updated 5/12/2008 12:19:38 PM ET 2008-05-12T16:19:38

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Mort Sahl, Mary Tillman, Harry Reid

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

And down the stretch they come: Obama on the verge of passing Clinton for the lead in superdelegates.

Bill Clinton‘s former senior adviser, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, calls Obama the presumptive nominee.  And while not endorsing, John Edwards says the new voters he brings with him makes Obama the best bet to beat McCain.

Somehow, for reasons decreasingly flappable (ph), this continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And people say to me all the time, “Well, are you going to keep going?”  Well, yes, of course I‘m going to keep going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain‘s friendship with Pastor Hagee keeps going.  He refuses to reject Hagee‘s anti-gay statements, and asked if age is a legitimate campaign issue, McCain suddenly brings up—Jeremiah Wright?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Every issue that the American people want to be an issue and it‘s part of their discussions—it‘s fine with me.  It‘s fine with me.  Just as the Reverend Wright‘s remarks, I don‘t believe that Senator Obama shares his views in any way.  But he has said it‘s a legitimate topic of discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So much for that clean campaign, McCain actually thought people would believe he would be running.

The good fight: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s new book as Obama-Clinton fight seems at the end, Senator Reid will join us.

As will the mother of Pat Tillman, least satisfied than ever with the stories concocted by the Bush administration about her son‘s death, and now the author of “Boots on the Ground by Dusk”: Mary Tillman.

And if the House Republicans voting against celebrating Mother‘s Day has caused you to lose your political bearings so to speak, we bring you the original antidote, the commentator who asked the presidential candidate Richard Nixon: “Would you buy a used car from this man?”  The original political satirist, my special guest, the legendary: Mort Sahl.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, May 9th, 179 days until the 2008 presidential election.  As the superdelegate tide turns for Obama tonight, it is the kind of illogical inevitability that made Joseph Heller coined the term Catch-22.

Slate.com quoting campaign finance law, reminding all that Clinton has to pay virtually every bit of the $11 million she has loaned to her campaign before the convention in August or she loses it forever.  “The New York Times” reporting today that the likelihood now increases, that Senator Clinton will loan her campaign still more of her own money.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Therefore, in order to pay off her debt to herself, she needs to keep her campaign running but in order to keep her campaign, she needs to spend more money which she does not have, thus increasing her campaign debt that she owes to herself.

Senator Clinton today refraining from any direct attack on her opponent, only soft jabs about Senator Obama‘s health care plan, no need to, really, when elsewhere on your campaign trail, your husband can still play bad cop to your good cop and make your electability attacks for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  She can win the popular vote.  She is clearly the most electable according to all the national polls and between now and August, the superdelegates are going to have to think long and hard about how badly they want to win.

If she‘s clearly most electable with positions that people are finally focusing on, the real difference is, I think she‘s got a real shot at this.  And let me just tell you something, all those that are telling you on television that she can‘t win, they weren‘t for her (ph) in the beginning, don‘t you forget that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Actually, some of them were.

The Clinton‘s electability argument is not working with superdelegates.  So far, Senator Obama netting 13 to Senator Clinton‘s four since the Indiana and North Carolina primaries on Tuesday.  Since Super Tuesday, the net is 99 for Obama, 17.5 for Clinton, and so far today, the score card still in flux, Obama: seven and Clinton: three; making the superdelegate count: Clinton 277.5; Obama: 269; several versions of this tally already show, Obama now in the lead.

In overall delegates, Senator Obama still pulling away, 1,859 to 1,703.5, with the reminder that the half delegate is allocated to Democrats abroad.

No actual endorsement today from former Clinton White House adviser, Rahm Emanuel, now, of course, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, but close enough.  The still officially uncommitted lawmaker today calling fellow Illinois Democrat, Obama, the presumptive nominee, for now any way, adding that if Senator Clinton draws contrast with Senator McCain and not Senator Obama, it would be productive for her to stay in this race, if she does, not then it would not.

Former senator and candidate, John Edwards, on THE TODAY SHOW this morning, saying that right now Senator Obama has a better chance of beating McCain in the fall because it looks like he‘s going to be the nominee.  Adding that what he brings to the table is the capacity to unite the Democratic Party and to attract new voters.

On the campaign trail in Oregon, Senator Obama eager to erase any impression that he has this race locked up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have not won this nomination yet.  I think it would be presumptuous of me to suggest that she‘s going to be my running mate when we‘re still actively running.  And, you know, she - you know, we do not have this nomination locked up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That would (ph) make a presumptuous nominee.   Time to bring in our own Jonathan Alter: senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine.  Good evening, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, Rahm Emanuel calls him the presumptive nominee for now, adding that caveat that something could always go wrong.  John Edwards says it looks like he‘s going to be the nominee, he brings in new voters.

