updated 5/22/2008 11:22:02 AM ET 2008-05-22T15:22:02

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Eugene RobinsonJim Webb, Kevin Spacey

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

Senator Clinton‘s campaign: Today, we learned, she seeks not just the nomination, she seeks not just perhaps the vice-presidency, her campaign—to count her votes in Florida and Michigan—is the suffragettes, the civil rights movement, and the “war to free the slaves” all rolled into one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They should count them exactly as they were cast.  Democracy demands no less.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Forgot the glory, glory hallelujah part.  Meantime, back

on this planet -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are at the threshold of being able to obtain this nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Democratic contest and the Republicans‘ unfathomable resistance to his new G.I. Bill.  (INAUDIBLE) tonight for our guest, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, author of the new book, “A Time to Fight:

Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”

John McCain‘s continuing fight against John McCain.  Slammed now for his foreign policy gaffes by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel who insists, “I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he is saying,” and slammed for what the pastor who endorsed him, John Hagee said, Adolf Hitler was sent by the Lord to unleash the Holocaust to force the Jews to move to Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HAGEE, PASTOR:  Then God sent a hunter.  A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you.  Hitler was a hunter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That is the man whose endorsement John McCain sought. 

That is the man whose endorsement John McCain refuses to renounce.

Talk about timing: Clinton and Obama and the Democrats and Florida and the new movie about the 2000 Florida recount.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I should tell you, you‘re probably going to lose tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Certainly, one of two possibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Its star, Kevin Spacey, our special guest tonight.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, May 21st, 167 days until the 2008 presidential election.

As John Brown led the raid at Harper‘s Ferry, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton read the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, as Martin Luther King led marchers to the county courthouse in Selma, so too, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Did Hillary Rodham Clinton today rally to the cause of the 10,000 elderly residents of Century Village in Boca Raton, Florida.

Hey, all that is Senator Clinton‘s analogy, not mine.  The New York Democrat today comparing her effort to seek the delegations from Florida and Michigan to the struggle to free the slaves and the suffragist movement and the civil rights movement—and no, I am not kidding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I believe that both Senator Obama and myself have an obligation as potential Democratic nominees, in fact, we all have an obligation as Democrats, to carry on this legacy, and ensure that in our nominating process, every voice is heard, and every single vote is counted.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton then drawing a line from Century Village -

where on Election Day 2000, those pesky butterfly ballots prove to be the most confusing—directly to Denver.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear.  If any votes aren‘t counted, the will of the people isn‘t realized and our Democracy is diminished.  That‘s what I‘ve always believed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except, when she hasn‘t.  In order to compete in Iowa and New Hampshire, if you can remember all the way back to Iowa and New Hampshire, each of the Democratic candidates, including Senator Clinton, having pledged not to campaign in Florida, where the votes would not count, because that state jumped ahead on the schedule of caucuses and primaries, as set down by the Democratic National Committee—that pledge conveniently long since forgotten.

Senator Obama saying this afternoon near Orlando that he hopes that an agreement to seat the Florida delegation will be reached in a few weeks‘ time.  For a crowd of 20,000 in Tampa this afternoon, Illinois Democrat is attacking Senator McCain, praising Senator Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Senator Clinton has run an outstanding campaign, and she deserves our admiration and our respect because she has set the standard, she has broken through barriers and will open up opportunity for a lot people, including my two young daughters.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today‘s superdelegate grudge match update then, Obama, two; Clinton, one; making the superdelegate tally: Obama, 306.5; Clinton, 281.5.  And in the wake of last night‘s primaries, pledged delegates now 1,645 to 1,502 adding the 10 Edwards pledged delegates that have switched to Obama, and in delegates overall, Obama, 1,961.5; Clinton, 1,783.5.  This morning (ph) like 51.5.

Time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, this is a civil rights issue, this is on the level of the abolitionists, it‘s reminiscence of the suppression of the vote in Zimbabwe, she said—one assumes then that if Obama were trailing in the delegate count and he had won Florida, Senator Clinton would have made these same comments, this same speech today insisting that his votes should be counted, correct?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  You know, I never realized quite how noble a crusade this was to seek the Florida delegation, until I heard the speech, and I have to say, I thought until now it was just about people wanting to win the nomination.  But now that I know that this has a higher purpose, I‘ve got to go back to read Terry McAuliffe‘s book, “What a Party!,” I‘m sure you read it—in which he recounts a conversation in 2004, he was then head of the DNC, and Michigan also wanted to bump its primary up early.  He had this conversation with Carl Levin where he said, “If you go ahead and do this, you‘ll collapse the system and the closest you‘ll get to the convention will be to watch it on TV.”

