updated 5/19/2008 12:10:12 PM ET 2008-05-19T16:10:12

Guest Host: Rachel Maddow

Guests: Chris Matthews, Paul Mecurio, Richard Wolffe

RACHEL MADDOW, GUEST HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Yesterday, the president and John McCain attacked Barack Obama on Mid-East diplomacy.  Tonight, Senator Obama strikes back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They‘re trying to fool you, and trying to scare you.  And they‘re not telling the truth.  Both Bush and McCain represent the failed foreign policy and fear mongering of the past.  I believe the American people are ready to reject this approach and to choose the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The latest White House spin?  The president wasn‘t referring to Senator Obama when he compared Democrats to Nazi appeasers—even though the evidence sure makes it seem like that‘s exactly what he was doing.

And: All aboard the “doubletalk express.”  John McCain‘s argument that Obama is dead wrong for suggesting a president should engage with our enemies has a tiny little hole in it.  McCain advocated U.S. engagement with Hamas two years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They‘re the government and sooner or later we‘re going to have to deal with them in one way or another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  “How to Stop a Smear 101” with your professor, Chris Matthews.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL”)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST OF “HARDBALL”:  What did Chamberlain do?  Just tell me what he did, Kevin.  What did Chamberlain do you didn‘t like?  What did he do?

KEVIN JAMES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What Chamberlain did -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Tonight‘s cautionary tale perhaps without history.

And: President Bush‘s supreme sacrifice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  Playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What‘s the right signal you ask?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Barney, I hear you have been hiding Beasley‘s (ph) gift all around the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  From Barney cam to bass fishing, to hilarious jokes about lying the country into war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Those weapons of mass destruction got to be somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  We‘ll run down the leisure time activities the president just can‘t give up in a time of war.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BUSH:  And you two run on.  I‘ve got a lot of work to do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW (on camera):  Good evening.  I‘m Rachel Maddow in for Keith Olbermann.  He‘ll be back on Monday.  This is Friday, May 16th, 172 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Appeasement is by definition, quote, “the political strategy of pacifying a potentially hostile nation in the hope of avoiding war, often by granting concessions.”  That‘s a substantially different thing than talking with another state—negotiating.  That is, quote, “formal discussions among parties to bring about a resolution a problem.”

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator Obama didn‘t just fire

back against President Bush and Senator McCain for dishonest, divisive

attacks hinting that Senator Obama would appease Iran, he didn‘t just

defend himself from their charges, he also pivoted and went on the offense

confronting them directly on what he called “failed foreign policy and fear mongering of the past.”

       

From the campaign trail in South Dakota, Senator Obama responded quickly and forcefully to both the current president and the presumptive Republican nominee to be the next one, saying that their characterization of his foreign policy, of Obama‘s foreign policy is nothing short of a lie and that their shared approach to the Middle East is a failure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Our Iran policy is a complete failure right now.  And that‘s the policy that John McCain is running on.  He has nothing to offer except the naive and irresponsible belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow cause Iran to give up its nuclear program and support for terrorism.

I‘m running for president to change course not to continue George

Bush‘s course.  I believe -

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

OBAMA:  I believe we need to use all elements of American power to pressure Iran, including tough, principled and direct diplomacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  At a news conference that followed, Senator Obama pointed out that actual diplomacy—you know, talking to other countries, friend and foe, has been central to our American approach to the world until very recently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  This whole notion of not talking to people—it didn‘t hold in the ‘60s, it didn‘t hold in the ‘70s, it didn‘t in the ‘80s, it didn‘t hold in the ‘90s—against much more powerful adversaries, much more dangerous adversaries.

I mean, when Kennedy met with Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war.  When Nixon met with Mao, that was with the knowledge that Mao had exterminated millions of people.

It‘s a signal of how badly our foreign policy has drifted over the last eight years.  How much it has been skewed by the rhetoric of the Bush administration, that this should even be a controversial proposition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Perhaps the most absurd aspect of the Bush/McCain attack on Senator Obama this week is the claim that Obama isn‘t even the target because Bush didn‘t cite him by name.  Senator Obama is apparently happy to take that one on as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Who‘s the some that they are talking about?  Is this some amorphous some or was this just a straw man that they were setting up?  And if so, the—what was the purpose of the remarks?  Now, that‘s being disingenuous.  I mean, I‘m less concerned about whether the remarks were directed against me personally because, frankly, there is no evidence out there that I‘ve ever suggested we should engage terrorists.

This White House is very—is media savvy and knows what it‘s doing.  The implication was that if you object to George Bush‘s policies of non-engagement, then—you know, you are being soft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Senator McCain‘s response today, in a speech before the NRA, was two-fold.  One, he suggested that fighting an enemy is less reckless than talking to one first.  Wow.  Second, he suggested that Senator Obama somehow believes the United States has no enemies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  You know, it would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don‘t have enemies, but that‘s not the world we live in.  And until Senator Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  A lot to talk about with our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Hi, Richard.  Thanks for joining us tonight.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Rachel, good to be with you.

