updated 9/2/2008 5:42:00 PM ET 2008-09-02T21:42:00

Guest: Howard Fineman, Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, Eugene Robinson

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

McCain pick Michael Palin from “Monty Python”?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The 20-month veteran, the two-term mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 9,236, the mayor who won the award for tree care from the National Arbor Day Foundation in 2002, the governor who was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it—this Sarah Palin?

Senator McCain‘s “Hail Mary” described as the biggest political gamble of our time, picking an ex-beauty queen governor on the job only 20 months, fanatically anti-abortion and pro-gun, in a desperate play for Hillary Clinton supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (D) ALASKA:  It turns out, the women of America

aren‘t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Who in the heck is she, besides the fact that she really wanted to be a sportscaster for ESPN?  And how desperate is McCain to trade his entire experience platform for her?

Well, after last night, probably pretty desperate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The day after for the Dems, which happens to be the third anniversary of the day Katrina struck and John McCain‘s 72nd birthday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Thanks for reminding me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The countdown to 2008, Michael Moore joins us.

And the convention in review.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER, (D) MONTANA:  If you drilled in all of John McCain‘s backyards, even the ones he doesn‘t know he has.

OLBERMANN:  She was in this world -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re blowing off a little scene here.

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OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  From Denver, this is Friday, August 29th, 67 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Senator John McCain has just gambled his chances of becoming president on a running mate whose political experience above the level of mayor of a hamlet consists of exactly 635 days as the governor of the 47th most popular state in the union.  Senator John McCain has on his 72nd birthday, just traded in his ticket‘s lead and experience, for a person who could succeed him to the presidency at any moment whom until today he himself had met only twice.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Northern exposure.  The Republicans have selected the least experienced vice presidential candidate probably in American history, a rabid conservative, seemingly a vague kind of alternative to Hillary Clinton, except that last March, the governor claimed Senator Clinton was, quote, “whining about the primaries.”

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska—Senator McCain‘s unexpected but not total surprise pick today had a rally in Ohio.

Howard Fineman and Rachel Maddow, in a moment.

If you went to bed last night believing that Minnesota‘s Governor Tim Pawlenty would be standing on that stage in Dayton, well, then you just got McPunked (ph).  Senator McCain choosing the day Senator Obama‘s historic speech here in Denver, the anniversary of not only his birth but also of hurricane Katrina to make a little history of his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I‘m very happy today to spend my birthday with you and to make an historic announcement in Dayton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In case you had not noticed, the selection of Governor Palin adding a pronoun to this race.  Suffice to say, that Senator McCain noticed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  And I am especially proud to say in the week we celebrate the anniversary of women suffrage, a devoted wife and a mother of five.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And, no, he didn‘t vote for the women‘s suffrage bill.

Senator McCain, a four-term Capitol Hill veteran; Governor Palin:

not so much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  She‘s not—she‘s not from these parts and she‘s not from Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In her remarks, Governor Palin recognizing that women who had blazed her trail that Hillary Clinton voters might still be undecided after the Democratic National Convention purely coincidental.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I can‘t begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and, of course, Senator Hillary Clinton who showed much determination and grace in her presidential campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but—it turns out the women of America aren‘t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Determination and grace now.  She said in March that Clinton was whining.

From the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, Senator Obama calling Governor Palin to congratulate her, telling her she would be a terrific candidate and wishing her luck, but not too much luck.

Senator Clinton is saying of the nomination today in a statement, quote, “We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin‘s historic nomination and I congratulate her and Senator McCain.  While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.”

Something that might come in handy at the debate.  The only vice presidential debate, October 2nd in St. Louis.  Governor Palin‘s first official flip-flop of this campaign may come into effect then, having said in 2006 that she was for Alaska‘s infamous Ted Stevens “Bridge to Nowhere,” today insisting she had been against it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  And I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark

spending by Congress.  In fact, I told Congress—I told Congress,

“Thanks, but no thanks on that ‘Bridge to Nowhere.‘”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also, of course, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This wasn‘t really a bid for Hillary supporters, was it?  I mean, (A), if you‘re trying to poach Clinton women, you would announce this before the Democratic healathon (ph), right—not at the day after it ends; and, (B), last March at your own magazine‘s women and leadership events, according to “Newsweek” article about it, she felt kind of bad she couldn‘t support a woman, but she didn‘t like Clinton‘s, quote, “whining.”  So, the Hillary alternative just called Hillary (INAUDIBLE) as whiners?

