updated 5/2/2008 11:35:48 AM ET 2008-05-02T15:35:48

Guests: Keith Olbermann, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, Joe Andrew

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

The Obama interview: His answer to the argument—can‘t win the big states, can‘t win the swing states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know what—the closest state was in 2004?  It was Wisconsin.  That was the closest state.  And it was very tight.  And guess what—we won that state by 18 points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Obama interview.  His answer to the argument—

Tuesday‘s renunciation of Jeremiah Wright was political expediency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If I wanted to be politically expedient, I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Obama interview: tonight.

Alarms at midnight: He‘d rather switch than fight, a Clinton superdelegate, a former DNC chairman appointed by President Clinton switches to Obama.  Joe Andrew saying, supporting Hillary Clinton is now tantamount to helping John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE ANDREW, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  I‘m standing up for what I believe in and talking about what I‘m saying, and I‘m not going to get involved in the old kabuki political theater here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joe Andrew joins us tonight.

Political theater, by the way?  Well, political bedtime stories about the gas tax holiday idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I sometimes feel like the Goldilocks of this campaign.  You know, not too much, not too little, just right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but the nicest version of Goldilocks and she jumped and ran away as fast as she could run, never looking behind her, and what happened to her afterwards I cannot tell, but the three bears never saw anything more of her.

And countdown for this: The 1,827 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq—five years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We have certainly paid a price for not being more specific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes, that‘s right.  You paid a price.

All that and the Obama interview: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Thursday, May 1st, 187 days until the 2008 presidential election.

If Bill Richardson became Judas, and FOX News became fair, and Richard Mellon-Scaife became a death bed conversion, what will Senator Clinton‘s campaign called Joe Andrew?  Let‘s to start recalling (ph) the most influential politician you probably have never heard of until today.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Not just a superdelegate switched from Clinton to Barack Obama on the premise that he is the better candidate with the visions have served only to a John McCain, but a man appointed the national chairman of the Democratic National Committee nine years ago by President Clinton.  In fact, the name calling has begun.  Mr. Andrew of Indiana who joins us in a moment, immediately found his right to say he was from Indiana, had been challenged by Senator Clinton‘s communications director and her foremost supporter in the Hoosier State, Senator Evan Bayh.

No, I‘m not kidding.  Indiana State Democratic chair during President Clinton‘s second term and asked by him to go to the DNC and early supporter of Senator Clinton in her run for the presidency, this morning Mr. Andrew announcing he was switching sides.

This afternoon, our own Andrea Mitchell asks Senator Clinton‘s communications director, Howard Wolfson, to respond to Mr. Andrew‘s decision, he in turn asked for proof of residency.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Well, I‘m not sure, by the way, that he‘s actually from Indiana.  I know he‘s originally from Indiana.  But...

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s sort of like Hillary Clinton being from Illinois or New York or Scranton.

WOLFSON:  Well, she lived in.

MITCHELL:  . or Arkansas.

WOLFSON:  No, she lives in New York.  And so when she—and she‘s a senator from New York.  So, she‘s from New York.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then there was Senator Bayh, saying, if Mr. Andrew, this morning, according to the “Washington Post,” quote, “I don‘t think he‘s lived in our state for eight or nine years.  I don‘t think he can‘t even vote in Indiana.”

None of which seemed to be an issue when Joe Andrew still supported Hillary Clinton.  He joins us from Indianapolis, which is in Indiana.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

JOE ANDREW, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First things first.  Please clear this us up.  For once and for all, are you or have you ever been from Indiana?

ANDREW:  Well, you know, this is a little bit like Joe McCarthy, and next going to ask me whether I‘m an American or not?  I have born in Indiana, grow up in Indiana, went to school in Indiana.  I‘m a member of the Indiana bar.  I own a house in Indiana.  My parents live in Indiana.

Just like Evan Bayh and a lot of great senators, I work in Washington, I live in Washington, and I got a here, too.  So, I don‘t think there‘s much of a difference.

OLBERMANN:  Were you surprised that of all of the things that could be brought up, this was the first thing the Clinton campaign mentioned after - I mean, not just Howard Wolfson but also Senator Bayh, the question whether or not you really count for Indiana?  That‘s the most important part of this?

ANDREW:  Well, Keith, as you know, as I said, this is just part of this political theater.  I‘m proud to have been the national chair of the Democratic National Committee when Bill Clinton was the president.  I defended him then and what you‘re hearing now is the exact kind of language that came out from Republicans when I was defending Bill Clinton during the impeachment of the president.

