updated 7/2/2008 3:22:14 PM ET 2008-07-02T19:22:14

Guest: Barry Lynn, Chris Kofinis, Chris Hayes, Paul Mecurio, Richard Wolffe

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

Obama and faith.  How to get some of the evangelical vote?  How to push back against the Reverend Wright and Muslim paranoia?  But at this price—expanding Bush‘s faith-based initiatives?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  I still believe that it‘s a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grassroots groups both faith-based and secular, but it has to be a real partnership, not a photo-op.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Side show.  After hitting General Clark for insulting McCain‘s military service, when he didn‘t insult McCain‘s military service, now the Republicans are getting really paranoid.  Senator Jim Webb here last night was part of a, quote, “coordinated attack on John McCain‘s credentials.”  Huh?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA:  We need to make sure that we take politics out of service.  People don‘t serve their country for political issues.  And John McCain is my long time friend, if that is one area that I would ask him to calm down on, it‘s that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tell his campaign committee to calm down.

The price of gas, a conservative commentator says the second McCain picks his V.P., gas prices will plummet.  But what is the price of gas?  The senator doesn‘t remember the last time he pumped his own, or do the people who make his commercials, evidently, $4.90 for 1.923 gallons of gas?

Hey, let‘s all go to the gas station in the McCain commercial. 

They‘re selling it for $2.55 a gallon.

Worst.  Deborah Honeycutt, would be congresswoman for Georgia.  She and her consultants have raised $1.7 million but only spent $17,000 in Georgia.  The rest of the money went to her - correct, it is the plot of Mel Brooks‘ movie “The Producers.”

And: Angelina Jolie reportedly gave birth to twins.  Again, I know this woman is talented, but twice in one month?

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s very nice.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, July 1st, 126 days until the 2008 presidential election.

It is one of the most insidious aspects of the Reagan and Bush presidencies.  What was never attempted before, a smudging of the line between church and state with the current president Bush turned faith-based initiatives, becoming a part of the government, making America to some small degree, even a tiny fraction of 1 percent part theocracy.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Seeing political opportunity and seeing some way of incorporating the faith without the intolerance, Senator Barack Obama today, is trying to offer the compassion without the conservativism, and deliver unto himself some votes.

What if he winds up costing himself more?  The presumptive Democratic nominee today is unveiling a plan that he claims would be able to expand faith-based government-funded charities and maintain the separation of church and state.  The former community organizer is hoping to expand the amount of money going to religious service organizations with the ground rules that it not be used to proselytize, that religion not be used as a factor in hiring, and that recipients be held to the same standards of accountability as anyone else who would receive a federal grant.

Senator Obama saying he would first have to scrap the office of faith-based initiatives as it exists now inside the Bush White House, you know, the one that its former deputy director, David Kuo, charged, was often used as little more than a front for political partisan operations.

Senator Obama is saying that his new council for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships would be an actual critical part of what his administration hopes to accomplish.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I want this to be central to our White House mission.  Just as I want a White House office on poverty, to be—which I‘ve already discussed previously, on urban policy to be a part of high level discussions in White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Also, at that same news conference, our correspondent, Lee Cowan asking Senator Obama to comment on the perception that since the general election campaign has unofficially started, he has shifted some of his views toward the middle of the road, using FISA as an example, that was entirely Senator Obama‘s idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  What happens is, I get tagged as being on the left and when I simply describe what had been my positions consistently, then suddenly people act surprised, but there hasn‘t been substantial shifts there.  You know, let‘s take one example and that‘s the FISA bill.  The compromise that came out of the House was not the compromise necessarily that I would have designed but it met my basic criteria that FISA, the FISA court was going to be involved exclusively in overseeing that program.

And so, I made a judgment that at this point it was important for us to go ahead and get that program in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Richard.

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

OLBERMANN:  All right.  First, on all of this with this sort of revised faith-based initiative program, our political director, Chuck Todd, pointed out this morning that out of the seven last Democratic presidential nominees, the only two who could talk effectively, efficiently even about their Christian faith were then governors Carter and Clinton.  Those happen to be the only two who won.

Is it significant that Obama is choosing to make faith not only an issue but a kind of policy priority?

WOLFFE:  Yes, it is significant.  I think, it‘s significant for a couple of reasons.  First of all, on the personal level, this is important to Obama and his own story.  Community organizing in Chicago was how he entered politics and how he was brought to religion.  And he was working for a group that was funded in part by the Catholic Church.  He was working to organize in part churches in Chicago.

And among those churches, the one that really attracted him, Trinity United Church of Christ, Reverend Wright‘s church, was so important to him because of its social ministry, because of its work on health care and education, on drugs.  And so, you have a mixture at the start of his personal story in politics, that puts religion and politics, social activism altogether.  So, it‘s important for that.

