updated 10/15/2008 10:30:39 AM ET 2008-10-15T14:30:39

Guest: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Craig Crawford, Allen Raymond

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

Shouting fire in a crowded theater at another Palin rally.  A warm up speaker mentions Senator Obama, and now comes the now customary call from the ranks of the Republican supporters, quote, “Kill him.”  Governor Palin says nothing.

Senator McCain whines that he is the true victim here because Congressman John Lewis called him on his incitement to violence by proxy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And I‘m astonished that Senator Obama has no repudiated Congressman John Lewis.  I have repudiated people who have said things that are improper about Senator Obama.  It‘s time for Senator Obama to step up and repudiated John Lewis‘ comments about me and Sarah Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, it is time for Senator McCain so step up and tell his lunatic supporters to shut up.  Tonight: a Special Comment.

The Bradley effect: As the polls balloon outwards in Obama‘s favor—plus 16 in Michigan, the question haunting his supporters: Is what white voters might tell pollsters about black candidates as opposed to how they might then vote is still an issue as this election looms.

Troopergate Jr.: Governor Palin‘s friendly-self investigation just turned not-so-friendly.

Worst: David Frum not only goes rude on Rachel, not only gets schooled by Rachel, but then, lies about why he was invited on Rachel‘s program.

And speaking of being invited on a program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  We‘re suspending the campaign.  Are we suspending it because of the economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding?  Opps.  Opps.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Never mind the debate.  John McCain‘s biggest TV appearance this week, he is rescheduled to go on with David Letterman Thursday.  So, I should stand by again just in case?

And tonight: A brief Special Comment.  Silence the violence, now a

part of your candidacy, Senator McCain, control your campaign, sir, or

suspend it

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, October 14th, 21 days until the 2008 presidential election.

As tonight‘s “New York Times/CBS News Poll puts Senator Obama 14 points ahead of Senator McCain.  Another supporter of the Republican ticket, this time in Pennsylvania, upon hearing Obama‘s name at a Palin rally today, yelling from the crowd, quote, “Kill him.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN And still the Republicans say nothing.  Senator McCain responding to these repeated calls for violence by his supporters not by denouncing them, but by attacking Obama.

We begin tonight in Scranton.  The “Times Tribune” newspaper reporting that before Governor Palin arrived on stage at the rally there, Republican congressional candidate Chris Hackett telling the crowd that Senator Obama should come to Pennsylvania and learn what the state‘s values are.  During the booing that followed, someone shouted out, “Kill him,” what would be the second time that somebody at a McCain or Palin rally has said that, one each also for cries of “terrorist” and “treason” and “off with his head.”

On Friday, Senator McCain having his defended opponent, telling his supporters at a rally in Minnesota they would have nothing to fear from an Obama presidency.

Today, asked by our Philadelphia station, WCAU, whether that might have been an admission that the negative attacks are backfiring, Senator McCain expressing outrage that the Democratic nominee didn‘t defend him over the weekend when Congressman John Lewis said in a statement that the Republican ticket was “sowing the seeds of hatred and division and hostility in our political discourse,” in a statement that noted the tone segregationist George Wallace had fostered in Alabama during the ‘60s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Actually, there‘s been no shift in tone.  Someone said something inappropriate at a rally of mine about Senator Obama.  And I repudiated it and I‘m astonished that Senator Obama has not repudiated Congressman John Lewis who said the most outrageous thing I‘ve ever seen in politics, connecting Sarah Palin and me to a church bombing, to George Wallace, to segregation, and Senator Obama has not repudiated John Lewis.  That‘s the worst thing I‘ve ever heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Lewis having already issued a second statement saying it was not his intention, nor desire to directly compare McCain or Palin to Governor Wallace, Senator McCain having claimed just yesterday in an interview with CNN‘s Dana Bash, that what is said about him at Democratic rallies is just as hostile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  We‘ve heard people in the crowd screaming things like “terrorist” and “traitor” when you talked about Senator Obama and worse?

MCCAIN:  I‘ve heard the same thing at—I‘ve heard the same thing, unfortunately, at Senator Obama‘s rallies being said about me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s odd because here is what Senator Obama said when a crowd at one of his rallies tried to boo, merely to boo the Republican nominee.

(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)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps, what Senator McCain thinks he‘s hearing is the actual sound of independent voters moving en masse to his opponent.

As we mentioned, Senator Obama, opening up a 14-point lead among likely voters in the “New York Times” Poll out tonight.  Last week, before the town hall-style debate, that the margin was just three points.  He leads independents by 18.

Obama over 50 percent in four battleground states according to the Quinnipiac Poll for the “Wall Street Journal” and WashingtonPost.com, Colorado by 52-43, Minnesota by 51-40, Michigan by 54-38, and Wisconsin by 54-37.

Senator McCain pander release of the day, meanwhile, an actual economic plan with specifics, heavy on help for seniors and the rich, the middle class—maybe not so much.  The tax cut on withdrawals from retirement accounts, a guarantee for all savings for six months, that‘s above the $250,000 already guaranteed now.  A 50 percent cut in capital gains tax.

