updated 9/25/2008 5:57:37 PM ET 2008-09-25T21:57:37

COUNTDOWN

September 24, 2008

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Richard Wolffe, John Harwood, Chris Kofinis, Clarence Page, Chris Cillizza

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

McCain and the other kind of bailout. Obama's camp urges them to join them in a joint statement about depoliticizing the economic meltdown, McCain's camp responds by claiming the ideas as its own, and calling for Friday's presidential debate to be postponed.

Is a debate delayed a debate denied? With all three presidential showdowns and the V.P. debate all crammed into 19 days. Could the end result be-one of them gets not postponed but canceled like maybe the vice presidential debate gets canceled?

And the political gamesmanship. McCain claims this is for the country's good but with the "Washington Post" Poll showing Obama up by now nine, with the "New York Times" now reporting, McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis' firm was still taking $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac not a few years ago but just a month ago, is this a desperate attempt to change the political conversation?

And, oh, by the way, that financial crisis itself -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: One other McCain change, he cancels his appearance on "David Letterman" tonight, for the nation's good. So, guess who pinch-hits? Oops.

Meltdown for the governor. McCain's campaign will now stonewall all questions about troopergate. The first lady says, no, gosh, Governor Palin doesn't have any foreign affairs experience. And there's now videotape of Pastor Muthee, the laying on of hands, the man who began his ministry by calling a neighbor in Kenya a witch, claiming she caused fatal traffic accidents and running her out of town.

Just three years ago, he was praying over Sarah Palin, and in her presence, still talking about witchcraft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS MUTHEE, PASTOR: In the name of Jesus, every form of witchcraft is what we rebuke, in the name of Jesus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: My friend, the witchdoctor, he taught me what to do.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, September 24th, 41 days until the 2008 presidential election.

With every poll and every measure of momentum against him, with his campaign manager tied directly to a principal company in the financial collapse, and that company's bid to retain access to the senator by paying the campaign manager's company, now as recently as last month, Senator John McCain today suddenly announced it was necessary for him to stop campaigning for a time so that the nation could instead focus on the economic crisis for which he has tried to blame Senator Obama.

And, oh, by the way, that means we need to postpone Friday's presidential debate.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: To when-December? The Republican candidate wanting an official time-out from his own campaign.

The day beginning with a phone call from Senator Obama to Senator McCain, the Democrat is asking the Republican about the possibility of issuing a joint statement about the economic crisis. Senator McCain then unilaterally deciding that his best move, maybe it was his only move right now, was to instead pick up his marbles and go home for a while.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: It's time for both parties to come together to solve this problem. We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I'm directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The commission, by the way, says, "No dice."

The numbers of the day for Senator McCain are possibly worse than the Dow. In the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Poll out tonight, the Democratic nominee, Senator Obama, with a clear 12-point advantage on the question of: who would be better at improving the economy.

In the new "Washington Post" Survey, it's a 14-point lead for Obama on who voters trust more to handle the economy. A majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, believing the Democrat is more in tune with the economic problems of American voters.

The picture of the day for Senator McCain is no better. The Republican nominee surrounding himself with Wall Street titans to discuss the economic crisis. Some of the titans he chose illuminating to say the least. Senator McCain looking for advice from Henry Kravis, the leverage buyout or "takeover king" made famous by the book, "Barbarians at the Gate." Also looking for guidance from private equity trader, Stephen Schwarzman, the beneficiary of what the "Washington Post" says might be the mother of all tax dodgers, so-called "carried interest." Mr. Schwarzman having received $350 million in cash distributions last year, having paid only 15 percent in taxes on them, not the 35 percent that regular rich folks would pony up because Mr. Schwarzman structured his trading fees as capital gains.

Senator Obama meanwhile arriving in Florida for three days of debate prep, saying that precisely because of the financial crisis, he believes having a debate Friday night is more important than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once. I think there's no reason why we can't be constructive in helping to solve this problem and also tell the American people what we believe and where we stand and where we want to take the country.

So, in my mind actually, it's more important than ever that we present ourselves to the American people and try to describe where we want to take the country and where we want to take the economy as well as dealing with some of the issues of foreign policy that were initially the subject of the debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And a small postscript to the day's drama that might turn out to be bigger than anybody expects, Senator McCain also canceled his appearance as David Letterman's guest tonight. Letterman said McCain called him personally to express his regrets but he had to head back to Washington immediately to deal with the financial crisis.

