updated 5/8/2008 11:00:31 AM ET 2008-05-08T15:00:31

Guests: Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow

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

Clinton‘s climbdown: She cannot and will not quit before West Virginia next Tuesday.  But for all practical purposes, if it was not over earlier, the race for the Democratic nomination is now over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Did it just end tonight?

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be and no one is going to dispute it, Keith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Clinton supporter, George McGovern: “She should drop out now.”

Clinton supporter, Senator Dianne Feinstein: “I‘m very loyal to her, but having said, I‘d like to talk with her and get her view on the rest of the race and what the strategy is.”

Clinton supporter, Senator Chuck Schumer—should she stay in? 

Quote, “I‘m not going to get into it.”

Is the only remaining metric worth watching whether she eliminates the heavily weighted anti-Obama rhetoric?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I believe that I‘m the stronger candidate against Senator McCain and I believe I would be the best president among the three of us running.  So, we will continue to contest these elections and move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On the playing-out-the-string campaign trail with Richard Wolffe; the already impossible math getting more impossible still with Chuck Todd; and CSI: The Clinton campaign with Howard Fineman.

Thus, this is the first day of the rest of your electoral life.

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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We can‘t afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush‘s third term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  McCain in Michigan, we think.  Yesterday, he said he was in West Virginia; actually it was in Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Worst Persons: FOX noise, busting news, the big stories that really matter.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  There is a woman who‘s got that amount of silicone in each breast and she put it there on purpose.

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OLBERMANN:  And: Ever been inside an epic baseball stadium under construction?  Your sneak tour of the new Yankee Stadium in New York.  It already makes every other ballpark look like a treehouse and it won‘t even be finished until next February.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the big “mission accomplished” sign goes up.

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OLBERMANN:  All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on-camera)  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, May 7th, 181 days until the 2008 presidential election, the 4th of November.  The exact quote is from the 10th of November in 1942 after the first major victory by the British in the Second World War at El Alamein in Egypt.  Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the Lord Mayor (ph) luncheon at London‘s mansion house, “This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Neither side will admit it—the race will go on with the surprisingly gentle and even boring quality to it for another week or another month.  But make no mistake, the Democratic presidential contest is at minimum at the end of the Churchillian beginning.

Despite the shrinking of even the theoretical path about how she could possibly reach the nomination, despite the perception that prolonging the fight could hurt the Democratic Party‘s chances in November.  Senator Clinton in West Virginia this morning, cited next week‘s Democratic primary, wasting little time and reaffirming her intention to stay in the race for the White House until there is a Democratic nominee, preferably her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I‘m staying in this race until there‘s a nominee.  And I, obviously, am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee.  That is what I‘ve done.  That‘s what I‘m continuing to do.

I believe that I‘m the stronger candidate against Senator McCain and I believe I would be the best president among the three of us running.  So, we will continue to contest these elections and move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Note however, there was nothing in there about necessarily waiting until the convention and nothing incendiary about Barack Obama.

One of her supporters is looking for a business of how exactly she intends to stay in.  Senator Dianne Feinstein telling “The Hill” newspaper, quote, “I‘m very loyal to her, but having said, I‘d like to talk with her and get her view on the rest of the race and what the strategy is.”  And the California Democrat adding, “I think the race is reaching the point now where there are negative dividends from it, in terms of strife within party.  I think we need to prevent that as much as we can.”

Senator Clinton meeting with superdelegates at DNC headquarters in Washington this afternoon; more possible meetings in the works still this evening.  She departed this afternoon and declined to answer questions.

In a conference call with reporters though, some of Senator Obama‘s supporters in the Senate including the last Democratic nominee, John Kerry, arguing that the results of last night‘s contest marked the beginning of the end of the Democratic race.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) OBAMA SUPPORTER:  The very tight finish in Indiana and his huge win in North Carolina have fundamentally changed this race.  Barack was expected by all accounts to lose Indiana by a sizable margin and she had the support of the biggest political name and family in the state who put everything on the line, and despite the toughest weeks of his campaign and the most thorough testing that you could have imagined with not the ideal dynamics going into either these primaries, he beat every poll and beat every single expectations.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today, Senator Clinton finally revealing that she had issued her own campaign three additional loans in the roundup to Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina—news that her campaign had kept hidden for nearly a month.  April 11th, Senator Clinton made another $5 million loan, May 1st, just last Thursday, another $1 million, May 5th, this Monday, $425,000, adding up to a grand total of $11,425,000, that factors to the original $5 million.

At today‘s new conference in West Virginia, Senator Clinton is calling the loans “a sign of my commitment to this campaign.”  Cash, however, not the only bookkeeping problem for the would-be nominee, there are also the metrics, in fact, any metric.