Senator Obama noting it‘s not much like anybody has much to worry about in the way to have capital gains at the moment.

Senator “Keating Five,” meanwhile, telling supporters he has learned the economic lessons of history—deregulation but his opponent has not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  They say those who failed to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  Well, I know my history lessons.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

MCCAIN:  And I sure won‘t make the mistakes Senator Obama will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Even less subtle—McCain‘s claim that electing Obama would be the biggest risk ever undertaken by the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Perhaps never in history have the American people been asked to risk so much based on so little.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Lots to talk about tonight with our own Howard Fineman, of course, also the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  The “New York Times” and CBS News number of the likely voters came out, “Reuters” put out a bulletin about it.  Is it that big a development that it‘s 14 points and 21 percent said their opinion of McCain has dropped in the last few weeks?

FINEMAN: Oh, I think, it‘s—again, I think “Reuters” was right to move something on this when the “New York Times” speaks its important.  Now, the polls that are out there, it‘s a little farther out in terms of the margin than some of the others.  But direction matters and the averages matter.

You can always tell what‘s happening in the polls in a campaign based on who‘s campaigning where.  John McCain is defending turf down in Southern Virginia, places he shouldn‘t have to bother with, Obama is venturing into red states.  And I thought the most important number in that poll was really not that one, but the one about who understands your economic situation?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  A key number.  Obama is up to about 73 percent of the American people saying, he understands our situation.  I think John McCain is at 48 percent.  That is the big number in that poll.

OLBERMANN:  The issue of—and maybe these are more related than they might seem at first brush, but the issue of these violent outcries at the rallies, McCain now says he has been the target of them at Obama rallies.  Also, we heard him say Obama is the riskiest choice America could ever address.  What happened to what he said to that father to-be in Minnesota on Friday that you would have nothing to fear from an Obama presidency?  Was that only on Fridays?

FINEMAN:  Yes—and that he was an honorable man and good family man and so on.

The McCain campaign is like every other campaign on the defensive, its schizophrenic.  They can‘t decide what their strategy is.

If Barack Obama is the greatest risk that we‘ve ever faced, if he‘s palling around with terrorists, if he doesn‘t understand America, if he doesn‘t know what mainstream culture is all about—then the McCain campaign has a duty to go pedal to the medal against him.  But one minute McCain does it, one minute his surrogates do it, one minute the RNC does it, in the other minute, John McCain himself pulls back  So, they can‘t decide what to do.

His own younger brother, Joe McCain said, unleash John McCain, the problem is we don‘t know what that is anymore.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

FINEMAN:  We used to but we don‘t anymore.

OLBERMANN:  Rush Limbaugh, of all people, I don‘t like to usually quote seriously, but he interviewed Governor Palin on the radio today and asked her if she thought about her political future beyond this campaign.  Does that question by itself, no matter what the answer is, say a lot about where things are?  Because it assumes, I guess here, that she‘s not going to be vice president in January and Limbaugh asked the question, not—I didn‘t ask the question, Limbaugh asked the question.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, Rush Limbaugh matters and he matters big time with conservatives.  He never particularly liked John McCain any way.  It was a matter of wooing Limbaugh.  One of the reasons why John McCain picked Sarah Palin was to try to firm up the conservative base.

I think the conservatives who are not happy with the way McCain has run his campaign, or with the substance of his propose as on the economy are now looking around to the next turn of the wheel.  And by the way, Sarah Palin is on the list.

Do you think Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or colossuses or whatever the proper Latin would be, she‘s going to be out there.  She‘s been on the cover of our magazine three times.  She is a big national figure, and in terms of Republican conservative politics, the big winner in this campaign.

OLBERMANN:  And you got a lot of good press from that one tight shot.

Anyway, last question here.  In the Philadelphia interview today, McCain also said tomorrow night, the debate will not be a game-changer.  Is this the usual lowered expectations being set in advance?  Or did something truthful slip out here?

FINEMAN:  No, I think that he had to make the decision about whether they‘re going to go Tony Rezko, Chicago politician, Bill Daley, whether even—they‘re going to maybe even touch Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and so forth.  Either that or they‘re going to stick with the economy.  And I think McCain made the fundamental decision on the big stage.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

FINEMAN:  . of the debate to stick with the economy which will further beg the question: If Barack Obama is the nightmare, why aren‘t you sounding the alarm on the stage out in Hempstead, Long Island, tomorrow night?

OLBERMANN:  And as you conclude that, of course, there‘s also a story on a radio interview in St. Louis, he said, I probably will mention Ayers now.  So, it‘s been—it is, as you say, it is schizophrenic at this point.

FINEMAN:  I‘m guaranteed to be wrong no matter what I say.

OLBERMANN:  But then again, so is the candidate.  So, you‘re even on this.

