updated 7/25/2008 11:00:09 AM ET 2008-07-25T15:00:09

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Brian Williams, Eugene Robinson, Joel McHale, Barack Obama

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

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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment.  This is our time.

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OLBERMANN:  Obama in Berlin—focused on an almost unexpected theme, his pledge to, quote, “defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.”  And afterwards—an extraordinary interview.

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OBAMA:  And it wasn‘t until yesterday that I asked my entire staff, “How much, how many people does this space exactly accommodate?”  And they said, “Well, half a million.”

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  And what do you think?

OBAMA:  I almost fired them all.

WILLIAMS:  You know, there they are.  They‘re not moving either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, McCain angrily continues to border on calling Obama a traitor.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t think he understands the serious consequences of failure in Iraq.  So, therefore, he treats it as just another political issue.

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OLBERMANN:  And, the surge before the surge, before the Sunni awakening.  Today, McCain edges towards gibberish.

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MCCAIN:  The surge is a strategy.  It‘s political, it‘s military, it‘s troops.

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OLBERMANN:  It‘s a floor cleaner and a dessert topping.  And it turns out McCain made another big mistake in that CBS interview.

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MCCAIN:  The consequences of failure and defeat of the United States of America in the first major conflict since 9/11 would have had devastating impacts throughout the region and the world.

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OLBERMANN:  Wait, what?  The first major conflict since 9/11 was Iraq?  What about Afghanistan?  Unless, Senator McCain is now going to say Iraq was before Afghanistan.

Worsts.  Congressman Hunter, happy to distribute food at a refugee camp in Chad, providing the food is wildebeest, and first, he gets to shoot it himself.

And, the prince of darkness drives into a pedestrian.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you still going to be like that with jaywalkers or are you going to give them a break?  You still want to be a racetrack driver?

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OLBERMANN:  All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, from Los Angeles, this is Thursday, July 24th, 103 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Even part of a day‘s research does not indicate what Barry Goldwater or Nelson Rockefeller, the presumed Republican frontrunners for the 1964 nomination, were doing on June 26th, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy addressed the world from the Berlin Wall and declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: We do know what Senator John McCain was doing today as Senator Barack Obama addressed a crowd estimated at 200,000 in that historic city and spoke of tearing down new walls between America and our European allies, so we could all fight terrorism—

Mr. McCain was at a German restaurant in Ohio ordering cream puffs.

Obama‘s epic speech in the twilight of the so-called “golden hour” in front of the Victory Column in the Tiergarten Park of Berlin, focused on eliminating the fanaticism that feeds terror.  While Senator McCain is skipping a planned trip to an oil rig in Louisiana and having lunch instead at Schmidt‘s sausage House right next to Schmidt‘s fudge house in the German village neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio for a meal of bratwurst and cream puffs.  I‘m not making that up.  “Senator National Security” went from the cheese aisle to the fudge house and ordered a box of cream puffs.

Meanwhile back in the real Germany, an early morning meeting for Senator Obama with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  By speech time, Senator Obama, after seven-plus years of President Bush, is acknowledging America‘s mistakes.

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OBAMA:  People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment.  This is our time.  I know my country has not perfected itself.  At times, we struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people.  We made our share of mistakes and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.  But I also know how much I love America.

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OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama also telling the German crowd, which the police there estimated to be more than 200,000 that two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, new walls, figurative walls, have gone up and they must now come down.

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OBAMA:  The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand.  The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand.  The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslims and Jews cannot stand.  These now are the walls we must tear down.

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OLBERMANN:  Having evoked the Berlin air lift and the long-shared struggle against communism during the Cold War, Senator Obama is turning to the new threats.

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OBAMA:  This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.  If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman, and London and Bali, and Washington and New York.  If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

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OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama believing that the central front in the war on terror is Afghanistan, a fight that he says will require more troops and unpopular stance there in Germany.

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OBAMA:  The Afghan people need our troops and your troops, our support and your support, to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation.  We have too much at stake to turn back now.

The scale of our challenge is great; the road ahead will be long.  But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom.  We are a people of improbable hope, with an eye towards the future, with resolve in our hearts.  Let us remember this history and answer our destiny, and remake the world, once again.

Thank you, Berlin.  God bless you.  Thank you.

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OLBERMANN:  Time now to brave the satellite delay and call in our own Richard Wolffe who joins us at this hour from Berlin in Germany.

