updated 6/6/2008 11:31:45 AM ET 2008-06-06T15:31:45

Guests: Howard Fineman, Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Alter

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  . the Democratic presidential nomination to Senator Barack Obama Friday.  Breaking news tonight, “The New York Times” reporting she will, in fact, endorse Senator Barack Obama.

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

The day after the night before as America‘s historic decision sinks in.  The foremost emotion?  Those fighters in that ring are just dog tired out there, speaking today in Washington and out of sight to each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It has been an honor to contest the primaries with him.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She has made history alongside me over the last 16 months.

CLINTON:  It is an honor to call him my friend.

OBAMA:  I‘m very proud to have competed against her.

CLINTON:  And let me be very clear.  I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, isn‘t that special?  But after they nap, what is Senator Clinton actually going to do?  And what is candidate presumptive Obama going to do about it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  You know, I understand that a lot of people are asking—what does Hillary want?  What does she want?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Is it really the vice presidency?  Will she really try to campaign for the vice presidency?  And what happens if he ignores her?

John McCain will not be ignored.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Obama truly has the opportunity to embrace a new kind of politics by committing to participate in these history-making meetings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Even after last night, Obama‘s 17,000 screaming supporters; McCain standing in front of some kind of lime green flat from your high school drama club—the Republican challenges the Democrat to a series of weekly town hall meetings.

Why would John McCain ever want to be contrasted on the same stage with Barack Obama unless he absolutely have to?

And let the healing begin.  Pour oil on the troubled waters, forgive and forget.  OK, what does that mean exactly?  Who‘s ahead in the pledged unity as opposed to the super unity?

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Wednesday, June 4th, 153 days until the 2008 presidential election.

A breaking news tonight that Senator Clinton will concede that Democratic nomination to Senator Obama at a farewell event most likely on Friday of this week, most likely in New York and according to a senior Clinton advisor quoted by “The New York Times” including an endorsement of Senator Obama.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN on this seeming midpoint of Senator Obama‘s candidacy, five months since the day his Iowa upset sank in, five months until the presidential election itself, Senator Clinton finally reportedly committing to bowing out.  The senator‘s staff had already been told it would not be paid beyond June 15th.

Our correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, reporting tonight that 23 members of Congress, strong Clinton supporters, calling her today, saying they would have to throw their support to Senator Obama.  Senator Clinton replying she thought that made sense, adding that she would have another meeting with supporters on Friday to discuss the next steps.  No indication if those next steps would be the termination of the campaign or merely its suspension.

Her decision, “The New York Times” reporting tonight, came after a day of telephone conversations with supporters on Capitol Hill about what she should do now, now that Mr. Obama had claimed enough delegates to be able to clinch the nomination.  Mrs. Clinton had initially said she wanted to wait before making any decision, but her aides said that in conversation, some of her closest supporters said it was urgent that she step aside.

Andrea Mitchell joins us now by phone.

Andrea, good evening.  Tell us what else you know of this phone conference today.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (through phone):  The phone conference with Charlie Rangel, Keith, set it up—he first set up with the New York delegation, her closest supporters, Nita Lowey, and all the other members of Congress from New York and it expanded because more members of Congress wanted to get in on it.  They wanted to sound off against Hillary Clinton‘s inclination to—let‘s stretch this out, to wait until she heard those e-mails from her supporters to give herself space and time.

She wanted to use leverage and she thought she would have more leverage if she waited, in fact, her leverage was dissipating day by day because these members of Congress were telling me and Charlie Rangel told us at 1:00 on MSNBC; Dick Durbin, an Obama supporter was telling us that senators were coming up to him and saying—I want to be with you, I want to switch to over, but I can‘t without her releasing us.

So, there was a lot of frustration and embarrassment and anger among her supporters from the Hill and they came to her late this afternoon on that conference call and said—you have to release us, you‘ve got to do something and you‘ve got to do it this week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issuing that letter today, saying it has to be done by Friday, thinking that was enough time, 48 hours to give her time to do it gracefully.  And she was still reluctant until that phone conversation this afternoon, when she said that makes sense as you purported, then went into a series of meetings with her own staff and advisers, her closest advisers, and apparently reached that decision.

OLBERMANN:  And I‘m gathering from what you‘re saying, Andrea, that this is all independent of Senator Obama and what he wants or does not want from Senator Clinton.  This is about Senator Clinton and her supporters?

