updated 8/21/2008 11:26:51 AM ET 2008-08-21T15:26:51

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Chuck Todd, Bob Herbert, Allan Havey, Chris Kofinis

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

Obama‘s running mate.  The rumors are running away with the story.  A major campaign event Sunday in Indiana—home of Evan Bayh?  Ralph Nader says Obama will pick—Hillary Clinton?  Live coverage of Joe Biden doing what is he doing?  Anything to report, senator?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE:  A successful dump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, you‘re dumping logs.

Any guidance from the candidate?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I want somebody who has integrity, who‘s in politics for the right reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN:  And, by the way, I have got a second load, guys, coming.  If anybody wants to help me unload, let me know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The McCain running mate story gets wilder, too—still talking about Joe Lieberman, still talking about the same one-term presidency he dismissed earlier this year as instant “lame duckness.”  But now, one bit of hard news, Lieberman now confirmed to speak at the Republican convention.  Of course, so are Giuliani, Pawlenty, Ridge, Palin, and Romney.

None of who are questioning Obama‘s patriotism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let me be very clear.  I am not questioning his patriotism.  I am questioning his judgment.  I am questioning his judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Questioning his judgment when McCain declared victory in Iraq in May 2003 but now says victory in Iraq is in sight.

Bushed: He told about the mold that the injured vet center at Fort Sill.  So, today, he no longer works at the vet center at Fort Sill.  Coincidence says the Army.

Worsts: Comedian Rush Limbaugh attacks Rachel Maddow.  Rush, is it now because she now has a TV series and you don‘t and, still, after all these years?

And Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp, the parent of “FOX noise,” the stock price is now down 34 percent this year.

“Those who may know, News Corp is failing badly.  Analysts describe its latest earnings report released three days ago as a disaster.  It‘s embrace of the conservative bias punished by Wall Street.  It‘s so-called news hosts are in the bag for the Republicans like Bill—wait a minute.”

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Wednesday, August 20th, 76 days until the 2008 presidential election.

The vice presidential drama or comedy may yet be overshadowed by an almost off-hand response to a questioner made by Senator McCain today at Las Cruces, New Mexico, in which he appeared to tacitly endorse the idea of reinstating the military draft.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: That sea change has not happened thus far, so, instead, full coverage of McCain‘s comment presently.

And first, the only shred of fact in the giant undulating self-inflating balloon of cotton candy that is the V.P. talk, Senator Obama has today confirmed he will not choose Dick Cheney.  Obama is campaigning in North Carolina and Virginia today and tomorrow before flying back to Chicago.

Our own Howard Fineman having reported that one of the contenders have been told that the Obama campaign wanted to know how to get in touch on Thursday afternoon.  So, after possibly, probably calling his selection tomorrow afternoon and then possibly, probably e-mailing supporters with the news on Friday or even very early Saturday, Senator Obama is scheduled to appear with his running mate in Springfield, Illinois, on Saturday afternoon.

The campaign is officially putting that event on the official schedule, officially late, officially today.

In the farmer‘s market in Greensboro, Senator Obama is shopping only for peaches and baked goods, dropping no hints along the way.  In Raleigh, though, as we mentioned, having appeared to cross one name off the list, that of Mr. Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I won‘t hand over my energy policy to my vice president without knowing necessarily what he‘s doing.  I won‘t have my vice president engineering my foreign policy for me.  The buck will stop with me because I‘ll be the president.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  My vice president also, by the way, my vice president will be a member of the executive branch.  He won‘t be one of these fourth branches of government where he thinks he‘s above the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That erroneous report in the “Nashville Post” that had said Senator Obama will be traveling to Indianapolis on Saturday, leading to speculation that Senator Bayh might be the front-runner, the Obama campaign is stating unequivocally that any reports of a planned trip to Indiana on Saturday were not true, later officially announcing the Springfield event.

Meantime in Delaware, reporters staking out Senator Biden‘s driveway treated to bags of bagels from their host, and his announcement that he had affected a, quote, “successful a dump of unwanted timber,” but no new intel.

Senator Obama having stressed experience in his job description of a running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I want somebody who is capable of being president and who I would trust to be president.  That‘s the first criteria for vice president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call on our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  This is pretty much the only new tea leaf that we have.  In talking about his criteria for a vice president, Obama was gender specific.  He used the pronoun “he,” not “she.”  Does that mean it‘s not Governor Sebelius or Senator Clinton or was he just speaking with a generic pronoun?

WOLFFE:  It‘s come to this.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  She or he.  Actually, I think this maybe the only tea leaf we‘ve had for several weeks.  So, let‘s look down this path here.  I think it probably was a realistic formulation in terms of the kinds of people he‘s thinking about, man, not woman.  And if it was going to be Hillary Clinton, I‘m not sure that the Obama campaign would have given the Clinton camp so much at this convention next week—the roll call vote, the two nights of speaking.