MADDOW:  You wrote the “Newsweek” cover story this week about how Senator Obama and his team are planning to battle the Republican machine this year.  I think we‘ve just witnessed it in action by engaging the Republicans directly on national security, which, of course, is an issue where the conventional wisdom holds that Democrats are weaker.  They‘re always on the defensive.

Do you think that we‘re witnessing a new kind of Democratic candidate, a new kind of Democratic campaign here?

WOLFFE:  Well, what we‘re seeing is a Democratic candidate who isn‘t twisted into a pretzel because of his initial vote on the war, and then has to explain that against his current criticism of the war as John Kerry had to do throughout 2004.  So, Barack Obama is in a different place, in a different place to criticize the war, whether it‘s Bush‘s policy or McCain‘s position.

And you have a campaign here as well that understands that the country is fundamentally different when it comes to war and national security than it was in 2004, and the 2006 midterms showed that.

So, you have a couple of things.  It‘s not that Barack Obama is special; it‘s just that he can attack these things in a clearer way because he doesn‘t carry the baggage.

MADDOW:  The Republicans have set up this straw man using appeasement as a buzz word, this false notion that just by talking with somebody you‘re appeasing them—when in reality, it‘s not just talk, you actually have to give the bad guys something in exchange for their cooperation like Neville Chamberlain ceding part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany.

Richard, this attack—and maybe I‘m na‹ve, but this seems kind of more simple-minded than usual to me.  It seems like they‘re going with really thin stuff really early in the campaign.  Do you think this indicates maybe that they are short of more substantive attack fodder against Obama?

WOLFFE:  Well, and by the way, the administration, the Bush administration is already offering incentives to Iran and North Korea in terms of a negotiated settlement for their various nuclear programs.  So, the whole thing really doesn‘t stack up very well.  And I think as a campaign strategy, you‘ve got to wonder if the McCain campaign isn‘t locked into this 2004 mindset where appearing tough is more important than what the American people show.

In poll after poll after poll, which is that they want an exit

strategy, they want something to look better.  Remember, this war has gone

on longer than World War II.  If McCain has a way through this, it‘s to say

I can fight this war smarter and quicker than Bush or Obama because of my experience.  He‘s not saying that right now.

       

MADDOW:  Let me ask you one question about your time spent with the Obama campaign recently.  The McCain response to this was that a spokesperson described Obama‘s speech today as a hysterical diatribe.  Now, you‘re spending a lot of time during this campaign with Senator Obama.

Is anything about the man strike you as ever approaching hysteria?  It just struck me as such a weird, I guess, misfired attack against somebody who seems as cool and collected as Obama does, maybe even to a fault.  It got me thinking about maybe by the word hysterical he meant like he was funny, ha-ha.

WOLFFE:  Yes.  Not so funny either.  I mean, look—this is a guy who - if you are going to smear him, then do it in a way that sort of rings true.  Go for the elitist thing or that he is somehow emotionless.  Certainly, the Clinton folks really made some headway on those two areas. 

But the hysteria thing - look, I get more hysterical than he does.

MADDOW:  Later this afternoon, Senator McCain suggested Obama believes America does not have any enemies, which, of course, is a ridiculous claim.

But do you think Obama is going to have to spend a lot of time correcting the record on what he‘s actually said?  Is that always defense?  Will that always look bad?  Can he do that at the same time that he attacks McCain and Bush like he did today?

WOLFFE:  One of the big failings of the Obama campaign is not using or not finding surrogates to deploy for this kind of thing.  The candidate has to do certain things, he has to rebut certain things, makes certain arguments as he‘s been doing here.  But if he‘s trying to correct the record all the time, he‘ll get hopelessly distractive and in responsive mode.

So, the Obama campaign needs to do a much better job of fielding this team of surrogates to bat down this kind of thing because, otherwise, he won‘t have his own agenda to talk about.

MADDOW:  A unified Democratic Party would certainly help with that, I suppose.  Richard Wolffe, thank you for joining us.  I really appreciate it.

WOLFFE:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.

Fresh headlines out of the White House regarding its rule in the “You‘re a Nazi appeaser” story.  Bush counselor, Ed Gillespie, claimed to reporters onboard Airforce One today that the White House did not anticipate the reaction of congressional leaders to the Knesset speech.  He called the reaction unjustified and unwarranted.  He says the reaction left him surprised and curious.

Here‘s where the phrase, hmm—comes to mind because since Monday, senior administration officials other than Mr. Gillespie had been previewing the language of Mr. Bush‘s speech by telling NBC News that eyebrows would be raised by specifically mentioning Senator Obama by name, even by predicting that our White House correspondent, John Yang would get on NIGHTLY NEWS with a story about Bush‘s remarks on Thursday night.