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  For all the showmanship in that, what about the speech?  What was its goal; was its focus unexpected?  Did Obama achieve what he sought to achieve?

WOLFFE:  Well, his focus was to draw this stark contrast, not with John McCain, but with the Bush era.  And he was saying to voters back home, “Look what America can achieve in cooperation with the rest of the world when you have a popular president.”  And on the other side saying to America‘s allies overseas, “Look at the idea of America returning to old-fashioned values, whether it‘s working together, cooperatively on terrorism or global warming, but also old-fashioned values like opposition to torture and support for the rule of law.”

OLBERMANN:  The McCain campaign complained today that Senator Obama was taking a premature victory lap.  McCain said he would love to speak in Germany, but he wanted to wait until he was elected which doesn‘t explain why he went and spoke in Canada or went to London.  But is there precedent for a major address like this abroad by someone who is admittedly, merely a presidential candidate?

WOLFFE:  You know, Keith, there really isn‘t a precedent for this.  You can certainly find candidates who‘d gone abroad.  After all, John McCain went abroad and that, in many ways, opened the door for Obama to take this step, this extraordinary measure.  He‘s gone to many of the same countries.

But if you look at the size of the crowd, the size of the event, you really have to reach back into sitting presidents.  People like President Clinton who got even bigger crowds before, a candidate to get this kind of crowd overseas—really, we‘ve all been looking for a precedent and can‘t find one.

OLBERMANN:  The conservative pundits also claim that this overall trip, and particularly this speech, might not hurt Obama, but it would not help him definitely.  I‘m trying to figure out why it would not help him.  What exactly is a downfall contained in having photo-ops with world leaders, plus, by the way, a speech on a world stage in which he promised to restore America‘s image without sacrificing its security?

WOLFFE:  Well, of course, the classic playbook here is to question Obama‘s commitment to America as, in fact, the Republicans did against John Kerry four years ago.  In some ways, if you look at the response to this event, I think it‘s actually been fairly muted.  Even the criticism of certain lines like saying he was a citizen of the world, hasn‘t prompted the kind of outcry you might have expected.

OLBERMANN:  Well, it did, it did to some degree, I don‘t want to disagree with you on that, but Rush Limbaugh went nuts over that today.  And there‘s another e-mail out of the McCain campaign particularly criticizing that one line about the citizen of the world.  Did anybody bother to do the elemental research that the man who went to the U.N.  General Assembly and introduced himself began his speech by saying, “I speak today as both the citizen of the United States and of the world,” was Ronald Reagan?

WOLFFE:  Well, Keith, that‘s a great point about Reagan.  And actually, the Obama campaign points out that the words, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” are hardly the greatest expression of American patriotism and, by the way, they‘re in a foreign language.  And, of course, people look back at JFK‘s speech and don‘t consider that some sort of betrayal of America.

So, the historical comparisons are lost here.  Of course, it‘s campaign season, but the fact it was Rush Limbaugh making these points rather than the RNC and the McCain campaign, I think, tells you that, really, what the Obama campaign pulled off here was to escape likely with this kind of criticism.

OLBERMANN:  One pitfall that I don‘t know has been discussed widely, but to sum this up, in the speech, Obama touched on, this is in sort of in random order—counterterrorism, diplomacy, nuclear proliferation, AIDS, genocide, climate change, poverty, free speech, drug trafficking and religious freedom.  Did he raise the bar too high for himself or the acceptance speech he has to give in Denver 35 days from now?  What is there left to talk about?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think he probably did.  And remember that this speech has benefited by having low expectations.  The McCain campaign has been hitting him over the head for several weeks, if not months, saying he‘s weak and inexperienced, and basically a complete wreck when it comes to foreign policy.

So, I think the bar was fairly low for him on this trip, and pointing out now that having got a huge crowd here—Denver, where the crowd will be less, really has to be some sort of stadium rock approach.  I expect it to be a lot of music and entertainment, and the policy side of it may be falling by the wayside.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, joining us late tonight from Berlin in Germany.  Great thanks for doing so, Richard, and safe travels.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Immediately after walking off the stage in front of the Victory Column in Berlin‘s Tiergarten Park, Senator Obama walking over to our Brian Williams for an extraordinary post-speech perspective, and note - - perspective—both in terms of content and the picture you‘ll now see.

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WILLIAMS:  Senator, how was the view from up there?

OBAMA:  It got a nice view.