The reality of it is—is that I have become inspired by Barack Obama.  I didn‘t know much about him 18 months ago when this campaign started and what I‘ve learned, like millions of Americans, is he‘s willing to stand up for principled positions and answer tough questions in a complex way and not go for the sound byte but try to go for a good policy.  I‘ve been part of this political process, I‘ve—you know, sparred from anybody from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove.  I know how to do it.

And what I‘ve been impressed by Barack Obama is himself says, “No, I‘m not going to do it;” and principled positions from his saying no to the Iraq war, to saying no to this pondering on the gas tax, to refusing to take earmarks—all of these things would have been politically expedient for him to take the other position, but he did, in my view, was the right thing, not the politically expedient view.  And I just thought in my heart, I know what the right thing to do here was which is to support him.

OLBERMANN:  I characterize all this earlier, as you saying in essence that supporting Senator Clinton at this point amounts to helping only one person in this equation, John McCain.  Are those accurate words or am I putting too tough words in your mouth?

ANDREW:  Well, I think the point I‘ve made is we have a lot of important primaries yet to come.  But after Tuesday, it is literally clearly mathematically impossible for either one of these candidates to become the nominee without the superdelegates.  John McCain is going to have millions of people who vote for him in the primaries yet to come, but because he‘s the presumptive nominee, only is people get to vote, but he gets to put together a fall campaign and go out there and do what‘s necessary to win the presidency.

We need to do the same thing.  We need to rally around Barack Obama.  Let people vote, every vote gets to count in this process, not trying to sod (ph) anything down.  But we need to have a presumptive nominee so we can not do John McCain‘s work for him.

OLBERMANN:  What happened and I imagine that this is a deeply personal question for you as it has been for many of us, me especially.  What happened to Senator Clinton in this campaign?  Why have so many Democrats moved away in a fashion not dissimilar to the one you described today?

ANDREW:  Well, you know, you can be for somebody without being against the other person who‘s running.  I don‘t think it‘s a question of many people moving away from Senator Clinton as it is that Barack Obama is a magnet.  People are being drawn to him because he is saying things that are different.  He is acting different than any other candidate we‘ve seen.

There are great United States senators and governors out there who all doing the same kind of thing that Hillary Clinton is doing, I love of all of them, they‘re doing a great job.  It‘s just Barack Obama stands alone as a principled figure trying to give complex answers to very serious and complex problems.

OLBERMANN:  What timetable do you see now?  Has this been accelerated do you think - is this going to be resolved within the week, within the month, within the year?

ANDREW:  Well, I swear to do everything I can to make sure that after Tuesday once we know where we are in this process, that superdelegates make their opinions known.  The only way that Barack Obama will not be the nominee of our party if the superdelegates do what I just did and they switch away from Barack Obama to support Hillary Clinton.

I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  He‘s gathering steam on the superdelegates, they understand that he‘s handled these tough issues now, the kinds of controversies that come up last week and made him a stronger candidate because of how well he responded to it.  He‘s going to win and I‘m very proud to be supporting him.

OLBERMANN:  Former DNC national chairman and Indiana superdelegate, I want to reemphasize that, Joe Andrew.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ANDREW:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  More decisions from superdelegates today in addition to Mr. Andrew‘s switch, Senator Obama picking up the support of a union official and the DNC member in Texas.  Senator Clinton netting four superdelegates, all add-ons named at the state convention today.  So, subtract one from Clinton, move it over to Obama, plus one for him, plus four for her and the superdelegate totals are Clinton 272, Obama 249.

Since Pennsylvania however, the superdelegate pickups falling 12 for Obama, 10 for Clinton, not quite at 66 percent to 33 percent ratio she would need.  The overall delegate counts still his, Obama 1,739, Clinton 1,606.  As we mentioned earlier, Senator Obama is now only 286 delegates away from the nomination.

That is normally the cue for own Chuck Todd, political director for MSNBC and NBC News to call something, we won‘t ask him about that.  We‘d just start with the numbers here.  Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Good evening, sir.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Joe Andrew first, could switch open the way for others to follow?  With every time something like this has happened in the campaign, we said, “Oh, this is maybe the breaking of the ice or something.”  But he didn‘t just choose sides, he really left one side for the other because as he just expressed, the drawn out Democratic contest is indeed hurting the party‘s chances in November contrary to what is advertised in many quarters.

TODD:  Look, the Obama campaign was looking for somebody like Joe Andrew to do this.  They were trying - they were searching for somebody to be that person, to say it the way that Joe Andrew said it which is—you know what, I was for Clinton but I now think that Obama is going to be the nominee.  So, I got to start rallying around the nominee.

