updated 10/14/2008 2:15:49 PM ET 2008-10-14T18:15:49

Guest: Chris Hayes, Chris Kofinis, Wayne Barrett, Richard Lewis

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

The big McCain campaign restarts again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, we've got them just where we want them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Wherever that is, it ain't where the Republicans want him. Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich rip McCain. Conservative William Kristol insists McCain fire his entire campaign staff.

Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama, calls Palin, quote, "a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly and unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience."

And lie to herself, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And thankfully, the truth was rebuild there in that report that showed that there is no unlawful nor unethical activity on my part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Except-for that part in that report that quote, "her conduct violated a AS 29.52.110 (a) of the Ethics Act" and that "Governor Sarah Palin abused her power, compliance with the code of ethics is not optional."

It gets worse. Investigative journalist, Wayne Barrett now asks, "Did the contractors who built Wasilla's sports complex help build Palin's house for free?" He will join us.

Well, at least the public is still behind her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Flyers' fans, please welcome, the best-known hockey mom in the United States. (INAUDIBLE)

(CROWD BOOING)

ANNOUNCER: Sarah Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And the Democrat today, calmest guy in the room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent has made his choice.

(CROWD BOOING)

OBAMA: Last-now, we don't need that. Last week-we just need to vote. That's what we need to do.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Worsts, at a McCain rally, an Iowa pastor actually says his lord has to defeat Obama because millions around the world are praying to Hindu, Buddha, and Allah for Obama to win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD CONRAD, PASTOR: Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation because they are going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: My god can beat up your god?

And on that note, our special guest, Richard Lewis. Has John McCain gone from "old man yells at cloud" to Gollum? Must have the precious.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera): Good evening, please bear with the voice. This is Monday, October 13th, 22 days until the 2008 presidential election.

In terms of substance among the milestones of this campaign, Governor Palin's speech at Richmond, Virginia this afternoon was not much. In terms of symbolism, it may turn out to be everything.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Republican vice presidential candidate inadvertently lashing out at her own very supporters who were encouraging her to speak louder. At the campaign rally in Richmond, the governor mistaking shouts of louder from supporters in the back who could not hear her, other supporters perhaps assuming the onslaught from those who were not like us have finally beset the governor trying to drown out the shouts with cheers of "Sarah, Sarah."

The governor interrupting her prepared remarks apparently to admonish her own crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Those Americans are struggling under the weight of the wrong mortgage.

(CROWD CHANTING)

PALIN: I would hope at least that those protestors have the courage and the honor of thanking our veterans for giving them the right to protest.

(CROWD YELLING)

TODD PALIN, SARAH PALIN'S HUSBAND: They just can't hear you back there. That's why they're yelling louder.

S. PALIN: OK. I'll do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Those weren't protestors; those are your own supporters.

Governor Palin choosing to pretty much ignored the protest of the crowd in Philadelphia, though, on Saturday when the self-named "hockey mom" stepped out on the ice to drop the ceremonial first puck for the Flyers home opener.

She thought putting her seven-year-old daughter, Piper, in a Flyer's jersey is going to be enough to prevent booing. She apparently did not consult with former Philly's catcher Bob Uecker, who claimed that one Easter Sunday, when the players staged an egg-hunt for their own children, the fans booed the kids who did not find any eggs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: They went to an anti-Palin rally and a hockey game broke out.

And we haven't even discussed the polls yet. "Washington Post," Obama by 10 among likely voters. More voters now trusting Obama to handle the, quote, "unexpected major crisis, an unexpected unnamed major crisis, not just the economy, 48-45. Senator Obama is also now seen as the safer choice for president-safer.

In the "Newsweek" survey, the Democrat leading by 11 among registered voters. But don't worry, Senator McCain claiming he's got his opponent and the media, if not the electorate, necessarily, right where he wants them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We have 22 days to go. We're six points down. The national media has written us off.

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN: They forget to let you decide.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

MCCAIN: My friends, we've got them just where we want them.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, meanwhile, today, unveiling a new specifics of a new economic plans, something the McCain campaign having claimed over the weekend Senator McCain would do today then did not, it now claims the Republican might do that tomorrow.

At a rally in Toledo, the Democratic nominee with his own strategy on how to deal with the booing of the other candidate by his crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My opponent has made his choice.

(CROWD BOOING)

OBAMA: Last-now, we don't need that. Last week-we just need to vote. That's what we need to do.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Time to call in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN: Based especially on what Governor Palin ran into in Richmond today, it's hard to tell who is yelling for the Republican campaign these days, and who's yelling against them, isn't it?

