updated 8/14/2008 11:53:30 AM ET 2008-08-14T15:53:30

Guest: Jonathan Alter, Clarence Page, Chris Cillizza, Joel McHale

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

Who does this guy think McCain is?  The president of Georgia appeals for military aid to a Republican candidate who has not even been nominated yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, GEORGIA:  Yesterday, I heard Senator McCain say, “We are all Georgians now.”  Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but, of course, it‘s time to pass from deeds to—from words to deeds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Of course, there is good reason President Saakashvili would expect more than John McCain is legally permitted to give, he probably believes he bought McCain.  April 17th, McCain issues a statement supporting Georgia.  Also, April 17th, McCain‘s foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann gets a $200,000 lobbying contract from Georgia.

Playing politics with the crisis in the Black Sea, John McCain bites off more than he can chew.

The vice presidency.  The major hint as to whom Obama may have chosen.  It is in the convention speaker schedule.  Former Governor Mark Warner of Virginia to deliver the keynote suggesting current Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia is unlikely to deliver the veep acceptance speech, pointing perhaps to this man as the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

The Edwards‘ mess.  The timeline of admission questioned by Elizabeth Edwards‘ brother but once again, the sleazy are out sleazed.  Comedian Rush Limbaugh crosses the last line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Given his wife is smarter than he is and probably nagging him a lot about doing this, and he found somebody that—did something with a mouth other than talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Rush Limbaugh is a hole.

Best: With “fixed news” beating the Edwards story to death, you must not be named gets named, quote, “John McCain cheated on his wife and John McCain‘s running for president.  John Edwards is not,” unquote.

And our long national nightmare is over.  The “Soup” endless clip challenge is at an end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL MCHALE, TV HOST:  Go ahead and keep this going.  You have a real show that covers real news and we have nothing but time and a guy in a bikini—and we usually just talk about skunks and stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joel McHale is here to surrender.  I‘m sorry, propose a truce.  Yes, truce.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCHALE:  My brain hurts.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, August 13th, 83 days until the 2008 presidential election.

As war rages tonight in Georgia, Russia‘s invasion of that tiny U.S.  ally is raising new questions, not just about the wisdom and the confidence of John McCain‘s foreign policy, but also about the integrity and the ethics that shaped his position toward Russia.  McCain‘s position may, in fact, have helped fuel this crisis.  It‘s certainly today left a foreign head of state making an extraordinary appeal for help from a capital virtually under siege and calling McCain out by name, for not matching deeds to words.

Our fifth story tonight: The price for McCain‘s foreign policy, possibly in this case a literal price, did the nation of Georgia think it had bought John McCain?  His rebuke at the hands of that nation‘s leader presently.

First, today‘s new details about McCain‘s top foreign policy adviser.  On April 16th, Russia announced it would establish legal ties with Georgia‘s two separatist regions—South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Both are friendly with Russia, legitimizing, a move widely seen as undermining Georgia‘s sovereignty there.

The next day, the “Washington Post” now reports, Georgia sought help agreeing to pay $200,000 to a lobbying firm headed by this man, Randy Scheunemann to renew its contract with Scheunemann who‘s also and was also at that time, McCain‘s top foreign advisor.  That same day, Scheunemann participated in crafting a strong statement by McCain, taking Georgia‘s side, telling reporters, quote, “We must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand.”

Did statements like that purchase or not, give Georgian‘s president, Mikheil Saakashvili the confidence to launch his military offensive in South Ossetia last Thursday?  Did it, in turn, become Russia‘s excuse for invading Georgia?

Over the years, Georgia has paid Scheunemann‘s firm $800,000.  Scheunemann‘s company, the “Associated Press” reports today has lobbied McCain and his staff on Saakashvili‘s behalf 49 separate times.

With his capital under siege today, Saakashvili spoke like a man left with only a receipt.  Asked about the U.S. response or lack thereof, he used the word appeasement and put at least partial blame for the crisis itself on President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAAKASHVILI:  Well, frankly, some of the first statements from Washington were perceived by the Russians almost as a green light for doing this because they were too soft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  More startling by far, Saakashvili‘s criticism of McCain arising, unsolicited, following his alarming account of what Georgians have found inscribed on Russian bombs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

SAAKASHVILI:  The bombs that they dropped to us, some of them unexploded—this is for President Bush, this is for the United States, this is for NATO.  And that‘s what the Russians are fighting not a war with us, they are by proxy is trying to fight war with the west, and the west seems to be, you know, leaving about that but certainly, I think, I really want to appease—I mean, yesterday I heard Senator McCain say, “We are all Georgians now.”  Well, very nice, you know, cheering for us to hear that, but, of course, it‘s time to pass from deeds to—from words to deeds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And what deeds does Saakashvili want?  With Russia claiming to honor a cease-fire, Georgia is asking the U.S. to provide peacekeepers.  Something the Europeans have agreed to but the U.S./Bush/McCain have not.  Mr. Bush instead is sending humanitarian aid by air and by sea, transported by the U.S. troops.  Some of that aid has already arrived, although the only ship to bring aid the USS Comfort is now in Baltimore and will not arrive for more than a month.

