updated 9/19/2008 1:23:22 PM ET 2008-09-19T17:23:22

Guests: Chris Kofinis, Steve Clemons, Melissa Harris Lacewell

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

Freudian slip?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's exactly what we are going to do in a Palin and McCain administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Governor, it's McCain-Palin. It's on all the signs.

John McCain, who believes he is still at the top of the Republican ticket, doesn't know the law about who appoints and removes the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The chairman of SEC serves at the appointment of the president and in my view has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today, I would fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: No, you wouldn't. Under the Constitution, the president cannot legally fire the chairman of the SEC.

Either of you screw anything else up? Asked on radio if he would meet with the leader of Spain, Senator McCain seemed to criticize him and his nation then lunged into something about Mexico and Latin America.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK, what about you Europe - I'm talking about the president of Spain.

MCCAIN: What about me what?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The pain of Spain falls mainly on McCain.

Obama pretty much stays out of the way of the plummeting Republican ticket. All right. One zinger about the changing positions on the economic plunge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain can't decide whether he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Worsts: The ex-fundraiser for Senator Clinton, Lady de Rothschild is now campaigning for Senator McCain says Obama quote, "went and called the people who have guns and cling to their religion "bitter." The people out, you know, who are the rednecks or whoever."

Well, that will help McCain.

Oddball: The outcome of the San Dimas, California slow-speed bear chase.

And the Sarah Palin's chronicles. Sean Hannity slow-pitched softball tournament. We've taken out the filler so you can just enjoy the talking points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HANNITY & COLMES")

PALIN: Reform. Need to reform. Real reform. That's the reform.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You've used the term reform a lot.

PALIN: Promising the reform. Reform. Let's reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: There's also been a lot of feather-ruffling.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Ruffled feathers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, September 18th, 47 days until the 2008 presidential election. The presidential candidate said that if he were in office now he would respond to the financial crisis by firing the chairman of the SEC, evidently not knowing the president cannot fire the chairman of the SEC. The vice presidential candidate responded by apparently demoting him, referring to an administration in which her name comes first.

Our fifth story on COUNTDOWN: Senator McCain and Governor Palin-

Governor Palin and Senator McCain, pretty much squeezed Senator Obama out of the headlines today and with headlines like this, one would assume Obama is pretty happy with that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: That's exactly what we are going to do in a Palin and McCain administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Just when you wonder if you are being paranoid for thinking Palin might be overshadowing McCain she describes a Palin and McCain administration. There was also at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, though she thought she was in Grand Rapids and said so, if you want to write an email, send it to them. Maybe you could brief Senator McCain on constitutional law while you are at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and in my view, has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today, I would fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: As our chief judicial correspondent, Pete Williams explained to us tonight, the president appoints the members of independent agency commissions, like the FCC and the SEC, then they are confirmed. But once he has appointed them to those commissions, he cannot simply fire them outright. That is what the Supreme Court said in 1935, having ruled that President Roosevelt could not dump a conservative member of the Federal Trade Commission.

Members of the commission can always be fired for cause, like gross neglect to a malfeasance, but not just because the president disagrees with the way they vote or run their agencies. SEC chairman in question, Chris Cox, answering in a statement that his agency has responded to the crisis, quote, "with utmost dedication and professionalism," also, that if a President McCain thinks he's going to get a chance to fire him, he's made another boneheaded mistake.

Chairman Cox says he is a lame duck, quote, "I have made clear my intention to leave the SEC after the end of this administration."

White House press secretary, Dana Perino, is saying today that the chairman has the president's confidence, President Bush. Remember him? Appearing like a brigadoon out of nowhere for the first time and forever in the middle of this crisis, telling the nation this morning that he's got the whole situation under control.

Tonight, reports of a government plan to create an entity that would buy up all those troubled mortgages, then sell them off later, possibly much later, similar to what was done in the savings and loan collapse, Keating Five, 20 years ago. Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke are meeting with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill tonight.

Senator McCain finally issuing his first policy specifics on how he would get the crisis under control, an apparent flip-flop therein. On Tuesday, the senator having decried the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies that oversee Wall Street, this afternoon, Senator McCain wanting to add three more letters to the pot. And two of those letters are M, F.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm calling for creation of the mortgage and financial institutions trust-the MFI. The priorities of this trust will be to work with the private sector and regulators to identify institution that are weak and take remedies to strengthen them before they become insolvent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERAMANN: He was against the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies before he was for it and had to pick those two letters.