Imagine Letterman's surprise as his show was taping this afternoon and a producer told him McCain was not in Washington or on a plane, but rather in another CBS studio taping an interview with Katie Couric. Letterman even showed the feed of the Couric/McCain interview on the air and shouted at one point, "Hey, senator, I've got a question-can I give you a ride to the airport?" McCain flat-out lied to Letterman.

The senator is actually still in New York, will not return to Washington until morning. I know all this because on top of everything else, when Senator McCain canceled, the guest they got to replace him on "Late Night" was me. Oops. Yours truly and not John McCain on "Late Night with David Letterman" on CBS this evening. David was, in short, on fire. Check your local listings.

Lots to talk about with our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, and the guy they were going to call after me.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Long way after you. Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Well, closer than you might think.

All right. Obviously, this is supposed to make McCain look presidential, but if it made him look like he could not do two things at once, I mean, the idea of being that the president can't call a time-out if a crisis hits, or two of them hit at once, did it actually do just the opposite?

WOLFFE: Yes. Look-that's the way Senator Obama wants to frame this and it's not a bad line of attack. I actually think McCain's problem here is not doing two things, it's doing eight things since this crisis broke a week ago. He was against the bailout of AIG, and then he was for it. He said the economic fundamentals are sound, and then he's hit the crisis button on the whole economy. He wanted to fire Chris Cox and then he said he was a good man. And finally, he said it was all Obama's fault. And now, it's time to work together with Obama.

So, the problem here, I think, for him, and the reason you're seeing this double-digit gap on the polls in handling the economy is this inconsistency. This sort of frenetic quality to McCain's reaction to the crisis as it's unfolded compared to the calm, consistent position that Obama has. He may be cautious. He may not be very vocal on some of the details, but people are getting an impression of something much more stable than we're seeing out of McCain.

OLBERMANN: One of the casualties here, one of those things on the side, what is the latest on the debates? Are we going to see it cut back to three? Well, gosh, will the vice presidential debates be canceled and might that have been one of the real goals here?

WOLFFE: Well. That may be one of the stratagems. I think, actually, this is a sort of throwing the chess board up in the air idea and seeing what happens. In a way, it's a game of chicken-I'm mixing a metaphor here, because McCain is sort of trying to position himself in a way that makes Obama look foolish. The problem is, the game of chicken didn't work and the presidential commission, the Commission on Presidential Debates wants to go ahead with the debate. Obama does, too.

Everything I hear suggests that this debate going to happen because the McCain campaign says, "If we get a deal, we'll go." Well, there's likely to be a deal.

OLBERMANN: And the positioning that you mentioned, what happens if Obama were to show up at the University of Mississippi on Friday and McCain, for some reason, wasn't there? I mean, is that what ultimately McCain wanted so he could then claim, "Look, Obama wanted to talk instead of resolving this"? Will that be the answer anyway even if they do come to a deal before the debate and the debate goes on schedule?

WOLFFE: McCain wants to show that he's above politics and that he can get heads to crack together and come up with a deal, which probably would've happened, anyway. You got to understand where the log jam is with this deal. It's with House Republicans, ideological conservatives, the small government crowd, who don't like the big government proposal that's coming out of the Bush White House.

Can McCain really bridge that gap when his own conservative credentials have been so much in question throughout this campaign? I doubt it, but there's going to be a deal anyway because enough Democrats will support in the end what the treasury secretary wants to do here.

So, I don't think anyone's going to show up to the debates on their own. A deal will be done, but McCain will say, "Oh, at least, I tried to put politics out of this."

OLBERMANN: Well, of course, that was after Obama had originally suggested the joint statement which was the first move towards this. But after that happened, McCain managed to visit with the delightful Lady de Rothschild who called those gun and Bible clinging rednecks; canceled the Letterman interview but did the Katie Couric interview instead; met with the prime minister of India, and stayed in town so he can address the Clinton Global Initiative tomorrow.

There's dropping everything, and then there's just saying that you're going to drop everything. Does the paper trail, does his schedule book here, his appointment book, hurt McCain?

WOLFFE: Yes. Nothing says country first like meeting with the wife of a British aristocrat and I'm not talking about Katie Couric. You have a problem here in sort of the dynamics of the day, and the timing of it. Why now? Not just what McCain did today, was there anything in the fall of the market today? No.

Was it the credit market sending interest rates sky high today? No.

So, the timing, the circumstances are highly suspicious, and I think voters, frankly will be scratching their heads and saying, "What's up with today"?