WILLIAMS:  Is there any way to match against expectations or did you have any expectations?

OBAMA:  You know, I never have expectations.  In fact yesterday, it wasn‘t until yesterday that I asked my entire staff, “How much, how many people does this space exactly accommodate?”  And they said, “Well, half a million.”

WILLIAMS:  And what do you think?

OBAMA:  I almost fired them all.

WILLIAMS:  You know, there they are.  They‘re not moving either.

When an American, this is the elephant in the city question, when an American politician comes to Berlin we‘ve had some iconic utterances in the past.  We‘ve had “Ich bin ein,” we had, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.”

OBAMA:  I don‘t rate that high.

WILLIAMS:  Is the phraseology that you would like remembered is “People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time”?

OBAMA:  You know, I think if that captures what I was trying to communicate, which is that here in Berlin where, essentially, the west was forged out of World War II, we have now the opportunity to join not only with Germany but with all of Europe and countries of good will to try to reach out and do for the world what we did for Berlin.

WILLIAMS:  Finally, it was theorized this morning in local media that you could win a Berlin election perhaps 70 percent, 71 percent.  What does this get you today given that sea of people and is this convertible in any way back home where you need these, well, votes?

OBAMA:  What this shows is that the world is hungry for leadership from America.  You know, you talk about seeing these rounds that have been fired into this structure.  It reminds us of all that we sacrificed, and one of the things I tried to do in the speech was to remind Europe that America has sacrificed mightily on behalf of freedom on this planet.

And we should, we take great pride in that, and hopefully, by communicating a message to Europe that we are ready to work with them, but we need them to help shoulder the burden, as well—that we will be more effective in making America safe and creating the kind of peace and prosperity around the world that, I think, is the objective of all of us.

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OLBERMANN:  And from Berlin, Obama has responded more in sorrow than anger to John McCain‘s extraordinary smear that he would lose a war in order to win the election.  Five minutes of his interview today with Brian Williams and McCain‘s blooper of the day, there are two nominations including—if Iraq was the first major conflict post-9/11, what was Afghanistan?

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OLBERMANN:  As the McCain broadsides escalate, Barack Obama answers.  In an exclusive interview from Germany next, McCain meantime, himself, with more he‘ll answer for, he has redefined the surge, yet again today and at another gaffe, either claimed the invasion of Iraq came before our fight in Afghanistan or redefined Afghanistan as a not significant conflict.

And later: Bill-O‘s bizarre claims about working for NBC News; Ben Stein, again, compares Obama to the Nazis; and a California congressman wants to serve food to starving refugees, but only if he can first hunt and kill the food in question.  Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Whatever you might think of Barack Obama‘s overseas trip, it is pretty apparent that McCain thinks it‘s hugely damaging—damaging to his efforts to defeat Obama.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Brian Williams‘ exclusive interview with Obama this morning in Berlin in which began with some of the endless supply of stuff McCain has thrown against the walls and hopes that it would stick.

Brian quoting the tough language in the “New York Times” account to it, Senator John McCain and his campaign have sharply stepped up criticism of Senator Barack Obama as a craven and naive traveler to the Middle East, who, as McCain put it at a raucous town hall-style meeting, quote, “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”

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OBAMA:  Yes, I was disappointed by that language.  You know, John McCain and I disagree on policy.  You know, we disagreed on going into the war in Iraq.  We disagreed until recently about the need to get more troops into Afghanistan.

But I‘ve never questioned that he wants to make America safer.  And for him to suggest that I don‘t—for him to suggest that somehow I‘m less concerned about the safety of my wife and daughter—than he is—I think, was unfortunate.

WILLIAMS:  Is it not time to say that the surge you opposed has worked?

OBAMA:  You know, Brian, it‘s interesting how many permutations various reporters have gone through on this.  I have consistently said that as a consequence of us putting more troops in and the awakening in the Anbar province where Sunnis turned against al Qaeda and the Shia militia standing down, that violence is significantly down and that there is significant improvement in Iraq.

But what I have also consistently said is that not only was us going into Iraq in the first place a mistake, but that for us moving forward, what we have to focus on is the need for political reconciliation—that that‘s going to make the ultimate difference.  That does not detract, in any way, from the great work our troops did.

But that‘s not the argument that‘s being made by John McCain.  What, you know, the argument that‘s being made is that somehow his judgment on issues of war and peace is better than mine.

