updated 10/22/2008 12:12:11 PM ET 2008-10-22T16:12:11

Guest: Clarence Page, Eugene Robinson

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

Republicans accuse the public of trying to influence the election. They accuse Democrats of trying to seize power by legitimate means, the giving of $200 or less to the Obama campaign is a "secret donation," says campaign manager, Rick Davis. The total donation of $150 million in September by American citizens is an attempt to buy the election.The Powell endorsement: Touching the third rail. "It's totally about race," says comedian Rush Limbaugh. "I was surprised that he didn't call me before," says Senator McCain. The robocall hypocrisy: McCain reportedly hiring the same company that made the robocalls against him in 2000 defends them being on his behalf now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are legitimate and truthful, and they are far different from the phone calls that were made about my family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Then, Governor Palin says if she called the shots, she would not rely on robocalls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, you really have to work hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Then it turns out, Governor Palin has her own robocalls, in her own voice.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, this is Sarah Palin.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Seventeen million watched the governor on "Saturday Night Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: My gut is telling me it might be a bad idea for the campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And yet she still took home some of the cue cards as souvenirs.

Worsts: Giuliani and Kilmeade echo the talking point. Why doesn't the "New York Times" interview, quote, "Obama's drug dealer"?

Bests: An extraordinary Obama story from 1991.

Tonight: Governor Palin's real America. Congresswoman Bachmann's anti-America. Enablers of the right wing, desperate enough to slime Colin Powell and to cut this nation in half.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, October 20th, 15 days until the 2008 presidential election.

If you have given less than $200 to the Obama campaign, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis is insinuating there could be something sinister about your donation. Senator McCain himself calls it scandalous. And if you believe we have not heard the last of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Davis, today, hinting if not threatening that the Republicans are rethinking their position on playing the Wright card in the waning days of this election. Our fifth story on COUNTDOWN: Secrets and lies. The McCain campaign's redouble effort to paint Senator Obama, if not all who support him, as different and dangerous. The Obama campaign announcing over the weekend it had raised $150 million in September, shattering previous fundraising records. The campaign saying that 632,000 different people made their first donations to Obama in that month, and that the average donation was less than $100. As we mentioned, in a conference call today, McCain campaign manager Davis calling some of those, quote, "secret donations." Why secret you ask? "I only say secret," to quote Mr. Davis, "because I have no doubt that there are sort of-the vast majority of those are probably legitimate, but they're being kept secret by the Obama campaign for no good reason." Yes, because the donations themselves lowered than the $200 threshold, which the Obama campaign could be legally required to itemize and disclose the identity of all its donors. Nothing secret about something that is perfectly legal. Senator McCain himself, however, raising the specter of scandal, specifically, the Watergate scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The dam is broken. We're now going to see huge amounts of money coming into political campaigns, and we know history tells us that always leads to scandal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Campaign manager Davis also saying today, the Republican campaign might go back on Senator McCain's previous vow not to bring up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In an appearance on a conservative talk radio program, Mr. Davis justifying another right attack by claiming that Congressman Lewis had opened this door with his remarks, comparing the crowds at recent McCain-Palin rallies, to those at the incendiary rallies the segregationist George Wallace held in the 1960s. His boss, with the favorite new attack strategy of his own now, going after Obama's so-called "socialist tax plans" that would raise taxes only on those making more than $250,000 a year, and in mutation on his "Joe the Plumber" strategy, you know, the poor guy McCain thrusts into the spotlight whom he has kept in the spotlight for six days now. Senator McCain surrounding himself with small business owners in Missouri this afternoon, in attempt to make his argument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: These are Joe the Plumbers, writ large. These are the

pediatricians; these are the small business owners. These people, the

painters and the pharmacists, and yes-cosmetic distributors -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Land developers.

