updated 4/22/2008 10:53:05 AM ET 2008-04-22T14:53:05

Guests: Hillary Clinton, Eugene Robinson

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”:  Which are these stories will be you talking about tomorrow? 

Pennsylvania, the night before, and nobody knows what‘s next, except that Senator Clinton joins us for her final in-depth news interview before the Keystone State votes. 

Already today, a new Clinton commercial featuring everything from FDR, to the gas crisis of the ‘70s, to Pearl Harbor, to Osama bin Laden, to something the senator said about Senator Obama just last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADrMDNM_)

NARRATOR:  Harry Truman said it best.  If you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Who do you think has what it takes?

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  The inevitable response, it includes Obama talking about the Pledge of Allegiance and the Clinton ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  And who in times of challenge will unite us, not use fear and calculation to divide us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The latest measure of the divide, our polling predicting Clinton by five. 

Is it any use predicting anything about John McCain anymore?  Asked about the endorsement of controversial Pastor John Hagee. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR:  So, was it a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  OH, probably, sure. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  I‘m glad to have this endorsement. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Old man yells at cloud? 

Worsts.  By day, he‘s on FOX News‘ business channel trying to make your stock portfolio rise.  At night, he‘s trying to make something else rise, selling what he calls a sex potion for you fellows. 

And, if it‘s the Pennsylvania primary, it‘s time for everybody to invoke Rocky. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe that America is the land of opportunity? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and Senator Clinton—now on COUNTDOWN. 

Good evening.  This is Monday, April 21, 197 days until the 2008 presidential election, and, of course, weeks after voters last headed to the primary polls, the long interval cloaking what happens tomorrow in Coatesville, in State College, in Scranton, and other towns, big and small, across Pennsylvania, cloaking it with a feeling of finality. 

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, with the final MSNBC poll in that state showing that the Keystone State is Senator Clinton‘s to lose, that which began in Iowa most likely will not end in Pennsylvania.  Senator Clinton joining us presently. 

First, the latest details.  A MSNBC/McClatchy/”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” survey of likely primary voters in Pennsylvania suggesting that the race remains fairly competitive in that state, but in Senator Clinton‘s favor. 

Senator Clinton leading by five points, 48-43.  The Keith number, undecideds plus the margin of error, is 13 percent.  The candidate each making a last-minute push to sway the undecided voters on the campaign trail, Senator Obama in part by describing his opponent as a compromised Washington insider.  The Illinois Democrat rejecting charges that such criticism is the same old-style politics of which he accuses Senator Clinton of using in an interview to air in full tomorrow morning on “The Today Show.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is an old trick, right?  Somebody attacks you and attacks you and attacks you.  And when you finally call them on it, suddenly, you‘re engaging in the same tactics. 

We have been extraordinarily restrained during the course of this campaign and have generally responded only to attacks that have already been leveled at us by Senator Clinton.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  At a rally in Pittsburgh, Senator Clinton expanding upon her latest campaign theme, courtesy of Harry S. Truman.  It is the toughest job in the world, and you have to be ready for anything: two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis. 

Well, if you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That line matching almost verbatim the script of a new advertisement released today by the Clinton campaign in Pennsylvania, with the added bonus of Osama bin Laden imagery. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  It‘s the toughest job in the world.  You need to be ready for anything, especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis.  Harry Truman said it best.  If you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  Who do you think has what it takes? 

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton joins us now from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Thanks for some of your time tonight, Senator.  How are you? 

CLINTON:  I‘m great.   Thanks a lot, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with something that got remarkably short shrift in last week‘s debate.  Is the election in the fall, in your estimation, going to be decided on the price of a gallon of gas?  And is it not true that a president really can‘t do anything about the price of a gallon of gas? 

CLINTON:  Well, I think it‘s going to be very much influenced by the economy.  I don‘t know what else might happen between now and then.  But it appears to me that the economy is not going to recover, and, in fact, the price of gas is going to be a big issue. 

I think oil hit $117 a barrel today, which is just unbelievable.  When George Bush became president, it was $20 a barrel.  I do think there are things that we can do.  In the short run, I would, if I were president, launch an investigation to make sure that there‘s not market manipulation going on. 

I‘m still haunted by what we learned during the Enron scandal about those electricity traders manipulating the market and causing the people in California, Oregon, and Washington to pay such high prices that were not at all related to supply and demand. 