Now, you know, I am happy to have a debate about whose Iraq policy has been more sensible because if we had followed my approach to Iraq, we would not have been there.  We would not have spent what will be over $1 trillion.  We would not have lost the American lives that have been lost and we would have done a much better job dealing with what should have been our central focus and that is Afghanistan.  If that‘s the debate, then let‘s have it.  But let‘s not focus narrowly on one aspect of it.

WILLIAMS:  But what if that‘s the question, respectfully, senator.  Your answer lumps it in with other components, but if the question has to do—break it out, strip all else away with the component that led to greater numbers of U.S. troops, let‘s take Baghdad specifically—compartmentalizing the city, locking it down.

OBAMA:  These are a lot of caveats to this question, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  It is safer today, no?

OBAMA:  What I said, even at the time of the debate in the surge, was that when you put 30,000 American troops in, of course it‘s going to have an impact.  There‘s no doubt about that.  The question is, does it solve our larger strategic questions and the costs involved—do they outweigh the benefits?

We don‘t know what would have happened if have we not put those 30,000 in.  We‘re speculating, which is fair enough.  But keep in mind what I do know.  Those 30,000 troops could have also been in Afghanistan during this time and we might have done a much better job of going after al Qaeda and the Taliban and stabilizing the situation there than we are right now.  And that is part of the calculation that has to be made when we‘re having this broader debate about how to keep America safe.

WILLIAMS:  NBC News Poll we released just last night, 55 to 35, you against Senator John McCain, American respondents are telling us they view you as the riskier choice for president.  Do you understand that, to what do you attribute that?

OBAMA:  Well, I do understand it.  I‘m new to the scene.  John McCain has been around 25 to 30 years in public life.  I have just recently emerged in terms of our national politics.  And, so, it‘s not surprising that people would say that the guy we‘re more familiar with is the less riskier choice.  That doesn‘t answer the broader question, though, which is -- what do Americans think we need right now?  And can we afford to have four more years or eight more years of the same types of policies that we‘ve had for the past eight?

And, in some ways I guess that would be safe, it‘s the devil you know versus the devil you don‘t.  But I think the American people understand that we‘re in a time of profound challenge and that we‘ve got to make some significant changes in how our economy works and how our tax policy is structured and our energy policy and our foreign policy, if we‘re going to meet those challenges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Brian Williams‘ entire interview with Senator Obama available online at MSNBC.com.

Oh, dear, a dough with a 50 percent bonus in the area of the leggings, and it could be in big trouble because a former Republican presidential hopeful wants to go out and shoot and kill endangered animals in the nation of Chad and then personally serve the meat to starving refugees.  Sounds like I‘m making it up, but I ain‘t.  Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bushed in a moment and FEMA demands immunity for lawsuits over its own post-Katrina failures.

First, 25 years ago today, July 24th, 1983, future baseball Hall of Famer, George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hit an apparent game-deciding home run against future Hall of Famer Goose Gossage of the New York Yankees.  But New York manager Billy Martin came up to protest.  Home plate umpire Tim McClellan (ph) looked that bat Brett had just use, pointed into the Kansas City dugout, and suddenly and inexplicably called Brett out.  And Brett sprang from the dugout as if launched by an Apollo rocket, running straight towards the ump.  It was the infamous “pine-tar” game.

McClellan had enforced rule limiting how much of the grip-enhancing stick ‘em (ph) could be on the bat and how high up the barrel.  He nullified Brett‘s home run.  Days later, the president of the league overruled the umpire saying that was not the intent of the rule and Brett‘s home run counted.

On that sticky note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Omaha where this week repeat “drunk driving” offender Juan Bresano (ph) was convicted of his fourth DUI.  In the surveillance video of his last arrest, May 2007, we see Bresano at the station seated alone at a police officer‘s desk.  Then and there, he came up with a daring plan to mask his inebriation.  Eyeing a bottle of white-out on the officer‘s desk, he picked up, opened it, and chugged it down.  A little liquid eraser chaser.  Bresano kept the bottle, played it cool until the coppers returned and found white liquid on his hands, teeth and tongue.  Cops took him to the hospital where he still blew a .28.  Now, he will be drinking his correctional fluid in the big correctional house. 

At Everett Springs, Georgia, you need two hand to count the number of legs on this here deer.  It‘s a six-legger brought to an animal hospital after being attacked by dogs.  Might think that a deer would be a little faster with all them legs, apparently not.  In video shot by the “Rome News Tribune” newspaper, we see the deer is now quite healthy.  The vets say, besides the extra legs, the guy has two pelvises and had two tails until one was amputated.  Yes, the extra tail was clearly the problem. 

