updated 8/20/2008 1:22:52 PM ET 2008-08-20T17:22:52

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Howard Fineman, Chris Cillizza

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

McCain uses the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention as another excuse to attack Obama‘s patriotism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This from man who declared the war won on May 22nd, 2003, but wait there‘s more—Obama is also guilty of running for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And you‘re, what—running against your will?  This from a man who called for us to take out Saddam Hussein the day after 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, you is willing to engage in a perpetual occupation of Iraq.  I think that would be a profound mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The cone of silence at the Rick Warren presidential forum. 

Evidently, it worked as poorly as the one in “Get Smart” did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  McCain may not have been in the cone of silence, and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The McCain campaign becomes unhinged at the suggestion that their candidate cheated.  It erupts in a peevish letter to NBC, in a non-denial denial that virtually concedes McCain had access to learn what the questions were to Obama.

The Georgia-Russia conflict and the vice presidency.  The Georgians ask for a visit from Senator Biden of Delaware.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE:  I‘m just here to learn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts.  What we‘re learning about the writer of the smear book, “Obama Nation.” Jerome Corsi also once wrote an article headlined, “Group tied to al-Qaeda backs McCain for prez,” and another linking McCain to organized crime.  And, “Bill-O the Clown” stalker producers attack another writer who dares to barely criticize the Frank Burns of news.

And, attacking the patriotism of Democrats at the VFW convention, which sure worked well for Donald Rumsfeld.  And, attacking the objectivity of NBC News, that sure worked well for Senator Clinton.  Tonight‘s Special Comment: The childishness of John McCain and his campaign.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Monday, August 18th, 78 days until the 2008 presidential election.

If timing is not everything, and tonight there is a report that we may know the timing of when Barack Obama will identify his vice presidential choice, if not who that person will be, if not, then maybe the juxtaposition is everything.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: At the same time in the campaign that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee ripped the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for bad judgment about Iraq, the “New York Times” reminded the nation that John McCain‘s immediate response to 9/11 was to threaten Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Within hours of the attacks, Senator John McCain was reciting a laundry list of other countries that supported terrorism, including Iraq, and a month later, Senator McCain warning that Iraq is the first country.  By January 2002, telling sailors and airmen on board the deck of an aircraft carrier, “Next up, Baghdad.”

Yet today, Senator McCain is criticizing his opponents record on Iraq, ratcheting up his rhetoric in an address to the convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, the VFW, criticizing what he called Senator Obama‘s shifting position on the troops surge in Iraq, declaring again that Obama wants to lose the conflict because of his, quote, “ambition to win the White House.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Senator Obama still can‘t quite bring himself to admit his own failure and judgment, nor has he been willing to heed the guidance of General Petraeus, one of the great leaders in military history, or to listen to our troops on the ground when they say, as they have said to me on my trips to Iraq, “Let us win.  Just let us win.”

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN:  In short, both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home.  The great difference—the great difference is that I intend to win it first.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN:  Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president.  What‘s less apparent is the judgment to be commander-in-chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Senator McCain has no ambition to be president, or he does, and his is good, but Obama‘s is bad or he doesn‘t and he‘s being forced to run by nefarious forces.

The Obama campaign is quick to respond even before the McCain‘s speech, issuing the statement, quote, “All his bluster, distortions, and negative attacks notwithstanding, it is hard to understand how Senator McCain can at once proclaimed his support for the sovereign government of Iraq, and then stubbornly defy their expressed support for a timeline to remove our combat brigades from their country.

The difference in this race is that John McCain is intent on spending $10 billion a month on an open-ended war, while Barack Obama thinks we should bring this war to a responsible end and invest in our pressing needs here at home.”

Time now to call in our own Rachel Maddow, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio.

Good evening, Rachel

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s something we talked about before, but how is Senator McCain here not basically accusing Senator Obama of—we put the big word out there—treason?

MADDOW:  Yes.  Senator McCain and his campaign continue to insist that, not only are they not making sort of accusation like that but they will refuse to impugn Senator Obama‘s patriotism.  McCain will say things like, “Oh, I think he‘s a patriot,” and their campaign will assert confidently that they have never and will never attack Barack Obama as unpatriotic.

But, I think it‘s hard to imagine any stronger charge against somebody‘s patriotism than that they would side against America in a war. 

That‘s essentially what he is saying, that Barack Obama is against the

troops, is against America winning, whatever winning looks like in this war

and that is an accusation of treason.

OLBERMANN:  Is this straight out of the Karl Rove handbook—you take your opponent‘s strongest point, and obviously, Obama had opposed this war from—before the outset and try to make that, not only into a bad thing but the worst thing in the world?

