updated 4/30/2008 10:39:29 AM ET 2008-04-30T14:39:29

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Emily Heil, E.J. Dionne

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

Total repudiation: Senator Obama cuts all ties to Jeremiah Wright whom Obama now says, “caricatured himself.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Wright‘s latest remarks, Obama says, “they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  There are no excuses.  They offend me.  They rightly offend all Americans.  And they should be denounced.  And that‘s what I‘m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton‘s quixotic quest for a nomination she cannot straightforwardly win continues, the endorsement of a superdelegate, North Carolina‘s governor, a week before North Carolina‘s primary is hers.  But, at what cost?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE EASLEY, (D) NORTH CAROLINA:  This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Did you say a pansy?  Words have meaning as Senator Clinton and her supporters continue to insist.

And endorsements have meaning.  So, why haven‘t Al Gore or John Edwards or Elizabeth Edwards put a stop to the fight by choosing sides?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS‘ WIFE:  I don‘t think that Vice President Gore or my husband, Senator Edwards, believes that their endorsement would change that dynamic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But a “New York Times” report that Senator Edwards is holding back because he wants a cabinet position from whoever wins.

There are no winners at this White House: Mr. Bush with a sad and embarrassing performance at his news conference today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  How‘s the baby?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s good.

BUSH:  Good, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.  You‘re trying to get me off, be it‘s

OK.

BUSH:  Is it true you named her Georgia?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.  Is that OK with you?

BUSH:  It‘s your baby.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Caligula, only without the imagination.

Bill-O‘s queasy obsession with racy photos of a 15-year-old pop star, the photos he wants to hold a conference about.  Oh, boy.  There are new photos for him to get sweaty over.

Plus: This is who FOX thinks participated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening this is Tuesday, April 29th, 189 days until the 2008 presidential election.  If that was as we postulated here yesterday, a second chance at a first impression, it was a second first impression where the adjectives and analogies were delivered in carload lots.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  After Reverend Jeremiah Wright‘s nationally televised train wreck yesterday, Obama in his own words today said he was outraged, saddened, angry, shocked, surprised and disappointed at the inexcusable, divisive, destructive ridiculous, outrageous and appalling caricature spectacle exploitation performance and rants.

In Philadelphia last month in the similar speech about race, Senator Obama having said about Reverend Wright, quote, “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.  I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.”

But then came what Reverend Wright said yesterday at the National Press Club attacking Senator Obama and the U.S. government in equal measure and bizarrely claiming that the outrage of his sermons posted on the Internet had nothing to do with Senator Barack Obama but was an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.

Because of that, by this afternoon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Senator Obama changed his mind, insisting that Reverend Wright had caricatured himself, insisting that Reverend was never his spiritual adviser nor his mentor, insisting that Reverend Wright was no longer the man he had met two decades ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.  His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.  They certainly don‘t portray accurately my values and beliefs.

And if Reverend Wright thinks that that‘s political posturing, as he put it, then, he doesn‘t know me very well.  And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Add it all up and Reverend Wright‘s grace period as well as his time being in Senator Obama‘s good graces now officially over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church.  He‘s built a wonderful congregation.  But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then, there are no excuses.

They offend me.  They rightly offend all Americans.  And they should be denounced.  And that‘s what I‘m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, who joins us tonight from the campaign trail in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  Certainly this is the second time Senator Obama has tried to put the Reverend Wright controversies behind him by replacing some of the sound bytes from the pastor with sound bytes of his own.  It worked to some degree last month.  Some would argue it worked brilliantly.  Is it likely to work to any degree again?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think he went a long way beyond the sort of strategy before about replacing his words - Reverend Wright‘s words with his words.  In a sense, voters, I think, were looking for two things out of this.  First of all, how the candidates respond to these kinds of crises.  What we saw today was Obama moving finally in a decisive way and showing some emotion.

You know, in covering him for more than a year, I‘ve never seen him express this kind of anger and dismay on anything.  So, that‘s one important factor here.

And the second piece of this is the big question about this: What was the relationship between these two men?  Did Reverend Wright speak for Obama?  Did Obama speak in the same way as Reverend Wright?

What we saw today was such a complete denunciation, such a complete break, that anyone who has a question in their head about how close these two people are should have it really answered.  There is a vast chasm between them now.