After Pennsylvania, Senator Clinton‘s new talking point was that she was winning the popular vote if you added in Michigan and Florida but did not throw the popular votes in Senator Obama‘s direction.  That is no longer the case.  With last night‘s 230,000 vote win in North Carolina, Senator Obama having erased her popular vote gains in Pennsylvania.

Senator Clinton is picking up two superdelegates today, but losing one, DNC member, Jennifer McClellan (ph) of Virginia, switching to Obama.  Obama netting three more, making this day in net delegates, Obama: four, and Clinton: one.  Senator Obama with 1,848 delegates overall; Senator Clinton 1,695.5, the half delegate coming from Democrats abroad.

With those numbers, that‘s the usual cue to bring in our own Chuck Todd, political director of MSNBC and NBC News.  Good evening, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s work to what‘s left to the Clinton campaign top two talking points.  The popular vote first—can she still gain a win in that aggregate?  What would happen to her or for her in terms of the metrics in terms of the remaining contests?

TODD:  Well, it‘s actually possible for her to win the popular vote but only if you count Michigan and you don‘t give any of that uncommitted vote to Obama.  Remember, the Michigan number is just votes for her that end up get adding in.  You have nothing in there for Obama.

So, yes, could she win the popular vote that way.  Right now, Obama leads the popular vote no matter if you don‘t include Florida and Michigan, only include Florida, or also include Florida and Michigan but—and she‘s likely to rack up big wins in Kentucky and West Virginia.  And overall, we‘re looking at the net that she could net another 90,000 in the popular vote and possibly, frankly, they could end up tied in the popular vote if you add in Florida and Michigan, which, of course, would probably be of the fitting outcome.

OLBERMANN:  You know, you could also—you included only her votes in Indiana and North Carolina last night.  That would probably put her over the top as well.

The other talking point: Florida and Michigan.  With each passing contest and each added superdelegate, do their delegations and whether or not they get seated and how they get seated and what proportions they are seated in, does that actually become less relevant to the point of irrelevancy?

TODD:  It is close to irrelevancy in this respect.  Obama has 160-plus pledged delegate lead, he has 150 pledged delegate lead when you throw in the superdelegates.  Well, what does this mean?  If you counted Florida and Michigan as is, Keith, she would net - the Clinton campaign claims 58, our counter‘s claim 52, but OK, let‘s say it‘s 55 delegates, that what she would net.

Well, that means that Obama would still have 100 pledged delegate lead.  It would still make it in the 75-80 percentile range that she would have to win pledged delegate to even get the pledged delegate lead back throwing in Florida and Michigan.

I can tell you this, Michigan is about to come out with one last compromise proposal that would give Clinton a net 10 rather than a net 18 that they have now, almost cutting it in half.  Both Florida and Michigan are afraid that the DNC is going to punish them by having their delegations, meaning everybody will become a half vote rather than a full vote as sort of punishment for breaking the calendar rules.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  With all those numbers on the table, what exactly do you think her electability argument to the superdelegates was in Washington this afternoon?  What metric is left?

TODD:  I think the only metric that is left is making the argument that Obama cannot win over her supporters.  Basically, it would be the same argument if Obama were in the same position that Clinton were in.  He might sit there and say, “Hey, she‘s not going to be able to carry my supporters, so, how she‘s going to win the general?”

That‘s the only argument she can make that, I think, the superdelegates will listen to because they will say - well, OK, maybe you can win Ohio and Florida and he can‘t.  And that‘s her argument.  It‘s probably the most—the argument that could actually have an impact on these folks.  Beyond that, I don‘t think any other argument works.

OLBERMANN:  In another set of numbers, what does the - with indication and revelation of these loans mean to you in terms of where that campaign is, in terms of not it‘s desire to go on any further but it‘s simple financial ability to go on any further?

TODD:  Last night, the Clinton campaign was trying very hard to make sure we all viewed the night of the split decision and this campaign goes on.  When I heard news reports of that loan and that large loan, that to me was the exclamation point on - no, last night wasn‘t a split decision, last night was an Obama victory.

She‘s running on fumes financially if that‘s what she has to do.  That is a signal to superdelegates - guys, she doesn‘t have the money to go on.  She doesn‘t have the support.

It may be that $10 million she claimed to raise right after Pennsylvania, it either evaporated quickly or not all of it was useable in the primary.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck Todd, political director of MSNBC and NBC News, as always, great work last night, great work tonight.  Thank you, sir.

TODD:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  On April 9th, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.  On April 14th, 1865, President Lincoln was shot.  On May 4th, 1865, President Lincoln was buried.  Yet, on May 13th, 1865, union troops under the command of Colonel Theodore H. Barrette (ph) attacked the confederate outpost at Palmetto Ranch, Texas.