MITCHELL:  I‘m persuaded that this was pressure from her supporters that Barack Obama really did respect her desire for the time to unwind this.  I think there was a lot of discomfort and displeasure with the way she addressed her supporters last night.  They were not happy about Terry McAuliffe announcing at the beginning, (INAUDIBLE) over the South Dakota victory, you know, this is you know, the next president of the United States.  That really rubbed them the wrong way.

And Charlie Rangel said openly and on the record, to me, to “New York Times” and to others, “I didn‘t like what I heard.  It was not gracious.  Once he hit the magic number, she should have conceded and endorsed, and it put us in a terrible spot.”

OLBERMANN:  Andrea Mitchell, breaking news of this meeting by phone between Senator Clinton supporters and Senator Clinton and the apparent end of the Clinton campaign.  Thank you, Andrea.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined now by Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and

MSNBC.

Good evening to you, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right, Friday.  Is that Friday, is that by Friday, is that Friday, August 22nd—what do we know?

FINEMAN:  Yes, that‘s this Friday, probably in New York.  And to add

to what Andrea was saying, there was another conference call I‘d just

learned about involving senators, eight senators who were supporters of

Hillary‘s, very hardcore supporters of Hillary Clinton‘s and here‘s the

added wrinkle to it.  They were urged to assemble that conference call and

to speak frankly to Hillary by some of the top strategists around Hillary -

I can‘t use the names—but people who you would associate with a hard-line defense of Hillary‘s position, who called the Senate and said—look, you guys are Hillary‘s strongest supporters and you gals, also, get in there and tell her to get out.

And we‘re talking about senators such as Barbara Mikulski and Senator Nelson, and even Chuck Schumer and others who were reached to by people around Hillary, strategists, who said you‘ve got to get to her and get her out of this thing.  And that‘s what they accomplished by this afternoon.  So, she will do it on Friday.  She will get out of the race, suspend, use whatever word you want, but more important, endorse Barack Obama.

OLBERMANN:  The Associated Press is now reporting, this is - well, in a very terse headline, “Hillary Rodham Clinton Has Decided to End Her Historic Presidential Campaign.”  Again, you suggested that there was some fluidity yet on this term.  Do we have any idea if it is suspension or termination, we do apparently know right now—but endorsement is the key fact here?

FINEMAN:  Yes, endorsement is the key.  I mean, whatever she wants to call the mechanics of the rest of it, if she endorses Obama, that‘s it.  And a lot of this is making sense to me now.  I mean, I was reporting last night on our air that close associates of hers, friends of hers, were saying she really didn‘t want the vice presidency, she really didn‘t want it even though she wouldn‘t mind sort of being offered it or talked about it.

Some of what we know tonight is, that in the vetting process that‘s going to be set up, they were going to demand—that is Jim Johnson and the other people looking at her as a possible candidate, that Bill Clinton opened up the records of the Clinton library—all of the donors, the tens of millions of dollars, where they came from.

And I think Hillary‘s reluctance to more fully really consider, give her heart to the notion of vice presidency, is she knew that it would require a legal vetting of her husband and she knew he couldn‘t pass it.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you described this, I think, pretty aptly, as kabuki

theater last night, in this idea that she wanted to be offered the vice

presidency and then would turned it down.  Almost part of the pre-

arrangement, what does this -

FINEMAN:  Yes, Obama‘s cut that off.

OLBERMANN:  What does this do to whether she‘s offered it for real or for show?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think it has a lot directly to do with it.  Certainly, if she wanted it, then she needed to do what she‘s doing now, which is to get out and get out fast.  But I don‘t think this is really about this.  I think, Harry Reid, for Senator Clinton as a senator, Harry Reid is the Democrat who matters, he‘s the Democratic leader in the Senate.  He was one of the signatories to that letter, saying you got to get out by Friday.

So, if Hillary wants to become a great legislator and get back in the thick of things of the Senate, she‘s going to need Harry Reid who was sort of de facto supporting her in her bid, even though he didn‘t come out and endorse her, she won out there in good measure because of - did well there because of him.  So, that‘s a factor right there.

And the other factor is, if she wants Obama‘s fundraising prowess, if she wants contributors to help erase that enormous debt that she‘s got, she needs to quickly get back in the fold, get with the program and I think that‘s what she‘s doing now.  I really don‘t think it‘s about the veep thing because the Obama people are pretty much already said as of today, that they‘re really not interested.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” adding to our understanding of this, eight senators gathered by phone, encouraged to do so by Clinton advisers, another part of the pressure brought to bear on Senator Clinton who will now end her campaign on Friday.  Thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  You did not have to vote for Senator Obama to recognize the historic significance of the Illinois Democrat‘s nomination, though you might not have to fight to find it last night in the coverage, nor did you have to cast a balance lot for Senator Clinton, to acknowledge the ground breaking nature of her candidacy.

