updated 4/25/2008 11:16:13 AM ET 2008-04-25T15:16:13

Guests: Dana Milbank, Rachel Maddow, Paul Rieckhoff, John Dean, Richard

Lewis

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

Intervention: Harry Reid says he and Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean may push superdelegates to publicly reveal who they support.

Nonintervention: Clinton advocate, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana says, “Superdelegates should follow the voters of their district.”  This after the senator herself previously insisted, superdelegates should, must vote their consciences.

Big state arguments: Big flaws.  “The New York Times” with the political wonk version of the Rosetta stone: Why Obama has a better shot at beating the Republicans in the swing states, why he would have little trouble beating the Republicans in the states in which Senator Clinton already won the primaries?

Reverend Jeremiah Wright: He speaks to Bill Moyers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MOYERS, PBS HOST:  In the 20 years that you‘ve been his pastor, have you ever heard him repeat any of your controversial statements as his opinion?

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH:  No.  No.  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Administration cover-up: Soldiers are trying to kill themselves in record numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. IRA KATZ, V.A. MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTOR:  There is no epidemic of suicide in V.A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But the Veterans Administration mental health director insisted, there were only 790 suicide attempts by military personnel all last year.  Yet, an e-mail he sent says the actual number is 1,000, not 1,000 a year, 1,000 a month.

“Pure Goldwater”: John Dean‘s new book written with the son of the legendary Arizona senator who turns out to have really grown to dislike a current Arizona senator.  John joins us.

Worsts: Bill-O and the racy photos of Hannah Montana, he wants to hold a conference about them.

What do you say when the legend interviewing you says this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST:  I‘m always reminded when I see you in person, you‘re an enormous man.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Um.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And: He called some Americans bitter.  She even called some of them bitter in the last debate.  You want bitter?  We‘ve got the nation‘s leading expert in bitter.  Richard Lewis joins me here in the studio.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Thursday, April 24th, 194 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Where Democrats more interested in that election than in just the nomination, the distant sound of a bugle echoing from the horizon, the cavalry is coming led by Harry Reid.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Asked by a reporter today if he would be forced to weigh in with undecided superdelegates, the Senate majority leading replying, “I might have to.”

What is more?  The Democratic leader of the Senate, adding, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chair Howard Dean might be willing to join them.  And their contemplative bold action?  A letter-writing campaign.  That‘s the good news.

Before you start offering to pay the postage, please know that Senator Reid foresees the rest of the primary calendar playing itself out first before he would consider intervention.  The majority leader, telling Politico.com, quote, “People,” otherwise known as superdelegates, “will have plenty of opportunity after the last primary on June 2,” actually June 3, “to make a decision about what they‘re going to do.”

And if the superdelegates don‘t make a decision, “The three of us,” that would be Reid, Pelosi and Dean, “may write a joint letter to superdelegates.  We might do individual letters.  We are in contact with each other.”

Getting the superdelegates to hold off until then, apparently job one for the Clinton campaign.  It‘s top surrogate in Indiana, Senator Evan Bayh employing members of the State House to delay in endorsing anyone.  “Why should they get crosswise with some of their friends if they don‘t need to?”  Why, indeed.  Senator Bayh, no doubt, is getting crosswise with some of his friends by having endorsed already.  Do as he says, not as he does.

“My advice to you is to follow the voters of your district.”  That advice flies in the face of the Clinton campaign‘s own cornerstone belief that superdelegates should vote their conscious.

On the campaign trail in Fayetteville, North Carolina this afternoon, Senator Clinton prevailing upon her opponent‘s conscious in trying to force Senator Obama to accept another debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And I‘m hoping we can have a debate right here in North Carolina.  I think the voters of North Carolina deserve a debate.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  I have said I‘ll debate any time anywhere.  Look, I‘m so sleep-deprived; it doesn‘t matter, any time, anywhere.  I‘ll show up.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  So, I hope we will because I think you deserve your own debate.  It‘s been a long time since you‘ve been part of a contested Democratic primary to help pick the next president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  First anniversary of the first debate, Saturday.  Senator Obama addressing his sleep deprivation by taking this day off at home in Chicago.  His former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his first interview since the controversy involving him erupted, telling Bill Moyers of PBS in an interview airing in full tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. that those circulating sound bytes of his sermons from the Internet wanted to paint him as un-American or some sort of fanatic to bring down Senator Obama.

Reverend Wright adding, he understood why Obama has had harsh words about those statements and that Mr. Obama never once repeated them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOYERS:  In the 20 years that you‘ve been his pastor, have you ever heard him repeat any of your controversial statements as his opinion?

WRIGHT:  No.  No.  No.  Absolutely not.

I don‘t talk to him about politics.  And so he had a political event, he goes out as a politician and he says what he has to say as a politician.  I continue to be a pastor who speaks with people of God about the things of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to bring in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the “Washington Post.”  Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hello, you enormous man.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks.  That‘s me.