By the way, the union troops lost.  The point is, the civil war did not end May 13th, at Palmetto Ranch, it ended on April 9th at the Appomattox courthouse.  What to look for now if last night was indeed Appomattox.

Let‘s turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Is the real metric this that if she doesn‘t say anything touchy about him no matter what she does, wherever she campaigns, that this confirms she‘s on her way out?

WOLFFE:  Well, I still think there‘s going to be some blood.  I mean, you can‘t look into the tone of Clinton campaign and see consistency.  So, there‘s a lot of opportunism that goes on.  It would have probably been unseemly to go out attacking Obama so hard when she‘s trying to reason with party insiders.  But the real metric here has got to be the money.

As Chuck Todd pointed out, you go to her Web site today, the first thing that comes up is something asking for your credit card number, it was one of the first thing she signaled coming out last night in her speech.  And, look, they‘ve got a lot of debt to retire, they‘ve got to try and maintain some pretense of campaigning.  So, tone—I think the tone is going to come back because the fiery tone helps her supporters to believe and donate more money.

OLBERMANN:  From the other side, from the pressure for her to go—is the premise though not to push too hard but just sort to try to get her to go out after next week because if she were, in fact, to bow out before West Virginia, she‘s going to win West Virginia and handily regardless and that would look awful for—suddenly if Obama were buy himself in the race and lost any way, is that not one the predicates of this?

WOLFFE:  I think they certainly want to go out on a high and go out and saying this is a successful campaign, we have the strongest candidate in the field, and this campaign is not really ending.  It‘s moving into suspended animation.  So, we‘re always be there when the party actually needs us when this other guy flames out as we believe he will.

So, yes, West Virginia is a nice high point but it just could actually be Kentucky.  I actually think they really are going to wait until—as they say, Florida and Michigan gets resolved, which takes us to May 31st and the issue of the rules committee.  But, you know, you also want to end on a high.  So, look for—it could just as easily be Puerto Rico.

OLBERMANN:  The McGovern statement today, George McGovern saying, “It‘s time for her to go,” Dianne Feinstein‘s wobble, are we going to hear more of that or less from her supporters because everybody in both camps wants to give her this space to let her work the stuff out for herself?

WOLFFE:  Well, certainly, on the Obama campaign, you‘re seeing space.  They‘ve trodden into this minefield before and it hasn‘t been pleasant.  It allows her to play the victim card and say that they are denying voters the right to have a voice here.

So, what we‘re seeing - we discussed this many weeks ago now, when you start hearing doubts or people like Chuck Schumer not expressing an opinion, remarkably so, then you really see the influential people weighing in.  It‘s her side that really counts, not his side.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Schumer, in fact, just said, “I don‘t want to get into it,” when asked whether or not she should continue or get out.

WOLFFE:  Right.  And any reporter will tell you, if Chuck Schumer says no comment, something strange is going on.

OLBERMANN:  I think it would have been more definitive if he‘d said no comment on a Sunday afternoon, he‘s the expert at filling the news vacuums especially in the New York area.

Last point, the senator had stretched overwhelmingly, the “us versus them” argument on the gas tax holiday plan but the exit polling last night, Senator Obama won, the question of “who‘s more like me, which candidate shares your values.”  Clinton does: 62 percent, Clinton does not: 36 percent.  Obama does: 68 percent, Obama does not 31 percent.  Senator Obama also won trust worthiness.

It is safe to say that that Reverend Wright focus and gas tax holiday idea and “we don‘t need no stinking economists”—these backlashed against her?

WOLFFE:  I thing think they were of limited use in the end.  And those are backlash of the backlash.  He managed to turn around and show—remind people why he‘s in his own mind a different kind of politician.  I was talking to some Republican strategists who drew the same conclusion.  They said, listen, if John McCain thinks the gas tax is a winning issue for him, he better look at the North Carolina result and pay attention because it‘s no surefire winner against this guy.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, people were underrating the voters, I think more than him.  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  What happened to Senator Clinton‘s invincibility?  What happened when the charitable organization added a letter to Chris Matthews‘ first name?  What happened when they let me into the $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium with a video camera?

You were watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Just because Senator Clinton has not withdrawn does not mean it‘s not over.  An unofficial post-mortem of the campaign.

Later, Worst Persons: Comedian Rush Limbaugh versus a FOX News investigation on big breasts and a school district firing a teacher for performing wizardry in class.

And in Best Persons: The auction offers a moonlight walk with Chris Matthews, only there‘s a typo and it doesn‘t say Chris.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “We lost this thing in February,” the unnamed senior Clinton official told the “Washington Post.”  “We‘re doing everything we can now but it‘s just an uphill battle.”  Uphill battle: a generous description.