FINEMAN:  Well, Keith, there are a lot of pro-drilling, anti-polar bear, and anti-abortion women among those 18 million Hillary supporters, I‘m sure.  I am being facetious.  I don‘t think there are that many left.  And I don‘t think this really was about that.

I think, in big picture terms, it was about John McCain seeking to change things up, to try to reestablish his maverick credentials because despite her lack of experience, Sarah Palin is a brave, political person, having taken on her own party the way John McCain used to do.  He wanted to underscore the desire for change and the fact that he gets it.  And he wanted to, frankly, shake things up and make it not seem so boring.

And on that basis alone, I‘m thankful to him because making a pit stop back here in Washington before I go out to Minneapolis in St. Paul, and I wasn‘t looking forward to having to write about either Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty.  No dishonor to them but this makes it fun, this makes it interesting.

OLBERMANN:  Well, there‘s something else here that‘s sort of being overlooked on the sort of focus, “Oh, she‘s a woman, oh, she‘s a newcomer.”  Was her real appeal the fact that she is a red meat conservative?  I mean, she is, as you suggested, pro-drilling.  She‘s this side of melt the arctic, this side of imprison abortionist, she‘s runup to death, purged the lefties fire breather.

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s the basis of it.  She‘s been very popular.  Even though she‘s not been around all that long, she‘s been a very popular person out there on the radio talk show circuit.

An example, John Steigerwald, who is the big conservative talker there in Pittsburgh, which is in a key place on KDKA.  He told me months ago, he said, “I don‘t like any of these Republican candidates, none of them are really conservatives.  The only one I really like is Sarah Palin.”  And he said this many months ago.

I mean it because it‘s a swing area.  She‘s going to—they‘re going to think that she can appeal in western Pennsylvania, in eastern Ohio and then West Virginia Panhandle and parts of Michigan because of her pro-gun, anti-abortion, pro-home schooling, conservative credentials.  Conservatives love her.  She is a—she is a real star at the conservative grassroots in a way John McCain has never been and could never dream of being.

Because of that, she‘s not going to get a lot of those Hillary votes.  She‘s not going to get those.  She‘s going to help McCain—the McCain people feel—get the people, the swing voters in rural parts of the northeast that McCain was not yet locking in.

OLBERMANN:  Steigerwald, by the way, just to complete this, another ex-sportscaster.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  All right, yes.

OLBERMANN:  This had been—this had been viewed widely as maybe Senator McCain‘s best weapon against Obama.  He just turned this in.  Why give that up for her?

FINEMAN:  Well, for the reasons I said.  Because he hadn‘t established himself at the grassroots of the Republican Party, because he wanted to be an agent of change, because he wanted to try to restore his maverick credentials.  I mean, that‘s what the McCain people were telling me all day today.  A maverick just picked a maverick.

But, yes, he‘s done it at great costs because the whole Republican

convention—I was told, and was reporting for the magazine and on the Web

was going to be the slogan, “He‘s not ready to lead,” meaning Barack Obama, well—Sarah Palin makes Barack Obama look like John Adams.  I mean, it‘s just, it‘s no contest.

       

So, I don‘t get it, but, you know, they wanted to take the gamble.  And the funny thing is, you know, I‘d written that McCain was going to pick somebody he knew and could trust.  He was the squadron leader.  This would be his wing person, if you will.  He didn‘t know her from Adam, but he picked her based on the political problems he has and he‘s going to have to deal with it and answer with it.

She makes a great first impression.  As I said, she‘s brave.  But can she take the scrutiny she‘s going to get in the next two months?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, they had talked once before when he called her about this possibility earlier by, I guess, about a week ago.

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Last point, Howard.  I realize Senator McCain would have been slammed if he picked Romney or Lieberman because they were fairly close to his age but do any Republicans worry that voters will worry or the Republicans themselves worry, that your presidential candidate is a 72-year-old cancer survivor and your presidential backup still points to one of her greatest political achievements being the time she talked to the Alaska Bicycle Center into donating a $58 helmet with cage to the town of Wasilla?

