updated 7/29/2008 12:46:59 PM ET 2008-07-29T16:46:59

Guest: Robert Gibbs, Richard Wolffe, Rachel Maddow

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

The trip bump.  Obama now up by eight in the Gallup daily tracking poll, registered voters or what trip up?  McCain is up by four in the Gallup/”USA Today” Poll likely voters.

The swiftboating of Obama begins.  No 527 group needed for an ad about Obama‘s trip to Landstuhl which the Pentagon canceled.  This time the lie comes directly from John McCain‘s campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  And now, he made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops.  It seems the Pentagon wouldn‘t allow him to bring cameras.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not only was that narration not true, since he was never going to bring cameras or reporters with him to Landstuhl but that video is of Obama playing basketball with troops in Kuwait.  This is the fulfillment of McCain‘s promise of a clean campaign?

Another oops.  McCain denies he borrowed Obama‘s 16-month withdrawal timetable or even that he had used the word “timetable” when he talked about it last Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He said it was a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground.  I think it‘s a pretty good timetable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  First, Scott McClellan the White House used FOX to float talking points.  Today, the Justice Department admits Alberto Gonzales‘ minions used illegal political litmus tests for hiring immigration judges and prosecutors.  The question Monica Goodling used to ask, “What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?”

Bushed!: An adviser to Condi Rice admits, “the biggest stupid idea was to invade Iraq in the first place.  Bleeping stupid,” unquote.

And: Overacting 101.  Not 201.  This is advanced overacting right here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (sobbing):  (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Monday, July 28th, 99 days until the 2008 presidential election.

It was not until August 4th in 2004 that the self-named Swiftboat Veterans for Truth launched their first TV ad attacking Senator John Kerry.  This year, the swiftboating of the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, already has begun and a week early at that.

And our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Only one veteran that was leading the attack this time, his name, former Navy Captain John McCain.  The Republican nominee achieving yet another new high and low with a new TV ad about his opponent‘s canceled trip to visit wounded troops in Germany that contains one false claim after another.

But we begin tonight with why he might be feeling it‘s necessary to deceive what might be a possible attempt to blunt the impact of Senator Obama‘s presidential-looking world tour.  The Illinois Democrat is still holding an eight-point lead in today‘s Gallup daily tracking poll, down one from yesterday‘s all-time high of nine—all-time in this survey—that was conducted Friday to Sunday among registered voters.

But there are other new numbers in the same organization—Gallup—that suggests Senator McCain could have the lead.  The Arizona Republican leading by four among likely voters in the new “USA Today” Poll conducted by Gallup, which, while also conducted Friday to Sunday is not a tracking poll and the daily results not averaged.  Senator Obama, however, is back in the lead by three in that poll, among that slightly larger pool of registered voters.

Obama leads in Gallup polls two to one.

If that wasn‘t sufficiently confusing, in other presidential election news today, skin cancer survivor McCain having a mole-like growth removed from the right side of his face in what was described as a routine minor procedure and a precaution.

Meantime, Paul O‘Neill was a surprise participant at Obama‘s economic conference today.  O‘Neill, the former Bush treasury secretary, who famously resigned from the administration in 2002, afterwards, describing the president as incurious and unintelligent and asserting that in cabinet meetings, Saddam Hussein was targeted for removal soon after Mr. Bush took office.

After today‘s meeting with the Democratic candidate, Mr. O‘Neill describing why he took part or trying to describe it over the buzz of the elevator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL O‘NEILL, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY:  You know, when I get asked by presidential candidate to give advice, I‘m in the business of telling the truth, so I did.  I think it‘s a good thing that presidential candidates reach out to people, independent of what might be presumed to be their party affiliation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Talking about trying to cut through the noise.

Senator Obama is placing blame the state of the U.S. economy on the Bush administration and on Wall Street.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It was not an accident.  Of history or normal part of the business cycle that led us to this situation.  There were some irresponsible decisions that were made on Wall Street and in Washington.  In the past few years, I think we relearned an essential truth, that in the long run, we can‘t have a thriving Wall Street if we don‘t have a thriving Main Street.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time to call in our own Richard Wolffe, back from his overseas trip covering Senator Obama‘s overseas trip.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be back, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If the polls can‘t tell us here, even if we just specify one company‘s polls, whether or not there was a trip bump for Obama, how do we judge this?  Do we do it by Obama‘s reaction or McCain‘s reaction?