Joining us now: our own Jonathan Alter, also a senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Hi, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Ed Gillespie also challenged Speaker Pelosi and Senator Biden, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, to point to a sentence that they would say is reckless or outrageous.

Since he‘s asking—how about we start with the idea that Senator Obama or any other Democrat, has advocated giving Iran anything, in the hope that will satisfy their desires, which, of course is the—the definition of appeasement.  What if we start with the idea that there‘s no actual appeasement in this entire fight over appeasement?

ALTER:  Well, that‘s very true.  You know, and as we saw in this now famous exchange between Chris Matthews and this blowhard right wing radio talk show host, you know, a lot of people don‘t know what appeasement actually means.

So I think what they were trying to do here was just tar him with a broad brush.  And sort of name-call from the Knesset, which was rather distasteful on the 60th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel, but to try to inject themselves into domestic American politics from foreign soil, which has been done once in a while over the last 60 years.  It‘s basically been just frowned upon by Democrats and Republicans going back to the late 1940s when the idea of foreign policy disputes ending at the water‘s edge first emerged from Harry Truman and Senator Arthur Vandenberg.

So, this was a direct violation of 60 years of American foreign policy.  And it‘s interesting that they are backing and filling now.  The latest thing Ed Gillespie says was Jimmy Carter that they were aiming for because he, you know, supports talks with Hamas.  So at this point, the White House can‘t get its stories straight.

MADDOW:  It seems to me that one of the biggest risks to McCain‘s campaign on security issues is that the debate does get framed as Obama v.  Bush on Iran because Bush strengthened Iran‘s hand more than they could have ever done for themselves when he knocked off their secular Sunni rival next door by toppling Saddam Hussein.

Do you feel like this is a real risk for John McCain‘s campaign or is that too complex an idea to really sink in for presidential politics?

ALTER:  You know, I think it might be too complex of an idea.  The

McCain is applying the, you know, kiss strategy—keep it simple, stupid.  They‘re the bad guys.  We‘re the good guys.  Don‘t talk to the bad guys.

       

Obama has a little bit of a more difficult message to make.  I think it‘s one that there‘s more receptiveness to now than there was just a few years ago, which is that you have to talk to the bad guys, that that‘s what diplomacy is about.  And that it‘s easy to talk to the good guys.

What‘s tough is what, you know, everybody from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon with Mao Tse-tung did; Ronald Reagan with the evil empire.  You have to talk to your enemies.  And I do think that Obama can get that message across, but it‘s a lot harder to actually try to get into the nitty-gritty of Iranian/Iraqi politics.

MADDOW:  Although maybe simplifying it to we‘re not safer is—may be the shortcut to that.

One last question for you, Jon—One note on how the White House spin on Bush‘s comments - how the White House has spun it.  The White House in previewing the speech prepared the media to expect an attack on Obama.

ALTER:  Right.

MADDOW:  Either it was always going to be by merely alluding to him without using his name, or they dialed back from what they originally intended.  If they dialed back, does that maybe suggest some sort of collaboration with the McCain campaign, maybe cold feet?

ALTER:  You know, I don‘t think they were going to mention him by name.  In an occasion of that kind, you wouldn‘t actually single out somebody directly, but they might have dialed back the language a little bit.  Clearly, there was some kind of coordination here with McCain who leapt on this and, I think, now is wondering, was that really a smart thing to do because Obama executed a kind of Jujitsu.  He came back very tough today.  I think he scored on McCain.

MADDOW:  Visibly read the enthusiasm in Obama‘s body language to get into this fight.  Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine, also an MSNBC political analyst, thanks for joining us, Jon.

ALTER:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Senator McCain‘s speech today was possibly not the most shocking thing said at the NRA convention in Louisville.  That honor goes to former Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee, who responded to a sharp noise in the hall, maybe a chair that fell over by joking that perhaps something bad had happened to Senator Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, ® FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  But the reality is and I‘m worried because frankly within the - that was Barack Obama.  He just tripped off a chair.  He‘s getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Governor Huckabee realizing exactly how inappropriate his joke was, issuing a statement just moments ago in which he says, quote, “I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Senator Obama.  I apologize that my comments were offensive.  That was never my intention.”

The things John McCain is criticizing Obama for right now, engaging with our enemies, it turns out, Mr. Straighttalk himself advocated the U.S.  engaging with Hamas two years ago.

And is this a presidential way to show solidarity with the thousands of American men and women in harm‘s way in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Is this really better than playing golf?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  What a difference two years makes.  Senator McCain once suggested talking to Hamas.  It‘s exactly what he is criticizing Senator Obama for now.

