updated 8/20/2008 1:31:13 PM ET 2008-08-20T17:31:13

Guests: Chuck Todd, Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow

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

Saturday, Springfield, Illinois: Obama‘s kickoff to the convention event—might just include his vice presidential choice.

Chuck Todd on the breaking news.

The quote from one of the others on the veep shortlist through Howard Fineman: “If I had to bet my life on it, I‘d bet it is Joe.”

Obama‘s turn at the veterans convention, hits McCain, hits him hard, hits him clean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have never suggested and never will that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nevertheless -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Let me be clear, I will let no one question my love of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  McCain‘s comments as he straddles an oil rig obscured by a blast from his 2002 past.  Remember him dismissing ambition yesterday?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ahem.  “Worth The Fighting For” by John McCain 2002 page

373, quote -

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I didn‘t decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism.  In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oops.

Worst Persons: Jack Cafferty criticizes McCain; a right-wing blog compares Jack Cafferty to Hitler‘s propaganda minister.  And the Worst entry in which I defend Bill-O the Clown—you heard me.

Bests: The “Associated Press” calls Joe Lieberman a funny dirty word. 

Best typo of the decade.

Shocking news: Last week‘s Bigfoot find.  It was a hoax?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we didn‘t have a picture out.  Everyone said it was a hoax.  When we put a picture out, everyone says it‘s a hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And they were right.

And besides the veepstakes, even more breaking news about breaking news about this person and her new job here.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, August 19th, 77 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Breaking news tonight that one of the four people left on the Obama shortlist would bet his or her life that the Democratic vice presidential candidate will be Senator Joe Biden.  On the other hand, Biden himself today said, “I‘m not the guy,” but he said it quickly and kind of softly.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator Obama returning Saturday to the city where he began his campaign, Springfield, Illinois, where, the “Associated Press” reports at this hour, a senior Obama adviser has revealed anonymously that the vice presidential choice will appear with the senator in front of the former state capitol building.

Two candidates on that shortlist telling our own Howard Fineman that it looks like his choice will be the current senior senator from Delaware.  Mr. Biden, himself a former presidential hopeful, currently chair of the foreign relations committee and, as we mentioned, one of the other contenders on the shortlist telling Fineman, quote, “If I had to bet my life on it, I‘d bet it is Joe.”  Another is saying, quote, “Barack is moving towards a seasoned Beltway type and that probably means Biden.”  And as source which Fineman describes as personally close to Obama, adding, quote, “Biden makes the most sense.”

The senator himself is telling reporters as taking out his driveway tonight, quote, “You guys have better things to do.  I‘m not the guy.”

The other name said to remain on Senator Obama‘s shortened shortlist of four, not three, Virginia governor, Tom Kean (sic), Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.  But it was Biden getting the shoutout this morning when the presumptive presidential nominee addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando.

Senator Obama discussing the conflict in Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We must help Georgia rebuild that which has been destroyed.  That is why I‘m proud to join my friend, Senator Joe Biden, in calling for an additional $1 billion in reconstruction assistance for the people of Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A-ha.  Time now to read the tea leaves with Chuck Todd, political director for MSNBC and NBC News.

Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Is it Biden -

TODD:  (inaudible), not between the tea leaves.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Is it Biden, and if it is, what do we make of him saying “I‘m not the guy”?

TODD:  A couple things about the “I‘m not the guy” quote.  I was talking to some folks who know Joe Biden very, very well and said—number one, notice the big grin on his face when he said it.  Number two, if he had been told he wasn‘t the guy, he wouldn‘t be out golfing; he‘d probably be inside, looking inside, a little introspective.  He wouldn‘t be a happy warrior.

This was more of a “I‘m not the guy” like “Look, I‘m not Joe Biden, I might look like Joe Biden.”  So, I think, we all—I think everybody—we‘re so jumpy right now, you know, about this because we have nothing else to be jumpy about.

OLBERMANN:  That wasn‘t Joe Biden.

TODD:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Does the choice, whoever it is, know that he is the choice, let alone whether or not he is Joe Biden?

TODD:  No.  In fact, the Obama campaign really is obsessed with this text messaging rollout.  They are determined to make sure we in the media do not scoop them and report this before they get to do the text messaging thing.  I‘m told it‘s possible they may wait to tell the person that they‘re the pick about a minute before they press that button and launch that text message out to their 2 million supporters.

So it is—this text messaging thing, it‘s very important to them.  And I think that they know the minute you start telling people who the pick is, it doesn‘t take very long to leak out.

OLBERMANN:  Well, maybe, if they do it right here, he or she gets the first text message.  I think that makes the most sense.

TODD:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  As to Biden, four decades in the Senate, chairman of the foreign relations committee, his son is deploying to Iraq in September, is he the attack dog against McCain that Obama believes he would need in the final stretch of the campaign?