OLBERMANN: There's other numbers, there's poll numbers that dropped. One correction, I said Senator McCain met with the prime minister of India, that was vice presidential candidate Palin.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: There's one more angle to this yet. The McCain campaign may be taking a page out of the play book of the nexus of Politics and terror. Just last week, Senator McCain having greeted this economic crisis with the words, quote, "I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Today, in explaining the need to suspend the campaign and to postpone the debate, McCain's advisers are saying that without action, the country could slide into a depression by Monday. One added we'll see 12 percent unemployment if action is not completed.

And when Governor Palin was asked by Katie Couric about a risk of another depression, if the bailout plan does not pass, she too channeled her inner scary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CBS NEWS)

KATHIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: If this doesn't pass, do you think there's a risk of another Great Depression?

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, that is the road that America may find itself on. Not necessarily this, as it's been proposed, has to pass or we're going to find ourselves in another Great Depression. But, there has got to be action taken, bipartisan effort, Congress not pointing fingers at this point at one another, but finding the solution to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Let's bring in Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, former communications director on the campaign of John Edwards.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. Nine days ago, "the fundamentals of our economy were strong." This afternoon, the McCain campaign is starting to talk about a depression by Monday. Is that not the kind of irresponsible statement known to insight-what's the word I'm looking for-panic?

KOFINIS: You know, it's basically whiplash messaging. I mean, for a campaign to basically have a 180-degree turn in its messaging in such a short amount of time, really has to, you have to start questioning the stability of this campaign.

I mean, the big problem I have with this change of tone is, to go from "the economy as fundamentally sound" to now "we need to suspend the debates and go to Washington to deal with this," you know, it really raises doubts and questions about this so-called "putting the country first."

You know, you could have easily said what John McCain said today-last week, it wasn't crisis last week. It's not about putting the country first, it seems about putting the campaign first. That's the problem I have with this, you know, little conversion he's having today, in trying to make it seemed like he is doing the right thing.

OLBERMANN: Well, it's also, it's-what do these two things have to do with each other? If he said, "Well, look, to avert any further crisis, we need to all take our shoes off," it would have made just as much sense as we're going to have to postpone the debate.

All right, another point. Governor Palin told Katie Couric it's not necessarily a question of the bailout having to pass, as it's currently on the books or we're going to find ourselves in a Great Depression. But then Senator McCain told to the same interviewer, he doesn't know if it would exactly be the depression. Are they not even between the presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate bothering to coordinate the talking points anymore?

KOFINIS: Well, you know, they're coordinating their appearances, and that's obviously help McCain. But they don't seem to be coordinating their talking points very well. I mean, the problem, I think, with Governor Palin is, every time you see her in one of these interviews-and she hasn't done many of them, I think this basically the second or third-you know, you just have more and more doubts about her ability to step in to this position, God forbid, you know, if McCain is the president, something happens to him, and that is, I think, a serious question that voters have.

And when you see her in these interviews, it doesn't calm fears, it raises them. And so, the notion that they can't even coordinate whether this is a crisis or not, again, just raises serious questions about where this campaign is going and how they think they're going to be able to lead this country. You cannot lead this country to a better place if you basically can't figure out on a day-to-day basis what you think about where the country is. It's just insanity.

OLBERMANN: By the way, there's more breaking news on this, Chris. The White House is now saying it has invited both senators, McCain and Obama, to attend a meeting tomorrow at the White House along with other congressional leaders to talk about this bill. So, we're now amping this up.

And the White House came out with a statement saying, it agreed with Senator McCain's wish to postpone this whole thing. But the idea of the postponement in particularly, Congressman Frank, the chairman of the financial services committee, today said this gambit by McCain is, quote, "was the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys."

It's the fear card and the lowest percentage play in the sport of football. Again, is McCain-is there a realization in that campaign, do you suppose, that they've staked the entire chance of becoming president on something this bizarre and try to do two of them in a period of about a month?

KOFINIS: You know, these gimmicks have a way of blowing up in your face. I mean, what the McCain campaign may have done today is played Russian roulette and they just loaded the sixth bullet. And I don't understand why they think this thing is going to keep on working.

The problem is that consistency is important thing in the message. And what I think you saw from Senator Obama today was a very even-handed, calm approach to a very serious crisis. Instead, what you're seeing from Senator McCain is this kind of schizophrenic messaging that from day-to-day changes-that doesn't calm fears, that insights fears and panic.

And so in terms of Hail Marys, yes, it is a big Hail Mary. And, I think, the challenge now for the Obama campaign is the spin war that's going to follow this over the next couple of days, because you know the McCain campaign is going to go out there and say over and over again, this is another example of John McCain putting the country first. It isn't. It's about him putting the campaign first.