They‘re trying to get that message into some soft Clinton supporters and some undecided superdelegates who are trying to sit here and weigh in which way to go, how soon to come out and they‘re trying to sort of show—hey, the water is fine in here.  Particularly this week, which has been an incredibly tough week for Senator Obama, they found somebody to say - hey, you know, it‘s not so toxic.  Come on aboard.  This is still a bandwagon, you better get on while the getting is good.

OLBERMANN:  While there are seats.  With the proportional system, you got 115 pledged delegates up for grabs in North Carolina, 72 in Indiana.  Those are on Tuesday, obviously, 51 to Kentucky later on, 52 in Oregon later on.  Is it - is it something that just changed these numbers new or something—or is 286 delegates away from nomination for Senator Obama closer than we have possibly previously realized?

TODD:  Look, it‘s very close.  We got 408 pledged delegates left to split up starting this Tuesday.  You know, it‘s probably going to split in half, maybe it goes a little bit in Senator Clinton‘s direction if she wins Kentucky and West Virginia by some big margins and maybe pulls a mini upset in South Dakota, and keeps it close in North Carolina.

But you know, you‘re talking, let‘s say Obama gets 180 of those 480, you know, then he only needs - he still only needs to find 100 of those uncommitted superdelegates and when you go through that list of uncommitted superdelegates, these are folks that are sort of - they‘re not with Clinton, they weren‘t with her at the beginning, so, they were already looking, they‘re already shopping.

And the question is: How drawn to Obama are they going to be?  How politically uncomfortable are they going to be sort of rejecting Obama—because if they are rejecting him, are they rejecting on premises of race and all of this other stuff‘s going to play into it.  So you know, what kind of enthusiasm will they have to go over to Clinton?

Clinton‘s challenge is to somehow make it enthusiastic, make it a fun bandwagon to join, a party you want to go to, to move over back to her side.  And she‘s getting there with voters.  She seems to be sort of getting some more enthusiasm on the trail; she‘s not there with the superdelegates.

OLBERMANN:  Well, and to that point, Chuck, at Politico.com today, Roger Simon has this piece that suggests that the main fallacy of the Clinton-perceived path to nomination is not that she has to rewrite the rules in order to justify it but that those rules are established by the DNC and 56 percent of all superdelegates are members of the DNC who like Joe Andrew helped write the rules of the DNC or at least maintain them.  Are they likely to say: OK, you don‘t like our rules we‘ll change them for you?  Or are they going to be a little protective of the system that they helped create?

TODD:  Well, I mean, Roger made a great point.  And he maybe right that these folks are going to not be fooled by the popular vote argument.  They are - you are going to be able to explain to them—hey, wait a minute, you know for yourself the caucuses, you can‘t get a good count there.  This isn‘t a fair metric, et cetera, et cetera.

So, this will be, you know—the Obama campaign will successfully be able to make their case to them.  But we‘ll see—look, if she wins both contests on May 6th, that‘s going to freeze a lot of folks and that‘s going to make them rethink a lot of things.

OLBERMANN:  Much depends on Tuesday, but of course, we‘ve said that before.

TODD:  How many times, right.

OLBERMANN:  As many times as there are superdelegates on a beach full of sand.  Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and MSNBC.  As always, Chuck, many thanks.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The exclusive Barack and Michelle Obama interview.  Is electability a question of who won the most recent vote or whose vote totals would always exceeded their initial poll numbers?

John McCain‘s pastor, John Hagee, now says, “The devil has been invited into America‘s schools.  In so much as teachers can force your kids to read that pre-satanic set of books about Harry Potter.

And: Mission accomplished, if the mission was to make sure we would let 3,900 more of our relatives and neighbors get killed in Iraq.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Barack Obama on electability, Michelle Obama on elitism, both of them on the leap (ph) voting for him would represent.  The exclusive Obama interview.

Which universally respected international leader and worldwide symbol of freedom and equality is on the U.S. terrorist watch list?

And in worst: What do you mean right-wing writer claims one of John McCain‘s fundraisers is a top operative of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Obama interview, numbers as preface.  In the latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll, when asked who has a better chance of beating the Republican nominee, 47 percent of Democrats said Barack Obama, 40 percent answered Clinton.  In a direct matchup against John McCain, 46 percent said, of all voters there, that they would vote for Obama, 43 percent for McCain; 45 percent said they vote for Clinton to 44 for McCain.