There is some concern inside the Obama camp about how the Clintons will dominate the storyline at the first half of the week.  They would not really be concerned if they were readying Clinton as a veep pick.

OLBERMANN:  And yet, Ralph Nader he‘s sure that Obama will pick Senator Clinton.  So, I guess, that will tell you.

WOLFFE:  And he should know.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  We‘re all ready to congratulate the Obama campaign on preventing the leak of this vital piece of information.  But there‘s two things, they haven‘t made it yet and this might be also the right moment to remember that when Senator Kerry kept Senator Edwards a secret, and also as that was announced, the “New York Post” was reporting that the choice was Dick Gephardt.  This is a long way to go until the secret has been held successfully, correct?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  And, of course, they didn‘t just report it was Dick Gephardt, they put it on the front page.  Look, someone is going to look very foolish out of all this because there are lots of people writing very hard and fast predictions about something that‘s going to transpire in the next day or two.  There‘s a danger in that kind of reporting when the decision has been held so closely.

I can tell you, there are people in Chicago, senior people inside the Obama campaign headquarters, who have no idea what this is going to, when it‘s going to play out, how it‘s going to play out and certainly who is going to play out with.

So, there‘s a lot of discipline here, it speaks volumes for how Barack Obama has conducted his campaign and the keenness they have to alert the supporters first, because they are going to need those supporters to bankroll this campaign after the convention.  So, they need to keep that excitement moving and really grow it.

OLBERMANN:  You have spent a lot of time traveling with this campaign.  Could all the speculation, which has pretty much been sequentially centered first on Senator Bayh and then Senator Biden with a lot about Governor Kaine in the middle—could this all be some sort of massive bait and switch?  I mean, there were not only rumors about confirmation to state chairman today about Biden and Bayh and there‘s also one about Tim Kaine.  I mean, is it—is there anything that is useful as a tea leaf besides the one that we have that it‘s not going to be Dick Cheney?

WOLFFE:  It could all be a giant head fake, yes.  Look, the shortlist, as it‘s been reported, really hasn‘t been sourced to any kind of campaign official.  They‘re not spreading it around.  It‘s just that we keep repeating it.  So, it sounds like it‘s realistic.

We do know certain things, certain criteria he‘s looking for.  I think reinforcing the change message is important to Barack Obama and finding someone who has this record of public service.  But beyond that, you know, he could pick anyone and it could be someone who hasn‘t been widely repeated because the people who are doing the repeating are just not that informed.

OLBERMANN:  And after the (INAUDIBLE) on Saturday in Springfield, and before the start of the convention in Denver on Monday, what happens then?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s the critical face for the veep pick.  And do they pass through the ring of fire of the media interviews, the first few days of campaigning.  You know, after that, we really are not going to care a whole lot.  I mean, this is the irony of the veep story.  We all care so much before hand, once it‘s done, I afraid they play second fiddle.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s like Christmas, the opening of presents is the fun part.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as we try to guess what‘s in the stocking, thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama is presumably hoping that his vice presidential gift combine would the convention next week would give him an early Christmas present, a much needed bump in the polls.

The latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Survey is finding that 45 percent would vote for Obama, 42 percent for McCain, with the Keith number of undecideds plus margin of error at 16 percent.  The gap is clearly narrowing.  Last month, Obama was up 47 to 41, Keith number 15.  Factoring in the other likely candidates, Independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr, continues to help Obama‘s numbers.  He‘s up 44-39, Keith number is 13, but even that‘s down from last month when Obama led McCain 48 to 35 in the same four-way lineup.

The poll also suggests that Obama‘s old rival is just as important as his new rival.  Forty-three percent of those polled are saying they would like to see Hillary Clinton as president some day; 49 percent would not.  But 11 percent of voters who supported Hillary are currently either undecided or supporting McCain, even though they are 80 percent Democrat or independent, even though do not like the direction the country is going in, even though they want a Democratic Congress.

When it comes to a presidential candidate, by a margin of two to one, they have a positive image of McCain, 63 percent of them feeling comfortable with him as president.  Likewise by two to one, those 11 percent of the voters feel negatively about Obama.  Sixty-five percent is feeling uncomfortable with the idea of him as president, likewise, by two to one, in that.

To help decipher the numbers, I‘m joined once again by NBC News and MSNBC political director, Chuck Todd.  Good evening, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I mean, we have one of the most unpopular presidents in history if not the.  We have huge numbers of people who are unhappy with the direction the country is going in and have said so.  Why has McCain apparently closed the gap with Obama in the polls?

TODD:  Well, there‘s a few ways to look at this survey.  So, we have the margin at 45-42.  One of the things when we went inside the numbers is we‘ve learned a couple things.  First of all, Republicans are coming home.  You start seeing—there were a lot of Republicans that were sitting in the independent column, sitting in undecided, you‘re seeing them come home.