Is Evan Bayh sort of emblematic of the Clinton campaign?  I mean, Chris Matthews had this analogy the other night, that the campaign, in terms at least of rationale, is like the Iraq war.  There‘s a new rationale every short period of time.

The indication about superdelegates, it was - urgently, they must vote their consciences, don‘t be beholding to what the state did or the district did.  Now, that phrase is apparently inoperative.  Now, they must vote the way their municipalities, their districts voted.  Their consciences are out the window.  What—I‘m lost.

MILBANK:  I think we have a case of situational ethics here.  And the truth is, we should probably cut to the chase and I suggest that you must vote for Hillary Clinton, and that would be the message plain and simple.  But you know, whether your fortunes are up or down, you have to make that argument depending on where you are right now.  She‘s got a bit of a bounce coming out of Pennsylvania.  So, Evan Bayh is feeling he can appeal for a bit more time right now.

OLBERMANN:  But does it not lend this sense of artificiality to the entire campaign when everything changes, the gravity is switched on and off like some light switch somewhere—when the argument against Obama is, there‘s nothing really there, there‘s artificial support, artificial attraction to the personality as opposed to the candidate?

MILBANK:  Yes, I mean, I think people are becoming numb to this whole sort of suggestion.  I mean, the fact of the matter is, what‘s happened at this point, as we‘ve seen from the Pennsylvania results is it‘s getting more and more peerless, that the superdelegates have not decided to weigh in and end this.

We see half of Clinton voters saying they will not vote for Obama.  They‘ll go for McCain or just stay home.  It‘s 1/3 of Obama voters saying the same thing.  This is very precarious for the party right now.  And the superdelegates have to be looking at that and wonder if they‘re tossing away some very good chances.

OLBERMANN:  Well, clearly, Senator Reid is looking at that.  The Reid, Pelosi, Dean letter, this game of get a roll of stamps and mail it in, as non-influential, as small ball as it sounds, might it actually be effective?  Do they carry enough weight to get the superdelegates to get off the fence?

MILBANK:  Well, it sounds like one of those things when you sort of wave the gun and pull the trigger and it goes - and that little bang sign there.  But—what are they going to do if that doesn‘t work?  They‘ll write another letter, even meaner than the first letter.  It hasn‘t worked so far, the various entreaties, they‘re going to presumably have to back that letter up with some sorts of threats in terms of what they‘re going to do to, shall we say, disenfranchise the superdelegates if they don‘t get with the program.

OLBERMANN:  Possibly a registered letter.

Last question here, Reverend Wright‘s interview, should he have passed on that?  Or is there the chance this is not going to reignite that part of the story?

MILBANK:  Well, the tape will be there and available now.  But this story would reignite if and when Obama is the nominee and then John McCain and his surrogates bring it up again.  So, probably no harm in just getting that on the record.

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post,” on a busy, if not deep night for the Democrats.  As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If last week, Senator Clinton‘s “Yes, yes, yes” at the Philadelphia debate said, “No, no, no,” in contradicting her argument that Senator Obama cannot win the general election, Tuesday‘s primary in Pennsylvania brought a wealth of evidence showing that Senator Obama might actually have the easier time beating the Republicans in the crucial swing states.

Those are the ones in gold, presuming you have a colored TV by now.  A “New York Times” analysis is showing that according to the exit poll from Pennsylvania, the ones that all media organizations share, Senator Obama would draw majorities of support from lower income voters, from less educated voters, even though Senator Clinton beat him in those demographics on Tuesday.

As for her argument that leaving Michigan out of the nominating process would leave that state vulnerable come November, the Democratic Pollster Peter Hart telling the “Times” quote, “It is a Democratic governor, two Democratic senators and many Democratic congressmen.  So, it‘s probably going to be a pretty good state for the Democrats in a recession year.”

Mr. Hart adding that Senator Obama could even pick up states that Democrats usually struggle to carry such as Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, even Virginia—Virginia, a red state, not a swing state—all of which he carried in their primaries.

Let‘s turn now to our own Rachel Maddow, the host of the show of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio and one of our MSNBC political analysts.

Rachel, good evening.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This may seem overly simply.  What is the Clinton electability argument?

MADDOW:  Well, it has two components.  There‘s a biographical component and there is a numbers component.  The biographical component is that Barack Obama is not as vetted as Hillary Clinton is.  And even though, we all can imagine or have nightmares about what kind of slime the Republicans might bring against Hillary Clinton in the fall, it fails in comparison to what they might throw at Barack Obama and how damaging it would be because he‘s inexperienced and facing it.  So, that‘s the biographical argument.

The numbers argument is that Hillary Clinton‘s strength in some swing states so far in the primary campaign indicates that she would be stronger against John McCain in those states than Barack Obama would.  The two that she usually cites now are Ohio and Pennsylvania.  But the implication is that by winning in those states—in those states the Democrats historically have to win in order to get the presidency, Hillary Clinton has shown in the primaries that she would be stronger in the general.