Our forth story in the COUNTDOWN: In tribute to CBS‘ bold or prescient or perhaps accidental calling of Indiana for Senator Clinton five hours before anybody else, CSI: The Clinton campaign.

Few of the highlights: First, January 20, 2007, four days after Senator Obama announced his own presidential exploratory committee, “I‘m in and I‘m in to win,” Clinton said, announcing her candidacy online.  And though Senator Clinton said she had never been afraid to face down the Republican machine, was perhaps the Clinton machine that contributed in large part to her instant cloak of inevitability, one which the senator proudly wore, proclaimed to the GOP‘s obsession with her, evidenced often in that party‘s debates.

But the near the end of the seventh Democratic debate, on this network, October 30th of last year, the first chink in the armor, then New York Governor Eliot Spitzer‘s plan to issue driver‘s licenses to illegal aliens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I‘d just want to add, I did not say that it should be done but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it and we have failed.

CHRIS DODD, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You suggest, you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON:  No, I didn‘t, Chris.

RUSSERT:  Do you support his plan?

CLINTON:  You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And that just a slice of a more than a three-minute convoluted dialogue which instead only I defended here, from which, Clinton did not emerge until she reversed again, opposing the driver‘s license idea during the later debate, one Spitzer had himself abandoned it, and from then on, it felt more like an actual contest with the votes ultimately proving it Iowa to Obama, New Hampshire to Clinton, South Carolina: Obama, and Super Tuesday, February 5th a virtual tie.

With a post-Super Tuesday strategy sorely lacking, the Clinton campaign wrote off 11 straight losses to Senator Obama in February.  Then the Clinton firewall: Texas, actually a split decision; along with Ohio on March 4th.  The campaign was resorting to 11th hour fear-mongering with the now infamous 3:00 a.m. ad.

Seven weeks later, a similar tactic on the eve of Pennsylvania with an advertisement that might have been titled “The History of Violence,” desperately flashing Osama bin Laden.  Bringing us to the past two weeks:

Clinton versus the coffeemaker, an instant YouTube classic—eclipsing her gas pumping photo op of moments earlier; much of her proposal for a gas tax holiday was eclipsed by last night‘s exit polling which suggested, it hurt her more than it helped her.  That it was perceived even by Indiana voters as something of a gimmick.

Let‘s turn now to Howard Fineman, “Newsweek” magazine senior Washington correspondent and political columnist.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Before we dissect this a bit, what did last night‘s results look like to you?

FINEMAN:  Well, it looked like the beginning of the general election campaign when Barack Obama got up and gave that speech he gave in which he pivoted from Hillary to John McCain.  It was a surefooted speech.  It was one of the better ones he‘s has given.  And I think he was justified in doing it, because really, it was a crushing disappointment for Hillary Clinton whatever she or her allies are saying.

I got all kinds of emails late last night and phone calls saying, “We‘re still in it, don‘t worry.  We‘ve got a big fundraiser, et cetera, et cetera;” circling the wagon especially of female contributors who are going to be loyal to Hillary to the end, baby boomers who grow up with her, who believe in her, who believe that a woman should be president.  And I think they‘re going to be with her to the very and I think that‘s one of the reasons that she‘s going to stay in.

Don‘t forget, that‘s how Hillary began, that‘s very much at her core, and she desperately doesn‘t want to disappoint those women primarily by quitting.

OLBERMANN:  The fuel tax thing looked this really like a winner.  I‘m thinking, nobody was giving the Democratic voters enough credit because, apparently, it wasn‘t and seriously impacted the wrong way.

FINEMAN:  Well, as Richard Wolffe was saying, it allowed Barack Obama to pivot because Barack Obama‘s whole point is—that he looks at the big picture.  That he thinks we need to hit the reset button on politics in America, that we have to do things differently, that we can‘t just do it interest group by interest group, small board (ph) politics by small board (ph) political deal.  We‘ve got to think big and think broadly.

And that was his message and the gas tax thing which Hillary, you know, she picked, she stood her ground on that.  But I think it was extremely significant that it ended up benefiting Obama because it shows that his message has a lot of resonance at the time when people want change.

OLBERMANN:  Was the flap over driver‘s licenses for illegal aliens which seemed at the time to be a lot on a little point, was that actually a turning point because for months leading up to that, the question I asked you and I asked every other guest on this program was: What could possibly trip her up, it seems so inevitable?

FINEMAN:  Well, it was as though a spell had been broken, Keith.  Inevitability was suddenly open to question.  And looking back at that tape that you‘d just showed of Hillary‘s first online video, of her sitting in that beautiful sunroom of her fancy house in Washington, it was all wrong for the times.  People want change.  People are worried about the power of elites, the money elites, the political elites, the media elites.

She needed to be down in the street from the beginning not running for a coronation.  Go back and look at that.  That was the implicit message.  So, when she—you see it right there.