TODD:  Look, there are a lot of people around Obama, talking to Obama, and as what Howard Fineman‘s piece was referring to, who are telling him, “Look, Biden‘s the guy that you want.”

Biden is the guy that in a debate is just going to chew up whether it‘s Tim Pawlenty or Joe Lieberman; he‘s going to chew that person up and spit him out.  This is the guy that‘s not afraid to take on John McCain, that‘s not afraid to challenge him on this stuff.  And, oh, by the way, the fact that his son is being deployed and yes, is in the JAG corps, but he‘s being deployed to Iraq, that‘s yet just one more little extra bonus that you get with Biden.

Do they wish he was coming from a swing state like Indiana?  Do they wish they could take Joe Biden and make him the senator from Indiana?  I think, in a perfect world, they would.  But as things stand, Biden seems to be the guy that everybody around him is saying, “Look, he‘s the guy that can possibly prevent you from having any October surprise problems when it comes to international crisis.”

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to go on the rest of Obama‘s day in a moment. 

But let‘s talk when we have a chance about McCain‘s V.P., Chuck.

Andrea Mitchell is reporting tonight that the Joe Lieberman thing is so serious that state GOP leaders have been asked to make sure that in their state, a registered Democrat could appear on a state ballot as a Republican V.P. candidate.  She also reported that if he chooses Lieberman, McCain would actually promise this one-term serving thing.

Am I missing something here because between those two ideas, it sounds like it would cause a major right-wing revolt and it would turn McCain into a kind of pre-election lame duck that he, himself, laughed off conceptually earlier in the year?

TODD:  Right.  Look, I talked to somebody very close to this situation and knows John McCain very well, who simply said, look, McCain‘s going to assess this, his V.P. choice in either one of two ways, and I‘m going to use a sports metaphor.  Everybody can throw something at their TV the minute I use it.

If he believes it‘s third and four, and that all he needs is four yards to get over the finish line, and to get that touchdown and to win this election, he‘s going to pick Tim Pawlenty out of Minnesota.  If he thinks it is third and 11, and he needs to throw the long ball a little bit and he‘s got to take a risk, he‘s going to do Joe Lieberman.

That Romney and Ridge are sort of tweeners in between.  They‘re sort of you‘re kind of rolling the dice if you pick Ridge.  You‘re kind of keeping conservatives happy if you pick Romney.  Pawlenty‘s the safest.  Lieberman is the riskiest choice.  But there may be a part of McCain who believes this is the only way I can get over 50.  It‘s not about keeping it close, it‘s about winning.

OLBERMANN:  Everybody is trying to get on “Football Night in America.” 

Even NBC and MSNBC political director -

TODD:  I know.  Well, don‘t you, I think you -

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

TODD:  You need a 19th person, right, on Sunday night “Football Night in America,” right?

OLBERMANN:  Oh, boy.  Everybody is getting smart.  Chuck Todd.  Thanks for the info, Chuck.  Appreciate it.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  With new evidence tonight that Senator McCain‘s attacks on his opponent‘s patriotism appear to be working, Senator Obama firing back today.  First, the damage assessment, a new poll out tonight from the “Los Angeles Times” and “Bloomberg” showing that Senator Obama‘s image seems to be suffering under the daily onslaught of character assassination.  Obama‘s favorability rating is sinking to 48 percent from 59 since the last survey this organization did in June.

By comparison, McCain‘s numbers holding steady, down only one point over the same period.  The head-to-head national matchup now a statistical dead heat: Obama 45, McCain 43, margin of error is 3.  A huge Keith number, obviously.  In June, the Democrat had led that by 12 points.

In addition, more than 1/3 of those voters surveyed are now having questions about Senator Obama‘s patriotism, still leaving a significant majority, 55 percent that do not.  By comparison, however, eight in 10 believing McCain‘s patriotism to be strong, not surprising perhaps, given how often the Republicans have all but accused the Democrat in this case of treason.

Today, before the same audience of veterans in Orlando to which Senator McCain made his latest accusation just yesterday, Obama is making it clear this morning that it is time for these charges to stop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Let me be clear, I will let no one question my love of this country.  I love America.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain.  When I look out at this audience, I see people of different political views.  You‘re Democrats and Republicans and independents.  But you all served together and fought together, and bled together under the same proud flag.  You did not serve a Red America or a Blue America—you served the United States of America.  So let‘s have a serious debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator Obama also challenging the Republican to raise the level and the tenor of his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I have never suggested and never will that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition.  I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America‘s national interests.  Now it‘s time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  These poll numbers from the “L.A. Times,” do they show why Obama perhaps needs to go tougher possibly on two levels, demonstrate strength on foreign policy issue issues, and then confront McCain head on on some of these—there‘s no other word to use—patriotism issues?