Assess that.  What do those two things mean because they‘re not endorsements but aren‘t they virtually endorsements?

ALTER:  They step up to it especially on the part of Rahm Emanuel.  I know he‘s trying to back from that, but I think he‘s particularly excruciating position being from Illinois and he wants to see the party begin to close rank.  But congressional leadership wants that as well.  Nancy Pelosi wants it.

But they can‘t truncate this process.  Hillary Clinton has told her supporters that she will play through and I think we should all have every expectation that she will and she‘ll be in this until first week of June.

OLBERMANN:  Is this Nixonian?  Is this Spiro Agnew trying to - trying to, you know, head down, go to whatever wall the federal, Justice Department put his way to stay in the vice presidency?  Is it on that level now?

ALTER:  Well, you know, I don‘t think that her staying in is Nixonian.  It shows grit, determination, she‘s told her supporters she‘s going to do this.  What is verging on in Nixonian is the use of code language.  Remember when Nixon would talk about law and order, what he really meant was - do something about the blacks.

And when she, you know, talks about how - in her case she‘s not even using code some of the time, that she is the candidate, you know, of white Americans.  First of all, that‘s not true, if all of the whites were voting for her, she would have won already, right—because there are more whites than blacks.  But she has the same kind of racializing (ph) effect, even if that‘s not her intention.

So, I think what party leaders are worried about, Keith, is—it‘s fine with them if they stay in.  But they want her to watch her tone so that she doesn‘t further divide the party in the next few weeks.

OLBERMANN:  And the other thing is this - suddenly is this money issue that is looming large—this issue of the debt.  Senator Obama said he would not rule out using his funding to pay off her debt.  Might that be the price of getting her out of this and how is that separated from bribery?

ALTER:  Not by very much and I don‘t think Obama supporters would much like to see their hard earned money that they donated to him go to Senator Clinton at this point.  But, you know, what I don‘t buy is that she has to get this all paid off, you know, by the convention.  No, because, first of all this FDC rules.

OLBERMANN:  But there‘s nobody to enforce, there‘s nobody in the FEC as John McCain knows.

ALTER:  They‘re violated all the time, the fines are small.  So, what will likely happen is that her debts will be repaid with big fundraisers after the election.

OLBERMANN:  So, she‘s not running because of her leading creditor, herself, has put a lien on herself?  So, you don‘t have that, through the mirror, through the lean glass (INAUDIBLE).

ALTER:  She can - you know, they always find a way with the money and also money is not what‘s most important to the Clintons.  They will draw down their own coffers fund this for quite awhile because power and politics are what motivate them.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  And that is judged by another set of numbers here which is superdelegates.  You know, you report a couple of day, seven to three today or whatever it was, depending who‘s count it is, but when you say 99 to 77.5 since Super Tuesday, that begins to take on a significance of its own or a kind of finality of its own, does it not?

ALTER:  Well, it has this kind of “drip, drip, drip” quality.  And she has yet, even though she‘s been - she‘s been up several times in the last few weeks—she has yet been able to reverse the momentum with superdelegates.  And remember, these superdelegates are all that she has.  She can‘t win it in regulation.  So, if she can‘t turn it around with them, she‘s not going to pull off a miracle.

OLBERMANN:  They kind of going one at a time like people breaking out of a prison - that sort of thing.  A couple going (INAUDIBLE) the wall.

ALTER:  I have a sense the Obama people want this.  They have quite a number in reserve, And they don‘t want to roll them all out in one day, because they need them through thick and thin.  You‘ll notice when he had some very, very bad days, last week and the week before, they still announce two or three a day.  That‘s the strategy.

OLBERMANN:  Remember, this is what Tom Brokaw told us weeks ago, that there were 50 in their back pocket and they will dismount (ph) one at time and they have.

Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” great thanks for coming in. 

Have a good weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.  You, too.

OLBERMANN:  There are still 249.5 undeclared delegates, among them, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, also author of a new book, “The Good Fight,” which we should point quickly is not about the Democratic nominating process this year.

Senator Reid is kind enough to join us now from Washington.  Good evening to you, sir.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER:  Thank you very much for allowing me to be on your show, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Two questions of the political (ph) a moment first if I may, as a superdelegate, as one of the party leaders, do you think the primary process is in its final stretch now and if not, do you have to do something to make sure it is in the final stretch soon?