MADDOW:  And for a good measure, change the whole time frame, change the whole sort of locust of data by what we consider relevant and we‘re talking about the Iraq war, so that we only start thinking back to 2007, and we only start thinking back maybe to December of 2006, that the surge becomes the whole war and Senator McCain‘s assertion that he was right about the surge somehow becomes the only thing you need to know about him in the war.

Looking back at the fact that it was only a month after 9/11 when he was saying that Iraq needed to be invaded; looking back at the fact that he called the handling of the war magnificent; looking back at the fact that he not only praised people like Donald Rumsfeld, he insisted that people like Dick Cheney would have a place in his cabinet when he‘s president.  If you look at all of that—that‘s the universe that is relevant for assessing whether or not somebody had the right judgment on Iraq.

He wants to reinvent what we think of as the Iraq war while impugning Senator Obama‘s decisions about it.

OLBERMANN:  And when it goes out to the future, McCain is also saying today, “Good judgment will be at a premium in the term of next president—as we were all reminded 10 days ago by events in the nation of Georgia.”  What exactly is he implying was his needed good judgment regarding Georgia, was it knowing which lobbyist could get a highest price out of one of the interested parties in the war?

MADDOW:  Yes, every once in a while, like, maybe 300 times a month, something happens internationally that the United States needs to act on or make a decision about or make a smart assessment about without starting another war, without actually dropping bombs somewhere.

Right now, Senator McCain has shown an inability to digest the fact that America needs some form of power other than military bluster.  For one thing, one military is a little busy right now.  For another thing, what could the United States do here that would actually help advance our interest?

If he‘s suggesting that we invade Moscow, I‘d love to hear him make that suggestion, but otherwise, I‘d love to hear him articulate, for the first time in this entire campaign if not the last decade of his political career, what he thinks America should do to restore our standing in the world and our diplomatic and leadership capacity.

OLBERMANN:  And in the interim, how do these people keep failing upwards, how do the same people who made the mistakes about Iraq, made mistakes about not staying long enough in Afghanistan after getting Afghanistan partially right, now facing future mistakes, how are they still in the position to make these decisions?

MADDOW:  Because they‘re never held accountable, because we keep going back to them for more advice even though their advice is what got us into the problems we‘re now looking for advice to get us out of.  It‘s partly the media.  It is, in large part, a way that the Republican Party promotes.  It‘s sad.

OLBERMANN:  Rachel Maddow, MSNBC political analyst, host on Air America Radio as well—as always, Rachel, great, thanks.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And thanks to a letter from the McCain campaign itself to NBC News, we now know that the very first words out of the John McCain‘s mouth at Saturday‘s Civil Forum on the Presidency constituted a lie.  Both men were asked the same questions, Obama first, then McCain.  McCain, we were told, was in a, quote, “cone of silence,” so he could benefit from having heard the questions beforehand.

McCain‘s first words, quote, “I was trying to hear through the wall.”

On Sunday, thought, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell reported speculation from the Obama camp that McCain may not have been behind the wall in any “cone of silence” at all.  And McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, immediately fired off a letter alleging that Mitchell was biased for passing an, quote, “unsubstantiated claims,” even though she raised those claims explicitly as evidence that Obama‘s own people did not think he did as well as he might have wanted to.

In fact, Davis‘ own letter confirmed the Obama camp claim, quote, “During Senator Obama‘s segment at Saddleback last Saturday night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed.”

Later, a Special Comment in which we will review the holes in that particular sentence and in the argument that a motorcade and a green room do not a “cone of silence” make.  And as to the lack of journalism alleged by the McCain campaign, it, nevertheless, posted an official message on JohnMcCain.com, quoting Mitchell‘s exact words to undercut Obama.

Joining us now, MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Regardless of whether McCain actually heard the questions that Obama got, do we know now that Andrea Mitchell and the Obama people were right, that McCain was not in a “cone of silence,” correct?

FINEMAN:  Yes, well, I think you have to note that the McCain campaign

and I talked to all the top people on that campaign—insists that Obama, I mean—excuse me, that McCain did not know any information that was against the rules, did not know the questions, et cetera, and the Obama campaign has not publicly accused McCain of doing anything wrong or knowing more than he should have.  But the fact is that, it wasn‘t a cone of silence, it was more like, I don‘t know, a sieve of semi-silence, sort of a colander or strainer or something, but it was not a cone.

Because McCain was in that—and I was at the event, I‘ve been out covering Obama, I was at the event, I saw the way things were set up.  McCain came and he was in a separate building but he‘d been in a motorcade first.  They say the radio wasn‘t on, OK.