FINEMAN:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, always a great pleasure seeing you in person, sir.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Today, McCain tried a new old tactic against Obama, claiming widespread voter fraud, hinting Obama‘s involvement discussing recent accusations against ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a national network of community groups working on issues like voter registration, housing, and minimum wage.

McCain telling the Telemundo Network that alleged voter registration fraud by ACORN employees, quote, “Deprives Americans of their most precious right.  I am very worried about it and I am worried about Senator Obama‘s connections with ACORN.”

Specifically in Nevada, ACORN submitted voter registration forms including names of non-residents like Tony Romo who happens to be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, although there‘s been very little evidence of that the last three weeks.

Anyway, today, Obama was asked about his ACORN connection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  First of all, my relationship to ACORN is pretty straightforward.  When—it‘s probably 13 years ago when I was still practicing law, I represented ACORN, and my partner in that representation was the U.S. Justice Department, in having Illinois implement what was called the Motor Voter Law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  The U.S. Justice Department, Obama‘s they nefarious co-conspirator.  In fact, the voter registration charges are not against ACORN but against the handful of employees, part-timers hired by the dozens to sign up voters.  ACORN, not the perpetrator but itself a victim, paying for real voter registrations and required by law to submit the registration sheets in their entirety even if they do contain bogus names.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  My understanding, by the way, in terms of the voter fraud, because having run a voter registration drive, I know how problems arise.  This is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations.  And these folks, not wanting to actually register people because that‘s actually hard work, just went into a phonebook or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid.

So there‘s been fraud perpetrated on—probably, ACORN if they paid these individuals and they actually didn‘t do the registrations.  But this is isn‘t a situation where there‘s actually people who are going to try to vote because these are phony names.  And, you know, it‘s doubtful that Tony Romo is going to show up in Ohio to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When he‘s not busy doing any quarterbacking.

Even though non-existent voters obviously cannot vote, McCain‘s tactic is not a new one for the past several election cycles.  Karl Rove and other GOP insiders have used trumped out claims of widespread voter registration fraud to imply widespread voter fraud and justify clamp downs and laws that let them purge thousands of real voters from their roles.  Most of those fired U.S. attorneys having lost their job, in fact, after resisting White House pressure to pursue voter registration cases despite Justice Department guidelines against filing such charges during election run-ups because it smacks of—gosh—politics.

Fired prosecutor, David Iglesias, later revealing that even the Justice Department knew those cases were bogus.  In fact, while McCain wildly implied some sinister meaning to Obama‘s ACORN ties of 13 years ago, Marc Ambinder of “The Atlantic” reporting today that the McCain‘s campaign secretly asked the Montana GOP in vain to stop its current attempt to purge thousands of voters from the rolls.

And one of McCain own ties to ACORN, not 13 years ago but two years ago, McCain was the keynote speaker at a rally co-sponsored by ACORN in a tape obtained by Ambinder, the speaker identifies ACORN as a sponsor and ACORN red-shirted members are seen in great number and McCain is heard giving ACORN hell for their nefarious deeds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  What makes America special is what‘s in this room tonight. 

That‘s what makes America special.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s telling them.  According to Ambinder, McCain chief council, Trevor Potter argued this spring against using the GOP‘s old voter fraud claims this year because in 2004 and 2006, they backfired.

Let‘s turn now to former GOP operative, Allen Raymond, who did time for trying to suppress the 2002 New Hampshire vote and wrote about it in “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative.”

Thanks again for joining us tonight, Allen.

ALLEN RAYMOND, AUTHOR, “HOW TO RIG AN ELECTION”:  Your welcome, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Assess this McCain claim here for us.  Made up names on voter registration sheets—is it a threat to Democracy or is it just a Republican talking point?

RAYMOND:  No, it‘s a talking point and it‘s arose (ph), and frankly, it‘s irresponsible.  This type of thing happens all the time.  It‘s not systemic.

The reason it‘s happening is because these folks who were circulating petitions to get people registered are paid by a quota, and frankly, you know, a lot of these folks are the unemployable.  I‘ve hired them to do ballot access petitions, and oftentimes, what you‘re going to find is that they‘re going to submit a lot of names because that‘s how they get their paycheck.

OLBERMANN:  What is the purpose, do you think, of putting this out, this talking point out for McCain, and in general, for the Republicans?

RAYMOND:  Well, it‘s a diversion from the economy.  And, frankly, there‘s an element of this that speaks to racial politicking and that‘s the linkage between ACORN and the subprime meltdown—linking ACORN to its lobbying on behalf of the Community Reinvestment Act.

So, there‘s an element of racial politicking here but mostly what it is, is that anything to stop talking talk about economy, so let‘s talk about voter fraud.  It shows some fear.  It gins up the base.  And its intent is to potentially, maybe, sway some undecided voters in swing states.

OLBERMANN:  But, what we got also in here, inside these accusations and throwing around these names and throwing around the connections between ACORN and Obama, is you got the merger of these two concepts that are totally different things—voter fraud rather than voter registration fraud.  Are McCain and Palin uninformed about this or are they essentially lying to their own supporters about what‘s actually going on here?