Hence that today, might well be the beginning of the end of the Clinton campaign as it now appears it is, first coming this morning, during the senator‘s speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.  Senator Clinton is sounding more accepting than she did last night of not being the Democratic nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I know Senator Obama understands what is at stake here.  It has been an honor to contest these primaries with him.  It is an honor to call him my friend and let me be very clear.  I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator Obama giving his own speech to AIPAC this morning in a bid to shore up support among Jewish voters.  Earlier tonight, in an interview with my colleague Brian Williams, Senator Obama addressing how he plans to win back those and other Clinton supporters now threatening to vote for the Republican, John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They are going to start focusing on whose going to actually deliver on universal health care and end the war in Iraq in responsible way and who has the best chance of creating a economy that works from the bottom up and increasing my income.  And when those questions get ask and they will be over next five months, I think that they are going to say, this guy has a vision for our future that matches up with where we want America to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of to go, to recap, let‘s just give you the headline again.  Howard Fineman adding to our understanding of what happened here, eight senators gathered by Clinton advisers in a phone conference today, among them Mikulski, Nelson and Schumer, some of Senator Clinton‘s biggest supporters telling her, you better get out.  You have to get out.  We‘re going to go.  This after as Andrea Mitchell reported, 23 congressional figures told Senator Clinton she needed to release them from their support and it was inappropriate for her to continue her race.

So apparently what we‘re hearing, some sort of event on Friday, probably in New York, the “New York Times” says it will include an endorsement of Obama.  Whether it is an endorsement or a discontinuation outright of the Clinton campaign remains to be seen.  But this is apparently it.  Time now as you already saw to call in our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist of the “Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMAN:  OK, so we have another historic moment in the history of this country.  We‘ll get back to some of the details on Senator Clinton in a moment.  But does history help us understand this sort of one B (ph) moment to the nomination, Obama‘s acceptance speech is going to be 45 years to the day of Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I have a dream” speech.  Next month, the 60th anniversary of the summer that the Dixiecrats walked out of the Democratic convention after Hubert Humphrey‘s speech on civil rights.

And they went and supported a man who ran a platform of segregation, virtually apartheid, and he won in four states and that‘s relatively recent on the American history scale along with yesterday and today.

ROBINSON:  Keith, I‘m not a spring chicken, but I‘m not ancient either.  Within my memory, I remember a time growing up in South Carolina where people whose skin looked like mine and Barack Obama‘s were trying to being able to vote, vote for anything, much less vote for president.  And the idea of that Barack Obama, a man of African descent can run as the Democratic Party candidate for president is truly a historic moment.  Let‘s take one moment to kind of think about that before we get back into talking about politics, which is important and interesting.

But, man, 389 years ago, the first men and women of African descent were brought to the shores forcefully to what was then the Virginia Colony.  We‘ve been through slavery, we‘ve been through the Civil War, we‘ve been through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the great migration, the civil rights moment.

And this is one of those moments that I think history will remember as a real step towards this country‘s fulfilling its basic promises of freedom and equality for all its citizens.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the obvious question about that follows, but there is another development in this story even as you were speaking.  Now the Reuters News service and adding a cording to her campaign, Senator Clinton will back Senator Obama at an event on Friday.  That is the Reuters News service report, an international news agency.  To what degree and what their sources are we don‘t know.

All right.  The question that followed from what you just said, is his nomination, is this campaign likely to be unifying in terms of race relations in this country or is it more likely to show fault lines or is perhaps the answer is both?

ROBINSON:  The answer is definitely both.  And that‘s not punting.  The way we get through our racial problems and divisions is to expose them and to deal with them and work through them as inconvenient and painful as the process may be.  But that is a reason, why, for example, in this country, we have Barack Obama and in a country like, say, Brazil, you know Afro-Brazilians haven‘t made the sort of economic and social and political process in the society we have here.  It‘s been painful.  It‘s not pleasant often, but we do make progress and we do get towards the day when we can maybe, you know some day in the future say that race doesn‘t matter in society.  Maybe.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe.  All right.  One question about these developments tonight.  Do you think it suddenly struck Senator Clinton or did somebody strike her with this fact.  That the 50 percent of the 18 million, 50 percent or more of the 18 million voters they claims have already said they would vote for Obama, that her juice was losing potency so long as she appeared to be some sort of albatross or impediment to this?