This only one element of a response critics are calling Katrina-esque, with Bush only just back from the Olympics and now merely delaying his Crawford vacation by a day or two to deal with this.

And Saakashvili today is saying western intelligence predicted Russia would not invade and with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, only today heading towards the region after continuing her vacation through the Russian invasion.

The Obama campaign has also criticized McCain‘s response, specifically the belligerence of his recent rhetoric.  Today, McCain responded that this is no time to politicize the matter, even when it was pointed out that he and his surrogate, Joe Lieberman, did exactly that just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: Barack Obama and John McCain‘s statements, Senator Lieberman said one had kind of a moral neutrality to it; that comes, I think, from inexperience.  The other, Senator McCain was strong and clear.  That seems a political to you—to some, no?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, let me respond by just saying that—I think that whatever we think at the moment that we can all reserve that for a future time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The question from FOX News, by the way.

With us tonight, MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor at “Newsweek,” and author of the new book “Between the Lines.”

Welcome, as always, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thanks, Keith.  Does it seem that Georgia‘s president thought Bush or maybe more directly, McCain, were supposed to prevent exactly what happened from happening?

ALTER:  Yes, you get the sense that Saakashvili felt there should be a trip wire there like there was during the Cold War in Western Europe, and that if the Russians crossed that that we would go to war, you know, to defend them.

It reminds me a little bit of the confusion that happened in the 1950s, and in 1956, the Hungarians revolted and they had reason to believe that the Eisenhower administration had give them assurances that we would intervene there.  What they don‘t understand in that part of the world is that Americans really don‘t want to get in to a shooting war with the Russians.

And this is something that is suddenly like now on the table for us to have to think about whether this could take place in the next few years if John McCain‘s elected.

OLBERMANN:  So, that Saakashvili in the Imre Nagy role, I guess, from 1956.

ALTER:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  But, legally or morally, is there any culpability here with McCain or now, in this construction more directly with his adviser Mr.  Scheunemann?

ALTER:  Well, culpability I would shy away from.  I mean, the Russians did a bad thing.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ALTER:  And they really should not have done this and I‘m not into the idea of sort of blame shifting for their bad behavior, but I do think it is really unseemly that Randy Scheunemann, you know, had this lobbying contract—and it‘s always the second raters, by the way, who are foreign agents or lobbying for foreign governments.  The top foreign policy people do it in a more subtle way.  Maybe they‘re consultants but they‘re not lobbyists.

So, you know, this really stinks, this whole deal of him, because you don‘t know who he‘s representing.  Is he representing the interest of Georgia or the interest of the United States?  And you never want to get into a situation like that and it‘s rather—I hate to say it—inexperienced maybe on John McCain‘s part to be putting up with this kind of thing and, also, there‘s the question of whether, in his rhetoric towards Putin, he‘s just been too inflammatory for American interest.

OLBERMANN:  And that—but that draws that line there, we get oil through Georgia.  The oil money in Georgia subsidizes Scheunemann‘s lower paying work, which is as a McCain policy advisor, McCain‘s foreign policy loudly supports Georgia and has since April in the runup to all of this.  How does McCain even theoretically argue that those dots are not connected?

ALTER:  Well, I mean, I think he would say that, you know, he‘s been to Georgia a few times.  He did nominate Saakashvili for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.  Even though, you know, he seems like a good supporter of the west, I‘m not quite sure where the peace prize part of it would come in, but I‘m not sure that he needed his advice or heard it to be so strongly pro-Georgia.  He was going in that direction anyway.

The question, though, is one of subtly and moderation in one‘s approach to foreign policy.  He‘s supposed to be the adult here, you know, the mature foreign policy statesman.  Those are the grounds on which he‘s asking us to elect him president.  These are not well-tempered, measured remarks that he‘s been making.  He should have taken a little bit of a leaf, I think, from the administration, which, despite some of its miscues, at least responded with the right tone to this crisis.

OLBERMANN:  Unless, unless Senator McCain has his own army that he‘s not telling us about that he could send over.  He actually intervened personally right now, rather than say in January.

ALTER:  We‘re only supposed to have one president at a time, which is something he might have forgotten.

OLBERMANN:  I believe you heard him say that at some point.

MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter, “Between the Lines” is out now and collect some of Jon‘s “Newsweek” work.  Thanks, as always, for coming in.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That McCain‘s motives for helping Georgia or at least sounding like he was helping Georgia, remain unknowable, another aspect of his conduct much more open to meaningful scrutiny tonight.  Is he any good at this foreign policy stuff?

The foreign leader whose friendship McCain has talked about endlessly since last week, evidence of his knowledge, experience, are now on record calling McCain out as we heard earlier.

Joining us now with his thoughts on the implications, Clarence Page, the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist of the “Chicago Tribune.”

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Thank you for inviting me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  There is obviously substance to explore here, but first, if you would just dissect the impact of that statement from Saakashvili about McCain‘s “We are all Georgians” line?

PAGE:  Well, Saakashvili obviously is very happy to have McCain‘s support.  He‘s had it for a while.  He‘s had this relationship that you mentioned.  I talked with him back in April and really did expect there to be some kind of trip wire that McCain would help him to trip and McCain certainly gave a more bellicose, belligerence statement of about a Georgia then President Bush did certainly, initially—and that is in line with McCain‘s attitude towards Putin for quite some time—who appears to still be running things over in Moscow.

But I‘m just wondering, Keith, how we would have felt if Barack Obama had said, “I speak for all the people in the United States” and saying “We are all Georgians now.”  Some people might call that a little arrogant.

OLBERMANN:  On the substance, Saakashvili today not naming McCain, specifically, but telling reporters he‘s been warning about this for more than a year, but his quote was, “Western leaders dismissed those warnings.”  This brings up another point.  If McCain is, indeed as close to Saakashvili, as he claims to be, what did he do about those warnings?  Was he one of the ones dismissing them?

PAGE:  Well, if so, and McCain apparently did.  I mean, we didn‘t hear any alarm bells being rung.  He was in line with the Bush administration which also didn‘t ring any alarm bells about this either.  It looks like the west was largely caught by surprise by Moscow‘s invasion of these disputed regions, and certainly, South Ossetia.  It looks like they‘re heading toward Abkhazia now.

And so, I think, in that line, John McCain was certainly very supportive of Georgia, very supportive of the Georgian government, but didn‘t apparently have any better intelligence than the rest of us.

OLBERMANN:  Is it fair to ask whether McCain help to sort of tick this thing off or instigate it with rhetoric that signaled to Saakashvili, “Sure, go ahead.  We have your back if you‘re looking to reclaim South Ossetia, go for it”?

PAGE:  It certainly doesn‘t help.  Like Jonathan Alter mentioned, the Hungary example, it also reminds me of—in Iraq, the folks who wanted to rise up in the south against Saddam Hussein took the first president, Bush‘s rhetoric as a promise that they would get U.S. support, they didn‘t.  This was the kind of thing that we have to be very careful about.

John McCain today answered questions from reporters was careful to say, we don‘t want to be political about this, of course, he is running for president.  So, anything he says is going to be taken very seriously by a lot of people, whether it‘s folks here domestically, wondering about his fitness to be president, or folks overseas wondering about signals that he‘s giving as to both what he feels and also what the Bush administration feels, whether that‘s a correct impression or not.

OLBERMANN:  Clarence, last point.  Today, in talking about Georgia, McCain actually said, “In the 21st century, nations don‘t invade other nations.”  Do you suppose the irony of what he said was lost on Mr. McCain and does he assumed nobody is going to draw the obvious parallel with his full support—we invaded Iraq in the 21st century and five years later we‘re still there?

PAGE:  I think he‘s hoping that we don‘t draw significance from it, but I think we will.  I think you just did.  This is the kind of thing that people are looking at in assessing John McCain.

Look, the polls show that he is ahead of Barack Obama when it comes to credibility on national security issues and international relations.

We also know that John McCain has an Achilles‘ heel in his reputation for being quick tempered.  He has not been quick tempered during this campaign, but his bellicose response to this move by Russia on Georgia, and his general view that has been somewhat to the right of the Bush administration here is going to be questioned.

OLBERMANN:  The columnist Clarence Page of the “Chicago Tribune” and many other fine newspapers.  Great thanks to your time tonight, sir.

PAGE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It has been the launch pad for more than one future vice president nominee, consider Bill Clinton, remember Barack Obama.  But this time, the selection of the keynote speaker at the Democratic convention seems to be more of an indicator of who will not be the next vice presidential nominee.  How the tea leaves seemed to confirm that Obama is about to pick as his number two -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Why the selection of one man as the keynote speaker of the Democratic convention in Denver may have cinched the Democratic vice presidential nomination for another man?

By beating the John Edwards story into the ground, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, each wearing the meaning of the phrase, “Hoist on his own petard.”

