updated 5/20/2008 2:27:51 PM ET 2008-05-20T18:27:51

Guest: Howard Fineman, Rachel Maddow, Jonathan Alter

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

On the eve of Kentucky and Oregon: Amid rumors of solidarity and Al Gore-brokered joint events with Clinton and Obama fundraisers—forget the rumors of solidarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When one of TV networks released an analysis done by—of all people—Karl Rove, saying that I was the stronger candidate.  Somebody got a hold of his analysis and there it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, the correct answer was: Karl Rove, blank you and blank the analysis horse you rode in on.

The superdelegate scoreboard: Obama 10, Clinton three over the weekend as of supper time.  Obama has included Federico Pena, President Clinton’s secretary of transportation, then secretary of energy.

Obama, using his energy on playing nice in Portland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Clinton and I have had a terrific contest.  And she has been a formidable candidate.  She has been smart and tough and determined and she has worked as hard as she can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain in bed with lobbyists, metaphorically speaking, with the fifth time a McCain campaign honcho quits after his lobbying firm was identified has been taking $15 million from Saudi Arabia after 9/11.

Mr. Bush backpedals, won’t say his criticism at the Knesset were meant for Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  My policies haven’t changed. 

But evidently, the political calendar has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The White House howls over that interview by Richard Engel with the president because NBC doesn’t run the president’s full answer.  So we’ll run his full answer.

A special comment postscript: When I mentioned “cold-blooded killers” as mercenaries in Iraq, why does the far right automatically assume I mean U.S. troops rather than say, our leaders or the Blackwater mercenaries?

And: The curse of the Yankee Stadium.  Remember the Boston uniform buried by a Red Sox fan and cement mason, the one who had to dig out of the new stadium’s floor?  We learn exclusively tonight the same guy buried another Red Sox artifact in the same cement.  Gentlemen, start your jack hammers.

All of that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Monday, May 19th, 169 days until the 2008 presidential election, only hours to go until the Oregon and Kentucky primaries.

If you support or supported Senator Hillary Clinton, you may have blanched when she implied back in New Hampshire, in a very Republican fashion, that her challenger was not ready to lead on day one.  You may have reeled when she claimed FOX News had treated her fairly while it was still insisting she might be a murderer.  You may have staggered when her husband appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.  You may have keeled over when she accepted the endorsement of the bankroll of the vast right wing conspiracy Richard Mellon-Scaife.

Well, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight:  Hold on to your dinner.  Senator Clinton has now embraced the number-crunching of the man who once said, “You’re entitled to your math and I’m entitled to the math.”  She has, today, accepted the fruit of the abacus of Karl Christian Rove.

Senator Clinton telling voters in eastern Kentucky today that, quote, “there is no way this is going to end any time soon,” citing a manufactured lead in the popular vote, the spectacular claim that, quote, “more people have voted for me than anybody who’s ever run for president before.”  Her campaign later clarified, she meant more Democrats, still the math is fuzzy, and the analysis of a very unlikely ally and perhaps ultimately, an unwanted one, to argue that she is the best candidate to take on John McCain in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  There’d been a lot of analysis about which of us is stronger to win against Senator McCain.  And I believe I am the stronger candidate.  And just today, I found some curious support for that position when one of the TV networks released an analysis done by—of all people—Karl Rove, saying that I was the stronger candidate.  Somebody got a hold of his analysis and there it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There it is, looking exactly like a Turdblossom.  If the senator’s argument is aimed at superdelegates, somebody forgetting to tell the superdelegates, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia today, endorsing Obama even though the senior statesman’s beloved home state gave Senator Clinton that 41 point blowout victory last week.  Since West Virginia, the superdelegate tally: Obama 22.5, Clinton 4 making totals 302.5 to 279.5.  In overall delegates: Obama 1,904.5 to 1,723.5 for Clinton.

On the campaign trail today in Montana, Senator Obama keeping his attacks focused solely on the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator McCain.  In a massive rally last night in Portland, some estimates putting the crowd as high as 80,000.  The Illinois Democrat also having mentioned Karl Rove, but perhaps not in the way that Senator Clinton might have hoped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  You saw George Bush go to Israel on the 60th anniversary and suggest that those of us who believe in direct diplomacy are somehow appeasers, comparing us to those who appeased Hitler.  That’s the kind of fear mongering that we’ve got to put to an end.  That’s not making us safer, that’s for domestic political consumption.

Well, the world is too dangerous for us to be engaging in that kind of nonsense and John McCain, he has been echoing what George Bush has to say.  We don’t need anymore of that Karl Rove politics.  We need a different kind of politics if we’re going to keep America safe.