A week so bad for the Republican candidate that even the White House is starting to look good in comparison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: His first reaction to this crisis on Monday was to stand-up and repeat the line that he said over and over throughout this campaign. We counted it, he said it 16 times, and I quote, "the fundamentals of the economy are strong."

(CROWD BOOING)

OBAMA: Now, this comment-this comment was so out of touch that even George Bush's White House couldn't agree with it when they were asked about it. They had to distance themselves from John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The McCain campaign has, since those remarks came out, said he meant to say, he would have asked the SEC chairman, who's going to resign anyway, to resign. How many he meant to say or do you get before people to stop listening?

FINEMAN: Oh, I think they will keep listening for more he meant to say. I think that they'll keep listening. I think, the people in this country are paying very close attention to this election, judging by all the people who are registering in an unprecedented numbers around the country. People are paying attention and McCain has to be careful.

He was just flat out wrong about that. The independent commissioners don't serve at the pleasure of the president. That sort of what he meant to say, but it was wrong.

The other thing is that of all the villains that people want to string up around here, Chris Cox, I don't think is generally considered to be one of them. He stopped giving the laws that he has had to administer, to done a fairly good job. So, it was odd on several levels. And McCain is all over the lot.

Well, I think, Obama is wisely going to ground in Florida tomorrow, gathering all his advisors around him. He has yet, Obama, to commit to that idea. You're talking-you mentioned tonight that NBC reported about sort of reviving the Resolution Trust Corporation. They may decide to do that, the Obama campaign, but Obama wants to, you know, measure twice and cut once, if he's going to do it.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of Obama and advisors, there's another aspect of the McCain plan today. McCain has a new ad out claiming Obama has an economic advisor named Frank Raines. And that under Frank Raines' leadership, Fannie Mae committed extensive fraud, and it collapsed, and Frank Raines made millions. The problem being that the Obama campaign has said tonight, "Frank Raines has never advised Senator Obama about anything ever," that's the quote, and Frank Raines said, "I am not an advisor to Barack Obama nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matter." What on earth happened there?

FINEMAN: Well, what happened is-not much. Based on what I've been

told, Frank Raines did pay a visit to Barack Obama's Senate office a couple

I'm not sure exactly when but really before the campaign geared up big time, is my understanding and he didn't meet with Obama.

Frankly, Frank Raines is a kind of radioactive character around here because he was heavily criticized by independent investigators who looked at what happened to Fannie Mae. And you know, he's not the prince of Fannie Mae that you want to necessarily be in a photo-op with.

So, Obama's a pretty shrewd politician. I think Raines has probably given some contributions both to the Senate race and maybe the presidential one. But he's not counted in the inner circle. This came about because of a "Washington Post" story but the Obama people are telling me is that it was Raines himself who, at the time, identified him that way. Now, he's got this statement out tonight.

But I know the campaign well enough to know that Raines has never been in the inner circle of the Obama campaign.

OLBERMANN: Governor Palin, in Cedar Rapids, a Palin and McCain administration, a slip, an ego trip, are they trying to tell the senator something, what was that?

FINEMAN: Well, maybe they are following in tradition. I mean, there are a lot of people think, at least in the first term, it was a Cheney-Bush administration. So, why not? And I think we've learned about Sarah Palin that she doesn't hide her light under a bushel.

I mean, she's aggressive politically. She took on the Republican establishment in Alaska both because she's a maverick and because she wanted to be the star of the show. It's the way she operates politically and she's doing the same on the campaign trail.

By the way, if John McCain gets elected president and he thinks he's going to shun Sarah Palin off in a corner somewhere or send her back to Alaska, he's got another thing coming. She will organize the whole conservative network to make sure she has a hand, and if the hand on the tiller, if there is a McCain-Palin or Palin-McCain administration.

OLBERMANN: And, as to the other Palin, there's breaking news tonight that Todd Palin, the husband, has announced he's refusing to testify under the subpoena he has been issued in troopergate in Alaska. He gets to ignore the law, why and is this more of the next Bush administration before the current Bush administration is even over?

FINEMAN: Well, I don't know about that, but it's a bold move, especially, since the legislative move to subpoena him or bringing him to testify was three to two including one Republican. I won't use any hunting language here, but it was the moose guy, a Republican who said let's bring Todd Palin in and have him talk to us.

And don't forget, originally, Palin's husband and wife were all about cooperating with the investigation. They were going to lay everything on the table, no problem, nothing to hide. Now, they are acting exactly the opposite way.