Now, when she comes on that stage in October, and for first time gets down in it with the Democratic candidates, and no less of a friend than Chris Dodd, a very liked man in Washington and in the Senate says, “You‘ve got to be kidding Hillary, where are you on this?”

It was as though a spell had been broken and all the other problems with the campaign—the bad field organization, the bad structure, the confusion about what to do with Bill Clinton, Hillary‘s lack of her own voice which she‘s only now getting a little late in the game, the fundamental failure to see the Obama threat coming—all of that flooded it as soon as she made the first mistake.

OLBERMANN:  To what degree, lastly, Howard, is the spell breaking or are the problems irrelevant?  Was it actually just bad timing that she didn‘t run in 2004, focus on 2008, and while she was doing that, a more compelling candidate materialized on the horizon?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think that‘s basically it, Keith.  I think that‘s a lot of it.  We look for small answers but that‘s the big one.  I think she was caught a half step behind the times.  It wasn‘t just that people went from fear of war to desire for change, and Obama as the outsider met that.  And she was hopelessly an insider for most of this campaign.

It‘s the sociologically things to change.  It was a big deal if there was a woman running but an even bigger deal it turns out that an African-American was.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, author of “The 13 American Arguments,” as always, Howard, many thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In sports, yes, it‘s - Guillotine, the headless mascot. 

Oh, this can‘t be good.

Nor this—a school teacher does a magic trick, makes a match stick disappear, and the principal fires him for performing, quote, “wizardry.”  And he ruined the crops, too.

But first: the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.

Number three: Blowing the whistle on whistle-blowers-gate.  The FBI has raided a federal office, shut down its email system, seized its computers, scoured its chief‘s home who is investigating possible obstruction of justice.  The offices of that of Mr. Bush‘s special counsel, Scott J. Bloch, who overseas protection for federal whistle-blowers when he supposed to.  And point of fact, Mr. Bloch has not tried to protect whistle-blowers after his appointment in 2004, he stopped investigating any claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  When that leaked, he blames several career staffers, opened a new field office in Detroit, and told them either to go there or to resign.  It sounds very Bushian but it‘s also a flat-footed violation of federal statute.

Number three: Fixing the 2008 election-gate.  Remember when John McCain signed up for federal financing for his campaign then got a campaign loan based on his having signed up for federal financing, then announced he was opting out of federal financing.

One Federal Election commissioner, Chairman David Mason called based on this, saying McCain just can‘t opt out, especially not with that loan scam running.  So, guess who Mr. Bush not renominated as a member of Federal Election Commission - David Mason, the one guy who tried to interfere with McCain‘s con job.

And number one: We got ya, coming and going-gate.  Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, one of administration‘s consulting dumb asses who got us into the quagmire of Iraq, and is now pushing hard for a twin disaster in Iran.  In an online debate yesterday, he insisted that the surge has worked because, quoting, “civilian deaths were down more than 80 percent, U.S. deaths down more than 60 percent between December of 2006 and March of 2008.

But it appears he wrote for Rupert Murdoch‘s “Wall Street Journal” on Monday, in that, Max Boot claimed that in the huge jump in American fatalities last month, 54, the most lost since last August.  It, quote, “could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy‘s defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future.  Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood, a sign of things getting worse before they get better.”

And there it is in all its beautiful elliptical, symmetrical, asinine Bushian glory.  If fewer Americans die in Iraq, that‘s because the surge is working.  If more Americans die in Iraq, that‘s also because the surge is working.  And if the surge is working the troops have to stay longer to solidify its gains, and if the surge isn‘t working, the troops have to stay longer to make sure it starts working.

And the point of the war in Iraq is to make sure there is a war in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best persons in a moment.  How much would you pay for a moonlight walk with Chris Matthews.  First, on this date in 1950 in Buffalo was born Timothy Russert Jr., who was advised his audience that he had attended the famed concert at Woodstock, bringing with him a case of beer and wearing a Buffalo Bills jersey, which kind of sums Tim up.  Except this fact, despite appearances, the phrase NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press” is not part of his legal name.  Happy birthday, Tim.  Let‘s play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Cincinnati, where not only did the home standing Reds got whitewashed by the visiting Chicago Cubs last night, 3-0, but even their mascot lost.  More specifically, he lost his head.  Oh, another mascot injury.  Don‘t worry kiddies, Mr. Red was just fine.  After a brief spell on the ground, he got up, retrieved his lost noggin and carried on.  He returned this afternoon.  So did the Reds, who today shut out Chicago 9-0.  There is your bat. 