REID:  I‘ve been saying for several weeks that the President Clinton got the nomination on June 2nd, the final primary here is June 3rd.  Obama and Clinton at that time will have a couple of days to make their case to the uncommitted and we‘re going to have a nominee and have five months of a general election.  That‘s to me, that‘s as long as the people want or need in the general election.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton yesterday and Jon Alter just alluded to this in this interview with “USA Today” cited an analysis of her support that was done by the “Associated Press,” as she quoted it, she has a broader base of support because of white voters.  Even as often as you pointed out the Democrats sort of traditional weakness in some rural areas, do you think that she should have raised this point?  Is it not to discuss on those terms, a no-win for the party, never mind for a particular candidate in the party?

REID:  Well, I‘m sure that she didn‘t mean how it turned out.  I think that we have to understand with these superdelegates, there‘s only a few places to go—House members, senators and DNC delegates.  So, if she‘s after superdelegates, that‘s not the right thing to do.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  Let‘s move to the more substantive issues of the moment.  The FISA legislation, the so-called Protect America Act, the Republicans argue that if it was not passed immediately, there was imminent danger, obviously, that has not transpired in the way, the cataclysmic terms that they used and the threats that were behind it and the president‘s refusal to accept a temporary extension.

But given how much we don‘t know about what the telecom companies have done, much less, you know, with or without the Bush administration, is it—would it make more sense at this point to simply wait until the next administration is in place before acting on these FISA-related issues at all?

REID:  Keith, I never supported immunity for Bush and Cheney and the telephone companies.  I think it‘s unnecessary.  I think the court system can handle it very well.  We now have a process ongoing where we passed something in the Senate, something has been passed in the House and there‘s a conference going on.

Now, Rockefeller and Steny Hoyer say they thing they‘re close to an arrangement.  I‘d be very anxious to see that because Bush continually cries wolf and I think he‘s cried wolf too many times and I think he should just understand the importance of doing this the right way, not the Bush way.

OLBERMANN:  And whatever has happened since he let that law expire, because the offers were made to extend it for short terms while those negotiations were going on, it‘s pretty clear, is it not that that was exaggeration, that threat that exists was drawn up into dimensions of total disproportionateness by the administration?

REID:  Of course.  And understand, every Democrat wants to make sure we go after the bad guys and if takes some wiretapping to do it, that‘s fine.  But let‘s keep in mind we have a Constitution and let‘s do it in the terms of Constitution.  His abuse of Democrats who don‘t support his way in this issue has been certainly wrong.

OLBERMANN:  We recently passed that fifth anniversary on the first of this month since the “mission accomplished” declaration on the aircraft carrier.  In this book of yours, the new book, “The Good Fight: Hard Lesson From Searchlight to Washington,” you describe a meeting that you had with the president on a different anniversary which was the September 11th of 2007 about Iraq and he made a statement that you wrote left you somewhat incredulous, which you wrote, to quote exactly: “To understand what he said is to understand something profound about the problem at the heart of this administration.”

What did the president say to you last 9/11 anniversary and what does it tell us about his leadership?

REID:  Well, I was complaining about what was going on and he basically said, “Bring them on, we‘re killing them, we‘re killing them.”

OLBERMANN:  Who?

REID:  The terrorists.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, dear.  Last point, I guess this is more back into the political category.  It‘s a confusing area for a lot of Democrats, you have said, “Senator Lieberman of Connecticut supports us on virtually everything except the war,” obviously though, now, there‘s something else he disagrees with the Democrats on and that is who is the next president or who should be the next president.  He‘s campaigning for Mr. McCain.

REID:  Had to bring—had to bring that up, didn‘t you?

OLBERMANN:  Well, it is fairly - it‘s something of a topic for rest of the year.  Is there anything that he could do that would make you move to take his leadership position away on Homeland Security?

REID:  Yes, of course.  Understand, Keith, that our margin of being in the majority has been pretty slim.  With Tim Johnson getting sick and before (ph) the nine new Democratic senators were sworn in, he was in a coma for five weeks and out of work for 10 months.  We didn‘t - our majority is 50 to 49 and with Joe voting with republicans on the war, we didn‘t have a majority.

So, we fought pretty hard for not having a majority but I think the facts are that we‘re going to watch very closely.  Joe has been very good on issues with some exception on everything but the war.  But you know, I don‘t have all Democrats on everything.

So, it‘s really unfair to pick on Joe on a few other things, the war we can pick on him all we want.  I disagree.  I think it‘s wrong what he‘s done and I told him that.

OLBERMANN:  Something of a razor‘s edge for us all, I think.

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, the author of the new book, “The Good Fight: Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington.”  All the best with the book, sir.  Great thanks for your time, have a good weekend.

REID:  Thanks for allowing me to be on, as I said.

OLBERMANN:  A pleasure, sir.

John McCain promised a clean campaign yet he just refused to renounce Pastor John Hagee‘s anti-gay rhetoric and he himself just brought up Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Also: Bill-O versus Roger Ailes in Worst Persons.