All of the Republican numbers in this poll picked up a little bit and, remember, McCain was having a hard time getting that.  So, I think that‘s where you‘re seeing marginal movement from McCain.  But, again, really, is it movement for McCain, it‘s movement away from Obama, from Obama to undecided.

And it‘s that last slice of the electorate, Keith, which is all things Hillary and Bill Clinton.  They love the Clintons.  They‘re still not happy about how the primary turned out.  These are folks that are Democrats or independents, so, as you pointed out, in the introduction, they have a very favorable, the most popular presidential candidate among these folks is not either McCain or Obama, it is Hillary Clinton and then Bill Clinton comes next in who they love.

So, these are folks that are just—look, they live in small town, rural America.  This is where Clinton campaigned for herself and against Obama in these places.  Obama never went out to these places.  So, he‘s got some ground to make up and I think that‘s what this convention is about next week.

Look, there‘s a lot of things the convention has to be about.  One of them has to be about getting, letting these voters know that Hillary doesn‘t just support Obama, she actually believes he should be president.

OLBERMANN:  Does she make or break him by (INAUDIBLE) of what she says next week?

TODD:  You know, she could break him.  I don‘t know if she makes him.  Look, if she does not fully embrace him, if her speech is about her and about her campaign and about the invisible people, you know, if it‘s more like her concession speech, which, in that speech should have been about her, it didn‘t need to be about Obama.  If it is more about her—look, it will not do anything to sway these voters yet.  They could sit undecided.

I still don‘t see how they end up supporting McCain.  My gut is they don‘t show up, to be honest.  But Obama needs her to make the case for Obama.  To lead her flock and what‘s left to divide up in the electorate.

Look—she might not be the perfect candidate for the electorate as a whole, you just put out that poll number -- 49 percent never see want to see her as president.  That‘s not a good number to start with if you‘re running for president as a whole.  But with what‘s left of the electorate, that 13 percent, they love Hillary Clinton.  So, she can speak to them and that‘s the group of voters Obama needs to have her convince that he‘s the guy.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  From the numbers and from this that‘s at Politico.com is saying that Craig Smith, a long-time Clinton staffer is organizing a 40-person whip team at the Democratic convention to make sure that the Clinton supporters do not, as written here, blow kazoos while Senator Obama is talking.

Does that suggest or does that give you an indication of what sort of tone Senator Clinton is going to take next week as it relates to not just how much she‘s going to support, but how much she‘s going to make sure her supporters support Obama?

TODD:  I think that‘s right.  I think that that‘s what, you know, next week is about.  She does need to make these efforts.  Look, I think she‘s not going to be a problem here.  I think that she is willing to do whatever it takes to make it clear that she not only supports Obama, that she believes he should be president, because—look, if she ever wants to be president, she has to be seen as doing everything she can to help Obama win or she would have problems herself someday getting a Democratic nomination.

But it‘s Bill Clinton.  He‘s another key to this, Keith.  Bill Clinton, his popularity rating among Democrats is back up.  He could be a big-time pro-surrogate for Obama or he could cause him problems.  So, that‘s the one.  I think Hillary is on board.

You know, with Bill, you just never know, right?  That relationship is still tricky.  It‘s still being formed.  I‘m assuming he does what he‘s supposed to do, but you never know.

OLBERMANN:  Last point and briefly, I‘m doing this out of order but it‘s either do it out of order or ask you to wait 20 minutes to answer one question.  If either presumptive nominee suddenly revealed he did not disagree with the idea of reinstating the military draft, what would happen to the numbers that we‘re seeing in the polls tonight?

TODD:  Well, look—already, you would see numbers move probably among young voters, but let me just go here and give McCain the benefit of the doubt on what he might have thought he was agreeing to which is—he has been a big advocate on the national service front, as has Obama as a sort of mandatory service in some form that you see a lot of politicians take.  So, it is possible that that‘s what he was talking about.

But, look, the draft, you do that.  Already Obama‘s lead is because of how well he does among voters 18 to 34.  He leads by 20 points in our poll, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

TODD:  If for some reason someone came out for the draft and it wasn‘t Obama, that number would double.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck Todd, political director for MSNBC and NBC News—as always, Chuck, great thanks.

TODD:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And the first African-American woman to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, the first to represent the state of Ohio in Congress, the chairperson of the House Ethics Committee, has tonight lost her battle for life at a Cleveland hospital.

Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio was found unconscious but breathing in her car after police spotted her driving erratically on Tuesday.  Doctors later determined that she had suffered a massive aneurysm and the brain hemorrhage, leaving her in critical condition with limited brain function.  She had been kept alive on life support and a ventilator, but she died early this evening at the Huron Hospital in East Cleveland.