OLBERMANN:  Obama said he had not seen the video of the Wright performance until this morning.  Somebody, obviously, in his campaign did him a great favor by showing it to him.  In a way, did Reverend Wright do him another favor because yesterday, with a day to think about this, it was pretty obvious, Mr. Wright made himself look cartoonish, less, you know, an angry threat than a kind of self-absorbed nut job, almost—does whatever still exists of the Wright controversy get proportionally reduced from that original question of: Does Obama agree with this man?  Is it less of a concern now?  Is it closer to why did he ever listen to this guy?

WOLFFE:  Well, he has done him a favor in a sense of being so buffoonish yesterday and certainly repeating some of the more outrageous things that got him into hot water in the first place.  And I think what was really important here was as well the lack of respect—the disrespect that Senator Obama talked about, that he gave him the benefit of the doubt, tried to put his comments into some context in Philadelphia, and that favor was not returned in any way.  You know, the selfishness, the egotism, that all made it easier.  But clearly, this wasn‘t that easy.  If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago.

OLBERMANN:  There was a lot of speculation yesterday as to what Obama should do and whether or not whatever he did, if he acted in any way in disagreement at any of the various degrees of disagreement with Reverend Wright, if it would hurt him within the African-American community.  Is there any evidence that what he did today will significantly affect him in that community?

WOLFFE:  I think he will take some hits for it.  Yes, absolutely, especially in Chicago, especially in a community that he put his roots in.  But we often talk about a “Sister Soldier” moment and I think this went actually, considerably beyond that 1992 moment, in the sense that this was much more of a personal issue, the stakes are higher, and what he did here was, you know, people often say when does Obama challenge the orthodoxy or challenge a core group?  He‘s challenged his voting base right now.  And clearly, there are a lot of African-Americans, a lot of African-American ministers who don‘t agree with Reverend Wright but still a gutsy move, I think.

OLBERMANN:  It reminds me of something I experienced with him nearly two years ago, when he picked against a team widely supported in Illinois for the baseball World Series championship.  Obviously, nothing in terms of importance but it did reflect his willingness to say, “You know what—I‘m not going to get 100 percent of the vote.”

Last question, Richard, Reverend Wright‘s playing the dozens comment yesterday, that for him this had been reduced to or maybe amplified to the level of the kind of personal schoolyard trash talking insult sequence.  Is it likely we have heard the last of Reverend Wright on this?  And presuming he speaks again, what does Senator Obama do about that?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think he‘s said what he has to say about Reverend Wright.  But there should be little doubt.  I think Reverend Wright has enjoyed his moment in the spotlight and he‘ll probably speak up again.  Interesting today, reporters met him in D.C. where he is at some theological conference and he said the media was trying to make it about him and Barack Obama.

Well, actually, it‘s Reverend Wright who‘s been stirring this stuff up.  I think we‘ll hear from him again.  But the question is: how is a media going to react?  In a sense, the political impact has been answered, but I‘m sure there will be a taste for the sort of freak show of Reverend Wright still to come.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but his role in the presidential campaign only exists if people want it to, if people who are opposed to Obama in the media decide it should be.  Is that a fair statement, do you think?

WOLFFE:  I think people who continue to report on this as a political story should ask themselves: What is the impact of this on the race when the candidate has broken so clearly from him?  There will be fascination about Reverend Wright just as there is fascination about Al Sharpton and a host of other people.  But in terms of the politics of this, I think we heard what the answer is.  We heard it today from Barack Obama.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek” at the RNDC (ph) station of the CNC in Charlotte.  Great thanks and great thanks to your friends there.  Thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama able to work out some of his anger against Reverend Wright clearly this morning, not as you saw but as you see here by joining the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team in Chapel Hill for a scrimmage.  He‘s out (ph) the long time where he battled against Senator Clinton was tough, imagine playing ball with student athletes half your age and twice your height.  After one play as he was jogging down the full length of the court, the senator breathlessly telling reporters, “These guys are better than me.”  It could have been much worse, at least he was not bowling and at least nobody endorsed him today by comparing him favorably to a, quote, “pansy.”

North Carolina Governor Mike Easley doing Senator Clinton few favors today in his endorsement remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EASLEY:  There‘s nothing I love more than a strong, powerful woman.  So, I‘ve been in hog heaven today.  This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton is also gaining the support of Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton.  Controversy-free, Senator Obama also got two superdelegates today from Kentucky, Congressman Ben Chandler, also an Iowa DNC member.  Senator Obama still with a seven to four lead in superdelegate pickups in the week since the Pennsylvania primary.  This brings the superdelegate total to Clinton 266, Obama 244.  The overall count now in delegates: Obama 1,734, Clinton an even 1,600.

We‘ll turn now to Emily Heil whose column “Heard on the Hill,” appears in the newspaper “Roll Call.”  Welcome, Emily, good evening.