WOLFFE:  Well, setting aside the very confused minds of the Gallup organization, what you have are two campaigns really running on two very different speeds, two very different tracks.  The Obama campaign really pivoted very smoothly today to the economy which, as we all know, is at the top of voters‘ agendas.  That event today was very high-powered not just with Paul O‘Neill; there was Bush appointee there, Bill Donaldson, along with the Democratic stars of the economy like Bob Rubin.

And then on the McCain side, a day that started out with continuing to attack on foreign policy based on Obama‘s trips and moving into oil and ending up with all this stuff about McCain‘s health.  Really, the McCain campaign is finding it very difficult to stay on one message where you‘re seeing a much more strategic view and a much more strategic execution from the Obama side.

OLBERMANN:  You interviewed Obama on this trip, what was his assessment of it?

WOLFFE:  His view was that he had to prove how competent and confident he was with foreign policy, and also have to get a gut check on a whole range of foreign policy issues.

But if you talk to his advisors and certainly the candidate also said this outside Downing Street, they weren‘t expecting a bump in the polls.  They weren‘t expecting things to move in any single direction on the back of this.  What they were hoping for is to put voters‘ minds at ease on his abilities with regard to foreign policy and they felt they achieved that.  He certainly did.

OLBERMANN:  To that point, the Frank Rich piece in the “New York Times” over the weekend that suggested that Senator Obama not only looked presidential but was treated, much more importantly, was treated as a president in waiting by the heads of state in the countries he visited.  Is that automatically a net plus for him because people might see him here as presidential or is it a net minus because people might see him in some way presumptuous?

WOLFFE:  Well, there has always been a danger of overconfidence and even cockiness on the side of the Obama team.  And I actually think, looking at this foreign policy tour, the upside was much greater than the downside, in the sense that people were concerned, especially given the way the McCain campaign strategy has been, that this guy was incompetent or somehow a reckless choice when it came to foreign policy.

Putting those issues off the table, which is what we saw in a respectful and respectable way, certainly in Paris, and in some of these other stops as well in the Middle East was very important for Obama and, again, to deal with what seems to have been, at least in terms of the McCain strategy, his opponent‘s greatest card.

OLBERMANN:  And one last question about Paul O‘Neill and the economic meeting today.  We saw this previously, Chuck Hagel has defended him, we have one of the authors of the Gingrich‘s “Contract with America” endorsing him on the behalf of kind of disaffected Republicans.  Is there any indication on this sort of senior Republicans unhappy with the Bush and into McCain legacy, whether these are—are they small group or are they outliers or would they constitute anything in this election, any way of judging that yet?

WOLFFE:  Well, what they really do is give cover to, especially Republican-leaning independents who are considering Barack Obama.

Remember that Paul O‘Neill isn‘t just any old conservative; he‘s a friend of Dick Cheney and Alan Greenspan, a veteran of the Ford administration.  He speaks with authority about the economy and was a big figure in the private sector, as well.  And so, his expertise is very valuable.

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

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Turning now to the swiftboating of Barack Obama, absent the swiftboating part.  Take note that this is all John McCain and he approves this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan.  He hadn‘t been to Iraq in years.  He voted against funding our troops.  And, now, he made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops.  And now, he made time to go to the gym but cancelled the visit with wounded troops.  It seems the Pentagon wouldn‘t allow him to bring cameras.

John McCain is always there for our troops.  McCain—country first.

MCCAIN:  I‘m John McCain and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, it is literally true that Senator Obama canceled his own visit to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the reason given by that McCain ad as to why as well as the video used to illustrate its point were entirely false.

McCain‘s attack ad claiming that Senator Obama, quote “made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops,” the announcer adding that, quote, “It seems the Pentagon wouldn‘t allow him to bring cameras.”  The implication being that is why Obama canceled the visit because the media would not be allowed in the medical center with him.

When Obama visited the wounded troops at Walter Reed in Washington last month, no cameras or reporters were with him then, and that had been exactly the plan this time.  No media, just a visit.

As for the claim Obama went to the gym, instead, the footage used in the McCain ad is from his time in Kuwait a week ago, playing basketball with the troops.  Thanks to the folks at FactCheck.org.

Here are two more misleading statements from the McCain ad.  It is literally true, Obama has not held a Senate subcommittee hearing on Afghanistan but the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee has held three hearings on Afghanistan in the same span, the last two years.

Obama attended one of those and while it is literally true that Senator Obama has not been to Iraq, quote, “in years,” he had previously visited in January 2006.  So, years, yes—two and a half years.  The McCain ad giving the impression that it had been like, you know, a century.