It‘s also important, as Chuck points out, and other authors have, including Barack Obama in his best selling book, “The Audacity of Hope,” that Democrats talking about religion in the public square is an important way of connecting to the American people and the American story.  And for a candidate who is often perceived as being new and different, putting himself in the heart of the American story is important.

OLBERMANN:  David Kuo, who pretty much blew the lid off what the current White House version of this looked like, essentially a three-card Monty game against the faithful, to say nothing about what it did to the faithful, or just to secularly-oriented, Kuo was contacted by the Obama campaign to review this plan.  He‘s not a supporter of Obama.  He‘s not an adviser; he called it a massive deal.

He said that the nondiscriminatory hiring plan has the potential to be the equivalent of the Bill Clinton Sister Soulja moment which referred to the accusation from Clinton in the ‘92 campaign that Sister Soulja, the hip-hop artist had incited violence against whites.  The potential, OK, -- who is the potential with?  Seeing this as some sort of David Kuo do-over help Senator Obama politically in what way?

WOLFFE:  Well, first of all, I think this is a Sister Soulja moment.  I think he had that moment with Reverend Wright and that was the moment when he confronted a core constituency and said this kind of behavior was unacceptable.

But you raise a very important political point here.  Here he is trying to go up against a candidate who himself has problems with the evangelical conservative voters that were so important for President Bush, especially in 2004, but also in 2000.

So, you have a skeptical group that is looking at these two candidates and has a problem with one of them, McCain.  And they‘re easily roused by people trying to demonize someone like Barack Obama.

When he goes out and talks about faith like this, it‘s much harder for evangelical conservatives to say that Barack Obama is the bogeyman.  That you‘ve to go out and vote, got to go and show up because you‘ve got to stop Obama.

So, when you put together what the Kuo‘s central message was, which was that evangelical voters should sit this election out, they should be skeptical about conservatives, he‘s put that together with McCain and their doubts about him.  And Obama, in neutralizing himself to some degree, not completely, but to some degree, you have a powerful combination that can keep that conservative vote lower.

OLBERMANN:  The other point, Senator Obama introducing without being asked this topic about how he‘s holding his ground on FISA today, as we heard earlier, if nobody alienated by his support of that bill is going to be reassured by simply hearing, “Hey, it‘s the best deal I could get,” why did he bring it up again?

WOLFFE:  Well, Lee‘s question was about whether he‘s shifting to the center and a lot of people have written about this.  I think his point was that he had always taken a slightly different tack on FISA.  That he was in a kind of centrist position and that his problem wasn‘t with the immunity for telecoms companies, his problem was with court oversight of the program.  And once that box was checked, he was OK with it.

It is a compromise.  It‘s a fudge.  And I won‘t satisfy people on the left.  But, you know, for him, he obviously is very concerned to keep that program moving, whether it‘s the politics or national security.

OLBERMANN:  Our own Richard Wolffe.  Great thanks for joining us, as always, sir.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Today‘s announcement of a faith-based initiative is not the only overture Obama is making to the evangelical movement.  Over the next four months, his supporters are planning up to 1,000 house parties and dozens of Christian rock concerts, as well as holding campus visits, conference calls, and meetings with religious leaders.

This, despite the fact that the latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Poll puts Senator McCain at a 69 percent to 21 percent advantage over Obama with people identifying themselves as evangelicals.  However, that is a full 10 percent less evangelical support than Bush had in 2004.

So, does Obama have a chance to woo, at least, some of them away from the Republican Party and is the price he‘d have to pay worth it?

Joining me now to help answer that question is the executive director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Reverend Barry Lynn.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

REV. BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: 

Nice to be here.

OLBERMANN:  The announcement that he would intensify Mr. Bush‘s faith-based initiatives, balancing church and state, is that a good idea or is it a bad idea?

LYNN:  Well, it‘s always a good idea when you have someone talking about the separation of church and state and having demonstrated support for it in the past.  That‘s a good thing when he says his program will not allow discriminatory hiring with the very tax dollars that are coming from all of the people and that might end up in a religious community.  Those are all steps in the right direction.

But you really have to ask the question, why not just go back to the way it was before the president—this president‘s faith-based initiative, which is nothing more than a kind of 21st century version of walking around money, paying your friends, or luring your friends into things in the expectation they‘ll get money?

But before that, there were all kinds of community partnerships between religious organizations and government, but they didn‘t discriminate in hiring or accepting volunteers to distribute the food.  They were engaged in secular services.  They kept it segregated from their religious function.

Why not just go back to that system, do it that way and get rid of this idea that you have a separate office sitting near the White House to help people be religious?  We don‘t need that in this country.

OLBERMANN:  To that point, Obama‘s ground rules for these federal grants would be no proselytizing; religion can‘t be used as a factor in hiring, which you mentioned, same accountability as grants to non-religious outfits.  I imagine that the third would be pretty easy to accomplish and to sort of supervise.  But the first two, especially in light of the last 20 or 30 years, no proselytizing, no religious litmus test for hiring, are these things not, to some degree, antithetical to nearly all religions no matter how positive their intentions are?