Congresswoman Tubbs Jones was one of Senator Clinton‘s most pro-active supporters during this year‘s primaries.  She had switched her support to Senator Obama in June and she was 58 years old.

The Republican choice of vice president somewhat overshadowed tonight by this remarkable answer from Senator McCain in New Mexico.  At the end of the laundry list of observations, a woman in the audience suggests the only way to follow bin Laden to the gates of hell is to reinstate the military draft and Senator McCain answers, “I don‘t disagree with anything you said.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  An audience member suggests reinstating the draft and Senator McCain says he agrees with everything she said.  And is the senator serious about either Mr. Lieberman as his vice president or about serving only one term, or are these games?

Bushed: He revealed terrible conditions at a center for wounded vets, and naturally, the Army fired him.

And in Worst Persons: Comedian Rush Limbaugh takes a cheap shot at Rachel Maddow, leaving his semi-underbelly wide open.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The flurry of reports this week is leaving us with two options today.  Either John McCain is really considering naming a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control registered Democrat as the Republican vice presidential candidate or the “straight talk maverick” is lying to his own party for his own political advantage.

Our fourth story tonight: McCain fuels his number to speculation, pro-choice by partisanship or pure political ploy.

Just this afternoon, Rudy Giuliani told reporters he discussed McCain selection process with him and that McCain‘s main criteria is national security, that the GOP is not, quote, “a one-issue party.”  It seems like a contradiction there.

This, as we, officially learning today that Lieberman will speak at the GOP convention.  In today‘s “Washington Times” reported some state party officials are now scrambling to head off the prospect of Lieberman V.P, after McCain‘s campaign told supporters on Monday and Tuesday that Lieberman was a possibility, and reportedly asked chairs in states to check the legality of putting a non-Republican on the ballot under the name Republican.

Andrea Mitchell is reporting that if McCain did put Lieberman on the ticket, he would take the even more stunning step of vowing to serve only one term despite this pronouncement this January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JANUARY 6)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX HOST:  Would you consider pledging to run for only four years?

MCCAIN:  No, because I think you‘re the lame duck then.  You‘re quacking on Inauguration Day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As we consider the old line about walking like a duck, a pleasure to be joined by Bob Herbert, op-ed columnist for the “New York Times.”

Good evening, sir.

BOB HERBERT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  How are you, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  What‘s to be gained by pledging to serve only one term?

HERBERT:  I don‘t think anything is to be gained.  I mean, I agree with what McCain said, you know, you‘ll be quacking on Inauguration Day.  You‘ll be a lame duck.  You won‘t get anything done over the four years.  He‘s going to be dealing with a Democratic Congress in any event.  So, a Democratic Congress who knows that the president‘s only going to be there for four years, boom, it makes no sense to me.

OLBERMANN:  Would independents, would people who haven‘t thought this through quite as well as might like them to have think that way, or will they see this as some sort of self-sacrificing gesture on behalf of the nation?  Does this tie in to this whole idea about Obama‘s running for ambition and Obama, who admitted he was running for ambition in 2000, is now doing some sort of call to the nation here?

HERBERT:  Well, what I think is it, if he were to make—if he were to select Lieberman, which I do think that he‘s considering Lieberman, if he were to select Lieberman, I think that by them going and saying “I‘ll only serve one term,” it mitigates the advantages of having Lieberman on the ticket.  I mean on the one hand, you‘ve got Lieberman there, which would be a move towards the center, trying to get these independent votes and some Democrats.

And on the other hand, you have, “I‘m only going to serve one term” which just highlights the age issue, goes to the idea of you‘re not going to be able to get much done.  There won‘t be much in the way of change.

I think those two things fight each other.  If he were to go with Lieberman, I‘d be very surprised if he decided to announce that he was only going to serve for one term.

OLBERMANN:  This idea and there was some discussion that he had approached Tom Ridge and, obviously, Ridge was named as one of the long-shot possibilities or the longer shot possibilities.  There had been an opinion expressed by a conservative, by—I think somebody from the religious right—that this was a complete deke (ph), that this was designed just to make him look like he‘d talk about Ridge.

HERBERT:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  That is—could that be the same case with Lieberman and how could pretending to talk about either of these people as vice presidents help and not simply be thrown back at him as, “You lied to us”?

HERBERT:  Well, like with the idea of saying “I‘m only going it serve for one term,” I don‘t see the upside for McCain of just doing a head faint here.  I think that the, the bit about—I think the stuff with Lieberman is real because those two guys get along well, they‘re close, he‘s comfortable with Lieberman, they both drew this whole bipartisan thing.

And what I think has happened is as McCain has come up some in the polls, and some polls actually have him a little bit ahead of Obama, I think what has happened is that he‘s beginning to think, you know, maybe I don‘t have to push so hard for those on the right, maybe there‘s like more to be gained moving to the center.