So McAuliffe, I‘m afraid, obviously now running the Clinton campaign, is going to have to be added to that list of great disenfranchisers like the Supreme Court in 2000.

OLBERMANN:  Well, as Senator Clinton said on this newscast, she

believes in death bed conversions.  Chuck Todd explained last night that

Senator Obama had pulled far enough ahead in delegates, that the Florida

and Michigan delegations could indeed be seated in full and it would not

ultimately affect the outcome of the nomination.  The question then becomes

is it time to call her bluff and is the venue for that this Democratic committee meeting on May 31st in D.C.?

WOLFFE:  Well, let‘s be clear here.  The Obama campaign has played at hard ball so far.  They said they only want a 50/50 split and it was pretty recent that they‘ve tried to be more generous and said look, we‘ll negotiate about this.  Having said that, look, Senator Obama is being more magnanimous now, he‘s being more gracious in his comments, but he‘s not that generous a spirit.

His lead is real, but it‘s not that big that he‘s willing to give them everything.  So, I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  But clearly, they‘re in the mood to negotiate.  What‘s interesting is that the Clinton campaign has actually hardened its position.

OLBERMANN:  But what is—what is its position?  What is she doing at this point?  What is her end game now after she did not achieve what most people thought was necessary, an upset if a huge pro-Obama state like, say, Oregon last night?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think the speech is a very unsubtle way to put pressure on the rules committee, the DNC rules committee which meets at the end of this month, and so you know, the question is—will it back fire?  Is this kind of tactic, when Donna Brazile, for instance, here‘s that she is disenfranchising people, someone who spent her life getting people to vote and registering voters, what will those members of the DNC think about all of this?

So it‘s hard ball, it‘s not very subtle, but I guess it‘s the last tactic they‘ve got to try and get the best deal they can out of this committee.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  That‘s two hard ball references.  You‘re over our quota for the week.

Last question, you said they‘re hardening the—the Clinton camp is

hardening their stance.  What does that mean in terms of when this ends,

because it is going to end and it is going to end in Senator Obama‘s favor

what does this mean in terms of what stops the Clinton campaign?  Is it when reporters say—no more story here, we‘re going home?

WOLFFE:  I think they‘ve been pretty explicit.  They say repeatedly whether it‘s Senator Clinton or Howard Wolfson, if the Obama folks want to beat us, then they should go ahead and beat them.  They are waiting to see Obama reach that magic number, however you count that.

You know, it‘s a number.  Whatever it is, it‘s a number, and when they reach that number, I suspect they‘re actually not going to say we concede.  They‘ll say—we suspend and by the way, we‘ve won the popular vote and we‘re really the winners here, except for everything else that‘s going to happen at the convention.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In the month since the Pennsylvania primary, Senator Clinton‘s main electability argument has been that as she so indelicately phrased this, “white working-class voters would not support Senator Obama in the general election.”  Last night‘s exit polls out of Oregon, is proving that Senator Obama doesn‘t seem to have a white working-class problem, as much as he has an Appalachian problem.

Senator Obama, very competitive among working-class whites in Oregon, which is just the 23rd state in per capita income, he won nearly half of their vote in Oregon, almost equally his performance in Wisconsin, where he first broke through the big primary in a predominantly white state.  In Kentucky last night, just one in 5 white working-class voters having backed him.

In Oregon, fewer than 1/3 said that the Illinois Democrat shared the values of Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  In Kentucky, more than half said he did.  But even in the Blue Grass State, when asked who they would support in November, 50 percent of those voters surveyed picking Obama over 32 percent for Senator McCain.

We turn now to our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist at the “Washington Post.”

Good evening, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, is Senator Obama‘s white working-class voter problem more spin, or is it not as bad as had been previously interpreted, or what is it?

ROBINSON:  I think you‘d say all of the above.  I think we talked a lot about it without really understanding it or trying to put it into any perspective.  The question never really was: did white working-class voters prefer Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?  It‘s—would they in fact defect from the Democratic Party in the fall, to vote for John McCain, over Barack Obama?

Did he have a particular problem there and what we know now from the numbers in Kentucky, is that about 1/3 of these white working-class voters say—you know, I wouldn‘t vote for Barack Obama, I‘ll vote for John McCain.

Well, guess what?  In 2004, about 1/3 of the white working-class voters in Kentucky actually did vote for George W. Bush over John Kerry.  So, it‘s certainly not a problem unique to Barack Obama.  It may be a problem that the Democratic Party is having right now.