I will hunt down bin Laden and the terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans but I’m also going to worry about nuclear proliferation and reduce nuclear stock piles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to bring in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Jon Alter and I are going to talk about this at length in a moment, but in a brief fashion here, Hillary Clinton quotes Karl Rove’s math—seriously, Karl Rove.

FINEMAN:  Well, the two of them, that is Karl Rove and Hillary Clinton, have a similar purpose right now, which is to keep the Democratic race going as long as it’s plausible to take it.  The Republicans are now working for weeks to divide it.  John McCain himself joked about it on “Saturday Night Live” but he wasn’t kidding, “Let them fight all the way past November.”  I mean, that’s the strategy.  So, that’s Rove’s intent and that’s Hillary’s purpose right now.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the senator said today that there is no way this is going to end any time soon.  The last vote June 3rd, is that not soon, or did we just get our first sort of tangible hint that the intention at the moment any way is to go beyond June 3rd in terms of the nomination fight?

FINEMAN:  Keith, I spent a lot of time talking to somebody who is very close to Bill and Hillary Clinton, who’s been in the room with them a lot over the last few weeks.  And this person said to me, “Look, this is not a matter of math right now, this is a matter of psychology.”  This is a matter of figuring out how and when Hillary Clinton is going to climb down out of this effort.

You can see that she is working herself horse.  I was down in Kentucky, I didn’t mean a pun by that, she’s working down in Kentucky, I was down there in the last few days—it’s awesome the way she is working right now.  To what end, it’s not clear.  They’re going to take their case to the rules committee.  I don’t know how much farther beyond that they’re going to go.  This is a matter of Hillary psychology and Bill’s right now.

OLBERMANN:  So, to some degree, is this pre-spin for tomorrow night if Obama says after Oregon - look, I’ve locked up the delegate math now, what are you going to do about it?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think that’s partly what it is.  She’s going to be, as a matter a fact, in Louisville tomorrow night.  They’ve made plans for Bill Clinton to be there, for Chelsea to be there, they’ve got a big rally, a victory rally slated for downtown Louisville because she’s going to do well there.

But again, how close to a last hoorah this is in a situation where the math and rules are against her, it’s hard to know.  When Barack Obama gets in front of 75,000 people and essentially refers to Hillary in the past tense, it’s just so galling for the Clintons, they can’t stand it because these really are “until the last dog dies” campaigners.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  If they’re already spinning, let’s try to de-spin in advance.  Are we expecting what the headlines have been all along if these are going to be two pretty clear cut victories, hers in Kentucky and his in Oregon?

FINEMAN:  I think so and I think Oregon’s significance is that Obama is probably going to do well among all constituencies, including the now famous working class whites under 50,000 - because in states like Oregon and Idaho and others where there, frankly, isn’t a lot of competition for jobs from minority groups, at least from African-Americans, that’s less of a problem as Obama has shown in primaries.

And having been in Kentucky, I can tell you that she’s not going to win by the 41-point margin that she won in West Virginia because, I think, Obama has a good chance to win Louisville and the surrounding county.  But I think Hillary is still going to have a comfortable victory there and it allow here for maybe the second to last time, because Puerto Rico should be a victory, to stand in front of a Democratic crowd and say, “I am the winner.”  That’s what we’re dealing with here, Keith.  Life ain’t fair and it’s not going to be fair to her this time and say that it’s got to dawn on her at some point.

OLBERMANN:  Is it even more cruel than tomorrow night because the Kentucky thing will come in so early and Oregon is likely to come in in the middle of the night—so, everybody will go to bed on perhaps tomorrow, except us, saying—boy, this is a big night for her in Kentucky, and then by morning will be—well at best it was a push?

FINEMAN:  Well, that’s why - that’s why Barack Obama has scheduled a victory rally of his own in Des Moines, Iowa which will be coming in maybe ahead of the Oregon results.  So, what we’re going to be watching tomorrow night is Hillary in a sort of semi-last hurrah in the Blue Grass State, a hard-earned victory there.

And then Obama saying—look, here’s where we began this mission, this crusade in Des Moines, Iowa and this is where we’re going to claim a version of victory in terms of pledged delegates.

Now, that’s not the whole ball game.  But in talking to the Clinton people, I’m not sure how far into the summer they really want to fight this thing.  They don’t, but the question is what Hillary and Bill what to do.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we know this much.  She’s already set that record for last hoorahs.