I would also release some of the oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  That ha, in the past, had a good effect on lowering the cost, at least in the short term.  And I would do what I could to try to alleviate the cost right now.  If we could come up with a way to make up the lost revenue with a gas tax holiday, like, for example, a windfall profits tax on the oil companies, on a basis to try to fill the highway trust fund, while we left people off from paying the gas taxes, I would consider that. 

But you‘re right.  Ultimately, we‘re going to have to have an energy policy that actually moves us from our dependence on foreign oil and being literally over the oil barrel with the oil-producing countries and companies. 

I think if the president were to make a speech tomorrow, Keith—and that‘s the kind of speech I would give right now—that we are finally serious, we have had enough of the problems that come from being so dependent and not looking to ourselves to produce homegrown energy to fuel our vehicles, try to help our auto companies and auto workers quickly move to higher-gas-mileage cars and more biofuels and all of the other solutions that are out there, you would see the price drop. 

Why?  Because I think that the companies and the countries that supply our oil would be worried that we actually meant it this time.  And they would once again try to lull us into a false sense of security.  So, I would do all of that.  And I think it would have an impact.

And, then, of course, we have to follow through to make sure that we do everything we can to take back control over our own energy destiny. 

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned the oil suppliers.  And, obviously, that leads us into something else that really flew by during the debate, but seemed awfully important.  In that debate, you were asked about a hypothetical Iranian attack on Israel and your hypothetical response as commander in chief.

And you said—let me read the quote exactly—“I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel.  Of course, I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.  But I would do the same with other countries in the region.”

Can you clarify, since there was no follow-up to that, which hypothetical Middle East conflicts would incur massive retaliation by this country, and what constitutes massive retaliation? 

CLINTON:  Well, what we were talking about was the potential for a nuclear attack by Iran, if Iran does achieve what appears to be its continuing goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. 

And I think deterrence has not been effectively used in recent times.  We used it very well during the Cold War, when we had a bipolar world.  And what I think the president should do and what our policy should be is to make it very clear to the Iranians that they would be risking massive retaliation were they to launch a nuclear attack on Israel. 

In addition, if Iran were to become a nuclear power, it could set off an arms race that would be incredibly dangerous and destabilizing, because the countries in the region are not going to want Iran to be the only nuclear power.  So, I can imagine that they would be rushing to obtain nuclear weapons themselves. 

In order to forestall that, creating some kind of a security agreement, where we said, no, you do not need to acquire nuclear weapons.  If you were the subject of an unprovoked nuclear attack by Iran, the United States and hopefully our NATO allies would respond to that as well. 

It is a theory that some people have been looking at, because there is

a fear that, if Iran, which I hope we can prevent becoming a nuclear power

but, if they were to become one, some people worry that they are not deterrable, that they somehow have a different mind-set and a world view that might very well lead the leadership to be willing to become martyrs. 

I don‘t buy that.  But I think we have to test it.  And one of the ways of testing it is to make it very clear that we are not going to permit them, if we can prevent it, from becoming a nuclear power.  But, were they to become so, their use of nuclear weapons against Israel would provoke a nuclear response from the United States—which, personally, I believe would prevent it from happening—and that we would try to help the other countries that might be intimidated and bullied into submission by Iran, because they were a nuclear power, avoid that fate by creating this new security umbrella. 

OLBERMANN:  Not to equate possible nuclear conflict or its use as a deterrent to the Pennsylvania primary, but that is the other headline, I suppose, of the day. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you about the campaign and something you said in Pittsburgh again.

And, again, let me read the quote about being president: “It‘s the toughest job in the world, and you have to be ready for anything, two wars, skyrocketing oil prices, an economy in crisis.  Well, if you can‘t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” 

That is almost word for word the narration of this new ad that your campaign put out today.  And that ad flashes a very brief image of Osama bin Laden. 

For nearly six years now, since Senator Max Cleland was cut down by a commercial that featured a picture of bin Laden, that has been—that tactic has been kind of a bloody shirt for many Democrats.

Is it not just, in your opinion, as much of a scare tactic for a Democrat to use it against another Democrat, as it is for a Republican to use it in a race against a Democrat?

CLINTON:  Well, first of all, that ad is about leadership.  And I obviously believe I do have the leadership experience and qualities to become the president and the commander in chief. 

And, as you said in the beginning, lots of times, important issues get short shrift in the back-and-forth in a campaign.  But the fact is that the next president will be sworn in at the time of very, very difficult world conditions and, here at home, a lot of challenges. 