Meanwhile, his name is Senator Chuck Hagel and having been to Iraq and Afghanistan with Obama, he does not approve that message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CBS, “FACE THE NATION”)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, ® NEBRASKA:  We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation.  We went out of our way to see those troops.  We wanted to see those troops.  And that was the best part of our job to see those troops.  By the way, and listen to those troops, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS HOST:  Do you think that ad was appropriate?

HAGEL:  I do not think it was appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined now—Robert Gibbs, senior strategist for communications and message for the Obama campaign.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SR. STRATEGIST:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Based on the terms presented by the Pentagon, it seems the senator still could have visited Landstuhl if he just had his security detail with him.  Why was the decision made not to do that very low-key, very minimalist visit?

GIBBS:  Because the campaign was going to take along with it retired two-star general, Air Force General Scott Gration.  The Pentagon said that his participation would make that trip a campaign trip and we decided at that point that rather than put men and women who have served our country and served our country, protected our freedom and had been injured, rather than put them in a political situation in the middle of a campaign fight, that we would just not go and not use them as props in this kind of fight.

OLBERMANN:  The McCain ad.  Most of the airings of this thing have not been followed by any kind of fact check.  The news organizations just throw it out and then say, “What do you think?”  Never mind the fact that McCain campaign‘s ad buy seems to be sort of like a token effort that this was more intended for kind of what you just saw here being played on television news.

Obama said on several occasions his response to attacks like this would be swift, but we‘re moving in this, obviously, this 24-hour news environment—to this point, the senator‘s response seems to be swifter than the McCain‘s swiftness, to use an unfortunate term.  But, is it fast enough?  I mean, has there been enough of a response to this thing no matter what its providence or intention might be?

GIBBS:  Well, I think, there‘s, as you mentioned, this ad aired about five times throughout the entire country but most importantly and I think you tick through this, Keith, the footage that they used to say, “We don‘t visit the troop” was, in fact, footage that was shot by armed forces television with Barack Obama visiting the troops.

There‘s probably not a better spokesperson in this than John McCain‘s friend and colleague in the Senate, Republican Chuck Hagel, who says the ad was inappropriate.  Just a month ago, Barack Obama, as you said, went to Walter Reed.  A week ago in Iraq, those three senators, including Barack Obama visited a combat support hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad where they take the most immediately wounded off the battle—off the battlefield.

So, I think the ad is honestly best served by us getting out the facts, but not overreacting to the fact that this ad is dishonorable and inappropriate.  And I think that‘s pretty clear.

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain had pledged to conduct a clean campaign.  He said, “That‘s what the country wanted and deserved.”  And if this turns out to be a dirty one, which this ad and some other things might suggest, is Senator Obama putting himself at a disadvantage if he does not respond to some degree in kind?  Is there a thought of letting loose the 527 groups perhaps?

GIBBS:  Well, look, obviously, we don‘t control the 527 groups, and, you know, certainly, negative ads that go up by the McCain campaign—they seem honestly quite comfortable with making all their advertising negative at this point—will certainly be responded to.  But I think it‘s important to fight the fight these ads with the truth which is what we‘ve done and point out just how silly and quite frankly dishonorable they are.

OLBERMANN:  Those contradictory polls today and the calculations a lot of people on all side of the spectrum have been making, clearly, the majority of Americans want us out of Iraq, plus, a majority of voters want change, plus, the economy is in the state that it‘s in.  Is there any sense that that should at this point equal a bigger lead for Senator Obama in these polls?

GIBBS:  Well, look, I think this is—all presidential elections in the last, at least, the last few presidential elections have been exceedingly close races and we think this race is going to be exceedingly close.  We think people are just beginning to get to know who Barack Obama is—and who Barack Obama is and as more people do, we think the politics and the polling will take care of itself.

OLBERMANN:  Robert Gibbs, senior strategist for the Obama campaign.  Thanks again for your time.

GIBBS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And, which presidential candidate has been on the Senate side against the troops, at least nine times in the last five years, voting against everything for more rest between troop tours to more medical care for them if they live to be veterans.  John McCain‘s record not supporting the troops, plus his denial he used a word that he‘s on tape using just last Friday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The McCain timeline for voting to not support the troops and the McCain timeline for how quickly he can deny using the word “timeline” which is 48 hours, even though his use of the word “timeline” was on television.

Plus, Worsts: Dick Morris, Rupert Murdoch, and the would-be Florida congressman who thinks a television network is trying to kidnap him.