And if you turn the southern tip of Manhattan Island into a security area, reminiscing of the Green Zone in Baghdad, have you not done everything the terrorist wanted?  Worst Person is ahead.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Working off a presumed short list of three and then cutting that by two, we may now be able to predict that Senator Barack Obama‘s running mate will be Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Maybe not.  Even with brand new circumstantial evidence this remains a power game, though a reasonably informed one, and here we go.  Senator Obama‘s presidential campaign announced today that the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention will be the former governor of Virginia, Mark Warner.

Mr. Warner is also favored to win his current race for senator.  But Mr. Warner‘s rising star might actually dim the V.P. chances for Virginia‘s current governor, Tim Kaine on this simple theory.  Warner speaks on Tuesday night, the vice presidential candidate makes his acceptance speech on Wednesday night.

It is unlikely that out of the universe of possible speakers, two Virginia governors would be scheduled for major speeches on successive convention nights.  Indeed, Governor Kaine has seemed glum reportedly, believing he will get the silver medal in the vice presidential sweepstakes, that according to the “Washington Post,” citing an unnamed source.

Further, if Obama wants the theme for Wednesday night national security to dovetail with his vice presidential pick, it is Biden—since he has far more heft in that department against his other supposed short-listers, Governor Kaine and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.

Let‘s turn now to Chris Cillizza who writes the picks for WashingtonPost.com.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Do you concur based on these latest tea leaves that Biden looks good for this?

CILLIZZA:  Well, the logic is all there.  And, you know, Keith, you put it right, is that a lot of times we‘re really sorting through pieces of information that we‘re putting together and trying to make a puzzle and when, in fact, the nominee may be working off an entirely different picture.  But, yes, I do think what you‘re looking at at this point is Bayh or Biden.

And I do think that Joe Biden is sort of a hot commodity.  He‘s the name that has been kicking around in Obama world for some time.  I sort of dismissed it for a while—Joe Biden has a reputation for shooting from the lip a little too much to be a vice president—but it continues to crop up which makes me think he‘s really in the running here.

One other quick thing about Biden here, Keith—he is known for speaking about anything and everything whenever asked.  He has been pretty quiet lately, which leads to some suspicion.

OLBERMANN:  And asking him to hold his breath for two weeks.

OLBERMANN:  The three-man shortlist, Chuck Todd put that out last week or the week before was, as you mentioned, McCain, Biden and Evan Bayh.  Where is the evidence that it is not Evan Bayh, is that because if he had to resign from the Senate, you got a Republican governor in Indiana, appointing his replacement, but if Biden had to resign from the Senate, you got a Democratic governor in Delaware appointing his replacement or why is Biden seemed to be ahead of Bayh?

CILLIZZA:  Well, I think replacement scenario you just outlined is part of it.  I would say, though, I don‘t know that Biden is ahead of Bayh.  I really think that there are these two—they offer similar but different appeals.

I would say one thing is, if Obama wants this pick to really generate a lot of excitement among the sort of Democratic base, he‘s going to text message his pick out, Bayh is not the guy who‘s going to get a lot of people excited.  He‘s steady, he doesn‘t make mistakes.  He‘s from the middle of the country.  He makes sense on paper.

Biden is a little bit more charismatic, maybe someone people can rally around and get more excited about.  So, again, we‘re really splitting hairs and reading tea leaves.  But, if you have to guess, I think, he‘d tilt towards Biden.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  If he is the guy in that text message from Obama, four minutes later, the text message comes from the Republicans bringing up the plagiarism charge that the Dukakis campaign raised in ‘88.  Obviously, that is surprisingly nuance.  Biden had quoted the same speech from the British politician, Neal Kinnock, a dozen times and he attributed to Kinnock every time but one, and there was tape of that.

But that nuance, as impressive as it might be, nuance has not been an aspect of this campaign.  How would he, meaning Obama, counter this?

CILLIZZA:  You know, I—first of all, let me say, Keith, your 100 percent right.  Perception often matters a lot more than reality in these campaigns.  The reality is clearly, a lot more mixed when it comes to the Neal Kinnock plagiarism.

I think what Barack Obama and Joe Biden would say, “Look, this happened in 1987.  This is—you know, this is 20 years ago,” and Joe Biden had proved himself time and time again to be a respected, credible leader both in the United States and on the world stage.

Again, none of these picks is going to be perfect.  All of them have something that you could say, “Well, they can‘t be picked.”   So, you‘re to pick and say, “Well, what are the pluses and do they outweigh that minus or that few minuses in the candidate‘s mind?”  I think that‘s what Barack Obama is doing in Hawaii this week.

OLBERMANN:  Or he could say, “If you want to talk ‘80s, let‘s talk Keating Five, Senator McCain,” (INAUDIBLE) if it‘s the ‘80s hits back like some cable channel show and why not do it that way?