WOLFFE:  You know, these polls are interesting and there‘s a whole series of them that have shown the numbers to be tightening recently.  And I don‘t it really comes down to foreign policy.  In fact, in the “L.A.  Times” Poll, Obama‘s numbers on handling a foreign crisis, they‘re really not that different from McCain‘s.

But what we have seen the really the effects of him being outspent, Obama being outspent by McCain on very negative advertising, if that‘s had an impact.  So it‘s the daily messaging about raising questions, especially on taxes, as well as the celebrity question, but reinforced by this big spending advantage that McCain has.  And I think we‘re seeing that plus Republicans coming into the fold quicker than Democrats.

Those two things there are really coming up in these polls.

OLBERMANN:  Touching on the discussion of the vice presidency, the one I just had with Chuck Todd—is foreign policy experience hoping to fend off these attacks exactly what might be making Senator Biden seems so attractive in the final days in the actual process of the V.P. selection and vetting?

WOLFFE:  That is certainly the argument inside the circles that are driven by conventional wisdom.  But to be honest, none of this is sourced or reported.  This is a huge amount of conjecture.  We don‘t even know the full scope of the shortlist here.

Now, there are some principles involved, according to my campaign sources, one would be that Barack Obama is trying to fill a hole in his resume.  The question is, is that whole foreign policy or is it national security?  Is it someone who has won the military or someone who has foreign policy experience because Obama thinks he has plenty on his own?

And then the question is, the other choice, is there someone out there who can reinforce the Obama brand?  And I think those are the two key choices.  What candidate fits those two gaps?  We just don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you, we have a little more breaking news on the vice presidency.  Let me switch off to this for just a second.

Joe Biden is reported to have returned to his driveway, slowed down to talk to the media and said, “I promise, I don‘t know anything, have no idea, have spoken to no one.  Be careful out here on the road.”  He was then asked, “Have you spoken with anybody in the campaign?”  Presumably the Obama campaign, “I‘ve not spoken with anyone, I have not spoken with anyone.”  And he‘s been asked, “So, you‘re not ruling out that you‘re being considered?”  And he answered, “I have no idea.  You guys know as well as I do.  See you, fellows.”

Can we read between the lines here—because I don‘t, maybe Chuck‘s point that that actually wasn‘t Joe Biden is correct, that doesn‘t sound like the Joe Biden I know?

WOLFFE:  Yes, he is having an out of body experience here, or at least, he‘s sewn up his lips so tight, to show that he has message discipline.  Look, that is going to be the lingering doubt about Joe Biden.  Can he fit into the Obama model?  No drama, someone who can stay on message, someone who can be disciplined, who cannot overshadow the candidate.  Again, a candidate who thinks he has foreign policy experience.

But it also underscores the point that I was just making, that real information about this process is so tightly held here that everything else is just commentary.

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll make a correction on the commentary on the shortlist.  Earlier in the newscast, I apparently said Tom Kean, Governor Tom Keen.  Of course, Governor Tom Kean was the governor of New Jersey, a Republican co-chair of 9/11.  Tim Kaine is, of course, supposedly on the shortlist we talk here.

WOLFFE:  Or, for all we know, it could be Tom Kean.

OLBERMANN:  It could be Tom.  It could be “Citizen Kean” for all we know.

One thing more here about Senator McCain, in this—the way this has turned in the last month, is he off-limits on the patriotism question because the media won‘t ask questions about it and the Obama campaign has made some sort of calculation that it‘s not worth while attacking his positions because of this issue of the reality that he spent five years as a POW?

WOLFFE:  Well, campaign aides tell me, yes.  For a start, they don‘t want to go there in terms of patriotism because it devalues the Obama brand.  Secondly, it is very hard to question patriotism for someone who has been such a national hero with regard to military service.

So, what they want to do is question his judgment, his foreign policy judgment in the war on Iraq.  That‘s what we heard at the VFW speech today.  And they also want to question whether or not he has taken this sort of executive decisions that he suggests he has.  So, one thing to serve; another thing to have that national security leadership.

OLBERMANN:  Our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course of “Newsweek” magazine—great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  At the VFW convention yesterday, of course, it was Senator McCain questioning Senator Obama‘s patriotism, his judgment and maybe most importantly, the arrogance implied by his, quote, “ambition to be president.”  Guess which Republican once admitted, quote, “I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president.”  And it‘s on tape.

Also, there‘s breaking Rachel Maddow news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The unhappy warrior of the presidential campaign blasts Barack Obama for his ambition to be president, but now up-pops page 373 of one of John McCain‘s many books in which he admits that not was only his own ambition a reason he ran for president, but it was in fact the only reason.

And the congressman and Martin Luther King associate who McCain says he consults, says McCain has never consulted him.  Is the Republican presumptive nominee lying or unstable or both?

Later: Breaking news described by one blog as the single smartest move ever made by a television network.

Later in Worst: I defend Bill O‘Reilly.