OLBERMANN:  And in terms of the last two blowout victories, although Oregon was pretty big victory for him last night, obviously, those final scores in Kentucky and West Virginia were huge.  Was there—I know this has been said a couple of times - well, maybe West Virginia was a possibility for the Democrats to matter what in the fall, but is there any expectation that Kentucky is more than just a feel good moment for Senator Clinton—any expectation that the Democrats are likely to take one or both of those states in particular?

ROBINSON:  No.  Not really.  You know, West Virginia is a possibility, at least a theoretical possibility.  Kentucky, I don‘t think anybody really believes Kentucky is possible.  You know, I do think Obama might have considered spending more time in Kentucky, even in what was clearly going to be a lost cause, so he could have been seen spending more time in Kentucky and could have been seen - he‘s sending the message that he cares about those voters and everything.

But then again, you know, you do that too much, and it looks like you‘re George H.W. Bush and holding up a sign saying message, “I care,” and it is a certain inauthenticity that manages to convey itself, too.

OLBERMANN:  This to me seems to be the important part that‘s being left out of this conversation all the way through.  Is there any way to measure to what degree the whole talk about white working-class voters is an act of enabling, of giving people who are indeed voting out of racism, whether they‘re conscious of it or not, a rationalization to say—no, that‘s not why I won‘t vote for him, see, I have this research material that says, people like me don‘t vote for him?

ROBINSON:  Right.  I have - I don‘t—I think the answer to your question is no.  I don‘t think there‘s any way of measuring the extent to which this is an enabling device.  But I‘m not sure if overall it actually matters in terms of the result.  I think people who are not going to vote for Barack Obama because he‘s black are not going to, you know, get to the voting booth and say—darn, I just can‘t think of a good rationale that says it‘s socially acceptable, so I guess I have to vote for him.

I think they‘re going to not vote for him and, you know, not talk about it or whatever, but they‘re going to do what they‘re going to do.  So, I think the result is the same, but we have managed to kind of construct this whole framework theory around what, at least in part, probably has a somewhat simpler explanation.  We‘ll see.

OLBERMANN:  Is that true of this whole campaign at this point, that largely, it exists, because we in the media say it does?  If as I just suggested to Richard—everybody said, yes, there‘s no story to see here, we‘re going home, that Hillary Clinton‘s campaign would be over.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Every week now for quite sometime, you know, we sit around and we said—well, it‘s over, you know, it‘s inexorable, it‘s going to happen, Obama is going to do it, there‘s no way she can catch up - and then comes another primary and we kind of all talk for a while, as if it could change the ground.  But knowing and saying to ourselves at the same time—this isn‘t really going to change anything and then we do it again the following week.  It‘s kind of insane actually.

OLBERMANN:  And we cover it for eight hours in a row live.  That‘s one I know.

ROBINSON:  Yes, we do.  Yes, we do.  We are a little bleary eyed right now.

OLBERMANN:  Our own Gene Robinson, also of course, of the “Washington Post,” great thanks.  And we‘ll see you a week from Tuesday, I guess.  Thanks, sir.

ROBINSON:  All right.  Pleasant dreams.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Ted Kennedy now out of the hospital tonight, resting back at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.  A square bandage on the back of his head is the only indication that anything is wrong.  He was diagnosed, as you know, with a malignant glioma, a brain tumor after a biopsy on Monday.

Doctors say the 76-year-old senator has recovered remarkably well from that procedure.  He plans to remain with his family at home through the weekend while awaiting further test results.  He was already out on a boat today.  Only then will doctors be able to figure out how to treat the tumor.  The radiation and chemotherapy are likely.  And his nephew-in-law Governor Schwarzenegger of California said last night that the tumor is, quote, “inoperable.”

Why on earth that the Republicans blocking Jim Webb‘s G.I. Bill?  Is he as rumored a prospect to the vice presidency?  Let‘s ask him.

And: John McCain‘s pastor crisis.  It turns out John Hagee said, “Hitler was heaven sent to force the Jews to move to Israel,” and still, Senator McCain won‘t renounce the man.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Jim Webb on his new book, his new G.I. Bill and his newest answers to the vice presidential question.

Kevin Spacey, four days before his movie about the 2000 Florida presidential recount premieres.  And, yes, Senator Clinton has already invoked the movie as another reason she should keep running.

And how many “Jeremiah Wrights” would you need to equal one John Hagee?  McCain‘s pastor disaster: Tapes discovered of John Hagee insisting that God sent Hitler to unleash the holocaust so the Jews would move back to Israel.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It sounds almost too good to be true.  A vice-presidential option for Senator Barack Obama, who served in Vietnam, was Ronald Reagan secretary of the Navy, has a son who has served in Iraq, and who seems to have no qualms himself about calling out Republicans.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: It‘s not likely to happen but we will ask Senator Jim Webb about it nicely in a moment.