OLBERMANN: Yes. And by, just added to that, Ben Smith of Politico.com got a hold of the actual memo from the McCain campaign to its surrogates to talk about suspending the campaigns. So, it's political talking points about putting the economic crisis into politics. So, that just-that wraps it up.

Chris Kofinis, former communications director with the Edwards campaign. Thank you, Chris, as always.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The McCain play certainly did change the political discussion on at least two fronts, disastrous poll numbers, Obama plus nine in the "Washington Post" Survey, and even more and more straight line connections between the McCain's campaign manager and the effort by the failed mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, to avoid government regulation and maintained access to John McCain. That campaign manager is getting his own kind of financial bailout tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: McCain's campaign manager supposedly long passed role as an employee of failed mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, turns out to be no more past than one month ago.

Videotape of Governor Palin's witch-hunting pastor praying that she be saved from witchcraft. Apparently, witchcraft is a bigger issue on this campaign than you and I knew.

And in Worst: Comedian Rush Limbaugh recycling the stuff of fill-in hosts.

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The White House in a moment and more on the breaking news that the president has invited both senators, McCain and Obama, to a congressional group meeting tomorrow at the White House to which we're now advised Senator Obama has just agreed. More details on that from the White House lawn in just a minute.

First, these last 10 days, may be noted as the time Senator McCain stopped running against Senator Obama and started running, instead, against freedom of the press and the First Amendment, and maybe reality. The "New York Times" revealed today that McCain's campaign manager did not stop receiving payments of $15,000 a month from the failed mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, years ago, as McCain had claimed, but only last month. The campaign responded with the wrath of a thwarted child.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Cries of media bias amid evidence of a link between Rick Davis and the lobbying effort. Senator McCain in an interview with our colleague, CNBC's John Harwood, all but defied reporters who investigate that relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: My campaign manager has stopped that, has had nothing to do with it since, and I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: That was on Sunday. On Monday, the "New York Times" looked at it, reported that from 2000 until the end of 2005, Rick Davis received nearly $2 million for heading up an advocacy coalition to lobby on behalf of Fannie and Freddie. The McCain response to that, calling the newspaper "150 percent in the tank for Senator Obama."

Today, the "New York Times" reported that the payments to Davis' firm, continued until last month. But though Davis himself was on leave from that company, he still held an equity stake in it and it still bears his name.

In response, the McCain camp grew more petulance still. "This report from the "New York Times" must be evaluated in the context of its intent and purpose. It is a partisan attack, falsely labeled as objective news and its most serious allegations are based on entirely on the claims of anonymous sources, a familiar yet regretful tactic for the paper."

Six anonymous sources including one Republican.

Meanwhile, Mr. Davis fell off the radar today, quietly canceling a reporters' luncheon sponsored by the "Christian Science Monitor."

The aforementioned John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent, also, a political reporter with the "New York Times." And he joins us live from the north lawn at the White House.

John, good evening.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I'll ask you about the president and the two senators in this meeting tomorrow in a moment. But first, about what we heard from the campaign and the "Times" report and McCain today-is there another interpretation of this other than that Senator McCain looked you right in the eye and did not tell you the truth about the Rick Davis' ties to these failed mortgage giants?

HARWOOD: I don't think there is, Keith. The question is: What did Rick Davis tell John McCain. Some within the McCain campaign are wondering about that. You know, did-was there something unclear in their communication about this before John McCain went out and said that to me or was it something else? That's really the relevant question.

OLBERMANN: Freddie Mac's interest in Rick Davis was described by one of its former officials very simply as access to Senator McCain. Is that a definition of influence peddling, or does it need to be lowered?

HARWOOD: No. I think that's exactly what it is. When people hire operatives who are close to particular politicians, one of the reasons they can do that is that they can talk to them-and access, influence, whatever you want to call it, that's-there's a whole lot of that going on in Washington, and this would seem to fall into that pattern.

OLBERMANN: The breaking news that we keep mentioning, this invitation from President Bush to Senator McCain, to Senator Obama, for a meeting with congressional leaders tomorrow at the White House, which Obama has accepted and which Democrats have pointed out it seems to be odd that the president only called for this meeting after Senator McCain had called for the suspension of his own campaign and the postponement of the debate, that it seems awfully like the president is trying to backstop McCain and gain credit for himself and the senator in the resolution of this.

Is the resolution of this problem still as imminent as it seemed today? And is there, in fact, a bandwagon effect going on here?

HARWOOD: I do think so, Keith. And, you know, Barney Frank earlier this evening was saying, we're getting closer.