FINEMAN:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And for more on the nexus of the Clinton candidacy and Karl Rove.  We’ll turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Hello, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton citing Mr. Rove’s electability analysis while she was in Kentucky today, President Clinton cited Rove’s so-called research in Oregon over the weekend.  At what point does somebody who’s been endorsed by Richard Mellon-Scaife,, who compliments FOX News, and who touts Karl Rove’s math ability, actually cease to be a Democrat any more?

ALTER:  Well, I think that this is mostly just amusing to the ears of Democrats.  It’s kind of like saying, -- well, Attila the Hun likes my chances, you know, Richard Nixon likes my chances.

Remember, we’re talking here about a Democratic primary and Karl Rove is at the very top of their demonology.  So, the idea that, you know, that somehow he’s a credible source for how this thing is going to go, most Democrats are assuming that Karl Rove is not telling the truth, you know, that he’s got some ulterior motive for whatever his agenda is.

Now, I’m not saying that’s necessarily true.  It may be that Rove’s analysis is perfectly respectable.  But it’s certainly not a credible one for Democrats.  And actually, if you look at most of the analyses, the kind of all over the lot, you can make a case that Hillary would be a stronger general election candidate because of her strength relative to Obama in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

You can also make a case that Obama puts states into play that Hillary wouldn’t, like Colorado and Virginia and can do just fine in holding Ohio and Pennsylvania.  So, there’s a lot of ways to slice this is salami.  Karl Rove’s is not the definitive one.

OLBERMANN:  But, let’s take Senator Clinton’s position here, given him the benefit of the doubt.  There something else in this which the quote, “You are entitled to your math and I’m entitled to the math,” that was to NPR in the weeks before the ‘06 midterms and his math was all wrong.  He flunked math.  Why quote him when he was so—never mind whether he is lying—he’s wrong?

ALTER:  Yes.  Well also, I mean, this is the main political adviser to the least popular president in modern history, maybe of all time since they didn’t have polling in the old days.  So, this is a guy who, you know, used to be thought of as a political genius.

Hillary is kind of operating on 2004 time by citing Rove as some kind of political expert because his judgment has been horrendous.

His advice to President Bush has been horrendous.  Historians will be very, very harsh about his political judgment other than getting through the 2004 election instead of creating a new Republican majority all but destroyed the Republican Party.

OLBERMANN:  Before this Rove stuff broke today, there had been a lot of things in the wind that suggested the Democratic Party, including Senator Clinton, was working towards unity.  TalkingPointsMemo.com had this story that Al Gore was set to do a major fundraiser, uniting Obama and Clinton donors at the end of the month.  There’d been that humor about Howard Dean meeting with big fundraisers from both camps about a month ago.  Over the weekend, they were both - the candidates were pretty much praising each other.

In light of that, is this an aberration, should we wait until

Wednesday, aftermath Oregon and Kentucky to decide or where are we in terms of sort of smoothing over the waters?

ALTER:  Those stories are all true.  This thing behind the scenes is winding down.  When you see Clinton supporters, they tend to be, you know, big players.  They tend to be kind of sad about the whole thing, sad for the Clintons.  But they’re still in reality land and want to give the Clintons a chance to kind of process their feelings.

It’s very, very hard to lose and I think on some level, you can give

Hillary a break on this kind of thing, this kind of comment today saying

that she’s won the popular vote, which is not true.  These kinds of things

because it is so hard to lose.  She’s tired and many in ways, she’s run a campaign full of grit.

OLBERMANN:  I guess it’s seven words—you’re down to relying on Karl Rove, maybe that you need to process, maybe that’s the answer right there.

Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, Jon, thanks.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Our weekly reminder, votes in Kentucky and Oregon get counted tomorrow.  Chris Matthews and I begin our coverage here on MSNBC at 6:00 Eastern and 3:00 Pacific and it’s 100 percent Rove-free.

John McCain’s campaign now is 3 percent lobbyist-free after yet another key staffer resigns.

It turns out the construction worker who buried a Boston Red Sox uniform in the cement of the new Yankee Stadium claims to have buried at least one more Red Sox artifact there.

And a special comment postscript.  If I refer to cold-blooded killers working for George Bush, why would those in the lunatic fringe immediately think of American soldiers, instead of say, Blackwater mercenaries or villains in the cabinet?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain’s lead fundraisers forced to resign from the campaign.  He’s a lobbyist, he’s company got $15 million from the Saudis.

Worst Persons: Oliver North blasts somebody else for proposing that we deal with Iran.  Oliver North and Iran?