FINEMAN:  Well, you know, the McCain people bristle at this, but it‘s a problem.  I spent a fair amount of time in Alaska, I don‘t think I‘ve been in that town, but it‘s a big state, a wonderful state with great people but not all that much going on.  And she doesn‘t really, I talked to people who know her well, she‘s really good on energy issues and so on.  She doesn‘t know the world, she doesn‘t know foreign policy, she‘s got a lot to learn in a big, fat hurry.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek.”  Great thanks for your time and safe travels.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, just who is Sarah Palin?  Well, a former beauty queen and runner up in the Miss Alaska contest, a star point guard who earned the nickname, “Sarah Barracuda,” and sometimes sports reporter who wanted to be on ESPN until she realized she would have to move from Alaska to Bristol, Connecticut.

She married her high school sweetheart, Todd.  They have five kids, eldest son, Track, born during that athletic season.  He is headed to Iraq and (INAUDIBLE) 9/11.  Their daughters: Bristol, Willow, and Piper, and I‘m wondering if Bristol and the ESPN thing are coincidence.  She also has a son born prematurely four months ago, Trig Paxon Van Palin, who has down syndrome.

She started in the PTA, was elected to the city council, then mayor of her hometown and then governor two years ago.  She says she is anti-corruption, anti-spending, pro-accountability, pro-life, pro-drilling in ANWR, pro-taking polar bear off the endangered species list, and does not believe global warming is man-made.

She was pro-Senator Stevens‘ “Bridge to Nowhere” before she was against it.  She‘s also the most popular governor in the country, according to the polls approval ratings in Alaska of over 90 percent.

I‘m joined now by our own Rachel Maddow whose new 9:00 p.m. Eastern show premieres here a week from Monday, tick, tick, tick.  Good evening.

(LAUGHTER)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, NEW 9PM SHOW ON MSNBC:  Thanks, Keith.  Hi.

OLBERMANN:  Anything I missed on the Sarah Palin biography here?

MADDOW:  You did a pretty comprehensive job given that she‘s received all of five seconds of national reporters‘ attention in her political life thus far.  The only thing that I could add are that we know she enjoys moose as her favorite meat product.  We know that her husband is part Alaskan native; he‘s part Eskimo, which is neat.

And, I think, as you mentioned right at the top there, we now know that both John McCain‘s mate, Cindy McCain, and his running mate, Sarah Palin are beauty pageant ladies, which may tell us something that we didn‘t know before about what John McCain likes in women.  So, we don‘t know very much about Governor Palin.  What we do know is very colorful and fun to talk about.  But she‘s basically been a human interest story in terms of the political press in this country thus far.

OLBERMANN:  You heard the comment just there that she made today in Ohio that she said, “No thanks” to Congress on the Stevens‘ “Bridge to Nowhere,” but in 2006, one of her spokesman, I guess, in Alaska her spokesman, told the “Associated Press” that she had supported the bridge.  So, I mean, she just jumps into the national spotlight complete with the “Bridge to Nowhere” attached to her, I mean, is she the “Bridge to Nowhere”?

MADDOW:  Yes, this is very awkward because she is out there in her, you know, “I‘m the new running mate” speech, her debut on the national stage, bringing up that bridge to nowhere issue and I went and looked it up in the “Anchorage Daily News” from 2006, she was asked point blank about funding for that bridge and she said, “Yes, I would like to see Alaska‘s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later.  The window is now while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.”

So, as recently as two years ago, she was not only in favor of the “Bridge to Nowhere,” which she is now saying she wasn‘t, but she was also in favor of it on the basis of the fact that Alaska‘s congressional delegation was in a position that they could do it through earmarks.  This is an embarrassing position to have taken, not only because of the flip-flop, but because they‘re trying to market her as a fiscal conservative who stood up to Alaska‘s sort of famously corrupt Republican politicians.

OLBERMANN:  And the investigation that‘s going on of the governor in Alaska.  This is really a non-starter for her critics, as juicy as it might seem on the surface, right?  I mean, she may have fired the guy who didn‘t fire the trooper who had been married to her sister, but the guy was beating up the sister and tasering their 11-year-old kid.  I mean, no woman would see that and would not give her a round of applause and the same goes for a lot of men, too.  That‘s a non-starter politically, right?