And I agree with your analysis of the other night. The more they keep doing this, the more people are going to think that they're actually trying to hide something.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it just seems to violate some cardinal tenet here.

It was not a big deal and they've made it a bigger one.

FINEMAN: No, no.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Senator McCain's economic policy and position, changing more in the last four days than his last two decades in Washington. On Monday, he said, "We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else." Then on Wednesday he changed to, "The government was force to commit $85 billion to stop the collapse of AIG." And, finally, today, he decided that "when AIG was bail out, I didn't like it, but I understood it needed to be done."

In March, McCain was, quote, "always for less regulation, fundamentally a deregulator." Now, he says, "Regulators says regulators were asleep at the switch."

In 1989, McCain along with the fellow Republicans voted against the bill that created the Resolution Trust Corporation, the RTC.

In March, his policy advisor, Douglas "the BlackBerry" Holtz-Eakin said, quote, "The senator is not in favor of an RTC-like vehicle." Today, McCain says, not only did the RTC worked, but he wants to add to the alphabet soup with a mortgage and financial institutions trust-the MFI.

I'm joined now by Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, former communications director on the Edwards campaign.

Thanks again for your time tonight, Chris.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. So, it's 12 after the hour, any idea what McCain's economic policy actually is at this minute?

KOFINIS: I actually kind of do. I think it's pretty simple. It's basically more tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, increasing the deficit by trillions of dollars and more deregulation. Basically, it's a Molotov cocktail of bad Bush policies, they're going probably further blow up the economy worse than we've seen in the last eight years.

And kind of begs, I think, what's going to be the central question maybe in a lot of voters' minds, especially in a lot of what happened on Monday and that is-are you better off than you were four or eight years ago? And, I think, the answer to that question pretty resoundingly is-no, we are not better off.

And so then, I think, voters have to ask themselves a very serious question. Why would anyone think they're going to be better off four years from now if you're going to put somebody like a John McCain who's going to follows the same policies like George Bush? It doesn't make any logical sense.

OLBERMANN: The McCain spokesman, Tucker Bounds who's had a bad week told FOX News today that Senator McCain had laid out his plan to fix the economy on Monday, apparently predicated on this new regulatory agency that starts with the unfortunate sequence of letters M and F. Was this week the McCain campaign waterloo, did we just see the entire campaign come apart the way, you know, Lehman Brothers did?

KOFINIS: Yes, it's a campaign that's in a strategic freefall. They seemed to be not able to figure out what direction they want to go in and what they want to say, what rhetoric they want to agree on. It's actually really stunning. And it really started on Monday, you know, when John McCain went out there and said the economy was structurally sound, fundamentally sound.

I don't think it was a slip of the tongue. I actually thought they sat back and thought about it. And that shows just a tone-deafness that is absolutely stunning. I mean, one of the rules in politics is you never reinforce the narrative your opponent is trying to pay upon you. And when, you know, Barack Obama, and the Democrats are trying to say-you're out of touch because clearly, you are-the last thing you want to do is go prove that you are out of touch which is what he did on Monday.

So, they're in a really bad spot right now. And I think this fall is going to continue for a while.

OLBERMANN: Senator McCain has promised more details tomorrow. Do we know what we can expect here? I mean, is it eliminating tax cut for the wealthy? Is it raising the minimum wage? Is it another acronym, maybe one that stands for a group called "federal underwriters"?

KOFINIS: I'm not sure what we're going to expect. I mean, my guess is, you're going to hear a lot of tough talk and a lot of rhetoric. But the reality is, you're not going to hear anything new. I mean, John McCain is, you know, suffering from what I call "political split personality." I mean, he was Mr. Deregulator, now, he seems to become Mr. Populist. I mean, he's changed his tune faster than an investment bank collapse and he just prove to you that he doesn't have any core convictions.

I mean, you'd have more respect for him if he actually believed what he used to believe, but he doesn't. He seems to be reacting every given moment, changing his tune, you know, against the AIG bailout, for the AIG bailout. He just doesn't seem to understand that what the American people want is clarity and determination in terms of what you believe, not just say anything for the sake of winning the vote.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, Chris, let me go back to that breaking news. First, it was Governor Palin who would not talk to the investigator in the troopergate case, now it's her husband who's going to defy the subpoena, according to his statement tonight. The law on this, I'm not clear on. The merits of this for their own protection, I'm not clear on. Their yes or no status on this, I'm not clear on. But it makes no sense to me, politically.