You look at these Hillary Clinton voters who say that they‘re uncomfortable with Obama, you know.  So, I think that he‘s making a hard, political calculus, you know, “I may be better off going towards the center and trying to get some of these Democrats, the right is going to come along anyway.”

There‘s one other thing that I think he‘s thinking about.  He‘s, obviously, very interested in these undecided women voters and the Supreme Court is going to be a big issue, that pro-choice thing is going to be huge because of the make-up of the court right now, and, I think, that‘s one of the strongest issues the Democrats have.  That‘s one of the big things in their ammo pouch.

As you get into October and closing in on November, the Democrats are going to say, “Look at the Supreme Court.  Another vote, Roe v. Wade is history, do you really want to risk that?”  If you put—if McCain puts a pro-choicer on the ticket, it helps, it helps fight that issue.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, we‘ll see where the religious right goes then.

Bob Herbert, the columnist with the “New York Times.”  Very great thanks for coming in tonight.

HERBERT:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For years, we have mocked the Japanese and their constant drilling for the day a monkey escaped from one of their main zoos.  This was the day of the monkeys.

And the stock price of Bill-O‘s parent company is down how much?  Using the Bill-O economic explanatory formula, isn‘t that plummet his fault?  Worst Persons is ahead.

But first, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals—Bushed!

Number three: Support the troops-gate with our regular reminder that “support the troops” is just the catch phrase and does not actually guarantee any support for the troops by the Bush administration.  You doubtless heard that the kind of mold problem, which previously affected the wounded vet center at Walter Reed in Washington, had appeared anew at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

Social service director, Chuck Roeder finally had enough of the appalling conditions for our heroes and went to the media.  The day the story hit the news, Roeder was suddenly no longer the social services director at Fort Sill.  Camp executive, Colonel Sam White says it was purely coincidental.  Way to support the troops, colonel.

Number two: The phony war against terror-gate civilian division.  A couple has now sued the full array of U.S. government agencies saying they have been put on the no-fly terrorist watch list and not given any reason why and they have no right of appeal.  The husband is named Erich Scherfen, he converted to Islam in the mid-1990s and married a woman from Pakistan.  He is a U.S. commercial airline pilot and since he is on the no-fly list, guess what—his employer, Colgan Air, really has to kind of fire him on September 1st.

And number one: The phony war against terror-gate government division.  The Library of Congress is being sued because it offered a key job as terrorism research analyst to Diane Schroer and then rescinded the offer even though she is a former Army Special Forces commander, was one of the 120-member elite classified organization that tracked and targeted terrorists after 9/11 and also briefed Vice President Cheney.

So, why didn‘t Diane Schroer get that job?  Because when she did all that she was still David Schroer and had not yet begun her medical transition from man to woman.  Schroer told the Library of Congress people about the sex change during the interview, she even brought pictures of herself dressed in woman‘s clothing and makeup so that the Library of Congress job interview would have no fear that she looked unusual or distracting.

We‘re talking about a desk job in counterterror research at the Library of Congress, not a commando trying to go over a wall in high heels, and the applicant had a better resume than the secretary of Homeland Security.  And you nitwits are more worried about his or her gender or how it‘s changed?

If there‘s a true need for an all-consuming war on terror, you should be asking anybody with the slightest qualifications to help.  You should be pleading with them.  If there is a true need for an all-consuming war on terror, the best candidate should get the job, I don‘t care if it‘s a bear on roller skates smoking a cigar.

And if the Bush administration‘s attitude isn‘t like that, if it isn‘t “I don‘t care who you are, only care what you do in this war,” then the question becomes more than just whether or not we really need an all-consuming war on terror.  It becomes—does the administration itself really believe we need an all-consuming war on terror or our internal assessments of the threats a lot less serious than it lets on and that‘s why it‘s more worried about whether Diane “the terror expert” used to be Dave?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And why, if you‘re standing on the stage, you should never ask the crowd, anybody got a beer? 

First, August 20th is the birthday of former US Senate Majority Leader, special envoy to Ireland and baseball steroid investigator George Mitchell.  He‘s 75 today, but he looks younger, because, of course, he took some of the juice.  Kidding, kidding.  Happy birthday, senator. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Beginning in Japan at Tokyo‘s Shibuya (ph) Train Station, where we join the tense standoff between a rogue monkey and Tokyo‘s rogue monkey response team already in progress.  At approximately 0900 hours, the monkey was spotted hopping around the station.  After a brief chase, it eventually holed up above the departure board, as authorities with nets and pointed sticks secured the perimeter.  That‘s when the monkey spotted a seam, and he‘s running.  Curious George deftly eluded the dragnet and made it back to the Tokyo streets and hailed a cab. 

To drive-through surveillance video, shot at the Java Girls Bikini Barista in Parkland, Washington.  Three times last Thursday, female employees observed a man wearing a bra and panties, and on his head the panties were.  He approached their window and performed a lewd act.  First time, they shrugged it off.  Second time, they got a little angry.  The third time, the barista chucked 16 ounces of boiling water in the guy‘s face, which can be greeted by this sound.  Hello!