And the new take on an old favorite: The producers side of the Bill O‘Reilly/”Inside Edition” meltdown.

It‘s all ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Senator McCain has another problem to deal with regarding his attacks on Obama, namely the fact that he, John McCain, has supported U.S. engagement with both Hamas and Syria.

In our fourth story tonight: Simplistic, jingoistic, fear-mongering presidential wannabe John McCain of today versus that “soft-on-terror, naive appeaser” John McCain of 2003 and 2006.

When Bush‘s Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2003, McCain said Assad was sponsoring and harboring terrorists and sending Syrians to fight Americans in Iraq.  And McCain said, quote, “It‘s very appropriate that Colin Powell is going to Syria.”  And when Newt Gingrich criticized the U.S. engaging in diplomacy with a terrorist supporting dictator, McCain implied that Newt Gingrich need therapy.

But, wait, there‘s more.  After the Bush administration marched freedom into Palestine, letting Hamas take power through the ‘06 elections there, McCain was asked whether the U.S. should talk with Hamas, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SKY NEWS/JAN. 6, 2006)

JAMIE RUBIN, REPORTER:  Do you think American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past in working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?

MCCAIN:  They are the government and sooner or later, we‘re going to have to deal with them in one way or another.  And I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas, is because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espouse but practice.  But it‘s a new reality in the Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  For the record, Barack Obama does not support negotiations with Hamas.

Let‘s bring in Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.  Good evening, Chris, thanks for joining us.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, who was that guy?  He had a pretty sophisticated nuanced view of foreign relations.

HAYES:  I know.  I mean, this is the question everyone has been asking themselves of where did that guy go and not just on an issue like this.  And he‘s actually - that what he said in 2006 is in some senses of not even in the spectrum of debate in this election 2008.  And it‘s not just on that issue, it‘s on almost every issue from opposing the Bush tax cuts to calling Pat Robinson and Jerry Falwell agents of intolerance before embracing.

There‘s a whole kind of greatest hits album you can put together of moments of sensibility from John McCain that he‘s just thrown off the boat as he‘s rowing as fast as he can into the arms of the right wing sector of the Republican Party.

MADDOW:  Well, Chris, which do you think that McCain at greater risk out here?  The perception that he is a flip-flopper, that he has changed his positions back and forth over time, or is he more at risk of the perception that he‘s just incoherent on a lot of stuff, including foreign policy, that he doesn‘t appear to have any guiding compass for his stance on America‘s place in the world and a lot of other policy matters?

HAYES:  Yes.  I mean, I think it‘s a tough call because flip-flopper is this kind of operating concept that we have in American presidential politics.  I would say it‘s probably going to be that in many cases.  But in some senses, right - I mean, the whole thing that he‘s built his reputation on is just sort of integrity and if you look at his positions and compare them now to what they were in the past, you have two options.

Either he believes now what he says he believes and those beliefs are in direct contradiction to a vast majority of the American electorate or he‘s just essentially pandering and he shamelessly adopting views he doesn‘t hold which cuts against the rationale of the sort of maverick John McCain who has such integrity he‘s willing to champion unpopular views.

MADDOW:  My sense is that there was a time when the unilateral “go it alone, with us or against us,” Bush v. world stance was actually political advantageous to Republicans for a while.  I don‘t think that‘s true anymore, particularly after the GOP got their clock cleaned in ‘06.  Richard Wolffe was talking about this a little earlier on the show.

Is McCain, do you think, emulating a Bush image that‘s time has passed or could this sort of stance on this appeasement issue, on this “don‘t talk to anybody” issue, is this still something that could have some political potency for the GOP this year?

HAYES:  You know, I think there‘s still this (ph) potency and I would never sort of underestimate the power of fear in any kind of political campaign.  But what we‘re seeing in the last few days, which is really remarkable, are the diminished returns of that.

In fact, we‘re seeing McCain play defense on foreign policy.  He was so panic about the “100 years” comment that he had to rush himself out and actually reduce that by 95 percent and say—oh, we‘re going to get out in five years.  I mean, you know, if we give him a little more time, maybe he‘ll be down three months.

You know, the point is that we haven‘t seen this in the last eight years.  We haven‘t seen Republicans running away from this sort of cowboy image because they found it so politically beneficial to don that mantel.  And I think we‘re beginning to see a sea change in the electorate right now.

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine. 

Thanks for your time tonight.  I appreciate it.

HAYES:  Thanks a lot, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Still ahead—no, this is not the latest tool to torture prisoners at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.  It‘s a supportive device.

And: A new look on what really went down between Bill O‘Reilly and his producer on “Inside Edition.”  Those stories ahead.

But first: The headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, as Keith would say much better than I can—Bushed.