ROBINSON:  Last night we all watched Senator Clinton‘s speech and scratched our heads a bit.  Because she was essentially saying, I have this asset, these 18 million voters, but it was a depreciating asset from the beginning.  Because it‘s like you drive a car off the lot and immediately it‘s worth thousands of dollars less than you paid for it.  And I think it is perhaps the case that the rapidity of the depreciation must be somewhat stunning.

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC and part, we‘re proud to say, of our coverage last night that we just found out made this one the third highest rated network in all of cable television.  That‘s all you Gene, I have no doubt about it.  Thank you.

ROBISON:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So what about the vice presidency and what is Senator McCain thinking after his speech was panned last night by right wing media and challenging Obama to 10 town hall style debates.  The latest on this continuing, evolving story about Clinton‘s endorsement of Obama Friday and a judge in the state of Maine rules that the hosts of the show, “Fox and Friends” are quote, “gullible and unprofessional.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To recap the breaking news, Howard Fineman of “Newsweek Magazine” reporting Senator Hillary Clinton will exit the race on Friday and endorse Senator Obama.  He reports eight Clinton supporters in the Senate, encouraged by Clinton advisers called her en masse today and said she must go.

This following NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell‘s report that 23 members of Congress convened by phone to tell Senator Clinton the same thing earlier today.  As we continue to follow the breaking news, what does this mean about the vice presidency, deal or no deal.  After playing phone tag last night the two senators bumped into each other in a hallway at the annual AIPAC conference today.  The presumptive nominee telling reporters as they left that they spoke with each other, adding, quote, “We‘re going to have a conversation in the coming weeks and telling our own Brian Williams that he has no intention of picking a running mate immediately.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We‘re going to go through a process in the vice presidential search where I look at the whole range of options.  This is one of the most important decisions I can make and I think we‘ll signal how I want to operate my presidency and so we‘re not going to be rushed into it.  I don‘t think Senator Clinton expects a quick decision, I don‘t even know that she‘s necessarily interested in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama has today picked JFK‘s daughter, Caroline Kennedy along with long time Washington inside Jim Johnson and President Clinton‘s former deputy attorney general Eric Holder to head up the vice presidential search.  Not all of her supporters think it would be a great fit by her.  The reasoning by one of them seems oddly egotistical yet pragmatic at the same time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ED RENDELL, CLINTON SUPPORTER:  Rule one for the vice president is make sure you never upstage the president, right, rule one.  Hillary Clinton in some ways couldn‘t help by upstage even if she was trying not to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I‘m joined now by our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek Magazine.”  Jon, thanks for your time tonight.

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What do we have regarding this pullout?  There any connection between this and the vice presidency?  Howard Fineman, your colleague, seems to think none.

ALTER:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think she just totally misread the mood on Capitol Hill.  As one senior Democrat told me a couple of days ago, their anger, speaking of the Clintons is clouding their judgment.  She just didn‘t have a read on how little support she had among fellow Democrats who were very anxious for this to come to a close.

OLBERMANN:  Certainly support in terms of coming to the end of the race after all the votes had been counted, those that would have said let‘s hold up the inaugural of George Bush in 2001, sounds like a great idea in theory, but you‘d never want to see it in fact.

ALTER:  Where it does connect to a vice presidency is if you were trying to design the least likely way to get on the ticket, you would pursue Clinton‘s strategy.  For instance, last night I saw Lanny Davis at Clinton‘s non-concession concession speech and he said that she had neither supported nor opposed his passing a petition to get her on the ticket.  She should have shut that down immediately.  Any smart politician, really any politician knows that the last thing you do is try to jam the guy who is holding the cards.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s the same thing Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz experienced when she was going to write the letter, saying, apparently today, on behalf of congressional supporters of Hillary Clinton, here‘s why she should be the V.P. and got mixed messages out of the Clinton campaign as to what to do next.  If Hillary Clinton did not know where she stood relative to the presidential nomination, how could there be a direct connection to what she‘s thinking about the vice presidential nomination, true?

ALTER:  Yeah.  I think she‘s in a state of exhaustion with sympathy for her, it‘s been a long campaign.  But her best bet forgetting on the ticket if that‘s what she wants and I spoke to a best friend of hers yesterday advising her not to do this.  Her best hope is that a few weeks do pass and before this decision is made and through almost a process of elimination, any other potential candidate looks appeal by comparison and just not big enough for this very big election year.