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OLBERMANN:  The daily McCain bloopers, the surge is a strategy and it‘s political and it‘s military and it‘s troops.  And a second gaffe pops up from his CBS interview.  Robert Novak‘s hit-and-run accident as covered by the paparazzi.  But, first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, Obama-gate.  The union representing the American diplomatic corps has objected to the verdict by our embassy in Berlin that attending Obama‘s speech there today constituted partisan political activity prohibited by State Department regulations.  “We always maintain that no U.S. government foreign service person overseas should be seen to be advocating one side or the other,” said the department‘s undersecretary for management, apparently not appreciating that preventing employees from attending a speech is advocating one side or the other. 

Number two, nexus of politics and terror-gate.  Attorney General Mukasey testifying for hours to the House Judiciary Committee that a bill that would allow reporters to protect the identities of some news sources without having to go to jail to do so was a risk to, quote, national security, unquote.  Mukasey was excoriated by one Congressman who called the bill a constitutional statutory response to a rising erosion of our first amendment freedom of the press.  That Congressman was noted Indiana conservative Republican Mike Pence. 

Number one, FEMA-gate.  With the emergency agency guilty of having given victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita house trailers containing dangerous levels of Formaldehyde, the 21st century equivalent of the story of giving the smallpox infected blankets to the Indians, FEMA has been repeatedly sued.  Its lawyer told a U.S. district judge that FEMA deserves legal immunity.  Henry Miller said FEMA should not be subject to “judicial second guessing.  It is what the legislative branch is supposed to second guess and they are doing that.” 

Seriously, these self-congratulated morons let New Orleans drown while they were all at somebody‘s wedding.  They spent millions sending ice that never got there.  And they overpaid for emergency housing that poisoned those who moved in.  And they believe that they deserve immunity.  Brownie is long gone, but you nit-wits are still doing that same heck of a job. 

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OLBERMANN:  If John McCain starts spitting out these gaffes any more quickly, they‘ll have to make him the host of TV‘s greatest bloopers.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, until this week, there was not any dispute, practically or semantically, as to what the surge in Iraq was, nor when it began, nor who started it, nor any dispute over what was the first major conflict after 9/11, our attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Now, Senator McCain has insisted everybody else‘s understanding of the facts of both of these events is wrong and he alone is right.  Tuesday night, he told CBS that, quote, Colonel McFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks; “because of the surge, we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others, and it began the Anbar awakening.  I mean, that‘s just a matter of history.” 

Of course, that sheik was murdered a year earlier.  By yesterday morning, his flacks were claiming he was correct in this, that the surge was the reason the Anbar awakening was successful.  Then yesterday afternoon, in front of the cheese aisle at a Pennsylvania supermarket, the senator started claiming that the surge is actually the same thing as the entire counter-insurgency operation in Anbar province, which had begun in August 2006.  And now today, in an exclusive interview with Kelly O‘Donnell, the senator further honed his redefinition of what the surge actually is and reassigned the credit for it. 

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MCCAIN:  I was in Anbar province and met with Colonel McFarland.  Colonel McFarland was implementing the surge strategy at that time before troops ever got there.  He had discussions and told the sheiks who asked for his protection, and he provided it and that began the Anbar awakening.  Then troops came and those troops were able to protect these sheiks because al Qaeda wanted to kill them off. 

The surge is a strategy.  It‘s political.  It‘s military.  It‘s the troops.  It‘s hold.  It‘s really clear and hold, as opposed to the strategy we are employing before.  Colonel McFarland, on his own, basically, was going into Ramadi and clearing neighborhoods and holding those neighborhoods before almost anybody else was doing that.  He deserves great credit. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And now that Senator McCain has spent three days trying to dig himself out of that, perhaps he could turn his attention to explaining this; also from that CBS interview and brought to our attention by Jank Yuger (ph) of Young Turks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The fact is we had four years of failed policy.  We were losing.  We were losing the war in Iraq.  The consequences of failure and defeat of the United States of America in the first major conflict since 9/11 would have had devastating impacts throughout the region and the world. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The first major conflict since 9/11 was Iraq?  What was Afghanistan?  What is Afghanistan?  Chopped liver? 