Apropos of this, NBC News has confirmed that John McCain will meet with three potential vice presidential candidates in Arizona this weekend:

Florida Governor Charlie Crist; Louisiana‘s new governor, Bobby Jindal; and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

On the Democratic side, Senator Webb has said he is not that interested in running, telling NBC‘s Tim Russert over the weekend, he would, quote, “highly discourage.”  Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton if they considered asking him, attributing his high media profile lately, including an interview, 10 seconds from now, not to political ambition but to promotion for his new book “A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”

Senator Webb joins us from Washington.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA:  How are you?

OLBERMANN:  Who could be better on the ticket than you—and I am asking this nicely—if you can‘t name anybody, don‘t you have to run?

WEBB:  You know, this is something that I really haven‘t discussed with the people who make those kinds of decisions honestly.  So, that—you know, I think the nominee is going to be Barack Obama, it looks—it looks pretty much that way, and he‘s going to have to figure out not only the election process, but how to govern.  And so, that‘s really, you know, something I‘ve never talked with him about.

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson and I just hashed this out—this Obama electoral problem, this issue of votes among the white working voters of the south, et cetera.  Is this to some degree, a phony argument or overall, how do you read the implications of last night‘s vote in Kentucky in particular?

WEBB:  Well, you know, I listen to the tail end of your conversation with Mr. Robinson, for more (ph) I have great respect, I really enjoy listening to his views.  And this is not a racism issue, and I think he would agree with that, but it is a cultural issue, and I was going back to the last book that I wrote, not this one, but the book called “Born Fighting,” which is a cultural history of the Scotch-Irish people who settled in the Appalachian Mountains.

And if you look at the voting pattern from central Pennsylvania all the way down to northern Alabama, northern Georgia, that was the first migration pattern, these were the people who settled that country and I wrote this piece in a “Wall Street Journal,” right before the ‘04 election, and it was called “The Scotch-Irish, the Republican Party‘s Secret Weapon,” and in that I said, “Karl Rove and the Republican operatives, understand this culture and the Democrats don‘t even know that exists.”  And we‘re seeing that a little bit now.

This is a group of people who are not voting—or they‘re not staying away from Barack because of his race, but they have an antipathy toward the Democratic Party‘s movement since the ‘70s toward interest group politics, and Barack is a person who can overcome that.  He‘s spoken on this issue, I think, quite well.  He just needs to get out there and get to know these people.

OLBERMANN:  Is that what it is, is it exposure, is it going to them and saying—look here‘s who I am, let me find out who you are and tell me the problems and I‘ll tell you what I do about them?

WEBB:  Well, part of it is, I think, a sense that this is—this is a cultural group that went directly to the wilderness and for many generations has had difficulties fitting into the American mainstream and economic progress, and educational progress—that sorts of thing.  Southwest Virginia is very heavily out of this cultural group.  And I think they have a sense that a lot of the interest group politics have worked against them.  There‘s a saying in the Appalachian Mountains, when you‘re poor and white, you‘re out of sight.

So, someone like Barack, who has spoken about these issues in a general way, I think, could appeal to this cultural group and get their votes.  If he goes out there and meets with them and let‘s them know how he feels.  The last part of this article that I wrote in the “Wall Street Journal” said that if this cultural group and black America can come together at the same table, they can remake American politics.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s hope so on that.

All right.  You‘ve indulged me on the politics of the day.  Update me if you would on your new G.I. Bill and where that stands.

WEBB:  Well, as you know, you‘ve done some great segments on the show on this.  I introduced this on my first day in office.  The idea is to give the people who have been serving since 9/11 the same type of benefits as those who came back from World War II.

We now have 57 co-sponsors in the United States Senate and more than 300 in the House, and a good percentage of those are Republicans.  So, we have 11 Republican co-sponsors here in the Senate, we have more than 90 Republican co-sponsors in the House.

The difficulty has been this administration and this is what‘s so confusing to me.  If you‘re George Bush, and you‘re at the end of your tenure, what a moment you could have if you had a Rose Garden signing ceremony with Republicans, Democrats, veterans groups, saying—this group that I‘ve often called the next greatest generation here, we‘re giving you the greatest benefit we can.

I don‘t get it.  I don‘t know why he hasn‘t stepped up and done that.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, where is Senator McCain on this?  Could there possibly, to him, could there possibly be something more important than the welfare of our servicemen and servicewomen?