CILLIZZA:  Absolutely.  I mean, look, all these candidates, especially when they‘ve been in the Senate or in any kind of office, Keith, for any extended period of time, have a record.  That‘s always the problems why a senator hasn‘t been elected president since 1960, because you vote a lot and you have a lot of votes that may seem contrary, that may seem out of step.

So, you know, if we get into this war, I‘m not sure people vote on the vice president.  Really, people are going to vote on Barack Obama versus John McCain.  I think with the vice president whether it‘s Joe Biden or Evan Bayh or somebody we haven‘t talked about, the real goal is—do no harm, don‘t slow down Barack Obama‘s momentum, don‘t lose him that slim lead he has in polling.

OLBERMANN:  Certainly, it would make covering the campaign speeches a lot more interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza of WashingtonPost.com, many thanks.

CILLIZZA:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Nothing like going so far past the line of good taste that you obscure the people you are trying to ridicule.  Rush Limbaugh blows himself up over Elizabeth Edwards.  And Sean Hannity blows up John McCain over John Edwards.  Those stories are ahead.

First, the headline‘s breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed.

Number three: Moron-gate.  Anybody who has watched Mr. Bush‘s Department of Homeland Security knows it has become a holding cell for political patronage, especially for the not too bright, but this is ridiculous—Homeland has just launched its own counterintelligence division and issued instructions to its employees on how to spot espionage agents and other people who might be trying to wheedle (ph) information out of them.

Secretary Michael Chertoff notes the three warning signs.  One, if someone asks an employee for a classified and sensitive information or access to systems.  Two, if someone asks an employee traveling overseas to bring back an envelope or package.  Three, if an employee has regular contact with a person suspected of being part of a foreign intelligence service, terrorist group, or foreign criminal enterprise.

Seriously, people we hired to work at Homeland Security need it be told they should tell their supervisor if they happen to have regular contact with a terrorist group.

Number two: Vacation-gate.  Mr. Bush criticized Congress for taking a five-week vacation without voting on the phony, baloney idea to increase offshore drilling so the price of gas might drop a nickel in 2018.  This after the president returned from his vacation at the Olympics and just before he went back to Texas for his annual August vacation in Crawford.

So far in his presidency, Mr. Bush has gone there for 466 days of vacation.  He‘s gone to Camp David for 450 more, that alone totals to 2 ½ years of vacation.  The first president ever to view the job as a part-time gig.

And number one: Death sentence by inertia-gate.  For at least a third time, a man being held by the Bush administration‘s ICE unit, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, is dead.  Hiu Lui Ng, a New York computer engineer who had lived in this country for 16 years, dead at the age of 34.  He had gone to immigration headquarters for a final interview on his green card last summer, that‘s when somebody noticed he had overstayed a visa years earlier.

Instead of an interview, he was immediately arrested and had been in jail since.  In April, he complained of excruciating back pain.  By last month, he could neither walk nor stand.  Now, he is dead.  Cancer, concludes the coroner—cancer that was never diagnosed by prison doctors.

And when Mr. Ng‘s lawyers say when he told officials how sick he was, they denied him an independent medical evaluation, they accused him of faking his condition, and last month, they shackled him—his body broken by the cancer—they shackled him to a chair while an ICE official demanded that he withdraw his appeal and accept deportation.  They murdered him.  We, the people in George Bush‘s America, we murdered him.

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OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and American Airlines reverses course.  First, on this date in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock was born.  He liked to explain his career, scaring the crap out of people on movies and TV by relating a bizarre anecdote from his childhood.  His father sent him to the local police station, ostensibly to hand the desk sergeant a letter, where upon the sergeant took young Alfred by the hand and silently walked him to a cell, told him to go inside, and locked the cell door behind him. 

Ten minutes later, they let him go home, telling the frantic boy, this is what happens to people who do bad things.  Forever after, he had a terrible fear of the police and a terrible fear of eggs.  No explanation of that provided.  Sorry. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  We begin with a scientific presidential prediction, furnished by Minor League Baseball.  According to a bobble head poll taken at minor league parks across America, Senator Obama will be our next commander in chief.  The election was held over six nights at six different stadiums.  Voters entered a booth and selected their candidate, choosing the bobble head doll they preferred.  Of the almost 7,300 bobble heads chosen, Obama garnered 4,000 to McCain‘s 3,259, a landslide victory for Obama, a ten-point loss for McCain and a complete shutout for Ron Paul‘s bobble head, which finished fourth behind Obama, McCain, and Mr.  Met. 

To Dewitt County, Texas for Oddball‘s Chupacabre (ph) chase of the week.  This is dash cam footage from a sheriff‘s patrol car following what may or may not be the mythical Chupacabre, a legendary beast known for sucking the blood straight out of goats.  This one is wanted for petty larceny.  If it‘s not a mythical beast, and I said if, experts say this may just be a hairless dog or a coyote. 