And one of the Best Persons, the original political satirist, Mort Sahl, will be right here.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain again refuses to denounce the pastor whose endorsement he sought, who claims hurricane Katrina was God‘s vengeance against gays.  And McCain either lied in 2000 when he said he didn‘t vote for George Bush or just lied when he said he did vote for him.

Rachel Maddow joins me.

And two firings in Worst Persons: A gas station attendant after he was robbed.  And a FOX News employee after she said she voted for McCain.  I‘m missing something on these.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  It‘s one thing for Bill O‘Reilly who, as he points out frequently, is Catholic to have called out John McCain for accepting the endorsement of a reverend who called Catholicism, quote, “the great whore.”  But when even O‘Reilly challenged McCain because of that same reverend‘s remarks about gay people, you know somebody on the straight talk express needs to get out and ask for directions.

Because in our fourth story tonight: John McCain is evidently not driving the bus.  Remarkably, today, not a single member of the media asked McCain about his continuing refusal to disavow the endorsement which he sought from Reverend John Hagee.  Despite the fact that last night, McCain disavowed Hagee‘s anti-Catholicism but his homophobia.

Homophobia which was manifest in a nationally broadcast interview before McCain sought that endorsement in which Hagee said that “God had used Katrina to kill American citizens in New Orleans because the city was going to have a gay pride parade.”

Instead, McCain turned to question about age into an excuse to discuss - yes, Reverend Wright.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Every issue that the American people want to be an issue and it‘s part of their discussions—it‘s fine with me.  It‘s fine with me.  Just as the Reverend Wright‘s remarks, I don‘t believe that Senator Obama shares his views in any way.  But he has said it‘s a legitimate topic of discussion.  If that‘s what the American people want to discuss, that‘s fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll take a vote.  The McCain campaign today worked hard to alchemize (ph) lost his bearings into a slur about McCain‘s age, displaying outrage notably absent when FOX News defended McCain‘s enduring confusion or conflation of Shia and Sunni as having, quote, “a senior moment.”

This should explain why McCain today has also denied in today‘s “New York Times,” which increase to three, the number of people who heard say in 2000 that, Oh, by the way, he did not vote for George Bush for president.

Joining us now: MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow, also host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on weeknights on - got too many ons on there.  She‘s on the radio.

Hi, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I thought—didn‘t I hear somewhere that even Newt Gingrich tried to warn McCain—do not seek the Wright treasure, do not campaign on Jeremiah Wright.  What happened?

MADDOW:  Newt maybe should have added—particularly don‘t campaign on that if you have no idea how you want to use the issue.  How strange is it for John McCain, for the McCain really to have sent the candidate‘s wife on the TODAY SHOW this week to say that her husband unequivocally rejects all negative campaigning?  She even reference the Bush v. Rove 2000, John McCain has a black baby stuff in making the case saying, you will not hear any of this stuff coming from us.

And then to put the candidate himself, out on the stump saying—you want to talk about my age, you want to talk about Reverend Wright, you want to talk about Barack Obama being a terrorist—anything you want to talk about, it‘s all fine with me.  I‘m tempted to say, this strategy is something about, you know, having and eating cake, but it‘s probably too simple.

OLBERMANN:  The Obama campaign responded to the stuff about Hamas by saying this is an indication that McCain lost his bearings—that‘s not an age thing.  Bearings - how you conduct yourself, your sense of moral direction, how you carry yourself.  And there‘s no dictionary definition or even colloquial definition that implies, you know, you‘re losing your marbles or your faculties, something along those lines.  Is the idea just to paint Obama as a negative campaigner, anytime he says vote for me and somebody in McCain‘s camp will say—that‘s ageism?

MADDOW:  Maybe.  I‘d always thought like calling somebody a negative campaigner is one of the more impotent of American political slurs.  I don‘t think that that tends to decide elections except in extreme cases.

But the bigger picture here is that—the age issue seems to and pardon the inference here, but it does seem to confuse the McCain campaign.  They haven‘t had a great response to it.  They have known for very long time that John McCain would be the oldest American president ever elected.

They know that it is an issue for voters, for some voters out of pure ageist prejudice and for some voters out of concerns about his fitness for the job.  It shouldn‘t be a surprise for them.  But yet, they don‘t seem to have a coherent strategy for addressing it other than doing this awkward “show and tell” thing with McCain‘s elderly mother.  That can‘t be their whole strategy in dealing with it.

OLBERMANN:  Look, somebody older than him.

MADDOW:  Somebody older than me by definition.