And the concrete answer: It turns out the Red Sox jersey buried in the Yankees new stadium may not be the only thing the Boston fan hid in the cement.  A COUNTDOWN exclusive: We did a little digging.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If John McCain were, say, an African-American Democrat named John Hussein McCain, the story today would not be that his campaign is run by lobbyists, but which countries have paid the salaries that make his campaign possible.

In our fourth story tonight: McCain has now purged at least four lobbyists, including foreign agents from his campaign, after their activities were publicly revealed.

Topping the list: Lead McCain fundraiser, Tom Loeffler, a registered foreign agent, who’s company made almost $15 million from Saudi Arabia and helped the European airplane maker get a Pentagon contract after McCain helped to kill a Boeing contract.

Also gone, convention chief, Doug Goodyear, a lobbyist, to help Myanmar regime’s while the Myanmar regime denounced American falsehoods, as he can tell them.

Doug Davenport, a regional manager for McCain is also gone, he also took that regime’s money and McCain energy policy adviser, Eric Burgeson, gone after we learned his works as a lobbyist for, surprisingly enough, energy companies.

Today, McCain’s top adviser, Charlie Black, called the uproar, “complete inside the beltway nonsense.”  Black himself was a lobbyist up until this March.  He did some of his lobbying by phone, for a literally on board the “straight talk express,” that’s why they call it straight talk.  His client list included, in order of repulsive to disgusting, Ferdinand Marcos; Mobutu Sese Seko, Angolan terrorist, Jonas Savimbi, Somali warlord, Mohammed Sayed Bakri (ph), Nigerian dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, and Iraq warmonger Ahmad Chalabi and of course, the friends of Blackwater.

By the calculations of the government watchdog group, Public Citizen, McCain only has 54 remaining lobbyists left in his campaign.

Let us turn to MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow, also a host of her program on weeknights on Air America Radio, and also not a paid lobbyist for anybody.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Although I do like Amtrak, they don’t pay me.  I’d just like them.  I’m in this thing for Amtrak.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Thank you, Rachel.  Thanks for stopping by.

MADDOW:  I also like George Clooney.  He doesn’t pay me.

OLBERMANN:  We have a very high threshold, ethnically here, so you’re out.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  If you’re a Democrat running for president at the top fundraiser for you had $15 million in his companies coffers from Saudis after 9/11, wouldn’t you no longer be the Democratic candidate, wouldn’t they be reconvening and saying—let’s get some other guy in here.

MADDOW:  Even if you hadn’t been a candidate who had made years worth of political hay out of how separate you were from the special interests, and how independent you were, and how you were going to be the person who was really going to change the way that things were done in Washington and that you were the one who’s willing to stare down lobbyists so you could really get change.

Even if you didn’t have that sort of political record of hay-making that John McCain has, you would think that those kinds of associations would have inspired a desire for House cleaning before it became apparent that that campaign was ready for primetime.

OLBERMANN:  These lobbyists helped to resurrect McCain from that, you know, that great American story of him checking his own bag, and carrying his own suitcase, and flying coach and flying in the middle, you know, sitting in the aisle when there wasn’t a seat available, at the low point, that aide there of the campaign, and some of them worked for him without any pay.  So now, the three words occur to me now—quid pro quo.  Is that what we’re dealing with?

MADDOW:  Well, I mean, if you—if you compare that question to the manufactured political uproar over Barack Obama’s suggestion that the American people would be served by having a government that would talk to and engage with our adversaries, compare that manufactured uproar to the idea that agents of foreign countries should run the campaign of a presidential nominee, that you would literally have the chief strategist for a major party’s presidential nominee be on the payroll, up until five minutes ago, of Somali war lords, on being paid by those dictators and by those types of interests to pursue their interests with the American government.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Hi, I used to work for Ferdinand Marcos; now, I work for John McCain.  The astonishment with which the McCain camp greets news of these disasters and interest in it as if nobody could ever know or nobody would ever care.  Is this tone deafness, would it be beautiful in another contest?

MADDOW:  Maybe there’s a way to come up with this fictionally that it makes some sense.  I mean, there is an extent to which if you are John McCain, sort of older Arizona senator, elder statesman, perpetual presidential candidate and you’re - if that’s the kind of the level of your political ambition, your political achievement—maybe your constant assertions that the appearance of a conflict of interest doesn’t apply to you and that nobody should ever question that these lobbyists who surround you might be buying your political positions, maybe that would be charming.

But if you’re going to be president of the United States of American and you are literally have going to have gotten there because a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia put you there, that’s going to be a problem during your presidency, not just for you as a campaign, that’s going to be all of our problems as Americans.