WOLFFE: Yes. You know, when things go wrong, they tend to go very, very wrong. And the problem isn't just one of setting, although you got to ask why the campaign would put any candidate at a sporting event at this stage. But, you know, with these crowds, the candidate should, at least, be aware of the kinds of sound problems and everything else that's moving, given the ugly spirit we saw last week.

And look-you got to look at the kind of reactions they are getting and wonder what kind of response there is inside this campaign. You know, when you hear Bill Kristol, fire the campaign, it tends to have an affect of hydrochloric acid right in the campaign headquarters.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, campaign headquarters responded by saying, he is clearly buying the Obama message. Bill Kristol is in the tank for Senator Obama.

WOLFFE: In the tank, along with the rest of the media.

OLBERMANN: Well, all right. Senator McCain, meanwhile, the actual message they were trying to get out was that the whole of the media had written him off. That Obama's measuring the drapes. That he's got-that McCain's got them right where he wants them. Which segment of the electorate is that supposed to convince? Who does that speak to other than the base?

WOLFFE: Well, I don't know if it convinces the base because the base doesn't quite like seeing Obama 10 or 11 points ahead. The problem here, there's nothing wrong with having he fighting spirit. In fact, I actually thought the general message; the theme of it is just fine.

The question is: Who are you fighting against? And that was never elaborated in the speech. It hasn't been elaborated in the campaign.

If they are trying to echo Hillary Clinton from earlier on in the year, you are arguing, you're fighting against the system; you're fighting against the economic malaise. But right now, it seems that voters aren't interested in thrashing around and fighting. They want stability because it's the volatility that's unsettling, it's not the sort of-it's the doldrums period. There's too much going on.

OLBERMANN: And to that point of volatility, we heard all weekend, Senator McCain would be unveiling a new economic plan today, he didn't. Now, the last word is, he's probably going to do one tomorrow. Is that indicative of how volatile the McCain campaign itself has become?

WOLFFE: Well, remember, this is a campaign driven by message first, if not country first. And what you are seeing here is, at very least, the lack of message discipline. You don't put out Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the candidate's closest friends, to tease this economic policy and roll out, and then pulled back. I understand, today, they said there will be a town hall meeting, and then took no questions.

So, you know, when something goes wrong, everything tends to go wrong, when you are 10 points behind, which is, of course, just where they want to be, according to the candidate.

OLBERMANN: Yes, just speak louder.

Last point here. These polls that Obama is now seen as better able to handle an unexpected major crisis in the "Washington Post," safer choice for president than McCain. Could we be moving into a phase where Obama is seen not just stronger on the economy but on everything else, too? Is he in a terrible irony wound up as the proverbial "3:00 a.m. phone call" candidate?

WOLFFE: Well, I think that's what this whole test is about. I don't think people have been evaluating the various war and policy proposals or, in fact, Obama's speech, he did give some economic details today. It's about how people react in a crisis, and the leadership that they think that brings.

Now, of course, a trip up by Obama in these last couple of weeks could overhaul that idea and it would have to be, I think, self-inflicted at this stage. But voters are looking at how they respond in what they've seen as something that is closer to be the mood, which is a sort of sea of calm when everything else seems like it's in turmoil.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as always, Richard, great thanks for your time tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: As noted on this program, Friday night seemed to mark a fascinating turning point for the supposed new McCain campaign as the senator himself repeatedly broke ranks with his own supporters at rally as they attacked Obama as the scary Arab, even taking the microphone away from one woman telling her, no, Obama was not Arab, he was decent. Decent as the opposite of Arab, of course, still a racist however well-intentioned defense.

In any case, if you missed that turning point this weekend, too late, it's over. McCain classic is back. Today, his supporters probably and with no apparent rebuke from their fellows or McCain brandished signs tying Obama to Osama bin Laden. As well as a curious George doll, which we saw over the weekend, a monkey intended to represent Obama himself. The monkey is the doll, not the guy in glasses.

In fact, less than 48 hours after McCain's apparent change of heart, "Time" magazine reported inflammatory remarks not from what McCain's own campaign has called "random nuts" at their rallies, but from the GOP chairman of a swing state. And when McCain was asked about it, yesterday, just minutes after calling on Obama to repudiate things his supporters say, Senator McCain not only failed to repudiate it, he amplified it.

Here is the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WSLS.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: The chair in Virginia said, in "Time" magazine, both Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden have friends that had bombed the Pentagon. That is scary. Is that appropriate for a state party chair to be saying?

MCCAIN: I'd have to look at the context of these remarks. I repudiated any comments that have been made that were inappropriate about Senator Obama. But, the fact is, William Ayers was a terrorist, and a bomber, and unrepentant. And I don't care about that.