MCCAIN: Land developers. These are the backbone of America's economy. They don't want their taxes increased. They don't want checks given away to people who don't pay taxes. It's clear to me, as it is most to Americans that to, quote, "spread the wealth around" or increase capital gains taxes in the name of fairness as Senator Obama wanted to do, is not the recipe to bring our economy out of the ditch. Thank you all very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: In Florida, where early voting started today, Senator Obama introduced in Tampa by players from the newly World Series miracle Tampa Bay Rays. And Senator Clinton is joining Obama tonight in Orlando, giving his campaign a new slogan while she was at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: Contrary to the Republicans, we have a new slogan for our campaign as the Democrats move toward victory. It is "Jobs, baby, jobs." That's what we are for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The crowd liking her refrain so much, 20 minutes later, they chanted it of their own accord. Senator Clinton also reminding them that she knows a thing or two about Democratic presidents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We know that Democrats will be able to begin to turn this economy around. A Democratic president did it before and a Democratic president will do it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN: I'm trying to understand the secrecy and this sinister nature about average Americans of more modest means buying their way to this democratic process with honest money. I mean, how is accusing American voters who are averaging, its $86 since the campaign began, $86 per contribution-how is accusing them of stealing the election supposed to get them to vote for you and not the guy they've already given the money to?

WOLFFE: Well, there's nothing sinister about small donations unless you think the Internet is a secret connection of tubes. The important thing here is that both campaigns had problems with donors who aren't giving full information among these small-huge numbers, huge numbers of small donations. The real issue here is that the McCain campaign is being outspent something like three or four to one. Of course, that would make anyone upset. But, the participation angle is something to be welcomed. And what's interesting about McCain's performance over the weekend was that he said there needed to legislation brought in to correct this problem. And that's a fascinating response from a conservative, someone who believes on small government, who thinks the other side are the ones that reach for big government every time there's a problem. So, the response to this is, I think, more tactical than one of policy.

OLBERMANN: Spread the wealth, which he keeps shouting as a mantra of sort. It's obviously an amazing oversimplification of the Democrat's economic message. But if you took it just on face value, why does John McCain think that is some sort of invocation of the devil? I mean, the investor economy just collapsed on top of working people, why would the working people get angry over the phrase, "spread the wealth"?

WOLFFE: Well, you can have a debate about the context of the comments and Obama's campaign clearly says that this was about spreading the wealth, the economic wealth. It wasn't about taxes as such. It was making sure the economy worked for everyone. But even if you hypothesize that this was about taxes, you have to understand, we have a progressive tax system where wealthy people pay more tax. And unless you are a flat-taxer, which we don't think the McCain campaign is, then there's nothing wrong with the idea of wealthy people paying more tax, it's been established as part of western values for many, many decades now.

OLBERMANN: The phrase "Barack the socialist," is anybody buying that or is the whole point of it just to say "Barack" as many times as possible instead of "Obama" or "Senator Obama"?

WOLFFE: I don't know, I think they are trying to make the socialist attack here (ph). You know, when I first heard it, I thought this was part of McCain's sort of North Vietnamese communist joke, but, you know, anyone who knows about socialism and McCain is clearly studied communism and socialism for a long time, note that this is ridiculous. There is nothing even faintly socialist about Obama's policy prescriptions just as there is nothing socialist about the Bush administration extending government to, I don't know, Medicare prescription drugs. You know, there is, these lines don't make sense anymore when you have a Republican administration in Congress, voting to extend big government.

OLBERMANN: And last point. The Rick Davis threat of using Jeremiah Wright-is it just a threat or are they going to do it?

WOLFFE: I think they will get some surrogates and outside groups to it. But the shock value is gone. And frankly, it's more shocking when you see Colin Powell, or even a neocon like Ken Adelman, the man who said it will be a cake walk in Iraq, say they're going to vote for Barack Obama. That's more shocking right now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And thanks for introducing our next topic, to the endorsement of former Secretary of State Powell. And pervasive in its breath, precise in its language, startling perhaps in its providence, particularly considering that Mr. Powell has known Senator McCain for 25 years and views him as, quote, "a beloved friend and colleague." Like McCain, Powell is a Vietnam vet. He originally supported McCain in his presidential bid in 2000. But yesterday, Powell said that on the "final exam of the economic crisis," McCain was "a little unsure and didn't have a complete grasp." Powell was also concern with the selection of Governor Palin, "I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States." But the retired four-star general called Senator Obama, quote, "a transformational figure who displayed steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And also in, not just jumping in and changing everyday, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well. He's crossing lines-ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. He's thinking about villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: As suggested by those last few words, notably, Secretary Powell did not stop there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: And I've also been disappointed, frankly by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently or his campaign has, on the issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about. This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him? What they're trying to connect him to as some kind of terrorist feelings.

