updated 10/24/2008 11:41:46 AM ET 2008-10-24T15:41:46

COUNTDOWN

October 23, 2008

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

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

Guests: David Axelrod, Sam Seder

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

Late and voluminous battleground polls. Ohio, Obama by four, 12, or 14. Florida, Obama by five. Pennsylvania, Obama by 11 or 13. Virginia, Obama by 10.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We tried it George Bush's way. Now we're here to say: Enough is enough. We can't afford four more years of their fundamental economics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The senator that leaves the campaign trail for two days to visit his gravely-ill grandmother, and the Republicans attack them both.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know what the outrage is today-is Barack Obama is taking a 767 campaign plane to go visit grandma. Forget about the energy that is wasted. What about the hundreds of thousands of dollars to take a private trip when this guy should be humping his bags on a commercial plane or taking a smaller plane?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: To go visit grandma. Yes, a human being actually said that. Well, GOP attack dog Brad Blakeman said that.

McCain adds up the attacks on the Bush administration. And the lame duck bites his ankles. One of the most senior Republican strategists tells "Politico," "spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes when congressional Republicans are struggling for money, you're not doing much to energize your supporters, and they need to look at how Bob Dole finished his campaign in 1996 and not try to take down as many Republicans with them as they can."

Membrane: Governor Palin says she will not have anymore children, but she had always wanted a son named Zamboni.

Worsts: Billo insists John McCain never knew Gordon Liddy and 1998 was 20 years ago.

And, plumb and plumber: The Joe the Plumber tour begins Florida. And the obsession is getting a little surreal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether it's Joe the Plumber in Ohio, Joe over here, thank you Joe. Joe, thank you. There's Joe's all over here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Tonight's campaign comment: Senator McCain goes down the drain. All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Or Wendy the plumber's daughter.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, October 23rd, 12 days until the 2008 presidential election.

There's the old dark humor joke about the guy who so chronically forgetful that he wouldn't show up for his own funeral-and the candidate who wouldn't show up for his own election night party.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The McCain campaign telling the "Associated Press" tonight that the senator will be addressing his supporters who have gathered in a ballroom at Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix on November 4th by video remote, while he stands at another location, on the hotel lawn. No, I'm not kidding.

Aides telling the AP that the campaign's bizarre decision to keep Senator McCain out of the mix at his own election night party is due to, quote, "space limitations." Probably nothing to do with the latest batch of numbers out of the battleground states putting a victory on election night even further out of reach for the Republican.

Senator Obama with double-digit leads in eight of the states in the Big Ten Poll: Illinois, his home state, by 29; Michigan, until recently thought to still be an actual battleground, by 22; Minnesota, 19;

Wisconsin, 13; Iowa, the state that gave the senator his first victory by in January, another 13-point lead; Ohio with 12; Pennsylvania at 11; and Indiana, red state Indiana, by 10.

Meantime, in the Quinnipiac University Poll today: Obama by 14 in Ohio, by 13 in Pennsylvania, by five in Florida.

In the Opinion Research Poll for "Time" magazine: in Virginia, which has not voted for a Democratic president since 1964, Obama by 10: Nevada, five; North Carolina, another southern state that has not voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976, Obama by four; Ohio, also four-much more conservative in polling numbers than the other polls; and in West Virginia, Senator McCain is still leading by nine.

Finally here, Senator Obama even edging ahead of Senator McCain in big sky country, up by four, in the Montana State University Billings Poll for that state.

Senator McCain today is trying to win back those voters in Florida with a strategy proven, proven not to be working. I don't know if the name would be at all familiar to you, but apparently, he brought up somebody called Joe the Plumber. The senator beginning today with a round table of first name the occupations in Daytona Beach, including "Tom the Contractor," "Tim the Sports Pub Owner," "Patricia the Kitchen Supplies Purveyor," and "Richard the Florist."

The senator then making a stop at the office of "Gary the Periodontist" before making an appeal to all Florida names at a rally in Ormond Beach as "John the Fighter."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Florida in a battleground state. We got to win it. We have less than two weeks, 12 days-who's counting-until the election. And what America needs now is a fighter, someone who puts all his cards on the table and trusts the judgment of the American people. I have fought for you most of my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, before leaving the campaign trail for 36 hours to visit his gravely-ill grandmother in Hawaii, this morning, reminding voters in another battleground state, Indiana, that despite the poll numbers, even the extraordinary ones there, they should take nothing for granted during the next two weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Indiana, in just 12 days, you have the chance to elect your next president. You'll have the chance to bring the change we need to Washington. You'll have the chance to select the next commander-in-chief, and make sure that we are using our military wisely.