RAYMOND:  Well, it‘s spin.  It‘s rhetoric.

I mean, you‘re right.  As Senator Obama pointed out, the front line for the Dallas Cowboys is not showing up in Nevada to vote on Election Day.  These are simply, as I said earlier, these are people who are looking to get paid for doing work.  And frankly, they‘re—you know, they‘re looking to make more money than for the work that they did.

So, are they uninformed?  I doubt it.  I think that it‘s just a deliberate turning away from the facts and just using it as a way to gin up some fear.

OLBERMANN:  Give me a moment‘s thought on, apart from registration fraud and voter fraud, how voter suppression works, this Montana example, as an example, and where it ranks in terms of actual threats to democracy?

RAYMOND:  Well, again, I mean, what are we talking about, threats to democracy.  I think what you need to look for is systemic efforts to suppress votes.  And where you find those is, for instance, in 1981, in New Jersey, where the Republican Party hired off-duty police officers to stand in urban polling places with their side arms clearly visible, with the intent to scare off voters.

So, I think you need to be more worried about those things than you do about people trying to slip in some false registrations because they want to make a few more dollars.

OLBERMANN:  Although, at least, the Dallas Cowboys fans would like to know where Tony Romo is, if he‘s near in Nevada nor in Dallas.

Allen Raymond, the author of “How to Rig An Election,” thank you, again, for your time, sir.

RAYMOND:  Your welcome, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  “It‘s not negativity, it‘s truthfulness,” said the demagogue from Alaska as she drew visions of terrorists and foreigners and hobgoblins across the blank minds of her supporters.  “I‘ve heard the same thing said about me in Senator Obama‘s speeches,” said the Senator “Holier than Thou,” ever the real victim and never at fault.

And so, he spiraled downwards to the point where anybody can say anything at a McCain or Palin rally, someone else shouted, “Kill him” today, knowing neither candidate will ever draw a line or never say “enough” because they do not want to.

A brief Special Comment: a plea to Senator McCain, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A brief Special Comment on the appalling silence of the McCain-Palin campaign on the hatred and threats of violence inspired by the McCain-Palin campaign.  This, Mr. Senator, Madam Governor, is about people who are speaking for you.

Could there still be a Bradley effect three weeks from tonight?  Does the new polling suggest the answer is, it doesn‘t matter?

And Bill-O compares the threats against Obama to postings on “DailyKos,” while David Frum lies about why he was even on Rachel‘s show last night.

Worst Persons and all the rest: Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In a moment, a brief Special Comment on John McCain‘s dangerous case of denial while his campaign staff spins out terrorist fantasies about Barack Obama, and his supporters continue to publicly call, as late as today, for Obama‘s death.

It sprung from our usually more benign feature, today, our fourth item on the COUNTDOWN, the most outrageous or true things said by or on behalf of Republican presidential nominee: McCain in the Membrane.

Number three: Virginia is for exaggerators.  The McCain campaign announced that 25,000 people had attended the senator‘s event at the Virginia Beach Coliseum in Virginia Beach yesterday.  Two problems, the Virginia Beach Coliseum has a maximum capacity of only 16,000 and the Virginia Beach Fire Marshal‘s Office told local news organizations that it‘s official estimate of that crowd was 12,000.

Number two: More trouble with math.  I mean, honestly, how would you like to be McCain spokespeople Tucker Bounds or Nancy Pfotenhauer?  They hint, all weekend, there‘s going to be a new economic stimulus program announce on Monday, come Monday, nothing.  So then, it was Tuesday, maybe.  And so this morning, there it was.  Apparently, rushed out and I mean rushed.

Here‘s poor Pfotenhauer on with Contessa Brewer this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  How much does the McCain campaign expect it to cost and how is he going to pay for it in?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, MCCAIN ADVISOR:  Well, I don‘t have the official estimate in front of me but obviously, Contessa, it‘s going to cost some amount of money over that period of time.  But this is a time of crisis and it‘s important that we reduce the burdens on American families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nancy Pfotenhauer fielding those tough questions.  It‘s going to cost some amount of money -- 39 cents, or maybe 70 gazillion, I don‘t know.

And number one: The John McCain phony umbrage threat level is back to red.  McCain supporters shout hateful, violent threats and incitements at McCain events.  If you missed it, it happened before a Palin‘s speech in Pennsylvania today, and as usual, she said nothing to stop the fire.

And this is where the satire ends and the Special Comment begins—because this is not even remotely funny: 1:25 p.m. Eastern today in Scranton, Pennsylvania, during a warm-up act by a red meat congressional candidate aptly named Chris Hackett.  Hackett mentions Obama and a Palin audience member shouts, “Kill him.”

And Governor Palin, as usual, does nothing about it, says nothing to those thugs and psychos.  She may not have heard this one but it is impossible to believe that by now she has not heard about the other ones.  Her silence is deafening.