It‘s very awkward.  This is the first maybe indication that they‘re going to try to deal with the age issue by yelling ageism very loud with a lot of conviction whenever the issue comes up.  I‘m not sure how effective it‘s going to be.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s re-inspiring me to once again use “the old man yells at cloud” line.  On the same night, both O‘Reilly and I hit McCain on Hagee.  I‘m guessing under those circumstances, maybe—despite the media‘s silence about John Hagee, we may not have heard the last of about John Hagee?

MADDOW:  I think John Hagee may finally be on the playing field, in terms of things that get discussed in this campaign and McCain has helped keep it on the playing field by refusing to denounce the New Orleans was curse by Katrina because New Orleans had to much of the gay whatever that argument was.  McCain has really overtly avoided denouncing those specific comments and so by that, he has kept the issue on the table.

We have also seen the ante up a little bit in terms of McCain‘s pastor in the last - over the course of this past week.  We have seen a lot of tape about Rod Parsley who is the other pastor in John McCain‘s endorsement quiver.  And the Rod Parsley videotape and audio tape is scary stuff.  I mean, in Allan Keyes (ph) to the end (ph) in terms of the rhetorical tone and the rhetorical aggression.

And so, I think, with Parsley nudging himself on to the table, Hagee starting to become a more mainstream issue, they‘re going to need a strategy on this as well.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s apocalyptic stuff that we‘re hearing out of Pastor Parsley.

Last point: claiming now that he enthusiastically supported George Bush and voted for him in 2000 -- first off, he‘s a liar either then or now.  But does it help him to be lying now so people should know he didn‘t vote for Bush?  I mean, that‘s a real tough one for him to work his way out of, isn‘t it?

MADDOW:  Yes, this is kind - I see this as kind of a lose/lose.  Maybe he thinks he can spin it into a win/win.  I thought, the one weird aspect of the story to me is that his campaign went out of their way to on-record call Arianna Huffington names for having reported this.  They called her a flake, and a poser, and all these sort of like junior high names—implying that they‘re very sensitive on this issue as well.  That, of course, when he started doing stuff like that—people start bringing out there, corroborating evidence from other people who are at the dinner party where he said it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I‘m going to keep an index going on, the chances that he turns right into Bob Dole at some point, in front of our eyes.  I think it‘s about 22 percent right now.  Anyway, we‘ll see.

Rachel Maddow who‘s on the radio.  Have a good weekend of not being on the radio.

MADDOW:  I will do.  I will.  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  You know, I know there are lame ducks in the White House, but really this is ridiculous.

And: Fired by FOX noise for claiming that John McCain is going to win.  Boy, if that‘s a new standard over there, they‘re going to have to cancel all the shows and run a test pattern all day and all night.

Worst Persons and Mort Sahl: ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Best persons in a moment and Tom Brady wants girlfriend Giselle Bundchen to dress up like Wonder Woman.

First, this is the 20th anniversary.  On May 9, 1989, that would make it the 19th anniversary, wouldn‘t it?  Newly installed Vice President Dan Quayle stood before the leaders of the United Negro College Fund and attempted to quote their familiar catch-phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Instead, the legendary malapropist said, “What a waste it is to lose one‘s mind.  Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful.  How true that is.”

On that note, oddly, let‘s play ball.

I rip him on words and I get the numbers wrong.  We begin in Washington where little duckies are swarming the White House and armed Secret Service is on their tail, don‘t tase me, bro.  The mommy ducky and the seven ducklings waddled onto the driveway leading to the press briefing room.  That‘s when John Law showed up and started chucking the ducks through the gate onto the White House lawn.  No background check, no signing the guest register, ducks are given the same sweetheart treatment as Dick Cheney‘s big oil lobbyists.

To the Internets where we disprove the theory, here you see people not putting pants on one leg at the time.  First ever hit video of people putting clothes on on the Internet.  Normally it‘s the other way around, perverts.  Here we see them dropping from second story balconies, hopping into jeans in a pogo stick, there‘s the balcony, there‘s the pogo stick, and then tumbling into a pear of jeans off a see-saw.  You may want to check your bearings sir.

Barack Obama says John McCain‘s campaign was losing his.  John McCain insisted it was a dig at his age and Joe Lieberman has checked and McCain has all of bearings.  We will give the final word to the one and only Mort Sahl.

And will she ever get the final word about the death of her son, Pat Tillman.  Mary Tillman who has now written a book on the subject, joins us next.

First time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three persons in the world.

Number three, best report on Iraq by a vice president, Dick Cheney, telling a lunatic fringe radio host in Missippi the plan to operate a Disneyland style theme park inside the Green Zone is evident that in Iraq everything is going swimmingly.  Swimmingly.  The place is called the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience and it will include a skateboard park.  The planners, of course, had to explain what skateboarding was to the Iraqis.