But Senator Obama ought to be candid and truthful about his relationship with Mr. Ayers in whose living room he launched his political campaign. And Senator Obama said he was just a guy in the neighborhood, it was a lot more than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: On that note, let's turn to Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What-I'm not going to ask you to try to pin you down on where the McCain campaign stands about slandering Obama and using supposed domestic terrorist or whatever because there's no way to track it. It's 12 minutes past the hour; it could change again before quarter past.

But what was the implication to Obama in that statement and how could John McCain after it claimed he is not just as down in the dirt as anybody else's campaign?

HAYES: Look, having it both ways has been the M.O. of the campaign from day one, right? I mean, the vision, the strategic vision from the beginning was a kind of "good cop, bad cop" routine. John McCain was going to be the outstanding, honor-bound maverick that everyone loves, who have this tremendous integrity and all the mock was going to be outsourced.

Well, that didn't work so well. And so, he started getting a more-kind of bad cop, worse cop routine with Sarah Palin saying truly vile stuff. And then, some 527 floating around saying really, really vile stuff. And now, the whole kind of strategic vision has collapsed and there's just this kind of general cesspool that you can't really make much out of one way or the other, except to say that it's gross.

OLBERMANN: Why does McCain not have the stones to come out and just say explicitly what he believes the Ayers stuff says about Obama? Why is he-this dance around even when he invokes Ayers' name himself, why that dance around the central point? Why not come out and do a Barry Goldwater -- say what it is you think?

HAYES: Yes, that's a good question. It's a question the Obama campaign has asked. I mean, I have no idea what's going through John McCain's mind. It seems to me and this is, you know, armchair psychoanalyzing, but it's moral vanity at certain point, right? I mean, he wants to reap the benefits of this very dark, gothic, backlash politics that he's been kind of stoking on this lie but he doesn't want to pay the cost to his reputation as John McCain the stand-up guy. He wants it both ways.

So, the way that he's trying to square that circle right now, is to sort of wink and nudge and let people around him say these things and bring it up in this way and then say, I don't care about Bill Ayers when, in fact, he is stoking it and he doesn't have the guts, as you say, to bring it up in person because he doesn't want to pay that cost in reputation.

OLBERMANN: And the irony is, he's probably getting more criticism on this particular point from the far right than he would be from you, or from me, or from anybody in the middle, or anybody on the left. What message does it send to his own supporters if McCain again comes out on that stage Wednesday, shakes, you know, shakes the terrorist sympathizer's hand and engages in an hour and a half civil discord with him rather than trying to make, you know, citizen's arrest? I mean, they pulled (ph) him for doing that last week, I think that would have been the shark jump point.

HAYES: I agree. The problem is this entire line of reasoning and attack, that goes around and intimates (ph) these very dark, and erroneous, and specious things about Obama. It's really playing with fire.

And it's not something that once you unleash, you can control. I mean, we saw that in some ways in the back-and-forth with the crowd last week in which you have a guy snapping at campaign, the candidate, let me finish, because they are so worked up. And we saw, you know, the backlash towards him from the right that he wasn't tougher on Obama and the campaign.

I think what he does for the sort of regional part of the electorate is that to the degree to which McCain won't say it to his face in the debate. It really says, look, there really is nothing here, because if there were and if the concerns were genuine, then he would step up and say it.

OLBERMANN: What does it say that that woman he took the microphone out of her hands, was interviewed afterwards and said she still believes that Obama was an Arab, as if, by the way, that term meant, you know, he was a mortal threat to her?

HAYES: Look, this is a really crazy moment in American history for a lot of reasons. We're likely going to elect the first black president, a guy named Barack Obama. We are undergoing tremendous financial strain.

There's a certain portion of the electorate, of American citizens who find the specter of Obama candidacy whether for outright racism, whether for nativism, whether for all sorts of other reasons, profoundly terrifying to their identity as Americans. And we're seeing that come out.

OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation."

Thanks, as always, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: News today, has a prominent political columnist called for McCain to fire his campaign. Thus, over the weekend, that a prominent swing state governor refused to attend a McCain campaign event. But these men were neither Democrats nor liberals, they were conservative flak, William Kristol and Florida's Republican governor, and if they are any measure, John McCain is in his own party, up the creek.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCCAIN: A Republican governor in a make or break state bails out of the McCain event, says he'll campaign for the senator when he has time. The top McCain mouthpiece in the established media calls on the senator to fire his entire campaign. GOP: "grand old panic."

Later on Worsts: Giving the invocation of the McCain event, an Iowa pastor demands his god beat up the other gods and defeat Obama. Plus, Richard Lewis is still ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: It's one thing for a conservative pundit like William Kristol to write that John McCain needs to fire his entire campaign team, or Christopher Hitchens to write that Sarah Palin is "a disgrace and unscrupulous."

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: What does it mean when the Republican governor of Florida decides he is too busy to help the GOP nominee get in the White House?