But, who knows, the fact is, also, that undoubtedly, there were McCain people in the room because McCain was coming to speak immediately after Obama.  And you know, there are Blackberries, we use them all the time.  And the campaign isn‘t saying flat-out anything other than McCain did not get any help of any kind.  That‘s what they‘re saying but it wasn‘t a cone of silence.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Now to the—that‘s the substance, now to the peripheral here.  McCain used to have a good relationship with reporters and the people who work for John McCain used to have, at worst, a flexible relationship with the media.  How much, in this attack and the attack mode that it represents, is genuine animosity?  How much is about firing up the base, opening wallets, what is this?  What‘s going on because this one today seems to have been a rather hollow complaint?

FINEMAN:  You know, well, and a lot of our viewers, Keith, are probably too young to remember that this strategy of conservative politics began about 35 years ago when Jesse Helms, who died recently and was a founder of the conservative movement out of North Carolina, attacked CBS News over its coverage of the Vietnam War.  That was the beginning of a story line and an attack strategy that conservatives and Republicans have used ever since.

Also, the media has changed since then.  It‘s fragmented, you pick sides, it‘s little like shorts and skin some of the time which is unfortunate.

So, I think all those things have played into what McCain is doing here.  I think, ironically, a lot of people on the left think that we, in the media, are still being too nice to McCain, that we haven‘t looked at him critically enough.

But McCain had had a good relationship with reporters.  I think a lot of us still do but it‘s getting frayed and I think the McCain camp wants to make a point and they‘re going to make it.  And they‘re doing it for political reasons primarily, I think.

OLBERMANN:  Was it strategically well thought out—because the McCain campaign had good story for them over the weekend, he had good reviews from Saturday, he had better reviews than Obama did, at least initially, did they suffocate their own story line with this attack on Andrea Mitchell?

FINEMAN:  Well, this is going to sound like special pleading on my part.  But, I mean, Andrea Mitchell is a paragon of objective down the line reporting.  You know, we all honor Tim Russert.  She‘s the princess of that royal family.

And, rather than attack Andrea, they should have ruled out the amen corner to praise McCain‘s performance because Obama was tentative.  I saw Obama at that event; he wasn‘t really good; he didn‘t give great answers.  He was too busy defending his flank within the Democratic Party.  He didn‘t really bond with those people and McCain, by all accounts, did.

And that‘s what they should have stressed rather than used this as an opportunity to pick a fight with Andrea which substantively really isn‘t, doesn‘t necessarily hold water.  It‘s hard to prove, one way or the other.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Attacking a man‘s ambition to become president when you, yourself, are also running for president would seem to be an insult to the intelligence of every voter.  So, too, with the attacking the media when the same attack on the same news organization backfired so thoroughly on another presidential candidate that that is now a former presidential candidate.

Tonight, a Special Comment on the McCain campaign and its attacks on Obama and on NBC.

And, the late reporting that there are times for both candidates‘ V.P.  announcements, although, no names yet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Circle your calendars, when we might get the vice president choices coinciding in one case with the return of one of the contenders from a firsthand look at the Russia-Georgia conflict, and in the other case, somebody‘s birthday.

Later, a Special Comment on the McCain campaign‘s busy but ill-fated 48 hours, attacks on Obama‘s patriotism and ambition, attacks on NBC News and MSNBC.

You are watching COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Breaking news from both campaigns now about vice presidential announcements.

Our fourth story tonight on the COUNTDOWN: The “New York Times” is reporting this evening that Obama campaign aides are saying that an announcement about his running mate could come as soon as Wednesday.

MSNBC and NBC News political director, Chuck Todd, says he already has campaign sources knocking down that timing.  The shortlist which Chuck established two weeks ago, echoed tonight by the “Times,” Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Senator Joe Biden, who made news himself this weekend, during his trip to Tbilisi in Georgia.

Also, according to Politico.com, Republicans sources are saying Senator McCain will celebrate his 72nd birthday on the 29th of this month, that‘s a week from Friday, by naming his running mate at an Ohio rally, that would be the day after the Democratic convention ends.

Topping the list—former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  According to senior Republicans, though, according to Politico, Senator McCain has spoken to virtually no one about his own selection process.

Our Andrea Mitchell tonight is reporting, a McCain campaign official says no final decision has been made on rolling out McCain‘s running mate on August 29th, but that is not a hard denial.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix” at WashingtonPost.com and joins us now from Washington.

Chris, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  All right.  What are you hearing?  You got two choices here, go right ahead.

CILLIZZA:  Well, everything and nothing at the same time, Keith.  What‘s hard about this stage of the vice presidential game is that there‘s very few people who know exactly how these things are going to roll out.