In fact, he was saying, "We don't really need John McCain and Barack Obama to come back and get involved in this." But, be that as it may, people who are looking for a solution to this crisis that's clogged up the credit markets have a lot to be happy about tonight, which is, there now seems to be a bit of a competition going on between the two leading presidential candidates to push this thing forward.

And I think the odds are that in the next 24 to 48 hours, we're going to have the outlines of a deal. And I suspect, Keith, that will happen in time for that debate to go forward on Friday night. John McCain's aides are saying he may not show up in Mississippi. I'd be surprised if that happens because the debate commission says it's going forward and Barack Obama is going to show up.

OLBERMANN: Yes, the only other option, perhaps, is senators, Obama and Biden, to debate each other. I doubt we're going to see that.

HARWOOD: Nice.

OLBERMANN: The attacks on the media, I can't let this go without addressing this with you because you have fallen here into this great maw that the rest of us have already been in. It's NBC, it's MSNBC, it's CNBC, it's the "New York Times," it's "Newsweek." At what point does this-and we know it's intended to resonate with the base-but at what point does it stop resonating with the base as much as it sounds like paranoia to everybody who is not the base?

HARWOOD: Well, first of all, I'm the one starting to get paranoid because I work for both in "New York Times" and CNBC.

OLBERMANN: You have two for right there.

HARWOOD: Yes, exactly. Look-I think this is part strategy and part frustration on the campaign. They know that things have not been going well for them in the last week. This economic crisis is helping Barack Obama a lot.

And so, you see John McCain searching out for different tactics. The suspension of his campaign today could be seen in that light. So I think, you know, Steve Schmidt and the rest of the campaign, they're trying very hard to win this thing. They know it's a pretty tough road to hoe for them and, I think, the rest of the country is going to sort of process it in that light.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood of the "New York Times" and CNBC.

Fortunately, he doesn't do any work for "Newsweek," many thanks, John.

HARWOOD: You bet.

OLBERMANN: Meantime, the crisis on the nation's catwalks continues.

And another model is down, down.

And this is why they don't let her do interviews. Now, Governor Palin answers Katie Couric's questions with, quote, "I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you." McCain and the Membrane: ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: McCain in the membrane in a moment. First, on this date 33 years ago, a day after fictional news caster Howard Beal fictionally announced he had been fired from the UBS evening news for low ratings, and thus, he would kill himself on the air, Beal went back on to ostensibly apologized. Instead, he fictionally said, I'll tell you what happened. I ran out of-he then used the abbreviated as B.S. six times on fictional network television. And his ratings then doubled and tripled.

Yes, I've thought about it. Simply saying, you know, such-and-such political figure is full of bull --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: We begin with the 2008 edition of Oddball's fall fashion line, the runway show that has nothing to do with autumn clothing and instead everything to do with clumsiness and gravity and high heels. This seasons entry comes to us from Milan where the Prada line debuted yesterday, and where high fashion, high heels and a rickety floor made for some bad walking.

And gown goes Prada. Luckily, the model righted herself and continued the show. At least they had the good sense not to put her on a horse. See you later, Lady Godiva. They were both OK.

There's a small problem with the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. My souffle is falling. This used to be the home of the Indianapolis Colts. This was the first step to leveling the place, deflation of the roof. This morning, they shut off the big fans holding the big white plastic baggie in place. This is obviously time lapsed video, condensing what took a half an hour into a couple of seconds. Pretty cool. What's better is watching this video set to childish sound effects.

Go Colts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: More on the poll numbers, and if they are not the real reason McCain wants out of Friday's debate. And Pastor Muthee is back. Sarah Palin's hands on minister who started out by slandering a Kenyan woman as a witch on videotape, praying with the governor that she not be victimized by any kind of witchcraft. That's ahead, but first our newest feature, the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of Republican presidential nominee John McCain, McCain in the membrane.

The vice presidential nominee tonight also went with Katie instead of Dave. And she reinforced the feeling that the campaign would do anything to get out of the vice presidential debate. From the exchange between the governor and the anchor, Miss Couric asked, you have said, quote, "McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business. Other than supporting stricter regulations at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more examples of his leading the charge for more oversight?"

Governor Palin responded that the example she just cited was paramount. Miss Couric tried again, pointed out that in 26 years in the House and Senate, McCain has almost always sided with less regulation not more. Governor Palin responded by calling Senator McCain a maverick.

Then Miss Couric finally said, "I'm going to ask you one more time. Not to belabor the point, specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?" Governor Palin's reply in full, quote, "I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you."