Number two, best proof we torture our own troops, lunatic fringe Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia introducing legislation to ban the sales of magazines like “Playboy” and “Penthouse” at military bases.  Broun insists magazines erode the family and increase the number of violent incidents involving U.S. serviceman.  It has evidently not occurred to the congressman that being in the middle of a war might erode the serviceman‘s family and see say nothing the number of violent incidents involving U.S.  servicemen.

And number one, best newest piece of celebrity gossip.  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady telling the “Boston Globe” that in private time he would like his girlfriend, supermodel Giselle Bundchen to dress up in a Wonder Woman costume.  No truth to rumors that Ms. Bundchen told the “Boston Globe” that in private time she would like Mr. Brady to dress up in the costume of a football player who could beat the Giants in the Super Bowl.

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OLBERMANN:  The fourth anniversary passed all too quietly late last month, the death by friendly fire of Army Ranger and NFL star Pat Tillman.  Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN, it was newsman Boat Carter (ph) in the ‘30s who insisted that in war truth it the first casualty.  In Mr. Bush‘s wars, obviously, it multiplies.  Pat Tillman‘s mother has been told so many different versions of the truth while the government tried to twist her son‘s death into a recruitment tool.  And she has now chronicled her ordeal, an ordeal even greater than solely a son‘s death in a new book.  Mary Tillman joins me in moment.

Pat Tillman, of course, left football‘s Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after 9/11. On April 22nd 2004 he was killed in a canyon in Afghanistan and the Army told his family and the world that he died while charging the enemy after his unit had been ambushed.

At that time the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was exploding, the Bush administration needed a distraction.  President Bush presented a Silver Star to the Tillman family for his service.  But five weeks after the death the Army reported finally that he had actually died by friendly fire.  And even now after seven military investigations and two congressional hearings, full accountability is lacking.

Joining me now as promised, Mary Tillman, author of “Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman.”  Great thanks for your time tonight.

MARY TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN‘S MOTHER:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Have you settled in your mind what has happened or what happened to your own son?  Obviously it was friendly fire, not the government wanted you or wanted us to know that.  Are you certain at this point that it was accidental?

TILLMAN:  I‘m pretty certain that it was accidental.  I mean, I think there was gross negligence involved in it.  I think the soldiers rather than being in a fog of war they were in a lust to shoot, a lust to fight.  And I think they should have had more serious consequences but in order to do that, there would have to have been an inquiry that probably would have caused the officers in the tactical command center or tactical operations center to be questioned and their orders would have been put into question.  And I don‘t think anyone wanted that.

OLBERMANN:  The other sort of conclusive question, have you settled this one in your mind?  Who is responsible for the cover-up and what punishment should they face?  And is it still possible for any of that to happen?

TILLMAN:  Well, I think that the cover-up probably started with the secretary—former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld.  In terms of a punishment, that‘s really not for me to say.  But he should be held accountable for that.  And if there are others that were involved in that, they also should have a consequence.  Pat was in the former secretary of defense‘s radar.  He had written Pat a letter after he enlisted, thanking him for enlisting.  And our family learned at the second congressional hearing last summer that Rumsfeld wrote a P-form (ph) memo to the then deputy secretary of the Army Peter Garin who is now the secretary of the Army and his e-mail indicated that Pat was a very special individual and that they should keep an eye on him.  So it‘s ludicrous to think that once Pat was killed no one told Donald Rumsfeld.

OLBERMANN:  Would the powers that be, whether it was Rumsfeld or somebody lower on the food chain, would they have kept that cover-up going indefinitely if they could have gotten away with it, do you think?

TILLMAN:  I believe they would have.  But the coroner and the medical examiner could tell when Pat‘s body came in he was not killed by the enemy.  They were suspicious of his wounds because the wound pattern could not have been caused by an AK-47 and the fact that Pat‘s brother Kevin was in the same platoon and eventually the soldiers in that platoon would probably be, you know, talk to him and tell him.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think, is there still a chance of getting all of answers to this?  Has all of the evidence been destroyed, has the entire chain of evidence been corrupted for all time?  Is there any way to get at the final truth other than what you think you can build up from the drips and drabs you‘ve been given?

TILLMAN:  I think all of the physical evidence has been destroyed.  I mean, I don‘t think there‘s anything left in terms of that.  Everything now would be testimony, so I don‘t think that, you know, there‘s much that can be done in that regard.  But I do think that Congress should be looking harder at who is responsible for the cover-up.

I think it‘s really important for people to understand that this deception was not just a deception to our family.  This was a public deception.  You know, this story was concocted in order to rally patriotism for the war and deflect the horrible month of April, 2004.  With Abu Ghraib and Fallujah and the president‘s abysmal approval rating and all of the casualties in Iraq at that time.