Charlie Crist now saying, when it comes to getting McCain elected, quote, "When I have time to help, I'll try to do that. What is he so busy with? On Saturday, the governor cancelled plans to go to a McCain football base rally to instead go to Disneyworld.

Earlier, it was former presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor, Tommy Thompson, when asked if he is happy with the campaign, putting it bluntly, "No. I don't know who is."

Then there's the presumably unsolicited public advice for the nominee from the likes of Newt Gingrich, "He has to make the case that he's different than Bush and better than Obama on the economy."

Then McCain's own surrogate, Mitt Romney, declaring that McCain has yet to "establish an economic vision that is able to convince the American people that he really knows how to strengthen the economy."

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

Chris, thanks for your time tonight.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let me start with Governor Crist. Here's the man who was supposedly on McCain's V.P. short list. I would guess right now, he's on a different kind of McCain "S" list. What happened?

KOFINIS: I think McCain's campaign has the extinct of loser-dom. And I think what you're starting to see is the Republicans and other key surrogates are starting to run away from him. It happens in a lot of different campaigns and it's starting to happen to this campaign.

I mean, this is really a critical development particularly when talk about Governor Crist, who was one of his, you know, earliest and staunchest supporters. Somebody who helped him win Florida in the primaries. For him to run away from John McCain to choose Disneyland over a McCain event just speaks volumes.

And the problem this is going to have, it starts feeding these perceptions that there's no way that McCain can win which is going to affect turn out, not just for the McCain campaign but down ballot. So, this is a very serious dynamic of what was happening, when you start seeing senior Republicans start running away from the McCain campaign.

OLBERMANN: And to that point, here's William Kristol, he is the implacable flak in the "New York Times," not just the headline, obviously, a call for McCain to fire everybody on the campaign, but he insisted on total media accessibility to McCain and to Palin. He wrote about the failure of the McCain campaign's attacks on Obama and says, "So, drop them," to the point where a McCain spokesman went on "fixed news" this afternoon and said of Kristol, "You know, I think, unfortunately, he has bought into the Obama campaign's party lines."

This is madness.

KOFINIS: Yes, the McCain campaign really is in a tough spot right now. And when you have, you know, folks like Bill Kristol coming and basically saying that your entire campaign should be fired, again, it just shows you the depths this campaign has fallen.

But I'll tell you, I think, the other factor that's going on here, and I think this is really caused me alarm amongst Republican circles. I mean, people thought for a moment that, yes, Obama could win, it would be a close presidential race, but they didn't-you know, they weren't certain about Obama's coattails. And now, you're seeing Obama has real serious coattails in red states, in North Carolina, in Minnesota.

You're seeing, you know, states that were supposedly, you know, in the McCain camp like West Virginia, all of a sudden, starting to turn for Obama. And this has got them panicked. And, I think, what they are starting to do right now is basically feed on themselves.

The problem, I think, with Kristol's strategy is it misses one fundamental point. The voters aren't listening to John McCain. I don't think it's a question of message any longer, they tuned him out. And I think, we have seen that over the last two debates. I'm not sure firing the campaign would be an innovative event. I don't think that saves John McCain's campaign.

OLBERMANN: Well, I mean, the Milwaukee Brewers fired their manager with two weeks to go in the baseball season and they made it to playoffs. Maybe that's the idea. Maybe it's firing the vice presidential candidate.

What Christopher Hitchens wrote on Palin: "The only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience."

I mean, I knew as I said last month that it sounded crazy before the V.P. debate that they should have made an excuse and dropped her. But, today, her supporters are shouting, "We can't hear you." She assumed they were protesters, questioned their courage and their respect for veterans. She is a disaster.

I have to ask you this: Is she secretly working for your party?

KOFINIS: No. I can definitely say that without any equivocation. I mean, the reality here with Governor Palin, I mean, this has become a biblical plague on the McCain campaign since that first speech at the convention. It's been just a precipitous downhill, you know, one mistake after the other.

I mean, you have to really wonder, what were the McCain campaign strategists and advisers thinking when they chose her. It's clear to everyone, everyone-whether they're Republican or Democrat, you know, that she is not ready to be the vice president and definitely not a good surrogate or a good candidate. And I think that is really affecting the McCain campaign.

And so, in that sense, you know, it's good for the Democrats and not good for her and not good for John McCain.

OLBERMANN: I swear, if it turns out that she's working for you, guys, I'll never forgive you.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: Chris Kofinis, the former communications director of the Edwards campaign. Thank you Chris.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: You keep hearing about these uncommitted voters watching the debates on TV, well, if the shoe fits, shoe fits.

There we are. Just a spoonerism (ph) away from the story of Bill-O, the Clown. We did some research, he says about an Obama vote and then gets how Obama voted wrong.