LYNN:  No, it is a big problem.  It‘s very difficult for a religious group that takes its faith seriously to turn off the spigot of spirituality whenever some federal dollar comes floating by, and then turn it back on with the private dollars.  That is a serious problem.

One way to correct it is you form a separate little nonprofit agency associated with your church.  It makes it easy for transparency purposes to see where the moneys come from, where it‘s going, and you don‘t have to get into problems of auditing the churches, auditing all of their books.  It‘s good for the church, it‘s good for the state, and it‘s very good for the taxpayers, because we‘ve seen some abominable programs, some of which we have sued successfully over the past seven years, where this proselytizing has gotten way out of control using money that comes from the American taxpayer.

OLBERMANN:  Reverend Lynn, politically, it‘s pretty obvious who Obama could lose with this, I think.  Is it obvious that there are people out there he could gain?  Do they exist or do they just in his perception?

LYNN:  OK.  It‘s not a complete methodological kingdom, but this idea that there are conservative evangelicals who somehow really worry more about the environment and vote that way than worry about his position on abortion or gay rights, it‘s a very slim segment of the pie of the American voter.  There‘s no demonstration that the so-called hard-line religious right, 17 to 18 percent of American voters, since the 1970s are going away.

We did some studies of the income from the top 15 religious right groups, 14 of them made more money last year than the year before.  You combine that with Mike Huckabee, the perfect social issues candidate for the religious right, he won eight states in primaries, got 36 percent of the vote in Texas the day that he dropped out of the race.

I mean, those folks are still there.  I‘ve talked to some of them just this afternoon.  The truth is, they say abortion, gay rights, prayer in the schools—those are the issues they‘re going to vote on.  Many of them, frankly, are a little suspicious about the faith-based initiative.  They were when they saw David Kuo and others criticize the issue.

OLBERMANN:  Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, great thanks for your insight.  Thank you for your time, sir.  Thank you.

LYNN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  It hasn‘t happened but that has not stopped the McCain campaign from saying it has.  First, it was their bizarre claim that Wes Clark had attacked McCain‘s military record.  Today, it gets even more paranoid, an insistence that an interview on this newscast was part of, quote, “a coordinated attack on John McCain‘s credentials.”  And the senator himself has just demanded that Clark should be, quote, “cut loose.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Manufacturing umbrage.  The McCain campaign increases the number of targets.  Senator Jim Webb and this newscast added to the list.  And McCain with a demand to Obama about General Clark just happening tonight.  McCain‘s secret solution to the gas crisis: A vice presidential pick will make prices at the pump, quote, “plummet.”  Does the senator himself have any idea how bad the crisis actually is?

And 24 hours in the psych ward waiting area and they just let her die.

And conservatives scamming conservatives, raising $1.7 million to defeat a liberal but is spending only $17,000 on the actual campaign.  Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The McCain campaign is fighting back again today including John McCain himself.  Just this evening, against the second consecutive non-attack in two days, this time, a non-attack that not happened on this very news program last night.

In our fourth story this evening: Much as Senator McCain supported going after Iraq, which also had not attack, leaving Osama bin Laden to plan his next real attack; now, McCain says Senator Jim Webb speaking here on COUNTDOWN last night was renewing the non-attack on McCain‘s military service that had not been launched by Wesley Clark, not on Sunday.

Here‘s what Senator Webb, the former secretary of the Navy, decorated Vietnam vet, said after, alluding to the Clark dustup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAST NIGHT)

WEBB:  We need to make sure that we take politics out of service.  People don‘t serve their country for political issues.  And John McCain is my longtime friend, if that is one area that I would ask him to calm down on, it‘s that.  Don‘t be standing up and uttering your political views and implying that all the people in the military support them because they don‘t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “If you didn‘t think this was a coordinated attack on John McCain‘s credentials before,” McCain‘s campaign says today, “it‘s clear now that it is.  Barack Obama‘s surrogates are telling the McCain campaign to calm down about attacks on his military record?  Seriously?

Now somehow Wes Clark‘s attacks are John McCain‘s fault?  It‘s absurd.  If Barack Obama can‘t control his own surrogate operation, how can he be trusted to run the country?”

Tonight, McCain himself, told reporters, Obama should not just repudiate Clark but, quote, “cut him loose.”  Never mind that McCain‘s righteous outrage about a non-attack comes at the same time he fields a former swiftboater in his defense, part of the group that actually attacked, denigrated, lied about, John Kerry‘s service, never mind the disingenuous paradox of claiming a coordinated attack by, quote, “uncontrollable surrogates.”