OLBERMANN:  One scenario described to me about the meeting that she seemed to be pushing for.  They have the conversation they want.  He says, great you‘re on the list and I‘ll decide in July or August.  He says, no, I have 18 million votes, you‘re going to decide now.  No, I‘m not going to decide now.  Every day that passes, those votes go out the door automatically with or without any mention by you.  And the more you push for a spot, the more you look like you are not in connection to reality.

ALTER:  I don‘t think that she would push him to decide now.  Because that would just be too abrupt.  What we might do conceivably and this is very speculative is push for a waiver on the vetting, that the normal vetting process that takes place, and she might say, as she said repeatedly, I‘ve been thoroughly vetted.  I‘m more vetted than anyone else.

So she might say to him don‘t have Jim Johnson and the lawyer vet us and it‘s going to be a real test for him of his fortitude and I do believe he will say, senator, with all due respect, everybody in this process will be vetted.  And that might actually end her chances of being vice president at that point.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed, what we seem to have the first official quotation that fits into a confirmation of the Clinton campaign about the presidential candidacy, Harold Wolfson has told the Associated Press, “Hillary Clinton will be hosting an event to thank her supporters and suppress her support for Senator Obama and party unity.”  He did not use the word endorsement but support for party unity and Senator Obama would seem to be right up against that term endorsement.

ALTER:  You‘re going to get the money shot of the two of them that you‘ll see again at the convention.

OLBERMANN:  You think he‘ll be there, do you?

ALTER:  I would imagine so.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as we continue to story chase with Senator Clinton dropping out of the race.  It seems almost unbelievable and now inevitable according to all the reports we have tonight.

Thank you, Jon.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  “Have more than one kid,” Homer Simpson said, “then we can race them.”

They take him literally in Lithuania.

And of all of things said about this man, this may be the most amazing.  He did not know nuclear weapons counted as WMDs.  Oh boy.

Worsts ahead but first the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed.  Number three, Plamegate.  It may be over in the courts but not in the Congress.

And this is not just about Scott McClellan‘s new book, although Chairman Henry Waxman of the House Oversight Committee says its revelations open up new folds to the case.  He also reports his committee has been provided with an edited version of the FBI conversation with Scooter Libby, in which the commuted law breaker says it‘s possible he was instructed by Vice President Cheney to leak to the press about Valerie Plame and her CIA work.

Number two, change the judge-gate.  We told you about this one on Monday.  With the military judge at Gitmo prepared to suspend the trial of a Canadian detainee because his captors would not give the lawyers access to evidence.  The judge, Col. Peter Brownback, was suddenly dismissed and replaced by another judge.  The chief judge at Gitmo says it isn‘t as it appears.  Col. Brownback was supposed to retire from service at the end of this month so they made the change now.  Even though it isn‘t the end of the month.  Even though Brownback was willing to stay on the case as long as need.  It was based, said Col. Ralph Pullman, “on a number of manpower management considerations,” which according to the English to militaryese dictionary translates as it‘s exactly as it appears.

And number one: Appeasement-gate.  You will recall the president leading a brief and largely unsuccessful attempt to link Senator Obama to a policy of appeasement—specifically relating to Iran—the president went for the full H comparing Obama‘s willingness to talk to Iran with the appeasement of Hitler and reading his speech at the Israeli Knesset.

Well, there‘s some bad news for Mr. Bush tonight.  The ally on whom he has most deeply invested, the leader of the vital nation and a troubled part of the world has just gone to talk to another nation lead by tyrants.  The nation he will talk to is Iran, the leader doing the talking is Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq.  That‘s correct.  By Mr. Bush‘s definition, his man in Iraq, for whose government 4,100 Americans had died, is himself, the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton will be hosting an event in Washington on Friday to thank supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity, so says Howard Wolfson of the Clinton campaign, confirming reports tonight that Senator Clinton will drop out and will endorse Senator Obama.  We‘ll continue to story chase on this one throughout the hour. 