So the vice presidential candidate needs to find you some and bring them to you. And just one example of something Senator McCain has done to regulate the economy in the last 26 years. And the presidential candidate himself needs to get back to us with the correct answer to the question how many houses do you own. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the rebirth of not ready for prime time players.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: That which touched off this entire day of sturm und drang in the presidential race is finally out. Senator Obama suggested to Senator McCain this morning that they issue some sort of joint statement about the economic crisis. Then Senator McCain came back and announced that he wanted to suspend his campaign and postpone Friday's presidential debate. And now finally, 12 hours after the Obama suggestion, the joint statement is out. And not only is the joint statement out, but the joint statement has a postscript made by only one of the senators.

That's not a joint statement anymore, but here it is in full. "The joint statement of Senators Obama and McCain issued tonight: the American people are facing a moment of economic crisis. No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy. The job savings and prosperity of the American people are at stake."

They continue, "Now is the time to come together, Democrats and Republicans, in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people. The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail. This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country."

And then, speaking for himself, Senator Obama outlined the following principles he calls on Senator McCain to support. "I believe," says Obama, "that several core principles should guide this legislation. First, there must be oversight. We should not hand over a blank check to discretion of one man. We support an independent, bipartisan board to ensure accountability and complete transparency." That would be about section, and the non-renewability of Secretary Paulson's decisions.

Second, to continue, "we need to protect tax payers. There should be a path for tax payers to recover their money and to turn a profit if Wall Street prospers."

Third, Obama suggests, "no Wall Street executive should profit from tax payer dollars. This plan cannot be a welfare program for CEOs, whose greed and irresponsibility has contributed to this crisis."

Fourth-he has five points-"we must help families who are struggling to stay in their homes. We account not bail out Wall Street without helping millions of families facing foreclose on main street.

Fifth, Obama says, "we both agree that this financial rescue package should move on its own without any earmarks or other measures. We have different views about the need for other action, but this must be a clean bill. This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country." Obama repeats, "we cannot risk an economic catastrophe. This is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. This is an American problem. Now, we must find an American solution."

Let's turn now to Chris Cillizza, who writes "The Fix" for WashingtonPost.com. Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Good evening, Keith. What a day.

OLBERMANN: I was going to say, only in this campaign could a joint statement have half of it written only by one of the signees. Correct?

CILLIZZA: It's like a joint statement and a half.

OLBERMANN: Yes. What do we make of that? And of this late news about the meeting tomorrow at the White House, which seems to be a credit grab, no pun intended?

CILLIZZA: Anyone who thinks that anything that happens, frankly, Keith, 41 days before an election does not have something political to do with it doesn't know a lot about politics. There's clearly a lot of political positioning here, even about who called whom, what the agreement was between Barack Obama and John McCain, or whether there was you an agreement. As you said, we finally get the much talked about joint statement after we've seen about three acts of this play already happen.

So this is larded with politics, I think, frankly, on both sides. Both candidates trying to position themselves, certainly John McCain trying to position himself as a forceful leader willing to step into a crisis to do something on an issue where the American public, frankly, if you believe polling, trusts Barack Obama more right now.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned the polling. That was the original intention of our conversation tonight. Let met just run some of these numbers. The NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll was completed before McCain made his announcement, wasn't announced until afterwards. Obama 48-46. This looks like the outlier here, because there's a Fox News poll, Obama 45-42, or up from 42, McCain to 39. It's 45-39, six points. The Hotline Daily Tracking poll is also about six points. The ABC/"Washington Post" poll is 52-43, which is nine points.

And after that, Kelly O'Donnell spoke, our Kelly O'Donnell spoke with some advisers of the McCain campaign who insisted that the suspension of the campaign, the move to postpone this debate had nothing to do sliding poll numbers. They insisted it's an even race. And they criticized the "Washington Post" poll. Do you have any idea what basis they criticize your paper's poll?

CILLIZZA: Yes, Keith. I was on the call. They held a conference call this morning saying essentially that our poll was an outlier. What they pointed to is that a number of polls have been taken. This is true. At this time of year, there are a lot of national polls. There are a lot of state polls. There are a lot of polls generally. Most of the polling had not shown it a nine-point deficit.

Now, again, I would caution anyone-I think I know our pollsters personally. I think they do quite a good job. I would defend them to the end. I would caution, of course, any one poll is meant to be a snapshot in time. Any one poll, no matter whether it shows that the candidate you prefer is up by ten or down by ten, should not be taken as the god's honest truth. It is usually somewhere in the aggregate of all of this polling.