There is now explicit denial from Webb.  A spokeswoman noting that he made this same plea last year to Lindsey Graham on MEET THE PRESS and adding quote, “Senator Webb has never spoken with Senator Obama about this issue nor has he spoken to Wesley Clark.  Senator Webb‘s comments were not targeted at McCain‘s military service.  Senator Webb has never and would never demean the service of anyone who has stepped forward to serve our country.”

And if that were not enough, Obama himself, repeatedly, again today, is saluting McCain‘s service, rejecting Clark‘s comments, and reiterating their irrelevance to America‘s problems.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I‘m happy to have all sorts of conversations about how we deal with Iraq and what happens with Iran.  But the fact that somebody on a cable show or on a news show by General Clark said something that was inartful about Senator McCain, I don‘t think is probably the thing that is keeping Ohioans up at night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We ask the McCain campaign for something, anything, that specified what in Webb‘s remarks they felt was offensive and constituted an attack on McCain‘s military record.  Their answer included the idea, quote, “that John McCain should somehow calm down about attacks on his military record.”  In mathematics that‘s known as a tautology.

Let‘s turn now to Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, former communication director for the campaign of John Edwards.

Thanks again for joining us tonight, Chris.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  There are real attacks on McCain‘s military service to be found out there.  Some come from the left, surprisingly large number come from the right.  How does it serve McCain to pretend that mere references to his military service constitute attacks?

KOFINIS:  Well, it‘s the politics of mass distraction.  I mean, the irony here, is what the real agenda here is, if you don‘t want to talk about the issues, if you don‘t want to talk about the solutions, in terms of what you‘re going to do about gas prices, the economy, jobs, Iraq, anything that really matters to the American people, distract them.  Distract them with made-up issues like this in terms of people attacking John McCain‘s character.

I mean, listen, could General Clark have said what he said a little bit more artful?  Sure.  But the notion that someone is out there attacking John McCain‘s patriotism is laughable.

What is not laughable is that John McCain went out of his way to hire a guy, Colonel Day, who was a swiftboat member who attacked John Kerry‘s patriotism and his military service back in 2004.  That‘s the part that disturbs me the most.  It‘s that kind of hypocrisy that bothers people.

OLBERMANN:  But one other thing about this, in the context, say, of the Charlie Black “terrorism is good for McCain” remarkable comments, where the Obama camp just came back and said, “This is, you know, we‘re staying out of this.  This is your problem.”  Did Senator McCain go a little too far tonight by saying that Obama should, quote, “cut loose General Clark”?  Is this like the wrong flame war to get into?

KOFINIS:  Yes, I mean, it‘s a little bit of doth protesting too much.  I mean, again, the problem for the McCain campaign is they‘ve got nothing else left.  I mean, what do they want to do, talk about the issues?  That‘s clearly not the case.

The problem, I think, that you have if you‘re on the Democrat side, is you don‘t want to get into this debate about, you know, biographies and stuff.  That‘s not really where the focus should be.  You really want to focus on the issues that matter to the American people.

I mean, listen, the American people are suffering.  We‘re facing one of the most serious economic crises, probably, in the last four decades.  That is where, I think, the attention should be.

But the Republicans and the McCain campaign knows that.  They don‘t want to talk about that.  They want to talk about this.

And so, you‘re kind of stuck in this kind of Catch 22 where you have to respond, but at the same time, you don‘t want to get caught in their game because that is what they want.  They want to distract the American people, distract the media and not focus on the issues that really matter because the reality is, they don‘t have the solutions.

OLBERMANN:  Are we seeing a strategy beginning to form here in the last couple of days that any slight reference to McCain‘s war service is going to be twisted around into kind of like, as if they saw something in John Kerry‘s response in 2004 that they liked and figured they could make a campaign on?  In other words, look at all these evil men attacking this former POW feel sorry for him vote for John McCain.

KOFINIS:  Yes, it‘s kind of ironic considering they didn‘t really mind attacking Senator Kerry‘s patriotism and military service in 2004.  In fact, they were eager about it.  They bragged about it.  They funded a group that did it incessantly.

So, the notion they‘re going to turn around and somehow be smirch General Clark and other Democrats and Senator Obama‘s name by suggesting they were out there attacking Senator McCain‘s patriotism, again, as I said, is laughable.

I mean, the reality here is they‘re stuck in a Catch 22, the McCain campaign.  What else do they want to talk about?  They got no solutions.  They got no idea how they‘re going to lead this country.  So, they want to basically attack and manufacture this notion that somehow Democrats are out there attacking Senator McCain‘s patriotism.

In fact, that‘s not the case.  What they‘re attacking and rightfully so, are Senator McCain‘s lack of ideas and lack of solutions, and lack of direction as to how he‘s going to lead this country.

OLBERMANN:  One practical question.  There‘s clearly, there has been a media bias that sees things like the swiftboats, the lies in that, about a Democratic war hero as fodder for debate, as a starting point, but innocuous Democratic opinions as attacks on a Republican war hero, that bias is there.  How do Democrats knock it down?