This is one of the most serious elections we have ever had.  And, as people zero in on the choice they have to make here in Pennsylvania and around the country in the remaining contests, and then certainly in the fall, I want people to really understand what a serious decision it is. 

There‘s nothing at all that is in any way inappropriate in saying, look, presidents face the unexpected all the time.  Katrina was also part of that ad.  We don‘t know what the next president will face.  And I like to ask audiences to consider this as a hiring decision. 

If you were to hire the person you thought was ready on day one to do the toughest job in the world, what would you look for?  What kind of resume would you be trying to seek out?  I obviously believe that I have a unique set of qualifications and experiences that prepared me for this moment in time. 

I would not be in this race, Keith, I would not be campaigning hard across Pennsylvania, as I have been for the past week, if I didn‘t believe I would be the best president of the three of us still in this contest, and that I would be the stronger candidate against John McCain and the Republicans in the fall. 

And I know that national security will be a prime issue when we get to the fall.  I don‘t think anybody will be surprised by that.  And no Democrat who wants to win in the fall should be surprised.  We‘re going to have to go toe to toe with John McCain on national security.  In fact, we‘re going to have to stand up to whatever the Republicans throw our way. 

And I do think we ought to get real about some of the big issues that we‘re going to face in the White House starting next January and certainly during the campaign leading up to the election of the next president. 

OLBERMANN:  The resumes of all three of you who are in this semifinal round, if you will, of the hiring decision came up over the weekend. 

Senator Obama said, all three of the current presidential candidates, himself, yourself and Senator McCain, would be better presidents than is Mr. Bush.  You were critical of him for saying that, Senator Obama, that is, by saying, “We need a nominee who will take on John McCain, not cheer on John McCain, and I will be that nominee.”

But, earlier in this campaign, last month, on the 6th of March, you

had also said that you thought it was—and, again, this is a direct quote

“imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander in chief threshold.  And I believe that I have done that.  Certainly, Senator McCain has done that.  And you will have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.”

To some degree, Senator, in those remarks from last month, hadn‘t you already cheered on Senator McCain, at Senator Obama‘s expense? 

CLINTON:  No, not at all. 

I think that, obviously, Senator McCain has military experience.  He has a long experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where I serve with him.  And I think most people in this country would look at his experience in the military and in the Senate, and, on national security, say he does cross that threshold. 

The problem is that he has the wrong ideas.  He would continue the Bush policies on Iraq, which I think is wrong for the country.  And, in fact, his statement about his being willing to leave troops in Iraq for up to 100 years is something that I absolutely reject.  That would be worse than President Bush. 

And, when it comes to the economy, his policy seems to be more of the same, more of the same failed policies that have brought us to the brink of a recession, that have brought us huge deficits and an exploding debt.  And I think that‘s wrong as well. 

So, you can have a license to practice law, but that doesn‘t necessarily mean that somebody should hire you to perform certain services and take on certain cases.  And I don‘t think that Senator McCain is the president or the commander in chief that we will need.  And I don‘t want to in any way say he would be better.  It would be hard to be worse than George Bush. 

You know, I said, several years ago, I think he is the worse president we have had.  And I think you have echoed that sentiment on many occasions on your show.  So, I don‘t think that he would be better than George Bush.  I think he‘s more of the same of President Bush.  And I don‘t think the country can afford that. 

OLBERMANN:  President Buchanan‘s supporters are still arguing that point with both of us, but we see eye to eye on it, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  One thing about the—this has been touched on, I would say, probably once an hour during the entire campaign, this historic nature of both your candidacy and Senator Obama‘s.  And it has so many important and positive things for this country. 

But there‘s necessarily an unfortunate flip side to this.  And I have seen it in person with some protesters out here on the plaza next to this very studio in the last couple of weeks.  Do you believe, as some of them seem to, that criticism of your campaign is necessarily sexism, or largely sexism, or sometimes sexism? 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  Well, I think the historic nature of the campaign is causing a lot of cognitive dissonance among many people, Keith—and a few of them are in the media, I believe—because, no matter what happens in this election, the fact that Senator Obama and I are in this close race for the Democratic nomination means that, forever forward, every little girl and every African-American child will be told that, yes, you too can grow up to be president. 

I think that is not just historic.  I think it is wonderful.  But there have been—and you have reported on some of them—moments when people have said things or expressed opinions that are certainly not mine and certainly not Senator Obama‘s. 