And I think that's inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Senator McCain obviously disappointed by that endorsement. And as he told an interviewer today, quoting, "I was surprised he," Powell, "didn't call me before."

Let's call in a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of the "Chicago Tribune," Clarence Page.

Good evening, Clarence.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Hi, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: I'm well. Let's start at the beginning here. Where does this, in your opinion and assessment, most impact this race?

PAGE: Well, Colin Powell has often spoke of the sensible center, meaning those people neither of the liberal left or conservative right but trying to have-to get that sensible middle ground. I think he has just raised the gates now and said, hey, it's OK. It is safe for you to endorse Barack Obama. It just did it and didn't break out in hives.

OLBERMANN: The prospect of-and Richard Wolffe mentioned Ken Adelman-the prospect of other Republicans, conservatives, even Bush administration figures, to follow Powell, is it likely or they just stay on the sidelines for the next two weeks?

PAGE: Well, I think they're all going to make that decision for themselves. It is kind of late in the game, but there is time right now to have an impact on those undecided voters out there who are going to make the difference on Election Day. You've also seen Peggy Noonan, Christopher Buckley, who lost his column in the "National Review" over this. It's also interesting, Keith, how dissent from the conservative movement on this endorsement can get you drummed out and bring a lot of hate mail coming in to you. But it kind of shows how there's a certain air of desperation, and then (ph) I say, bitterness, going on out there.

OLBERMANN: And in the voting itself, I assume, that as the military hero, perhaps the most prominent one in the nation, that we might see some impact on military towns, throughout Virginia, along the Atlantic seaboard in lesser degrees than Virginia. Is it likely to have any specific impact or is it going to change anything of the electoral map?

PAGE: The last two elections, enlisted personnel have voted Republican about two to one. This time, we're certainly seeing among the families of enlisted personnel, quite a bit of a drift toward the Obama side, because as people have gotten weary of the war. I think that certainly, Colin Powell does have that kind of grab a pass. You know, he came out on a bad end there, being the front man to sell the war, and it damaged his reputation, but he still got a lot more gravitas than a Republican brand these days. And I think, military people still respect him a lot.

OLBERMANN: To that last point that you made, it is politically useful for Obama to accept this endorsement, but given what happened regarding the war in Iraq and whatever relative culpability Powell had to the rest of the administration, there was still culpability, would there have been any consideration to turn this endorsement down?

PAGE: I don't think so any more than Colin Powell would hear critics like me say, well, you ought to resign to really show your disgust over how you were treated. But he's not a quitter. And it would be rather awkward for Barack Obama to say that Bill Ayers, a reputation that his terrorism from 40 years ago deserves some forgiveness and not be willing to give enmity to Colin Powell.

OLBERMANN: Last point, Clarence, the backlash yesterday and today certainly reminded us how much ugliness there is in the country. I mean, George Will was delicate about it. Pat Buchanan put it in a form of a question. Rush Limbaugh was the unapologetic racist. But they each hit pretty much the same note that this boiled down to the color of these men's skin. And the Limbaugh point, especially, went on to say how ungrateful Powell was to Republicans who made him a four-star general. Is there any kind of response in turn that that will engender-is there a backlash to the backlash coming?

PAGE: Will, Rush is the son of the old south there in terms of his part of Arkansas. He knows what kind of coding, I'm sorry, Missouri. He knows what kind of code words those are to talk about with the gratitude that Colin Powell ought to have after all he went through. Anybody who's read his autobiography knows what he went through in terms of Jim Crow and the south while serving on military bases down there. The fact is, as Colin Powell has said, if it was just race, he would have announced this months ago. Colin Powell was black then, he is black now.

OLBERMANN: And that's the definitive point. By the way, you had me going when you said son of-and I didn't know where you going after that. But, thank goodness.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist..

PAGE: (INAUDIBLE) show, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Well thank you kindly. From the "Chicago Tribune," Clarence Page, great thanks for your time, Clarence.

PAGE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The sliming of General Powell for his endorsement was, of course, just the end point of a very straight line that begun to be drawn by Governor Palin in North Carolina last Thursday. She spoke then of the best of America, pro-America and the real America. And before you knew it, every exclusionist, elitist, "us versus them" nut was in front of a microphone somewhere.