Just that, Senator McCain, you have done nothing when violence has been asserted.  Correction, you have done one thing, asked why in real-time you do not repudiate this hatefulness, you act is if you are its victim—speaking today to our NBC station in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Sure.  And I repudiated it, as I have on several occasions.  And, unfortunately, Congressman John Lewis is an American hero who I admire.  He made the most worst and utmost unacceptable statement a couple of days ago that I‘ve ever heard.  He accused me and Sarah Palin of being involved with segregation, George Wallace, and even made reference to a church bombing where children were killed.

Senator Obama has not repudiated that statement.  Senator Obama should do so immediately.  It‘s the most outrageous thing that I‘ve heard since I‘ve been in politics which is a long time.  It‘s disgraceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Disgraceful?  Obviously, senator, you haven‘t heard your own speeches or Governor Palin‘s and what people shout during them.  And you haven‘t heard your state GOP chair in Virginia, Jeffrey Frederick, giving talking points to 30 of your field operatives heading out to canvas voters in the town of Gainesville with a reporter present, telling them to try to forge a connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden, to emphasize bombings and terrorism.

And you haven‘t heard those volunteers.  Your volunteers, Senator McCain, shout back and, “He won‘t salute the flag, and we don‘t even know where Senator Obama was really born.”

Senator McCain, these people are speaking for you.  And how dare you try to claim Congressman Lewis was linking you to Governor George Wallace‘s segregation.  He was, in fact, linking you aptly, sir, to Governor George Wallace‘s lynch mob mentality “as public figures with the power to influence and persuade,” said Congressman Lewis.  “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire and if they are not careful that fire will consume us all.”

Senator McCain, your supporters at your events are calling Obama a “terrorist” and “traitor” and are calling for him to be killed, and yet you keep bringing back these same rabid right-wing nuts to deliberately stir these crowds into frenzies, and then, you take offense when somebody who remembers the violence of our political past calls you on it.

You, sir, are responsible for the pure acts (ph) of individuals who are shouting fire in a crowded theater.

There are some things to respect and honor about you, Senator McCain, but on this, you are not only a fraud, sir, but you are tacitly inciting lunatics to violence.  If you want to, again, grandstand and suspend your campaign, here is your big chance, sir.  Suspend your campaign now until you or somebody else gets some control over it.  And it ceases to be a clear and present danger to the peace of this nation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment and before you approve the phony investigation, governor, make sure it really is a phony investigation.  First our nightly birthday note goes out to one of modern America‘s greatest patriots.  The man who stood up and said, no, the president is lying, when few believed him and before anybody knew that there were tapes that proved the point.  And a man who underscores the other point that it‘s great to have a hero, but it‘s even better when the hero in person exceeds expectations.  A long way of saying, happy birthday to John Dean.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

And we begin at the White House, his old stomping grounds.  After several portion of yesterday‘s visit from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, before eating, the president offered a toast to his Italian counterpart after which Berlusconi took the mike and brought down the house.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, ITALY‘S PRIME MINISTER:  (SPEAKING ITALIAN)

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have to say that it‘s going to be very difficult ---

BERLUSCONI:  (SPEAKING ITALIAN)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When that guy takes the podium, he takes the podium.  Berlusconi picked up the broken furniture, played it cool, eventually hug again out with a giggling president.  That is in fact really was Silvio Berlusconi—wink, wink, nudge, nudge, if you know what I mean by that.

To a moat in Milwaukee and day two of the tense standoff between Zero, the polar bear at a Milwaukee County zoo.  It was yesterday that Zero was witnessed playing on the ledge of his enclosure while wearing a white bucket on his head.  Zero fell over the ledge into a net and was then able to flop into the moat separating him from the public.  Zoo officials say this has happened before.  Last time, Zero spent nine days in the moat ignoring the staircase that leads back to his enclosure.  The zoo will once again play the waiting game if it is not ruled out asking Alaska Governor Palin to suspend her campaign, get an airplane and come coax the bear out.  Stay tuned to “Oddball” for Zero updates.

The so-called Bradley Effect.  Is a racial disconnect between voters and pollster still a possibility in this election.  And gosh, I better make sure I‘m available Thursday at about 5:30 because that‘s when Senator McCain has been rescheduled to be on Letterman.  The importance of Dave ahead.

But first, time to countdown the Best Persons in the World.  Number three tonight, best get away gone bad.  A named burglar in Berlin in Germany broke into an office building over the weekend and into an office there.  Made off with four laptops, made his exit by the elevator which promptly got stuck between floors.  He pushed the emergency button and the emergency crew promptly rescued him and arrested him.

Number two, best hiding of evidence that he will not try again.  Mr.  Binh Quang Chau of San Diego.  A local department of Fish and Game Wardens believe Mr. Chau is guilty of trying to poach lobsters from the La Jolla State Marine Conservation area.  Now, why would they believe that?  Because when they found Mr. Chau at the conservation area the wardens noticed what they officially described as, quote, “odd bulges in his trousers.”  It was six live lobsters which he had stuffed down his pants.  The lobsters were immediately freed as was in a very real sense, Mr. Chau.