EMILY HEIL, ROLL CALL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Obama and Wright in a moment.  First, Governor Easley and the “pansy” remark which obviously kind of jumps off the page at you.  The Human Rights Campaign which is the country‘s premier group promoting gay rights commented to the “L.A. Times,” “We certainly wish the governor would have chosen his words better.  We‘ve expressed our disappointment to his staff.”

Nothing from Senator Clinton‘s campaign on Governor Easley‘s word choice, which you would say, well, maybe that‘s not a big deal but that campaign has focused on what people have said in relation to it.  Should the Clintons have commented by now?

HEIL:  Well, you know, words do matter and certainly, everyone knows that everyone is going to be parsing every word that comes out on the campaign trail.  But you know, I think that there is a limit to that and how sensitive you can be.  You know, clearly, some people are very upset by this and it is a loaded word.  I don‘t think it‘s universally accepted as a sexual slur.  And then, maybe, it just was meant in the common parlance of denoting weakness.

So, I don‘t know necessarily that even on a slow news day, when you didn‘t have a campaign, you know, a candidate making a major policy announcement and the Reverend Wright controversy bubbling over, you know, I don‘t think that those things so much put it in perspective or drown it out as they do put it in perspective.  I don‘t think it‘s going to be a big fuss on the campaign.

OLBERMANN:  To Obama.  This two-two split in superdelegates today and the seven-four lead that he‘s had in picking up superdelegates since Pennsylvania.  Does that suggest that the Wright issue is not the super-issue that it may appear to be from the outside looking in or are these just two simultaneous things?

HEIL:  Well, I think that Senator Clinton had certainly hoped that the Wright controversy would really bury Senator Obama.  So to the extent that it really hasn‘t, you know, it‘s not living up to their wildest dreams.  And certainly, the most controversial comments of the reverend have been out for a long time, and they‘ve been out, kicked around, and still superdelegates are breaking for Obama.

So, some of them are clearly deciding that this isn‘t going to be a big issue for them.  But it‘s important to note that a lot of superdelegates are playing things really close to the vest.  And we won‘t know how this or really any other campaign issue affects their decision for quite a while.

OLBERMANN:  From issues, Emily, to tactics.  This morning was the second Obama basketball game in front of cameras in four days.  He‘s also doing more of these small town hall style meetings instead of the big arena size rallies that were cornerstone of the campaign especially early on.  But, is it in fact the change of tactics since Pennsylvania: go small and go blue-collar?

HEIL:  Sure.  Well, I think, clearly he has decided basketball is a winner for him, much more so than bowling, smart move.  But I think that if you want to avoid the sort of looking like you‘re out of touch, like you‘re an elitist, it‘s far better to be in this sort of one-on-one or intimate situations than to be in this sort of rockstar arena visual situations.

So, I think that it is a strategic decision on the part of the campaign.  I mean, to the extent that everything, every visual is so clearly thought out and planned.  Yes, you have to figure that it‘s all strategic and I think that‘s a smart decision for him.

OLBERMANN:  Emily Heil, whose column “Heard on the Hill” appears in the newspaper “Roll Call.”  Great thanks for joining us tonight.

HEIL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  North Carolina votes in one week.  It will vote probably without knowing how its last presidential hopeful and his wife will vote.  Elizabeth Edwards on the non-endorsement.

And: George Bush at the non-news conference.  If this is all a joke to you Mr. President, it‘s all going to be a joke to us.  We‘ll look for facts if any.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The theory: The endorsement of John Edwards or Al Gore or Joe Biden could resolve the Democratic nomination quandary.  The answer to that from Elizabeth Edwards is next.

In Bushed: The former chief prosecutor of Gitmo says, he was told, “No acquittals.  The president needs convictions, for the elections.”

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Exactly 90 days now since former Senator John Edwards suspended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and exactly seven days until the primary in Edwards‘ home state.

And in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: And still he has endorsed no one.  And just as importantly, neither has his popular and respected wife, Elizabeth.  A group of John Edwards‘ supporters last week announced they were backing Barack Obama, fueling speculation that Edwards does, too.