It‘s a simple argument.  It doesn‘t necessarily bear out historically.  I mean, you can ask Michael Dukakis how he felt in November 1988, looking back and hugging himself thinking how good it was that he won the Pennsylvania primary that year when he came nowhere near winning the state in the general election.  But those are essentially been the two arguments she‘s put forward.

OLBERMANN:  So, if the superdelegates are party insiders who supposedly know how the system works and they understand real numbers, the things that will be in play in November, the actual voters no longer enough for her to retake the lead in pledged delegates or popular vote from Senator Obama, in that context, who is Senator Clinton actually trying to reach and convince using that‘s electability argument?

MADDOW:  I keep wondering that myself.  Because, God bless the voters of Indiana and North Carolina and Guam and Puerto Rico and South Dakota and Montana, and everybody who is still up, even if the they were all voting on the same day, even if this was all happening right away, they still could not collectively pick a Democratic nominee.  There‘s nothing about what will happen in Indiana that in itself is determinative about what‘s going to happen with this.

The only way this is going to be decided mathematically speaking is by those remaining undeclared, undecided superdelegates.  And we honestly - I mean, forget all the spin, forget all the fluff that you‘re hearing all day every day now, we have no idea what grounds those superdelegates are going to choose to make their decisions.  Are they going just to be persuaded by how Indiana votes?  I don‘t know.  They might be persuaded by that, they might be persuaded by a witchy board, they might be persuaded by any of the electability arguments coming from either camp.

But there‘s no reason to think that the superdelegates are going to be persuaded by this.  I tend to think that this is more an effort to influence the overall media climate, the overall media discussion of the race to make it seem that there‘s a momentum here that might influence some of these superdelegates.  But when it comes right down to it, we don‘t know how they‘ll decide.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you mentioned the last topic that I want to bring up, not to do too much navel-gazing because despite what we might imply, the cable networks are not going to decide the nomination, neither the broadcast ones.  And we‘re not going to decide the election.

When Terry McAuliffe, as he has, joins Ed Rendell and Senator Clinton in praising FOX News, even if we‘re talking about a total of 500 votes somewhere, how in the hell is that a net plus for his candidate and not a net negative?  How?

MADDOW:  How is courting Richard Mellon-Scaife a net plus for Democrats rewarding?  This people who have done their best to destroy Democratic candidates—I mean, if you just think about the petty stuff that FOX News has done, the fact that the last time they hosted the Democratic presidential campaign, they referred to all the candidates as Democrats candidates.  I mean, FOX News exists in part to try to destroy the Democratic Party.  If you want to help them do that, that‘s your prerogative, I guess.  But you better make a pretty argument for why is that that‘s doing your party a favor.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Unless, Sean Hannity is a Democratic superdelegate, I don‘t think it works.

Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC.  Thanks as ever, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OBLERMANN:  Horrifying news about this nation‘s heroes.  The mental health director of the Veterans Administration lied about how many of them are attempting suicide.  He said 780 last year.  The number is actually 15 times higher.

And Barry Goldwater on John McCain: New information from his new biographer, John Dean tonight.  How the conservative legend went from McCain mentor to sorry he bothered.  John Dean joins us ahead.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan vets at epidemic proportions.  We have breaking tonight: the V.A. tries to cover them up suicides underreporting them by 1500 percent.

Later: John Dean‘s new discoveries about Barry Goldwater and the man who succeeded him in the Senate, John McCain.

Heavy on the eke (ph) in Worst Persons.  Bill-O wants a conference held, conference to deal with slightly racy photos of a 14-year-old girl.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  An awful cover-up at the Veterans Administration.  Its mental health director insisting fewer than 800 military personnel attempted suicide last year.  The same man in primary in an e-mail, even bearing the remarkable admonition, Shh (ph), admitting the number of suicide attempts last year was not 800, but more like 12,000.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Even as one of its hospitals closed its psychiatric ward after a fourth vet killed himself there, the V.A. is still treating the crisis with denial or deception or both.

Last November, CBS News exposed the shockingly high number of vets committing suicide or attempting it.  But the chief mental health of the V.A., Dr. Ira Katz vigorously denied it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATZ:  There is no epidemic of suicide in V.A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then, earlier this the year, the V.A. released data claiming only 790 veterans had attempted suicide in 2007.  Yet Dr. Katz‘s own correspondence, written shortly and thereafter, belied that release in a forwarded e-mail titled, “Not for the CBS News interviews request.”

Dr. Katz writes: “Shh!  Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities.  Is this something we should carefully address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?”

In compounding that, after he criticized CBS News for reporting last year that there were more than 6,200 suicides in 2005 alone, he then wrote another e-mail three days letter that read in part, quote, “There are about 18 suicides per day among America‘s 25 million veterans.  This follows from CDC findings that 20 percent of suicides are among veterans it is supported by the CBS numbers.”

Joining me now: Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Great thanks for your time again tonight, Paul.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IAVA:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Katz is denying that there is any cover-up here.  He says the numbers were not released because of consistency and accuracy concerns.  Do you believe him?