Why on earth would they drag this out and make it look as bad as they had made it look in just the last two days?

KOFINIS: You know, it's absolutely stunning. I mean, to basically have blown up something that no one really even knew about, and to make it an issue in this campaign, because it goes to the heart of what her candidacy supposedly is about. That she is this maverick reformer that's going to tell you the truth and talk straight.

Well, here, you have a clear indication and a clear measure that she's not talking straight. She's doing the exact opposite, she's playing political games. It's unbelievable. It's a disastrous move for the McCain campaign for Sarah Palin.

OLBERMANN: Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist-as always, Chris, thanks for your time, have a good night.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: Senator McCain also wondered into the deep brush internationally today, asked about Spain, he answered about Mexico then Latin America.

Meantime, Governor Palin's international credentials were called an insult to the intelligence of Americans by a Republican senator.

And a high profile McCain-Palin supporter said, the Republicans would be much more respectful than would the Democrats, to quote, "rednecks," unquote.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Asked about the meeting with the leader of Spain, Senator McCain instead starts talking about the president of Mexico, then about those who want to do harm to the U.S., then about the leaders in the hemisphere of Latin America, nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.

And later in Worsts: Researching the shut-ups of Bill-O the Clown, bringing out former Senator George Allen at a diversity rally.

Plus: A McCain supporter says her candidate will be the most sensitive to, quote, "rednecks."

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Let's take a quick look at a scene from Washington. We were talking about this meeting earlier in the evening. These news conferences go on at length. Mr. Paulson is there, Senator Reid is speaking, Speaker Pelosi, Mr. Bernanke, SEC Chairman Cox in the red tie on the left, in a late night meeting, Minority Leader Boehner in the back.

We're going to monitor this news conference and give you the pertinent headlines as moments continue throughout this program.

In the interim, for the third day in a row, starting with Sarah Palin's tanning bed, a McCain camp explanation for some problem more other (ph) is causing even more problems than the original problem.

In our fourth story tonight: Is Spain in Europe? Is Spain in Latin America? Or is Spain in the "axis of evil"?

Campaigning in Florida, Senator McCain spoke with a Spanish-owned, Spanish language radio station. After several questions about unfriendly leaders in Latin America, the interviewer asked whether McCain would meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. McCain has previously said he would, but this time, he veered off into a discussion of Mexico.

Asked again, McCain promised to seek closer relations with our friends and, quote, "stand-up to those who want to harm the United States." Was McCain mistaking Zapatero for a Latin American leader? Was he referring to Zapatero's ending Spain's participation to the Iraq war in 2004? The interviewer sought clarification and as you will hear, McCain then refers to the hemisphere of Latin America.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you have to wait and see if he is willing to meet with you, or will you be able to do it in the White House?

MCCAIN: Well, again, I don't. All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK, what about Europe? I'm talking about the president of Spain.

MCCAIN: What about me, what?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK, are you willing to meet with him if you are elected president?

MCCAIN: I'm willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom. And I will stand-up to those that do not.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: What about me, what? The McCain campaign today said there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred, begging the question, as with McCain's Sunni-Shiite gaffe, which meaning is worse, the unintended or the intended? One footnote, Zapatero's grandfather fought alongside the communists in the Spanish civil war since the age of 13. McCain has said his greatest hero is the fictional character, Robert Jordan, from "For Whom the Bell Tolls" who fought alongside the communists in the Spanish civil war, for real.

Let's turn now to Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, publisher of the WashingtonNote.com.

Mr. Clemons, good evening.

STEVE CLEMONS, WASHINGTONNOTE.COM: Good evening. Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A lot of options here. Did he hear not Zapatero but Viva Zapata or does he think Spain is in Latin America or what was going on there?

CLEMONS: I listened to the tape about 10 times today and I think John McCain had his own Sarah Palin moment where it just went by him and he didn't get it. And I think it shows, in one way, what kind of rut he's in. He really thought he was talking about Latin America and he wasn't ready to talk about Spain. And I think it's fairly clear from the tape no matter what his advisors are saying now. But even if his advisors do want to do the story, I think it's still pretty much shafting Spain, an ally of ours.

OLBERMANN: Is this a common problem with American politicians because whatever he meant to say, he intertwined a lot of countries in there, that really only have one thing in common, that they tend to speak Spanish a lot. Are they all that difficult to keep straight?