His grille scalded, the driver fled the scene.  The ladies tried to get the license plate number, but the guy had women‘s underwear covering that, too.  Parkland Police are now on the look out for the alleged perpetrator, who is described venti, no foam, half burnt. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What might be fateful words from John McCain at Las Cruces, New Mexico; an audience member says we need to reenact the draft.  The senator‘s answer is startling, to say the least. 

And the with rumors still flying, what do you really want in a vice president?  The ability to shout successful dump without laughing?  These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, Best comeback, former Japanese baseball all-star and American baseball washout Hideki Irabu.  He was arrested at a Tokyo bar this morning.  His credit card was rejected.  So naturally he picked up the manager and threw him against the wall.  Those who remember Irabu from his brief stint with the New York Yankees will immediately note that this is the first time anything Irabu threw went where he meant it to go, since at least 1996. 

Number two, best way to play the lottery, Verlyn and Judith Adamson of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.  He bought his Supercash Lottery ticket at the gas station.  She bought hers at a convenience store.  They each picked the winning numbers.  So they each won 350,000 bucks.  None of this pesky splitting the winnings stuff. 

Number one, best example of the cliche, be careful what you might ask for, you might just get it, country singer/songwriter Pat Green performed after a Nascar race in Michigan, and late in his performance, Mr. Green made the mistake of asking the audience, anybody got a beer?  The second can rifled at him from the crowd hit him right between the eyes and knocked him out cold.  Hey, this concussion‘s for you!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was prompted by a long and agonized question from the mother of a wounded soldier.  She weaved her way through several contexts, health care in the service, health care for undocumented workers, the candidate‘s promise to pursue bin Laden.  Nevertheless, when the woman at McCain event in Las Cruces, New Mexico today came to her point, that the way we‘re treating our soldiers now, the only way we‘ll have enough of them is to reinstitute the draft, John McCain said he agreed with everything she had just said.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, that includes the little P.S. about introducing selective service, the draft, during a possible McCain administration. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If we don‘t reenact the draft, I don‘t think we‘ll have anyone to chase bin Laden to the gates of hell. 

MCCAIN:  Well, let me say that—I don‘t disagree with anything you‘ve said.  And thank you.  And I‘m grateful for your support of all of our veterans. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain made no other reference to the question or the draft or his previously stated opposition to restarting it for the first time since the 1970s.  The rest of his event was, ironically enough, devoted to attacking Senator Obama for his supposed lack of judgment about military affairs. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Let me be very clear, I am not questioning his patriotism.  I am questioning his judgment.  I am questioning his judgment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That the Defense Department just endorsed the Obama position on Afghanistan that we need to send 12,000 more troops there and we‘re going to, seeming to undermine McCain‘s contention, just as McCain‘s extraordinary answer to the positing of bringing back the military draft, let me say that I don‘t disagree with anything you said, would seem to erase the idea that Senator McCain has any military judgment at all. 

We‘re joined now by Democratic strategist, former communication director for the John Edwards campaign, Chris Kofinis.  Good evening, Chris. 

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m astounded.  I don‘t have any other word for it, by the answer about the draft.  What do you think happened? 

KOFINIS:  It‘s a pretty stunning statement.  What is amazing about John McCain, if you noticed during this campaign, he has changed his positions so many times, whether it‘s taxes, Social Security, health care, Iraq, and now the draft.  I mean, he‘s earned a PHD in double talk in this campaign.  But it really speaks to something bigger, that he will simply say anything to win this election.  And it‘s a really dangerous, you know, direction he seems to be going to be willing to say anything, literally, to win over an audience. 

OLBERMANN:  My assumption looking at that would be, the women has gone on for a minute and a half and, as sincerely felt as her pain obviously was, she was a little hard to follow and maybe he wasn‘t listening towards the end there, was just waiting for her to finish, so he could give her some sort of pro forma answer.  Having said that, if he didn‘t mean that, if he wasn‘t listening, if he doesn‘t disagree with an audience member‘s contention that we need to bring back the draft, why hasn‘t there been a follow up statement from the McCain campaign saying, hey, verbal typo. 

KOFINIS:  Campaigns don‘t let gaffes that just sit there.  If they‘re really concerned about something that shouldn‘t have been said, they‘ll walk it back.  The reality here is there‘s one perspective.  The McCain campaign clearly is doubling down on the national security message.  They really want to make this election about national security.  I don‘t think this was simply a gaffe.  I think this actually was John McCain telling people the truth about where he stands.  If that‘s the case, and you put it in the context of all the saber rattling he has done about Iran, about Russia, it begs the question, how many more wars does John McCain want to fight?  Because if you listen to Senator Obama, he wants to finish the wars we have on-going.  I think that is a really telling statement, and I think this thing is going to have much more legs in the coming days. 