Speaking for myself, I know that I‘m trying to break the highest and hardest glass ceiling that exists in our country.  I take on that challenge willingly and gladly, because I think it‘s the right thing to do.  But I also believe that people have to take a look at each of us individually.  And I hope that‘s what they are doing, that they are asking themselves, who will do the best job under difficult circumstances?

And we‘re going to break some real barriers, as we already have, in this campaign.  And I hope that that will push our society beyond some of the remnants of discrimination on the basis of race or gender that we still see from time to time. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing about this particular primary in Pennsylvania, a lot of us who felt that you and President Clinton were sorely mistreated in the late 1990s, to say nothing of the Constitution being sorely mistreated, thought that the phrase that you introduced to that sad conversation, the vast right-wing conspiracy, was pretty apt, if not perfect. 

And we thought—or maybe I‘m just speaking for myself—I don‘t know—that one of the few utterly unforgivable individuals in that entire equation was Richard Mellon Scaife, who, among other things, is the publisher of “The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.”

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  And, I mean, seriously, to some degree, Senator, I quit this job the first time around because of Richard Mellon Scaife and people like him. 

And I realize you have a primary to win.  But why on earth did you meet with Richard Mellon Scaife, and why did you accept, or at least not reject, his endorsement of you over the weekend? 

CLINTON:  Well, Keith, nobody was more surprised than I when I was invited to the editorial board.  And I‘m very open to meeting.  And, frankly, I was kind of curious.  I had only met the gentleman once in my life in a receiving line just in a matter of seconds. 

Obviously, I was on the receiving end of quite a bit of his activities during the ‘90s, much to everyone‘s dismay, most certainly mine.  But I was curious.  And he has a lot of interesting people who write for that paper and work for him.  And it was a fascinating discussion, a lot of give and take.  They certainly don‘t agree with me on many of my positions.

And I was dumbfounded, both to have been invited, and then to have been endorsed.  But I do believe in redemption, Keith.  I believe in deathbed conversions.  And I think it‘s possible for anyone to see the error of their ways.  So, I‘m bringing people together as we speak. 

Anyone who doubts my ability to bridge the most incredible chasms can point to those recent events. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I will leave the—I will leave the remark about the deathbed conversion for some other conversation, when there‘s more time. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton, thank you for your time, and safe travels. 

CLINTON:  Thank you.  It‘s great to talk with you.

OLBERMANN:  For the record, we asked Senator Obama to join us tonight or have a campaign principal join us in his stead.  We were told schedules made that logistically impossible. 

Is a decisive victory by either candidate impossible in in Pennsylvania tomorrow?  The latest numbers all over the proverbial map with Richard Wolffe.

And, no, he says he shouldn‘t have asked for the endorsement of a pastor who believes Armageddon will begin promptly over Israel and we need to get in while the getting is good.  but now that he has that endorsement, he‘s delighted by it.  The follow-up question, huh? 

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bowlers and gun owners may decide the results of the Pennsylvania primary.  No, I‘m not making that up—the latest polling from PA as they go bowling for delegates, evidently.  And Chris Wallace and a FOX Business News guy who also sells E.D. juice.  That‘s what I‘m saying. 

“Worst Persons” ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  She is ahead by just five points in the latest MSNBC/McClatchy poll and ahead anywhere from 3 to 10 percent in other polls.  There are even some lesser-known polls showing him slightly ahead on the eve of the primary, which is presumably why, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Senator Clinton‘s campaign is still playing down expectations vs. Senator Obama in Pennsylvania tomorrow, saying it‘s not about how close the results might be, but about who wins in the Keystone State, even though when it comes to nationally pledged delegates and the popular vote, size clearly does matter. 

Senator Obama likewise playing down any speculation that he might actually pull off a win tomorrow.  You‘re looking at what he‘s campaigning tonight in McKeesport, PA.  He is predicting instead that it will be closer than people expect.  There are 188 delegates at stake in Pennsylvania, which means Senator Clinton would have to win nearly all of them to overtake Senator Obama nationally in pledged delegates.  He currently has 1,417 to her 1,251. 

And as far as where they stand nationally, following last week‘s ABC debate, Senator Obama had lost his lead in the daily Gallup tracking poll, the gap first narrowing, then by Saturday showing Senator Clinton ahead by a point.  But, by today, he had regained the lead, and substantially, back to 49 to 42.  The Keith number in this poll, undecideds plus margin of error, is at 12. 

Joining us now, our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, who is on the trail in Pennsylvania.