My sense, Barack Obama is probably up two, three, four, five points right now nationally. Maybe he's up as many as nine. Maybe he's up less than that. But no one poll is going to give us a definitive answer until we get to November 4th. So I think quibbling about whether one poll is right or not-I don't think we'd say our poll is the factual, there's no other polling out there. There's plenty of other stuff out there and we need to stake all of that in and think about it contextually.

OLBERMANN: Right. You have nine, six, six, and two in the four most recent.

CILLIZZA: Right. Add them up, divide them by four and what you get is probably close to right.

OLBERMANN: And then work in the Intrade betting point spread, which is now 11.5 points. One other question about polling: does any polling in here suggest in any way that the economic crisis, however it's resolved, can work to McCain's advantage and not to Obama's?

CILLIZZA: I don't know whether it suggests that, depending on how it is resolved. If John is seen as the guy who comes in and saves this bill, that could have some sort of impact. I can tell you, going it into, Keith, Barack Obama, both from the "Washington Post" poll and in almost all of the other data I've seen, most people trust him more on the economy, believe he is the one who can solve this financial crisis. John McCain has to make that gap up given how important the economy is going to be in this election.

OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza, author of "The Fix" at WashingtonPost.com, helping us with more of the breaking news tonight. Thank you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: An old problem with a new dimension. Sarah Palin's witch hunting pastor, there's now videotape of him laying hands on her in hopes of keeping her safe from witchcraft. What has gone wrong with comedian Rush Limbaugh? Using three month old disproved talking points left over from Monica Crowley? Rush's personal bailout crisis in worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Remember governor panel's pastor problem, witch hunter? Tonight, there's a videotape. That's ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Captain Scott Oltman (ph) and First Officer Dylan Chefly (ph) of Go Airlines in Hawaii; 44 minutes into their 45 minute flight, air traffic control realized neither pilot was responding to control signals, so they yelled really loudly. That's when the captain and the first officer woke up. They had fallen asleep. They had flown right past the airport at Helo. Oltman was later diagnosed with a form of sleep apnea. They don't know what Chefly's problem was, falling asleep during a 45 minute flight. They brought the plane down safely. Go Airlines has not been punished, because each pilot had had the required 15 hours between flights. Plus Go fired both of them. The FAA suspended Oltman's license for 60 days, Chefly's for 45.

The runner up, Mark Salter, the top McCain campaign aide. With the Obama campaign and the media rightly pointing out McCain's troubling ties to lobbyists, like campaign manager Rick Davis, Salter said his campaign now felt entitled to invoke anybody in Obama's past. In fact, Mr. Salter told the "Wall Street Journal" that the McCain camp was tired of, quote, catching the spears.

Given that after the lipstick on a pig nonsense, the McCain false outrage threat level was ranged to orange. Mark Salter would probably want to stay away from phrases evocative of the phrase spearchucker, a popular insulting epithet for African-Americans in the '50s and '60s.

But our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh. What a slump he's in, reusing old and long since disproved material about Obama. Quoting, "you know, he's not one shred of African-American blood. He's Arab. You know he's from Africa. He's from Arab parts of Africa. He's not African-American. The last thing they use is African-American."

Yes, except his father was from Kenya, which is not an Arab country, but an African one. Just as important, comedian Rush Limbaugh now reduced to using left over stuff from Monica Crowley when she was guest hosting Laura Ingraham's show. Rush, is something wrong? We need you over here. You're one of the best weapons progressive have ever had. We need you to be at your best down the stretch. Seriously, get a checkup or get a roll of stamps and mail it in. Comedian Rush Limbaugh, now cribbing from Monica Crowley's outtakes, today's worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: As if the McCain/Palin campaign were not desperate enough today, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, a trifecta for the governor, officially stone walling on Trooper-gate on the same day that a video resurfaces of her witch obsessed pastor laying hands on her three years ago. On that persistent issue of foreign policy experience, Governor Palin does not have it. So says the first lady, Laura Bush.

Trooper-gate first. Governor Palin, through her representatives, attempting something of a bait and switch. Spokeswoman Meg Stapleton and Palin's lawyers claiming that the governor has agreed to, quote, general parameter of immediate cooperation. But it is cooperation with an investigation that Palin had requested from the Alaska Personnel Board, about the time she was announced as the running mate. She's not cooperated with the official investigation, already underway by the Alaska State Legislature.

Spokeswoman Stapleton claims that the lawyer running the Palin approved investigation, quote, has asked to keep things confidential. So we will respect those wishes. Translation, the investigation Governor Palin asked for, the one she likes, has asked her not to talk to the media.