WEBB:  One would think not.  I‘ve known John McCain for 30 years.  I‘ve considered him to be a friend and I have said a number of times that I think if I could get John McCain to sit down, he‘s been so busy and listened to what we have in this bill, I can‘t imagine he wouldn‘t support it.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we wish the best of luck doing that, obviously this is a measure that is of incredible importance to the country and specifically to the people you‘re trying to help.  The new book from Jim Webb is “A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”

Senator Jim Webb has been good enough to give us a few moments here from the Capitol, thank you for your time tonight, senator.

WEBB:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  You‘re welcome.

I can‘t really show what you this is interrupting a pro-democracy protest in Russia, but I think the kids say something about the 1015 club.  Speaking of which, Ed Gillespie didn‘t really think he was going to get away with that, did he?  Worst Persons is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best Persons in a moment and the state Republican chairperson who‘s just compared John McCain to Jesus Christ on the cross.

First, 84 years ago today in Chicago, was executed the crime of the 21st century, the first one, anyway.  Nathan Leopold, 19, and Richard Loeb, 18, kidnapped and killed one Loeb‘s distant teenage cousins just to see if they could get away with it.  But discovered the boy‘s body was a pair of eyeglasses with an unusual hinge mechanism.  It turned out only three such pair had ever been sold in Chicago and one of them had been bought by Nathan Leopold.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Russia at a political assembly held by the chess grand master, Garry Kasparov, who is leading the opposition there.  Nothing too unusual about the event until a flying penis crashes Kasparov‘s speech.  You have to take our word for it, but under all that pixilation is a remote controlled helicopter, modified to look like the mail reproductive organ.  After security bashed the flying phallus out of the air King Kong style, Mr. Kasparov somehow continued speaking.

As for who pulled the prank, Kasparov‘s people figure it was either some pro-Kremlin kids or the ultra aggressive Russian sex toy lobby.

Finally to Tokyo, Japan.  Hello, Kitty, hello.  In a ceremony held this week by the Japanese transportation administrator, cartoon character Hello Kitty was officially deemed Japan‘s tourism minister to China and Hong Kong.  The minister said he was happy to appoint his granddaughter‘s favorite cartoon character to the post.  Previously unaware that the cartoon characters were fair game in the ambassadorial nomination process, President Bush today wasted no time nominating Foghorn Leghorn as the ambassador to Canada.

John McCain meets Hello Kitty ambassador and damned fast.  Condemned by Chuck Hagel, condemned perhaps by John Hagee after the revelation that the pastor once preached that God sent Hitler to force the Jews to move to Israel.

And the 2000 Florida recount turned into a musical starring Kevin Spacey.  All right.  Not a musical.  I made that up.  A very well-done HBO drama.

He will join us.  Those stories ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best reason to support some censorship.  The Chinese lifestyle magazine, “New Travel Weekly,” it‘s out with its new issue complete with photos of models in bikini and underwear, posed amid the debris of the devastating earthquake in Chengdu.  The government in Chongking shut it down and the owners said they were firing all the editors and would like to try again, please.

Number two, best dumb criminal.  Domestic, Rachel Ann Wilson of Sacramento under arrest after trying to check as package two large cardboard boxes on a flight to Atlanta.  They were so large, screeners couldn‘t fit one of them through the x-ray machine and instead had to inspect it manually.  Which is when they found the not so hidden contests, 15 pounds of marijuana in coffee cans.  Street value, $125,000.  That would be $15 to check your pot.

And number one best delusion, the chairperson of the Georgia Republican Party, Sue Everhart has told her state convention that quote, “John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross.  He never denounces God either.”

Pressed for an explanation, she said she would talking about how McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese while their prisoner didn‘t turn on the U.S.  “I‘m not trying to compare John McCain to Jesus Christ,” she further backpedaled.  “I‘m looking at the pain that was there.”

OK, ordinarily a good way to compare two things is not to use the construction, A is kind of like B as in the sentence, “John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross.”  Or, “Georgia Republican chairperson Sue Everhart is kind of like Pastor John Hagee.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Good news and bad news for John McCain today.  While he seems to have lost the support of a respected Republican senator and Vietnam vet, it turns out one of his biggest endorsers knows the will of God.  So he‘s got that going for him, which is nice.

And indeed, such a skill could be handiwork, not for our third story tonight.  The fact that this God, says the endorser, sent Hitler to kill the Jews to force them to move to Israel.  That‘s apparently one of the lesser known planks in the McCain platform.

First the other senator I mentioned.  Last night, Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel reportedly told a private gathering organized by a non-proliferation group that not only that Barack Obama is right about engaging with America‘s enemies, but John McCain is wrong.