Number three: Mercenary justice-gate.  The Justice Department had a team in Baghdad this week, investigating the killing of an Iraqi guard there by a Blackwater contractor.  And while the finding that we may have jurisdiction to bring charges in this case comes as good news, it also comes a little late.  The shooting occurred on Christmas Eve 2006.  What‘s that they always say about justice delayed?

Number two: View the scenery while you can-gate.  The Bush Environmental, quote, “Protection Agency” is finalizing rule changes that would make it easier to build new power plants near places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where visibility is already down to 15 miles from 75 because of pollution.  Opposition is coming not just from environmental groups.  The rank and file of both the national park service and the EPA itself oppose the new rules, predicting, quote, “significant degradation of air quality of our national parks.”

And number one: Why does he hate America?-gate.  More than six years after 9/11, five years after invading Iraq, what kind of un-American kumitsu (ph) would imply that the Bush administration is not fully committed to getting the terrorists?  That it values defense contractors above U.S. troops?

That would be—U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates.  Saying yesterday, quote, “We must put our defense bureaucracies on a war footing with a wartime sense of urgency.”

Gates says our troops did not get all the million-dollar bomb-resistant vehicles they needed, for example, because new vehicles could, quote, “potentially compete with other longer term procurement priorities.”  Contractors get what they need no matter the cost to the troops—as Keith says, “The real reason the government wanted a war in Iraq was maybe just to have a war in Iraq.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

       

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I‘m Rachel Maddow.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.  But in his stead, we remind you that on this date, the Senate actually came close to impeaching a president who was accused of ignoring and antagonizing Congress while seeking to expand his own powers.  That was on May 16th, this date, back in 1868.  The president?  Andrew Jackson.  Mmm.  Remember accountability?  On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Tokyo, Japan with the latest in innovative lingerie.  A solar powered bra.  With enough energy to power a cell phone or an iPod.  Of course, to actually charge the thing you have to wander around wearing nothing but the bra.  And it can never be washed because water would short out the sensitive brassiere electrics.  And if you are wearing it in the rain, yes, you could get electrocuted.  But apart from that, it‘s a marvel of modern engineering.

To Detroit, Michigan, now where automation continues to rob hard working people of their jobs.  Meet Asimo, the Honda robot.  For the first time ever, a robot will lead the Detroit City Orchestra featuring the world renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma who will presumably be under the impression this is just a big awkward wristwatch.  Tonight‘s selection, let‘s listen.

Yeah, nobody saw that coming.  Still ahead—if you are going to go on live television and regurgitate right wing talking points about “appeasement,” make sure you actually know what that word means before you do it.  Chris Matthews will be joining us.

And is this showing solidarity with the troops?  Those stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World.”

Number three—best night of sleep, finally.  David and Shannon Lamb, parents of three-year-old Rex who suffers from a deformity which applies pressure on his spinal stem preventing the tyke from sleeping more than an hour or so per day.

After having pieces of his spine and skull removed during experimental surgery this week, Rex slept through the night for the first time ever.  His parents were unavailable for comment.  They were last heard snoring and whacking at the snooze alarm with a ball peen hammer.

Number two, best reason not to scratch that itch.  Jorge Espinal of Ft.  Worth, Texas, unable to reach the irritated spot on his back.  Espinal did what anyone would have.  He tried to get a few extra inches of reach with the help of his loaded revolver.  Reaching a little too far, he, yes, shot himself in the back.

He was treated and released with non-life threatening injuries.

And number one, best example of a ballplayer willing to do anything for the team.  New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi telling portfolio.com when he needs to break free from a prolonged hit list streak he wears a gold lame tiger striped thong under his uniform.  He‘s even loaned out his slump busting unmentionables to teammates Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon.  All of them wore it and got hits said Giambi, adding, “The thong works every time.”

No word if wearing the matching bustier helps prevent fielding errors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  A cautionary tale now for pundits and commentators, particularly those of the defend the president right or wrong variety.

If the president says something that you plan on defending, it will not always be enough to simply repeat what the president said at a higher volume and with the emphasis on different syllables.

If you are going to defend the president‘s political attacks make sure you have a vague grasp what they mean.  If there‘s a reference to a historical event, for example, look it up.  Try the Google.  Or an old-fangled history book maybe.  Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN, a talking point re-launched by President Bush ill understood by at least one of his defenders and challenged simply on the facts.

It happened when a guest on HARDBALL, Los Angeles radio host Kevin James, tried to parrot what President Bush said before the Israeli Parliament.  That possible negotiations with Iran were tantamount to Neville Chamberlain‘s appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the run-up to World War II.  The host, our colleague, Chris Matthews asked one simple question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Let me ask you, what did Chamberlain do wrong, Neville Chamberlain do wrong in 1939?  What did he do wrong?

KEVIN JAMES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  It all goes back to appeasement.

MATTHEWS:  No, what did he do.  Tell me what he did.