To Vacaville (ph) in California, forget about putting a tiger in your tank.  Walter Withulpt (ph) found a pit bull in his.  The unlucky canine somehow climbed up in the engine of his work truck over night and got stuck.  Mr. Withulpt waited for animal control.  The pup kept himself busy by chewing through the truck wiring.  Eventually, he emerged oily but unscathed, unlike Mr. Withulpt‘s truck, which now needs 1,000 dollars worth of repairs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There was more to Barack Obama‘s speech last night than an out-stretched hand to Hillary Clinton.  It was also a signal that the campaign against John McCain is well and truly underway.  Your opportunity to see inside a 1.3 billion dollar baseball stadium 11 months before it opens to the public.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top best three persons in the world. 

Number three, best farewell, Irvin Robbins, co-founder of Baskin Robbins ice cream, died at the age of 90.  His biography is now is obituary.  He stressed that had a penchant for creating unusual ice cream flavors.  My father, who at one time was the architect for nearly all the Baskin Robbins stores in this country once was privy to a satirical version of how the company came up with those unusual flavors; executives sitting around selecting the worst food combinations they could imagine, like strawberry and eel, and adding crunch or swirl as appropriate.  Strawberry eel swirl. 

Number two, best incentive for prisoners to behave, Warden Berl Kane (ph) of the Louisiana State Penitentiary thinks he has it.  Spotted in the woods around his pen a 400 pound black bear.  The number of escape attempts has plummeted. 

Number one, best charity item, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Auction for Human Rights, offering up lot number 13,558, moonlight tour of the Lincoln Memorial with Chris Matthews.  Let me read directly from the website, valid for one year based on availability, Chris Matthews promises he‘ll only play softball when he takes you on a moonlight tour of the Lincoln Memorial. 

Only, there‘s a typo.  It doesn‘t say Chris Matthews.  You see it.  It says Christ Matthews. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you checked Senator Obama‘s schedule today, you might have seen evidence that he concurs with those who anointed him last night as a de facto nominee.  He took the day off.  In our third story tonight, on what may eventually be seen as his last day on the job in the primary fight, Mr. Obama was looking ahead to the next gig, the general election, and a new mission to rally the rest of his party to his side for a victory over Republican Senator John McCain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This fall we intend to march forward as one Democratic party, united by a common vision for this country, because we all agree that at this defining moment in our history, a moment when we are facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril, a dream that feels like it‘s slipping away for too many Americans, we can‘t afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush‘s third term.  We need change in America and that‘s why we will be united in November. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That prospect has, in just the last 24 hours, led to almost unprecedented Republican panic.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich writing about, quote, a real disaster in November, grave danger for McCain, and, quote, a catastrophic collapse of trust in Republicans.  Gingrich warning that an anti-Obama, Reverend Wright based campaign will fail, a claim echoed by conservative writer David Brooks, with conservative writer Jennifer Rubin (ph) warning that Obama is, quote, a fast learner, who will not repeat this spring‘s missteps. 

Most stunningly, a meeting yesterday, in which Republican members of Congress were told that they were on their own come November.  That message coming from the Republican party.  Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, chair of the party‘s Congressional Committee, reportedly told Republican members of Congress that the national party did not have enough money to help them, they would have to raise it themselves.  Cole under pressure after his committee ran TV ads in a Louisiana special election tying the Democratic candidate to national Democrats and losing that seat to the Democrat for the first time in more than 30 years. 

Joining us now, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, whose own show airs weeknights on Air America Radio, and who was wrong for first time last night on our post election coverage.  Hi. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to that later. 

MADDOW:  Yes, exactly.  Do you have that bell? 

OLBERMANN:  No, as a matter of fact.  OK.  Reverend Wright, that‘s not going to work for the GOP.  What will?  Do you then switch back to the mutually exclusive lie that Obama is a Muslim or what? 

MADDOW:  His Christian pastor is so controversial, it makes us realize what a Muslim he is.  Barack Obama has been winning the Democratic nomination for the presidency so far.  So we haven‘t seen very much evidence about what works against him, because he‘s essentially been winning.  Honestly, Senator Clinton has been running, in some ways, a kind of Republicanesque campaign against him. 

If Republicans are looking at that to see what might work against him, what lessons should they draw?  We know that the Reverend Wright thing alone is not enough.  He weathered the storm and it is dangerous for the Republicans, because John McCain has his own albatross pastors, John Hagee and Rod Parsley.  They know that it can‘t be the pandering gimmickry policy stuff, since the gas tax thing may have ultimately helped him more than it hurt him.  Some interesting reporting from our friend Jonathan Alter about how Obama said he was personally invigorated by being able to talk about policy stuff like that gas tax issue. 