OLBERMANN:  And another question for next time because we’re out of time here—what about all her money—Mrs. McCain’s money—and the fact that she’s not releasing her - and of her tax records so we don’t know where her investments are, what influence she might have, or what other countries might have influence on her.

Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, great thanks and stick around, you’re in Best Persons in the World tonight.  That’s a preview—surprise.

MADDOW:  Oh, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  What on earth is this in the meantime  -- Woodstock, a commune, then free love hippies?  No, this was from the 133rd running of the venerable Preakness horserace.

And speaking of venerable, on a word that sounds like Preakness, comedian—Rush Limbaugh’s newest liberal straw man he had dissected on air for minutes on end, the essay of a high school sophomore.

Worst Persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best Persons in a moment, you won’t believe what Rachel Maddow did.

But first: Proving there’s nothing new under the sun, on this date in 1954, the postmaster general of the United States, Arthur Summerfield, having met with the CIA two days earlier, approved a covert plan to open mail, especially mailed to Americans from Russia without warrants or notice because, of course, the country was facing the greatest peril it ever, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

A year earlier, Mr. Summerfield had been approved unanimously by a Senate committee for his new job, his old job had been chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Let’s play Oddball.

They’re running.  We begin in at Pimlico race track in Baltimore, site of this weekend’s Preakness course, as Baltimoreans call it Preakness, where the favorite Big Brown won the second log of the potential Triple Crown.

But once again, the real story was not on the track but rather in the infield where the 2008 “Run for the runs” was held.  It’s the annual Preakness urinal run—drunken competitors race across the roof tops of Johnny’s (ph) on the spot, dodging full cans of beer, chucked at them by well-wishing fans.  The object, as ever, was to keep your footing and complete the entire row of urinals.  And looking at the results just like last year, there were no winners.

I’m in here.

To a Burger King in New Orleans, where this robbery suspect is having it his way or hers.  You’re looking at surveillance video and very good surveillance video shot last week.  Witnesses say it was a man dressed as a woman who climbed through a drive-through window, then held the place up at gun point.  The suspect got away and remains on the loose.  If you have seen her/him, contact the New Orleans, police, not to mention the fashion police, because those pearls are hideous. 

Part of the president’s answer to Richard Engel about appeasement, the White House whines, is missing.  Since they asked, we’ll play it.  Trust me, it makes him look worse. 

A post-script to a Special Comment, What is wrong with the lunatic fringe?  They hear the terms mercenaries and bold blooded killers, and immediately think of our heroics troops fighting in Iraq.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN’s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best number, 416,000.  Rachel Maddow, filling in for me here on Friday night—Rachel got 416,000 viewers age 25 to 54, the highest rated news show on cable television all day.  Wow. 

Number two, best traffic report from Morris, Illinois; several lanes of Interstate 80 closed for hours this morning after the driver of a tractor-trailer fell asleep at the wheel.  The vehicle overturned and spilled its load across the highway, 14 tons of Oreo Cookies.  Compounding the problem, they were Double Stuff Oreo Cookies.  So yes, the truck driver spilled his cookies. 

Number one, most impeccable timing, Richard Johnson, the editor of “Page Six,” the gossip section of the “New York Post.”  Last night, Howard Kurtz of the “Washington Post” wrote that Fixed News chairman Roger Ailes, quote, warned that if Olbermann didn’t stop such attacks against Fox, he would unleash O’Reilly against NBC and would use the “New York Post” as well.  Hours later, Mr. Johnson was nice to print on his page of fairy tales a story even the online gossip blogs had disproved about purported disputes between me and colleague that never happen. 

So hat’s off for the best timing in News Corp history, as Richard Johnson proves he and his column and his newspaper have no actual purpose anymore, except to permit Ailes and Bill-O to retaliate against people who call them out.  Thanks, Dick. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Fresh off a Middle East trip in which he failed to persuade the Saudis to help with soaring oil prices, and a speech to Israel’s Knesset that angered the moderate Palestinian leadership, and prompted articles in the state controlled Egyptian press calling him a failed president and a quote, appeaser; our third story on the COUNTDOWN, President Bush sat down to discuss his own version of what’s going on in that part of the world with our own Richard Engel. 

Parts of the interview aired on “Nightly News” and “The Today Show” on  NBC, which prompted an extraordinary letter from the White House, accusing NBC News of running a, quote, deceptively edited version of what the president said about appeasement, adding, quote, “this deceitful editing to further a media manufactured storyline is utterly misleading and irresponsible, and I hereby request in the interest of fairness and accuracy that the network air the president’s responses to both initial question in full on the two programs that used the excerpts.” 