And later in Best: The “Associated Press” with the greatest political Freudian typo of a generation about Senator Joe Lieberman.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  While Barack Obama strongly rejected John McCain‘s claim that ambition only, not principle, not patriotism, drives him, McCain has also run afoul of a previous presidential candidate who claim that McCain ran himself in 2000 explicit not for patriotism, specifically not to pursue his reform agenda but for, yes, ambition.

Who made this startling claim about McCain?

Our fourth story tonight: It was John McCain.  In the book he wrote in 2002 -- also available in a convenient audio edition.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I didn‘t decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism.  In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president.  I was 62 years old when I made the decision, and I thought it was my one shot at the prize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president—John McCain, 2002.  McCain‘s words of just last Saturday also coming back to bite him today, after naming Georgia Congressman John Lewis as one of the three wisest people he knows, whom he would consult as president.  Lewis told MotherJones.com, they are just colleagues, quote, “not confidants.  He does not consult me and I do not consult him.”

And then, there was today‘s visit to a rig in the Gulf of Mexico, a trip to highlight how eco-friendly they are.  A trip postponed from last month because the campaign said of hurricane Dolly.  The “Washington Post” pointing out that the 12-mile oil slick in the Mississippi back then might have muddied the message.

Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also, of course, associate editor and columnist for the “Washington Post.”

Good evening, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  2002, McCain admits he was driven by ambition in 2000.  2008, he accuses Obama of being driven by ambition now.  This is a blunt question but I think it‘s become a necessary one.  Is this a stable man?

ROBINSON:  It‘s—you know, I think he would say that was then, this is now.  I mean, this is a man who acknowledged the role, the overarching role that ambition played in his 2000 campaign.  So, it‘s the same guy.  I guess this is supposedly the older, wiser John McCain.

OLBERMANN:  But he‘s already on record admitting that he lied in an attempt to become president.  He said he lied about supporting the Confederate flag during the 2000 primaries.  Is this now not just more lying?  I mean, he knows ambition has been his motive, so he accuses Obama of it?

ROBINSON:  Right.  I mean, I don‘t quite get this line of attack.  First of all, as I pointed out before, I‘m not aware of many or any presidential candidates who were not ambitious.  It‘s kind of a definition of ambition, if you think you can be president of the United States.

So to try to pretend, really, that he is without ambition, albeit having confessed it several years ago, but to pretend that now he is without ambition and he‘s just, you know, there to serve the common good is -- I don‘t think anybody‘s going to buy that.  Certainly, nobody who knows anything about politics is going to buy that.

OLBERMANN:  You know, William Tecumseh Sherman was not ambitious, “If not nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.”  That‘s not ambitious.  If you‘re not ambitious, you go home.  Cincinnatus was not ambitious.

If McCain‘s pushing this thing to advance a particular story about Obama, what is the McCain story that we are all missing—the story in which it is McCain who has admitted that it‘s all about ambition?

ROBINSON:  Well, the McCain story we‘re missing, I think, is, you know, the way John McCain has changed over the years.  The man who voted against the Martin Luther King holiday but now claims John Lewis as his spiritual adviser, I guess.

The man who, you know, is a maverick in the public imagination and in the—but who really has voted pretty much like a doctrinaire conservative all along; the man who got in ethical trouble early in his career and became “Mr. Campaign Finance Reform.”  It‘s kind of John McCain versus John McCain, and ambition could be another chapter in that book, I think.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you mentioned Congressman Lewis.  This is not actually the first time that he has used—McCain has used Lewis‘ name to score points somewhere.  He went on at length about him during his “Please forgive me for voting against Martin Luther King Day” tour.

Is there something unseemly about returning to this well in such a dishonest fashion?  Does it say anything about McCain‘s approach to the issues of race in this campaign?  Or is it either smaller or larger than the issue of race?

ROBINSON:  You know, I think, it indicates a certain trivialization of the issue to the extent that he deals with it at all.  I mean, you know, John Lewis has become the kind of go-to civil rights saint and you mention him as an admirable person.

Perhaps, John McCain does find him totally admirable, but as Congressman Lewis points out, if that‘s the case, it would be nice if he were to pick up the phone and, you know, call him now and then, and maybe solicit and take his advice.  Apparently he does not.

So, it‘s hard to put a lot of credence in this idea that he‘s his kind of, you know, big brother in the halls of Congress.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It could have been worse.  I guess he could have invoked Frederick Douglas in there, and that‘s only (INAUDIBLE).

Gene Robinson of MSNBC and the “Washington Post,” as always, Gene, great thanks, have a good night.

ROBINSON:  Great to talk to you, Keith.  Good night.

OLBERMANN:  I believe this is a Bugs Bunny cartoon come to life.  Bet on the tortoise.  Take the tortoise in the points.

And other personal news, breaking news and the personnel it‘s breaking around will be here.

But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—I think I‘ve exceeded by breaking quota—Bushed!