Yet in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The issue of electability still dogs the Obama campaign, ably aided by the Clinton campaign offensive to persuade superdelegates to overrule the pledged delegate count.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  She‘s going to end this thing roaring.  And what are they going to say if she wins the popular vote?  I‘m sorry we‘re going to give it to the caucus states that are going Republican in November?  No.  So, all of these people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That is only the latest of countless metrics of electability offered by the Clinton campaign, two essentials they have not invoked.  One is fundraising in which Senator Obama has set the all time record, the other, the almost inescapable fact that when you add exposure to the candidate and time, Senator Obama‘s results in every primary and every caucus have grown dramatically from where even the most generous of poll numbers placed him at the starting line.

In the interview Meredith Vieira conducted with Obama and his wife Michelle, the senator did not mention the former but very much emphasized the latter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. OBAMA:  Right now, I‘m the front-runner at least in votes of delegates, although I could still would argue that I - you know, I am the underdog in terms of being most likely to have emerged where we are now.  I think that‘s fine.  I think it‘s great that people are going to be lifting the hood and kicking the tires.  I want to make sure that, you know, they‘re doing that with all of candidates.  And I‘m confident that when people get to know me then we do really well.

Part of the reason we won Iowa, where I was, I think, discounted fairly early on, was because we had so much time there that people got a chance to look at me and look at Senator Clinton and all of the other candidates very closely, and we‘re able to make some judgments about it.

In these larger states as the campaign goes on, it‘s much more of a TV race, we‘re not having had (ph) made these conversations, you know, the coverage revolves around more around the gaps and polls and attacks.

And so, our challenge, our job is to make sure that people understand, not only my story of 20 years working first as a community organizer and then as a civil rights attorney and then as a civil rights attorney then as a senator and also as a father and as a husband, but that they also understand how my life and my values and my ideals connect directly to theirs.

Because the reason I‘m doing this, is that this country gave me chances that I could get nowhere else.  That is what America has always been about.  That‘s where, you know, where we can take such pride in this country.  And it‘s slipping away for a lot of folks.

And that‘s why I always talk about the fear insurgency (ph) of now.  The reason we are running is because we want to make sure that the story that allowed our lives great possibility, has to be available for every child and every family here in America.  And we‘ve got the resources to do it and the people in America are decent enough and generous enough to do anything as long as they‘ve got a government that is listening to them and is working for them.  And that‘s what I intend to provide.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  The politics is touch business as you found out and when you talked about the big states, you‘ve also been able to put a lot of money into them and have not been as successful as I‘m sure you would hope to be.  There are people who might look at your recent record and beginning to question, “Gee, why doesn‘t he close the deal?”

B. OBAMA:  Let me dispel the big state argument which we hear constantly from the media.  I won my home state of Illinois as Senator Clinton did, she won New York.  I also won Georgia, big state.  I won Missouri, big state.  I won Wisconsin, swing state.  I won Virginia, big state.  You know, this notion that somehow we have not won big states or we haven‘t won the right states or the swing states.

VIEIRA:  It‘s not a notion though, it is what political folks are saying, it‘s not, I mean.

B. OBAMA:  No.

VIEIRA:  And it‘s clear.

B. OBAMA:  No.  Meredith, it‘s simply not true.  You know what the closest state was in 2004?  It was Wisconsin.  That was the closest state.  And it was very tight.  And guess what—we won the state by 18 points.

VIEIRA:  So, you feel good about—so far.

B. OBAMA:  Iowa was a swing state.  Missouri was a swing state.  And so, you know, I mean, there is this narrative, I think that has been promoted and if you look at the map, we‘ve won a lot of swing states but we‘ve also done is we‘ve expanded the map.  And that‘s what is going to make a difference in terms of us being able to deliver on health care, on gas prices, on all of these various issues.

If all we‘re doing is having the same battles that we had in 2000 and 2004, then we can‘t deliver on relief on gas prices, we‘re not going to get a universal health care plan.  Because we‘re going to have the same divide in this country and we‘ll tinker around the edges, but we‘re not going to be able to deliver.  And what I‘ve done is to get states like Colorado and Virginia suddenly in play.  We‘ve been attracting new voters and young voters.

MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA‘S WIFE:  And the way the money has been raised is, you know, I mean, this is also a fact.

B. OBAMA:  Right.

M. OBAMA:  That Barack has brought in and has changed the face of political fundraising.  I mean, you know, no one was courting $20, $30, $40 donors before this race.  And when you go out there and you‘re on the ground and you talk to the thousands and thousands of people who have said they‘ve never written a check before and never been involved in a political campaign before now, they‘ve never been inspired.