Joined now by our own Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of “the Washington Post.”  Thanks for your time tonight, Gene. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Not that he thinks he needs our help or would listen to it, but if you were advising John McCain, what would you say to him now about discussing things like the Anbar timeline or the supposed Iran/al Qaeda connection that exists in his mind, or whether or not Afghanistan was a major conflict?  What would you say to him about these topics? 

ROBINSON:  See, Keith, I don‘t know how I can improve on that (INAUDIBLE) he just gave about how the surge is not just adding troops, it‘s a state of mind.  It‘s an attitude.  It‘s a holistic kind of entity, I guess.  I really didn‘t understand what he was trying to say.  I guess if I was an adviser, I would say, I think there‘s probably limited political gain.  While I understand why he would go down this path, there is probably limited political gain in this and that maybe it will be better to kind of stick to what do we do now?  But I certainly wouldn‘t try to get into the innards of that statement that he gave to Kelly, which was impenetrable to me. 

OLBERMANN:  Impenetrable.  Is there a way to tell whether he believes this stuff or he‘s just doing what so many politicians do when they trap themselves in a corner, just put your head down and run straight into the wall and hope it gives way? 

ROBINSON  Well, I guess on balance I think he does believe what he‘s saying.  I think the more interesting thing in that context really is the context, is that, I think he really sees Iraq through this kind of prism or context of Vietnam.  And, you know, we have to win in Iraq.  We cannot stand failure.  I think most Americans and I think 100 percent of, you know, the officers in our armed forces certainly understand that the end result in Iraq is going to be ambiguous, whatever course of action we take.  It‘s not going to be, you know, we won, we lost, something quite so clear cut.  I‘m not sure John McCain sees it that way. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Iraq as some old guy‘s second chance in Vietnam in their lifetime has long been a philosophical and psychological discussion for another time, for a fuller discussion.  Let‘s just say we were to throw out our long-held definition of what the surge meant and we adopt Senator McCain‘s position, military troops, political strategy.  How, by that definition, has it been a success? 

ROBINSON:  Well, if you‘re to accept that definition, I‘d say—you‘d say maybe it‘s gone one for three, I guess.  I mean, you could say—one thing you could say fairly unambiguously is that the additional U.S. troops -- I guess I‘m getting back to our old definition.  But the additional U.S.  troops have really contributed to security in Baghdad.  When you get to the Anbar awakening, it‘s complicated.  When you get to the political situation in Iraq, I think it‘s fairly unambiguous that the surge has not had the desired effect.  So, I guess I would say, maybe one for three, if—if—if—are we still counting in a kind of base 10 system?  Again, that McCain statement really kind of threw me, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me close with the same question I asked yesterday and this is not snark.  I‘ll ask this again; are there veteran political figures, are there even Republicans who are wondering if at the current rate of blunders, if John McCain will actually make it to the election? 

ROBINSON:  No, no one wonders if he‘s going to actually make it to the election.  There are major Republicans who smack their foreheads from time to time.  There are others who, you know—who have quite a lot of fondness for John McCain and wish he were—wish he were doing better in terms of, for example, taking advantage of being able to talk about, say, the economy while Obama‘s abroad.  But, again, he stood in the cheese aisle and talked about the surge.  So, there are people who more kind of in sorrow than in anger kind of wish his campaign were doing better. 

OLBERMANN:  Having a wonderful time, senator, wish you were here. 

Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” always a pleasure, sir, thank you. 

ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  If the infamous Omarosa is in a televised fight, who else to comment but Joel McHale of “The Soup?”

And the Congressman wanted to distribute food to the starving refugees in the nation of Chad, provided of course that the nation of Chad would suspend its laws and let him hunt it and kill it himself.  One of the worst persons in the world, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The 66-year-old pedestrian was sort of splayed across the windshield of Robert Novak‘s corvette, but the most observant man in Washington didn‘t know he had hit anyone.  There‘s that collision, then the other one between politics and the paparazzi.  Who better but Joel McHale of “The Soup” to assess.  That‘s next, first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze tonight to the formerly funny Ben Stein, who in the latest of a series of increasingly disturbing remarks has criticized Obama for scheduling his speech accepting the Democratic nomination at Denver‘s Invesco Field instead of inside the Pepsi Center; “that is not the way we do things in political parties in the United States of America,” Stein says.  “We have a contained number of people in an arena.  Seventy five thousand people at an outdoor sports palace, well that is something the furor would have done.” 