Number three: Irony-gate.  Americans for Prosperity, one of the many corporate-funded lobbying groups working hand-in-hand with big oil and the administration and other people who make more money the more there is doubt that there is global warning, this group was to have town hall meetings tonight on Thursday in Florida to spread its word about global warming alarmism.

This announcement from the group, quote, “The August 14th Fort Myers town hall and August 21st West Palm Beach town hall will be rescheduled as a result of tropical storm Fay.  We apologize for any inconvenience.”  Global warming deniers meetings postponed by tropical storms.  As late great Bill Hicks used to say, “It‘s irony is pretty base, but it‘s still a hoot.”

Number two: U.S. attorneys-gate.  The desperate attempt to keep Bush administration flunkies from testifying in courtrooms over the purge of the politically impure from the right-wing hive, this has now created an almost wonderfully impossible balancing act.

Administration attorneys have to convince the courts that the president was not really involved in the firings of the prosecutors or Mr.  Bush could wind up being in legal or constitutional danger, but they also have to convince the courts that the president was slightly more involved than is generally known or Mr. Bush‘s claim of executive privilege will fly out the freaking window and his flunkies will all have to testify because no executive involvement means no executive privilege.

This led to this lovely bit of self-contradiction from Justice Department lawyer Carl Nichols.  In a statement two months ago, quote, “The record does reflect at this stage that the president was not involved, the record does not reflect that the president had no future involvement.”

Careful there, Carl.  Tie yourself up like a Pretzel like that and you may endanger your spleen.

And, number one: Cold war junior-gate.  Now, it begins to add up.  First, Mr. Bush revived this cockamamie idea to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.  Then he and Mr. McCain incited Georgia to try to retake parts of the country that wanted to line up with Russia.  Now, Putin and company are talking about responding to the missile defense garbage by pointing nukes towards Poland.  And the result - Poland, appropriately enough, is scared.

A respective commentator on one of the networks is casting it thusly last night, “Slowly the Iron Curtain is being rebuilt.”  That the Bush administration has a vested interest in rebuilding the Iron Curtain should be apparent.  That Senator McCain has a vested interest in rebuilding it should be discernible from his recent self-congratulatory, flatulent statements about what a great job he did, responding to the crisis in Georgia, by talking about it.

The only good news in here is that it may suggest the neocons now think that terrorism is dead, at least, as far as its usefulness as a weapon to frighten Americans, and they decided to foment the return of an oldie but a goodie, that threat from those godless—I‘m sorry, that threat from those czarist Russians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And the Associated Press shakes off its chains and calls Joe Lieberman a—wait, it was a typo? 

First, on this date in 1960 was born former all-star baseball pitcher, Yale University‘s top big leaguer of the 20th century, fluent speaker of Chinese, French and English, bon vivant, bank spokesman, cameo actor, my former colleague at Fox Sports Net, now New York Mets broadcaster, best known as Mr. Joanna Last, Ronald Ames Darling.  Happy birthday, Ron and congratulations again on that one Hall of Fame vote in 2001. 

Let‘s play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One more than everybody in here got.  In Israel, we began at Jerusalem‘s Biblical zoo, where paralysis had left the Arava (ph), African spurred tortoise without the use of her hind legs.  But through the miracle of modern science, today she can walk again after zoo-keepers strapped her to a skateboard.  Thanks, science! 

Now the tortoise can fly around her cage with increased mobility and, for some reason, with an increased libido.  When male tortoises at the Biblical zoo noticed the wheels, they started trying to get Biblical with old Arava.  Zoo-keepers are calling the experiment a success, even though Arava winds up shell over tea kettle sometimes.  Next year, they plan to upgrade her to a remote controlled car. 

More rolling coverage, this time outside Frankfurt, in Germany, where this guy should have no problem holding off the ladies as he attempts to break the world record for roller blading backwards.  Rafael Mittinsbe (ph) shattered the old record by skating 208 kilometers in 24 hours, all in reverse.  Maybe he went forward and we‘re just showing you the tape backwards.  He completed 685 laps around the track outside his sports club.  Mittinsbe had been a professional roller blade photographer.  So going backwards was no big deal.  He hopes to break his own record and do it fast enough so that he can reverse time, all the way back to before he started down this stupid career path. 

Finally to Lima, Peru, where Chala (ph), the short-haired pointer, is training for a grudge match against Michael Vick.  Chala is a trained dog serving in the Peruvian national police force.  With boxing gloves velcroed around her paws, she stands on her hind legs, for some reason, and throws hay-makers with her front.  Her owner says Chala can also jump through burning hoops and untie hostages strapped to chairs.  He‘s still working on getting her to stop peeing on the rug. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ah, there‘s good news tonight.  We have met the story and she is Rachel Maddow.  Details next. 