My guess, certainly on the Democratic side, Barack Obama, I believe, has made his mind up.  If you the “New York Time” story, I think most important line in there that jives with everything I know.  Obama made his mind up in Hawaii.  It makes sense.

He had a week to decompress; he thought about it, sorted through, he knew the pluses and minuses of all these people, he makes a decision.  But he has not yet told the person who‘s getting it and the people who are not getting it.  That would suggest to me that we‘re still a few days away.

In the reporting that I‘ve done, Keith, is more in line with what Chuck Todd is reporting, which is that we maybe headed more towards the end of the week rather than tomorrow or Wednesday.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  This seems to be as much about the timing of the announcement as who it would be.  Why would Wednesday be an option—wouldn‘t there be a concern that anything short of the weekend—there was a Saturday rumor earlier today—that anything short of that would sort of subsumed by the Olympics?

CILLIZZA:  You know, the conventional wisdom, Keith, is that you don‘t make an announcement of this magnitude during the Olympics, simply because the vast majority of those people you‘re trying to reach—people like you and I are going to pay attention no matte what—but those independent voters, those voters who are paying sort of attention but they‘re not watching it closely, are going to be diverted on the Olympics.

The one argument, I guess, you could make towards later in the week, Michael Phelps and that story has played itself out, obviously that was the big story from an American perspective in the Olympics.  We‘ve got track and field to come, I don‘t want to get in into an analysis of who watches what sports, but the thinking would be gymnastics and swimming were last week.  Phelps, that‘s over with.

Now, there‘s more of an opportunity this week.  To announce—and there‘s pure logistics to think about, too, Keith, the convention starts a week from today, so he‘s got, you know, you figure he does it before now and then.

OLBERMANN:  And you could, conceivably, roll out a campaign commercial to run the last few days of the Olympics if you do it before the weekend.

Now, Biden seemed to be the front-runner last week?  Is there any reason to assume that‘s changed?  Did the Georgia trip buttress that argument?  Has his silence buttressed that argument?

CILLIZZA:  I think his silence is the most interesting thing.  This is the guy who is known for being loquacious.  Some would say too loquacious.  He‘s said almost nothing.  He goes to Georgia, I think that‘s certainly, whether he did intentionally or not, it certainly is a demonstration to Obama and the people making decision that this guy has foreign bona fides.

He can go into a place like Georgia.  He can sit down with the president.  He‘s respected.  He‘s someone whose opinion is listened to.

I still think you‘re looking at Biden, Evan Bayh and Tim Kaine.  Now, I do believe as I said before that Barack Obama has decided between those three, unfortunately, he has yet to call me and inform me which of the three he‘s decided on.

OLBERMANN:  And that number is plus to 78866 (ph).

The Republicans, Chris, the Politico note, obviously, the timing makes utter sense, it‘s happy confluence of dates, it‘s the harmonic convergence for John McCain, it‘s his birthday, it‘s the day after the Democrats wrap it up, just plenty of time in advance, the whole weekend before the Republican convention.  The Politico names still safe choices, Romney and Pawlenty.  High yield or high reward picks like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman.

Let‘s assume the timing is correct, what would we think—is there a front-runner among the V.P. possibilities for McCain?

CILLIZZA:  Two quick things, Keith.  One, the fact that he‘s doing it on his 72nd birthday may suggest that he is going to pick someone younger, make it, you know, “Today‘s my 72nd birthday, Tim Pawlenty is only 47 years old, but we agree on the future of this country.”

The other thing to think about, everything that I hear from the McCain campaign is he wants to pick someone for whom he has a personal affection.  This is a gut emotional politician in John McCain.  That would seem to suggest Pawlenty, Ridge or Lieberman they‘re all close to him personally.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll see.

Chris Cillizza, who pens “The Fix” at WashingtonPost.com—as always, Chris, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And, just park that thing anywhere.  Amazingly, no serious injuries unless you‘re a plane.

And, the smears of the writer Jerome Corsi against the presidential candidate, connections to al-Qaeda, connections to organized crime now.  Obama?  No, sorry.  This time, he‘s writing about John McCain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best in the moment, wouldn‘t you start or play “Start Me Up” to the guy you wanted to wake up if he was a Stones fan and he was in a coma?

First, as the world coronates Michael Phelps as the greatest Olympian ever, one thought please to Jim Thorpe, who in 1912 won the gold medals in the 10 event decathlon in a five-event Pentathlon.  He won the shot put to high jump, the 110 meter hurdles and 1500-meter race.  He finished third or fourth in pole vault, javelin, discus, long jump, 100 meters, and 400 meters.  And then he went out and won the pentathlon.  This is while he was college football‘s top halfback, top defensive player, top kicker and to punter, he was a Minor League quality baseball player and one of the nation‘s top amateur ballroom dancers.