RIECKHOFF:  No.  He started his message with Shh!  I mean, I think that says it all.  And it doesn‘t the smell test.

It‘s clear that we‘ve got very serious problem of suicide across this country, specifically with Iraq and Afghanistan vets.  There had been 283 between 2001 and 2005 alone.  Anybody who‘s been in the military, all my friends, know someone who has committed suicide.  It is a growing problem.  It‘s a serious problem.

And this is a great challenge for the new V.A. secretary, Peek.  He inherited a heck of a mess here from his predecessor much like Secretary Gates did at the Department of Defense.  And this is a challenge to him.  He‘s got to step up and deal with this aggressively.

OLBERMANN:  More shocking than that misrepresentation or whatever we want to call it, there are other facts here, go hand and go up (ph) with us, 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets either with clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.  The suicide rate among veterans is anywhere from three to seven times higher than the rest of the country, and this number of suicide attempts at 1,000 a month.  Why are the numbers so terrifyingly high?

RIECKHOFF:  I would say it boils down to because of the fact that our country is not ready to receive these people, Keith.  We‘ve sent 1.7 million people to war in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.  Hundreds of thousands of them are coming home with serious mental health problems.  This recent (ph) study that came out last week verifies it.

We‘re passed the point of canaries and the coal mine.  Everybody knows that there are serious mental health issues across the veterans‘ population.  And we‘re not taking care of them.  There are backlogs at the V.A., the average claim takes 183 days, and it‘s not a proactive system.

I‘m actually grateful to see that the V.A. next month is going to start reaching out.  They‘re going to be proactive, they listen to groups like IAVA and other veterans groups that have been banging away on this for years and they‘re going to start now in reaching out and being proactive.  That‘s the key.  You‘ve got to reach out to veterans, let them know that there is help available and provide that help when they come forward and ask for it.

OBLERMANN:  Can you get the point across to them when you talk to this people, as I know you do, that 183 days in response to a mental issue is the same as 183 days if the guy had an arm falling off and was losing blood for 183 days?  Is that point intelligible to the V.A.?

RIECKHOFF:  We try our best.  The reality is that we need everybody in America to tell the V.A.  We need everybody in America to tell the president.  We need everybody in America to tell all the presidential candidates that the veterans issue—mental health care specifically, and the growing rate of suicide is a top priority for this country.

These folks have served their country honorably.  And when they come home, they deserve the care and resources that we can afford them.  There‘s no excuse.  At this point, there are no excuses.  It should be apparent to everyone.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Chime in here, John McCain has refused to sign on to Senator Webb‘s G.I. Bill, the new G.I. Bill that is so much bipartisan support and has his own legislation which he says rewards those who stay in the military.  Give me your assessment on this?  How does it measure up to the new G.I. Bill?

RIECKHOFF:  It doesn‘t.  Not even close.  Senator Webb and Senator Hagel, Senator Warner, 57 senators from both parties have put together S-22, the new G.I. Bill that puts us on a World War II style of G.I. Bill.  This is going forward.  More than half the House is behind it, every major veterans organization of the country.  It‘s time for John McCain and other senators to get on the bus, not build their own bus.

We need everybody in America to go GIBill2008.org.  Find out if your senator and congress are on there.  And if they‘re not, give them a call.

OLBERMANN:  Bus with three wheels by the way.

RIECKHOFF:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  As always, thanks for coming in, Paul.

RIECKHOFF:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Change your pace here.  What do you do when you‘re on TV and the legend sitting next to you says, “I‘m always reminded when I see you in person, you‘re an enormous man”?

And: What do you do if a guy shows racy pictures of Hannah Montana on TV and then insists a conference has to be held, to do something with the pictures.  That story is ahead.

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

Number three: The nexus of politics and terror-gate.  You remember the seven losers in Florida who let an FBI agent posing as an al Qaeda talk to them about staging an attack on bureau headquarters in Miami and the Sears Tower in Chicago.  Remarkably, two trials now and two hung jurors.

The jurors have already implied they largely believe the defense claim that these people were only interested in the FBI agent‘s money and the car he promised of them, and they thought they were run a scam on the guy.  But since the Bush administration has yet to have a major terrorism conviction, the U.S. attorney for South Florida now announces, he will try this case for a third time.

Number two: Abstinence-gate.  Since the late ‘90s, at the insistence of the Republicans in Congress and then the Bush administration, the federal government has spent $1,300,000,000 taxpayer dollars on so-called Abstinence-Only programs that were supposed to combat sexually-transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.  The results are now in: four major medical organizations say, “The abstinence-only programs have slightly increased teen pregnancies and STDs.

A Tennessee Republican congressman named John Duncan says it is, quote, “elitist” that people with academic degrees in health, think they know better than parents.  Of course, you wouldn‘t want anybody with an education getting involved in sex education.