KOFINIS:  I think you knock it down, you knock it down hard by pointing out the hypocrisy.  I mean, the part that really struck me is, the same day that John McCain‘s out there protesting and waxing poetically about how dare General Clark question Senator McCain‘s military service, what does he do?  He goes out there and hires an individual that was out there in 2004 attacking John Kerry‘s patriotism and military service.

That‘s the part that, I think, is ridiculous.  And that‘s kind of hypocrisy that really, I think, weakens their argument.  That‘s the line of attack.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Kofinis, the former communications director on the Edwards campaign.  Thanks, as always, Chris.

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Say—I hate to tell you guys this, but that new statue you got there, that‘s kind of like an enema bulb.  What do you mean it‘s an enema bulb?

In an unrelated story, Karl Rove, super-journalist, takes a bad quote from one campaign and transfers it on to the other campaign.

But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.

Number three: Halliburton-gate.  After 13 electrocution deaths and countless severe electrical shocks of Americans in Iraq, it has suddenly dawned on the Pentagon to order inspections of all the wiring of all the buildings in Iraq built or maintained by the spun off Halliburton subsidiary, KBR.  The warnings about the criminally-negligent job KBR did in not properly grounding its wiring in and near showers began in 2004.  The most recent U.S. soldier killed by KBR was Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, a green beret from Pennsylvania on January 2nd of this year.

Number two: They‘re doing it again in Iran-gate.  An ex-CIA agent undercover, ordered by the agency not to reveal his real name has sued the government, asking it to declassify a series of legal documents which show what he sees was a deliberate suppression of his reports to the agency, that Iran had suspended its work on a nuclear bomb.  His lawyer says of his client, a 22-year CIA vet who‘s fluent in Farsi and Arabic and was inside somewhere in the Persian Gulf.

On five occasions, he was ordered to either falsify his reporting on WMD or to not file his reports at all.  And they fired him.  Twenty-two years at CIA, fluent in Farsi and Arabic, had evidence there was no WMD in Iraq and no nukes in Iran, so we fired him.  So, he could instead turn to what kind of evidence?

Number one: Gitmo-gate.  The first judicial review of the government‘s secret evidence against one of the detainees has been made partially public.  A three-judge panel said that the accusations against the Chinese Muslim held at Gitmo, Huzaifa Parhat, were based on bare and unverifiable claims.  The judges said that the government contended that its claims against Parhat should be accepted as the truth even if they really weren‘t, because they were repeated in at least, three secret documents.

To one of the justices this rang an awful bell.  Louis Carroll wrote in his poem, “The Hunting of the Snark,” “I have said it thrice.  What I tell you three times is true.”

So, if any point of this nightmare of this Bush administration, turning day into night, lies into truth, slavery into freedom, if at any point you invoked “Alice in Wonderland” and thought, we are through the looking glass here, you never knew how right you were.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best persons in a moment.  No doctor.  He didn‘t see anything suggestive about throwing sausage at his mother.  First, actor Darrell Anderson turns 57 today.  He was part of a marvelous, almost unforgotten—or almost forgotten ensemble cast on one of the last of TV‘s sprawling dramas of the ‘70s and ‘80s, playing the flaky photographer Animal of the fictional newspaper the Los Angeles Tribune in the series “Lou Grant.”  During its first season, the Professional Photographers Association of America demanded he be fired, threatened a sponsor boycott, because Anderson portrayed Animal as a disaffected slob.  But Anderson‘s portrayal was so strangely winning that within a year, the National Press Photographers Association put him on the cover of its magazine, saluting him for increasing interest in photo journalism among students. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Zheleznovodsk, Russia, and like Jack Nicholson‘s Joker said in “Batman,” this town needs an enema.  The ceremony at one of the town‘s well known spas, a giant bronze enema statue has been unveiled.  Thank your lucky stars it‘s not a fountain.  The work stands about five feet tall, features three cherubs hoisting the thing, and it cost around 43,000.  The sculptor says it‘s a play on Botticelli‘s Venus and Mars.  She calls her creation a success.  As for the crowd‘s reaction, those in attendance called the experience uncomfortable, and afterwards complained they didn‘t feel like sitting down. 

In Chatham, Massachusetts meet 10-year-old Cameron Delandy (ph), who was digging around in his commode one day and found two diamond rings.  The young man was good enough to re-enact the adventure for our cameras.  Delandy had accidentally dropped his tooth brush into the John.  When he went in after it, he struck diamonds.  The family discovered the rings belonged to the home‘s previous owner, Mary Treanor (ph), who was thrilled to get them back.  In fact, she was so thrilled, she offered to cover the cost of replacing Cameron‘s tooth brush.  No, we made that last part up.  Sorry. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How much does a gallon of gas cost?  In McCain land, it works out to 2.55.  Let‘s gas up in McCain land.  Madonna says, yes, she has been to a Yankees game, and yes, her manager now also works for a Yankees star, but that does not mean she is having an affair with a Yankee.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best admission, Fixed News, posting a help wanted ad last Friday on the TV news room Media Bistro website, looking to hire somebody to become its, quote, fact writer.  This is a new position or you just haven‘t had anybody doing it for 12 years or what? 