And, Bushed: the Condi Rice adviser who says, “The biggest stupid idea in Iraq was invading Iraq in the first place,” and who then adds a salty curse word as an adjective to “stupid.”

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In falsely accusing Senator Obama of ditching U.S. troops in Germany because of press restrictions, the latest McCain campaign ad made an even more outlandish claim, quote, “John McCain is always there for our troops.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Except when he isn‘t.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted in mid-2007, McCain only showed up for four of the past 14 Senate votes on Iraq.  So far this year, he shown up for none, not even the resolution honoring the sacrifice made by the fallen.

And looking at just part of McCain‘s record of supporting the troops since the war in Iraq began, April 2003, he tabled the motion to provide over $1 billion of National Guard and Reserve equipment.  October 2003, he tabled an amendment to provide an additional $322 million for safety equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq.  March 2004, he voted against eliminating abusive tax loopholes that would have increased veterans‘ medical care by $1.8 billion.

March 2006, he voted against closing corporate tax loopholes that would have increased veteran medical services by $1.5 billion.  April 2006, he voted against providing an extra $430 million for veteran outpatient care.  May 2006, he voted against $20 million for veteran health care facilities.

March 2007, he didn‘t bother on a resolution to start redeploying troops from Iraq by March 2008.  September 2007, he voted against Senator Webb‘s amendment that would specify minimum rest periods for troops in-between deployments; and in May 2008, he first spoke out against Senator Webb‘s G.I. bill and then didn‘t bother to show up to vote on it.

But none of that stopped him from accepting President Bush‘s praise when the bill ultimately passed.

Joining me now: our own Rachel Maddow, the host of “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio.

Thanks for your time tonight, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  John McCain is always there for our troops.  If you go after your opponent for not supporting the troops when your own record is pretty clearly indicative that you do not support the troops, do you not provoke people to look at your own record like we just did?

MADDOW:  I‘ve long said and you‘ve been saying this, too, that there is a fascinating candidacy for the presidency happening right now if people could just pay attention to it for a hot minute.

John McCain can‘t hold the press of interest long enough to get this kind of scrutiny in very many, in very many media venues.  And his campaign is counting on it and, I think, they‘ve been waiting to count on so far, the idea that if you to squint and don‘t focus too much, the fact that he is a veteran can sort of substitute for the idea that he has done right by veterans as a politician, that he‘s done right by veterans and by the troops as a senator.

But the fact is, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, they gave John McCain a “D” for his voting record; they gave Barack Obama a “B-plus.”  Disabled Americans Veterans gave John McCain just a 20 percent voting record; they gave Barack Obama an 80 percent voting record.

There‘s a difference between being a veteran and supporting veterans as a politician.  He‘s just counting on people not being able to tell the difference.

OLBERMANN:  On CNN last Friday, McCain pretty much swiped the Obama‘s 16-month timetable for withdrawal and said it sounded like a pretty good timetable.  Asked about it on ABC yesterday, he said, “I didn‘t use the word timetable.”  What was that?

MADDOW:  A magical belief that if he closes his eyes, he becomes invisible.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  That tape doesn‘t work, that broadcasting is different than what it actually is.

I mean, this is a repeated, a repeated tactic by Senator McCain.  You‘ll recall back during the Republican primary campaign, at one of the debates he told Tim Russert that he never said that he wasn‘t an expert on the economy.  When confronted with that, he thought, “Oh, OK, all right, I guess I did say it.”

He repeatedly insists he has not said things that he has said or that he has said things that he hasn‘t; and it implies either a lack of understanding literally about how the media works, or just a belief that the media will always sort of bend over backwards and round things up to the nearest thing that makes sense and sounds good for him.  He‘s got such he‘s received such a—he‘s received such a, I think, a pass, really, from the media thus far that he‘s counting on it, carrying him right through to the presidency.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but even—it seems as if there was a description from the GOP source in one of the papers today, he said that he was very angry that he wasn‘t getting that pass last week, that he still wasn‘t the center of attention here.

And this Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University just put out a study of the evening newscast, this is the same study that, the one that came out in 2006 and said—some of the network newscasts seem to be giving the Democrats an easier time before the midterms,” the right-wing media all over this and said, “This is the greatest survey ever conducted.”

So, in that context, look at these numbers, ABC, CBS, and NBC, 28 percent of opinions expressed on the nightly newscast about Obama were positive and 72 percent were negative.  And for McCain, it‘s 43 percent positive and 57 percent negative.