And you know, rest assured, there are some of those folks are supporting other candidates, but there‘s a huge chunk of those folks who are also engaged because they see something really fundamentally different in this race and that‘s also a fact that we can‘t ignore.  Because we also don‘t want to discount the new people that are engaged because they don‘t fit into the old paragon of how polls and pundits sort of review these states.

They also said that young people wouldn‘t get a vote.  Everybody said that.  At the beginning on this race, they said: Barack, you shouldn‘t waste your time on young people, they‘ll never vote.  And that premise has been thrown out the window as well.  And I think there are a lot of young voters that you probably know in your life who are paying attention in a way that they just haven‘t before.  I mean, we hear that from their parents.  We hear that from people who are Republicans and Democrats alike.  So those are facts as well.

VIEIRA:  Positives.

M. OBAMA:  . that we have to talk about because if we don‘t talk about them, then people feel like they don‘t count.  And we want to make sure that the people who are engaged in this process are recognized.  And that they are—the difference that they‘re making in this race is important, not just for this race but across democracy because we don‘t want to discourage them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator Obama on the Jeremiah Wright and accusation that what he did Tuesday was political cover also on elitism ahead.

Also: Bushed.  This man is on this government‘s terrorist watch list -

seriously.

And John McCain fires a fundraiser because of rumors the man was linked to Hezbollah.  Worst persons as COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In a moment, Bushed and now Worst Persons in the world ahead.  Also: Bill-O with one of his all time great delusional rants, I mean, a super one.

Also: Senator McCain and Hezbollah.

Plus: Barack and Michelle Obama noting they only started calling him elitist after he started leading the race for the nomination.

It was hardly George Bush‘s biggest lie but five years and 3,900 more dead later, it was the one that still rings the most loudly and the most dishonestly.

These stories ahead but first: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s other 50 running scandals—Bushed.

Number three: Telecom immunity-gate.  Court papers filed by the government are confirming that unnamed execs at the telecoms companies for which Mr. Bush led his supposedly vital Protect America Act lapsed, have phoned and emailed the administration to talk about how to thwart more than 40 civil suits against the companies they broke eavesdropping laws at Mr.  Bush‘s insistence.

Specifically, how to get Congress to thwart those suits for them.  Well, one way would be to get the president to scare the crap out of everybody by insisting that without the telecom community, the world would end tomorrow?  Did you try that?  Did you? 

Number two, the nexus of politics and terror-gate.  We told you yesterday, the terrorist watch list is so vast that some federal air marshals who are supposed to protect flights from terrorists have been refused permission to board those flights, because their names caused false hits on the list. 

Now this nightmare from the international list the Bush administration keeps adding to; Nelson Mandela is on it, along with most of the other members of his African National Congress.  During Apartheid, the ANC and Mandela were branded as terrorists.  This was in the 1970s.  Nobody has yet bothered to correct this. 

Number one, Blackwater-gate.  The infamous mercenary company is seeking to expand and looking for investors, but not everybody thinks a company accused of murdering innocent civilians in Iraq and covering up the rapes of its employees by its employees is a good idea.  Cerberus Capital Management LP had talked about buying a minority stake in Blackwater for 200 million dollars, but has decided against it.  Cerberus, named for the three-headed dog of mythology who guarded the entrance to and the exit from hell. 

When an investment company named literally after the hounds of hell thinks you have a bad reputation, just shut it down, babe, you‘re toast!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  John Hagee is at it again.  Senator John McCain not only got the endorsement of the Texas mega-church pastor Hagee, he actively sought it.  And despite the revelation of Hagee‘s previous announcements that god sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans because the city was going to hold a gay pride parade, or that Catholicism was the, quote, great whore, McCain has not broken with his spiritual adviser nor even rejected his endorsement. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Hagee has now told the million who watch him in church or on cable that America‘s school teachers, quote, can command your child to read Harry Potter, which is nothing but a precursor of witchcraft.  And he insisted that by refusing to post the Ten Commandments, the nation has invited Satan and demonic spirits into its schools.  If Jeremiah Wright had said any of that, or if Hillary Clinton‘s pastor had, there would be sky rockets being shot off 24 hours a day by media, conservative and otherwise. 

Asked Senator Obama about that strange and disturbing hypocrisy.  Continuing her conversation with Barack and Michelle Obama, Meredith Vieira touched on his end of this bizarre equation, Reverend Wright. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIEIRA:  He said that you‘re a politician and you distance yourself from him because you‘re a politician, and you‘re going to do and say what you need to say.  Why shouldn‘t people think what you did was politically expedient. 