All right, let‘s just skip the undeserved Nazi illusion and assume it is some sort of some symptom of some sort of silent stroke.  This is not the way we do things?  Ben, any recognition that the GOP was talking about having Bush deliver his 2004 acceptance speech in front of 60,000 at Yankee Stadium, or that all the NBA games were stopped the night he announced his invasion of Iraq, and his speech was broadcast on the Jumbo-trons in ten different arenas, total attendance about 175,000. 

The runner up, Bill-O the clown, who on the radio suddenly blurted out “I wouldn‘t work for NBC News.  You know, NBC News offered me a ton of money.  I don‘t know if I have ever said this?  Have I ever said this before?  They offered me a ton of money to go over there.  I said no.  They offered me more than I‘m making now at Fox.  OK?  The reason I‘m saying this is because now NBC News attacks me every day.” 

I checked with the relevant bosses, whose memory of this was like mine, sometime in 1999, more likely 2000 or 2001, NBC made an informal overture to O‘Reilly, like if you ever want to leave, let us know.  No offer, no money figure, no ton, and now he thinks we attack him every day because he wouldn‘t come work here.  And he wouldn‘t work here, mind you, but he has gone on “The Today Show” for free since 2001 and as recently as 20 months ago. 

But our winner, Representative Duncan Hunter of California, whose office recently notified the U.S. embassy in Chad that the Congressman would be delighted to visit that country and distribute food at a refugee camp.  Of course, there was a catch.  Mr. Hunter only wanted to distribute the food if he could first hunt the food himself, wildebeasts.  He wanted to hunt wildebeasts in the nation of Chad, kill some of them, and then personally give the meat to starving refugees.  The Chadian government said, gosh, thanks, but there are two problems: hunting large animals and mammals like wildebeast is illegal in Chad.  And, oh, by the way, there aren‘t any wildebeasts in Chad!

Undeterred, Congressman Hunter has now reportedly transferred his interests in helping the refugees to Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, where there are still wildebeasts to be slaughtered—sorry, I mean distributed to refugees.  Congressman Duncan “great white” Hunter, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Columnist and right wing pundit Robert Novak has had a curious week.  First, the prince of darkness was used to float a bogus rumor that Senator McCain would announce his vice presidential choice this week.  He neglected to notice that Mrs. McCain was out of the country and the required happy couples photo-op would have been impossible.  Then Novak hit a pedestrian with his car.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Novak says he had no idea and he kept on driving, even though the pedestrian was reportedly splayed across the front half of Novak‘s convertible.  “The Soup‘s” Joel McHale will join us presently to discuss the surreal life into which Novak has entered.  In fact, Joel is sitting right over there. 

Traveling north bound on 18th Street Northwest, near K Street, Novak driving his corvette, hits a 66-year-old pedestrian, who is identified as Don Linkolnqvist (ph).  The victim was not seriously injured and Novak got only a 50 dollar traffic citation for failing to yield.  Novak reportedly tried to leave the scene of the accident, kept driving for a block after the accident before finally being flagged down by a witness on the bicycle.  Novak said the bicyclist was, quote, “shouting at me that I couldn‘t just hit people and drive away.  But I didn‘t know I had hit the pedestrian.”

The witness said, quoting, “I see the guy go up on the hood, on the windshield.  The guy rolled off the hood and landed on the street.”  Novak said he felt terrible, but, quote, “he‘s not dead.  That‘s the main thing.” 

Speaking of feeling terrible, Novak then experienced a hit and run of a figurative kind, courtesy of TMZ.com. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you still going to be like that with J-walkers or are you going to give them a break?  Are you going to be OK with pedestrians now?  Do you still want to be a race car driver?  Do you think you‘ll give up had corvette and drive a minivan? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Joining me now, as promised, the host of the pop cultural show of record, “The Soup,” Joel McHale.  Good to see you, sir. 

JOEL MCHALE, “THE SOUP”:  Can we pretend there is a satellite delay? 

OLBERMANN:  Just—pause like that. 

MCHALE:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  If Robert Novak and TMZ.com are both on fire, do you—do you walk away and hold it in, as they say? 

MCHALE:  It‘s very much like “Alien Versus Predator” and you hope for the sake of humanity they kill each other. 

OLBERMANN:  How did these two really disparate elements of the world run into each other? 