CLEMONS: Well, I wouldn't think so. I would think that John McCain whose strongest suit is supposed to be foreign policy. He talks a lot about the transatlantic relationship. One would think that he knew that Spain was an important ally of ours with troops in Afghanistan. And that with all the problems we are having today in Bolivia, with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and the Latin America's fear in general, one of our great allies and helpers in the region has, in fact, been Spain. So, I don't think there's really an easy excuse as to mixing up, you know, Spanish-sounding leaders. I think it's really just a very serious faux pas mistake of John McCain in this.

OLBERMANN: Yes. And about that and about Spain, the McCain campaign said that the one thing clear in here was he was refusing to commit to a meeting with the prime minister. First of all, that's a flip-flop on his past willingness to meet with the prime minister, but also, does it not put McCain kind of in lockstep with Bush who has also refuse to meet with Zapatero? I mean, how is McCain, who is billing himself as being there to repair the Bush foreign policy damage, repair it by repeating it?

CLEMONS: This may seem silly to many but it's actually very, very consequentially. Spain was one of the sites of one of the largest terror attacks in Europe-Madrid. It was around the time of an election and the former president of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar has spending lot of time in Washington. He's very well-known in Washington, has met McCain many times.

Zapatero came in and he's been very responsible in the way Spain managed its alliance with the United States and other issues. And I think that it is very consequential about transatlantic relationship, it's not only falling in lockstep with the Bush administration, I think it's much worse because he's kicked the country that's been very, very supportive of us recently and had hopes for him and kicked it right in the teeth.

OLBERMANN: Steve Clemons, the man behind the foreign policy blog, the Washington Note, it was a confusing story and we thank you for helping us clear it up.

CLEMONS: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

It was the big breaking news just yesterday, a bear loosed in San Dimas, California, threatening, well not threatening anything, just sort of scratching himself. The latest, coming up.

Then, how about a John McCain supporter insisting the senator would be the better president for, quote, "rednecks," unquote?

And the breaking news from that news conference in Washington in an attempt to break the financial crisis in half.

Worsts Persons is also ahead. This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The meeting is over in Washington and so to the news conference. Leaders of the House, the Senate, the Fed, the SEC, the Treasury Department meeting at the Capitol. This on proposals to have the government buy up the so-called illiquid assets, in other words, endangered mortgages, mortgages no company wants to be responsible for. The head of the Fed, Mr. Bernanke, said it was a productive meeting, but there was actually nothing coming out of the session. Speaker Pelosi said she and the other Democrats and the bipartisan leaders who were present at the event are hoping for a proposal from the White House in hours and not days. And that was about it. You didn't miss anything.

Bests in a moment and even the statue to the fallen football hero has a shoe company logo on it. First, it was yesterday, September 17th when a new dawn rose on television news, with live national coverage of a slow speed bear pursuit. Let's play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And we begin in the skies over San Dimas, California, with the exciting conclusion to bear on the run. We broke into our broadcast with KNBC's live chopper footage only moments after the bear had been witnessed scratching its back on a tree in Horse Thief Canyon Park.

Today, even more shocking footage has surfaced. Now we know the bear had previously been dumpster diving, pulling trash out of the garbage and then eating it and leaving the dumpster with great alacrity. With his belly full, this depraved and sick was witnessed licking his bear midriff and then-you can pretty much see for yourself, folks. You may want to ask your youngsters to avert their eyes.

Thankfully, this pervert was not long for San Dimas. The excellent adventure ended and the bear slinked into the woods, along with Napoleon, Genghis Khan and Abraham Lincoln.

To the baseball diamond, where September means Major League Baseball rosters have expanded. That means a lot of rookie call-ups and lots of rookie hazing. That would be pitcher Mike Extrum of the San Diego Padres driving the cooler scooter out to the bullpen. Slightly less embarrassing than the delightfully tacky yet unrefined on-field uniform switch. These are all of the Padres rookies wearing that outfit wearing that outfit from the place with the great wings.

None of that hurt as much as having your veteran catcher light your buttocks on fire. It's not clever. It's not creative. But someone gave him a hot butt when he was breaking in. So there you go. Mr. Teagarden. Society for American Research Baseball types, we call that tradition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: "An insult to the intelligence of Americans;" a Republican senator's assessment of the candidacy of Sarah Palin. And he said that before he saw Sean Hannity's interview of her. We cut out the fluff. All that's left is 62 seconds of statesmanship. We'll show it to you. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best political indicator, the Intrade gambling web site. Yesterday, it's betting line on the presidential race was Obama 49.7, McCain 49.5. After the GOP ticket fell down several flights of stairs today, latest wagering, Obama 51.50, McCain 47.4. Obama picked up nearly four points in one day.