The White House apparently not realizing that in full it is clear the president never actually answered Richard Engel’s first question and clear that the president either does not know what he talked about or what he is now talking about.  First, the unedited excerpts, which have already been on our web site, with the rest of the interview, unedited and available to all for past 24 hours. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  In front of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, you said that negotiating with Iran is pointless, and then you went further.  You said that it was appeasement.  Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama?  He certainly thought you were. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know, my policies haven’t changed.  But evidently the political calendar has.  People need to read the speech.  You didn’t get it exactly right either.  What I said is that we need to take the words of people seriously.  When a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you have to take those words seriously.  If you don’t take them seriously, it hearkens back to a day when we didn’t take other words seriously. 

It was fitting that I talked about not taking the words of Adolf Hitler seriously on the floor of the Knesset.  But I also talked about the need to defend Israel, the need to not negotiate with the likes of al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas, and the need to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.  It was a—But I talked about a vision of what’s possible in the Middle East. 

ENGEL:  Repeatedly, you have talked about Iran and you don’t want to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon. 

BUSH:  Yes.

ENGEL:  How far away do you think Iran is from developing a nuclear capability? 

BUSH:  You know, Richard, I don’t want to speculate and there’s a lot of speculation.  One thing is for certain, we need to prevent them from learning how to enrich Uranium.  I made it clear to the Iranians that there is a seat at the table for them if they would verifiably suspend their enrichment.  And if not, we’ll continue to rally the world to isolate them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He wants to prevent Iran from learning how to enrich Uranium, even though they have already mastered the enrichment process.  They did so back in 2006.  And any Google search will yield the answer of how to make your own enriched uranium.  As to his promise that, quote, my policies haven’t changed, but evidently the political calendar has, and its implicit denial that his appeasement comment at the Knesset was directed at Senator Obama, the president has yet to explain why, if he was not referring to Senator Obama, his White House aides were busy telling the media that his Knesset speech would raise eyebrows and make news, as there was certainly nothing else in it that was out of the ordinary. 

When you read the speech, as the president exhorted people to do, you find that he did say exactly what Richard Engel said he said about appeasement.  Just after his riff on taking words seriously comes the negotiation is appeasement argument.  He doesn’t take about taking Adolf Hitler’s words seriously, just about appeasing Hitler, which, for the record, once more, nobody in the Democratic party has ever talked about doing with terrorists, Iran or anybody else. 

Quoting the president, “as witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously.  Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred.  Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.  We have heard this foolish delusion before.  As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, lord, if I could have only have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.  We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

History, something President Bush likes to cherry pick.  The U.S.  senator was William Borra (ph), for nearly 33 years a Republican senator from Idaho, leader of would be American appeasers of Hitler, all of whom were also in Mr. Bush’s party.  More about history: Mr. Bush occasionally chooses to flat out ignore it when that suits his end. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Hamas has was elected and they have done a disaster in running Gaza. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Filling in the blanks there, Hamas was elected because President Bush, against the advise of the then Palestinian leadership, pushed for elections, believing that the militias would be disarmed.  Instead, Hamas won a landslide victory, not the first time the Bush administration has totally miscalculated the results of its own foreign policy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

ENGEL:  Do you still view Iraq as a success?  On the ground, it looks very bleak.  People still want to leave the country. 

BUSH:  That’s interesting you said that.  That’s a little different from the surveys I have seen and a little different from the attitude of the actual Iraqis I have talked to.  But you’re entitled to your opinion. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  His opinion?  How about his analysis?  One of the journalists who has actually lived in Iraq, on and off, for the past five years.  The president, once again, reminding us of why his concept of reality in Iraq is vastly different from the actual realities of Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Basra is—it’s still obviously got work to be done, but it was a successful operation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  An operation not that not only did American forces need to help with, but one that was so successful that local militias are still fighting Iraqi security forces, killing a policemen, wounding three others on Sunday.  The president’s definition of success markedly different from everybody else’s. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  In terms of success, we are returning troops on success.  You might remember, I have to make a difficult choice to put more troops in.  Those troops are coming home by July.  And then, of course, General Petraeus and his successor will assess the situation on the ground and we will end up having the troops necessary to help the Iraqis succeed. 

ENGEL:  So it doesn’t sound like there’s an end any time soon.  It just sounds like we need to support them as much as we can and keep them there as long as we can. 

BUSH:  I think the end, Richard, is—I told you, return on success.  The more successful Iraq is, the fewer troops we will need and there’s no question, Iraq is becoming successful. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So successful, there’s no word on when the rest of the troops are coming home.  As to the domino effect of the Iraq invasion, the president is still in denial about that too. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ENGEL:  A lot of Iran’s empowerment is a result of the war in Iraq.  How do you feel that Iran’s position in the world is rising because of your actions in Iraq? 