OLBERMANN:  Last point, Mary, has this, in summing this up for the purposes of a book, did it lead you to any insights about the society we live in that people should know, that they should hear from you directly?

TILLMAN:  Well, I feel that you know, the public needs to pay close attention to what is happening with the government.  The soldiers when they enlist, they know going in that they could die, they could be wounded.  They could be damaged mentally or emotionally.  But they don‘t expect their government and the military in which they serve to disrespect that service by lying to their families when they die.  And I think that soldiers lose their voice when they enlist.  My son spoke of that before they did enlist that that would be a reality.

And the public is their voice.  And if the public is not vigilant in paying attention to what the government is doing, it‘s very dangerous.

OLBERMANN:  And what you described there is how we might best yet honor Pat Tillman.

TILLMAN:  I think so, yes.

OLBERMANN:  Mary Tillman, author of “Boots on the Ground by Dusk, My Tribute to Pat Tillman.”

Thank you for sharing something so, and I don‘t mean just in terms of the interview or the book but your whole involvement of the public in this.  Thank you for sharing it with us.  Our very best wishes to you and to the family.

TILLMAN:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  So the Fox production assistant sees John McCain and says, oh, I voted for you, you‘re going to win.  You‘ll never believe what her bosses did to her next.

And in 55 years doing the finest political satire since Will Rogers, Mort Sahl thought he had probably seen it all.  Then came the endless campaign.  Mort joins us ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s been a rough couple of days in politics, well, weeks, years.  OK, nonstop since 1953.  Conveniently the immortal Mort Sahl is here to straighten it all out for us.  He‘s next.

But first, time for his warm-up act.  Our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”

The bronze, the managers of the Phillips 66 gas station on 69th Street in Merriam, Kansas, Nick the night clerk was just putting the two $50 bills the customer had just given him into the special vault safe when the gas station was robbed.  At gunpoint, Nick the night clerk surrendered exactly 200 bucks, and because Phillips 66 rules insist that never should there be more than 150 bucks in the cash register even though he was moving the two 50s out of the cash register when the armed gunman came in, Nick was fired.

So if you‘re near a Phillip‘s 66 station, do Nick a favor and buy your gas somewhere else.

The runner up?  Bill O.  Still can‘t figure out why NBC hasn‘t fired me even though he has repeatedly rolled on the floor, screamed and stomped his feet and insisted they do so.  Went into another one of these tirades against our parent company, GE, which by next month will have completely ended all business ties with Iran and countries doing business in Iran.

So Bill‘s gruel was getting thinner and thinner and last night‘s rant was reduced to, “The General Electric Corporation, through foreign subsidiaries, continues to do business with Iran.  Just today a report from Germany says the Drager Company (ph) sold the software that now can be used for military purposes and that software was made by a company controlled by GE.”

Obviously this is akin to Bill O. giving Andrea Mackris one of his loofahs, and she gives it to Al Franken and Al Franken gives it to the Iranians but I come on and say Bill O is giving loofahs to the Iranians.

But actually it‘s even stupider than that.  The rest of the German news report, the part Billy left out, the German company Drager confessed to U.S. authorities that it broke the law by selling the software and GE had nothing to do with it.  But Bill ignored that because the point of this remains, as his bosses continue to tell my bosses, this is retribution against GE and NBC because we keep calling him out.  Keep it up, Bill.  Whatever you got, I‘ll see you and I‘ll raise you.

As in tonight‘s winners, Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox Noise and his little band of merry men.  The TV Newser Web site reports that a 24-year-old production assistant named Jennifer Lock (ph) was helping a Fox camera crew record the red carpet arrivals at a New York gala last night when she spotted Senator McCain.  “I voted for you in the primary,” Ms. Lock said to the senator, “you‘re going to win.”

“You‘re not supposed to reveal that,” McCain replied.

“I‘m the daughter of a Vietnam vet,” Ms. Lock answered.  Today Mr. Ailes minions at Fixed News fired her.

Wait, you guys fired P.A. for publicly endorsing a nominee in front of your own Fox cameras.  I‘m missing something.  Does this mean you‘re now going to fire everybody there?  Roger, I mean how many times could you fire Sean Hannity, 1,000?  Roger, I mean, O - Roger Ailes, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As if the political world needed them, there are three more dumb headlines breaking at this hour.  Senator Joseph Lieberman is personally vouching for Senator John McCain‘s bearings.  A hundred and seventy eight Republican members of Congress voted against honoring mothers on Mother‘s Day and the legend of political satire Mort Sahl was among several friends of the Bush family not invited to the Jenna Bush wedding.

In our number one story Mort Sahl will be here to make sense of it all if possible.  First the facts, well, the stuff that happened.  I don‘t know how much stuff is actually here.