Number two, best attempted subliminal advertising, a new statue at Syracuse University to honor the football great Ernie Davis, who died at age 23, before he could even play a professional game. Davis' cleats on the statue feature the Nike logo. He never wore them. The swoosh was not even designed until eight years after his death. The school says the logo will be removed.

Number one, best reason to delay picking up your prize. A business in San Marco in Italy says the winner of its raffle has yet to turn up and claim the prize. The business was a funeral parlor. The lucky prize is a free coffin, a free tombstone, a free grave and free burial. Can't imagine why the winner hasn't shown up yet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The prominent Senate Republican who traveled with Senator Obama on his trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, and who later skipped the GOP convention, has now answered the question so few have been willing to bluntly address. In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, is Governor Sarah Palin ready to be president?

Quoting, "I think it's a stretch to in any way say she has the experience to be president of the United States." That from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. In an interview with the "Omaha World Herald," Senator Hagel's assessment of Palin was unsparing. "She doesn't have any foreign policy credentials. You get a passport for the first time in your life last year. I don't know what you can say. You can't say anything."

But he said more. "I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore, I know something about Russia. That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."

And he evidently had not even seen Governor Palin's performance at last night's town hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A question from the audience: "Governor Palin, there has been quite a bit of discussion about your perceived lack of foreign policy experience and I want to give you your chance. If you could please respond to that criticism and give us specific skills that you think you have to bring to the White House to rebut that or mitigate that concern?"

The governor's answer-

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I think because I'm a Washington outsider that-that opponents are going to be looking for a whole lot of things that they can criticize and they can kind of try to beat the candidate here, who chose me as his partner, to kind of tear down the ticket. But as for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared. And I know that on January 20th, if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we'll be ready.

I'll be ready. I have that confidence. I have that readiness. And if you want specifics with specific policy or countries, go ahead and you can ask me. You can even play stump the candidate if you want to. But we are ready to serve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Well, we did ask. Senator McCain then cited the Alaska Energy Supply and Palin's command of the Alaskan National Guard. Since the question had be posed near the end of the town hall, McCain was able to bring it to a merciful close, and nobody gave the questioner one specific.

Joining me now, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Thank you for your time.

MELISSA HARRIS LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It's great to be here.

OLBERMANN: What's the impact of words like the ones we heard from Senator Chuck Hagel, especially on Republicans and independents?

LACEWELL: Well, it could be to revive the faith in the Republican party that there's at least a few of them who are still in touch with reality and willing to tell the truth about the candidates that they fielded. But I suspect more than anything we've spent a lot of time talking about the divisions in the Democratic party that emerged as a result of very long primary battle between Senators Clinton and Obama. But I don't think we've talked enough about the ways that the choice of Sarah Palin may, in fact, have energized one part of the Republican party. But it might have also really irritated other parts of the party.

OLBERMANN: In one poll-and this goes to that point to some degree, I think. From just Saturday to Tuesday, Governor Palin lost ten points in approve/disapprove numbers. Is there any sense, any handle on to what degree that might owe to the points that Chuck Hagel made, especially the bit about the Russia mind bender, that that just sort of sank in simultaneously with a lot of people who said, wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense?

LACEWELL: Ultimately, I don't think it's Sarah Palin's lack of experience. It's her actual experience that has got voters, particularly independent voters concerned. So when she first came on and she really read that teleprompter and gave a great speech, you know, there were a lot of Americans who were impressed by her capacity to show up and sort of be ready. But then over the course of the past couple of weeks, the information has come out that she does, in fact, have experience, experience as an executive, and the decisions that she made as an executive demonstrate secrecy, divisiveness, a willingness to put her friends and colleagues in positions of power that they're not ready for. And that looks an awful lot like the Bush/Cheney White House, and the kinds of decisions made there.

I don't think it's about her lack of experience. I think it's about her experience, the things she has in fact done.

OLBERMANN: But Senator Hagel seemed to imply that the Republicans might have gotten-this team might have gotten some pass on the practical inexperience she would have internationally if they had just admitted it and worked around it in some way. Is he right about that? Is there some way around it? Or is it a problem for them either the way they chose or this other more honest way?

LACEWELL: I think the goal that John McCain had as the presidential candidate with the experience and background of himself as veteran was not to choose someone else who had foreign policy experience. She's not there to provide experience. She's there to provide excitement. She's there to provide enthusiasm. She's there to turn the media cycle away from what happened in Denver, that sort of astonishing moment of American history in Mile High Stadium, and move it instead towards the conversation about the GOP and what the GOP was up to.