Tonight, a Special Comment: Dressing up hatred in so-called real Americanism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: John McCain victimized by robocall in 2000, hires the same company to make robocalls on his behalf in 2008 and sees no conflict there. Sarah Palin says if she called the shots, there would be no robocalls at all. Apparently forgetting she herself recorded a robocall in use right now. In Bests: The best history teacher I've ever knew was a little better than I thought. It turns out he was ahead of the rest of us by about 16 years. And tonight: How Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pfotenhauer, Rush Limbaugh and John McCain have mistaken the scattered, angry and hopeful among us, for their, quote, "real America." A Special Comment tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: It's not easy for me to say this and I would not advise it unless the situation did not call for it, but if the phone rings during this segment, answer it. Yes, even if you don't have DVR. Now, why would I say that? What kind of phone call could possibly surpass the awesomeness that is COUNTDOWN? Would you believe you may get a phone call from Sarah Palin? Our fourth story tonight: Is the McCain-Palin for robocalls or against them? Or just for the ones that they make and against the one Obama makes? At Wednesday's debate, Mr. McCain said nobody cares about, quote, "washed up terrorist Bill Ayers," despite McCain's repeated attempts to make Ayers, now a respective professor who also pals around with Republicans, an issue in the campaign. The very next day, an official McCain campaign robocall, call on tape, automatically dialed, trying to tie Barack Obama to the same washed-up terrorist McCain had just claimed no one cared about. It went out to as many as dozen battleground states based on anecdotal reports from recipients, some of whom tell "Huffington Post" their children got the calls and were scared by the suggestion that their next president might be a terrorist. On Sunday, McCain was called on the calls by "FOX noise." No, seriously-which admirably pointed out to McCain that he opposed the tactic when it was used against him in a scurrilous attack by the Bush campaign in 2000, by operatives who are now on the McCain payroll, making his robocalls. McCain stood by his robocalls. The moral difference? Well, these are his calls, of course. McCain's washed-up terrorist, G. Gordon Liddy, unlike Ayers, was still calling for violence against U.S. law enforcement officials as recently as the '90s, but that apparently does not count presumably because McCain and Liddy are real Americans from real America. Last night, Palin was asked about McCain's robocalls, about whether she would use them if she were running the campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAST NIGHT)

PALIN: If I could wave a magic wand, I would be sitting at the kitchen table with more and more Americans, talking to them about our plan to get the economy back on track and winning the war, and not having to rely on the old conventional ways of campaigning that includes those robocalls, in terms of Americans attention span. They get a bit irritated with just being inundated and you are seeing a lot of that, of course, with the huge amount of money that Barack Obama is able to spend on these ads and his robocalls, also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several senators, Republican senators just said that the McCain campaign should end the robocalls. Do you think the same thing?

PALIN: I'm not calling for an end to the robocalls, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Despite saying she would not use them, despite calling them "irritating to Americans," the McCain campaign today insisted that Palin's refusal to call on McCain to stop using them indicates she was not condemning them, and that Obama was wrong in how he characterized her remarks at one of his events today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've seen it before and we're seeing it again-ugly phone calls, misleading mail, misleading TV ads, careless, outrageous comments. All aimed at keeping us from working together. All aimed at stopping change. It's getting so bad that even Senator McCain's running mate denounced his tactics last night.You know, you really have to work hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Of course, the McCain campaign is right and that Palin did not denounce the calls for their negativity, she just didn't like robocalls, period. Which leaves us wondering if she just doesn't like robocalls-then what the hell is this new robocall?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PALIN: Hi, this is Sarah Palin. One of our local campaign volunteers just called you. And I wanted to follow up and ask you for your support. You know, our opponent may talk a lot. But they haven't done much listening. John McCain and I know our country is hurting, and we know how to turn it around. We'll get our economy back on track. We'll cut your taxes, and lower prices at the pump, and at the grocery store. John McCain and I are the mavericks who will reform Washington, Wall Street and all the wasteful government in between.

I hope John McCain and I can count on your support on November 4th.