OBAMA:  Because if I had wanted to be politically expedient, I would have distanced myself and denounced him right away.  Right?  That would have been the easy thing to do.  That would be the standard stock political advice.  I don‘t think anybody who watched me yesterday thought I was being calculating. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Calculating probably not.  But his opponents have to some degree painted the senator as elitist, a picture he notes that they only began to try to develop when he went into the lead for the nomination. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIEIRA:  When you hear somebody call your husband an elitist or they‘ve called you unpatriotic at one point, when you hear them say about you, well, he doesn‘t have fire in his belly, he has Arugula in his belly, how do you respond to that? 

OBAMA:  Look, we wouldn‘t be sitting here if that was the perception of the majority of the American people.  This is how politics is done.  Right?  What happens is that you‘re a wonderful guy as long as you‘re unthreatening and you‘re in the back of the pack.  And when you become the front-runner, suddenly people have all kinds of notions about you. 

When I stood in the Democratic National Convention and delivered a speech whose entire premises was how great this country was, and how I could not—my life would not be possible in any other country, it was hailed as just a wonderful patriotic speech, precisely because it spoke in great detail about what—about this country I love, the opportunities that it provided my grandparents.  My grandfather fought in World War II.  The ability of a single mom like my mother to raise two kids and see them succeed.  The life of my Michelle and—

So I talked about these things in great detail and people thought it was terrific.  It is only when you become the front-runner that suddenly people are looking for potential chinks in the armor. 

VIEIRA:  But are you responsible for some of the things you said? 

OBAMA:  Absolutely.  There‘s no doubt about it.  I think there‘s one particular thing, which was the comments I made in San Francisco at the end of a long day, that were very poorly phrased, but that were based on something I deeply believe, which is that a lot of working families in this country have been hit really hard and they are mad about it and they‘re disappointed with what‘s happening. 

We just had a conversation in the living room of somebody who, if you talk to him and he starts expressing his memories of working at a railroad facility here in Indiana that now is being shipped away, and he has a choice of moving there to keep his retirement or staying here and getting paid a lot less; he‘s really angry and frustrated.  I should have said angry and frustrated instead of bitter.  I should have said people rely on their religious faith during these times of trouble, as opposed of clinged to. 

But the sentiments that I expressed have to do with the belief that people are not being treated fairly today in America.  They are working hard the same way that our parents worked hard, and yet they are not seeing the same rewards.  And part of the reason that I get frustrated and I get angry with what‘s happening in the lives of so many Americans is precisely because their stories are like my stories.  Their stories are like Michelle‘s and they‘re like mine. 

I mean, the irony is that, you know, I think it is fair to say that both Michelle and I grew up in much less privileged circumstances than either of my two other potential opponents. 

VIEIRA:  But they are not the ones being called elitist.  Why do you think that is? 

OBAMA:  That‘s curious.  I think what it has to do with is the fact that, number one, I am—we haven‘t decided to try to tag them with some of these attacks the same way that they‘ve tried to attack us.  But I think part of it has to do with the fact that I am less familiar to people. 

Look, let‘s be honest.  Here I am, an African-American named Barack Obama, right, who is running for president.  That‘s a leap for folks.  And I think it‘s understandable that my political opponents would say, you know, he‘s different.  He‘s odd.  He‘s sort of unfamiliar.  And what do we know about him?  And to raise questions.  So if I don‘t wear a flag pin, that becomes a cause for concern.  If John McCain doesn‘t wear a flag pin, look, he‘s a war hero and I understand why nobody would question John McCain‘s -- 

VIEIRA:  So you are treated differently than you think? 

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR OBAMA:  I think what Barack is saying is that part of, you know, what we have been doing is we have to introduce ourselves to people.  People have to know all sides of us.  And I think when people—you know, what we‘ve been seeing in all these contests is when people know who Barack is, know who we are outside of the caricature, outside of the sort of one-liner, when they hear our stories and they understand why we are doing this, which is, you know—you talk about any anger or resentment about words said towards us.  That‘s not what gets me angry. 

VIEIRA:  What gets you angry then? 

M. OBAMA:  It‘s the unfairness that we‘re seeing in this country.  It‘s the fact that you‘ve got folks who get up and go to work every day and work as hard as anybody, but they don‘t have insurance.  When you look into the faces of these kids who are on these rope lines and these rallies, and they are just as promising, they have just as much potential, regardless of race or gender, but they are in schools that are underfunded.  And we know this as a country.  We know what we‘re doing wrong. 