In 1982, his Olympic roommate, runner Abel Kiviat, told of the day the 1912 British Olympic team threw a party for the Americans throughout the evening.  Kiviat said every one of them tried and failed to leap up and touch a high chandelier in the ballroom.  Thorpe came back from a night on the town to see the world‘s greatest athletes flailing away.  He took off his jacket, loosened his tie, took a two-step start, leaped up and grabbed the bottom of the chandelier, holding it for a second and then dropping back to the ground.  Kiviat said Thorpe then smiled broadly, tipped his hat and said, “Night fellows.”

On that note, let‘s play Odd ball.

We begin in Dorak (ph), Germany with Oddball‘s what a video of the day.  First up, it‘s important to note that nobody was hurt here.  On descent for landing at the Dorak airport, the elderly pilot of this single-engine Europa (ph) ran into some 380,000-volt power lines.  Instead of them crashing to the ground, or getting sapped into oblivion, the plane‘s under carriage got caught in the wires and the plane was suspended 80 feet in the air.

Two hours later, the pilot and his wife were removed.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  The couple was treated for non-electric shock.  The plane is still dangling from the wires like an old pair of tennis shoes.  I saw that happened in L.A. once.

To San Diego, last night‘s Padres (INAUDIBLE), Philadelphia is ahead one to nothing at top of the third, a long flying ball in the right field, Brian Guiles of the Padres (INAUDIBLE) and I don‘t think it‘s playable.  It sure isn‘t.  Goodbye, exit stage right.  Throughout the Wilks resort (ph) gate.  Giles would emerge unhurt, thanks to the padding on the fence, padding that might not have been there had it not been for the moon landing of all fence collision bloopers.  1991, minor leaguer Rodney McCray (ph), release, rotation, crash, through the plywood fence.  He was also OK, but the Flavor Pack sign was never the same. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bushed ahead.  And just when you might have rid your mind of the images of mold at the care centers for wounded vets, there is more mold at a care center for wounded vets.  John McCain slams Obama at the veterans convention, the same McCain who has voted against over five billion dollars in funding for service men and veterans, and he slams Obama for his ambition to be president.  My special comment tonight.  Senator, are you claiming you don‘t have any ambition to be president? 

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.  Number three, best free trip to Kentucky, Joe Gaddie, sheriff of Butler County, Kentucky.  The state California notified the sheriff that one of its prisoners was getting out, a man named Joe Orose (ph), whom Kentucky had included on its fugitive list for fleeing and drunken driving.  So the sheriff and a deputy flew to California to pick Mr. Orose.  They took him back to Kentucky, where they discovered he was not the man they wanted.  Their fugitive had stolen the identity of Joe Orose.  Mr. Orose was immediately put back on the plane to California a free man, a free man who had just gotten a quick tour of Kentucky. 

Number two, best improv, 60 newly hatched sea turtles in Calabria, in Italy.  Making the ritual passage from their hatching grounds to the sea.  Instead, they saw bright light and a restaurant.  They ducked into the place, and after a quick meal of Swingili (ph), the owners promptly herded them into the ocean. 

Number one, best rock song, the Rolling Stones first mega-hit “Satisfaction,” has been voted thus many times.  Sam Carter of Stoke, England agrees today.  He was in a coma, given just a 30 percent chance of a survival after a sudden attack of severe anemia.  Doctors decided to play his favorite song to him loudly in headphones.  Mr. Carter promptly awakened.  I would love to thank Mick and the rest of the Stones personally, he says.  Reached for a response, Keith Richards adds, that song always wakes me from my comas. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Worst persons and also my special comment on Mr. McCain‘s ambition ahead.  First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number three story tonight, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, support the troops-gate.  Remember, that‘s a brand name, not actual support.  Twenty soldiers at the Army Wounded Vets Medical Center at Fort Sill in Oklahoma telling “USA Today” that the facility there is, just like part of the Walter Reed Center for Wounded Vets in Washington was, was infested by mold.  Ventilation ducts were reported encrusted with the mold, ventilation ducts in two of the barracks.  Each is made up of 48 rooms filled with wounded soldiers and their family.  The commanding officer at Fort Sill says they are working on it now. 

Number two, that‘s why they call it counter-intelligence-gate.  The Pentagon has a new unit, a Defense Intelligence Agency Defense Counter-Intelligence and Human Intelligence Center.  It will have within it an office dedicated to strategic offensive counter-intelligence operations.  As part of the cardinal tenant of American law, such operations, spying on people who are known or suspected to be foreign intelligence officers or connected to foreign intelligence or international terrorist activities, that will, of course, be carried out abroad.  Also, in this country.