As for why he has not spoken out yet, the “New York Times” today, quote, “An unnamed aide saying Mr. Edwards wants a spot in the winner‘s administration,” and quote, “doesn‘t want to pick the loser.”  But here on MSNBC today, Mrs. Edwards gave a more tangible explanation to Norah O‘Donnell as to why she and her husband and another prominent Democrat have resisted calls for them to go public with their preferences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARD‘S WIFE:  If we thought that somehow there was harmful blood letting that an endorsement would solve, then there would be reason to do it.  But I don‘t think that Vice President Gore or my husband, Senator Edwards believes that their endorsement would change that dynamic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mrs. Edwards also addressed speculation that her endorsement of Hillary Clinton‘s proposed health plan was in reality a backdoor way of signaling that she prefers Senator Clinton overall as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  I‘ve endorsed Senator Clinton‘s health plan.  And people ask me about particular policies, I‘ll be happy to comment about the policies of either of these candidates.  We have two great candidates.  And in terms of health care, I‘m proud that even though I prefer one plan over the other, that both plans have as their goal universal coverage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  At this point, let‘s bring in E.J. Dionne, a columnist with the “Washington Post,” a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.  E.J., good evening.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST:  Always good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And we feel the same way here.  Did Mrs. Edward just solve the mystery of why she and her husband and Gore and Biden and half a dozen others have not endorsed anybody and settle all this because simply put, they don‘t believe it would settle all this?

DIONNE:  Well, I think she‘s right.  She‘s a very shrewd woman.  I think, maybe, we‘re talking about the wrong thing that with all the damage that Obama and Clinton have caused each other, maybe Edwards is going to announce his getting back in the race, he‘s the only electable Democrat left.  But I think she‘s right that endorsements are of questionable value.

And I think that in this Democratic race, no one is going to slow this down until there is some outcome at the polls.  I talked to a couple of people close to the Edwards today.  One said absolutely nobody knows what they are going to do and anybody who says otherwise is wrong.  The other said, it‘s very likely that they won‘t endorse anyone.  So, that may be—the indication she gave may reflect exactly where they are.

OLBERMANN:  But she said in theory today that things could change in the next week and there might be an endorsement.  But that‘s really unlikely to happen.  But if there‘s going to be an endorsement at any point by either of them, is this not the time to do it because not there—is there not a shelf life problem with an Edwards‘ endorsement after North Carolina votes?

DIONNE:  Well, not if endorsements from major people like the ones you mentioned, Al Gore, John Edwards and others could send a signal toward the end of the process that it‘s time for somebody to go, to use Al Gore‘s old phrase about the first President Bush.

You know, and that it‘s not clear how much an Edwards‘ endorsement, how many vote can he swing in North Carolina.  He hasn‘t been in office in a while.  I‘m sure he could swing some.  But it would probably be more powerful as part of the unified effort to shut it down at the end.

OLBERMANN:  The “Times” report, Edwards wants a cabinet post and can‘t afford to offend either candidate.  Firstly, is that the way it works, and secondly, does it ring true to your knowledge of him?  Because it sounds a little tiny to my ears - the idea that he would be keeping himself in as an alternate candidate that you raised, some much more realistic than the idea that he‘s holding out in hopes that either one of them would make him secretary of HEW or something.

DIONNE:  It didn‘t sound—although I thought, if you want somebody to negotiate with the drug companies as part of the health plan, the trial lawyer John Edwards would be a pretty good guy to have at the table.  But it didn‘t sound right to me.  The one logical thing is that in these endorsements, a lot of time, the gratitude you get from the candidate you endorse is far outweighed by, if I can use the word the bitterness, of the candidate that you don‘t endorse.  So, perhaps, if there is anything to that story—a non-endorsement—is probably the path to take.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, you pronounce that word candidate often like the word Kennedy.

DIONNE:  I‘m from Massachusetts.  It‘s just a habit.

OLBERMANN:  It sort of reminded me of the impact that was—the golden speech of Ted Kennedy for Obama and then the actual practical impact both in Massachusetts and California and the blowback from Clinton people against Kennedy which as you point out is extraordinary.

DIONNE:  In my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, which is about as loyal a Kennedy town as you can find, the city voted four to one for Clinton.  So it‘s—you know, the endorsements don‘t always have the impact.  I think mayors have more impact often than national figures in delivering votes.

OLBERMANN:  Or even governors even if they make references to people being tougher than or make somebody looked like a pansy, a strange thing still.  Last question here: How have the Edwards played this?  Have they succeeded in pushing their issues to the forefront by staying on the sidelines or would have they gotten more bang for their buck by endorsing?

DIONNE:  I think Edwards put some issues on the table through his campaign and it‘s continued since.  I think the candidates are talking a lot more about poverty than they might have if John Edwards had not made it such a big deal.  Mrs. Clinton‘s health care plan is very, very similar to the one that John Edwards put out first.  Everybody sounds like a populist these days.  Now, a bad economy will do that in a Democratic primary.  But they all sound a little like Edwards.