First, on this date in 1962, the unheralded American TV character actress Lindsey Frost (ph) was born, on everything from “LA Law” to “Boston Legal.”  Her earlier recurring role was on the daytime drama, “As the World Turns,” where she was one of the later of at least eight actresses to perform the same role.  Thus, her credit for the show lists Ms. Frost as Betty Stewart Montgomery Andropolis (ph) number seven.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Lithuania for annual Oddball favorite, the racing of the babies.  It appears that this year, somebody forgot to tell the babies what to do.  Instead of crawling for the finish line, they stopped cold, changed lanes, veered off to the side, or sat down in the middle of the race.  Never lives up to expectations.  One little bruiser even attacked a nearby cameraman. 

And to Arizona, where a six-inch toy robot, powered by two double A batteries, climbed 1,500 feet out of the Grand Canyon.  Bobby and Cindy Brady remain missing.  The effort was yet another publicity stunt by Panasonic to promote new batteries.  The attempt took six tries, nearly seven hours.  The designer of the robot, Tomotaka Takahashi (ph), said we failed many attempts, but everyone encouraged me to never give up.  Adding, I would like to see that blanking pink rabbit do this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, since he had so obviously out-shined Senator Obama on the oratorical and issues front last night, naturally Senator McCain wants ten town hall debates with him.  What? 

And peace in our time.  OK.  How?  We‘ll recap what‘s happening tonight with Senator Clinton dropping out. 

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.  Number three, best armadillo impression, Dr. Wei Sheng of Naning in Southern China.  He has paid tribute to the 2008 Olympics by sticking 2008 decorative needles in his head, face, hands and chest. 

Asked for a comment, Dr. Sheng said, ouch. 

Number two, best comeuppance, an unnamed 21-year-old man in Holland.  He decided to moon a restaurant.  Unfortunately he didn‘t just moon, he planted.  So forcefully did he plant that he shattered the restaurant window and sustained, quote, deep wounds to his derriere. 

Speaking of which, number one, best justice, U.S. District Judge D.  Brock Hornby in Portland Maine, ruling in the case of local superintendent of schools Leon Lavesk (ph) versus Fox News Channel and its show, “Fox and Friends.”  In April of 2007, the program reported seriously quotes attributed to Mr. Lavesk that were, in fact, part of a spoofed story.  A middle school student had tossed a slab of leftover ham onto a lunch table occupied by Muslim kids, knowing they would be offended, because they feel pork is unclean. 

That was true.  The “Fox and Friends” people, however, one of whom is Gretchen Carlson, who was a Miss America back before the turn of the century, repeatedly read the quotes as if fact, including one in which Lavesk has supposedly said, he was developing, quote, “an anti-ham response plan.”  The anchor specifically said several times, “we‘re not making this up.” 

Judge Hornby ruled that defendants Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade at “Fox and Friends,” quote, “were certainly gullible” and that the quotes were “so absurd that they should have raised the defendants‘ truth-seeking antenna and caused them to question the accuracy of the article.”  He added that they acted unprofessional. 

Judge, don‘t kid yourself, they are not acting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Andrea Mitchell of NBC News now confirming Senator Hillary Clinton will exit the presidential race Friday.  Howard Wolfson of the Clinton campaign saying the soon to be former candidate will hold an event in Washington in support of Senator Obama and party unity.  You may have heard Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” saying that Senator Obama would be expected to be at that.  We will get the victory pose between the two of them. 

Meanwhile, there is the mystery of our third story on this topic, why Senator John McCain would immediately challenge Senator Obama to a series of ten debates, characterized as town halls, in the wake of reviews of his own on stage performance last night.  McCain‘s speech was “creaky, ungracious and unnecessary.”  John McCain sounded old.  Obama sounded fresh and new and exciting and visionary. 

Liberal tub thumpers in action?  No.  The first quote was from the “National Review” online and the second was from Morton Kondracke of Fox News. 

Senator Obama tonight told Brian Williams he thinks starting town halls next week, as McCain suggests, might be a little soon, given the state of the race.  McCain proposing ten joint appearances, with both candidates flying to the first one together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think Americans are tired of the ways presidential campaigns have been run in the past.  All of gimmicks, the phony sound bytes and photo ops. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Later in that photo on, McCain explained his town hall gimmick, with phony sound bites. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  No matter who wins, the direction of the country is going to change dramatically.  The choice before the American people is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backwards. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That was your cue, audience.  Specifically, McCain last night said Obama relies on idea‘s of the ‘60s and ‘70s, apparently oblivious to the irony that his own plan today to reveal that inspiration for his town halls came from Kennedy and Goldwater of the ‘60s.  McCain‘s change claim hobbled to some degree by the fact that he and not Obama is in lock step with President Bush on such things as endless commitment in Iraq, lack of commitment in Afghanistan and Pakistan, on expending health coverage for kids and uninsured adults, on Bush‘s tax cuts for the rich, on fear of diplomacy with America‘s enemies, on letting banks and gas companies run amuck, on rejecting the new GI bill, on opposing a woman‘s right to have an abortion, on appointing Supreme Court judges who would erase that right. 