And number one, in case that‘s not direct enough, domestic spying-gate.  Now that the Democrats were nice enough to fold up on FISA, the issue is all contained now, right?  Not exactly.  The Justice Department want revise the federal government‘s rules for intelligence gathering by state and local police, making it easier to share anything those police about US citizens with the federal government and all the intelligence agencies, to let all those federal agencies retain all that information for as much as a decade.  Not that the local police would be able to do anything about it, if they didn‘t like it, since this would apply to all 18,000 local agencies who get any kind of funding from the feds. 

The point of this?  To increase our security and counter terror threats?  No, to pass these changes before Mr. Bush leaves office, so that the next president can‘t do a damned thing about unraveling this disaster, which is, appropriately enough, an embryonic police state. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain‘s campaign manager tries to scapegoat NBC, while succeeding only in confirming much of the story that had so angered him.  And McCain attacks Obama‘s patriotism at the VFW convention, reminding everybody how many times McCain has actually sold the veterans out, and how McCain declared victory in Iraq five years ago.  Tonight‘s special comment, Senator McCain, get a grip.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Bill-O the Clown.  He has cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war.  Well, he sent out one of his stalker producers again.  It‘s the closest thing he can do.  This time it is “News Day” contributor Jenna Cernrugel (ph), who wrote a piece in the wake of the church murders in Nashville by a lunatic who had obviously heard one too many right wing talking points on TV and radio.  She mentioned that shooter Jim Adkinson had decided all liberals needed to die, and that police reported the books in his home included those of Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, and O‘Reilly. 

She mentioned O‘Reilly only one other time in the whole piece.  There was a quote from one of his books.  For this, O‘Reilly sent somebody to her house who waited for her with a camera in her driveway and then abused her.  Seriously, Bill, for that?  Are you 100 percent paranoid now?  The next time you send one of these guys out, will it be to harass some guy who cut you off on the Pulaski highway? 

This silver to William Kristol.  Another week, another “New York Times” column, another factual error.  On the cone of silence story and the contention that Senator McCain may not have been in it.  In the print edition, Kristol writes, quote, “that‘s pretty astonishing, since there seems to be absolutely no basis for a charge.”  Since the Times‘ own news coverage confirmed McCain wasn‘t in any cone of silence, and then the McCain campaign did the same thing, online, the Times changed that one line in their of Kristol‘s to, “there‘s no evidence that McCain had any such advantage.”

Given that this is at least the fourth factual correction or alteration of a Kristol column after it was published, it‘s pretty clear what the “New York Times‘” idea was here: give a column to a conservative writer, the least qualified one they could find. 

Speaking of, our winner, Jerome Corsi.  He still sits atop the non-fiction best seller list as conservatives and racists looking for an excuse to vote against Obama while rationalizing it‘s not because he‘s black, vie to snap up his hilariously error-riddled book “Obama Nation.”  But this may all soon change.  Not the best seller part, the non-fiction part.  Unfortunately, a little mining of the wacky conservative website World Net Daily proves that Mr. Corsi has not only slandered the John Kerry‘s and Barack Obama‘s of this word but one of his other favorite targets for character assassination is John McCain. 

Jerome Corsi‘s March 2nd article was headlined, “Group Tied to al Qaeda Backs McCain for Prez.”  Jerome Corsi‘s February 26th article was headlined, “McCain fortune Traced to Organized Crime; Mob Figures Later Implicated in Arizona Savings and Loan Scandal.”  Well, this guy Corsi apparently just likes to write crap about presidential candidates for money.  So remember, conservatives, every time you buy a copy of “Obama Nation,” you are validating reporting that suggests John McCain‘s money comes from the mob and presidential candidacy is supported by al Qaeda.  Reporting done by Jerome Corsi, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Now, as promised, a special comment on the remarks of the senior senator from Arizona about Senator Obama at the VFW convention and about NBC News and MSNBC. 

Four times in just two days, Senator McCain‘s campaign managers have, simply, hung him out to dry.  First, trying to scapegoat the media, in the exact way that has spelled doom for other presidential candidates already watching from the sidelines.

Second, doing so with a petulant statement so full of holes that it virtually confirms that which was reported, and which set off this pointless temper tantrum in the first place.

Third, sending the candidate out to speak before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, even as the millstones of a series of disastrous, anti-veteran votes, still figuratively dangle from around his neck.