I was struck that Mrs. Clinton recently said she was going to appoint a poverty czar.  You wonder if that is that offering Edwards the very cabinet post that he is supposedly seeking.  So, yes, I think he‘s had a real impact.

OLBERMANN:  Fascinating.  E.J. Dionne of the “Washington Post,” and the second most famous native of River Fall, Massachusetts after Lucy Andrew Burton (ph).  Great thanks for joining us, E.J.

DIONNE:  And Emeril Lagasse, the great chef.

OLBERMANN:  No, no.

DIONNE:  Thank you so much.

OLBERMANN:  No.  To heck with Lagasse, thank you, E.J.

It‘s not just national Lee Elia day.  It‘s the 25th annual national Lee Elia day.  I hope you remember to send a card to commemorate one of the greatest recorded meltdowns in interview history.

And: Another day, another disturbing Bill-O meltdown.  He is more hopped up about the new racy photos of a 15-year-old girl.

These stories but first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Blackwater-gate.  We can talk forever about the abuses of the mercenaries for whom we are paying with our tax dollars and who somehow we have made immune to the laws of this country and Iraq, but there will never be a bigger symbol of the immense evil here than what Mark Halcon has done.

For six years, he has canceled his contract with them.  Mr. Halcon runs the American Shooting Center, a firearms range in San Diego.  He says in 2002, he and that city were asked to approve a contract to be a vocational training school run by two companies called Raven Development and Southwest Law Enforcement.  It turns out they were fronts for Blackwater.

“For them to mislead the city council and claim they are a vocational training school,” says Mr. Halcon, “makes we wonder what vocation they are training for.”

Number two: Health care-gate.  Startling data from a poll taking by the family foundation connected to the Kaiser health care people, who‘ve heard of shotgun marriages and getting married because you have to and marrying for love, but marrying for health care?  Seven percent of respondents say they or someone in their household decided to get married in the last year to become attached to their spouse‘s health care plan.  Much of the administration spinned that as a faith based boost (ph) for marriage.

Number one: The nexus of politics and terror-gate.  For the first three years we held prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Air Force Colonel Morris Davis was the man to whom the Defense Department turned to prosecute the cases in the 1930s.  Davis was the pointman for what critics believe was a kangaroo court or a version of the Soviet show trials.  Davis was to prosecute men like Salim Hamdan in his cells without any rights because he was accused of having been Osama bin Laden‘s personal car driver.

There was a rather unexpected witness testifying on Hamdan‘s behalf:

Air Force Colonel Morris Davis.  He is a witness in the latest Hamdan‘s case arguing that the infamous Military Commissions Act the one that Mr.  Bush railroaded to a pliant Congress between the midterm elections is unconstitutional.  Davis didn‘t just say the Hamdan  argument was right since it permits the use of evidence obtained by coercion or torture, he‘s saying nothing of hearsay, he also quoted the former general council of the Defense Department who says told him, “We can‘t have acquittals.  We‘ve been holding these guys for years.  How can we explain acquittals?  We have to have convictions.”

Colonel Davis put it simply, he was under pressure to hurry through cases and get those convictions so President Bush could use them politically before the 2006 midterms.  And there it all he‘s in the nutshell. The military cooping the Constitution and the sacred freedoms for which the heroes of that military have fought and died, as part of some kind of crazed worship of or fear of a cheap political hack and his gang.

And as distant as it all seems, just plug yourself into that equation, you somehow wind up at Gitmo in Salim Hamdan‘s place and you say, but I‘m an American citizen, and the guard, and the torturer standing the guard says to you, “Oh, yeah, prove it, without a lawyer, without the right to trial.  Prove it.  And until then, you want some water?  Pour it up your nose.”

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OLBERMANN:  In a moment, best persons, and Jesus has shown up again on a lucky baby‘s ultrasound. 

First, 25 years ago today, one of the best strategic minds in baseball went out of his mind and went into the rant hall of fame.  Lee Elia was the manager of the Chicago Cubs who opened the 1983 season by losing 14 of their first 19 games.  After the 19th game, on April 29, 1983, two Cubs players were so roundly heckled by Chicago fans that the players had to be restrained from going into the stands to confront them. 