Worsts Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Best Persons in a moment and a farewell to one of them. First, on this date in 1909, was born the political cartoonist, Herbert Lawrence Block, Herb Block. He carved them up left and right from 1933 to 2001, mostly for the "Washington Post." Among the first to recognize the significance of Watergate, and pre-dating even Murrow, it is pushed back against Joe McCarthy, he actually coined the term "McCarthyism." And he won three Pulitzers, easily explained by one of his maxims, quote, "The press must speak out and, if the occasion rises, raise bloody hell."

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Burlington, Vermont. And in honor of Columbus Day, they are reenacting that historic day when Christopher Columbus and his crew arrived on the shores of Lake Champlain in pumpkin boats.

Actually, this is a kayak race with a Halloween theme, and racers paddling hollowed out pumpkins. All the money raised went to charity, and it's a fine way to utilize overgrown gourds before they spoil. Although we here at "Oddball" still prefer the old pumpkin drop.

This one from Herb Point Farms, in Aurora, Oregon, by way of YouTube. Three, two, one, touchdown. That's two gourds and one Ford Probe ready for the trash heap.

To a kitchen in Cornwall in the U.K., where two donkeys are having a banana party. Paula and Charlie, the donkeys, have free runs at the Ferrier (ph) home, whether it's in the computer room or in the kitchen. The Ferriers (ph) say they love Paul and Charlie so much, they treat them like members of the family.

The donkeys even get control of the clicker in the TV room. The two asses watched their morning chat programs, reruns of "Yee Haw" and, of course, "The O'Reilly Factor."

The wheels appeal to be off Sarah Palin. The ethics report finds her guilty. She claims it found her innocent. The next investigation, the Wasilla Sports Palace. Did the people who built it also build her house for free?

And live and in color from Studio 1AF, Richard Lewis back to try, yet again, to make sense of the presidential race.

These stories ahead. First up, COUNTDOWN's "Best Persons in the World." And we just lost one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over): Gil Stratton died over the weekend. He was -

and I know I'm leaving some things out-a minor league baseball umpire, a stage and screen actor, an all-conference hockey goalie at St. Lawrence who later got a tryout with the New York Americans.

The perfect movie sidekick, first to William Holden in "Stalag 17" and then to Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones." An Olympics correspondent, a football announcer for CBS, a singer on Broadway who would proudly talk about kissing Judy Garland every night for a year, and as I knew him, a local sports caster in Los Angeles.

Most importantly, perhaps, Gil had been the king in that field in the '50s and '60s. Then he moved to Hawaii, but a bad investment sent him back to L.A. in the '80s, where suddenly, he was working freelance for punk kids like me. And he never complained. Not a hint of bitterness about the changed circumstances. Nothing but encouragement for the punk kids like me. Graciousness, generosity, talent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: Hearkening back to his umpiring days, Gil Stratton used to sign on his sport casts with "Time to call 'em as I see 'em." Instructions for all of us.

Gil, my friend, was 86.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The official investigation into Sarah Palin's Troopergate scandal, released over the weekend, was so unambiguous that it spelled out how, quote, "she abused her power," how she broke the, quote, "code of ethics" and how she was guilty of violating Alaska's statute. And she immediately lied about what the report said.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, a fitting triple header:

Troopergate, Troopergate Reportgate, and something new, the possibility that the giant new home she claimed her husband and a few contractor buddies built might actually have been properly constructed by the same people who built the $12 million sports complex Mayor Palin got built in Wasilla, Alaska.

Troopergate first. The report states that Governor Palin abused her power by having staffers, as well as her husband, pressure state commissioner Walt Monegan into firing her sister's ex-husband. But she found one passage in the so-called Branchflower report that gave her cover, and she rode the damn thing for all it was worth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired. In fact, remember, Officer Wooten is still an Alaska state trooper, which is up to the commissioner and the personnel in the Department of Public Safety to decide who is worthy of wearing a badge and carrying a gun in the state of Alaska. And if they say that Trooper Wooten is worthy of that, that's their decision. I don't micro manage by commissioners and ask them to hire or fire anyone.

And thankfully, the truth was rebilled (ph) there in that report to show that there was no unlawful or unethical activity on my part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: He ain't dead, so I couldn't have shot him.

The problem, that last part was a false claim. Finding No. 1 in the Branchflower Report, "For the reason explained in section four of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."

Let's turn now to Wayne Barrett, senior editor of the "Village Voice."

This Sarah Palin story is gracing the cover of the newspaper this week. And in it, those questions about the house and the sports complex.

Good to see you, sir.

WAYNE BARRETT, SENIOR EDITOR, "VILLAGE VOICE": Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: All right. If there's time we can go over the Troopergate report. I mean, it's pretty straightforward. She was unethical. Report says so. And she's unethical in saying she's not unethical.