OLBERMANN:  I asked Chuck Todd about this earlier, because he was there and I didn‘t want to keep him for half an hour just to get a number out of him.  He said that if this is actually McCain‘s position and this is actually meant to be said, this will by itself double Obama‘s lead.  Having said that, having, you know, been able to—I think you‘d agree with me, if we saw a draft—anybody talking about reinstating a draft in this country, it would be a question of who would be fighting on the streets first, the kids who would be drafted or their parents who would be out there going, not with my kid you don‘t. 

Getting away from that for a second, I think those are almost givens. 

You‘re Obama‘s campaign.  You hear this today, you do what? 

KOFINIS:  You couldn‘t have hoped for anything better to turn out young people and parents.  The funny thing is John McCain wants to make this about the draft.  The reality here is we have the best military in the world because it‘s a volunteer force.  The notion that somehow a draft is what we need, no, we don‘t need a draft.  What we need is wisdom in the White House. 

So, I think what the Obama campaign has to do is hit John McCain squarely about this and ask a very simple question: how many more wars does John McCain want to fight?  Our service men and women need to know.  Parents need to know.  Our children need to know.  Because we have already fought too many wars that we didn‘t need to fight and it seems that John McCain wants to fight more and more.  I mean, this is, again, an incredibly telling statement.  I think it gives you a picture into who John McCain is, and what he really believes, and what he would do if he was president. 

OLBERMANN:  One other point about this, because the Pentagon essentially endorsed Obama‘s Afghanistan solution.  As this suggests, Obama doesn‘t have a military judgment problem.  He has a John McCain lies about him problem.  And the polling suggests the lies work.  How does he counter them? 

KOFINIS:  Well, I think he needs to go on the offensive nationally about this.  The gloves, so to speak, have to come off.  Not just in the battlegrounds anymore.  I think they have to take them off nationally.  Part of it, the Obama campaign has got to stop repeating some of the attacks, whether Senator Obama or the campaign repeating the attacks of the McCain campaign when they try to defend it.  This is not about Defending Senator Obama‘s patriotism.  This is about defining and attacking John McCain and his judgment or lack thereof. 

If you look at what John McCain is suggesting, whether it‘s the draft, whether it‘s saber rattling with respect to Russia, Iran, whether it‘s his economic policies, these are dangerous, risky policies.  That‘s a very powerful angle of attack the Obama campaign needs to focus on.  He‘s a dangerous candidate to put in the White House. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, if he is not going to disagree with somebody who supports reestablishing the draft, he‘s damned dangerous.  Chris Kofinis, former communication director for the Edwards campaign, we‘ll see how far this goes in the days and the weeks and the months to come.  Thank you, Chris. 

KOFINIS:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Picking a VP 101.  Getting yourself picked VP 101.  If you want the job, should you really shout, under any circumstance, successful dump? 

If Bill-O says it‘s the fault of me and liberals that GE‘s stock price is not as high as expected, whose fault is it when News Corp‘s stock price drops by 34 percent?  Worst persons ahead -- 34 percent—on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  How to pick a vice president, how to run for vice president or how not to.  Perhaps you should never under any circumstances endorse the draft.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Governor Mitt Romney, joining the chorus of those on the right who are just not smart enough to recognize the irony in their own macho comments about Georgia and Russia.  Romney, reverting to his area of expertise and suggesting maybe the winter Olympics Of 2014 in Russia should be relocated because, quote, Russians have shown their willingness to act militarily against a sovereign nation.

Governor, I know we didn‘t like them and we decided their government was illegitimate, but Iraq was still a sovereign nation and we acted militarily against it.  Nice work, bub.  You may have just blown Chicago‘s chances for the 2016 Olympics. 

Our runner-up tonight, Comedian Rush Limbaugh, noting our programming change, he described Rachel Maddow today as, quote, a failed left wing liberal radio talk show host with no proven experience in garnering an audience at all, who has more testosterone. 

Homophobia and the latent sexual tendencies in that comment notwithstanding, that‘s a lot of trash talk coming from a guy with Viagra and IV of it, no hair and no TV show. 

But our winner, Bill-O.  You may have notice that over the last few years, rather than attacking me personally, he has attacked MSNBC and GE, and frequently GE‘s stock price, and how chairman Jeff Immelt reportedly received 20 million dollars in annual compensation from the company.  As he put it last January, “some estimates have Fox News making six times as much money as MSNBC.  General Electric, which owns NBC, has seen its stock price remain stagnant for the past six years, a humbling fact for the corporate giant.” 

He‘s given himself credit for the price of the GE stock and insisted it rose or fell because of, quote, ultraliberal MSNBC. 