Richard, thanks for more of your time tonight. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, you saw or heard at least some of that interview with Senator Clinton. 

Did I hear her say that she is prepared to threaten Iran with nuclear annihilation, even though she doesn‘t think it‘s going to come to that and even though the national intelligence estimate says in fact if anything Iran is going backwards in terms of its seeking a nuclear device? 

WOLFFE:  You did hear that correctly, yes. 

And what‘s interesting here is that this is also a candidate who has talked about a surge of diplomacy.  And squaring those two things are not easy and show really how much the Clinton campaign is playing this national security card right now. 

The point at this moment is—is not just about Iran‘s nuclear capacity.  But, if you look at the foreign policy debate, her red line—and you can debate whether or not it‘s wise to draw red lines in a diplomatic scenario—but her red line is an attack on Israel. 

The problem with the way Iran has attacked Israel in the past is that it‘s done so by proxy.  It‘s done through Hezbollah, just as Syria has used proxies against Syria.  So, the question is, what constitutes an attack on Israel, were Iran to get a nuclear bomb?  And what condition is Iran‘s nuclear program anyway?  Can you negotiate with them at the same time as threatening a nuclear response? 

These are pretty—it‘s brinkmanship and the kind of approach that is at odds with what Senator Obama has said. 

OLBERMANN:  Just for the record, not that it‘s imperative here, but just so people know when we did this, this was conducted—that interview was conducted on tape in the half-hour before the newscast started.  So, this wasn‘t done early in the afternoon or anything.  It wasn‘t specifically out of date. 

But we were under some time restrictions, 15 minutes in total.  And, so, the number of follow-up questions that were available to us was obviously pretty minimal.  But I thought also the—her statement about John McCain in this sort of triangulation with Obama and qualifications for commander in chief, yes, she said that, well, yes, he does have the qualifications to be commander in chief, but, alone now, that doesn‘t qualify him for the office.

Whereas that might sound better than the previous version does, in terms of Democrat vs. Republican, doesn‘t it in fact undercut her previous contention that she, above Senator Obama, had passed this imaginary commander in chief test, and that‘s why she should be nominated?

WOLFFE:  Well, no question Senator Clinton is a very skillful performer, and she walked through a very difficult line that she had to tread here. 

Not only are the comments that she‘s got to defend out there about national security credentials and her and McCain vs. Obama, and the implication that Obama doesn‘t have them, but she‘s also got to square those comments with the criticism that she leveled at Barack Obama just over the last 24 hours that he had somehow said that McCain would be a better president than the current president. 

So, you know, putting those two together is extremely difficult.  She navigated that contortion exercise pretty well.  But they don‘t actually match up.  And, yes, she‘s played a very controversial card here, as the ad has shown, as her comments about Senator McCain have shown.  And, in a Democratic primary, in any intraparty debate, to go to that point and question national security credentials is very controversial. 

And look at her poll numbers.  It hasn‘t entirely worked for her. 

OLBERMANN:  One other “Was it me or was it earwax?” question.  Why was she laughing during references to Richard Mellon Scaife?  I‘m at a loss about that.

WOLFFE:  I think it‘s best to say that‘s a nervous tick.  Look, it deflects the question. 

And she had some good lines, I mean, bringing people together.  But, on the other hand, look, a lot of Democrats remember those pitched battles in the 1990s, the vast right-wing conspiracy is—as you brought up.  It‘s an extraordinary unholy alliance, but strange things happened at sea. 

OLBERMANN:  And we‘re almost dismissing what‘s going to happen tomorrow.  Do we have any idea what the hell is going to happen tomorrow? 

WOLFFE:  The expectations are that the Clinton campaign is somewhere around 10 points ahead.  The Obama campaign, strangely, is suggesting it might be closer.  And the Clinton campaigns hopes we will think it will be closer and then they come up with a big win.  But this isn‘t about expectations right now.  It‘s about delegates. 

For the Clinton campaign to substantially close the delegate gap, they really need to win by about 20 points or more.  That‘s unlikely to happen.  This is, at this stage, about delegates because expectations aren‘t important so much any more.  Where does this race go?  All Obama has to do is run out the clock.  He‘ll be less than 100 short of where he needs to be. 

OLBERMANN:  “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent, our own Richard Wolffe, as always, sir, great thanks for joining us. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Tomorrow, of course, all of the talking stops.  Who the heck am I kidding?  That‘s when all the talking starts; 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 Pacific, MSNBC‘s coverage of the Democratic Pennsylvania primary;

Chris Matthews and me behind the big desk.  Join us please.