Hagel declined to address speculation about serving in an Obama cabinet but did say, quote, “I can‘t get into the psychoanalysis of it, but I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he‘s saying.”

Perhaps but is he smarter than some of the things said by the influential pastor whose endorsement he sought but refuses to denounce to this day.

McCain has distanced himself slightly from Pastor John Hagee‘s label for the Catholic Church, quote, “the great whore.”

Now an-on line journalist has found audio from a Christian Web site of a sermon dated 2006 in which Hagee says the Bible‘s Book of Jeremiah quotes God talking about sending Hitler to force the Jews to Israel.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN HAGEE, EVANGELIST:  Behold, I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters and they, the hunters will hunt them, that will be the Jews.  From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.  If that doesn‘t describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust, you can‘t see that.  And that will be offensive to some people.  Well, dear heart, be offended.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to the Washington correspondent for “The New Yorker” magazine, Ryan Lizza.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

RYAN LIZZA, “NEW YORKER”:  Hey, Keith, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to Hagel but first to Hagee.  These comments are actually not that shocking, if you are familiar with the God causes everything because we haven‘t persecuted this or that group, and the we‘ll meet Israel during the Apocalypse thinking.  But does that not imply that McCain essentially sought out Hagee, not without knowing this, but despite knowing that Pastor Hagee and has people see Israel and Jewish people as biblical collateral damage?

LIZZA:  Well, I don‘t know if McCain knew about these comments or not, but Hagee‘s remark there that some people will be offended by the comments is the understatement of the year, certainly.  Look, arguably, his—

McCain seeking out an endorsement from Hagee is worse in some ways than Obama‘s relationship with Wright.  Obama‘s—Wright was a guy who is the pastor of the church that Obama belonged to.  McCain actually sought this guy‘s endorsement, and up until this point, hasn‘t repudiated him.

Now, look, what we‘ve just learned about Hagee and what he said is so beyond the pale, that it seems inconceivable to me that McCain can continue to have any further relationship with this guy, and continue to sort of have his active endorsement in any way.  I‘d be shocked if he—if he didn‘t denounce him of after this.

OLBERMANN:  And yet, when the stuff about New Orleans took place, the revelations about his comment that Katrina was a direct message from God to punish New Orleans for staging or planning to stage a gay pride parade, what he backed off from, he backed off in such a way that he left literally using the phrase, I‘m repudiating every anti-everything he said.  It made no sense whatsoever.  He still did not renounce the endorsement.  Why is there an assumption that he‘s going to act on this?

LIZZA:  Look, he‘s got a second shot hat this right now and in a strange way, Keith, maybe this is a blessing in disguise for McCain, because this guy—Hagee is not going away, the Democrats are going to continue to make this an issue and rightfully so, and just as, you know, Obama sort of had one shot with his speech, with Wright, where he—he didn‘t quite denounce the guy, but gave him a second shot and then Wright did his famous press conference in Washington, that gave Obama a chance to sort of have a clean break, and I would be surprised, you know, if McCain didn‘t do that here.  I mean, on a scale of—on the offensive scale of 1-10, claiming that God sent Hitler to hunt down the Jews and then forced them to Israel, is about a 20.

You know, a politician running for president can‘t be associated with someone who says something like that.

OLBERMANN:  One would think.  We have been surprised more than once by Republicans in the last seven or eight years and what they‘re willing to tolerate from people that are around them.  Let‘s get back to this planet though and Chuck Hagel, who has not only endorsed but is campaigning for Obama.  What effect would that have, and what is about Hagel‘s—what is it about Hagel‘s biography that would prove so valuable to Obama, particularly his biography?

LIZZA:  Well, Hagel is an interesting guy.  I mean, he has become increasingly alienated from the Republican Party over the war in Iraq.  I mean, on everything else, except foreign policy, he‘s a very traditional conservative, but he‘s increasingly become, you know, more and more skeptical of the wisdom of the war, and he flirted in the recent past with the unity ticket and the sort of talking—he was talked up as perhaps being an independent candidate.

That has sort of fallen by the wayside.  And I think he may be, you know, sending a message to the Obama camp, that hey, if you guys are serious with this post-partisan era, take a look at me, consider me as perhaps, if not a V.P. material, maybe a Cabinet member.  I think—I think, you know, one of the interesting things about Hagel is he‘s a Vietnam vet an one of the reasons he‘s soured on the war in Iraq, he revisited the Vietnam War an realized he was lied to during that period and he didn‘t know it at the time and that made him think of the current war.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll see if that hypothetical endorsement that I just referred to might actually come to pass.  Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent from “The New Yorker,” we‘ll keep following McCain, especially with those Hagee Holocaust remarks, we‘ll see if your prediction comes true.  Many thanks, sir.