Number two, best opportunity for psychiatric study, runner-up, two U.S. senators have signed up to be co-sponsors of Resolution 43, the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment, which would amend the constitution to specify that marriage, quote, shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.  The two senators are Larry Craig of Idaho and David Vitter of Louisiana.  That would be senator wide stance and senator D.C. Madame.  Paging Dr. Freud.  Dr. Freud please. 

And number one, best opportunity for psychiatric study winner, 46-year-old Gregory Praguer (ph) of Deland, Florida.  Simply read this local TV report from station WFTV; quote, a man in Deland is facing charges for attacking his mother with sausage.  Police say 46-year-old Gregory Praguer took a three-pound pack of polish sausage and hurled it at his mother during an argument.  It hit her in the back of the head, but she wasn‘t hurt.  Police say Praguer was drunk during the Saturday morning fight and admitted to hurling the meat at his mother. 

Paging Dr. Freud.  Dr. Freud‘s staff!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The political value of at least pretending to understand the rough parameters of the day-to-day crises of the average citizen was probably never clearer to anybody than it was on the afternoon of October 16th, 1793, as they led Queen Marie Antoinette of France off to the Guillotine.  Some in the crowd, doubtless, repeated the couplet indelibly associated with her; your royal highness the people have no bread.  No bread?  Well, let them eat cake. 

They, like most of us in the ensuing 215 years, had no idea that Marie not only never said that, but that the story about an unnamed French princess saying that was first told in 1766, when Marie was 11 years old and living in Vienna.  And it didn‘t matter.  It stuck to her anyway. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, when the price of gas might decide whether or not you get elected, always know the price of gas.  Asked the last time he had pumped his own gas, John McCain said he didn‘t remember and it didn‘t matter because the Secret Service wouldn‘t let him, and the hundreds of town hall meetings in which he so effectively communicated with people took care of that.  And what was the next question? 

It might very well have been the price shown in the McCain ad touching on the gas crises.  That‘s $4.90 for just under two gallons.  Let‘s go there.  But in the cake eating department, there is the news of the campaign‘s latest acquisition, a Boeing 737 featuring more posh accommodations for VIP passengers and members of the media.  More on that in a moment. 

Indeed, perhaps there is no need to worry, at least if McCain acts on the advice of neo-con Bill Kristol, who suggests selecting Alaska‘s Governor Sarah Palin as a running mate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST:  First, I think she would help him get elected, which would be good if you want gas prices to come down.  Then she‘ll persuade him that we have to drill an ANWR and have an aggressive drilling program across the board. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation Magazine,” joins us yet again.  Good evening, Chris. 

CHRIS HAYES, “THE NATION”:  Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I realize this is Bill Kristol, but the announcement of a VP choice could lower gas prices?  If you made the old Esso Tiger your VP, that wouldn‘t lower gas prices.  Is Sarah Palin some sort of mass hypnotist or something? 

HAYES:  Why stop at the Esso Tiger?  If it weren‘t constitutionally barred, we could go with Vladimir Putin or someone from the house of Saud or Hugo Chavez.  You know, there are a lot of options out there.  Look, this is the point at which the gas price discussion has officially jumped the shark.  Right?  You have this huge economic problem causing a lot of pain for a lot of Americans, and there‘s really very little that John McCain or Barack Obama can do about it. 

The difference is that Barack Obama does have some kind of holistic approach to the economy that might provide some relief for families in other areas, whether that‘s health care or in tax rebates, et cetera.  And John McCain really doesn‘t.  So he has to fixate on the gas price. 

OLBERMANN:  McCain/Chavez ‘08.  I‘m just contemplating that for a moment.  There are two symbols in here; that energy commercial that has gas at 2.55 a gallon, and the other symbolism, if you‘re asked about pumping your own gas, is that not a softball?  Can anybody out there not think that, you know, I don‘t get to go anymore because of security.  I don‘t get to do this, but I know in some places it‘s nearly five dollars a gallon and changing that is one of my top priorities. 

How does anybody miss that softball? 

HAYES:  Well, I think missing softballs is part of kind of McCain‘s appeal, particularly in the press, that he doesn‘t knock these softballs out of the park.  I actually think, at a certain level, he‘s right.  It doesn‘t matter.  This authenticity competition we have every four years about which president has the, you know—is just the most ordinary and you want to have a beer with is transparently ludicrous.  I don‘t think that the fact that John McCain owns seven or eight homes or that he married into this monumentally wealthy family with all this inherited wealth is really relevant either way, or that he hasn‘t pumped gas.  I don‘t care if he pumped gas in a year, two years, five years. 