BUSH:  I’m not so sure I agree with that.  That’s—that’s a premise I don’t necessarily agree with.  As a matter of fact, I think Iran is troubled by the fact a young democracy is growing in Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Sure.  Iran is troubled by a young democracy led by a Shiite government with close ties to Iran.  Couldn’t have anything to do with Richard Engel’s next question instead, could it? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ENGEL:  Do you intend to finish your term in office with a military action of some kind against Iran? 

BUSH:  Richard, that’s highly speculative.  I have always made it clear that option is on the table. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Which is exactly what he said about Iraq.  Guess that explains the speculation about his intentions towards Iran. 

Speaking of Iran, Oliver North criticizes Barack Obama about his willingness to deal with that nation.  Ollie North deal, Iran?  Why does that sound so familiar?  Worst persons ahead. 

And a COUNTDOWN exclusive, the claim that there is another Boston Red Sox artifact buried in the newly poured cement in the newly formed Yankee Stadium in New York.  Part two of the hex next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Remember the construction worker and Boston Red Sox fan that tried to curse the new Yankee Stadium in New York by burying a Red Sox jersey in the freshly poured cement at the new ballpark?  Apparently, he didn’t stop with just a shirt.  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, never mind finding a needle buried somewhere in a hay stack, how are you going to find Gino Castegnolli’s (ph) scorecard buried somewhere in 60,000 cubic yards of Yankees Stadium cement? 

Castegnolli is the Bronx cement mason, lifelong Red Sox fan and Yankee hater, who admitted last month to dropping a uniform bearing the name and number of Boston slugger David “Papi” Ortiz into a wet floor being poured into the new stadium that will open next April.  Two weeks ago, we showed you the hole the Yankees had to dig in order to retrieve the hidden artifact intended to somehow jinx the new facility.  The cement laden uniform was auctioned off for charity.  The Bronx district attorney declined to prosecute.  The Yankees threatened to sue Castegnolli. 

Now, COUNTDOWN has learned exclusively, Castegnolli has told friends he stuck something else in the cement in the new ballpark, an official program from the 2004 Yankees/Red Sox playoff series, like this one.  It may not sound like much.  Even today, you can find one of these on eBay for less than 50 bucks, but that was the year the Yankees led the Red Sox three games to none in the best of seven American League Championship Series.  They won the third game, 19-8.  They needed just one more victory to reach the World Series.  And they still need it. 

The Red Sox became first team in baseball history to rally from an 0-3, death’s door, to win four straight postseason games.  They made the World Series and won it, Boston’s first triumph in the fall classic since 1918.  So, Castegnolli now tells friend, he rolled up one of the programs from that series and stuck in the wed cement of the brand new ball yard in the Bronx.  And he’s not telling anybody where. 

That could pose a problem.  The new park is pretty big.  Co-workers say they remember Castegnolli working just one day at the construction site last summer.  His revelation came only last month.  Initially, he told the Yankees the Ortiz jersey was buried near third base, when in fact they found it in a hallway behind home plate.  And while every ballpark course, apocryphal or not, always involves the team somehow jinxing itself, not having it done by a fan of another team, this could still be an even bigger mess for the Yankees. 

While insisting on the Ortiz jersey and the 2004 scorecard, Castegnolli has told his friends several different stories about his hexing effort.  In one, the shirt and program are just, he says, the tip of the iceberg.  He buried an iceberg? 

A special comment postscript.  If I talk about cold-blooded killers in Iraq, why does the lunatic fringe immediately think of our troops there?  That’s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN’s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to William Kristol, still, remarkably enough, a columnist with the “New York times.”  Another column, another glaring factual error; noting Senator Clinton’s 41-point win over Senator Obama in last week’s West Virginia primary, Mr. Kristol writes today, quote, I can’t find a single recent instance of a candidate who ultimately became his party’s nominee, losing a primary by this kind of margin.

Well, sorry.  Way back on February 5, 2008, I believe it was, Mitt Romney beat John McCain in Utah by 85 points.  Romney beat McCain in Colorado by 41 points and Mike Huckabee also beat McCain In Arkansas by 41 points.  I guess it depends on your definition of the word recent.  Or maybe of the word research. 