LIZZA:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  From Clarence Darrow to Bobby Darren to Al Gore‘s main man in the 2000 Florida recount, Kevin Spacey, producer and star of the HBO move “Recount” is here.

And then NBC News is bad because one of its newscasters used to be a sportscaster, so say two guys who then explained their world view by quoting comic books.  Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A movie about the Florida 2000 presidential recount.  So this is a horror flick?  Kevin Spacey joins us next on the entertainment value and societal importance of the movie in which he stars and how it feels to know Senator Clinton is offering it as yet another reason she should never leave the race.  Mr. Spacey is next.

But first, time for our number two story.  COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, his assignment obviously to push one of the two hair on fire talking points the right wing is trying to sell this week.  The one about Obama and as Obama put it last night, “the Republican‘s fear of tough and aggressive diplomacy.”

“The question,” the governor said to the stenographers at Fixed News, “is should the president of the united states without precondition in his first year of office sit down with Ahmadinejad, with Putin, Chavez, Kim Jong-Il, with Assad, with the world‘s worst actors and the answer is obviously no, no president would suggest such a thing.”

This Bush guy, when he met with Putin in June of 2001 and looked into his eyes and got a sense of his soul, he was president then, right?  He was in his first year in office.  Honestly, if you‘re going to send Mitt Romney out as a hit man, make sure he has not forgotten to bring the bullets or his brain.

The silver, Mr. Bush‘s counselor Ed Gillespie who somehow got talked into writing the embarrassing letter on behalf of the White House to NBC News, whining like a high school sophomore about bias that isn‘t there in an edit that wasn‘t there to turn a news organization into a scapegoat that won be there.  The letter was juvenile and Fox Newsy enough that it sound like the White House works for them rather than the other way around.

Just remember, Ed, the last White House that tried to bury the media sent Spiro Agnew and he wound up having to cut a deal with the attorney general.

But our winner, lunatic fringe water carrier Hugh Hewitt, serving as the dummy to Gillespie‘s ventriloquist on the radio noting, quote, “Olbermann‘s a sports guy, he doesn‘t understand it anyway.”

Fair enough.  Out of date by about 10 years, which makes Mr. Hewitt one of the best informed on the fringes, but within his rights to say that.  But his next question to Gillespie was, quote, “Did you ever read Bizarro Superman comic books when you were young, Ed?”

So I‘m getting called out by a comic book guy?  Gillespie‘s answer was I did.  Yeah.  NBC is getting called out by two comic book guys.  Hugh, “The new ‘Betty and Veronica‘ comes out next Tuesday” Hewitt, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  According to the latest calculations from the Harrah‘s race and sports book if Las Vegas, if this is not already happened to you, the odds are now down to 7-5 that within the next two weeks something you do will be cited by Senator Hillary Clinton as a reason for her to continue running for president.

Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, it happened to our next guest, Kevin Spacey, the producer and star of the HBO film “Recount” which premiers this Sunday.  It‘s still Florida, Florida, Florida with both Democrats there today.  Senator Clinton invoking lessons from the past in a movie she hasn‘t even seen yet, interviewed by phone by a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio, earlier today, she spoke to a few dozen people who had seen Mr. Spacey‘s film, quote, “They tell me that it makes a very strong case for seating Florida because the lesson is if you can discern the clear intent of the vote, why would you punish voters for rules you had nothing to do with, and in Florida‘s case, the Democratic Party had nothing to do with.  They were sort of dragged along by the Republicans.”

Meantime, if you think that waking nightmare of the hanging chad is best left alone, think again.  With Mr. Spacey as Ron Klain, Al Gore‘s man on the ground in Florida.

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR:  That‘s not me as Ron Klain.

OLBERMANN:  Hanging chad meets political thriller in “Recount.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know those chad that get punched but don‘t go all the way through the ballot.

SPACEY:  Hanging chads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chad.

SPACEY:  What?  The plural of chad is chad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s great democracy.

SPACEY:  Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So when you take these ballots and you put them through a tabulating system, what happens is the hanging chad get pushed back into the holes and the machines read it as if the holes were never actually punched.  So then these are discounted as undervotes.  But wait, sometimes hanging chad don‘t even hang; they‘re just dimpled.

SPACEY:  Dimpled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now as promised producer and one of the stars in a great ensemble cast of “Recount,” which premiers on HBO this Sunday, the actor Kevin Spacey.  Great pleasure to have you here, sir.

SPACEY:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Fan for a long time.

So you‘re now a reason for Senator Clinton to keep fighting, you and the abolition of slavery.  How do you feel?