This is why we‘re doing this.  We‘re not doing it to, you know, gain power or prestige.  The fact of the matter is that we both care deeply about this country.  And we know in our hearts that it‘s moving in a different direction, that you can‘t make that change just by putting somebody new in the White House.  You got to fundamentally change the way we look at ourselves.  And I think that people are responding to Barack because they see themselves in him. 

There are people who don‘t know him, but when people get to know Barack and understand his story, the connection is real. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  May whoever succeeds this man in the White House, now or a thousand years from now, never have a moment as dishonest as that one.  Five years since mission accomplished. 

Do I have this right?  They fired a Michigan fund raiser because there were, quote, rumors the guy supported him and Hezbollah?  Worsts next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Fives year after the all encompassing symbolism of the lie that was mission accomplished, the White House acknowledges it has paid a price for not being specific enough.  It has paid a price.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.  He was one of the Republicans who had the guts to co-sponsor Jim Webb‘s new G.I. Bill.  Had; with Senator McCain and President Bush trying to kill the bill, Inhofe folded.  He has now dropped out as a co-sponsor of Webb‘s bill and instead become a co-sponsor of McCain‘s.  Three other senators, Domenici, Collins and the wretched Lieberman are listed as McCain co-sponsors, while still being listed as Webb co-sponsors. 

The runner-up, Senator McCain himself.  Until yesterday, his campaign finance committee in Michigan had included a Dearborn businessman who publicly defended Hezbollah and insisted that the Bush State Department was wrong when it called Hezbollah a terrorist organization.  After a lunatic fringe writer branded the McCain finance man, Ali Jawad, a, quote, key agent of the terrorist group in the Detroit area, the McCain campaign removed him from its Michigan board and somebody told ABC News that, quote, when these rumors surfaced, he notified the campaign and we removed him.

Yes, a link, however tenuous, between McCain and Hezbollah, severed by McCain throwing the guy under the bus because of rumors.  That one has got running scandal written all over it. 

But our winner is Bill-O, trumpeting his rather milk toast interview with Senator Clinton, the one he called a world exclusive, in which he sounded more like an irritated gym teacher than anything close to a journalist.  Don‘t tell Bill that.  He‘s off on another delusion of grandeur ride; “the greatest thing about this interview is that it has emasculated all of these far left extortion types, like MoveOn and the Kos, who threaten Hillary Clinton and threaten Barack Obama and all of the other Democrats.  They threatened them.  Now all those extortionists, all of those George Soros puppets, their power is gone in an instant.  Gone because they‘re not calling the shots.  And you know who has got to get his butt in here, Barack Obama.” 

Yes, all because of that brilliant world exclusive interview you got with Senator Clinton, a mere ten days after my world exclusive interview with her and Larry King‘s world exclusive interview with her and Cynthia McFadden‘s world exclusive interview with her tonight.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world, exclusive!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There was no banner, just a piece of paper.  The crowd was not military men, just civilians.  There was no flight suit, but there was an airplane.  For a combination of deception and naivete and the consequential loss of life and freedom, it is the only thing comparable in the last 100 years of western democracy; the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepping off a flight from Munich at Heston Aerodrome in England on September 30, 1938, reading the note he and Hitler had signed, guaranteeing the freedom of Czechoslovakia and concluding, my good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor.  I believe it is peace for our time.  Go home and get a nice quite sleep.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, only that perhaps is comparable to what George W. Bush said five years ago today, misleading, disingenuous, deliberately deceptive, only in those ways was it mission accomplished. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.  And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Protesters today unfurling a mission accomplished banner in front of the White House.  But the distance the Bush administration has tried to put between itself and the original banner began months after the original event.  As early as October of 2003, the White House claimed the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln had asked for the banner to commemorate its ten-month mission.  White House Press Secretary Dana Perino still replaying that tired, old lie of a refrain yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said “mission accomplished for these sailors, who are on this ship on their mission.”  And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Madam, who do you think you‘re fooling?  That is true, huh?  It is all about the president, isn‘t it?  He paid the price.  The price paid by 3,908 service men and women since this declaration of mission accomplished was their lives.  For 29,000 more wounded, it was their well being.  Not to mention the cost in national treasure and debt and the unmeasurable damage to the national psyche. 

All three presidential candidates made statements today, but that of Senator John McCain flatly disingenuous, telling reporters, quote, “to state the obvious, I thought it was wrong at the time.  Those statements and comments did not comport with the facts on the ground.  Do I blame the president for that specific banner?  I can‘t blame him for that.” 