Meantime, John McCain says he probably shouldn‘t have solicited the endorsement of Pastor John “the Catholic Church is the Great Whore” Hagee.  But now that he has it, he‘s delighted he does.  Huh? 

And he‘s selling his stock tips on Fox and he‘s also selling you sex potions.  Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Worst persons in the world tonight; Fox again fails to point out Karl Rove not just a neutral political analyst.  He is also an informal adviser to the McCain campaign.  Plus, the guy over there who hypes stocks and also hypes what he calls a sex potion.  And John McCain gives at least three different answers about the controversial pastor in his closet. 

There‘s no way of avoiding this; Pennsylvania primary means Philadelphia.  Philadelphia means Iraqi movie analogy, and a good one.  But first the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, never mind ignoring the U.N., kill it-gate; Senator McCain now backing away from his proposal for a League of Democracies that the U.S. could manipulate—sorry, turn to solve problems like civil strife in other countries or nukes in North Korea, possibly with military force.  The senator has now backed away from this discharge from the neo-cons, saying today it would be only an informal group without any military force involved. 

He may have said this after a Fox commentator foamed at the mouth with anticipation that what he liked was, quote, it‘s got a hidden agenda.  It looks as if it‘s all about listening and joining with allies, except the idea here is to essentially kill the U.N. 

Number two, buying the news-gate.  First Armstrong Williams and video news releases and Jeff Gannon.  Now the “New York Times” report yesterday that so many of the supposedly ex-military figures you were seeing on this network and CBS and ABC CNN and Fox in ‘03 and ‘04 and ‘05 still had business relationships with the Pentagon and were still being wined and dined by DOD brass. 

The headline here is not that the administration was trying to corrupt the free press.  It‘s, a, how courageous were the likes of Barry McCaffrey, Monty Miggs (ph) and Jack Jacobs when they came on here and said, this is crack.  The Pentagon misled everybody.  B, what makes anybody think this still isn‘t going on at Fox. 

Number one, taunt the enemy-gate.  We have learned nothing from wanted dead or alive.  Secretary of State Rice mocking the anti-American militant Muqtada al Sadr while in Baghdad.  She said, I know he‘s sitting in Iran.  I guess it‘s all out war for anybody but him.  I guess that‘s the message; they can go to their deaths and he‘s in Iran. 

None of us have use for the guy.  It is interesting to note that ever since he agreed to a government request from the Iraqis for a cease fire for his part of the insurgency, still the most effective part of the insurgency, we have called him a loser because he went for that cease-fire and now the secretary of state is calling him a coward.  You see, Madame secretary, you keep mocking this bozo and it begins to look like you want him to start the full scare bloodshed, because that would make it easier to keep this damn war going. 

Even if that is not the motive, who was it who wrote that if you make your enemy look foolish, you lose the justification for taking him on.  Yes, the author Jon le Carre, who started out life as David Cornwell, British spy and diplomat. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It may not matter that Senator McCain has not had for seven weeks now any other Republican contender to debate, because pay attention, it becomes all too apparent that he does an excellent job of debating himself.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the senator‘s mud wrestling on the economy and new flip flopping about the endorsement of controversial pastor John Hagee.  That endorsement raised again on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, but only after McCain had invoked Senator Obama‘s association with William Ayers, the man against whom all Weather Underground related charges were dropped more than 25 years ago. 

You may recall the pastor Hagee association is notable because the senator actively sought his stamp of approval even though Hagee once called Catholicism the great whore and said that Hurricane Katrina was god‘s punishment for New Orleans holding a homosexual parade. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  Was it a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Probably, sure.  But I admire Dr. Hagee‘s leadership of his church.  I condemn remarks that are any way viewed as anti-anything. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Anti-anything?  And though Senator McCain‘s latest campaign tour in Selma, Alabama was ostensibly focused on poverty, he might want to take a time out to nail down his economic plan, insisting yesterday he would stick with the Bush tax cuts that he used to decry, also pointing out in the last eight years, we saw an increase in the size of government by 40 percent.

At this point, because he‘s willing to be daring enough to do so, we‘ll call in “Washington Post” columnist and associate editor, MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson.  Good to see you in person, sir. 

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

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain on Pastor Hagee, anti-anything.  Don‘t you have to be slightly more specific than that?  I disagree with stuff that you don‘t like. 