So, can you explain the thought (ph) cloud that seems to be sitting like a fall over the country that Obama is not only getting too much coverage but the media is soft on him when research suggests that if anything is true, it‘s the opposite—the media is not only softer on McCain but seldom ever touches him for an expose or even a fact check.

MADDOW:  They are giving him a free pass.  Looking at those numbers and looking at sort of benefit of the doubt that‘s given to the two candidates, who would you rather be in this media environment?

Would you rather be the guy who gets the getaway with gaffe after gaffe after gaffe after gaffe and never gets called on anything, or would you like to be the guy who admittedly maybe the press is obsessed with, but everything you do is scrutinized to a degree that you‘ve been made out to be making many more gaffes than you are making and everything that you say is being taken apart left, right, and center?

John McCain is having the media cover for him when he can hold their interests.  This is what John McCain has done for his entire career.  The question is—whether or not the fact that he might be the next president is finally going to change that orientation of the press towards him.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and that ad today was particularly sleazy and the media‘s reaction to it was particularly unconscionable.

Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC—or (ph) I‘ll exclude from that analysis as I exclude myself.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So Prince Charles went to a polo match and instead, suddenly, his personal life broke out.  No, no, I‘m sorry, that‘s a streaker.  All right.

Rupert gets good news and bad news about fixed business channel.  At the current rate it will catch CNBC in the ratings—when, however, is the problem.  Worst Persons ahead.

But first: the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals - Bushed!

Number three: Support the troops-gate.  Another reminder how the Republicans—under the run Republicans how that phrase has become brand names only, the conservative Rand Corporation is out with a report that roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  This includes those who are sent back for another tour or two other tours, or three, or four, or five.

Also on this front, only last year did the V.A. set up a special suicide prevention hotline.  The V.A. says 22,000 veterans, 250 a day, have called it in the last year.

Number two: The vice president isn‘t all there-gate.  The Disabled Veterans of America has withdrawn its invitation to Mr. Cheney to come and speak at its convention next month.  The DVA called off Cheney‘s security demands draconian and unreasonable.  It said the vice president‘s staff insisted the sick and disabled vets had to be sequestered inside the secure area of his speech two hours before the speech began, and they couldn‘t leave until he finished and that included trips to the bathroom.

Where did we find this individual and is it too late to send him back?

But our winner here: f‘ing stupid idea-gate.  This may deserved a Medal of Honor right here.  Former Australian lieutenant colonel, Dr. David Kilcullen, was previously a consultant to General Petraeus during the designing of the surge, he is still an adviser to Secretary of State Rice.  He‘s writing a handbook on the Iraq counter-insurgency for senior policymakers, which will warn them to, quote, “think very, very carefully for intervening in other countries in the future.”  That‘s the polite version.

Spencer Ackerman reports, Lieutenant Colonel Kilcullen told him in an interview, “The biggest stupid idea was to invade Iraq in the first place.”  Actually, that‘s the polite version.  Lieutenant Colonel Kilcullen also called it “f‘ing stupid.”  Well, actually, that‘s the polite version, too.

This all lines up with the reply when a reporter asked me why I told the president to shut the hell up after he said he‘d given up golf out of respect for the American dead in Iraq and even lied that he given it up—because I couldn‘t say—shut the -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  What better strategy could the National Football League have than to force its most popular player to not play?  First, on this date in 1932, perhaps the worst political decision by a sitting president in the year he sought re-election; the so-called bonus army had gathered in Washington, World War I vets, flattened by the Depression, who had been voted a bonus payable in 1945, which they wanted right away.  As many as 60,000 vets and their families were living in tents around Washington.  And 76 years ago, President Herbert Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to evict them.  Thus, the spectacle of the military veterans of this country under attack by the active military of this country, using tanks, tear gas bombs and bayonets, at the instruction of the commander in chief of this country.  Mr. Hoover lost to FDR that fall, 59 electoral votes to 472.  Smooth move, soon to be one-term president. 

Let‘s play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Barkshire, England where the cream of British society gathered to enjoy the gentile sport of Polo.  Hello.  You who, Camilla.  Hello.  A streaker sprinting past the horses, dodging several security guards, before vaulting a fence to freedom.  We didn‘t have to pixilate him in profile.  His shenanigans prompting another spectator to strip off, despite some shyness.  The polo club declining to prosecute the pair—that‘s the pair of guys.  Though a spokeswoman did say to the media, quote, we would have asked them to put their clothes back on because we have a dress code.  Who knew? 