And in worsts, defending Bill-O the clown.  Yes, I know.  But this is over the line.  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best reminder about Jerome Corsi, Bill Sammon of Fixed News, insisting that there are a few mistakes in Corsi‘s book about Senator Obama.  But, quote, “the nature of those inaccuracies, I think, is relatively innocuous.”  Mr. Sammon thus endorsing Mr. Corsi‘s reporting, which this year included the claim that John McCain‘s personal fortune is tied to organized crime and that his presidential candidacy is supported by a group in Kosovo linked to al Qaeda. 

Number two, best promise, comedian Rush Limbaugh, saying of McCain‘s vice presidential musings, quote, this is crap.  What is this about a picking a liberal Republican or a liberal Republican?  Particularly, pro choice.  If he does that, if the McCain camp does that, they will have effectively destroyed the Republican party and put the conservative movement in the bleachers.  We‘re committing suicide in the midst of two events that could launch this party to sweeping victory in November.  One wrong selection as vice president can wipe all that out. 

Oh, rush, don‘t tease us like that. I don‘t know if all of us could take all that concentrated wonderful happiness all at once. 

Number one, speaking of which, best typo, the Associated Press last night running Nedra Pickler‘s story on possible Republican VPs.  What they meant to transmit was, quote, “Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick in 2000.”  Only they didn‘t write pick.  Somebody added an R to that word.  Come to think of it, maybe it wasn‘t a typo. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The website called the Progressive Puppy calls it the, quote, single smartest move ever made by a television network.  “The Nation” already identified her in these terms: everything about her radiates confidence and adept bright careerism.  And at the website Daily Kos, there was, upon the news late this afternoon, posted this poem: “for unto us a star is born, a gift is given and she shall be wonderful, confident, the mighty woman, the everlasting progressive, the princess of news.” 

In our third story tonight on the COUNTDOWN, but around these parts, with all due modesty, I think I have summed it up best.  We just call her next!  MSNBC will formally announce in the morning that as of September 8th -- that‘s 9-08-08 -- at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 pacific, Rachel Maddow will become the host of her own show here on MSNBC.  Here to analyze this startling news is Rachel Maddow.  Well, hi. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Hi, Keith.  I think I‘m blushing even through all my makeup.  This is—

OLBERMANN:  Well, good. 

MADDOW:  Thank you for asking me to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  This is a fine kettle of fish is what this is. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Whose idea was this? 

MADDOW:  Well it was either your idea or MSNBC has decided to give my grandmother the best 93rd birthday present ever.  Her 93rd birthday is on 9-8-08.  It was either a weird act of familial generosity or it was you.  That‘s all I can figure. 

OLBERMANN:  Bet on the latter rather than bet on me.  What will you be doing on this new show, Rachel? 

MADDOW:  This is so weird.  I will be talking politics and trying to convince COUNTDOWN viewers to hang out with me after they hang out with you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the business model. 

MADDOW:  We‘ll do politics.  We‘ll do weird news from far away.  I have weird obsessions that will probably make it on to the show.  I‘m obsessed with the Iraqi National Soccer Team. 

OLBERMANN:  Great. 

MADDOW:  I think there‘s a lot of domestic crime committed by naked men that needs a lot of extra coverage that it‘s not getting right now. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m surprised that‘s one of your special subjects. 

MADDOW:  There are undercover stories in the world that need to have the depths plumbed. 

OLBERMANN:  Or in this case, uncovered stories. 

MADDOW:  Uncovered, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Does the new show have a name? 

MADDOW:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  Will it have a name? 

MADDOW:  Yes.  When you nixed that we call it COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann, which I understand, I suggested Down for the Count.

(CROSS TALK)

MADDOW:  Yes, that didn‘t go either.  We don‘t have a name.  I would happily accept suggestions for it.  The Rachel Maddow Show is taken.  That‘s on Air America.  But other than that -- 

OLBERMANN:  Your many radio fans want to know about that.  What is the future of radio and Rachel? 

MADDOW:  Staying on air America, as always intended.  In fact, staying in the same time slot, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  So I will be one of those people who does TV and radio.  I‘ll just do it better than everyone else who also does that. 

OLBERMANN:  So you are going to try to do it honestly, you are? 

MADDOW:  Yes, exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a band on the new show? 

MADDOW:  Wouldn‘t that be awesome.  Live audience, live punk band, mariachis. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you know how much a live audience costs to maintain, to have a live audience in a show? 

MADDOW:  Not paying them to be there, but rather doing it—

OLBERMANN:  No, just having them in.  That killed Phil Donahue.  All other stories to the contrary, that killed Phil Donahue, the cost of having a live audience. 

MADDOW:  Prohibitive costs. 

OLBERMANN:  The live band, we can get you a live band, I think. 

MADDOW:  OK.  If I had to pay the band, I would do that, too.  But no. 

OLBERMANN:  If you haven‘t gotten this question yet from the media who are going to ask it, you will.  I get it a lot.  Oh, so you know, what are you going to do after the election if Obama wins?  There won‘t be anything to talk about? 