I‘ll just read this verbatim from the “Los Angeles Times,” media company News Corp, whose stock fell 29 percent in fiscal 2008, reported compensation of 27.5 million dollars for chairman Rupert Murdoch, arggh, during the period.  He didn‘t say arggh.  I just added that.  News Corp shares fell 25 cents, or 1.8 percent, to 13.45 on Tuesday.  They‘re down 34 percent this year. 

Now, you might expect me to take this opportunity to claim that I somehow influence News Corp‘s stock price hemorrhage.  Nonsense.  I will agree with Bill tonight.  Stock prices are his fear of influence.  Fox is down a third, ask the clown.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst—and now discounted by 34 percent—person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We may never know whether the successful dumping of logs and the discussion of same has helped or hurt the VP chances of Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, and whether Senator Joe Lieberman wants Senator John McCain to start quacking loudly.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, with the vice presidential sweepstakes peaking, we offer some helpful advice.  Presently, first, a very brief recap.  Senator Obama determined to keep his choice under wraps until he unleashes a virtual tidal wave of text messages to his supporters, OMG.  Thus, the possible front runner on the short list, Senator Biden, is trying hard not to say anything important.  To wit, quote, a successful dump, end quote, when he returned from ridding his truck of some logs. 

Senator McCain, meantime, is sacrificing—or creating significant buzz, for good or ill, over the prospect of choosing a pro-choice running mate, possibly even the former Democratic vice presidential pick, Senator Joe Lieberman.  A choice which, for reason not entirely clear, has been linked to a one-term only McCain presidency.  Again, reminding us of this analysis from McCain about any would be president campaigning on such a bizarre pledge, quote, you‘re quacking on inauguration day. 

Let‘s turn now to my friend comedian and veteran political analyst Allan Havey, who will be appearing next week at the Improv at Harrah‘s in Las Vegas.  Good evening, Allan.

ALLAN HAVEY, COMEDIAN:  Hi, Keith, great it be here. 

OLBERMANN:  Senator Biden, first.  Obviously, it‘s difficult for him to pass by reporters and say nothing, but successful dump?  Was he just trying to emphasize that he wants to be number two? 

HAVEY:  Well, Keith, you‘ve given me the setup and the punchline.  I‘m going to be like Senator Biden, I‘ll pass on that one. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  Would he not have been better just staying inside, rather than this sort of theater all day today and part of yesterday? 

HAVEY:  Civilians when they have successful dumps should stay inside, but politicians should be out there where you can all keep a track on it. 

OLBERMANN:  My digestive system is second to none.  Biden did give the stakeout reporter bagels and coffee.  Do we interpret that as some sort of sign? 

HAVEY:  He wants them to be regular just like he is regular.  For me, it‘s grapefruit juice and granola.  But I think we should drop the lid on this one and move on. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  We have had Biden on the short list and thank goodness it‘s a short list, rather than some other kind of list that comes to mind when we‘re talking about this.  Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine, possibly Governor Sebelius; do you have a yardstick for Obama to use?  Is some means of determining which of these is his candidate? 

HAVEY:  Sure, have you had less than four heart attacks?  Can you operate a shotgun under alcohol?  Would you take your lesbian daughter bowling in public?  Those are a few of the things I would tell Obama. 

OLBERMANN:  The all but forgotten possibility here, we heard it again, Obama/Clinton.  Ralph Nader insisted today that‘s what Obama is going to do.  Your thoughts? 

HAVEY:  Ralph Nader has always championed air bags.  So it‘s no surprise he‘s behind Clinton.  But I think an Obama/Clinton ticket is unsafe at any speed. 

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain‘s problem may very well be that the only one he really personally likes of his options is Senator Lieberman.  Is really personally liking another senator the right reason to make them your vice presidential running mate? 

HAVEY:  Sure, why not?  I mean, if Lieberman can convert to Republicanism, McCain can convert to Judaism.  I think that would make it an exciting ticket.  And Lieberman is like an Olympic champion.  He can stand on the balance beam and kiss ass on both sides.  I think he‘s proven himself.  Successful dumping?  I think that was a pretty clean joke. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  Just moving on to the cues.  The line about quacking, the instant lame duck presidency, this idea that he would vow to serve only one term.  Do you think this is a good idea?  Would you advise this? 

HAVEY:  No, I would advise serving one day.  Any day out of the four years.  Just pick it, make an appearance, wave, say hello.  You look like the Quaker Oats guy, good-bye, get off. 

OLBERMANN:  If he is going to one term, why not pledge to serve no terms.  If I get elected, I will not serve.  It worked for Tecumseh Sherman.  Go ahead. 

HAVEY:  I think we should draft him for a second term if he does a good job. 

OLBERMANN:  Very good.  Excellent, excellent back reference.  Comedian Allan Havey, appearing at the Improv in Vegas next week.  Thank you, old friend.  Take care. 

HAVEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,939th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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