And number one, best irony, Governor Palin.  Remember the McCain campaign idea to create a second, friendlier investigation of Troopergate through the Alaska State Personnel Board, an investigation Palin could control and then after it exonerated her, she could claim that was the only investigation that mattered?  Oopsy!

Newsweek‘s Michael is a cop reporter that the board has appointed as independent council in its Troopergate investigation, an Anchorage trial lawyer who was a contributor to the 2006 campaign of her opponent.  And he has called upon the governor to testify to him next week.  And he may issue his not so friendly after all report before the election.

Honestly, at this rate, Governor Palin may become the first national political figure ever to be impeached before she gets elected to anything.

(SONG PLAYING) Come on up and testify.  Testify, testify.  Come on up and testify.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  He‘s been a calm, centrist, elegant leader who remains the longest serving mayor ever of his city should be remembered only for a political theory named after him is a shame.  What could be of greater interest to Tom Bradley of the Bradley Effect ten years and 15 days after his passing was whether or not there still might be a Bradley Effect or if there ever was one, or if three weeks from today another African-American politician named Barack Obama may in fact encounter something called the Reverse Bradley Effect.

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the pop political science theory coined for the act of deceiving a pollster, specifically when a black candidate is on the ticket.  Again those new numbers from tonight‘s New York Times-CBS News Poll showing the Obama-Biden ticket with a 14-point lead over McCain-Palin.

The 1982 Democrat Tom Bradley, an African-American, then mayor of L.A.  ran for a governor in California.  Pre-vote polling, even exit polling had him leading his white opponent, the Republican George Deukmejian by a wide margin on Election Day.  He lost.

The conventional wisdom that voters had lied on their way out of the booth so they would not be seen as racist.  As far as Obama goes, there was some suggestion there might have been a Bradley-like effects in the New Hampshire primary, except the poll numbers for Obama there were very accurate.  It was the ones for Hillary Clinton which had been underestimated.

Let‘s turn now to Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics in an African-American studies at Princeton University and the author of “Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought.”

Professor, thanks for your time tonight.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, AUTHOR, “BARBERSHOPS, BIBLES, AND BET”: 

Absolutely, nice to be here.

OLBERMANN:  You know this stuff backwards and forward.  The theory of the Bradley Effect.  Do you believe it‘s more than just the theory, and if it does exist, can it exist at a national level?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Sure.  I mean, there are white voters who particularly when asked a question by an African-American pollster or by someone who they think might be an African-American pollster, you know, they might say they‘re going to vote for a black candidate when in fact they won‘t.  The question is whether or not there is a big enough percentage of white voters doing this in enough states that it can make an actual difference in a presidential election.  This is the first time we‘ve tested it at the national scale.

OLBERMANN:  The Obama supporters who are worried about this possibility.  They think he needs an extra-wide lead in states particularly with lower African-American populations.  Is that the right—does distilling of this theory and can you address that concern?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  No.  Actually, I think they‘ve got to thread the needle a little bit here.  So, generally, when we think about the Bradley Effect we say that an African-American candidate needs to be up by about 5 points to actually be dead even.  But the problem is, if a candidate is up by 12 or 14 points, then some of his white supporters who are maybe willing to vote for a black candidate but not enthusiastic about it, might say, you know what, I‘m just going to sit this one out.  It looks like this guy is going to win anyway.  So it can induce what looks like a Bradley Effect.

In other words, the African-American candidate underperforming because the race isn‘t close enough.  So what you want is comfortable enough lead to know that you‘re at least even, but you want it to be close enough that people still enthusiastic and motivated to get out to the polls.

OLBERMANN:  Could those who say this whole concept is real and those who say it‘s not real may have been a spot phenomenon.  Could everybody be right because it was not the evidence from the five biggest statewide 2006 races to which this is applicable.  Didn‘t they show the Harold Ford case and other ones, no Bradley Effect?  I mean, might we have grown out of it.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, you know, I certainly hope that as a country we have grown out of a problem where an African-American candidate will simply because of his or her race perform less well in an election.  But the question was whether or not we‘ve grown out of sort of people feeling like it‘s a good idea to tell folks that they are not racist.

I‘m not necessarily interested in this outgrowing a socially desirable affect on that.  On the other hand, there‘s no question that Obama has not.  Either in the primaries or in his previous runs, in the U.S. Senate or in the State Senate, there‘s been no Bradley Effect for Barack Obama.  Not in any consistent fashion.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, a reverse Bradley Effect.  I knew Tom Bradley.  He would have laughed out loud at the very name of that.  What is that and does it really exist?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, there is some new data, some new polling out of the University of Washington that suggests that some white voters might in fact be claiming that they‘re going to vote for John McCain when, in fact, they are harboring a secret desire to vote for Barack Obama.  I‘m not sure about that.  But, it does seem clear that from that Washington data, that white voters who live in states that have large black populations are more likely to vote for Obama.  That‘s good news for Virginia and North Carolina.