MADDOW:  Well, I mean, if what she says about the trooper is true, I want to go up there and taser the guy myself, absolutely.  But, I mean, it should be noted that it was the state legislative counsel that decided to proceed with this investigation against her.  That‘s a bipartisan group.  It‘s both Democrats and Republicans, state senators and state reps.

They not only decided this warranted investigation—her behavior in this—but that they would spend $100,000 of state funds to appoint an independent investigator to look into it.  They‘re now looking to hurry up her deposition in this case.

And so, well from the outset, what we know about the details of this seemed like this probably isn‘t something that‘s going to be easily politicized.  At least within Alaska, in a bipartisan way, they thought her conduct was serious enough, her alleged conduct was serious enough here that they wanted to spend some good money going after her on this.

OLBERMANN:  Last point, Rachel.  This “Poach Hillary voters idea, the timing, the fact that Governor Palin said in March that Senator Clinton was, quote, “whining,” plus that interesting historical tidbit that the year Gerry Ferraro for V.P., 56 percent of women voted against her and Mondale.  Did the Republican ticket potentially today not gain women voters but have a net loss of women voters?

MADDOW:  Yes, to now have the McCain campaign be able to say our former national co-chair and chief economic adviser thinks we‘re a nation of whiners and our vice presidential pick thinks specifically that Hillary Clinton herself is an insufferable whiner.  No, women flock to us.  It‘s a little hard to say.

I, honestly, in the big picture, Keith, I think this is damn quail of choice.  I think it‘s great to have a woman on a ticket, but, I think, Sarah Palin as this specific woman on the ticket is a bit of a laugh-out-loud choice.

OLBERMANN:  And what happened to that eBay lady?  We serve no wine before it‘s time.

Rachel Maddow of Air America, soon to be following—in the hour following this newscast in 10 days.  Thanks, Rachel.  Have a good weekend.  We‘ll see you in Saint Paul.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Matthews and join you from the Republican Convention at the Xcel Energy Center—where else - starting Monday night at 7:00 Eastern, 4:00 Pacific.

What the Palin news might be expected to do to Senator Obama‘s campaign might be blunted by three small details.  First, Obama got a poll bump before last night‘s speech; second, his TV audience was measured at twice that of John Kerry‘s in 2004; and third, even Pat Buchanan called it, “the greatest convention speech of all time.”

Eugene Robinson and Michael Moore: upcoming.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Obama gets a poll bounce and then gives his acceptance speech to titanic TV ratings.  Eugene Robinson and Michael Moore ahead.

Later in Worst: A commentator really says, “Governor Palin is a foreign policy expert because Alaska is next to Russia.”  And a presidential candidate really says Iraq is a peaceful and stable country now.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  When doubt (ph) was feed into the McCain celebrity mean, but last night, Barack Obama‘s television ratings beat the Oscars, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and the finale of “American Idol.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Of course, getting 38 million people to watch a 42-minute political speech at the height of the era of the short attention span, might also feed into the, “he may get a lot of votes” mean.

Eugene Robinson‘s analysis of last night in a moment.

First, this is tonight, live images from Beaver, Pa., the crowd awaiting the nominee and running mate Joe Biden.  They‘re right on time, but this is yesterday‘s train.  According to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll, Obama leads John McCain by eight percentage points, those numbers interesting particularly because most of the interviews were conducted before last night‘s speech—a speech with unexpected dividends news-wise.

One portion of it serving to answer Senator McCain‘s mystifying vice presidential pick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  I don‘t know about you, but I‘m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  It‘s not because John McCain doesn‘t care, it‘s because John McCain doesn‘t get it.  For over two decades—for over two decades he‘s subscribed to that old discredited Republican philosophy: give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that‘s a debate I‘m ready to have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I‘m joined now by Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” the second most popular person among the crowds at our MSNBC headquarters here in Denver this week.

Good evening, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  OK, a great speech, one for the ages, blah, blah, blah. 

How does Obama exploit it right now on the road?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think what he‘s doing and they‘re in Pennsylvania, you know, what I think Obama really ought to do is not just play defense in places like Pennsylvania that he basically has to carry to win the election and Joe Biden, obviously, will help there.  You know, Biden, you know, in basketball terms, he‘s like a great shot-blocker.  You know, he can handle the defense.