And fourth, encouraging Senator McCain, while there, to address his opponent in the language of unseemly contempt, undignified calumny, and holier-than-thou persiflage unsupported by reality, near-nonsensical bluster that, at best, makes the speaker look like a dyspeptic grouchy neighbor, shouting “Hey you kids, get out of my yard.”

“Though victory in Iraq is finally in sight,” you told the VFW today, Senator McCain, “a great deal still depends on the decisions and good judgment of the next president.  The hard-won gains of our troops hang in the balance.  The lasting advantage of a peaceful and democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East could still be squandered by hasty withdrawal and arbitrary timelines.  And this is one of many problems in the shifting positions of my opponent, Senator Obama.”

The shifting positions of Senator Obama?

Senator McCain, on the 22nd of May, 2003, you said, of Iraq, on the Senate floor, “We won a massive victory in a few weeks, and we did so with very limited loss of American and allied lives.  We were able to end aggression with minimum overall loss of life, and we were even able to greatly reduce the civilian casualties of Afghani and Iraqi citizens.”

Senator, you declared victory in Iraq, five years and nearly three months ago.

Today you say, “victory in Iraq is finally in sight?”

The victory you already proclaimed five years ago?

Are we going back in time, sir?

If that had not been enough, in June of 2003, with even Fox News noting “many argue that the conflict (in Iraq) isn‘t over,” you answered, “Well, then why was there a banner that said ‘Mission Accomplished‘ on the aircraft carrier?  Look, I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process, but the conflict, the major conflict is over.  The regime change has been accomplished, and it‘s very appropriate.”

In 2003, your war was won, sir, because somebody was putting up a banner.

In 2008, your war might finally be won, because you are putting up a campaign based on the mirage that Iraq is winnable.

And yet it is Obama shifting positions on Iraq?

Even if this country were to forget, Senator, the victory lap you and President Bush took five years ago, just on their face, your remarks today at the VFW, Senator, are nonsensical.

“Senator Obama commits the greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge.  Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory.”

This construction, Senator, is extremely simple.

If your surge worked, the troops would be home from Iraq.  Or most of them would be.  Or all of them who were surged would be.  Or at least we‘d have the same number of troops in Iraq now, as we did then.  Or maybe one or two guys would be out of harm‘s way by now.

Please, Senator McCain, stop!  This is now embarrassing. 

Whether on his own impetus or that of an adviser‘s, the Senator also foolishly invoked his opponent in that speech today.  Previous political careers have foundered on the rocks of that very same VFW Convention: The Republican majority in Congress and the Senate, the very viability of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld began to unravel at this convention two years ago.  That was the venue for the first of Rumsfeld‘s two references to Bush critics as Nazi Appeasers.

Prudence and judgment demanded that Senator McCain tread lightly today.  Instead he told the convention, “I suppose from my opponent‘s vantage point, veterans concerns are just one more issue to be spun or worked to advantage.  This would explain why he has also taken liberties with my position on the bill.”

“As a political proposition, it would have much easier for me to have just signed on to what I considered flawed legislation.  But the people of Arizona, and of all America, expect more from their representatives than that, and instead I sought a better bill.  I‘m proud to say that the result is a law that better serves our military, better serves military families, and better serves the interests of our country.”

Senator McCain spoke out against that very bill last May on the asinine premise that the rewards to our heroes in it were so good that it didn‘t encourage them to stay in the service, or perhaps force them to stay.  More over, Senator McCain missed 10 of the 14 Senate votes on Iraq up to the middle of last year.  This year, he has missed them all, including one to honor the sacrifice of the fallen.

He has voted to table or oppose: 20 million dollars for veteran‘s health care facilities, 322 million dollars for safety equipment for our troops in Iraq, 430 million dollars for veterans outpatient care, one billion dollars in new equipment for the National Guard.

And, in separate votes: 1,500,000,000 dollars in additional Veterans‘ medical care, to be created by closing tax loopholes, and 1,800,000,000 dollars in additional Veterans‘ medical care, to be created by closing tax loopholes.

And yet, sir, you have the audacity to stand in front of the very Veterans you repeatedly and consistently sell out, and claim it is your opponent who has put politics first, and country second.

“Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president,” you said, with a straight face, today.  “What‘s less apparent is the judgment to be commander-in-chief.  And in matters of national security, good judgment will be at a premium in the term of the next president, as we were all reminded ten days ago by events in the nation of Georgia.”

Senator, three points: one, is your increasingly extremist and reactionary language towards Senator Obama really the method by which you want to try to achieve the Presidency or perhaps split the country if you succeed? 

Two, criticizing a man for having, quote, “the ambition to be president?”  Seriously?  You do realize you are currently running for president, as well, right?  That either you also have “ambition to be president” or, what?  Somebody‘s blackmailing you into it? 