Morning, we join this Las Vegas bus jacking already in progress. 

The thief not wearing any kind of disguise, in fact, not wearing anything at all.  The naked perp didn‘t stay long, jumping off the bus while it was still moving.  Police unsurprisingly located him pretty quickly thereafter.  Now he will spend his time in the buff—in the big house. 

Lastly, to the Internets and a courtroom of unknown providence, with a lawyer who really has his finger on the pulse of this case. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sir, I‘m going to make two hand gestures at you now and ask you if you can tell them apart.  This is the first gesture.  This is the second gesture.  Which one represents flipping someone off, the first one or the second one? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can tell the difference between this and this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I did this one. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right, that lawyer once clerked for famed US Appeals Court Judge Learned Hand. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What is it about George W. Bush, you would ask, that makes you want to serve him?  Unfortunately, she used to ask it of potential prosecutors and judges, not while playing a Harry Potter character, talking about Voldemort.  The Justice Department finally admits that was illegal. 

So might have been this; never let a news caster overact on a comedy show.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s best persons in the world.

Number three, best oopsy, Senator McCain, asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC yesterday, what is your position on gay adoption?  Senator McCain, “I think that two parent families are best for America.”  It has apparently never dawned on him that gay couples who adopt are two-parent families. 

Number two, best bad marketing decision, the National Football League and the Green Bay Packers, arguably the leagues most popular player and one of its best last year, Brett Favre has reversed his declared intention to retire and wants to play again.  So as Packers training camp opened this morning, Favre was nowhere to be seen, having been kept out by management, portrayed as a villain, threatened with being humiliated by not playing in training camp or traded to a team he didn‘t want to play for.  Because why in the hell would the NFL and the Packers want one of its most beloved figures to keep on playing another year. 

Number one, best campaign exaggeration, Congressman Don Young of Alaska.  His new radio ad claims that he was given a hero of the taxpayer award by the watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense.  Turns out that he was not.  The group does did not even have a hero of the taxpayer award.  Young did get a hero of the taxpayer award from the group Americans for Tax Reform, but now says its former Grover Norquist, Young, quote, betrays taxpayers.  He‘s Congressman Don Young of Alaska and he approved that message, even if none of it was true. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At this point, it is entirely fair to wonder which of our fears about the Bush administration might not turn out to be absolutely true.  In our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, confirmation today that the Justice Department officials under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales illegally and repeatedly used a political litmus test in hiring prosecutors and judges.  One example, a counter-terrorism prosecutor was passed over in favor of someone far less experienced because of the man‘s wife‘s political affiliation. 

The 140-page report from the Department of Justice‘s inspector general concluding that former Justice Department counselor and White House liaison Monica Goodling violated federal law by, quote, “subjecting candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions.” 

Ms. Goodling, you may recall, was one of the Gonzales lackeys, involved in the firing of the nine U.S. attorneys.  The inspector general‘s report on that is still to come.  Goodling had graduated from Pat Robertson‘s Regent University Law School.  The Justice Department reports Ms. Goodling may have to turn in her license to practice law.  The good news is she will probably get back all those box tops she sent in to get it. 

Ms. Goodling passed over hundreds of job applicants by asking questions like these: what is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?  Aside from the president, give us an example of someone recently or currently in public recent service who you admire.  Why are you a Republican?

She knew such questions of non-political appointees were inappropriate.  She also asked applicant‘s views on abortion and gay rights.  The report also concluded that the former chief of staff to Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, as well as a predecessor to Ms. Goodling, Jan Williams, broke federal law in the hiring of immigration judges and that slowed the already overloaded immigration courts. 

Let‘s turn now to George Washington university law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley.  Jon, good evening. 

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?  I mean, these confirmations that we‘re getting about what happened in Justice the last six years are beginning to sound like the legal equivalent of Bram Stoker‘s “Dracula.”

TURLEY:  I was thinking more like the Voldemort department of human resources.  It‘s perfectly bizarre.  It‘s amazing how wrong it is, because, of course, career attorneys at the Department of Justice do not serve the president.  They serve justice, the country, but not the president.  Even political appointees in the White House, they serve at the pleasure of the president.  That just means he can fire them.  They actually serve the office of the presidency. 

But you can really get a glimpse at how unhinged the Bush administration Justice Department became.  They had, essentially—Alberto Gonzales re-created that institution in the image of himself, a very political and arbitrary institution that had no sense of independence from the president. 