That was what her job was. That was what she has effectively done. In a certain way, she was going to get a pass. She's running with John McCain. She's not running as the foreign policy arm of that ticket.

OLBERMANN: But what happens if, as Mr. Hagel suggests, it's an insult to Americans' intelligence, because this new "New York Times"/CBS poll that came out last night, one of those interior numbers suggested that 75 percent of voters, crossing both parties, thought that Senator McCain chose Governor Palin to help him win, for political purposes, not because of any qualification she had in any respect, international or otherwise. How does a ticket deal with that when the truth sort of seeps through the spin?

LACEWELL: Well, that's right. So the central key here is that the first big executive decision that we've had an opportunity to watch John McCain make, you know, as a potential president, was his choice of a VP running mate. And his choice was Sarah Palin. So what that means is, as we get a chance to look at the choice of Sarah Palin, it tells us, who is John McCain really going to be as a president?

Now, their tag line is country first. But if Americans believe that he was putting John McCain and the opportunity to win in November above country, above the possibility in an uncertain world that Sarah Palin could in fact assume the position of the U.S. presidency, one heartbeat away from it, if he made that choice just for political purposes, it's awfully difficult for him to make a claim of country first.

OLBERMANN: Also, just dawns on me, apropos of nothing, but they never specified which country first. Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University, many thanks for some of your time tonight.

LACEWELL: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Oh, but it gets better. If you want a vice president who can endlessly repeat the words reform, ruffle and feathers, this is your candidate. The Hannity interview boiled down in 62 seconds.

And in worsts, she was for Clinton, now she's for McCain because he respects the people she herself has just called, quote, rednecks. Worst persons ahead. But first our newest feature, the most outrage or untrue things said by or on behalf of Republican presidential nominee John McCain, McCain in the membrane.

This is kind of trivial on a day when Sarah Palin claims she's at the head of the ticket and Senator McCain revealed he thinks the president can fire the head of the SEC when can't. Check out the senator on off shore drilling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I visited an oil rig off of the Louisiana coast. It survived hurricanes. It is safe. It is sound. And to somehow-

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Hold it right there. Since Hurricane Ike last week, there are at minimum three off shore oil rigs missing, presumed to be total losses; 113 off shore platforms were destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But go on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: And to some somehow-and by the way, on that oil rig-and I'm sure you probably heard this story. You look down and there's fish everywhere. There's fish everywhere. Yes, they-the fish love to be around those rigs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Sure they do. This, as one environmentalist pointed out, is like saying birds support overhead phone lines because they sit on the wires sometimes. Good grief. The Palin/McCain campaign consists of stuff the candidates heard at the barber shop.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Part of Sarah Palin's anatomy Fox was able to describe in crude terms that would have set off a firestorm had it been said anywhere else. Plus, Sean Hannity's interview with the reduced to one minute and two seconds. Still a little long. That's ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Bill-O the clown. In a glorious article at Slate.com, Jack Schaefer traces the history Bill-O's Claims about how many times he's actually told people to shut up on TV. In 2002, he said once in six years. In 2004, it was six times in eight years. In 2004 later, six times in six years. In 2005, you can count them on one hand. 2006, five times in ten years. 2007, four times in 10 ½ years.

Last week, he told "Time Magazine" it was six times in 12 years. The truth, Schaefer counts on air shut-ups to Alec Baldwin, Dick Morris, Tom Daschle, Mike Mago (ph), Jeremy Glick twice, Jimmy Carter, Tom Daschle again, Dave Capell (ph), Tonya Ryman (ph). That's nine or perhaps ten. Also, he said the following entities or nations should shut up, the Vatican, Canadians, Swedes, Americans, loyal Americans, spin meisters, Clinton partisans, Republicans, Democrats, gay celebrities, people that want to talk about sex. That's another 11.

Runner-up, the Virginia Republican party, scheduling a unity rally Saturday as an outreach to the large ethnic population in the northern portion of the state. They expect 1,000 people to attend. Among the speakers, former Virginia Senator George Allen, the one who referred to an opposition campaign worker of minority origins as, quote, macaca.

But our winner, Lynn Forester, now known formally as Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, wife of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild of Great Britain. She is the former Hillary Clinton supporter and fund-raiser, a Hill raiser, in fact, now loudly supporting Senator McCain. Senator McCain is probably wishing Lady de Rothschild had stuck with Obama. Criticizing the Democrat on CNN last night, she took off on the elitism angle, which is a pretty silly one to pursue if you're a Rothschild and a member of royalty.