The runner-up, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  Apparently his water-carrying assignment this year is try to paint Senator Obama as stupid.  Obama connected the dots between the economic meltdown and the period that preceded the Great Depression.  The comedian slammed him for it because comedian’s economy is doing just fine, thank you.  To humiliate Obama a little more, comedian quoted at length from a 1996 essay he found online called “The Main Causes of the Great Depression” by Paul Alexander Gusmarino III (ph), excoriating Mr. Gusmarino, laughing at his plea that people not plagiarize his work.  Limbaugh actually said, Mr. Gusmarino, you better check Karl Marx and see if you plagiarized him in putting this piece together. 

Alexander Gusmarino III turns out to have been in 1996 a history student in the tenth grade.  Rush, if you’re going to talk over the educational head of your listeners, you’re going to be bankrupt in six weeks. 

But our winner, Oliver North.  After Mr. Bush was nice enough to criticize Senator Obama in best Bill-O fashion, never stooping to actually mentioning his name, but making it clear that’s who you mean, for being willing to talk to Iran, perhaps.  North on Fixed News said Bush’s historical analogy was correct and added, quote, John McCain Got up and said, you can’t have these kinds of unconditional, no preconditions discussions with despots and dictators, dead on the mark. 

Oliver North said this.  Oliver North from the Iran-Contra scandal this said.  Oliver North from the Iran-Contra scandal, the chief coordinator of the sale of American weapons to the military of Iran, said this.  Oliver North, today’s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, a post-script tonight regarding last week’s Special Comment.  You may remember Mr. Bush had used a cumbersome phrase to describe insurgents in Iraq, “cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives.”  Last Wednesday, I quoted that phrase from the Politico.com interview to say that Mr. Bush had now also given America cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives.  I identified them as Mr. Bush’s personnel, quote, those in or formally in your employ, who may yet be charged someday with war crimes. 

I also described the chaos of post invasion Iraq with an “American viceroy, enforced by mercellous mercenaries who shoot unarmed Iraqis and then evade prosecution in any country by hiding behind Mr. Bush’s skirts.”  No writer or broadcaster is ever as precise and clear as he thinks he is.  Television goes by quickly and the viewers are not provided a copy of the script.  So it is possible that reasonable viewers might have been confused by exactly to whom I referred, especially considering that I edited the original line, which was: “Mr. Bush, at long last, has it not dawned on you that the America you have now created includes cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives?  They are called your cabinet and your Pentagon.” 

During the editing process, it seemed that was a little broad, that there appear to be men in both of those places, General Ricardo Sanchez, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, perhaps even the new Secretary of Defense Mr. Gates, who did not merit inclusion in that list.  Obviously, my use of Mr. Bush’s phrase, cold-blooded killers, did not refer to U.S.  troops.  I have never had anything but the highest respect for them and their sacrifice.  This newscast constantly advocates their causes, their needs, our collective debt to them.  And we constantly call out the administration on its failures to honor them, to protect them, to stop the Pentagon from sticking a band-aid on those whose hearts and minds are broken, and send them back for another tour. 

The U.S. troops in Iraq, even those few who have done bad things there, are still victims in this equation, and most are the proverbial innocent bystanders.  My use of Mr. Bush’s phrase, cold-blooded killers, referred not to the them, but rather to those former and current members of Mr. Bush’s administration and Pentagon who so irresponsibly unleashed the hounds of war and may indeed someday face war crimes trials. 

And that phrase merciless mercenaries seemed to be self-explanatory.  Neither are these U.S. troops, not when there are literally mercenaries in Mr. Bush’s employ, principally from Blackwater USA, who literally shot unarmed Iraqis, most infamously in a massacre in Baghdad last September. 

Strangely, when the terms cold-blood killers and mercenaries were used in a public forum, my critics in the lunatic fringe, rather than even considering that the criticism even might be directed at the Pentagon or the administration or Blackwater USA, immediately decided that these were descriptions of our American heroes fighting in Iraq. 

It is perhaps instructive, I think, that to the right wing commentators and right wing blogs those terms should first invoke not the war-mongers of the Pentagon, nor the gunmen from Blackwater, but U.S.  troops. 

I can not imagine that kind of evil knee-jerk reflex.  I feel very sorry for those who have shown it.  It seems to me that these right wingers have inadvertently shown then their true colors, their instinctive hatred for and contempt for those self-sacrificing Americans who have been needlessly placed in harm’s way by these very commentators and the politicians they support.  They hear criticism of our nation’s collective conduct in Iraq and they immediately assume it’s the fault of the soldiers. 

In the wake of an insult that exists only in their minds and never in my words nor in my heart, there remains, I think, only one question to ask:

Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, why do you hate our troops? 

Good night and good luck.

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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