And number one: Support the troops-gate.  As our friend, Dana Milbank reports in today‘s “Washington Post,” the family of Lieutenant Colonel Billy Hall, one of the most senior officers yet killed in Iraq gave its permission for media coverage of his funeral yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.  They wanted the nation to know about his sacrifice.

Clearly, Mr. Bush and his people did not.  Journalists were kept 50 yards away from the services, far enough away that they could not hear what the chaplain‘s final words over the American hero‘s body were.  Behind enough yellow rope, that the faces of the next of kin would be obscured from photographers.

Whatever this war does and does not mean to the history of this country, nothing could have more greatly impacted the family of Lieutenant Colonel Billy Hall.  And if his story and the story of other American heroes is kept from the American public, it is not the doing of a media that somehow dishonors the troop.

The blame lies clearly and completely at the feet of the Bush administration.  It does not want our heroes honored.  It wants itself honored.  And all else, Lieutenant Colonel Hall and his family and their wishes, they can all, Mr. Bush is saying, “Go to hell.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best persons in a moment, and your private parts kidnapped in the Congo.  To diminish Rosa Parks would be like diminishing Jackie Robinson.  But just as there were attempts to integrate baseball with catcher Fleetwood Walker 63 years before Robinson, so too is this April 24th a date to remember in the form of public protest, which Mrs. Parks brought to fruition in 1955 when she refused to move to the back of the bus.  Not buses in Montgomery, but trolley cars in Richmond.  April 24th, the first day black protesters, their names long since and unfortunately forgotten, boarded whites only street cars in Virginia‘s capital and briefly forced their integration. 

It was April 24th, 1867.  Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Germany, at the world mustache competition. 

The contestants keep get younger every year.  Anybody card this kid?  Hundreds from all over the world, bringing their funny faces, competing in categories like best natural beards—says bears here, but I don‘t think they‘re any bears involved—and best-styled mustache.  I think we saw that guy last year and this guy and this other guy here, too. 

You know what?  This is now getting repetitive.  Can we just roll the dancing kitties? 

That‘s the stuff.  Those kitties are on point. 

Let‘s head up the street to the Ed Sullivan Theater, where yours truly was a guest on “The Late Show With David Letterman” last night.  We talked Indy car racing.  Then Mr. Letterman picked my brain on politics.  When it was time to say goodbye, Dave got something off his chest. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  Thank you so very much for coming over here tonight.  I keep wanting to mention this.  I don‘t know if folks can tell this at home.  I‘m always reminded when I see you in person, you‘re an enormous man. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  This coming from a guy who has a strength of ten men is high praise indeed.  I wasn‘t even mentioned in the Mitchell Report. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For a man who has been gone for just shy of a decade, Barry Goldwater has surprising connections to this year‘s presidential race.  John Dean with extraordinary new information about the legendary conservative‘s role on McCain‘s first run for the Senate, and how Goldwater came to sour on the current Republican presidential nominee. 

And you think some of the electorate is bitter?  We have the country‘s foremost expert on the subject, Richard Lewis here tonight.  All that ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best reason to fully fund your local Department of Child Services.  Second grader Deshawne Williams (ph) is under arrest after he punched his teacher in the face.  His grandmother says, Dorothy, says of Deshawne and his teacher, if he was over-powering her that much, I feel like she shouldn‘t be in that line of work.  If she can‘t deal with him, put him in someone else‘s classroom, if it‘s a male, whatever, and let him restrain them. 

His grandmother, everybody. 

Number two, best traffic report from Jacksonville, Florida; expect major delays on I-95 due to Jello.  A trucker overturned his vehicle as he was hauling individual packs of the gelatin, which then coated the highway.  Then this truck full of miniature marshmallows skidded right into—I made that last part up. 

No this, number one, best panic.  The police chief of Kinshasa in the Congo, John Dedon Elecco (ph), reports the arrests of 13 alleged sorcerers accused of using black magic on local men to steal or shrink their penises.  Radio call-in shows in the Congo have been almost entirely devoted to the epidemic for a week now.  In fact, the Rush Limbaugh of Kinshasa has blamed it on the Democrats.  I made that part up, too. 

But the police chief actually says the arrests are really for extortion.  Men claiming to have super powers.  They touch their victims and say, in effect, got your nose.  Then they demand cash for a cure.  Says the chief, when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it‘s become tiny and they‘ve become impotent. 

Are we sure it‘s the sorcerers running the scam and not the alleged victim?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When Barry Goldwater Jr. and his roommate at school discussed someday writing a book about Barry Senior, the legendary Arizona senator and conservative icon, neither of them guessed that the roommate would go on to become an icon himself, White House council, who became a household name during Watergate, only to be resigned 35 years ago next week.  In our third story tonight, that roommate John Dean and Barry Goldwater Junior, who himself grew up to be a member of Congress in his own write, have finally written that book, containing newly discovered journal entries and correspondence of the late senator, including a series of letters chronicling a dispute Goldwater had with John McCain after McCain succeed Goldwater as senator from Arizona, and a tantalizing reference to the political skills of one Hillary Rodham in her capacity as a Republican campaigner back in 1964, when Goldwater ran for president.