That is when Lee Elia lost it.  His complete tirade against Cubs fans, who in those days only had day games to attend, lasts more than three minutes and has been used as a motivational tool by businesses and one former governor of Illinois.  It contains no fewer than 49 bleep-able words.  You will hear a few of them as we celebrate the 25th anniversary with a brief clip, right after I say, let‘s play Oddball, you country, blank, blankers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE ELIA, FORMER CHICAGO CUBS MANAGER:  The mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) don‘t even work.  That is why they‘re out at the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) games.  They ought to go out and get a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and find out what it is like to go out and earn a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) living.  Eighty five percent of the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are working.  The other 15 come out here.  A (EXPLETIVE DELETED) play ground for the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Rip them, mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  Rip them country (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) players. 

OLBERMANN:  Rip, the.  Mr. Elia is now selling a new pro-Cubs rants for charity. 

Also in sports, to Via de Tamazula Palm de Progresso (ph) in Awatzico (ph), Mexico, where hockey is played not with a puck, but with a wooden ball slathered in animal grease and set ablaze.  Apparently the game originated with the ancient Nixtec (ph) Indian tribe, who used the ball to simulate the movement of asteroids in the galaxy.  You know, this could actually make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Fact checking the Bush news conference; if we can cut through his asides, one liners and spitballs he threw at the teacher.  OK, he didn‘t throw any spitballs.  And you think you‘ve gotten older during this campaign?  No, actually, this is computer wizardry on what the presidency would do to these candidates.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best political news conference, Troy Buswell, head of the conservative party in Western Australia, having previously admitted he snapped the bra of a staffer from the opposition party; he has now admitted in front of a news conference today that with one of the women staffers in his own party, in his own office, when she got up from her chair, he went over and sniffed it.  Mr. Buswell promptly teared up, from the admission, not from the sniffing. 

Number two, best unintended revelation by a doll, the bobble head doll of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, handed out by the team to fans who attended Saturday‘s home game.  The doll appears to be giving the fans the finger.  Having won one only game this season and lost three, having struck out only 13 men, but walked 22, having his Earned Run Average balloon 4.50 runs a game since last year, you can say Gorzelanny has already been giving Pirates fans the finger. 

Number one, best Jesus sighting.  Been quiet for a while, but now the popular, well known savior has appeared in the ultra sound of the unborn baby of Monet Sledge of Lorraine, Ohio.  I was shocked, like really, says Ms. Sledge.  She sees Jesus on the cross in there.  A, that is going to make for an interesting time after the baby is born, what with the new religion starting and all.  B, in terms of the delivery, I‘m hoping you don‘t have an actual cross in there.

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OLBERMANN:  The associated press is the closest thing mainstream journalism has to a circulatory system, the news life blood for newspapers, radio, TV and Internet left and right.  Today, the AP headline for the speech by Mr. Bush was “Bush Rhetoric on Energy Strays From The Facts.”  So polite, the AP.  In our third story tonight, we will grossly overuse the phrase in fact to address Mr. Bush‘s claims about the economy, claims that sought to blame Congress for it, on the eve of new government figures that may confirm the reality of the Bush recession. 

Mr. Bush today said, in that very same event, that it took a long time to get into this fix and that it‘s the fault of Congressional Democrats who just took power last year.  The details of linear chronology not sufficient to stop Mr. Bush from laying blame. 

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes.  I don‘t blame them.  Last year, I called on Congress to pass legislation that would help address problems in the housing market. 

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OLBERMANN:  In fact, while Mr. Bush first blamed the mortgage crisis on home owners, his administration turned a blind eye when investment banks began buying risky mortgages and trading them in ways intended to disguise their risk.  Even today, Mr. Bush opposes what even his own treasury secretary and Fed chairman both recognize, more regulation is necessary.  And those bills Congress did not pass?  They have been held up in the Senate by Republicans. 

So what has Mr. Bush done, in fact? 

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BUSH:  One of the things we have done on home ownership is the Hope Now Alliance, which hopefully makes people less anxious.  Hopefully it helps—brought a sense of not only concern but action into the marketplace.  And I was told this morning that Hope Now has affected 1.4 million home owners and helped a lot of them refinance, get refinancing or helped a lot of them get, you know, different interest payment schedules, all aiming for credit-worthy people to stay in their homes during this difficult period. 

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OLBERMANN:  In fact, a report last week found that 70 percent of homeowners two months behind on their mortgage still are not getting help, not help paying, just help agreeing on terms they can pay.  The number of homes repossessed in the first quarter of this year shot up 36 percent to 205,000.  But mostly today, it was oil that the world‘s most powerful failed oil man had in mind.  Again, blaming Congress.  Again, lusting after Alaska‘s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

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BUSH:  They have repeatedly blocked environmentally safe exploration in Anwar.  The department of energy estimates Anwar can allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel every day.  That would be about a 20 percent increase of crude oil production over U.S.  levels and it would likely mean lower gas prices. 