We won't let you down.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Is it not the wonder of the age that you can be told the other candidates may talk a lot but they haven't done much listening by a pre-recorded voice that cannot possibly listen? There's acting and then there's reality in lieu of acting. Not a warm and fuzzy moment between Palin real and Palin false, so we are told. And sometimes it does come down so heavy you feel like you need-a bulldozer. I don't know what this man is doing, but it's next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and more of the remarkable life of Walter Schneller. First, on this date in 1889, some say 1882, was born Margaret Dumont. Stage actress from 1907 on, in 1929, she was cast in the movie with four (INAUDIBLE) villains who called themselves the "Marx Brothers" and forever after, she was the dowager foil to Groucho, playing the role on TV as late as the year before her death in 1965. Groucho Marx always insisted she didn't get any of the jokes and had no idea why everybody was laughing. "Highly dubious, I'm a straight lady," she proudly observed, "the best in Hollywood." On that note, let's play Oddball. We begin in Hamilton, Ontario where a candidate is testing his latest creepy robocall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, do you want to play a game?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it's over, but the games have just begun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Now, it's the same effect as a robocall from marketing. It's a marketing ploy for the horror movie "Saw 5." Kiddies get to go to the movie's website, enter their pals' phone number, and the friend gets a scary voice mail from Freddie or Jason or whoever it is. Ontario police have gotten six complaints about the scary messages, and they're now asking all the hoaxers to quit it, cliched version here.  To London, where dancer Filipe Priatzo (ph) is performing a waltz with a digging machine, because nobody puts bulldozer in a corner. Using a mixture of acrobatics and smooth man on machine moves, Priatzo dazzled a confused crowd at London's Dance Umbrella Festival this past weekend. Wait a minute, they have a dance umbrella festival? Put him down. Priatzo said the goal was to open the imagination of the viewer. Plus, he just dug out a pool in his backyard and didn't have to return the dozer until Monday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Nothing like seeing a vice presidential candidate dancing along to a rap song while a, quote, mother humping moose gets shot. Nothing like hearing the same candidate and others in her party divide America into pro-America and anti-America. My special comment ahead.  First, time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world. Number three, best missing head. A wax model of the noggin of Sir Paul McCartney, worth as much as 20 grand, left on a British train by the man who wanted to auction it off. It was last seen at the station in the British city of Maidenhead. Couldn't have seen that coming. Number two, best dumb criminal, Darwin Barios-Paz of South San Francisco, suspected of breaking into a liquor store largely because police say that after a report of a broken window at that store, they found him in the store's walk-in beer cooler drinking a beer.  Number one, best historical footnote, the late Walter Schneller. I've told you about Mr. Schneller, one of America's great high school history teachers at my school, Hackley, in Terrytown, New York. We lost him last March. We had the memorial service for him there on Saturday. And that's when a lot of us learned something new and extraordinary about Mr. Schneller that in retrospect should not have been any surprise at all. He was in the 1990s in charge of the school's program of guest speakers. Mr. Schneller cast a wide net, seeking interesting people with diverse and compelling backgrounds, no matter how obscure they might have seemed at the time. Thus, some of us learned on Saturday, for black history month in 1991, he found and invited to address the high school students a third year law student from Harvard. In the school publication, a student named Alicia Yagota (ph) wrote that "throughout his speech, the speaker emphasized that change is possible. The core of his ideas was that, as the nation comes out of the conservative, money hungry and cynical atmosphere of the '80s, it needs the idealism of a socially conscious generation, coupled with actions to fulfill idealistic goals."  The speaker brought to the Hackley school by my late teacher, Walter Schneller, nearly 18 years ago, if this 1991 photo does not answer it, the beginning of Miss Yagota's summary will: "perhaps because the times are confusing and the future is unforeseeable, the students of the upper school listened closely to Barack Obama." 1991!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: In the critical first half hour, an estimated 17 million people watched Sarah Palin watch Tina Fey play Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live." It was closer to 12 million by the time the Bullwinkle look-a-like of a moose while the governor danced along to an Amy Poehler rap during weekend update. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the best ratings since skater Nancy Kerrigan right after the 1994 clubbing. So it all worked for the show. Worked for the guest star, too; she took home some of cue cards from her sketch as souvenirs. Did it work for the campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": The American people are angry and John McCain is angry, too. And you can tell he's angry by the way he sighs and grits his teeth and he's always going like grrr. And now I'd like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.

LORNE MICHAELS, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I really wish that that had been you.

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Loren (sic), you know, I just didn't think it was a realistic depiction of the way my press conferences would have gone.