What I care about is that he has some vision for an energy policy that isn‘t going to be so beholden to energy companies and fossil fuels.  At a certain level, there is this kind of authenticity competition.  But it‘s, of course, the Republicans and conservatives that have created it.  So at the most immediate level, there‘s something kind of satisfying about them being hoisted by their own petard when it comes to these trivial symbolisms. 

OLBERMANN:  If you could run cars on Budweiser, he‘d have a better answer, I assure you of that.  One question about this plane—and to be fair, Obama obviously charters a jet too.  And I‘m sure it‘s equally spacious and consumes equal amounts of jet fuel.  But McCain in his has set up a special interview area, and his press guy actually said, reporters have to earn their way into it.  Now, how do you earn your way as a reporter into the special, sanctified area of the John McCain flying Straight Talk kind of not Straight Talk Express? 

HAYES:  Well, there‘s a lot of competition for reporters most cozy with John McCain at this point.  I‘m imagining his spokesperson was being tongue in cheek, at least let‘s hope.  As my colleague Eric Alderman chronicled in “The Nation” just a week ago, there‘s a long-running kind of mutual love affair between the press and John McCain.  Part of that is the fact that John McCain does have—has had, and particularly in 2000 had this policy of these long conversations, and you could ask him anything you want.  And access to candidates is a very restricted commodity. 

At the same time, eight years have passed and he‘s a very different candidate than he was then.  While the American people and voters and everyone else in the political establishment seem to be waking up to that fact, it is sort of like the press is the last to notice at this point. 

OLBERMANN:  He just actually said that Wesley Clark should be cut loose by Obama.  So I don‘t know what‘s tongue in cheek anymore and what‘s just silly.  Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation,” thank you as always, sir. 

HAYES:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Madonna, meanwhile, is never out of gas.  More rumors about her and Alex Rodriguez.  This would mean she‘s been linked to a pro athlete in four consecutive decades.  That‘s a modern record. 

And the producers meet the Republicans.  The firm that raised 1.7 million for this would-be conservative Congresswoman billed her 1.5 million.  Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A-rod and Madonna, and Angelina Jolie reportedly giving birth to twins twice already in one month, and one more to go.  That is not motherhood.  It is a carnival act.  That‘s ahead, but first time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s worst person in the world.

The bronze to the staff at the psych ward at Kings Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.  Security video shows a 49-year-old woman named Esmon Green (ph) taken to the ward for agitation, sitting there hour after hour, perhaps for a full day in the hospital, before finally collapsing face first to the floor.  She lies there having periodic convulsion for 45 minutes, Security guards ambling past, no staffers come to her aid.  She dies there.  They leave her there and then apparently the staffers go and alter her records to suggest she was alert and walking around when she was already dead.  Two guards, a nurse, and a doctor have been fired. 

Our runner-up tonight, Karl Rove, finding this journalism stuff to be a lot more difficult than it seems, writing another hit piece on Obama in the Murdoch Street Journal.  Reviewing discussions about the proposed McCain town halls, Rove wrote that Obama‘s camp offered two and, quote, his spokesman then said take it or leave it.  So much for anywhere anytime. 

Sadly no.  The McCain people refused the two town halls, repeated its offer to meet Obama on any of the next ten Thursdays, and Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs responded by calling that McCain‘s take it or leave it.  Kind of true isn‘t good enough in this business, Mr. Rove.  This isn‘t war in Iraq or something. 

And our winner BMW Direct, a direct mail firm in Washington, D.C.  TPMMuckraker.com reports it helped conservative Deborah Honeycutt raise $1.7 million for her second challenge to Democratic Congressman David Scott of Georgia this year.  Last time, in 2006, Congressman Scott beat her by 38 points.  The campaign reports $1.5 has been spent, but less than 17,000 was spent in Georgia, where Ms. Honeycutt is actually trying to get elected. 

Where did the rest of the money go?  To BMW Direct, naturally.  If this sounds familiar, it should.  To paraphrase my friend Rich Proctor, paraphrasing Mel Brooks, step one, we find the worst candidates in the world, a sure loser.  Step two, I raise a million dollars.  There‘s a lot of little old lady conservatives in this world.  Step three, you go back to work on the books.  Step four, we open the campaign and before you can say step five, we close the campaign.  Step six, we take our million dollars and fly to Rio. 

BMW Direct, adapting the plot of “The Producers” for the political stage, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Unless it affects the price of Yankees tickets, rumors of some kind of relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Madonna must be relegated to stories my producers are forcing me to cover.  But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, A-Rod has reportedly been frequenting Madonna‘s New York apartment.  And thanks to even more specious reports, Angelina Jolie has given birth to twins for the second time in a month.  Now that‘s talent. 