I think Obama should also play offense.  You know, of those 84,000 people in the stadium last night, 40,000, 50,000 were, you know, just ordinary folk from Colorado who could help Obama win the state in November and take it away from Republican column.

So, I think he has to keep pressing in places like Colorado and North Carolina and Georgia and Virginia and make McCain make him play some defense.

OLBERMANN:  The McCain answer to the speech last night, which included, by my account, like 19 punches to McCain in that speech, there was a tepid statement last night today everything was for Miss Wasilla for V.P.  Did they not—did the McCain camp not need to hit back hard after last night because if he chooses a hard right, global warming-denying, pro-drilling, lifetime NRA member as an answer to Obama‘s speech, isn‘t that McCain saying in effect, “I agree with everything that Barack Obama just said about me”?

ROBINSON:  I have to confess, Keith, that I didn‘t understand the Republican response or lack of a Republican response last night.  I thought Obama‘s points and plans and programs and challenges and accusations were fairly clear and specific, and well-laid out, and if the Republicans are, you know, had wanted to refute them, they could have come up with something better than a brief statement based on a charge about taxes that is already discredited.  One presumes they‘re working on something a little more elaborate and maybe we‘ll hear it at the convention.  I don‘t know why we didn‘t hear more today.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they better get it out fast because there‘s a newspaper story today that people close to Romney and Pawlenty, are furious about the pick of Governor Palin.  So, they got another problem going into their convention on Monday.

Sticking on this from last night, I ran into somebody from the Obama campaign in the hotel last night, and he was not celebrating yet, he wanted to know how it looked on TV.  He wanted to know if it had that “I‘m watching him in some giant stadium” feeling or if it had that “he‘s in your living room” feeling?  Which was it to the 38 million people who watched this in this country?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I don‘t think it was the “living room” feeling, but take a step back -- 38 million people.  That‘s a pretty good, I‘m watching this on a giant stadium feeling.  I mean, it was—and, you know, Obama has the ability to speak to a crowd that size and, yet, put some intimacy into it.  It was his introduction to a lot of people.

You know, I don‘t think Democrats have a reason to be kind of nervous or to second guess what happened last night.  I think, by all accounts and all reviews and look at the Republican reaction, you know, that was pretty much out of the park.  Now, we‘ll see what the Republicans can do to try to match it when they come back this week.

OLBERMANN:  Governor Palin will kill a moose with her bare hands in Saint Paul for you.

Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC, we‘ll see you at the Republican convention.  Thank you, sir.

ROBINSON:  See you there.

OLBERMANN:  This is, of course, day five of our coverage of a four-day convention—the highlights of the Democrats from Hillary to Norah O‘Donnell dancing.

And the mystery that is La Tomatina.  That‘s next, this is

COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Michael Moore in a moment.  First, on this date in 1862, the Belgian philosopher and 1912 Nobel Prize Winner Maurice Maeterlinck was born.  It was he who famously said, “at every crossroads on the path that lead to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.”  Apply it to the election as you will.  Just remember by his use of the word men, Maeterlinck meant men and women, governor.  Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And we begin in Buniol (ph), Spain for the annual festival of painful welts and Citric Acid burns that it is La Tomatina (ph).  Thousands of people and millions of tomatoes engaged in a furious battle for supremacy and Catsup.  No one knows how this started or why.  But, really, why do you need an excuse to get half naked and fling fruit at strangers. 

Then in Palana Rawua (ph), Sri Lanka, where no good deed goes unpunished.  This baby elephant got trapped in a well, forcing villagers to literally demolish part of the well to get that little guy out.  How did he repay them when he got out?  By turning around and trying to kill them all.  That‘s a little gratitude for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mike‘s election guide 2008.  Film maker Michael Moore joins me live on Obama‘s speech and McCain‘s veep and the third anniversary of Katrina. 

If the Denver Broncos gain as much ground in their stadium as Obama did last night, they may go undefeated.  The convention in review ahead.  This is COUNTDOWN. 

