business there.  So the Frank Burns of news goes on and calls this explanation parsing and says, how many dead before Immelt gets out of there.  If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the like of Jeffrey Immelt.

Firstly, Bill-O, after all of the shilling and ass kissing you did for this administration before this phony war, you are more personally responsible for the 4,000 dead Americans in Iraq than all of America‘s corporations put together.  But back down to Bill‘s level on this; he claims his rants are about right and wrong and Iran and Iraq, and they aren‘t.  He didn‘t care about Americans dead or alive in Iraq.  This is about me.  He really thinks people do not know that his bosses have promised my bosses that he will stop talking about Jeff Immelt or GE or NBC if I stop talking about him. 

My bosses have said to me full steam ahead, buddy.  And they have said to Bill‘s bosses, we think your guys is a clown.  Tell him to keep it up, because he keeps providing Keith such great material.  It‘s a good company here. 

Our runner up, Jeff Hunt, the director of the Texas Military Forces museum.  We‘ve mentioned him before; 200 students at highland high school in Gilbert, Arizona spent three years building an incredible replica of the final battle of the Civil War, which it sent to the Texas museum.  Mr.  Hunt, who considers himself an expert on that battle of Palmetto Ranch, saw what he thought was were historical inaccuracies in the ten foot long diorama, so he had it destroyed, ripped apart.  He won‘t even send the pieces back to the kids in Arizona. 

Now Mr. Hunt, through a military press spokesman, told an Arizona newspaper that he has been maligned by the media, specifically by me, and that his predecessor had been the one who saw the diorama.  It was too big and too full of errors, and that the teacher in charge of the project refused to make any changes, leaving Hunt to hold the bag as the bad guy who had to destroy it. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Hunt, his predecessor calls Hunt‘s story, quote, a crock of hooey and says the kids‘ work was, quote, a wonderful piece of art.  Retired Colonel Pat Simpson said he never asked anybody to change anything.  There is no reason for the Texas Military Museum to let Jeff Hunt continue as its director.  In fact, they probably shouldn‘t let him go in there with a ticket.  He breaks things he doesn‘t like. 

But the winner, Cindy McCain.  Her husband‘s campaign website has a section called Cindy‘s Recipes, seven sets of cooking instructions for things like Ahi Tuna with Napa Cabbage Slaw, Passion Fruit Moose, and the equally non-elitist, Farfel (ph) pasta with turkey sausage.  One small problem, each of those three is stolen, word for word, from the website of the Food Network. 

Either the candidate‘s wife or somebody in the candidate‘s campaign was a recipe plagiarist.  These recipes have been in our family for well over three reruns, generations, three generations.  Cindy, I read Rachel Ray‘s recipes, so you don‘t have to, McCain, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It may seem counter intuitive, but all of the tragedies we recall contain an element of romanticism.  A thousand people, most of them young kids, died aboard a ship called the General Slocum when it caught fire yards from shore on the East River in New York City in 1904.  It was irredeemably horrible.  Nobody made three movies about the General Slocum. 

Our number one story tonight, part of the indelible appeal of the saga of Titanic, which sank 96 years ago, early in the morning of April 15, 1912, is that it has the aura to it of gallantry and drama and the ever-present symbol of unseen calamity, icebergs. 

What happens to all of that if Titanic actually sank less from the iceberg and more from cheap rivets?  Over 96 years, there have been countless theories about why it went down so quickly, taking over 1,500 souls with it.  Researchers now claim to have found the answer in the musty archives of the company that built the Titanic.  New evidence they claim that substandard rivets, those mushroom shaped iron plugs that held the ship together, were in short supply, leading the ship maker, Harland and Wolf (ph), to cheap out with lower quality iron. 

The rivets popping like so many champagne corks when Titanic struck the iceberg, opening seams and letting the water pour in.  That could be the final piece of the Titanic puzzle, the most significant discovery since the wreck was located two miles below the Atlantic 23 years ago. 

Let‘s turn to Dr. Charles Pellegrino, scientist, author of several books on the Titanic, including “Ghosts of The Titanic, an Archaeological Odyssey.”  Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.

DR. CHARLES PELLEGRINO, AUTHOR, “GHOSTS OF THE TITANIC”:  Thank you.   

OLBERMANN:  Are you buying the theory of the cheap rivets, I mean, using threes when they should have used number fours? 

PELLEGRINO:  I‘ve looked at the reports.  There is a lot of good scientific research in there, a lot of good historical research, archival research, and there is something to be said for that.  However, we just don‘t know to what extent those rivets played a role in sinking the Titanic.  It might have is been a little.  It might have been a lot. 

But to sum it up, the energy of the impact with the iceberg alone was approximately equivalent to lifting the Washington Monument up and down between 12 and 14 times, and it was concentrated along a very small area, like a point source impact, somewhat like shooting bazooka shells, comparable to the force of that, right through the hull section of the Titanic.  It almost wouldn‘t have mattered if the Titanic‘s hull were made of Titanium, sheathed in diamonds; a lot was going to go wrong. 

You only needed about 12 square feet of popped rivets, split seams, or holes punched right through the Titanic, probably a combination of all, the approximate area one sidewalk square, to bring the Titanic down in less than three hours. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the presumption here not that they were being cheap, necessarily, in doing this, but that literally those higher quality rivets were not available, that they were actually scarce because they were building so many big ships at once in the early teens?   

PELLEGRINO:  They were in a bit of a rush.  They were a bit overstretched.  But it looks like the cheaper rivets were in the one place they were going to end up being need.  Just like everything else about the Titanic, how probable was that.  But they were cutting corners wherever they could.  The steel was about one-quarter thinner than it was supposed to be, than Thomas Andrews had called for in his designs. 

The backup loading systems and extra lifeboats were pulled off because someone higher than Thomas Andrews said they didn‘t look quite right, weren‘t pretty enough, so they removed a lot of the life boats.  Corners were cut. 

The ultimate stupid human trick was driving the ship through the night full speed ahead into an ice field that they had been warned laid directly ahead somewhere.  It wasn‘t so much that the ship was badly designed.  It was that in the building, yes, there is evidence that corners were being cut, and then, on the first and last voyage, people abused the ship completely. 

What happened is—it is a dramatic story.  If you can imagine, one way I‘ve put it, imagine the ultimate Greek tragedy written by God with Shakespeare as her muse. 

OLBERMANN:  And on top of all of that, they had to go with the cheaper rivets.  Dr. Charles Pellegrino, the author of “Ghosts of the Titanic, An Archaeological Odyssey,” thanks for some of your perspective on this tonight.   

PELLEGRINO:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,811th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Programming note, there will be special post debate versions of COUNTDOWN tomorrow night.  Actually, just the one.  We will begin the minute the Philadelphia debate is over.  Let‘s call it 9:30 Eastern time.  If you‘re going to watch it, watch it there, but remember to understand it, understand it here. 

Our little mild and modest promo.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, see you tomorrow night.  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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