MCHALE:  It‘s finally happened, much to the chagrin of news agencies and “Access Hollywood,” that they‘ve now merged and Novak will now be seen hanging out with Britney smoking or hugging Lindsay. 

OLBERMANN:  Obama‘s speech in Germany was like the lead story on “Access Hollywood” today. 

MCHALE:  He was wearing an awesome suit, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  So was Brian Williams, the same one.  Is more—back to the Novak story, this quote from 2001 from the “Washington Post”; Novak said “I really hate J-walkers.  I despise them.  Since I don‘t run the country, all I can do is yell at them.  The other option is to run them over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that.”  Oops. 

MCHALE: But he‘s a compassionate conservative.  He yells at them and then he hits them.  An uncompassionate conservative hits them, yells at them, backs over them to make sure they‘re dead. 

OLBERMANN:  Joe and Valerie Wilson weighed in on this story.  There was a statement saying that they should take the keys away from Novak, along with his typewriter. 

MCHALE:  I‘m glad they weighed in. 

OLBERMANN:  Why?  Why not just leave this alone?

MCHALE:  Well, it also turned out that Novak said there was yellow cake uranium in his trunk.  And that, of course, turned out to be false. 

OLBERMANN:  And in the pedestrian, too, whether it was after he hit him. 

Let‘s change and go up to a couple more purely entertainment topics, as opposed to the entertainment that is Robert Novak.  A favorite of yours, Omarosa, and how about this, we have a clip. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you have a nose job? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It looks like you had a nose job. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.  I mean I just looked at before and after. 

Honey, before and after.  Before and after pictures. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But if I can suggest, because the only thing I had done to my face is a little botox.  I would suggest for you a little restalyn (ph). 

(CROSS TALK)  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I would suggest a wig that doesn‘t sit off my head three inches.  That would be my suggestion. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As if that were not enough, she has written a book. 

MCHALE:  Well, it‘s a pop-up book.  But I think that was—that‘s almost like—I feel like that‘s a Tyra experiment, where she went undercover as Wendy Williams and Omarosa to see what it‘s like to be Tyra.  But the only weird thing is they don‘t have how much plastic surgery they have written on their arms, as much of Tyra‘s audience has.  Or their weight or whatever it is they‘re embarrassed about. 

OLBERMANN:  How many times I watched this show, 163.  That would be embarrassing.  Christian Bale, this was starting out to be a really good week for him, and then his sister asked for financial help, a fight ensued and he wound up pushing them both. 

MCHALE:  He pushed his mom. 

OLBERMANN:  And he‘s under arrest. 

MCHALE:  Well, I wish people would get it through their heads that Batman‘s mother is dead.  So is his father.  And they were run down in an alley by a crazy gray-haired man driving a corvette. 

OLBERMANN:  Which was the whole start of the thing. 

MCHALE:  That‘s how it started, Robert Novak running them down. 

OLBERMANN:  It was Robert Novak. 

MCHALE:  Yes, just out of nowhere.  He‘s crazy. 

OLBERMANN:  We have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who sold these baby photographs for the gross national product of Brazil.  But now there are unauthorized baby pictures and they may have to sue. 

MCHALE:  Yes, I have a newborn, Keith, and it is so difficult.  Do you know how difficult it is to keep track of unauthorized photographs?  For me, it‘s actually—as I think about it, it is quite easy.  I actually use my child as a human shield against photographers and they still won‘t publish them. 

OLBERMANN:  Like Martin Sheen in “The Dead Zone.” 

MCHALE:  Yes, in “The Dead Zone.”  I use them and they just—they don‘t see me.  They just see the baby. 

OLBERMANN:  And now we know what Robert Novak failed to do while he was being photographed by TMZ, just grab a child and hold it up to the camera. 

MCHALE:  He could have used mine.  I would have rented him out. 

OLBERMANN:  Joe McHale, host of “The Soup” on E!, new each Friday night.  Have you got any guest star cameos this week? 

MCHALE:  We have Simon Peg and then this newsman from NBC.  Yes, catch Keith on “The Soup.” 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, my last performance ever in broadcasting. 

MCHALE:  He‘s legitimizing our show. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I‘m going to try.  That‘s countdown for this the—thanks for coming in. 

MCHALE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Then I‘ll go over to your studio.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for the 1,912th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. 

MCHALE:  We‘ll pay you as much as you pay me. 

OLBERMANN:  There you go.  I have change for a quarter.  From Los Angeles, 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   

Copy: 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.

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