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OLBERMANN:  There is no separating hurricanes from politics, particularly when one such storm began unraveling a presidential administration‘s illusion of competence three years ago today, and when another storm will threaten the Gulf coast next week, possibly making land fall just as that president‘s party convenes to launch its new nominee.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, that plus the political whirlwind of the last 20 hours with our guest film maker Michael Moore. 

Today, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina having made land fall, leading to the unforgettable and unforgivable devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  But on same day three years ago, Senator McCain celebrated his birthday, alongside President Bush, with a nice, big cake.  And today, Gustav strengthening once again to hurricane strength, expected to grow to a category three storm by the time it makes land fall, probably early Tuesday, somewhere along the Gulf Coast. 

Despite a report in the “Washington Post” that Republicans might delay the start of their convention in Minneapolis, RNC—actually St. Paul—

RNC officials say at this point the convention will go forward as planned. 

As promised, let‘s bring in documentary film maker Michael Moore, also also author of the just released “Mike‘s Election Guide 2008.”  Michael, good evening, welcome back. 

MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILM MAKER:  Good evening, Keith.  Thanks for having me back.  And I was just thinking this Gustav is proof that there is a god in heaven.  I have it planned at the same time.  I mean, yes, it would actually be on its way to New Orleans for day one of the Republican convention up in the Twin Cities, at the top of the Mississippi River.  I mean, certainly, I hope nobody gets hurt.  And I hope everybody‘s taking cover. 

But, you know, I can‘t see what you showed.  I don‘t know if you showed the cake there that they had three years ago today with McCain and Bush, when Marie Antoinette—when she said, let them eat cake, I think she was speaking figuratively.  They, literally, were while New Orleans was drowning, eating cake.  I don‘t know.  Let‘s hope things get better. 

OLBERMANN:  Hey, you know, Michael, the thing about the weirdness of Gustav at this time is a little weirder even than that, because one of Dr.  Dobson‘s preachers had called for everybody to pray for rain during Obama‘s speech last night.  So, you really—we‘re really playing with the elements and mother nature with that stuff.  Let me ask you about the—

MOORE:  I hear Reverend Dobson‘s actual name is Gustav.  I don‘t know if that‘s true.  Just starting a rumor. 

OLBERMANN:  Goose—goose—goose something.  You have posted on your website the open letter from September 11, 2005, which called out the administration for its failures, including its reaction to 9/11.  In some ways, does the public Bush fatigue and his lame duck status help Senator McCain by making people sort of forget all the crap of the last eight years? 

MOORE:  I hope not because McCain was part of that crap.  He‘s—he was doing his job there in the Senate as Bush‘s foot soldier, helping to take this country down in so many ways, economically, with the war in Iraq.  I mean, you go down the whole list every night and you just do such a great job of that.  I don‘t need to repeat everything here.  But I really—I think, you know—my biggest fear with McCain getting elected is that he‘s going to continue not only the wars that we‘re in, but another war with Iran.  And it‘s—this has got to stop at some point. 

I mean, I don‘t even want to hear about Iran.  I don‘t want to hear about weapons of mass destruction or what they‘re building or whatever.  In fact, I have to tell you, honestly, if anybody wants to be honest, if they ask themselves this question; if the Iranians had invaded Canada and Mexico the way we have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, on both sides of Iran—if we were under the same situation, I think, Keith, actually, you and I would join in on building whatever we could to defend ourselves against these two armies that would be on both of our borders.  It‘s just—it‘s just crazy and I think we‘ll have more of the same. 

OLBERMANN:  A supremely good point.  To something positive that might change things, the Obama speech last night.  I saw this as five different speeches fused into one, with that one word kind of really launching it, that shout of “enough!”  What stood out for you? 

MOORE:  Oh, it was—do you remember Robert Byrd in the Senate in October of 2002, when he gave the eloquent speech when they were going to vote for the war, and he had a little copy of the Constitution in his hands, and he held it up and just shouted, enough!  When Obama did that again last night, it just sent a chill, I think, through everyone.  It‘s—it felt like here was a Democrat that found his spine, that was going to stand up, that was going to fight back. 