JAMES:  It‘s the key term.

MATTHEWS:  You have to answer this question.  What did he do?

JAMES:  It‘s the same thing.  It puts it all .

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me what he did.  What did Chamberlain do wrong?

JAMES:  His actions enabled, energized, legitimized .

MATTHEWS:  What did Chamberlain do?  No, stop.  Kevin .

JAMES:  It‘s the exact same .

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not going to continue unless you answer what that thing is. 

What did chamberlain do in ‘39?  Tell me.

JAMES:  Chris, it‘s the exact same thing .

MATTHEWS:  Or ‘38.  What did he do?  What did he do?

JAMES:  ‘38, ‘39, Chris, what year do you want?

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  It‘s the exact same thing that happened, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  What did Chamberlain .

JAMES:  He‘s talking about appeasement.

MATTHEWS:  What did Chamberlain do?  Just tell me what he did, Kevin?  What did Chamberlain do? that you didn‘t like?

JAMES:  Look.

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  What Chamberlain did—What the president was talking about.  You just heard the president was talking about, you just said the president was talking about Barack.

MATTHEWS:  I want you to tell me, mister.  You are making a reference to the days before our involvement in World War II when the war in Europe began.  Tell me now as an expert what did chamberlain do wrong?

JAMES:  You‘re not going to box me in here, Chris.  President Bush was making that .

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know, do you?  You don‘t know what Neville Chamberlain did.

JAMES:  Of course, what Neville Chamberlain—He was an appeaser, Chris. 

He was an appeaser and it energized and it legitimized—

MATTHEWS:  Kevin James - OK, we‘re done sitting here for five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich.

JAMES:  I don‘t know what the .

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know.  Thank you.

We‘re talking to people with blank slates in terms of history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What President Bush and Kevin apparently are interested in .

JAMES:  Wait a minute, Chris—What do you mean a blank slate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Let‘s bring in the host of HARDBALL, Chris Matthews.  Hi, Chris, thanks for joining us.

MATTHEWS:  Rachel, hi.  How are you tonight?

MADDOW:  Great.  Amazingly, what we saw was only part of the exchange with Kevin James.  And you never really did get an answer to your question to him, did you?

MATTHEWS:  Well, two dozen times I asked him what he was talking about and he couldn‘t tell me.  I mean, these words, like, you know, appeasement and Munich and sellout and cut and run.  You‘ve got to be real careful about the historic references.  You can‘t just say things.

And the problem with the ‘30s was not talking to the enemy.  It was giving away countries.  Giving away Czechoslovakia.  Ultimately having to fight after the polish invasion.  I mean it was serious business.  And, you know, information isn‘t bad.  Talking isn‘t bad.  In fact, I wish everybody had read “Mein Kampf” a long time before that war.  They would have been able to move faster.

MADDOW:  The thing that is important here is not just that you had a guest that didn‘t know the historical reference he was parroting.  He had obviously either been told to say or thought to was supposed to say.  There‘s a real substantive problem with appeasement being this buzz word being thrown around without anybody interrogate what appeasement really means.  It‘s become this summary for talking to our enemies, right?  That‘s what you were getting at in trying to get a ...

MATTHEWS:  The whole mind-set of the last several years, let‘s put it that way, since 2000, has been to shut up critics.  If you don‘t like a war policy you get branded with a name.  You are unpatriotic.  You are a cut and runner, you are an appeaser.  You can‘t argue politics in America anymore.  You can‘t question power.  Because if you question it, you‘re going to be drummed out of acceptable society.  You are going to be called an appeaser.

These magic words are used for one purpose, to shut you up, so that they can proceed with the policy.  And I think that‘s a real problem.  I just was at Washington U. today, Rachel, and I made the point that in a society like ours, arguing over policy, arguing over what our role should be in the world shouldn‘t be unpatriotic or seen as unpatriotic.  And many—most cases should be seen as the essence of patriotism.  Giving a damn about our policy, what it ought to be, arguing, standing up and having a real debate.  We didn‘t have that when we went to war in Iraq.  Some, it‘s the media‘s fault.  People were intimidated in challenging this president and his war policy.  And I think we‘re better off with a hot debate, I think.

MADDOW:  Do you think that this is something new?  Do you think that this is something specific to our current contemporaneous politics that we‘ve got these buzzwords and bumper sticker slogans, whether it‘s appeasement or fighting over there so we don‘t fight them here or they hate our freedom.  Any of these terms.  Are they designed to be repeated and not to be interrogated?

MATTHEWS:  Well, just look at the way people are basically exterminated or tried to be exterminated.  Bill Maher makes a comment which may not have been the right comment, but he was making a point he was trying to make about stand back weaponry compared to people killing themselves.  You can argue about the niceties of that.  The Dixie Chicks say something about the war and they shouldn‘t have said it overseas, but they said it.