Goldwater himself underwent some well chronicled political conversions or perhaps remained stoically the same as his party changed around him.  Portrayed and defeated in 1964 as a right wing extremist.  By the ‘80s and ‘90s, he had became a moderating force in his party, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-medical marijuana, pro-freedom, pro-honesty.  Even on occasion, pro-Democrat.  Leaving us to wonder whether Goldwater‘s newly revealed writings revealed anything about what the man known as Mr. Conservative would say about today‘s politics. 

Joining me now is John Dean, author of “Broken Government” and now “Pure Goldwater,” as co-author of that book with Barry Goldwater Jr..  John, good evening. 

JOHN DEAN, “PURE GOLDWATER”:  Good evening, Keith.  Nice to be interviewed by a giant. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s just—I don‘t know what he means to this day.  Let me start with something that did not make it into the book, something we haven‘t heard before about Senator McCain and his race for the Senate; after seeing these never-released documents from Goldwater‘s files, can you tell us now what you know about his role in McCain‘s run in ‘86? 

DEAN:  I think I can.  I tried not to make this book overly political, because I was collaborating with somebody who was a very good member of the Republican party, Barry Goldwater Jr., my long-time friend.  I did see correspondence along the way and I have talked to the senator‘s staff. 

First of all, McCain was viewed when he came to Arizona as a carpet bagger.  The senator‘s letter, which we didn‘t put in the book, where he endorses McCain to have his Senate seat when he‘s retiring in ‘86, looks to me very much like a nod to Admiral Jack McCain, who was a good friend of the senator and who he greatly respected.  I‘m not sure he had the same feelings towards John McCain. 

OLBERMANN:  If they started there, where did Goldwater‘s assessment of John McCain go from there? 

DEAN:  They went downhill.  After the Keating Five scandal, with Charles Keating, the savings and loan mogul, whose investigation was blocked by the efforts of a number of senators, McCain being part of the group, Goldwater really cooled on him, not that he was that warm initially.  But I think he held him in minimal high regard, as diplomats might say, at that point.  They got quite distant in their relationship.  In fact, it got chilly when the name was misused by McCain, when he started using Goldwater‘s name.  I put a couple letters in because I thought they were important historically to show that Senator Goldwater pulled up Senator McCain pretty short. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Obviously he has this unusual connection to another candidate still in this race.  We hear a lot about Hillary Clinton‘s 35 years of experience in politics.  Obviously it goes back further than that.  What was she up to in 1964?  How did she come to Goldwater‘s knowledge and what did he think about her? 

DEAN:  I think the knowledge that she was a Goldwater Girl came many years later.  I think it initially came when Bill Clinton called Senator Goldwater and said, Hillary Clinton is having a 40th birthday and we‘re having a surprise party.  Would you call her because you initially attracted her to politics?  The senator did.  It actually started a very warm and extended relationship, right up to the senator‘s death, between the Clintons and the Goldwaters. 

The Clintons wanting nothing out of this man, but fascinated by this icon and exemplary public figure.  They really visited with him in Phoenix, visited with him when he was in the hospital.  There was a very wonderful relationship.  I think he would look pretty friendly toward Hillary Clinton‘s campaign right now. 

OLBERMANN:  I know your co-author, Barry Goldwater Junior, has endorsed Senator McCain and says his father would have done so as well.  Is that your assessment, based on what you researched?  How would he feel also about Senator Obama? 

DEAN:  Barry Junior and I have been talking about the book.  He really initially endorsed Ron Paul.  He thinks his father would have been attracted to Ron Paul as well.  He‘s looking at McCain as the presumed nominee and he would vote for him, he says.  He wouldn‘t leave the party over it.  But I don‘t sense in my former roommate any great enthusiasm for this cause. 

OLBERMANN:  And as to senior? 

DEAN:  As to senior, unpredictable.  I think he would like all those candidates except McCain, frankly. 

OLBERMANN:  What an irony there.  John Dean, whose new book, with Barry Goldwater Jr., is entitled “Pure Goldwater.”  As ever, John, many thanks. 

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Take care. 

Bitterness in American politics.  You need a reason to be bitter?  Ask an expert.  The expert will be here.  Mr. Richard Lewis, everybody.  Why is Bill-O showing pictures on national TV of a 14-year-old superstar girl showing off her bra and mid drift.  Why does he think a conference has to be held?  For Pete‘s sake, what‘s he going to do at the conference?  Worst person a little worse than usual, next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  America‘s foremost expert on actual reasons to be bitter, politically and otherwise, my friend Richard Lewis joins me next.  But first, time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Senator John McCain, a two-fer, staging a photo op in the still rubble strewn Ninth Word of New Orleans, trying to become a Republican president based on the failure of the current Republican president.  He says, we need to have a conversation about what to do, rebuild it, tear it down.  Whatever it is. 