He just kept—like you said, 19 punches there.  Just saying it in such clear language for anyone to get.  Anybody can—when he said John McCain just doesn‘t get it, I just thought that was—that was just perfect.  And I could feel millions of heads nodding in the living rooms across America. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, probably.  As it turns out, probably about 38 million.  Today, of course, the McCain response, picking this governor of Alaska as his running mate.  And I was just thinking about this after we finished talking about it in the news of the day; there‘s something a little unusual about seeing him with a woman vice president when it‘s less than a year since he was campaigning and some woman called Hillary Clinton, quote, “a bitch” to his face and he laughed.  He didn‘t even call her out on it.  Now, suddenly, he has a woman vice president.  This is—we‘re through the looking glass here, people, are we not? 

MOORE:  Well, cynicism, they‘ve refined this to an art form, the Republican party and McCain, in particular.  Their treatment of women throughout the decades, leading up to even now this sort of attitude that women are so stupid that they‘re going to just vote for somebody because they‘re a women, even though this woman is against the very things that women are for and the things that women need.  They really think that women are, I guess, just dumb or something. 

And they‘re in for a big shock.  Somebody should tell them, actually, that more women show up to the polls than men.  I don‘t think women across the country right now are feeling honored by this event today.  And, you know, it‘s funny, Keith, this morning, watching MSNBC and CNN and everything, everybody trying to pronounce her name, because nobody knew who it was.  Nobody could even say the name.  It was just—I think—I don‘t know what they‘re thinking here.  But I think it‘s good news for Obama and Biden. 

OLBERMANN:  Like I said at the start of the show, as I was waking up, Michael, I thought—I heard it on the radio and I said, he picked Michael Palin from “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.”  Michael Moore, the author of “Mike‘s Election Guide 2008.”  As always, sir, great thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend. 

MOORE:  Yes, thanks for having me on, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Hey, did you know that convention was televised?  I mean, wow, they just told me.  I thought Chris and I were just having a really long conversation.  The week telescoped.  And for a guy who said a lot of dumb things, this may yet be the dumbest.  Why her 20 months as governor of Alaska makes Sarah Palin an expert on international relations, according to Steve Ducey of Fixed News.  This is one of the all time greats.  Worst persons next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Not to say the Democratic convention was bizarre, but there was something that shut up me, Chris Matthews and Brian Williams all at once.  And something else that made Rachel Maddow, Gene Robinson, Norah O‘Donnell and Pat Buchanan dance on TV.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world, our number two story. 

The bronze to Richard Johnson, of Rupert Murdoch‘s bribe friendly “New York Post,” which today for the, I think, 15th time this week made up another story about me, this one claiming that I‘m, quote, threatening to quit unless his, mine, bosses beef up his security, mine, sources say.  Let me explain this.  I am damaging Rupert Murdoch‘s television network and his politicians.  Thus, Rupert Murdoch is trying to damage me.  They make this stuff up.  Besides which, the only time I really needed more security was the day the “New York Post” itself sent one of its reporters to stalk me at my home. 

The runner up, the endlessly entertaining Steve Ducey of Fixed News, who didn‘t read the McCain talking points on Sarah Palin carefully enough, trying to spin the idea that the real life equivalent of the mayor of Sicily, Alaska is actually a secret foreign policy expert.  “The other thing about her,” he said, “she does not—she knows about international relations because she‘s right up there in Alaska next door to Russia.” 

Right, this is like Steve Ducey saying he‘s a journalist and not a clown because his Fox Noise office is down the street from NBC News. 

But our winner, Senator John McCain.  In the last 20 days, suicide bombers have killed 78 people in Iraq, wounded countless others.  Yet, the senator told “Time Magazine” in an extraordinary and frightening interview that as to Iraq, quote, “it is a peaceful and stable country now.”  The reporter asked the natural follow up, “It Is?  But you wouldn‘t say you have achieved victory now?”  “Yes,” he answered.  “ I would say that the surge is succeeding and we are winning.” 