Sadly, we‘ll never know because the chase ends when the Chupacabre was snatched and dragged into the brush by the Montauk Monster. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The latest twist in the Edwards‘ mess, completely overwhelmed by another cheap attempt to exploit it from the head mental case of the far right.  And COUNTDOWN one, “The Soup” nothing.  In the battle to waste as much time running clips of the other show, we win.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best reversal.  We pegged them as one of last night‘s worst persons in the world.  Now CEO Gerard Arpey and American Airlines changing policy.  They will no longer charge US military personnel for a third checked bag.  The airline had argued that since the troops were reimbursed for such expenses, they really weren‘t charging them anything.  In a statement, the airline now says that only recently did it learn of the, quote, burden the military reimbursement process puts on soldiers traveling to war zones.

Number two, best revenge, Annastella 007, an unnamed Australian woman who says she is getting back on her straying husband by selling his used condom wrapper, and a photo of his girlfriend‘s panties on eBay.  The panties are described as size huge, and the condom wrapper described as size small. 

Number one, best self-facing, Sean Hannity of Fix News, beating the Edwards‘ story into the ground, says last night, “if you can‘t keep a promise to your family, can‘t keep a promise to your wife, you have an affair, you‘re lying about the affair repeatedly, why should the American people trust you when you say you‘re going to not going to lie to them?  Why should we trust you?” 

Whereupon his co-host, Alan Combs, took his life into his hands and said, that‘s a great question Sean asked.  If that‘s true, you can‘t trust anybody who had an affair.  How could we trust John McCain to be president of the United States, since he cheated by his own admission on his first wife.  He didn‘t keep his marital vows.  He didn‘t keep his pledge to his first family.  Oops.  As is often noted, there is nothing funnier than seeing the fisherman pulled into the water by the fish. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The American sage H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.  But since Mencken‘s death in 1956, there has emerged a new and more complex form of American puritan, a man haunted by the fear that someone, somewhere may be happy doing something he is also doing, that he thinks is his right, but no one else‘s.  Such a creature is Rush Limbaugh, who should have learned that when the new Puritanism attacks a sinner like, say, Bill Clinton, it invariably overdoes it to such a degree that America recoils and soon perceives the sinner as the victim and the new puritan as the jackass. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, with comments idiotic even for him, Limbaugh has turned John Edwards into a victim.  Details in a moment.  First, it is not like Senator Edwards is not trying to stay competitive.  The senator had implied to ABC News that his affair was over by the time he announced his presidential candidacy on December 28, 2006.  Elizabeth Edwards‘ brother and closest friend now telling “People Magazine” that John Edwards revealed the news of his extra-marital conduct slowly and not until the, quote, frenzy of the campaign‘s official launch. 

Acquaintances of Rielle Hunter are also shedding doubt on John Edwards‘ version of events.  One says the affair began six months before she started working for the Edwards‘ campaign.  Of course, that woman answers to the first name of pigeon.  For that matter, Rielle Hunter is a made up name.  That woman was born Lisa Druck. 

As to Elizabeth Edwards and her reaction to the affair, her brother saying she decided to stay with her husband because of her cancer diagnosis and the fact that her young children will not always have a mother. 

Fortunately, the lunatic right will always have a mother, on the radio.  Despite the wall-to-wall sleaze of the Edwards‘ saga, Rush Limbaugh is managing to make it look like a puddle, while he represents the backed up sewage plant down the street. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  We‘ve been told that Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards.  That‘s part of the puff pieces on them that we‘ve seen.  Ergo, if Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards, is it likely that she thinks she knows better than he does what his speeches ought to contain?  And what kind of things he ought to be doing strategy wise in a campaign?  If she is smarter than he is, could it have been her decision to keep going with the campaign? 

In other words, could it be that she doesn‘t shut up?  Now, that‘s as far as I‘m going to go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Actually, it wasn‘t.  Never is.  A minute later—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman—whose mouth did something other than talk. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You mean like what you do with your mouth other than talk, consistently, endlessly wedge your own foot in it?  What better pre-pubescent dream of genital waving dominance over all the women in the world than to blame the intelligence of a woman for her husband‘s infidelity.  What a pure sentiment to share with the less well recompensed losers who comprise your audience than to dismiss their failures as husbands, as men, Rush, on the woman? 

I mean even these days three divorces is a lot.  A 38 million dollar salary and the guy can‘t keep the same woman.  It‘s got to be the woman‘s fault, right?  You wouldn‘t want an intelligent women reminding you that when you went after Bill Clinton, his approval ratings went up, and your two successive champions against him, your Republican two speakers of the House, had to resign in shame because of, oops, their own marital infidelity. 