And even on their styles, as seen vividly last night in the contrast between his closing remarks and Senator Obama‘s. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we begin to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless.  This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.  This was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on Earth. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  You and I have seen Republicans and Democrats achieve great things together.  When the stakes are high and it mattered most, I‘ve seen them work together in common purpose, as we did in the weeks after September 11th.  That kind of cooperation has made all of the difference at crucial turns in our history.  It‘s given us hope in difficult times and it has moved America forward.  And that, my friends, is the kind of change we need right now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s their cue to applaud.  With us now, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Meadow, also host of her own show every weeknight on Air America Radio.  Rachel, good evening. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t—You‘re still not convinced Senator Clinton is dropping out on Friday? 

MADDOW:  When I hear her say the words—I‘m starting to get convinced.  When I hear her say the words, I‘ll be 100 percent convinced. 

OLBERMANN:  Actually, something like a word endorsement is necessary to this process. 

MADDOW:  Or concede.  One of those would be important.  I was shocked by how hard line her speech was last night. 

OLBERMANN:  You were not the only one; 23 members of Congress and eight senators phoned in and said, what are you doing?  That was the gist of what Howard Fineman and Andrea Mitchell were reporting.  It isn‘t just us.  The people on the sidelines going how is this parade turning into a carnage out here, how is this possible; we‘re not the only ones. 

MADDOW:  The other thing that is shocking about it is that if she is going for VP, you don‘t do that by questioning the legitimacy of the nomination going to the presidential candidate.  That‘s not a good way to run for vice president. 

OLBERMANN:  About Obama and McCain, as we continue to await develops in this other thing—I said this at the start of the show, you are John McCain; you make the impression you made in New Orleans last night—got a winner with the green screen he is standing in front of, right?  Obama makes the impression he made in St. Paul last night.  Why do you ever voluntarily appear in the same place at the same time with Obama, unless you have to? 

MADDOW:  Because you want to speak in front of a big crowd maybe?  I don‘t know.  John McCain is the kind of old news perpetual candidate guy, and Barack Obama is the new guy.  And they realize that.  They think that maybe they can get some of the Obama magic to rub off on McCain by putting him in front of the same audience.  They will appear before large, enthusiastic audiences, who are interested in what they have to say, if they appear together.  And McCain isn‘t doing that in front of audiences that are summoned to see him on his own. 

But, you know, they are also thinking, OK, between them among speeches, Obama wins.  When you appear alone, that‘s what you do.  You give a speech.  There is this presumption that McCain thrives in the sort of town hall environment, that sort of town hall meeting environment.  At least he does better there than he does in speeches.  But keep in mind that all of McCain‘s great flubs from this campaign so far have happened in the town hall environment.  The 100 years in Iraq, that was at a town hall meeting.  The bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, that was at a town hall meeting.  When he smiled and laughed along with a questioner who called Hillary Clinton a word I won‘t say right now -- 

OLBERMANN:  That was after a town hall meeting.  Sunni and Shia was in front of an impromptu press event in the Middle East. 

MADDOW:  They can‘t feel confident about it. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing occurs to me as we‘re talking about it, as we look back on John F. Kennedy and the change that he represented and the place in history that he earned himself, and the Camelot mystique and all the rest of that presidency; Richard Nixon almost beat him, and Richard Nixon was perhaps the least personally magnetic man to run for president in the 20th century.  Is there something to the idea that if you trot out there on the stage with the guy, you can get the votes of all the people who lost out to the good looking kids in high school? 

MADDOW:  That you can get the I resent the hunky guy vote? 

OLBERMANN:  Which word was that? 

MADDOW:  Hunky. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s be careful here.  Hunky with a U.

MADDOW:  The attractive guy, the young, attractive energetic guy. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Maybe.  I think they‘ve got to do something to try to get Obama off of the sort of juggernaut that he is on right now.  When Obama appears alone before a roomful of 20,000 people, with another 17,000 people outside—whatever those huge numbers were last night—Obama looks like he‘s winning.  And they‘ve got to make him do something different. 