ROBINSON:  Anti-anything; is that the same as pro-everything.  If you parse it, it is.  So, he‘s pro-everything, all the good stuff, at least.  It doesn‘t make any sense, Keith.  There‘s no way to intelligently discuss what clearly makes no sense. 

OLBERMANN:  But you have to because, at some point—I mean, he did it.  The reason it was brought up was he brought up the Obama tenuous connection with a man who was never convicted or arrested for anything in the past.  If you‘re going to do that, if you‘re going to pursue Senator Obama‘s associations, don‘t you have to clarify your own associations in the here and now, the ones that you sought, that you‘re using in parts of your campaign? 

ROBINSON:  You should have to, yes.  And you should have to be more specific than anti-anything.  I‘m telling you what should be, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I want a long day with some presidential candidates.  McCain was also asked at this long piece—about your paper‘s piece on his temper.  And I understand that a person from his staff e-mailed in a long answer, saying there are at least 25 senators with greater tempers than McCain‘s. 

ROBINSON:  Which is a comforting thought. 

OLBERMANN:  I suppose.  Let‘s send them in the Coliseum and have them take on the lions, because they would apparently win.  He passed it off as his own passion and others‘ exaggerations of old episodes.  Is that a good enough answer? 

ROBINSON:  No.  If you read that piece, there was actually lots in it.  First of all, it wasn‘t one or two incidents from his hot headed youth.  He was old enough to know better.  You get into an acknowledged shoving match with Charles Grassley in a committee?  And to me, and this is just kind of me, but the stuff that was most disturbing were the incidents in which he went out of his way to try to destroy, kind of, you know, secretarial level people who had the temerity to stand up to him or say, what‘s with you, buddy, when he went into some sort of tirade, and saying, what‘s with you buddy provoked, don‘t ever hire this person; I want you to fire that person.  That‘s very unattractive. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Of course, that‘s not why he‘s on the why to pushing a button some way, which is the other thing.  The military component to all of this was really the sort of thing that will make you wake up in the middle of the night screaming. 

ROBINSON:  At 3:00 a.m. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s McCain? 

ROBINSON:  Who the hell is this? 

OLBERMANN:  The last point here about the economic plan; it‘s not one huge problem here, I mean, because you‘ve got this logic about whether the Bush years were good or bad or—again, Mr. McCain is anti-everything you don‘t like in the Bush economic program, and pro-everything you might like. 

ROBINSON:  Actually, he‘s pro-a lot of things that nobody likes in the economic plan, because he basically—if you kind of listen, he does say everything is basically OK with the economy. 

OLBERMANN:  Sure it is. 

ROBINSON:  Except, I understand that nobody else thinks that, but it‘s basically OK, and let‘s keep those tax cuts, that I actually invade against for many years.  You know, I tend to believe his first statement on the economy, which is that he doesn‘t really understand it very well. 

OLBERMANN:  But everything is going fine, as you point out, because you can‘t afford to keep your home.  If you want to live in your car, you can‘t afford to move your car from one side of the street to the other to avoid the alternate side of the street parking regulations. 

ROBINSON:  A new form of pre-fab housing. 

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, great thanks and we‘ll see you tomorrow night.  

ROBINSON:  Good to be here.  See you tomorrow.

OLBERMANN:  On the eve of that voting in Pennsylvania, politics and Rocky collide.  The Internet geniuses who recut the Stallone pick call it “Barack-y.” 

You may know him as Bush‘s brain or as the informal adviser to the John McCain campaign, but Fixed News claims he is just an innocent bystander of analysis.  Worst persons next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You can argue that it‘s at least somewhat tilted towards Senator Obama.  Wait until you see it, the Obama and Clinton campaigns super-imposed under the movie Rocky.  I mean, their heads literally super-imposed on the bodies of Carl Weathers and Sylvester Stallone.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Laurie Lynch, writes the celebrity question and answer column for the weekend edition of “USA Today.”  A reader asked, how about some info on our CNBC pal Erin Burnett, quote, and her future plans.  Miss Lynch‘s reply, “She worked in finance before getting into TV.  We almost got to ask her about her future, but our interview was quashed when we said no to having her CNBC handler sit in.” 

Virtually every public figure interviewed by a newspaper in America, from the president to Ashton Kutcher, has their employer‘s press person sit in, especially if the questions are from a gossip columnist.  The other questions in the column were about Angie Harmon and the late Heath Ledger.  Also, handler, a CNBC handler.  Makes it sound like Burnett is radioactive waste or a lion or something.  All right, maybe they have a point. 