And you wouldn‘t want an intelligent woman around to say, as somebody should have said to Sean Hannity or somebody should have said to you, you know what, you keep bringing up Edwards and infidelity, and sooner or later, someone will bring up John McCain cheating on his wife while she was recovering from a terrible car accident.  Somebody, even Alan Combs. 

You wouldn‘t want an intelligent woman around you to say loosen up on the pedal on this Edwards‘ crap.  The story was broken by the “National Enquirer.”  They were the same people who broke that story about you and the pills. 

You wouldn‘t want an intelligent woman around you, maybe to help you keep that dream job that you blew at ESPN.  So instead of sitting around in a radio studio making fun a cancer victim, someone somewhere might still care about your opinion of the National Football League, and permit you to be on television. 

Oh, no, nothing worse than having an intelligent woman around, Rush. 

Rush Limbaugh is a hole. 

All right, he ran the clip of me running the clip of him running the clip of me running the clip of my appearing on his show.  It is time to end this.  Joel McHale joins me. 

And the would-be Republican Congressman claiming the Democrats are out to cut the throats of U.S. troops.  The bad news, there are always candidates for worst person.  The good news, the crowd booed the guy into silence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The feud ends with a truce, of course it‘s not a truce.  The truth be told, there never really was a feud anyway.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world, not including Rush Limbaugh. 

The bronze to Commissioner Ray Kelly in the New York Police Department, announcing plans to heighten security around the rebuilt World Trade Center when it opens presumably in 2010.  There would be only five entrances to the entire area.  Drivers and pedestrians would have to pass through armed check points.  Buses and trucks would have to go to an underground bomb screening area.  And every vehicle entering Manhattan and its license plate would be photographed.  But it‘s not an over-reaction and it won‘t hamper the area returning to, quote, normal.

Commissioner, Mayor Bloomberg, I know you guys intend the best here, but I‘m sorry, if you go through with this Draconian plan, that will mean that the tip of the Island of Manhattan, anyway, there the terrorists will have won. 

The silver, the elected representative you‘d least like to be the lawyer for at a sanity hearing, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, who represents a district evidently populated by the inattentive in Minnesota.  She did an interview with a right-wing religious website about the Republicans‘ gimmick to demand a vote on their gimmick to increase offshore oil drilling, so it can drop the price of gas ten years from now maybe.  Nancy Pelosi, says Congresswoman Bachman, is, quote, committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has just said, she‘s just trying to save the planet.  We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago.  They saved the planet.  We didn‘t need Nancy Pelosi to do that. 

I don‘t know who you mean, Congresswoman.  I would guess that you‘re talking about Jesus.  But since you act like you think you‘re Jesus, I‘m just assuming you‘re referring to somebody else. 

Our winner tonight, Ed Tinsley, the Republican nominee for New Mexico‘s second congressional district.  At a debate with the Democratic nominee, Tinsley has two nephews serving in Iraq.  He spoke of them.  Quote, how could I call my two nephews over there right now and tell them I‘m running against a guy that will cut your throat, that will cut the bottom out of your funding?

I don‘t know, Mr Tinsley, maybe the same way you can talk about how you could conjure up the image of your own kin getting their throats cut just to score points in a political campaign.  To its credit, the crowd booed so vigorously the rest of Mr. Tinsley‘s exploitation of his nephews could not be heard.  Ed Tinsley, Republican Congressional nominee in the second district of New Mexico, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It will go down as one of the great media standoffs of the 21st century, an epic game of one-upmanship, evocative of the Cold War nuclear arms race.  Our Number one story in the COUNTDOWN, and a truce is in the offing.  The war against Bill-O the clown?  Oh, hell, no, I‘m rearming as we speak.  This is about our clip down staring contest with Joel McHale of “The Soup.”  It began on July 24th, when he joined me in the studio during a broadcast of COUNTDOWN from Los Angeles, after which I took on the role as a guest on an episode of his show, which aired the next night. 

(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, an intern‘s 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 delved more deeply than a lesser commentator would dare into the legitimacy of the Hillary Clinton candidacy. 

MCHALE:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Thanks. 

MCHALE:  Thank you.  Was there something else? 

OLBERMANN:  I will tear out your endocrine system. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The challenge was, in essence, this: how many times could either of us take that clip of my cameo or the clip of the clip of my cameo, et cetera, and put it on our respective shows.  Like looking into an endless series of mirrors. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCHALE:  All right, all right.  We have to make this quick.  Two weeks ago, Keith Olbermann appeared on our show with Simon Peg. 

(CROSS TALK) 

MCHALE:  Olbermann then showed a clip of that on his show, then posed a challenge. 