The shutting up of opposition is critical to running a country in an undemocratic way.  Let‘s put it that way.  So you have buzzwords like appeasers or cut and run and they are used over and over again by the most mindless people.  The trouble with them is they tend to work.  The dittoheads can use them.  Anybody can use them and they seem to have the same effect.  They cause people to run from criticism.

MADDOW:  I think it‘s not only used as a slur, it‘s also part of the way they advance the agenda.  Part of the way politicians now talk about things they want is through slogans that don‘t necessarily make sense.  And maybe that‘s always been true in American politics.  But when it‘s about war it feels almost criminal to me.  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  The use of the word WMD, we never heard that phrase, that became a huge phrase in the early part of the decade.  WMD because it conflated the idea of the fact that they had chemical and biological weaponry with the idea they had nuclear weaponry.  They didn‘t have to say nuclear anymore, just WMD.  You can say terrorist conflated what happened to us on 9/11 with the countries we don‘t like like Saddam Hussein.  Conflating terms all the time.

That‘s another trick of this language.  I‘m not really happy with phrases like “homeland security.”  Is there anywhere else we‘d protect beside our homeland?  What‘s wrong with just national defense?  Oh, because homeland refers to just part of the area we‘re defending.  I get it.

MADDOW:  Yeah.

MATTHEWS:  Some of this language is very foreign.  And I think it‘s used for bad purposes.  But we know that.

MADDOW:  Double talk.

MATTHEWS:  We know that.

MADDOW:  Chris Matthews .

MATTHEWS:  It‘s to shut people up.

MADDOW:  Chris Matthews, host of HARBDALL, thanks for taking time .

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  It‘s great to be on, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

Still ahead, a behind the scenes look at what really went down on the set of “Inside Edition” and he didn‘t even give up golf to support the troops.  At least not when he claims he did.  So what else has the president not been not doing?  That‘s ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  First, a quick correction.  In the introduction to “Oddball,” I said Andrew Jackson was nearly impeached.  It, of course, was Andrew Johnson.  D‘oh.

Up next, behind the scenes at Bill O‘Reilly‘s meltdown on “Inside Edition.”

And he says he gave up golf for the troops, except he didn‘t.  But what else has President Bush been doing for the past five years to honor their sacrifice?  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Turning with enthusiasm now to our nightly round-up of celebrity and tabloid news.  Thanks to the folks at barelypolitical.com, we have our first ever look at the producer on the other end of Bill O‘Reilly‘s outburst on “Inside Edition.”  Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  That‘s tomorrow.  And that is it for us today. 

OK.  I don‘t know .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just read it, Bill.

O‘REILLY:  Whatever it is it‘s not right on the teleprompter.  I don‘t know what that is.  I‘ve never seen that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know you haven‘t seen it because you have the IQ of a turnip, you hapless guerrilla.  Just read it.

O‘REILLY:  I can‘t read it.  There‘s no words on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The words are right here.  What‘s the matter with you?  Are you blind as well as stupid?  How can someone have a head that large without anything in it?  It is it just fluid up there?  And what are you doing with that hair?  Do you just blow dry your scalp until it resembles a coconut?  Is that what you were going for?

O‘REILLY:  There‘s no words there, “to play us out.”  What does that mean, “to play us out”?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you ever read “Flowers for Algernon.”  You remind me of the guy in that story before he got smarter.  You remind me of Lenny from “Mice and Men” because I think I should take you outside and shoot you before someone else has to kill you for being so stupid.

O‘REILLY:  I don‘t know what that means.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It means you are so dumb you‘re practically inhuman. 

You are like a baboon but less clever.

O‘REILLY:  What does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I hate you so much.

O‘REILLY:  All right, go.  Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t yell at me.  I‘ll bounce this off that half deflated basketball you call a face.

O‘REILLY:  That is tomorrow and that is .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Screw this up again pal, and we‘ll send you over to Fox News.

O‘REILLY:  That is tomorrow and that is it for today.  And we‘ll leave you with a—I can‘t do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are mentally handicapped.

O‘REILLY:  We‘ll do it live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can‘t even get it right after five takes.  Why would I agree do it live?

O‘REILLY:  We‘ll do it live.  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.  We‘re not going to do it live.

O‘REILLY:  We‘ll do it live.  I‘ll write it and we‘ll do it live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How are you going to write it?  You can‘t even read it. 

You troglodyte homunculus.  Last chance in five, four, three .

O‘REILLY:  That‘s tomorrow and that is it for us today.  I‘m Bill O‘Reilly.  Thanks again for watching.  We‘ll leave you with Sting and a cut off his new album.  Take it away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You want to—Let‘s do this.  Let‘s do this.  Come on!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  He says he gave up golf to show solidarity with our soldiers.  Except he didn‘t.  Neither did he give up other things he loves, like making videos with his dog.  Our men and women in uniform must expect nothing less.