So an average of four people a day dead in suicide bombings means a country is stable and peaceful, but a peaceful and stable country does not mean victory has been achieved and we can get our men and women out of there.  One way or the other, you‘re witnessing a man suffering from at least one actual delusion, to say nothing of an other disrespect for the meaning of the loss of life.  It is not funny.  It is shameful.  John McCain, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Oh and now we must farewell to Denver, a city whose merchants greeted their first national convention in a century by putting up banners in their windows reading, “liberal discounts,” and, at a winter sports store, “experience democra-ski.”  Number one story on the COUNTDOWN, one last lingering, loving look at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, as if me and Chris for 26 hours wasn‘t enough for you. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  The festivities and the pageantry officially under way tonight, but we‘re definitely not in Beijing any more. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  It has arrived.  So has the delegates and all of the media. 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Before I let you go, I have to let the viewers see this t-shirt. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is Barack Obama taking John McCain to the hole. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As one of the papers put it today, there were tens of hundreds who showed up today.  Please, don‘t do that.  What‘s the point? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  We‘re watching the competition between the pro-Obama Hillary people and the anti-Obama Hillary people. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Both the Clinton and Obama camps will sit there and tell you, guys, stop covering this idea that we‘re not getting along. 

OLBERMANN:  Minutes from now, the video tribute presentation to Senator Kennedy. 

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  The work begins anew.  The hope rises again.  And the dream lives on!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- next first lady, Michelle Obama. 

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA:  Out of the gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work.  Let us work together to fulfill their hopes.  And let‘s stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America. 

OBAMA:  Love you guys. 

M. OBAMA:  Love you, bye-bye. 

MALIA OBAMA, DAUGHTER OF BARACK OBAMA:  Love you, daddy.  Bye!

GOV. DAVID PATTERSON (D), NEW YORK:  In 2007, John McCain voted with the administration 95 percent of the time.  So, if he‘s the answer, the question must be ridiculous. 

OLBERMANN:  Get on board, get on board, the train is leaving the station from Denver. 

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  But he votes with George Bush over 90 percent of the time.  That‘s not a maverick.  That‘s a side kick. 

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA:  If you drilled in all of John McCain‘s back yards, even the ones he doesn‘t know he has—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s no place like home or a home or a home.   

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  The top is the economy today, but the buzz is tonight‘s speaker, Senator Hillary Clinton. 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  You watch.  She‘s going to give a tour de force speech. 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  On that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece of advice: “if you hear the dogs, keep going.  If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.  If they‘re shouting after you, keep going.  Don‘t ever stop.  Keep going.  If you want a taste of freedom, keep going!”  And even in the darkest moments, that is what Americans have done.  We have found the faith to keep going. 

MATTHEWS:  It was like she was passing the ball to the guy who is going to carry on, like the baton in a relay. 

Brian, that‘s our train here. 

TODD:  California should be interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  California passes. 

OLBERMANN:  And the great state of confusion casts 60 votes for—what is going on with the roll call? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We yield to the land of Lincoln. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We yield to the great state of New York. 

OLBERMANN:  Now here we go. 

CLINTON:  I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclimation as the nominee of the Democratic party for president of the United States. 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Is there a second? 

OBAMA:  I said, Mr. President, you can say whatever you like. 

TODD:  As is normally the case, lots of drama today about Bill Clinton.  What will he say tonight? 

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama.  That makes two of us.  Actually, that makes 18 million of us. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Candidate McCain says he would vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote.  Are you kidding me, folks? 

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  You know, folks, that‘s the America that George Bush has left us.  That‘s the America that we will continue to get if George—excuse me, if John McCain is elected president of the United States.  Freudian slip.  Freudian slip.

TODD:  And now the grand finally of week one of our political Olympics.  Barack Obama‘s Mile High moment comes this evening in Denver. 

(SINGING)

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Those policies all over again?  Hey, I believe in recycling, but that‘s ridiculous. 

(SINGING)

OLBERMANN:  Pat‘s got his shades on.  OK, that‘s fine. 

OBAMA:  Tonight—tonight, I say to the people of America, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land, Enough!

I get it.  I realize that I‘m not the likeliest candidate for this office.  I don‘t fit the typical pedigree and I haven‘t spent my career in the halls of Washington.  But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring.  What the nay-sayers don‘t understand is that this election has never been about me.  It‘s about you. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve established—reestablished communications all the way a mile—

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Ironically, the politician known as the little steam engine was not a Democrat, but a Republican, Stephen A. Douglass, Lincoln‘s great rival.  The party of Lincoln, though we will leave it to you to decide if he‘d recognize them tonight, gets its chance next week.  Chris Matthews and I will be live from St. Paul, Minnesota beginning at 7:00 p.m.  Eastern next Monday. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,948th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From Denver, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

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