Meantime, the first lady was asked by CNN if she thought Palin had sufficient foreign policy experience. Mrs. Bush said, quote, "of course she doesn't have that." Quickly adding though, you know, "that's not been her role, but I think she's a very quick study."

Then there's the evangelical pastor so closely tied to the governor that she gives him partial credit for making her governor of Alaska. Pastor Thomas Muthee, if you will recall, founded his church in 1989 after he went on a witch hunt in Kiyambu (ph), Kenya, literally. Blaming car accidents on a local woman, branding her a witch, threatening her with bodily and running her out of town. No metaphors, just witch hunt.

Now in video that has resurfaced, Pastor Muthee is seen praying over then Mayor Sarah Palin at Palin's church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, May of 2005. She would have already been ex-mayor. The pastor's preoccupation with witches is still very much present.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are asking you as the body of Chris in this valley, make a way for Sarah even in the political arena. May a way my God. Bring finances her way, even for the campaign in the name Jesus. Above all, give her the personnel. Give her men and women and that will buck her up in the name of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, every form of witchcraft is what we rebuke in the name of Jesus. Father make a way now, in Jesus' name. Amen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated column of the "Chicago Tribune," Clarence Page. Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.

CLARENCE PAGE, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Thank you, Keith. Quite a day.

OLBERMANN: Let's start right there. I know this is not the headline of the day, but there's literally no space in that videotape between the governor and the pastor and he's still talking about witches. What does that videotape do for or to her?

PAGE: Well, it certainly gives us a different view of Sarah Palin than the hockey mom that we've known in the past. It's a-maybe-this may be a campaign advantage. She could bring a witch hunter to Washington with her, and maybe chase out some demons from Capitol Hill. But it's something that it's quite remarkable to me that this hasn't gotten more attention, even with the financial meltdown and other news that's going on.

OLBERMANN: If you had a story with videotape of a pastor from Kenya who got his start in witch hunting, laying his hands on a candidate and the candidate's last name was, just to pick one out at random, Obama, what would be happening right now?

PAGE: Well, I could imagine your buddy Rush Limbaugh would be talking a lot about it, not to mention a lot of other people. You know, Keith, I've covered Senator Obama for years here, and also Pastor Wright, Reverend Wright has been a major figure in Chicago religious circles, the kind of church that politicians stop by. Only after Senator Obama ran for national office do we see, what, 30 seconds of video from Reverend Wright all over the news, giving us the impression of a fire brand and the image of Obama as some kind of black nationalist or something. We don't see any of that with Sarah Palin. It's really quite remarkable to me.

OLBERMANN: That's my point here. This is stuff that makes you say, you know, that Jeremiah Wright, he seems pretty mainstream by comparison to people who are going out on anti-witch crusades. Is this, do you suppose, registering, impacting Governor Palin's candidacy?

PAGE: Right now, I think nation is in a strange denial with regard to Governor Palin. She's introduced to the public 60 days before the election and people are trying to absorb this and that about her. But, you know, this is the kind of thing that I think worries some folks in Republican circles, wondering what more are we going to see. You know, Pastor Muthee, witch hunting-I've been to Kenya. I've covered a number of countries in Africa. This kind of think has a terrible reputation. A lot of innocent women have been killed, mutilated on these witch hunts. The more you look into this, the more unseemly it looks.

OLBERMANN: We moved on from this in Salem, Massachusetts 320 years ago. There was a reason for that. Let me end with the other, more politically substantive story of the day. Trooper-gate and this newest wall they've built around her and this investigation she's cooperating with, as opposed to the one she's not cooperating with. It's the same question I keep asking each time this thing escalates. From a political point of view, why do they make it look like not only that she has something to hide, but that each week she has more to hide than the weak before?

PAGE: Well, there's a reflex to the McCain campaign. Before-that came along before Sarah Palin became a vice presidential candidate. She was calling for transparency and was cooperating with investigations in her state, the legislature, the bipartisan panel that was looking into this trooper-gate story. As soon as the McCain folks came along, everything clamped up. Her husband refused to respond to a subpoena. She now wants the personnel board covered. The personnel board was appointed by her, not exactly the kind of transparency she bragged about or that John McCain brags about.

OLBERMANN: I'm waiting for a tape of Pastor Muthee coming up claiming that it's time to rid her of all these investigations. That would be the next step.

PAGE: Who knows. We still have 40 days.

OLBERMANN: Indeed we do. Clarence Page, the nationally syndicated columnist of the "Chicago Tribune," as always, sir, great thanks for your time.

PAGE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,974th 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

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