BARRETT: I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.

OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. But boil down the story about Palin, the Palin house and its possible connection to the giant sports complex in this tiny town.

BARRETT: One kind of springs from the other. Because they're really stories about whether or not she uses her public position to benefit herself. In this case, in the case of the Troopergate report, it was to benefit herself in a personal way, not a financial way.

But the odd thing about this house is I'm watching Greta Van Susteren on your favorite channel, and she's got an interview with Todd Palin. And Todd Palin is saying, you know, "I built this house myself." They're standing out in front of the house. "With me and my buddy contractors."

Well, a bomb goes off in my head. I say, "Well, jeez, I got to find out who those buddy contractors are."

Big problem, Keith. She eliminated building permits in the town of Wasilla. There are no building permits required. So you had to figure out who the-first I had to get who all the sub contractors and contractors were on the sports complex, because it all happens with great synergy. At the same time, just a mile from each other, the house is built just a mile, remote corner. If you can find a remote corner in Wasilla, they found a remote corner.

So it's geographically in the same place. The decisions are all made at the same time. All in 2002. Isn't it odd that they decided to build their own first home in the year that she was running, first time, for statewide office? Well, it's completed.

The only thing they have to file in Wasilla is a notice of completion, on 8/30/2002, they filed a notice of completion. That's two months before she leaves office. So wouldn't it sound logical, then, that you're going to build a house even while you're running statewide while you can still get some favors from the guys who are going to build it?

And it turns out that, at least I was able to clearly establish one contractor, the big, building supply contractor who supplied the building materials for the complex is the same guy-Spenard is the name. That's the company that supplied the building supplies for her house.

I asked others. You just had to dial them up by phone and say, you know, "Did you do anything?"

And others said, "Well, I can't remember if I did or didn't. How would I know?"

But you know, so you've got to do it by-by phone without records.

OLBERMANN: But-so this-this Spenard company also now tracks back to Ted Stevens and the VECO house?

BARRETT: Yes, yes. They were one of the contractors named in that case as having worked on the VECO house.

But now Spenard also is one of the sponsors of Todd Palin's snowmobile

snowmobile race team. And so it's this kind of interlay in a small town between your public life and your private life. But the timing, to make this decision to build the house two months before she leaves office, is certainly suggestive.

OLBERMANN: So you're suggesting, though, that they didn't-what's the term at a construction site for the leftover stuff that walks off, mungo? They didn't build this out of mungo? Just what they found at the sports complex construction. I'm just kidding.

BARRETT: No. They couldn't have done that, because they built the house before they start the construction. But, before they award the contracts, too. So I mean, they picked the architect, by the way, to design this $12.5 million project, the biggest thing Wasilla has ever seen. They picked the son of the local GOP party boss, who was her mentor in politics. That's who gets the architectural contract.

OLBERMANN: Small town, small state.

Let me ask you one question about the Troopergate report. It said she violated the ethics. According to Sarah Palin, it said she was within ethical bounds. That twist of terms sort of defines this woman. What is she?

BARRETT: Well, you know, Keith, the odd thing is, how did she get on the stage in Alaska?

OLBERMANN: Yes.

BARRETT: She pointed the finger at the state party boss for doing an ethical violation very similar to the one that this report has now found her guilty of. That's all. That's how she became the statewide figure.

She was on the gas and oil commission. The party chairman was on the gas and oil commission. She said he's abusing his public position for personal or political reasons. And they did find an ethical violation, the same sort of ethical violation that she now appears to be guilty of.

OLBERMANN: I think psychologically it's called projection.

Wayne Barrett with the cover story in the "Village Voice" on Governor Palin. Thank you for coming in. Always a pleasure, sir.

As to Governor Palin's ticket partner, Richard Lewis is back for more on the new John McCain. The old John McCain? The old-new John McCain. One of the above?

And this is Pastor Artie Conrad, basically threatening God if Barack Obama wins the election. Maybe the greatest example of simultaneous religious intolerance and religious under-education, and it's next in "Worst Persons."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Richard Lewis, here on the presidential race.

And as a warm-up act, the pastor at the McCain event essentially warning God he'd better make McCain win, because millions are praying the other way to "Hindu, Buddha and Allah," and quote, "They're going to think that their god is bigger than you if that happens." Seriously. "Worst Persons" next. This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Richard Lewis on the presidential race and one of the candidates in particular. He's my special guest next.