In June 2003, though, when an interviewer told McCain that many argued the conflict was not over, McCain said, quote, “well then, why was there a banner that said ‘mission accomplished‘ on the aircraft carrier?  Look, I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long difficult process.  But the conflict, the major conflict is over.  The regime change has been accomplished and it‘s very appropriate.”

On may 22nd, 2003, in his own speech from the Senate floor, McCain said, quote, “the end is very much in sight.”  A bout of myopia pointed out by Senator Obama in his statement today.  Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, whose own show airs week nights on Air America.  Rachel, good evening. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The White House is still acting like this was a gotcha moment, an annual gotcha moment.  They still don‘t get it?

MADDOW:  They said today that the reason they paid a political price

is because the banner was not specific enough.  If only the banner had said

what was it—mission accomplished for these sailors on this ship on their mission—they are making the claim that nobody would have minded that Bush declared major combat over, that he wore the flight suit, that he kept that aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego for the purpose of a photo-op, and that we had prevailed. 

It‘s as if they think the long, more poorly worded banner would have made this all right.  It‘s as if it needed to be rebranded.  It‘s inconceivable at this point. 

OLBERMANN:  It proves, once again, that the only thing they are even halfway good at is half-assed lying and they are really not very good at that.  These are not very bright people, on top of not being very human people or very sensitive people.  To that point, we now have an update on this horrible number from April, that it‘s 52 U.S. troops that were killed.  The Defense Department has confirmed that number.  It‘s the deadliest month since September of last year. 

What is it going to take to reignite that core of anger that had developed, justifiably, in this country over this god-forsaken war? 

MADDOW:  In addition to the update of the number of troops killed in April, we also heard today—there was a report in the “San Diego Union Tribune” of an Army Ranger, a young Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan this week, who was on his seventh tour.  Seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I think that the well of anger about Iraq is always there to be tapped.  But I think maybe it becomes something that can‘t be shushed, something that can‘t be excluded from the national discussion. 

When we start focusing on the opportunity of what we have done, what

we have actually put our military families through, what we‘ve done in

terms of our readiness, the fact that right now, as of this month, we are

re-invading parts of Afghanistan that Taliban controlled.  When we‘re this

many years into the Afghanistan conflict, that we‘ve got Marines deployed in Afghanistan who have never been there before, who have done many tours in Iraq.  What we have done with our military readiness, what we‘ve asked our military families to go through doesn‘t—is something that needs to be weighed against what we‘ve actually won from these conflicts. 

I think the closer we focus on the cost to our military, the people who have been there on the front lines, the more difficult it will be to dim that outrage. 

OLBERMANN:  This isn‘t—the dimming of the outrage is not some sort of failure on people‘s part, I don‘t think.  It‘s an honest, human emotion.  We actually—all of us want this to go away.  We want to hear no Americans killed this month in Iraq.  We want to hear that number And anything that suggests—even if it‘s a bald faced lie like John McCain, everything is going well, or Joe Lieberman, that this is working, when it clearly is not working.  Or if it was anywhere close to working, that has now passed.  We want to believe this.  We still at heart want to believe this. 

MADDOW:  We want to know that we are getting something that we need as a country from what we have devoted to this—to these wars.  We want to know that the investment we‘ve made in blood and in honor and in our international standing, not to mention—not even getting to the money that we‘ve actually spent.  We want to know that it‘s brought us something that we need as a country.  When the State Department puts out its annual terrorism report that says actually al Qaeda, largely as it was constituted before 9/11, it still is the number one threat facing our country, heading into seven years after 9/11, it makes you wonder what the war on terrorism has been about. 

If it hasn‘t decreased our risk of terror, hasn‘t weakened our adversaries, all it‘s done is weakened our own military and our international standing?  What has it been before? 

OLBERMANN:  We can pretty much assume we know the answers to that.  There are many of them.  They are all nefarious and conspiratorial.  Last point, quickly, project forward.  With sixth anniversary of mission accomplished being three months into the next president‘s term, what‘s the best we can hope for in terms of withdrawal, do you think? 

MADDOW:  I think if we have John McCain as the next president, we won‘t be hoping for withdrawal at all.  With Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, we‘ll be hoping for a start.  At least we will be hoping for somebody who is aiming at withdrawal.  Most of what we‘ll have that‘s different between now and then is hope.  There won‘t be much difference on the ground. 

OLBERMANN:  A grim anniversary, a grim story.  I nightly wish that occasion occurs that I don‘t have to sign the show off the same way.  Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, thanks for coming in tonight. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Sadly, though, that is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,827th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq, five years.  Sleep well, Mr. President.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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