FEY: What? The real one? Bye. PALIN: Thank you. Thank you. No, I'm not going to take any of your questions. But I do want to take this opportunity to say, live from New York, it's Saturday night!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The tension of that pass-by there, we're told, was not acting. The candidate presumably pursuing a game-changing pop culture moment, feigned deference to her own better judgment, opting out of a bit Weekend Update, not long after she actually did opt out of a few lines in that previous opening sketch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Thanks for the chance to come out here tonight, but I've been thinking it over. And I'm not going to do the piece that we rehearsed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're so good at it.

PALIN: Oh, I know. It was really fun, too. But my gut is telling me it might be a bad idea for the campaign.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, associate editor, columnist of the "Washington Post" and for the time being TV critic. Good evening, Gene.

GENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: So that was the good idea for the campaign?

ROBINSON: Where do we begin? I think we can safely say, at least in my experience, the first time we've seen a candidate for president or vice president actually kind of pushing it up on network television, throwing her hands in the air, and waving them like she just don't care. Beyond that, was this a game-changing moment for the campaign or for television? I think neither, actually. But it looked like at least she had a lot of fun doing the bits or had some fun doing the bits. And certainly the "Saturday Night Live" folks seemed to have fun.

OLBERMANN: Could she have done more? I mean, if she wanted to take a risk, could she have done something more in this, or was this what we saw the best of several decreasingly no win situations for her?

ROBINSON: I don't see what she could have done to take a greater risk. I mean, to dive head first into that Palin rap, for example, could not have been a good idea for her. To actually pretend to shoot the moose with the rifle could not have been a good idea for her. So once you make the decision that she's going to appear on the show, then what? And I think she navigated the shoals. Having decided to run through them, I think she navigated them about as well as she could have.

OLBERMANN: We're told that there are still undecided voters. If it's eight percent or so out of 12 million, that's potentially a million votes there or nearly such. What did they see?

ROBINSON: I think they saw-I think they probably saw, huh? They presumably, they've been paying enough attention to know who Sarah Palin is. They must have-even though, if they're undecided, they have formed some opinion. And this probably reinforced the opinion they had, whether -if they thought she's refreshing, they probably think she's more refreshing. If they think she's unserious and unsuited for the vice presidency, they probably think that more after this appearance. I don't think it changed a lot of minds, but it maybe caused some head scratching.

OLBERMANN: And Obama had a presence during the show, although obviously he paid his way in, at least this time. It was a 30-second commercial. It was aimed at women. This is a problem, is it not, for the McCain campaign? The only place they don't seem to have to encounter ads from Obama is during the actual speeches by McCain or Palin or the surrogates. They're sort of dodging hail stones in this campaign at this point, aren't they?

ROBINSON: On what show does Obama not have presence in the form of ads? It's really extraordinary. I was at my folks' house down in South Carolina a week or so ago. South Carolina, reddest of red states, not a state Barack Obama is going to carry in his dreams. Yet, it seemed every couple of minutes or so, there was a Barack Obama ad on the air. And why? I guess because he can. And we're going to see more of it. I mean, we've got a couple weeks left. I think we're going to see another 10 jillion ads.

OLBERMANN: Regarding "Saturday Night Live," expect in those weeks left an Obama presence again, a McCain presence, Palin presence. We'll see where it turns out specifically. Gene Robinson of MSNBC and the "Washington Post." As always, thanks Eugene.