Three, you might want to ask somebody, somebody other than say, your foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, whether or not you are making a jackass out of yourself every time you bring up the conflict between Georgia and Russia.  The Georgians have paid Mr. Scheunemann and his companies 800 thousand dollars over the last several years to lobby for them.  It‘s pretty clear the Georgians have bought Mr. Scheunemann.  And, Senator McCain, it sure as hell looks like the Georgians thought they had bought you.

When you had the tastelessness to paraphrase the rallying cry of 9/11 and say that we are now all Georgians, that nation‘s president called you out.  He said that your words were very nice, but he needed action, not a verbal receipt from a lobbyist and the lobbyist‘s pet Senator!

Going back to the beginning of this sad 48 hours of paranoia from the McCain Campaign.  We have manager Rick Davis‘s unfortunate letter to NBC News about Andrea Mitchell‘s reporting on the possibility that Senator McCain violated the so-called “Cone of Silence” for the Rick Warren Presidential Forum over the weekend.

The coverage of this detail, and that forum in general, is, to start with, overwrought.  But Mr. Davis has now elevated them to the ridiculous.  As Nate Silver at the website FiveThirtyEight.com noted today, Andrea‘s reporting, reporting of what the Obama camp claimed, included two essential observations: “McCain may not have been in the cone of silence” and that he “may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.”

Rick Davis writes to NBC: “The fact is that during Senator Obama‘s segment at Saddleback last night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed.”

As Silver astutely notes, for roughly the first half of Obama‘s participation, his own campaign manager places McCain in a car where he could have been made aware of the questions to Senator Obama.  “In a motor vehicle,” Silver writes, “one may use the radio, a cell phone, a Blackberry, Bluetooth Wireless, a Sling box, perhaps a satellite TV feed.  Whether McCain actually used any of those devices, we have no idea.  But he absolutely had the ability to use them, which is all that Mitchell had reported.” 

Silver also tripped over Mr.  Davis‘s strange observation that for roughly the second half of Obama‘s participation, his own campaign places McCain “in a green room with no broadcast feed.”  Not a green room without cell service or the Internet, nor without a closed-circuit feed, nor, for that matter, without a guy running back from the audience with notes, written in crayon.

Rick Davis‘s argument is, in short, illegitimate.  It is an attempt to pick a fight with the media over the journalistic equivalent of chewing gum in class.  “This is irresponsible journalism and. sadly, indicative of the level of objectivity we have witnessed at NBC News this election cycle,” he writes.

“We are concerned that your news division is following MSNBC‘s lead in abandoning non-partisan coverage of the Presidential race.  We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC.”

What Mr. Davis is really saying here, of course, is that he wants no level of objectivity, that the only campaign he wants questioned is Obama‘s, and that “partisan coverage” would consist of questioning whether McCain or his campaign support the stage whispers branding Obama as somehow ‘foreign,‘ or whether McCain is to be inoculated from any and all criticisms simply by dint of his military service.

Senator McCain, did you pay any attention to the Democratic primaries?

Did you notice the hair-pulling frenzy of some of Senator Clinton‘s supporters who could not face the possibility that her loss might have been her fault or theirs and thus it must be ours?

Do you remember the apoplexy of a washed up Republican operative named Ed Gillespie, writing a furious letter to NBC on behalf of President Bush?

Mr. Bush‘s support has since dropped.  And Senator Clinton‘s supporters have now relocated to such a degree that her “eighteen million voices” first re-counted themselves as “two million” and were then unable to get even 250 people to show up for their meeting.

The public sees through this nonsense about media, Senator.  They see through it quickly.  NBC and MSNBC do not have the power to seriously impact an election.  If we did, Senator Pat Buchanan would already be serving with you.

Besides which, senator, who in your camp thought it was a good idea to take a shot at NBC and MSNBC during the Olympics on NBC and MSNBC?  During the Olympics, Senator McCain, on which you have already run millions of dollars‘ worth of McCain Campaign commercials on NBC and MSNBC?

Senator, let me wrap this up.  You and your campaign need a serious and immediate attitude adjustment.  Despite what you may think, Senator McCain, this is not a coronation.  Despite how you have acted, Senator McCain, you have no automatic excuse to politicize anything you want.

Despite how you have whined, Senator McCain, you have no entitlement to only sycophantic, deceptive, air-brushed coverage in the media.  And despite how you have strutted, Senator McCain, you have no God-given right to the presidency.

Let‘s have an adult campaign here, sir.  In other words, and I am embarrassed to have to say this to a man who turns 72 at the end of this month, Senator, grow up!

Good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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