Our runner up, Fixed News‘ Chris Wallace, once again introducing Karl Rove to his audience as “now a Fox News analyst.”  No mention before, during or after Rove got out his maps showing McCain way ahead of either Democrat and predicting discomfort for both of the Democrats, that as a top McCain adviser, told Politico.com, Rove is now informally advising the McCain campaign.  Joining us now, Fox News presidential analyst President Bush. 

But our winner John C. Layfield and the Fox Business Network.  He is  an investment banker, who, although since nobody apparently watches that channel—we‘re taking their word for this—works for an on air stock analyst.  He‘s also a product pitch man and distributor.  He‘s the driving force behind the Mamawana Energy.  The berry flavored juice is positioned as an herbal remedy that promotes, quote, sexual endurance in men.  Mr.  Layfield calls it a sex potion.

Physicians say it‘s marketing hocus pocus and a bogus promise.  On the other hand, if you ever suspected that the Fox people all were snake oil salesman, there‘s your answer right there.  By the way, you might try rubbing it on your ratings.  John C Layfield and the Fixed Business Network, today‘s worst persons in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You will recall that as tomorrow‘s Pennsylvania primary

began to draw nigh, Senator Clinton compared herself to Sylvester

Stallone‘s trademark non-Rambo character.  I never quit, she said, I never

get up—Give, I never give up.  In our number one story, onto the

Youtubes we go for what is evidently the Obama version of the same cultural

reference, masterfully done on both the political and computer generated

graphics levels. 

The warm-up act that seems unlikely even for those clambering for every single vote; both the Democrats and Senator McCain have responded to the WWE wrestling outfit‘s call that they settle the nomination in the ring with video clips in which the wrestling they do is some of the insider terminology. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Hi, I‘m Hillary Clinton.  But tonight, in honor of the WWE, you can call me Hill-rod.  This election is starting to feel a lot like King of the Ring.  The only difference, the last man standing may just be a woman. 

OBAMA:  To the special interests who have been setting the agenda in Washington for too long and to all the forces of division and distraction that have stopped us from making progress for the American people, I‘ve got one question; do you smell what Barack is cooking? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The under card out of the way, to the main event.  We‘ve edited it down slightly, both for time and to limit how much me was in.  You can find it on Youtube and elsewhere. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe that America is the land of opportunity?

OBAMA:  There have been periods of time where a president inspired the American people to do better.  Part of what the people are looking for right now is somebody who‘s going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we‘ve seen in Washington. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This lucky club fighter does not have the skills to last five minutes in the ring with me. 

CLINTON:  This is very personal for me.  This is certainly about me and it‘s about me being a woman.  I found my own voice. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want a whole new campaign started.  I want something done to jar this man‘s pride.  I want something done to get the people around him talking. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s when the Clinton campaign launched its kitchen sink strategy. 

CLINTON:  It‘s time for his campaign to get out of the gutter. 

Shame on you, Barack Obama.  Enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove‘s play book. 

OBAMA:  The notion that somehow we‘re engaging in nefarious tactics is pretty hard to swallow. 

CLINTON:  I could stand up here and say, let‘s get everybody together.  The sky will open and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect. 

OBAMA:  The implication is that the people who have been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mathematically, Hillary Clinton doesn‘t have a path to the nomination.  

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I want Hillary to stay in this. 

We need Barack Obama bloodied up. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want all of Philadelphia.  I want all of America.  I want the whole world to see me destroy this man. 

Nobody goes the distance with me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think you have brain damage? 

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, FORMER PASTOR:  America‘s chickens are coming home to roost. 

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  No question that Reverend Wright is a problem.  Senator Obama will have to deal with this.  Just how will be very interesting. 

OBAMA:  We, the people; these simple words launched America‘s improbable experiment in democracy. 

Our movement is real and change is coming to America. 

CLINTON:  I‘m not just running on the promise of change.  I‘m running on 35 years of change. 

I have a lifetime of experience.  Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Whether you see Senator Obama or Senator Clinton as the real life Rocky, one note of caution, Mr. Stallone was still making Rocky movies 30 years later.  Maybe that‘s the real analogy to the Democratic campaign, which again goes to the judge‘s score cards tomorrow night, those handed in by the voters of Pennsylvania.  Chris Matthews and I join you yet again for MSNBC‘s wall to wall coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 Pacific, and continuing on infinitum. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,817th 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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