Tear it down, you say?  Just in case losing the vote of the Gulf Coast was not enough, Mr. McCain also declared his opposition to legislation guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work.  Women instead need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else, especially in the area of mining, he said, where there are so few women miners.  Even I wish I was making this up. 

The silver to Tony Zerkle (ph), who is again trying to gain a Congressional nomination from the Republican party for the second district of Indiana.  He said he would speak to any group that invited him.  He attended a luncheon honoring one outfit‘s hero and talked about how white women are targeted for prostitution and pornography.  The group holding the luncheon was the American Nationalist Socialist Workers Party in Chicago, and the birthday they were commemorating was Hitler‘s.  Yes, the guy talked to several dozen Nazis while he was standing in front of a big picture of Hitler. 

Even the Republican county chair has called him repulsive.

But our winner is Bill-O.  He devoted a segment last night to showing the marginally risque photographs of teen star Miley Ray Cyrus, you know, Hannah Montana.  In the most of them, she‘s merely hugging a teenage boyfriend.  In one, her mid-rif is exposed.  In another, she pulls her t-shirt away from her neck to reveal she‘s wearing a bra. 

Bill professed to be shocked by the thought that a now 15-year-old girl, earning 20 million dollars a year, might have a boyfriend.  And he kept showing and talking about these photos.  “Look, we have so few role models, particularly for little girls in this country.  She‘s the main one.  I hate to see this.  Parents all over the country like this girl because she‘s clean cut.  She‘s kind of doing a tease peek-aboo thing.” 

OK, so, it‘s just Bill‘s usual level of creepiness.  Nothing you really would feel the need to phone the authorities about, until he said that the peek-aboo photos of Hannah Montana had led him to conclude, quote, there should be a conference.  A conference?  A conference to discuss photos of a 14-year-old girl‘s stomach and chest?  Who is going to be at this conference? 

Bill, are you going to be at this conference?  What are you going to do at this conference as you look at the photos of a 14-year-old girl‘s stomach and chest?  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was quickly reduced to and will forever be known as the

bitter comments, Senator Obama‘s perception of the frustration and anger of

some small town working class voters.  Then a barely noticed separate

reference to bitter voters by Senator Clinton.  In our number one story in

the COUNTDOWN, don‘t we all have a hell of a lot about which to be bitter? 

Mr. Richard Lewis will join us presently to do bitter one better.  That‘s a pun.  Even yesterday, nearly two weeks after Obama‘s remarks became public, people were still bitching about bitter.  At a town hall meeting for Senator McCain in Inez, Kentucky, a local GOP leader said that Senator Obama‘s comments showed that he, quote, doesn‘t understand our neck of the woods. 

RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN:  Come on. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, for that State Senator Brandon Smith received a standing ovation, not knowing he, too, was making a pun.  McCain himself again said that Senator Obama‘s observation was elitist, itself an interesting observation from a guy whose wife is worth at least a hundred million bucks in beer money. 

As promised, let‘s bring in Richard Lewis, one of the stars of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” whose memoir, “The Other Great Depression,” is now available in paperback.  He also has a new DVD, “Richard Lewis Naked.”  His Misery Loves Company tour takes him to the 92nd Street Y this weekend in the company of some news caster who is going to sit there and pretend to interview him. 

LEWIS:  A hundred million dollars.  Do you see his tax return?  He had 8.90. 

OLBERMANN:  He made 8.90.  She made 100 million.

LEWIS:  You think he ever goes and says, can I borrow a couple bucks? 

I want to get a beer. 

OLBERMANN:  She gives him the empties and he takes them back for the refund. 

LEWIS:  I thought the bitter herbs—I have two relatives in Florida, uncle Herb, I thought they were the bitter herbs.  Happy Passover to the remaining Jews in this country.  Speaking of Jews—ready? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

LEWIS:  I don‘t have time.  I don‘t.  I want a gig.  The president likes me, NBC News.  Why can‘t I be—when you guys are sitting around—

I‘m so honored to follow Dean—

OLBERMANN:  Me, too. 

LEWIS:  These two guys, these are the guys we need.  These are real heroes.  But there‘s not enough.  There‘s not enough with the balls to do what they do.  They‘ve been there, done it and they come back.  That‘s what John Kerry did when he came back and he opened up and he saluted.  Why didn‘t he win? 

The country got what they deserved.  I‘m angry at the country.  There‘s going to be racists.  There‘s going to be anti-Semites, but those are the fringe people.  I don‘t why the candidates—I‘m not here tonight to support a candidate.  It‘s making McCain, who is flip-flopping more than like a pancake guy—forget it.  Unless he has a 30-year-old vice president, let‘s let him drink himself away in Arizona and watch the salamanders hang himself, because it‘s 130 degrees in the winter. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re skin gets all wrinkly.

LEWIS:  Skin, it‘s unbearable.  Here is the thing that bothers me—a lot of things bother me. 

OLBERMANN:  I noticed. 