SPACEY:  Well, I didn‘t hear the entire interview.  I didn‘t hear the quote.  I assume what she‘s talking about is just the fact that here we are, eight years later and Florida is still up perhaps in contention, and that is it right that millions of voters are disenfranchised because of some squabble the Democratic Party has about when they came out and voted.  I suspect that‘s what she‘s going on about.

You of course, are in this much more than I, because I live in London now.  I don‘t—I‘m not—I don‘t see the election as much as you do.

OLBERMANN:  Were you involved in the election of the new mayor, who sort of looks like a British Chris Matthews?  Boris - Boris Johnson.

SPACEY:  Boris Johnson.  No.  In fact, I‘m luckily able to say that I‘m not a citizen.  I‘m just a resident.  So I don‘t vote in England.  I just observe and it‘s very interesting.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Well, to this very interesting subject, this movie itself, one review I read used terms like “cunning drama” and “sweaty grace.”  The balancing act between historical, sort of documentary or at least fact and dramatic necessity, how do you do that, how do you maintain it and be true to both masters?

SPACEY:  I think what we set out to do and Danny Strong who wrote the screenplay and Jay Roach who directed it, what we set out to do is to just get the story right.  But not make a boring history lesson.  So I guess in a sense, sort of like watching all the president‘s men, we know the ending.  But it‘s about the detail and the personalities and the agenda, and I think really realizing at the end that it wasn‘t just one thing or one person or even the Supreme Court.  It was a confluence of events, people, agendas, maybe some not terribly qualified for their jobs at the end of the day that really kind of showed that our electoral process isn‘t quite equipped to handle margins of victory so small or margins of error so big.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So those are the big picture things, but what in the movie had you not known or forgotten or were appalled by that was historical fact.

SPACEY:  As Denis Leary said, the plural of chad is in fact chad.  I was—you know, I try to consider myself being relatively, you know, clued politically, but I was pretty stunned about things that I didn‘t know.  For example, that when you have a margin of victory so small, you have to go to what they call an automatic machine recount, and yet 18 counties, over within 1.5 million votes didn‘t bother to put their ballots back to the machine.  They just retabulated the memory card.  And you always get a different count when you actually do a machine recount.

So when you kind of realize that, well, that is just because people couldn‘t bother to do it.  It‘s pretty stunning that—so when, you know, Baker and Bush kept coming out and saying the votes have been counted and they‘ve been counted again and they want to count them a third time, they were actually never counted.

OLBERMANN:  An encouraging word for our democracy.  Is the premise going through this and seeing the final version of the film and being immersed in the history and doing a project like this, is that premise about the recounts that we have correct, looking backwards?  That the Republicans would not quit, would not have quit if it lasted another month, six months, or six years, they might still be down there if it hadn‘t been resolved the way it was?

SPACEY:  Look, I think there‘s no question what the movie illustrates is there were two differing philosophies about how to approach this recount fight.  The Republicans pretty much, it was a street battle in their eyes.  And I think on the Gore side, I think there was a—perhaps an overestimated view of the patience of the American people.  And I think that the American people probably would have been more patient.  I think they would have waited it out, and I think ultimately, the recount didn‘t actually happen.  I mean, there was actually I think a half a day where the entire State of Florida was actually recounting, but it never really happened, so when you look at the end of the day, George Bush won that election by 513 votes, and yet you think about the 1.5 million that didn‘t go through the machines again, you think of the 20,000 who were on the voter purge list, it does seem on the one hand the Bush people were trying to stop votes from being counted and the Gore people were just trying to get votes counted.

So it‘s—the movie is done from the Democratic point of view, because I play Ron Klain, who is Al Gore‘s former chief of staff, but then again they were the underdogs and dramatically that makes more sense.

OLBERMANN:  The last question is, did you have something against Laura Dern that you forced her to play Katherine Harris?  She does it wonderfully but won‘t people want to run out of their sets wanting to punch her.

SPACEY:  She does do it wonderfully.  I think actually in a way, I think she like all of us have tried to do is to humanize the characters.  You know, this is a woman who probably was caught up in something she was simply not prepared to know how to handle.  And I think—I hope that we‘ve done the film with a degree of humor and Laura certainly does provide a certain amount of that.

OLBERMANN:  As Ms. Harris did to the original and continues to do in all the events that she has participated in since.  Well, Kevin Spacey‘s movie is called “Recount,” and it premieres on HBO Sunday.  It will only play that one time.

SPACEY:  No, it will eventually play like a night light on HBO.  It will just be on all night long.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you and a pleasure to see you.

SPACEY:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,847th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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