OLBERMANN:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University.  It‘s been very informative.  Thank you great for your time tonight.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  OK, thanks.

OLBERMANN:  And then there is the Letterman Effect.  Three weeks after lying to one of America‘s top TV stars after three weeks of getting sliced up with the precision of a surgeon by that star, is David Letterman going to be John McCain‘s last hope this week?  And David promise appearance with “Rachel” last night was bad enough for him.  But today, he then went lied about it.  Worst person is next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One right-wing fringer insists the Republicans would be twice as hard on Barack Obama if he were white.  Another lies about his embarrassing performance on “Rachel” show last night that the champ compares the shouts of kill him at GOP rallies to the Daily Coast Web site.  Worst persons, next.  And the top ten things John McCain has to do to make it up to David Letterman on Thursday.  Numbers ten through one, show up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Bradley Effect, the 48-hour squeeze, the October surprise for John McCain, and an age Palin comparison to the Letterman appearance.  That‘s ahead.  But first on COUNTDOWN‘s number two story tonight, “Worst Persons in the World.”

The bronze to right-winger Jonah Goldberg.  His latest fantasy is common titled “Obama is Getting Off Easy,” which includes this delusion, quote, “if Obama were a white Democratic nominee named Barry O‘Malley, the GOP would be going after him twice as hard.”  Right.  You‘d be inciting your voters twice as often to compare Barry O‘Malley to Osama Bin Laden.  And your campaign would have been reduced twice as quickly to reminding them that Barry O‘Malley‘s middle name was the same as the last name of a deposed Middle East dictator, Barry “Shaw” O‘Malley (ph).

A runner up, David Frum, the Republican hack who invited on Rachel‘s show didn‘t have the stones to admit he had been forcefully critical.  The McCain campaign not so benign neglected to hate mongers in its audiences and instead tried to draw some equivalency between those insiders of violence at Rachel‘s program.  Boy, I got his head handed to him, politely, of course, it is Rachel.

And it should have ended there, but today in a blog post, Frum lied about why he was asked on the program to begin with.  He wrote, “Just before I traveled to Afghanistan, I accepted an invitation to appear on the Rachel Maddow‘s Show.  Anyway, I was unprepared for the sarcasm and anger of what I saw so it was my time to go on air and instead of being asked about Afghanistan, I was asked about how awful and hateful the John McCain campaign was, I got a little grouchy.”

Frum‘s implication there is that he was asked on to the show to talk about Afghanistan, and then he was ambushed or sandbagged with questions about McCain.  He was not.  The pre-interview conducted with Mr. Frum, as a pre-interview was conducted usually same day with all guests on all such shows references these topics and these topics only.  GOP chaos on using Ayers on temperament, on Obama presidency, on Palin, North Korea-Pakistan gaffes.  He never mentioned Afghanistan.  And Afghanistan was never on the menu.

But our winner Bill-O, the clown.  Listen to this for moral equivalency.  Slamming Congressman Lewis for slamming Senator McCain for not saying anything about the threats made against Obama at McCain and Palin rallies.  I didn‘t hear Congressman Lewis say a word when the Democratic candidate showed up at the Daily Coast Convention, did you?  No politician should ever go to the Daily Coast Convention.  But it‘s blatantly dishonest for Obama partisans to scream about unfair attacks when they approve of the same actions on their behalf.

You know, normally I go for big comedy pay off with O‘Reilly, but trying to somehow equate people shouting at McCain rallies about anybody, kill him, somehow equating that to Web posts even the worst of them at the Daily Coast ever.  It‘s just dangerous.  Bill, no funny voices, no frank burns, no loofah references.  You sir are playing with a loaded gun and you do not have the brains to check to see if the safety is still on.  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  With John McCain today saying that tomorrow night‘s debate will not be a game changer there is every chance that his last chance to effect one may occur at the desk of the late night talk show host on whom he skipped out on the 24th of September and who has pounded him with the insistence of Muhammad Ali every night since.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, a new view of tomorrow‘s debate.  It‘s McCain‘s last chance to practice whatever he plans to say to David Letterman on Thursday.  With all due respect to tomorrow night‘s moderator, Bob Schieffer, we can count on Mr. Letterman to sufficiently probe some of McCain‘s recent eccentric behavior.  The whole world witnessed  the night that McCain cancelled on Letterman after the phony suspension of his campaign nearly three weeks ago with yours truly getting the best seat in the house as the senator‘s replacement.

Surprise, senator, Mr. Letterman then and now not about to let any of this go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN:  Maybe you heard the big news.  John McCain, Senator John McCain, Republican candidate for president was supposed to be on the program tonight, were you aware of that?

AUDIENCE:  Yes.

LETTERMAN:  But he had to cancel the show because he suspending his campaign because of the economy is exploding.

OLBERMANN:  Suspending the campaign.

LETTERMAN:  Yes.  Why?  Are we suspending it because there‘s an economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding?

OLBERMANN:  Oops, oops.

LETTERMAN:  And now we‘ve just been told here, take a look.  Do we have it on the thing?