MADDOW:  I think there‘s going to be a lot to talk about.  I think there is going to be a lot to talk about even if I were only obsessed with electoral politics, which I‘m not.  I‘m kind of interested in everything going on in the country.  What we talk about here on COUNTDOWN, going back for the many months, if not years that I have been doing this, reflects the wide world of stuff that we‘re interested in that‘s compelling.  So, yes, the election is huge news and it‘s the biggest news story that we‘re going to be covering for a long time. 

But, frankly, we‘ve got two wars going on right now.  We‘ve got a country in transition.  We still haven‘t defined what the role of America is in a post-Soviet world, let alone a post-9/11 world.  There‘s so much going on between the election and the goofy that is neither.  And I think after the election, in part, it‘s going to be a little bit of a relief to have the whole wide world to cover in such depth, rather than just the election to chew on. 

OLBERMANN:  I vaguely remember when we used to not cover the election. 

But the most important question here, have you located a good guest host? 

MADDOW:  Tori, the intern on the COUNTDOWN set here is very promising. 

So I‘m hoping maybe—I don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  Going back to school at the end of the week, I think. 

MADDOW:  Are you busy at 9:00? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I‘m busy getting the hell out of here. 

MADDOW:  Fair enough. 

OLBERMANN:  Our own Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC.  That sounds pretty good, doesn‘t it? 

MADDOW:  Yes, it does.  September—what was it again? 

MADDOW:  Eighth.   

OLBERMANN:  Right after the convention. 

MADDOW:  That would be two weeks from Monday. 

OLBERMANN:  9-08-08 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.  Actually, it will probably start at 9:02 or something like that.  We‘ll sort of have—your show and my show will sort of be indistinguishable for a couple minutes there. 

MADDOW:  If you would indulge me, I would be very happy with that. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re giving me the opportunity to talk for an extra couple of minutes? 

MADDOW:  Would you care to work for longer for free? 

OLBERMANN:  Who said anything about free.  You remembered to negotiate a contract, right? 

MADDOW:  Yes, sort of.  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Good answer.  Good answer.  Can‘t wait.  Congratulations. 

MADDOW:  Thank you so much, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Now, about this story we have to retract from last week reported by this Rachel Maddow person—no, just fooling.  The Bigfoot story that Rachel suggested might be a hoax, it‘s a hoax!  And what does the right wing do to Jack Cafferty when he dares to criticize Saint McCain?  Immediately compare him to Hitler‘s Nazis.  Of course!  Worst persons next. 

This is COUNTDOWN, the lead in to Rachel Maddow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  That Bigfoot story Rachel ran last week?  Oh, god, I hope you‘re sitting down.  I don‘t know exactly how to tell you this, but it was a fake.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Newt Gingrich.  How have the mighty fallen?  Former speaker of the House, now animated prop on Sean Hannity‘s show, trying to convince his sheep viewers that proper tire inflation is the real moneymaker for big oil.  Quote, “most tire inflation is done at service stations and you pay for it.  It is actually a higher profit margin than selling gasoline.  So Senator Obama was urging you to go out and enrich big oil by inflating tires, instead of buying gas.” 

Nice try, sparky.  The pressurized air machines at gas stations are usually owned either by the guy who owns the gas station or, at worst, another guy who has the local pressurized air machine franchise.  Exxon Mobil did not make 11 billion dollars in the second quarter selling freaking air, Newt.  This guy was the speaker of the House!

Our runners-up, the rap group East Coast Avengers.  One of their new pick to click songs is entitled “Kill Bill O‘Reilly.”  Sampling it, as the kiddos say, you‘ll find lyrics that call him a chicken hawk, a lying coward, a sexist, a racist, and a whore who, quote, “needs a face lift.”  But the song also calls for him to, quote, “be hanged like Benito Mussolini and otherwise be killed.”

Gentlemen, I‘m the last person to disagree with you on the chicken hawk, lying coward, sexist, racist, needs a face-lift, whore stuff, but you need to recut this track.  Nobody‘s life should be threatened, not even in the hyperbole of the moment.  Besides, you are rappers.  You have better ethics than Bill O‘Reilly does.  Live up to them.  Don‘t live down to him.  Word to your mother. 

But our winner, Harvey Kushner of the woeful HumanEvents.com.  CNN‘s Jack Cafferty yesterday lit into Senator McCain‘s shallowness and self-contradiction, posing a poll question, is John McCain hypocritical to condemn Russia for invading Georgia when he voted to invade Iraq?  So naturally, Mr. Kushner, decided to smear my old colleague Mr. Cafferty with the restraint and proportion we have come to expect from the lunatic fringe, as illustrated there.  Quote, “Jack‘s question reminds me of a statement made by Adolf Hitler‘s propaganda minister Dr. Paul Joseph Goebels.” 