They know what they can‘t do.  What can they do?  What has knocked him off his stride?  This is a little ugly, but I think the stuff that has knocked him off his stride and slowed him down is the John McCain has a black baby stuff, the not policy, mud slinging, nasty stuff.  Yes, he handled Reverend Wright.  Yes, he weathered it.  But it did seem to sap the energy from him.  He doesn‘t seem to have an appetite for it.  Maybe they‘ll use that against him.

I think also he doesn‘t have much interest in the process fight.  He is not trying to shove Hillary Clinton out of the race.  He‘s really not.  Maybe you do process stuff against him, which is incredibly ugly.  That‘s like gaming the secretary of state, campaign finance violations, that sort of stuff.  If you can get an advantage against him on that because he won‘t fight on it, great, run a low ball, low brow dirty campaign against him. 

OLBERMANN:  If you bring in campaign finance, suddenly he goes, what about that loan you got based on your opting into campaign financing?  There are answers to that? 

MADDOW:  There are answers.  He just doesn‘t seem to want to fight on those grounds.  That may mean he‘s vulnerable on those grounds.  

OLBERMANN:  However, if the choice so far from Senator McCain continues at this rate, there isn‘t much for him to worry about, Obama that is, because McCain brings up his votes on the Supreme Court, which immediately reminds people, yes, he may lead to the overturning of Roe v Wade.  That‘s 51 percent of the country just went, I knew I didn‘t like that guy for some reason.  Right?

MADDOW:  No matter what else you think about John McCain, no this:

John Paul Stevens will be 88 years old when the next president takes office.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 75.  Even Anthony Kennedy and Steven Breyer will be in their 70s.  Alito and Roberts will still be in their 50s.  John McCain‘s age issue in this election may not be his own.  It may be John Paul Stevens. 

It is more likely than not that the different between legal and illegal abortion in this country will be who is elected the next president. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, pursuant to our discussion last night, would not this focus by McCain on Obama, by Obama on McCain, kind of confirm the thesis offered by, well, me, that Senator Clinton is now, for all practical purposes, in the rear view mirror. 

MADDOW:  For the practical purposes of Barack Obama and John McCain deciding their strategy, yes.  From Hillary Clinton‘s perspective, apparently not.  At this point I think—I realize this is a contrarian position.  I realize that it is, to a certain extent irrational.  My point is that Hillary Clinton—it has been essentially irrational for her to stay in the race for a long while now, but she has stayed in.  And it‘s only marginally more irrational for her to be in the race now than it was two days ago.  No arguments have worked thus far.  I don‘t know what happens about Indiana magically that works today. 

OLBERMANN:  Say what you said before we came out here though, that you heard something in this newscast that rang a bell that somebody had told you to look for.  This is the coming of the apocalypse that she‘s going to bow out. 

MADDOW:  We‘re starting to hear some of the things that insiders in Washington say are the sort of dog whistle signals that Hillary Clinton‘s campaign will be packing it in.  That Said, I‘m the least insidery person who will ever say something like that, so take it with a grain of salt. 

OLBERMANN:  But it was about Feinstein.

MADDOW:  It is about Feinstein. 

OLBERMANN:  Feinstein saying anything negative. 

MADDOW:  Feinstein voicing dissent here may be a dog whistle signal. 

OLBERMANN:  I heard another one.  I can‘t say it yet.  I‘m going to check to make sure I can say it.  I‘ll leave you with that as a tease.  It‘s OK if you‘re wrong. 

MADDOW:  I still think she‘s staying in.  I know you—

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not saying she‘s going out.  I‘m saying, she‘s going to go out and it‘s not going to be with nails scratching against the—

MADDOW:  You thinks she‘s going to pivot and exit gracefully.   

OLBERMANN:  It‘s going to be much calmer.  We‘ll see.  Rachel Maddow, Air America, MSNBC, wrong.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A 1.3 billion dollar baseball stadium.  I get a sneak peek tour of it and we‘re showing you literally a hole in the ground.  The good reason for that is coming up.  There is the hole in the ground. 

And after the failure of Operation Chaos, comedian Rush Limbaugh has a startling new explanation today for what it was really all about.  It earned him a nomination in tonight‘s worst persons derby. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A rare inside peek at what will shortly become the state of the art sports stadium in this country.  I‘m not easily impressed, but I was.  Inside the new Yankee Stadium.  That‘s next, but first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to comedian Rush Limbaugh; after his delusion of grandeur experience called Operation Chaos, designed to keep Senator Clinton in the race and try to get her the Democratic nomination because he would be easier for the Republicans to beat, resulted last night in her wholesale defeat in North Carolina and too close for comfort win in Indiana that knocked her out of the Democratic race, comedian did what you would expect him to do.  He declared that he intended for this to turn out this way because, quote, I now believe Barack Obama would be the weakest of the Democrat nominees. 