OLBERMANN:  Now, the response to this from the inspector general in the reports, the recommendations as to how to prevent this again would seem to be really limited.  They‘re suggesting make the rules clearer.  What‘s not clear in the rules and what on Earth is that going to do if this was achieved as we‘ve seen it achieved? 

TURLEY:  You know, Keith, you pointed out the most important thing.  That is the problem with the this report is it reaches a certain nonsensical conclusion.  There was no ambiguity in the rules.  Most people in this town, Republican and Democrat alike, were shocked when the reports about Goodling and others came out.  This is not a town that shocks easily, but the Justice Department always had a tradition of neutrality in hiring.  And many conservatives and many liberals came in administrations that were not followers of their political beliefs. 

So there was nothing ambiguous here.  The question of what happens is you could have a perjury prosecution of Goodling, Gonzales and some others.  Their testimony does not quite jibe with what we have seen in this report.  You also may see some Bar—as you know, some Bar efforts to strip them or suspend them of their license. 

OLBERMANN:  Is that likely to be it in terms of punitive action against this administration?  If we‘ve already seen impeachment go out the windows and we‘ve seen Obama legal advisers talk about not prosecuting the most egregious crimes, is the most thing that happens is maybe they put Monica Goodling in jail for six weeks for lying? 

TURLEY:  That would be rather pathetic, wouldn‘t it, if Monica Goodling is the only one that heads off to club Fed.  But it‘s not likely.  You know, they can bring a perjury prosecution.  But, remember, they would refer that to the Justice Department.  Attorney General Mukasey has refused to even let a Grand Jury see what is, in my view, a fairly clear and open and shut case of contempt by Bush administration officials.  So, I doubt he‘s going to be even more forthcoming here. 

The most he could say is that he was, quote, disturbed by this report.  Many of us wonder what it would take to be outraged.  I mean, disturbed is something you hear from Buckingham Palace when they didn‘t like what happened on the polo field. 

OLBERMANN:  When the Justice Department officially declares itself as a cult, I think then there might be some better reaction to it.  Maybe it already is.  Last point, as a predictor, Jon, the IG‘s report on the firing of the nine U.S. attorneys is still to come.  Is what we saw today, is it a preview, at least in terms of the gory details? 

TURLEY:  I think it is a very interesting preview.  The most interesting thing about today‘s report is that they had some material there that we have not seen before and potentially Congress had not seen before.  That‘s going to be even more the case with the U.S. attorney‘s investigation, where the Bush administration has stonewalled a lot of this information.  So, we may be seeing a great more there. 

But the question really is, why isn‘t the president coming forward and saying that there‘s a shame factor here that what occurred at the Justice Department.  Alberto Gonzales picked this person, not because of the merits.  She lacked anything on the merits.  She was picked because she was an extremist and this was the result. 

OLBERMANN:  No shame, no pain.  Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington, as always, sir, many thanks. 

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of gory details, tonight the star of “The Soup,” the star of “Sean of the Dead” and some other guy, in one of the great moments in TV over-acting history. 

And the Republican congressional candidate who thinks a TV network is trying to kidnap him.  Worst persons next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Simon Peg and Jessica Hines (ph), brilliant in the movie “Sean of the Dead,” Joel McHale, brilliant in his E Network series “The Soup,” even myself, not all that bad within this context.  But put us altogether and you have overacting of biblical proportions.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Business Channel.  These first official ratings are out for the nearly ten-month-old channel.  They‘re Not good, 8,000 viewers during the day and 20,000 at night.  Most minor league baseball teams do much better than that.  Portfolio.com takes the numbers and earlier ones and calculates that at the current rate of growth, Fox will overtake our sister network CNBC in daytime audience in the year 2077.  By then, Portfolio reports, Rupert Murdoch will be 146 years old. 

Well, firstly, that will come as a surprise to those of you who thought he already was 146 years old.  Secondly, there is bad news for him.  That 69-year timeline for Fox to match CNBC assumes no growth in the CNBC audience between now and 2077.  In fact, CNBC‘s audience has grown by about 10 percent since Fox business signed on. 

Our runner-up from Fox, Dick Morris, said on Fixed News that if a pro-war party wins an Israeli primary and, quote, if Obama and McCain are close, my bet is Israel attacks Iran before election day to help McCain win.  You think that is a good thing, Morris was asked?  Yes, absolutely.  For the purpose of having McCain win or because you think attacking Iran is a good idea, he was asked.  Both, Morris replied. 