So criticize McCain and one of McCain‘s lap sitters immediately escalates it to the Nazis.  Do not pass go, do not collect 200 bucks.  John McCain gets 12 seconds or less on the “Nightly News,” it‘s the Nazis.  John McCain is shorter, the Nazis did it.  John McCain is caught lying, cheating, admitting his ambition to be president, being in the Keating Five, it‘s the Nazis, obviously.  Harvey, it‘s raining because of the Nazis, Kushner, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Look, in any defense, all I‘m saying is I was on vacation.  We had some guest host here.  Last time you‘ll see her.  Number one story in the COUNTDOWN, evidently, against the odds, this was a hoax. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In our number one story, two Georgia hunters say they‘ve recovered the corpse of a Sasquatch.  Matt Whitten and Rick Dyer say last month they stumbled upon the dead corpse of a Sasquatch in the north Georgia woods. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The hoaxiness was discovered when a fiber from the creature melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair.  Plastic was the actual result.  And a DNA sample came back consistent with that of human or ape.  No surprise to COUNTDOWN‘s appropriately skeptical staff of crack producers or my fill-in host, who confronted the posers with a claim that their Bigfoot did look like an awful like a Sasquatch outfit made by a costume company. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I just think it‘s interesting because whenever we didn‘t have a picture out, everyone said it was a hoax.  When we put a picture out, everyone said it‘s a hoax. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If Bigfoot went and knocked on their door, they would say it‘s a hoax. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Which it was.  Mr. Whitten and Mr Dyer there, meanwhile, allegedly remain at large, allegedly with an undisclosed sum of money which they allegedly received in exchange for the freezer containing the alleged corpse.  The mystery at hand may well be solved, but the case is far from closed.  Maria Milito is, of course, the mid-day host of New York‘s Q-104.3, and is apparently COUNTDOWN‘s Bigfoot princess.   

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3:  Look at that.  I‘ll be princess of anything at this point. 

OLBERMANN:  The motion, I don‘t know what it is.  Nobody saw this coming. 

MILITO:  Oh, no.  I mean, first, there‘s no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Bigfoot?  Silly. 

OLBERMANN:  Were your listeners extremely upset today?  Are there riots on the streets? 

MILITO:  They were very upset.  I had to counsel some of them off mic, privately on the telephone, then I played “Apeman” by the Kinks. 

OLBERMANN:  The best part of this, I think, these guys got cash from, quote, unquote, legitimate Bigfoot scientists and a guy from SasquatchDetective.com posted this statement today: “at this time, the victim of this series of deceptions, Searching for Bigfoot Inc, is seeking justice for themselves and for all the people who were deceived by this deception.” 

Seriously, they bought a fake Bigfoot carcass and they‘re now shocked it was a fake. 

MILITO:  Not only that, SearchingForBigfoot.com, they have a store where you can buy a belt buckle or a welcome mat.  I want to buy you the belt buckle for Christmas.  Is that OK?  I think you would enjoy that. 

OLBERMANN:  I think the welcome mat might work better.  The actual testing? 

MILITO:  First of all, they did DNA testing that came up, first, part human, part something they don‘t know, which was probably plastic or rubber, since there was a rubber foot. 

OLBERMANN:  Good. 

MILITO:  And opossum.  I read that somewhere, opossum.  Which I don‘t know what that is. 

OLBERMANN:  An opossum. 

MILITO:  A mammal. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s an Irish possum. 

MILITO:  I guess.  I‘m sorry.  I was waiting for that, ba-da-boom. 

OLBERMANN:  The 800-pound gorilla in the insurance company commercial, I‘m the only person who noticed there was a resemblance between the carcass and the gorilla guy. 

MILITO:  No, so did those two hayseeds from Georgia.  I think that‘s where they got the idea from.  You think? 

OLBERMANN:  As always, what context can you give us for this?  What lesson?  What did we learn here? 

MILITO:  Well, I think you can‘t believe everything you hear on the Internets. 

OLBERMANN:  OK. 

MILITO:  And I think the sheriff—one of the guys is a sheriff in Georgia?  I guess he has a lot of time on his hands.  Doesn‘t have a lot to do.  Not a lot of crime. 

OLBERMANN:  Except for fake Bigfoots. 

MILITO:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, this has what to do with “American Idol?” 

MILITO:  Well, “American Idol” had auditions today.  Nobody cares, I don‘t think.  Maybe we were talking about jump the shark; maybe “American Idol” jumped the Bigfoot?  What do you think? 

OLBERMANN:  Maria Milito of Q-104.3, our COUNTDOWN Bigfoot princess. 

MILITO:  Now, I‘m the Bigfoot princess. Are you telling me I have big feet?  I didn‘t think they were that big. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Thank you. 

MILITO:  I wear big shoes. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,938th day since the declaration of mission accomplish 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.

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