But first now, COUNTDOWN'S No. 2 story, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze tonight to Bill O. the Clown. Nothing like facts optional about Obama. "You know, we did some research into his vote on Move On. Move On ran the Petraeus ad and a vote in the Senate condemning that action, along with"-and I did not know this-"condemning the swift-boating of Kerry was in the same amendment. Now, you know, when you challenge someone's patriotism, that is wrong. Obama did not vote. Didn't vote. Didn't vote for that amendment. Now, the amendment passed, like 74-22, something like that. Big vote. Obama was in the chamber. He was there. Did not vote on it. Now Obama, he didn't want to alienate Move On."

September 20, 2007, the Boxer Amendment condemning attacks on Petraeus and Kerry, Mr. Obama votes yes. You did some research. Oh, and who did vote against alienating Move On? Senator McCain. Senator McCain voted against the Boxer Amendment. What a drag, dude.

Silver, Mark Salter, top advisor to the McCain campaign. The campaign recently complained "Obama was attacking our supporters" and that this represented a new low for the Obama campaign. But when asked about the McCain supporters shouting out "terrorists" and "treason" at McCain events, Mr. Salter complained to "The New York Times" that it was not fair that, quote, "somehow we're responsible for the occasional nut who shows up and yells something about Barack Obama."

Wait, nut, did you say? Who is attacking McCain supporters?

But, and speaking of which, our winner, the Reverend Arnie Conrad, who gave the invocation at a McCain rally at Davenport, Iowa. But a campaign has distanced himself from this guy, but good grief. This is not just religious intolerance; I think there are at least two instance of blasphemy in here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. ARNIE CONRAD, GAVE INVOCATION AT MCCAIN RALLY: I would also add, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are visions of people around this world praying to their god, whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah, that his opponent wins for a variety of reasons.

And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they're going to think their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So, I pray, that you would step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and election day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: In other words, Lord, if McCain loses, it's your ass.

A couple of other notes for Pastor Conrad, a 37-year veteran of the Evangelical Free Church, now executive director of Interim Pastor Ministries, Hindu is not a God. It's a religion. But thanks for the wild guess there.

And about the third commandment, I wanted to mention this: the "thou shalt not use the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain." Yes, that one. As one biblical and Hebraic scholar suggested, God was saying there for the Israelites not to use his name like nations use the names of their gods. He did not want them to use his name to invoke false authority behind pronouncements.

I think he means you, Arnie.

Pastor Arnold Conrad, today's "Worst Person in the World."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The urgency of the presidential election has been matched with potent imagery. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin asking for a lifeline: "I'd like to phone a friend."

Less generously, Palin as McCain's female Sancho Panza, as declared by conservative columnist George Will.

And now, our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, McCain as Gollum in "Lord of the Rings." Bringing his own set of brush strokes, comedian Richard Lewis presently. It's not his name-never mind.

The easiest McCain caricature, morphing as perceived by "New York Times" columnist Gail Collins. "Remember how we used to joke about John McCain looking like an old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn? It's only in retrospect that we can see the 'keep off the grass' period was McCain campaign's golden era. Now he's beginning to act like one of those movie characters who steals the wrong ring and turns into a troll.

"During the last debate, while he was wondering around the stage, you almost expected to hear him start muttering, 'We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious'."

Here, as promised, my friend, comedian Richard Lewis, who's Misery Loves Company tour-let's do this at the start, just because we might not get another chance, in case I never say another word in this. The Misery Love Company tour will be in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: The Lisner Auditorium, by the way.

OLBERMANN: OK.

LEWIS: George Washington University.

OLBERMANN: West Palm, Atlanta, and then New York.

LEWIS: Yes.

OLBERMANN: On January 17?

LEWIS: I don't care. I'm caring about this-how are you? You look fabulous.

OLBERMANN: I'm a little under the weather. I'm glad...

LEWIS: Now, listen, I don't have a lot of time. I spent 20 hours on the plane, thinking about this three minutes. So we've already wasted time.

Let me start with this. I thought Wasilla was a yeast infection I got in Ohio state. OK?

Here's the deal.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

LEWIS: I'm not here-I know all the talking points. I'm a Democrat. I was a Democrat-well, I am. I'm a Democrat because I was raised by a family that were tolerant. And I was-I was a New Yorker. I moved to Englewood, which was the hot bed of the civil rights movement. This is where I want to focus.

Look, you know, John McCain is not a maverick. James Garner is a maverick. You know the maverick, to me, years ago when Hagel came out against him, these are the cats in the Republican Party. I love these guys. You know, I don't know-I probably-I know the Republican platform. Some start with the Hagel and what Chris did, you know, in Florida.

These guys and some of these-you know, these right-wing and these neocon writers, these guys are more maverick now than this guy will ever be. Sure, he had some great moments. But this is so surreal that it's frightening.

When I watched the debate, I watched it with-just like some Republicans would watch and cheer for the vice presidents. They were cheering her, OK, when she would say to Gwen Ifill, "I'm not going to answer that question."