LEWIS:  Yes, he was a hero.  Here‘s what happens—when we went to war, the war, the wrong war—I love the soldiers.  It‘s like Super Bowl Sunday.  If they‘re sent is somewhere, they go.  They‘re supposed to.  I love this country.  But they went to Afghanistan.  They might as well have blown up Miami beach.  It was ridiculous.  Miami Beach, Miami Beach.  They would have—Coppertone; it would have been a joke because they work for the president. 

But the guy—who knows why they went to the wrong—this is old news.  I want a job.  I want to be the MSNBC psycho-analyst, sit with you guys after you talk, all you pundits talk—and you‘re brilliant people on this network, the most brilliant, but I have psychological problems with a lot of this stuff. 

Number one, the two Democrats are making McCain like the Boston Celtics.  They were in the play-offs after nine hours.  Some of them showed up in slacks because they had to go get a lap dance by half-time.  It‘s not fair.  I know they have to win.  They want to win.  I know they make points. 

Let‘s take Obama for a second.  If he tries to be above the fray, he‘s elitist.  If he tries to fight, now he‘s like a regular politician.  The guy is in a no-win situation that way. 

OLBERMANN:  Certainly Hillary is trying to put him in a no-win situation. 

LEWIS:  Yes, I know. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sorry. 

LEWIS:  It‘s not a pun.  The whole thing is this; every war—I do concerts all over the country.  While I‘m on stage, people are taking pictures of my show.  So I can do this, I can go, you know, this guy was—

I‘m not a racist like this guy was.  And then I go on Youtube, I‘m a racist.  It‘s over.  It‘s over for me.  And that‘s what‘s happening to the politicians. 

Youtube, this society, it‘s like crazy.  People have this attention deficit disorder and they have no time to just relax.  I think this country has to take a big deep breath and say, look, OK, OK, there‘s a handful of people who hate Jews.  There‘s more than a handful that hate African-Americans.  But let them listen.  Let them talk. 

They‘re not talking about the economy.  They‘re just talking about—they‘re picking on things.  This whole Reverend thing, and then they‘re talking—and then Obama fights back.  They‘re fighting each other.  They‘re not fighting for us.  It‘s really bugging the hell out of me. 

I‘m a Democrat, I think, for all the right reasons.  And I‘m more of a broad philosophical—don‘t give me that look.  I‘m making no sense.  I shouldn‘t. 

OLBERMANN:  I understand what you‘re saying, that‘s what I‘m giving you the look for. 

LEWIS:  This is the worst eight years.  Cheney has oil, not blood, running through his vein.  His wonderful daughter, don‘t know her.  She‘s a lesbian.  Should she read the plank of the Republican party, she doesn‘t count.  She‘s like Casper the lesbian.  It‘s unbearable.  How can you be gay, a lesbian, a person of color?  Ever look at the side of the Republicans, they have photo ops like central casting.  I need a Latino and a Jew.  Hurry up.

Then you see some poor Hasidic Jew going, hey, I should be in temple. 

I got to get out of here.  Do I get paid?  Do I get paid?  It‘s ridiculous.  It‘s so stupid.  That‘s one of the reasons I was a Democrat.  When I grew up as a kid, it‘s like America, a pelting pot.  This is not a melting pot.  This is a smelting pot.  That‘s quite an add-lib.  You could shoot me for that.  I‘m bitter that I said that. 

OLBERMANN:  We came back to bitter again. 

LEWIS:  I am bitter.  Remember when Bush—we gave Bush—he stole it and/or we voted for this the guy, the country did.  And Kerry ran a campaign that could have been obviously much better.  I worked my ass off for Gore and Clinton.  I was broken hearted.  After four years putting this guy in, again, the country deserves—

OLBERMANN:  Everybody got scared.  People got scared and enough of them were scared that they went along with it. 

LEWIS:  They‘re doing it again.  Here‘s what I want to say about McCain: he‘s—what he went through was intolerable.  I love him for being a war hero.  But we‘ve got to isolate that and say, this is one of the few heroes in our lifetime to come out of that.  That doesn‘t say, let‘s move that into the war and then wrap the flag around this guy and forget about all the people that aren‘t paying—don‘t have any money, don‘t have any jobs, don‘t have any health insurance.  That doesn‘t have anything to do with how much of a hero this guy is. 

I‘m afraid, when the flags came out the first day, when we bombed—

Shock and Awe, which, by the way, it takes me weeks to get a ticket round trip to Miami.  Shock and Awe had to be planned when the first President Bush—I didn‘t get him.  I didn‘t get it. 

OLBERMANN:  Pass it on to the son.  We‘re going to have to pick this up, because the show has ended already. 

LEWIS:  I don‘t want Dan to get upset with me.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Lewis, the Misery Loves Company tour.  He‘ll provide the misery on 92nd Street.  I‘ll provide the company.

LEWIS:  Just remember that we‘re Americans.  We have to tweak ourselves.  There‘s no civility left in this country.  Come on, let‘s get it together, man.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,820th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann; he‘s Richard Lewis.  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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