John McCain tried to link Barack Obama to Hamas.  Obama retorted that this showed McCain was losing his bearings and McCain‘s campaign immediately pretended this was a remark about age and then as only he could, Senator Lieberman turned up the creepy factor, personally vouching for Senator McCain‘s bearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (I) CT:  I just wanted to report that this morning I personally checked John McCain‘s bearings.  He has not lost any of them.  They are all really in great shape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s why I asked Harry Reid that question.  The only man who could follow that act, the pioneering and still unstoppable Mort Sahl performing tomorrow night at B.B King‘s Blues Club in New York.  What an honor it has to have you on.

MORT SAHL, COMEDIAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A pleasure.

SAHL:  You know, can I open with a quote?

OLBERMANN:  Please.

SAHL:  Mark Russell .

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

SAHL:  . said to me, I said, “How much of a Republican was Lieberman become?” and he said, “I asked him, senator, do you accept Republican contributions?  And he said only 30 pieces of silver at a time.”

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Now, how were your bearings and would you like Senator Lieberman to check them for you?

SAHL:  This is basically said on McCain saying that Obama is Hamas‘ .

OLBERMANN:  Is Hamas‘ choice for president.

SAHL:  How about Jimmy Carter?  Wasn‘t he first?

OLBERMANN:  He can‘t run again I guess or doesn‘t choose to.  But it‘s remarkable everything becomes ageism or racism or genderism or sexism.  There is nothing like a good old political fight anymore?

SAHL:  Not on this network.  By the way, you know, I wanted to mention here kind of a coincidence, last time I did the O‘Reilly show he told me about evangelism and how much he prizes faith, like the bumper system sticker that says “Thank God for secular humanism.”  And he turned to me and said none of us would be what we are except for the man upstairs who turned out to be Roger Ailes.

OLBERMANN:  And don‘t you forget it.

The irony of some of this stuff, Sunni and Shia, when McCain couldn‘t remember which was which or chose not to remember which was which, Fox defended him.  Brit Hume came on and said he‘s having a senior moment and used that as defense.  Now if you criticize McCain, well, that‘s ageism.  Say he‘s losing the bearings, is this what the campaign is going to be about?

SAHL:  They started talking too early as you pointed out several times in the show.  They are parsing everything because they started so early.  When I worked for Kennedy, he made three speeches and he was the president.  You know, by the way, you remember when Reagan used to say I know what our founding fathers said because I knew many of them intimately.

OLBERMANN:  Sure.  But it worked for him, didn‘t it?  To make a joke out of it.

SAHL:  People liked him.

The McCain thing reminds me of when Hillary campaigned in Florida she promised all of the people health care, all the retirees, and as a wise man, if you think health care is experience expensive now, wait until it‘s free.  So then as the story goes, McCain goes down there but he‘s remote as a figure.  And these people in the senior center come up and what will you give us.  She said she would give us free care.  He says, don‘t you know who I am?  And one of oldsters says, no, but ask the nurse and she‘ll tell you.  Oh, well.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you mentioned Senator Clinton.  It‘s not like Republicans are the only source of material today.  Do you know—why is Senator Clinton still running?  It appears she‘s trying to elude her debtor which is herself?  But is there another reason this is going on?  Isn‘t it over already.

SAHL:  The questions are important.  That‘s the key note of your show.  The questions are more important than the conclusions.  It makes people think.  It‘s like when somebody says to me, her husband is blowing it for her.  He wants her to win and does everything wrong.  I say, does she?  She‘s like the mother saying, we always took care of you, why do you want to leave home?  And America is like the girl taking Barack Obama‘s arm, but mom, I love him.  May 6th was his birthday, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The House vote, did you think at this point when you went into political humor that eventually it would run out?  The Republican—

Republicans voted against a resolution supporting Mother‘s Day on the weekend before Mother‘s Day.

SAHL:  There‘s nothing to lose.  Not the country to lose, even, you know. 

China is first in the line then India, then us.

OLBERMANN:  And what about presidential weddings, they are not what they used to be.  Bush‘s daughter getting married in Crawford, Texas.  What?

SAHL:  He called it the heartland.  Somebody at the “New York Times” called it the waste land.  One of the correspondents.  You know, I met him at Alexander Haig‘s house, President Bush and he said to me are you prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to fight terrorism?  So I thought I would be a wise guy and say, I am but I kind of fatigued in fighting communism with your father.  It‘s a dirty job but that‘s what you elected me to do.  And I said to you, We didn‘t elect you that much.  Then he decided whether to laugh or not.

OLBERMANN:  The one and only Mort Sahl.  He is at B.B King‘s in New York tomorrow night.  It‘s an honor, sir.

SAHL:  Keith, I‘m proud to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  My pleasure.

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

END   

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