"Yes!" I'm sure they went nuts.

OLBERMANN: Break the rules. That's a maverick.

LEWIS: So I was watching. And you know how the Sopranos, when anyone would come to a table, it's the badda-bing and say something mean, they'd go, "Whoa!" We-I started doing that.

So for an hour and a half, when she would say, "I'm not going to answer that, because I don't need to."

"Whoa!" We did this and counted 190 "whoas." And I said, "Wait a minute. I know you vote for the president." And I was watching Reverend Jackson and watching-and I think somebody said-I followed four intellectuals. I loved Gil Stratton. And two donkeys. And now you have a Jew monkey come on, and I appreciate it. I'm not an intellectual, but I'm here as an American, not as a Democrat.

When I was a little boy in Englewood, and I was putting on the TV in the late '50s and early '60s and watching those heroes and hearing about people, you know-you know, being hung by the white supremacists, OK?

What's going on now, when they have no clue how to run the campaign-and

it's so obvious, there's 40 percent of the country, no matter what you say

I'm not trying to change 40 percent of the people. Some people are just

aren't educated.

And Senator Obama says, "You know, this is going to take some time, education." The poor are screwed and the middle class are screwed. We've got to educate them.

OLBERMANN: These are the ones-and these are the ones who are out there yelling, "He's an Arab. He's not a decent person."

LEWIS: So that woman doesn't know any better. And you know, whenever you watch those young kids in the Mideast strapping bombs. And people go, "My God, let's kill every-how can their parents do that?"

It's almost like in America. You know, look, I have to believe-I'm a spiritual agnostic. OK? I have to believe that this country is about 80, 85 percent normal. And there's that fringe. No, there's the anti-Semites. There's-you know, there's the-you know, the Klansmen.

So like, my parents bought me a Little League outfit. Go get a couple of hits, kid. You know, a Klansman family, because their parents, you know, hated blacks, say, "No, no, let's try to take in the hood a little bit."

OLBERMANN: A little bit.

LEWIS: It's not the poor kids. It's not the kids' fault. And then they grow up, and they do it to their children. It's because the education system is broken. And you know, so-you know, I feel sorry for the children.

That's why if you're young, you better go out and vote. This is such an important election. Everyone knows that this woman-I don't when she got nominated. She must have been-look, I don't care what she did well in Alaska. You know, I'm not going to mock Alaskans. They liked her. She did this unethical thing. You already know. Everyone knows this stuff.

But she was probably opening the refrigerator looking for a moose pot pie. "Mom, it's Senator McCain."

"Who's that? Who stole my dinner?"

And "He's the senator from, I don't know, I think from Utah or..."

OLBERMANN: From the lower 48. He's from the lower 48.

LEWIS: Whatever. And all of a sudden, you're going to be my running mate. He came over. He says, "What's two by-what's two times five?"

"Ten."

"You're in."

OLBERMANN: You're in.

LEWIS: And then all of a sudden-look, you vote for the president.

You know, Obama has taken such the high road.

And you know, here's what's happened to me. The Democrats-my Democratic friends are going-and Biden was fabulous. They'll pick on one thing: he's a little verbose. Verbose. Twenty-nine years. What public services guy is so brilliant. I happen to know the guy a little bit.

OLBERMANN: Me, too.

LEWIS: I like the guy tremendously. And I said it to him, of course, I ran into him. And you know, he's a voice of reason.

Senator Obama-just-look, forget Bush. He's so happy now. He's saying, "Things are better, but I'm out in 20 days." He's like Fred Astaire. Twenty-five days.

He went to the wrong country. You know, and we talked this. The heroes are our soldiers. They didn't die in vain; they're soldiers. That's why I'm talking to you. They protect our country. If Cheney, who has-how they sleep at night, there's no-it's got to be either Bela Lugosi comes in and gives him...

OLBERMANN: It's an injection of some sort, clearly.

LEWIS: Yes. How can a lesbian, how can a homosexual, how can anyone of color, they must sneak in and give them elephant dart, jumps in there, in their behind. This whole thing is crazy.

And-but I love how Obama is, you know, taking the high road. But all the Democrats say, why does-why did he smile so much, the vice president, to be, I hope. How come he didn't say, "Are you out of your-they're wrong. Are you kidding? You're going to be the president? God forbid."

I hope McCain lives to be 100, if he has a Band-Aid that covers his whole face and she becomes the president? She says, "I can see Russia"?

OLBERMANN: Yes.

LEWIS: Are you kidding? If you're reasonable-we've got to-we -

oh, my God. I'm sorry. I rambled, four intellectuals. But I-I'm an American. I'm not a Democrat tonight. And we have to have people-this is going to take a couple years to fix this.

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

END

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