OLBERMANN:  This just in.

LETTERMAN:  This is going live.  This—there he is, right there.  He doesn‘t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?  This just gets uglier and uglier.  I‘m feeling bad for the man to have participated in this.

Hey, John, I got a question.  You need a ride to the airport?  Here‘s good news, Paris Hilton is on the program tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN:  Unless she needs to rush to Washington to fix the economy. 

Well, it‘s going to be a big week for John McCain.  Don‘t kid yourself.  Today and tomorrow he‘ll be campaigning, Wednesday is the debate, and then Thursday, he cancels on me again.  So that‘s going to be—that will be a big—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So,  I‘m keeping late Thursday opened just in case.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, comment for cqpolitics.com, Craig Crawford.

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hello.  I‘ll be glad to do a stupid human trick with you if I have to?

OLBERMANN:  I think the senator has already beaten you to that.  And this can be easily be mocked as not very, very important or having any bearing on this campaign.  But I keep thinking it back when I was a kid, 1968, the famous story, Richard Nixon‘s driving in the limo right on to the set of the then biggest comedy show in television “Laugh In.”  He steps out, the roll taped.  He says the show‘s catch phrase.  He says it wrong.  He said, sock it to me?  I mean, it might have won in the election.  These things count, don‘t they?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, they didn‘t sock it to him.  They used a thousand water on people who said that they didn‘t do that for the next—you‘re right.  Hubert Humphrey later.  I don‘t know if this is really correct, but, for him to say, but Hubert Humphrey later said he lost the election because he did not choose to go on that show.

I do think these shows make a difference because they show the personalities, the character, some of the traits that people talk about.  The debates don‘t.  Debates are about issues and these kinds of appearances are more about personality.

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s also, there‘s an organic nature of something like this that we can‘t have in television news, I don‘t think, and we certainly can‘t get it at the debates.  But I mean, it was Letterman who gave the full voice to the instant suspicion for many three week as ago that the suspension of the campaign was nothing much more than a stunt.  I mean, is there any way he can possibly dig himself out of that one, considering it sort of evolved during real-time during Letterman‘s show?

CRAWFORD:  He‘d have to strap Carl Rove to a bulldozer with a jet engine powering it I think to dig out of this one.  I don‘t think he does dig out of this one unless he goes to that last resort of all politicians and appeal to the forgiving nature of Americas and just say it was a mistake.  And let go it at that.

A political mistake, maybe, a mistake of the heart.  He can spin it all he wants but I don‘t think it‘s defensible.  That campaign suspension episode.  Most people just thought it was weird.

OLBERMANN:  And lying to Letterman.  Again, it seems like, OK, it‘s one guy on TV, big deal.  But I mean what kind of tone could McCain take about the line.  I mean, if you‘re serious about it and defend it in some way, Letterman will cut him up the way he cut up Bill O‘Reilly when he went on that show.

If he makes a joke out of it, then he‘s then admitting that the campaign suspension thing was nonsense?  I mean, you know, what I‘m wondering I guess here is, why is McCain going back on this show?  It looks like it‘s got disaster written all over.

CRAWFORD:  Well, you can always blame it on—he likes to blame the media so much these days.  He could always just blame it on Katie Couric somehow.  It‘s her fault.  I think he‘s going back on to try to repair some of the damage but he needs all the exposure he can get these day because that debate will probably not, as he said, be the game-changer debate.  Sell them are.  Maybe one way to change the subject on Letterman is to do something in the debate that‘s so amazing that that‘s all Letterman will want to talk about.  I don‘t know how he does that either.

OLBERMANN:  Well, yes, what‘s the number of Politico here in the first three weeks of September in Virginia, Obama ran 1342 TV ads.  And McCain aired just 8.  So, he needs the free TV time more than anything else.

CRAWFORD:  Yes, absolutely.  And now, and also, Letterman is where he launched his campaign going to March of last year.  So, he does sort of owe it to Letterman, I suppose.  Although I always had to wonder, Keith, his base, that conservative base, one thing they didn‘t like about McCain before this campaign was how cozy he was with the media and there was some grumbling when he went on Letterman to announce his show.  So maybe he dissed Letterman for that reason.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe he did.  I don‘t know.  I think he‘s here to wind up either blaming me or Congressman Lewis.  It‘s going to be our fault.  Craig Crawford of cqpolitics.com and MSNBC.  We are fortunate enough to have him.  Thank you, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  All right.  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this.  The 1,994th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Programming reminder, we will have the final countdown to the final presidential debate tomorrow night at 8 Eastern.  The series has been cancelled?  I mean, the debates.  The longest running show on TV?  Then COUNTDOWN returns at 11 p.m. Eastern for an hour of post-debate analysis.  Until then, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.

MSNBC coverage continue now with the Rachel Maddow show.  Good evening, Rachel.  Who are the victim‘s tonight?

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW:  Thank you, Keith. 

Excellent worst persons tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  And thank you for sticking with us.

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

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