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OLBERMANN:  In fact, Mr. Bush is right here.  A few years ago, the EIA, the United States Energy Information Administration, considered the impact of drilling in Anwar, and said that gasoline prices would go down, dropping one cent per gallon by the year 2025.  But Anwar is not Mr. Bush‘s only prescription for soaring gas prices. 

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BUSH:  Another reason for high gas prices is the lack of refining capacity.  It‘s been more than 30 years since America built its last new refinery.  Yet in this area, too, Congress has repeatedly blocked efforts to expand capacity and build more refineries. 

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OLBERMANN:  In fact, American refineries are only at 85 percent of capacity, according to the EIA.  In fact, consumption fell from 2005 while production was stable.  In fact, Mr. Bush got a new refinery bill that he said would increase refining capacity and Democrats said would enrich the oil companies.  In fact, Congress ignored Mr. Bush‘s request to use old military bases as refineries because oil companies don‘t want to, because the silly military didn‘t build them near pipelines. 

In fact, Mr. Bush has blocked Democratic measures, such as the Price Gouging Prevention Act.  In fact, in 2000, Mr. Bush said the next president should fight gas prices by making OPEC increase production, a mission Mr.  Bush failed at in January and again last month.  In fact, American oil executives have increased refining capacity by expanding existing refineries.  When top officials at the five biggest companies testified this month about whether they want new refineries, all of them said no. 

They made record profits anyway. 

And of Bushy‘s past, he admits he was clueless that there would be an insurgency in Iraq.  Then he offers a retroactive solution that‘ even more clueless.  Worst persons ahead.  And did you know, he was the Douglass in the Lincoln/Douglass debates?  You would know that if you watched Fox Noise.  A little brain damaged, too, but that is what you would have learned.  COUNTDOWN continues. 

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OLBERMANN:  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, news breaking tonight that a second American aircraft carrier steamed into the Persian Gulf today.  The Pentagon ordering military commanders to develop new options for attacking Iran.  Our NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reporting tonight that the U.S. military is increasingly concerned about Iranian backed attacks in the Gulf, particularly against Iraq. 

As for how prepared the Bush administration might be act on those concerns, CBS News reporting that later this week, Iraqi Prime Minister al Maliki is expected to confront the Iranians to demand a halt.  If that does not work, says CBS News, the U.S. State Department has begun drafting an ultimatum saying, in effect, knock it off or else. 

On that note, time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to former Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  This is a coincidence of timing.  The man who discredited General Eric Shinseki when Shinseki insisted before the Iraq war that the only way to prevent an insurgency was to send 300,000 troops there.  Wolfowitz now admits he was, quote, clueless about the insurgency, but still believes Shinseki was wrong, that the correct preventive should have been, quote, to build up Iraqi forces to be able to protect the population much more quickly. 

Wolfy, you had Iraqi forces there.  They are called the Iraqi army and you disbanded them.  As for today, you should just quit right after the part where you admit you were clueless. 

The runner up, Sean Hannity of Fixed News.  With the Jeremiah Wright story having pretty much deflated, he has moved on to William Ayers, former member of the ‘60s and ‘70s radical group Weather Underground, with whom Barack Obama once served on the board of a Chicago charity.  One of the group‘s victims complained to Hannity that he can‘t understand why Obama, would, quote, not condemn the actions of people in the past like Ayers. 

Hannity, of course, never pointed out to the victim that Obama did condemn them.  The words he used were deplore and detestable.  As Hannity again called Ayers a, quote terrorist, he also neglected to point out that all charges against Ayers were dropped and he was never convicted of anything, let alone terrorism. 

But our winner is Bill-O.  I mentioned this last week when he got all hopped up about the slightly risque photos of Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana, calling the shot showing her mid rif and brazier peek-a-boo and demanding that a conference be held about them.  Now, with new photos of Cyrus in “Vanity Fair,” he devoted another segment to them last night, insisting that, quote, “Vanity Fair” is a bunch of older liberals, you know, looking for whatever they are looking for.  And observing that both sets of photos, quote, puts her in the position—remember the Brooke Shields stuff when she was little?  Put her in that situation where she becomes at 15 a sex symbol. 

Bill, seriously, you probably don‘t want to go around all hot and bothered over a freshman in high school, while insisting that 15-year-old girls are, quote, sex symbols.  Or maybe you could do a segment on what‘s wrong with men who act that way.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world!