OLBERMANN:  Right, I‘ll be with you in a moment Senator Obama, I have to put my green screen in place. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t look nauseous and twitchy enough.  We need to get the green out. 

OLBERMANN:  If we see that again, he‘ll have to fire all—I‘ll have to do a Special Comment telling him to fire all of his advisers. 

Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, as always, great thanks. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This mending of fences that Rachel still doesn‘t believe is going to happen until she hears it, we‘ll recap all the news on this tonight.  It appears she is dropping out on Friday in Washington. 

In worsts, Bill-O asks about WMDs, Scott McClellan talks about nuclear weapons.  Bill-O says, stick to WMDs.  Bill-O does not know those are WMDs.  Conclusion, Bill-O is a rube.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Now, there may be two Clinton/Obama unity events.  Senator Clinton will be hosting an event in Washington, reports her campaign, to thank her supporters and express her support for Senator Obama and party unity.  This event will be held on Saturday to accommodate more of Senator Clinton supporters who want to attend. 

The concession and endorsement for Senator Obama may still be scheduled for Friday.  Details on that as they clarify.  First, time fore COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Paolo Gomez (ph), spokesman for the jailers at the Bahayas (ph) State Prison in Salvador, Brazil.  Prisoner Danielson Lino Dasilva (ph), better known as The Leg, was found in a multi-person cell living by himself along with two refrigerators, gym equipment, some guns, 172,000 dollars in cash, a DVD player and a plasma TV.  Said spokesman Gomez, the early leader for the dumbest remark of the year, quote, we will investigate if the leaders of the prison were conniving in this.  You think?

The silver to editor Jed Babbin of the screamer “Human Events,” insisting that Senator Obama will not choose Senator Clinton as his running mate.  “Democrats,” he said out loud, quote, “don‘t want to have both a black man and a woman on the same ticket for one reason; they are so racist and so sexist.  They will take a risk on one.  They won‘t take a risk on two.”  Jed, I hate to break it to you, John McCain is an old white guy.  Don‘t tell anybody. 

But our winner, back on top, Bill-O.  He got face planted repeatedly by Scott McClellan in their interview.  The highlight was this exchange about pre-war propaganda: McClellan, look at the nuclear intelligence.  There wasn‘t as high confidence with the nuclear intelligence.  Bill-O, stay with WMDs right now.  McClellan, that is WMD.  That is WMD.  Bill-O, OK, but that‘s not what Powell—McClellan, no, that is—Bill-O, that‘s not what Colin Powell presented. 

Bill-O didn‘t realize until just now that nuclear weapons were included in weapons of mass destruction, even though when he went before the U.N., Colin Powell presented no fewer than 23 separate references to Saddam Hussein‘s supposed nuclear program, nuclear weapons, nuclear ambitions and nuclear scientists.  What do you think those aluminum tubes were supposed to be for, Bill, bombs? 

Stay with WMDs right now.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Five months later and the end is in sight.  Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s dream of moving back into the White House on January 20, 2009, at least as president, to end officially by week‘s end.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Andrea Mitchell confirming for NBC News at this hour that Senator Clinton will exit the race, holding a private event with staff and supporters Friday, and a public reconciliation endorsement jubilee on Saturday.  Each apparently in Washington; this following Andrea‘s first report that 23 members of Congress convened by telephone to tell the New York Democrat she must go. 

Our own Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” Magazine then reporting that eight Clinton supporters in the Senate, encouraged by Clinton advisors, including fellow New York Chuck Schumer, having called her in conference call to say the same thing.  The Clinton campaign telling NBC News in a statement that Senator Clinton will express support for Senator Obama‘s White House bid.  She will thank her supporters and she will stress party unity at a private event at her house in Washington on Friday. 

And then Saturday, a public event to suspend her campaign to follow, as you may have heard Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and NBC and MSNBC, say earlier in this news hour, he would expect, even though nothing has come from the Obama campaign on this, that Senator Obama would be at the public event and they would raise hands in the traditional gesture of victory for the nominee and the runner up. 

During last nights speech, in a figurative bunker at a New York City college gymnasium two levels below ground, Senator Clinton said she wanted to wait before making any decisions about her campaign, but in those conversations with her own supporters today, not in any way, shape or form affected by Senator Obama, her closest supporters stressed the urgency of the need for her to exit the campaign.  That bunker mentality apparently, reportedly, a thing of the past tonight. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,861st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Again, the headline, Senator Clinton to leave the Democratic presidential race Friday in private and Saturday in public.  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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