OLBERMANN:  This shows as rigged as a 2000 presidential election.

So, now, it‘s up to Mr. McHale to figure out how to run a clip of our show running a clip of their show. 

MCHALE:  So we did, which led to this. 

Now I challenge you to do a special comment about my comment on the clip show from your show, commenting on a clip from my show.  My brain hurts!

So he did.  It‘s an aneurysm. 

OLBERMANN:  And now tonight‘s special comment, your turn, bub. 

MCHALE:  So now we‘ve shown a clip of you making a special comment about us accepting your challenge to show a clip of you showing a clip of your appearance on our show.  My challenge back to you, Mr. Olbermann, go ahead and keep this going.  You have a real show that covers real news, and we have nothing but time and a guy in a bikini.  And we usually just talk about skanks and stuff.  Advantage McHale. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And now, live and not in a clip, from the E! Entertainment Network pop culture show of record “The Soup,” Joel McHale.  Good evening, Joel, To what do we owe the honor? 

MCHALE:  Keith, it is my understanding that we do now possibly have a truce, but I could be confusing this with the truce I have with Nancy Grace.  So if so, are you Nancy Grace? 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, that just blew the truce right out of the water there.  If you confuse me with Nancy Grace, for god‘s sakes.  Is this a truce or are you suing for peace or exactly what‘s going on here? 

MCHALE:  Are you saying that I lost or you could be saying—well, I could be saying that I‘m tired of seeing you cry like a toddler on my shoulder every other night on national television. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  It‘s a tie.  It‘s a good thing that this is stopped, though, because eventually either your show or my show would have wound up having had nothing in it except a little—like a 44-minute clip devoted to nothing except versions of the, you know, the previous clip from the previous week, this 30-minute trip to the same well, beating to death this one clip.  It had to stop, right? 

MCHALE:  Yes.  I mean, the show you just described would still be more interesting than the Campbell Brown‘s show.  But it is important that we give back to—I mean, serving the nation by you doing a real news show and me telling everyone what Tila Tequila is infected with. 

OLBERMANN:  Campbell Brown?  Campbell, Campbell, Waylon Jennings and Madam Campbell Brown, is that who you mean? 

MCHALE:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Observant viewers will note that you don‘t appear to be in the Burbank Studio that MSNBC uses.  Where are you and why, please. 

MCHALE:  I am on vacation in the greatest city in our union, that of Seattle, Washington, where I can finally get a decent cup of coffee and get my season tickets to the Seattle Supersonics. 

OLBERMANN:  I got bad news for you on that front, by the way. 

MCHALE:  What? 

OLBERMANN:  They moved. 

MCHALE:  What are you talking about now? 

OLBERMANN:  They moved to like Oklahoma City or something. 

MCHALE:  OK, Mr. Newsman.  Get the facts.  I know, I‘m very sad. 

OLBERMANN:  Just have a nice—go to the arena anyway like on November 1st, and see what happens.  Actually, it will probably be noisier than it was during some of the games last season.  But seriously folks—

MCHALE:  How dare you? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, because it‘s true.  The reaction that I got from appearing—doing the cameo with you was extraordinarily large.  I mean, people who don‘t ordinarily watch COUNTDOWN saw this.  I‘m absolutely serious.  That‘s the setup.  Here‘s the joke.  You made an indelible impact on the industry.  Does the management of E! ever thought about asking the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to create an Emmy category for clip show, for sort of TV in review? 

MCHALE:  Did you just use the phrases E! management and thought in conjunction with each other?  I‘m going to tell Seacrest about that one.  That‘s pretty good. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, E! management moved to Oklahoma City with the Supersonics, didn‘t they? 

MCHALE:  Yes, they‘re re-upping Denise Richard‘s contract.  So you know, things are all in their place. 

OLBERMANN:  This is where we let you do a version, a 20-second version of your show to help promote your show.  Just do the line about the Denise Richard‘s show, how you describe it. 

MCHALE:  You mean, Denise Richards, colon, it‘s complicated? 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s exactly what I meant. 

MCHALE:  Or Denise Richards, colon, she‘s boring.  She‘s on my own network. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s her network. 

MCHALE:  Keith, are you looking forward to a clip of me showing a clip of this tomorrow night on “The Soup?” 

OLBERMANN:  I hope not.  A truce means no more clips for the time being.  All right? 

MCHALE:  OK. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll come back on and I‘ll play another acting bit or you can come on here and read Oddball or something.  How‘s that? 

MCHALE:  You can come and cry on my shoulder any time. 

OLBERMANN:  About the Supersonics.  Joel McHale, host of “The Soup.” 

And there is peace in our time.  Thank you, Joel.

MCHALE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,932nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night—he‘s still drinking the coffee—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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