Forget that for a second, she said, quote, "Barack Obama went and called the people who have guns and cling to their religion bitter. The people out, you know, who are the red necks or whoever, are bitter."

I don't know how to break this to you. But if Obama called the people in question bitter and you called the same people in question rednecks, they're going to like what Obama called them a lot more than what you called them. Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who will probably be sitting out the rest of the campaign wondering who those, quote, rednecks, unquote, will vote for at her 3,200-acre estate in Buckinghamshire, north of London, today's worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: In two weeks, support for the McCain/Palin ticket-I'm sorry, Palin/McCain ticket by white women dropped 21 points. The presidential candidate learned at age 72 that the White House can't fire the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also insisted the fundamentals of the economy were sound as it hit its biggest iceberg in at least 22 years. One of his converts from Senator Clinton's camp said Mr. McCain would be nicer than would Obama to, quote, rednecks.

The vice presidential candidate confirmed she installed a tanning bed in the governor's mansion, revealed she didn't know what the Bush doctrine was, wasn't sure if she had immediately accepted a spot on the ticket or had a family vote on it first, and listed herself before the presidential candidate.

We haven't even gotten to the stuff on Fox News in the last 24 hours. Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, for the GOP and its television network, a kind of perfect storm. Sean Hannity conducted an interview with Governor Palin that was slightly less hard hitting than one you'd see on a late night infomercial. We'll show you the condensed 62 second version of that in a moment.

First, this morning, a Fixed News guest used a word so outrageous about the governor's anatomy, that had it been said by a Democrat or in any other venue, the conservatives' phony outrage meter would have burst and Republicans might have been rioting in the street. But it was said on Fox so it was just funny. We'll warn you there is sexist anatomical slang in here which we have not bleeped and over which the right is mysteriously not calling for the head of Carolyn Baum of Bloomberg News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a Democrat, are you a Democrat first or, for example, a woman first that sees a breakthrough? There's a huge breakthrough here, regardless of your party, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're asking me, I think the idea that she would appeal to Hillary voters, you know, the pro choice versus not, seems to be a much bigger issue than she has tits versus she has another body part that men have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: No truth to rumors they had to explain the meaning of that word to the Fox morning hosts. To the interview of the governor, in which she claimed she did indeed watch but did not listen to Tina Fey's impression of her on "Saturday Night Live." "I watched with the volume all the way down. I thought it was hilarious. I didn't hear a word she said, but the visual was spot on."

Enjoy it, governor. Ms. Fey has reportedly agreed to reprise the role again, not this week but next and thereafter. If she needs any help on studying her subject, there was the rest of that interview, which we have distilled down to its talking points essence; 62 seconds of unparalleled statesmanship and political savvy. Roll them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Governor, thank you for being with us.

PALIN: Thank you so much.

HANNITY: You didn't hesitate. You didn't blink.

PALIN: Shake some things up.

HANNITY: Hockey team meeting?

PALIN: Let's do this, mom.

HANNITY: The economy. Senator Obama is attacking-

PALIN: Unfair attack. He means our workforce. That was an unfair attack there. It is a mess, though.

HANNITY: Senator Obama danger-danger-

PALIN: There's a danger-pretend like they have all the answers.

OPM, other people's money.

HANNITY: Senator Barack Obama, should there be an investigation?

PALIN: I think that's significant cronyism. The cronyism, ruffling feathers, good old boy system. Back on the side of the people.

ALAN COLMES, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Coming up, more of Sean's interview with Sarah Palin.

We now continue with Sean's exclusive interview with Governor Sarah Palin.

HANNITY: You want to reform government.

PALIN: Reforming-the reform-real reform-that's the reform.

HANNITY: You've used the term reform a lot.

PALIN: Promising the reform. Reform-Let's reform.

HANNITY: It's a reform?

PALIN: Through reform.

HANNITY: Explain when you were governor how you took on your own party.

PALIN: Yes. Ruffled feathers-team of mavericks-cronyism-good old boy network-cronyism-reform-we are ruffling feathers.

HANNITY: I have to move to Alaska.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The rest of the interview was pretty much the two of them extolling the value of Kevin Trudoe's (ph) weight loss cure, the ab coaster and the other late night TV wonder products besides Sarah Palin. That's COUNTDOWN for this the 1,968th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC's copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,