Why don‘t you just start preparing your November 5th show now, so you can fine tune your excuse that your plan all along was to make sure John McCain was defeated so the Republicans can regroup and find a really good candidate for 2012 like comedian Rush Limbaugh. 

Our runner up, officials at the Pasco (ph) County School District; substitute teacher Jim Faculas (ph) has been fired after something he did in front students at Rush Middle School in the city of Land of Lakes.  He did a magic trick in which he made a toothpick disappear.  Then he got an urgent summons to a meeting at which the principle accused the teacher of, quote, wizardry.  “He turned me into a Newt.  I got better.”

Most of the Florida is in the eastern time zone, but apparently Land of Lakes is one of those pockets that uses its own clock.  Their time zone is apparently Middle Ages. 

But our winners, ED Hill and Fixed Noise; the day after the most dramatic developments in the Democratic presidential race, as the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Myanmar, on Israel‘s 60th birthday, her big scoop this afternoon, a Texas woman who has enlarged her bust size to 34FFF.  Five minutes on some poor fool who has had seven separate breast augmentation surgeries, some of them in Brazil. 

Miss Hill illustrated the amount of silicone in use by holding up two large containers of milk.  Then her expert on the topic was the author of a book called “The Hot Latin Diet.”  The craziest thing was, this woman on whom they wasted all this team, she isn‘t even an anchor on Fox‘s Business Channel.  ED Hill and Fox Noise, today‘s Worst Persons in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not easily impressed.  I‘ve attend Major Baseball League games in 27 different stadiums, plus Spring Training.  I am the son of an architect.  I‘m a cynic.  If somebody says, we‘re spending one 1.3 billion dollars on a new stadium and we‘re getting a 103-foot wide high definition TV in the scoreboard, I‘m more likely to be even more cynical and less impressed.  Our number one story, the New York Stadium in New York, set to open next spring, knocked my socks off. 

They have restored the epic grandeur of the original stadium, which was remodeled in 1973 so they could remove those posts that held the thing up and blocked the view from the seats in back.  This new park, like the original, looks less like it was design and more like it was carved out by the same forces of nature that created the Grand Canyon.  Except this Yankee Stadium will be 63 percent bigger than current one.  Most of the new space devoted to amenities, like a great hall entrance way, as tall as the stadium itself. 

It will be pricey, front row behind the plate 2,500 dollars per ticket per game.  Still, the Yankees insist, 55 percent of seats will cost 45 bucks or less.  Conveniently, the double secret tour, led by stadium design director John Palmer was free.  I apologize for the work of the shaky camera work here.  I had a shaky camera man, me. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Exactly, the two ballparks.  Let me—

JOHN PALMER, ARCHITECT OF NEW YANKEE STADIUM:  This is the field level.  There are about 11,000 of these seats. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s my souvenir.  I get to take that home. 

Just putting the breeze back in place, makes all of the difference in the world.  The feel of the height is entirely consistent with what the old ballpark itself was. 

PALMER:  There you can see the train right now. 

OLBERMANN:  The fact that—you will, in fact move this—this crane will be out of the way when they start playing. 

PALMER:  We hope so. 

OLBERMANN:  I should mention that. 

We have—of course, the arches are a touch of the old park. 

PALMER:  So this is—

OLBERMANN:  This is the press box. 

PALMER:  That‘s the space down here. 

OLBERMANN:  I can hear a no comment already echoing from the stands. 

Steinbrenner in the domain.  And that‘s right, direct visual contact with the Yankee dugout. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  One last stop on the tour.  You remember the controversy last month when a construction worker revealed he buried a replica jersey from David Ortiz of the rival Boston Red Sox under newly poured concrete in the new stadium.  Gino Castelnoli (ph), A Red Sox fan from the Bronx not only did it, but ran his big bazu about it.  Castelnoli had hoped to curse the Yankees, but anonymous tipsters blew his cover and the jersey was dug up and auctioned off for charity. 

We pointed out at the time, it‘s not like it would work anyway.  A team has to curse itself like the old Boston Braves.  During the construction of Braves Field, a dozen mules and horses were buried alive in a cave-in.  The Boston Braves won the World Series in 1914 and 12 of baseball‘s first 28 championships.  They moved to their new ballpark in 1915.  They didn‘t win the World Series for 43 years and until they moved out of Boston.  That‘s a curse. 

Anyway, here now my brief and exclusive tour of the non-cursed hole where the Ortiz uniform briefly rested.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s it? 

PALMER:  Not as impressive as -- 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a hole.  You heard things described as a hole.  There it is.  So this smart guy—it‘s now been replaced now by ceremonial coffee cup.  Well, as I said, unless you‘ve got a team of horses and donkeys, I think you‘ll be OK.  And they are not in the hole. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, they gave me my own Yankee construction helmet.  Big whoop, want to fight about it.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,833rd 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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