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OLBERMANN:  Legendary is the baseball announcer who upon being handed a bulletin about the death of Martin Luther King‘s assassin, James Earl Ray, unthinkingly launched into a long, emotional fair well to the great actor James Earl Jones.  Amazingly, we once went to put up a photo of lunatic fringe talk show host Neal Boortz and instead wound up showing former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the other political round up of the day, including how the presidency would facially age the three campaigns, and a missing pro-Obama pig balloon, but beginning with a goof not unlike the aforementioned. 

The Lincoln/Douglass debates, featuring Link from the Mod Squad versus Mike Douglass.  Actually, that might have been closer.  This was after Senator Clinton‘s challenge to Senator Obama for a Lincoln/Douglass style debate, 90 minutes, no moderator.  Of course, the Lincoln in Lincoln/Douglass refers to then Senate hopeful Abraham Lincoln and the Douglass is Stephen Douglass, the incumbent senator whom Lincoln was trying to unseat in 1858. 

The production staff over to “Fox and Friends” Sunday got it half right. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I said to an intern this morning, can you see if we can go get some video of the Lincoln/Douglass debates.  I think it would be great.  He looked at me and said, yes, I will see what I can find.  Good luck finding that video of the Lincoln/Douglass debate. 

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OLBERMANN:  Or a right picture even.  The man on the left of your screen is not Stephen Douglass, but rather the abolitionist and freed slave hero Frederick Douglass, who was kind of on the same side as Lincoln.  You mean oops, don‘t you?  Just say, oops, and get out. 

On that note, let‘s call in comedian Christian Finnegan, also a contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Good evening, Christian. 

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Stephen Douglass, Frederick Douglass; are there worst mistakes Fox News could have made than that one? 

FINNEGAN:  Sure, at least they stuck with Douglass‘ from the appropriate area.  Michael Douglass is very presidential.  Just yesterday, I saw him pimp slap Richard Dryfus on one of TNT‘s daily airings of “An American President.”  You could have gone with noted pugilist and political philosopher James Buster Douglass, or my personal favorite, ‘70s one hit wonder Karl Douglass, which would have implied that even back in 1858, everybody was Kung Fu fighting. 

OLBERMANN:  We know Lincoln was a very tall man with long limbs.  He might have had a chance against Kung Fu Karl Douglass.  With the folks at Fox News, who play the roles of the news anchors, did not acknowledge that they had the wrong one.  Do you think they ever noticed?  They just figured the audience at home would never know the difference?  Or what?

FINNEGAN:  Honestly, I think the people at Fox have a hard time imagining a world where a good Republican would argue on behalf of black people.  I imagine the conversation was something like, let me get this straight, the debate was about slavery right?  Who was Lincoln‘s opponent, probably some black guy. 

OLBERMANN:  They‘re surprised the Republican was not advocating the property right issue that was more important to them.  Something else, we had this website called PopPhoto.com.  They have age progression technology.  They aged each of these candidates through their presumed first term.  I wanted to get your opinion on the handy work.  Obama first.  Obviously current on the left, slightly more wrinkly on the right. 

FINNEGAN:  I think Obama is one of those guys that even when he is 80 years old, he‘s still going to look like a 15-year-old playing Willie Loman in the school play.  It‘s something I call the Ron Howard effect. 

OLBERMANN:  Lucky if he gets that.  Let‘s move on to Senator Clinton, the picture of her. 

FINNEGAN:  That is a great picture.  What you can‘t see is in that picture, Senator Clinton is marveling at her new coat made out of Dalmatian puppies. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, very nice.  Lastly, Senator McCain—is this, let‘s see the McCain.  Which is the new one?  I got it now.  He looks more like a California raisin in the advanced photo. 

FINNEGAN:  You are dead on, Keith, quite literally.  This is from McCain 2012 campaign, when he will be drafted to run on the necromancy ticket.  He will offer to get us out of the current recession by offering every American a human brain in every pot. 

OLBERMANN:  We don‘t have too much time to tell the pro-Obama inflatable pig story. 

FINNEGAN:  Oh. 

OLBERMANN:  It relates to Roger Waters from Pink Floyd.  There it is, pro-Obama.  Surprisingly enough, was it a shock here, it is full of helium.  They let go of it and it drifts away.  Is this a surprise to somebody?  The laws of physics apply.

FINNEGAN:  Keith, scoff if you want, but the loss of this pig is going to cost Obama in that key aging stoner and laser show enthusiast demographic. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but think of how well he will do with the group that finally finds that pig when it comes down.  Christian Finnegan, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” thanks for joining us tonight. 

FINNEGAN:  Toodles.   

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,825th 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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