ROBINSON: Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: At least the governor said nothing about the real America during the show. Her remarks about that elsewhere set off a terrible five days of violent and troubling rhetoric. A special comment tonight. And water carrying in action. Three different repetitions of the same smear. Worst persons next. This is COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN: Breaking news at this hour that Senator Barack Obama has canceled his campaign events for Thursday and Friday of this week to travel to Hawaii so he can be at the bedside of his grandmother, who has recently been taken out of the hospital and whose health has reported to have recently taken a turn for the worse. That would be Madelyn Dunham, the 86-year-old grandmother of Barack Obama. She is no longer in the hospital. He is going to be by her side Thursday and Friday, and there will be no campaign events. This is from the Obama campaign and from our correspondent Lee Cowan with it tonight. The weekend of pro-America and anti-America, tonight's special comment. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann and the sliming of Colin Powell for putting, forgive the phrase, country first. That's next, but first time for COUNTDOWN's worst person's in the world. The bronze, Mark Halperin of "Time Magazine," complaining that there hasn't been a lot of stories about Obama going back on his word, saying that he would accept the public money and would reach out to Senator McCain to try to work out a deal. I think this is a case of a clear, unambiguous double standard. Back to the old line about how reading is fundamental. On November 27th of last year, Obama was one of only two candidates to bother to answer the questionnaire of the Midwest Democracy Network. Question 1-B reads-you can find it online-"if you are nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forego private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?" Then you have to check either the yes box or the no box and then explain. Obama checked yes, then gave an extremely long and self-serving answer about his history of advocating public finances, which concluded, "if I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." What that is is a series of if then statements leading to only this promise that he'd pursue an agreement. There's no going back on any word here and anybody telling you otherwise is deliberately cherry picking that document to serve a political cause. A three way tie tonight for the silver, John Dowd, Cindy McCain's attorney, writing to the "New York Times," after its profile of her and mentioning her past prescription drug abuse: quote, "you've not tried to find Barack Obama's drug dealer that he wrote about in his book." Brian Kilmeade of Fixed News, "why not try to find that drug dealer?" Rudy Giuliani on Fixed News, "god forbid, somebody should do some reporting on Barack Obama's use of drugs." Way to execute the talking points, boys, but, hello, you guys own enough reporters, hop to it. But our winner, Roger Ailes of Fox Noise, who is going into the broadcasting and cable Hall of Fame, presumably near the bust of the guy who made the commercials louder than the actual shows. Anyway, the official bio for his introduction program, he's quoted in this as saying, "everybody knew Russert was a liberal Democrat and everybody knows Brokaw is a liberal Democrat, but they didn't let that get in the way of their questions, their reporting. They didn't get their ego out in front of the story. I have enormous respect for people who do that."  Ailes of course never hired anybody like that at Fox, never practiced it himself, but he has enormous respect for people who do. Roger, do as I respect not as I do, Ailes, today's worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: To repeat the breaking news, Barack Obama will cancel campaign events Thursday and Friday of this week so he can travel to Hawaii to be at the bedside of his grandmother, 86-year-old Madeline Dunham, who was released from a hospital in Honolulu. Robert Gibbs of the Obama campaign saying tonight, "for privacy reasons, I'll simply leave her medical condition, her illness as very serious. The decision Senator Obama is making to go to Hawaii, I think, underscores the seriousness of the situation." Rachel Maddow will have more on the breaking news and our correspondent with the Obama campaign, Lee Cowan, at the top of the hour.  I have frequently insisted I would never turn the platform of the Special Comment into a regular feature. But as these last two weeks of this extraordinary, and extraordinarily disturbing, presidential campaign project out in front of us, I fear I may have to temporarily amend that presumption. I hope it will be otherwise, but I suspect this will be the first of nightly pieces, most shorter than this one, until further notice. And thus a Special Comment tonight about the last five days of the divisive, ugly, paranoid bleatings of this Presidential race, culminating in the sliming of Colin Powell for his endorsement of Senator Obama. There was once a very prominent sportswriter named Dick Young whose work, with ever-increasing frequency, became peppered with references to "my America." "I can't believe this is happening in My America;" "We do not tolerate these people in My America;" "This man does not belong in my America." His America gradually revealed itself: insular, isolationist, backwards-looking, mindlessly flag-waving, racist, no second chances, a million rules, but only for the other guy. Dick Young died in 1987, but he has been re-born in the presidential campaign as it has unfolded since last Thursday night. In that time, Gov. Sarah Palin, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer, and Rush Limbaugh have revealed that there is a measurable portions of this country that is not interested in that which the vast majority view as democracy or equality or opportunity. They want only control and they want the rest of us, symbolically, perhaps physically out. Gov. Palin: "We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington D.C.," you told a fund-raiser in North Carolina last