Sure, great, unleash a massive, possibly nuclear Middle Eastern war just to keep the Republicans in power.  Also, Dick, if the Middle East does go up in flames, why do you think Americans will reward McCain rather than blame him? 

And our winner, Florida Republican Congressional hopeful, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alan West.  A guest booker from a TV network tried to get him to come on a show and talk about the increase of violence in Afghanistan.  Since West had not been to Afghanistan in eight months, he saw through their smoke screen.  He knew what they were really planning on doing, kidnapping him.  My B.S. flag really went up when they said they wanted my address to pick me up at night.  The network which asked him to come on, al Jazeera.  “I was not about to be a puppet for a network which has helped torment our men and women in uniform.”

Colonel West evidently does not know that past guests of al Jazeera include Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and some guy named John McCain.  We had no idea if Colonel West has won any medals for paranoia. 

Republican Florida congressional candidate Alan, a TV network plans to kidnap me, West, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Twenty two years ago this October, the California Angels met the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship playoff.  My friend Clark Booth of TV station WCBB in Boston was putting together a preview special for his station and I was putting together a preview special for my L.A. station, which carried the Angels games.  The two of us went to the ballpark with my cameramen.  I interviewed Clark as a Boston expert for my special, and he went and stood where I had been standing and I went and stood where he had been standing, and he interviewed me as a southern California baseball expert for his special using the same camera. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, this is recalled because last Thursday in Los Angeles, I kind of did the same thing with Joel McHale of “The Soup.”  As one of our regular analysts of pop culture, especially when pop culture merges with politics, he was in our studio here on COUNTDOWN.  Then we both got in the car and went to his studio, where I did a cameo on his show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL MCHALE, “THE SOUP”:  We discovered this week there was a talk show with the kind of political complexities which, to be honest, I don‘t feel I have the proper chops to cover.  Sir, would you mind doing the honors, please. 

OLBERMANN:  Joel, and interns, good morning.  Good morning, everybody.  In the news this morning—good morning.  On a previously taped episode of the political round table “Brooke Knows Best,” host Brooke Hogan delves more deeply than a lesser commentator would dare into the Hillary Clinton candidacy. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who are you voting for? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You know, I‘m actually not that into voting.  I think it‘s crazy that a woman‘s running, because I think woman deal on emotions and menopause and PMS and stuff.  Like I‘m so moody all the time, I know I couldn‘t be able to run a country.  I would be crying one day and yelling at people the next day. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s not because you‘re a woman, Brooke.  That‘s because you‘re on steroids. 

MCHALE:  Thank you, Keith!  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Thanks, thanks. 

MCHALE:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

MCHALE:  Was there something else? 

OLBERMANN:  I will tear out your endocrine system. 

MCHALE:  Bucket list complete. 

OLBERMANN:  Still haven‘t found out who the next Elle Woods is. 

MCHALE:  Oh, we‘ll find out after this dirty mouth moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Wait, there‘s more.  Also doing the cameos were the superb British actors Simon Peg and Jessica Hines of the TV series “Spaced” and the most subtle mock horror film of all rime, “Sean of the Dead.”  Well, I thought Simon Peg was subtle until we all did simultaneous cameos and it became a battle to see which one of us would overact without suffering spontaneous combustion. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCHALE:  Legally Blond—

OLBERMANN:  The search for El Woods. 

SIMON PEG, ACTOR:  Yes. 

MCHALE:  -- finally found a new Elle Woods.  You may not know this, but the show was hosted by Haley Duff.  We could never show a clip of her because her energy and excitement was completely out of control.  We didn‘t want everybody to get all hyped up and start jumping around the room.  So prepare yourself.  Here‘s Haley. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wow.  This is so exciting, the moment of truth. 

MCHALE:  You guys must be so excited.  I know I am.  I have never felt so—ducks and beavers—Haley did get around to announcing the winner after the paramedics came by defibrillate her and a new Elle was crowned. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Bailey, congratulations. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my god.  This is amazing.  My dream has completely come true.  Oh my god, thank you so much. 

OLBERMANN:  I just wanted to win so bad!

PEG:  Yes, yes!  Number one!

(CROSS TALK)

OLBERMANN:  This show‘s as rigged as the 2000 presidential election. 

PEG:  Baby, baby, it‘s a new—Come here.  Yes, come here!  Yes, baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “The Soup” is made up of clips of other TV shows.  So now it is up to Mr. McHale and his executive producer KP Anderson to figure out how run a clip of our show running a clip of their show. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,916th day since 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.

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