We‘ll take a look at what else Mr. Bush failed to give up after invading Iraq, next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  If we had a choice as a country for our president to give up golf for the war or to give up war but keep golfing, I can guess what most Americans would suggest.  But our president himself has volunteered that he chose to give up golf, to make that sacrifice to show his solidarity with military families and troops killed in Iraq.  Quoting the president, “I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

So in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, what sends the right signal, Mr. President?  First, a reminder that Bush did, in fact, play golf on October 13th, 2003, Columbus Day that year.  Even though he says he had supposedly stopped about two months earlier.

And what of the president‘s other pastimes?  Like mountain biking?  Does that send the wrong signal during a war?  Well, the president does need his exercise.

But what about bass fishing?  Or throwing out the first baseball pitch? 

Wrong signal there?  No?

Well, how about the dancing?  This president enjoys the dancing on foreign soil as well as here at home.  He has even tap-danced at the White House.  Just a couple of months ago.  Did any of that send the wrong signal as the war entered the sixth year?  Not to mention Bush hamming it up at the White House Correspondents‘ Dinner.  Every year.  Even joking about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction.  No wrong signal there, Mr.  President?

Let‘s bring in comedian Paul Mecurio who will be forming this weekend at the punchline in San Francisco.  Hi, Paul.

PAUL MECURIO, COMEDIAN:  Hi, Rachel.  Nice to see you.

MADDOW:  Nice to see you, too.  Let‘s dispense with the Bush golfing claim first.  He says he gave up golf to honor the troops.  We know of at least one occasion where he golfed even after he said he had given it up.  Do you think the president was confused?  Was there some other explanation?

MECURIO:  No, I think he was carrying out his duty.  He had information from the CIA, very good information, that there were weapons of mass destruction on the 17th fairway and he was going to find them.

MADDOW:  We have detailed the many other leisure activities which the president did not sacrifice.

MECURIO:  But, listen, can I just tell you, I think we are being too hard on him.  He is really, really—he‘s, you know, he—it was that one time he never went back to the golf course because his people didn‘t want to have him seen on the golf course.  They didn‘t want Bush seeing that image all over the news in a—stuck in a sand trap swinging wildly at a ball, digging himself in deeper and deeper.

And then you know in the end he‘d just leave the ball there for somebody else to deal with.

MADDOW:  Yeah, he also doesn‘t like to take a birdie because that sounds wussy and he doesn‘t like to take a mulligan because that sounds foreign.  He only takes eagles.

MECURIO:  Right.  Right.  Exactly.

MADDOW:  The many other leisure activities which the president didn‘t sacrifice is kind of legion—do you think there‘s any rhyme or reason why he supposedly gave up golf but not fishing or mountain biking or making videos with Barney?

MECURIO:  Listen, I can‘t make any sense of this.  This is not the George Bush I know.  George Bush unilaterally gave up golf.  He went from putting and driving to cutting and running.  That‘s not the George Bush I know.

But listen, I think we‘re too hard on this guy.  This guy has given up more than golf for the war.  He has given up a lot of things.  He‘s given up Republican control of Congress, Social Security reform and approval of 70 percent of the country.

MADDOW:  The dancing alone requires maybe some focus.  The president is pretty much danced all over the place.

MECURIO:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  Portico of the White House.  Do you think this is his version like of a nervous tick?

MECURIO:  Well, it could be.  I still think we‘re hard on him about the dancing or whatever.  What have we given up as a country as average citizens?  What have we given up?  Habeas corpus, you know, so what?  I don‘t think it‘s a nervous tick.  I think he‘s a very good dancer.  Look at his history while he‘s been in power.  He‘s danced around the definition of torture.  He‘s danced around the reasons for going into Iraq.  He‘s danced around the English language.  This guy is on his way to “Dancing with the Stars.”

MADDOW:  One last question, Paul.  For a president that wants to avoid sending the wrong signal during war, there are these other matters.  He‘s even made jokes about not finding weapons of mass destruction.  Do you think he misunderstands the concept of comic relief?

MECURIO:  You know, unfortunately I think he does.  He doesn‘t understand how funny she when he speaks because he laughs in all the wrong places.  And I understand why.  It‘s not his fault.  There‘s a signal that goes between his brain and head.  His mouth and brain are on a satellite delay.  And sometimes that signal gets interrupted by an episode of “Spongebob Squarepants.”

MADDOW:  Paul Mecurio performing at the Punchline in San Francisco this weekend, thanks for your time tonight.  That‘s it for this edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Rachel Maddow.  You can catch me on Air America, 6:00 Eastern weekdays.  Keith is back on Monday.  Good night.

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

END   

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