Thursday, to kick off this orgy of condescending elitism."We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America. Being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation." Governor, your prejudice is overwhelming. It is not just "pockets" of this country that are "pro-America," Governor. America is "pro-America." And the "Real America" of yours, Governor, is where people at your rallies shout threats of violence, against other Americans, and you say nothing about them or to them. What you are seeing is not patriotism, Governor. What has surrounded you since your nomination has been the echoing shout of mob rule. Indeed, that shout has echoed to Minnesota, where the next day an unstable Congresswoman named Michelle Bachmann added to the ugly cry. "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think people would love to see an expose like that." For nearly two years, Ms. Bachmann, who made her first political bones by keeping the movie "Aladdin" from being shown at a Minnesota charter school because she thought it promoted paganism and witchcraft, has had a seat in the government of this nation, a seat from which she has spewed the most implausible, hateful, narrow-minded garbage imaginable. Well, Congresswoman, you have gotten that "expose'" you wanted, have you not? Though not perhaps in the way you imagined. Since giving voice to your remarkable delusion that there are members of Congress who are "anti-America," and the extraordinary tap-dance of sleaze and innuendo about Sen. Obama which followed, the challenger for your house Seat, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has been inundated by donations, 700,000 dollars in the three days after you spoke. Because the America you perceive, Congresswoman, with its goblins and ghosts and vast unseen hordes of traitors and fellow travelers and Senators who won't ban "Aladdin," exists only in your head, and in the heads of the others who must rationalize the failures in their own lives and of their own policies as somebody else's fault, as a conspiracy to deny them an America of exclusionism and religious orthodoxy and prejudice, about which they must accuse, and murmur, and shout threats, and cleave the nation into pro-America and anti-America. And back it comes to the McCain campaign, and Sen. McCain's talking head, Ms. Pfotenhauer, who on this very network Saturday, and seemingly without the slightest idea that dismissive prejudice dripped from every word, analyzed the presidential race in Virginia. "I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia," she said. "But the rest of the state, 'real Virginia,' if you will, I think will be very responsive to Sen. McCain's message." Again, a toxic message. The parts of the country that agree with Nancy Pfotenhauer are real; the others, not. Ms. Pfotenhauer, why not go the distance on this one? It was Sen. McCain's own brother who called that part of Virginia nearest Washington "communist country." Cut to the chase, Madam. No matter the intended comic hyperbole of Joe McCain. This is the point, isn't it? Leave out the real meaning of "Communism," Madam. Joe McCain reduced it to a buzz-word; it has no more true definition right now than does "Socialism," or the phrase "a man who sees America like you and I see America." It's about us and them, the pro and the anti. Never mind, Madam, that the bisecting of this country that you happily inspire means taking a tiny crack in a dam and not repairing it but burrowing into it. It is not enough that Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama might differ. One must be real and the other false. One must be pro-America and the other anti. Go back and, as your boss Rick Davis said today, "re-think" Mr. McCain's insistence not to drag the sorry bones of Jeremiah Wright into this campaign. And whatever you do, Ms. Pfotenhauer, allow no one enough time to think about the widening crack in the dam. And now all of this comes back together to attack Colin Powell. "Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," writes Rush Limbaugh. The grand wizard of this school of reactionary non-thought continues, "OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."  It is not conceivable that Powell might reject McCain for the politics of hate and character assassination, or just for policy. In the closed, sweaty world of the blind allegiances of Limbaugh, one of "us" who endorses one of "them," must be doing so for some other blind allegiance, like the color of skin. The answer to this primordial muck must be addressed to one man only. Sen. McCain, where are you? I disagree with you on virtually every major point of policy and practice. And yet I do not think you "anti-America." I would not hesitate to join you in time of crisis in defense of this country. Fortunately, you did not echo this chorus of base hatred. But neither have you repudiated it. What is "pro-America", Senator? Is it pro-America to call a man a racist because he endorses Barack Obama? Senator, you have based your campaign on many premises, but the foremost-and the most nearly admirable of them all-have been these pitches about "reaching across the aisle," and putting, as your ubiquitous banners reed, "country first." So when Colin Powell endorses your opponent, you say nothing as your supporters and proxies paint him in this "Anti-America" frame and place him in Gov. Palin's un-real America. Sen. McCain, did not Gen. Powell just "reach across the aisle?" Did he not, in his own mind at least, "put country first?" Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to, if not applaud, then at least quiet those in your half of our fractured political equation? Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to say "enough" to Republican smears without end? Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to insist that, win or lose, you will not be party to a campaign that devolves into hatred and prejudice and divisiveness? And Sen. McCain, if it is not your responsibility, whose is it?

That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,000th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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