The Madonna account, both from “US Weekly” and “OK! Magazine” is that the pop star has been hosting visits at her central park west apartment late in the evening from the New York Yankees third baseman, Mr. Rodriguez, reportedly numerous visits, ending as late as midnight, with A-Rod sneaking out and causing a stir among the doormen, according to “US Weekly.”  But Madonna‘s spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg (ph), tells “People Magazine,” quote, Madonna and Alex have the same manager.  They have met.  They know each other and Madonna took her kids to a Yankees game last week.  But that‘s it, she says.  Reports that Madonna and husband Guy Richie are divorcing are also untrue.

As for Ms. Jolie, a French magazine called “Clozer” (ph) first reported that she gave birth at a hospital in Nice, but later conformed to other reports that it hasn‘t happened yet.  Today, our British affiliate i-TV reported that Ms. Jolie went into the hospital in Nice to give birth, this one month after “Entertainment Tonight” claimed that she had already given birth.  Look out, she‘s starting again.  Incoming!

Let‘s turn now to comedian Paul Mecurio.  Good evening, Paul. 

PAUL MECURIO, COMEDIAN:  Hi, Keith.  Nice to be back with you. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you for your time tonight.  Madonna first. 

MECURIO:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  She‘s gone to a Yankee game.  She sat in Alex Rodriguez‘s seats.  Rodriguez reportedly attended her show in New York, a charity event for Malawi.  She and Alex Rodriguez could not just be good buddies?  We have to presume something seedy? 

MECURIO:  No.  I don‘t think you have to at all.  I agree with you.  I think they‘re just friends.  In fact, a spokesperson for Madonna said that, quote, they‘re just friends.  But to be fair, that‘s how representatives have been answering phones at her office for 30 years.  Hello, Madonna‘s office.  Yes, just friends.  Yes, just friends.  Just friends.

You know what?  I‘m not cynical and I don‘t think you are either.  I think it‘s just about getting together, enjoying each other‘s company.  I do think Madonna has an ulterior motive and that‘s she wants to adopt his new baby. 

OLBERMANN:  And she‘s previously hit lulls in her career and mysteriously—and the juxtaposition could be accidental here.  But mysteriously at these times, stories have suddenly come out about she‘s dating Warren Beatty; she‘s dating Jose Canseco; she‘s dating Sean Penn.  She Married Sean Penn, in fact.  But are we looking at perhaps kind of a publicity equivalent of steroids here? 

MECURIO:  Good question.  I think we might be.  Sources tell me that, A, she is attracted to A-Rod because in Kabbalah, A-Rod means hot young hunk that helps lagging CD sales.  But they‘re not helping this whole scandal themselves, you know.  They‘re sort of throwing a little fuel on the fire.  The other day, Madonna‘s eight-year-old boy was seen with a New York Yankee jersey on.  And just yesterday, A-Rod‘s two-month-old daughter was seen in Central Park with a cone bra. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, god.  All right.  Let‘s switch quickly over to Angelina Jolie, the fountain of America‘s mother here.  The hospital spokesman confirms she‘s checked into the hospital in Nice, in France, with twins on the way.  The strange thing of course here is that there‘s been reporting already, two separate reports, that she‘s already given birth to twins.  That‘s four with the possibility of six in about a five-week span.  This is—I mean, why does she bother acting?  She could just—that by itself should be a movie. 

MECURIO:  Guinness Book of world records.  You know, this is amazing to me.  Only in this country can you have conspiracy theories about giving birth.  You know you‘ve made it.  Usually that kind of stuff is reserved for assassinations of heads of state or space aliens.  But I have my own source on this.  I can tell you that she did indeed give birth.  According to a spokesperson for her uterus, she apparently gave birth to children and her children that were in the womb, they actually gave birth to their own children. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow. 

MECURIO:  She gave birth to four kids at one time, and I understand that those four kids are currently filing papers to adopt their own kids. 

OLBERMANN:  And they formed a human pyramid right after birth. 

MECURIO:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point here.  “Entertainment Tonight” obviously got the story wrong because they said a month ago the births had taken place.  When she finally gives birth, is that magazine going to follow some sort of great tradition and say, well, we had it first. 

MECURIO:  Whether you have it first, it‘s about having it right.  You know?  When is this last bastion of credible journalism, tabloid news, going to get this stuff right?  Let me put it to you this way; if “Entertainment Tonight,” a respected news organization, can‘t get this right, how do we as the American public know for sure what happened to the cast of “Growing Pains?”

OLBERMANN:  That keeps me up at night.  That question does.  Comedian Paul Mecurio, thanks for your perspective and your time on this vital and important issue tonight. 

MECURIO:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,889th 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   

Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC 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 ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,