That's the good news. But, we're going to have to work. We're going to have to struggle. We're going to have to fight for every single one of those 12 days to move our country in a new direction. It's not going to be easy, but I'm hopeful about the outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Time now to bring in John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent, also, of course, political reporter with the "New York Times."

Good evening, John.

JOHN HARWOOD, CBNC: Great to be with you, "Keith the Anchorman."

OLBERMANN: Yes, that's me. Let's go back to "John the Correspondent" and the bureau chief. Let me ask you this question-about "John the Candidate" and this extraordinary announcement that he's not actually going to be at his own election night party. I'm very confused by this. I have no explanation, do you?

HARWOOD: Well, Keith, this is the point in the campaign where all stories, it seems, are bad for the McCain campaign. I talked to a McCain advisor tonight who said this was a mistake; that the "AP" story got it wrong, and that, in fact, John McCain will be in the ballroom with his supporters. The people who will be watching on the video screens, that's the overflow room in case they've got more people who show up. So, if that is correct, it appears that he will show up.

OLBERMANN: Well, all right. I feel a little better, like we are still on planet earth. To the polls, though, those-is there a positive for Senator McCain out of all-any of those numbers?

HARWOOD: Not really. There's one poll by the "Associated Press" that has Barack Obama only up one. But if you look at the range of polls, which is what political pros do, Keith, as you know, they average them together and sort of smooth out the wide swings in one to the other.

And it's pretty clear Barack Obama's got a lead, six, seven, eight, nine points, nationally. And also those numbers in the Big Ten Poll, of Quinnipiac, that you just put up on the screen, showed he's got leads in those battleground states that he needs. So, he's in a very, very strong position right now.

OLBERMANN: We're going to get something different in the absence of Obama from the campaign tomorrow. There's something of a vacuum, there's something of a news vacuum. And Senator Palin is going to give a policy address for the Republican side, obviously. Do you have any idea what's coming with that and why did they decided to take that what-I think it would be fair to say, from either side of the equation, to take that risk?

HARWOOD: Well, I think what they are going to do is have her speak on special needs kids tomorrow. They want to present her in a sympathetic light. It's something that she is going to say-a special portfolio that she's going to carry as part of the McCain administration, if they win. And I think that's why they put her out there.

They are going to do another one next week, possibly on energy, which is another issue on which she claims special caches. So, I think that's the reason why. They want to do something different.

Sarah Palin is trying to push back a little bit from some of the control she's been under. Get out there a little more. They've got to try something different because what they have tried so far, Keith, isn't working, as you can see.

OLBERMANN: And on the other hand, we have had now, for eight days, pretty much the same thing all the way through. And this pronouncement that forced John McCain, anyway, we might as well identify him with the graphic instead of saying John McCain, Republican, Arizona. We might as well say Joe the Plumber. We might as well call him that. Is that locked in? Is there going to be a change from that, or are we going to hear another 12 days of this one drum beat being repeated again and again?

HARWOOD: Well, I think you're going to hear an awful lot of that especially on the tax issue. And they are going to drive that both addressing public unhappiness with spending levels, but also trying to make that tax issue stick. It has not been sticking so far. And that's the huge problem for them.

And, of course, this controversy over whether the $150,000 spent on Palin's clothes has not helped them make that case, although it's not clear how much that's broken through to the public beyond the people like inside the political community, and networks like this one.

OLBERMANN: Yes, they are very lucky David Letterman was on vacation this week. It didn't break through that way.

HARWOOD: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: The one break for the McCain campaign.

John Harwood of CNBC and the "New York Times"-thanks for coming in tonight, John.

HARWOOD: You bet.

OLBERMANN: For more on the view at Obama headquarters these days, we're fortunate enough now to be joined by the campaign's chief strategist, David Axelrod.

David, thanks for your time tonight.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CHIEF STRATEGIST: Happy to be here, Keith.

Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: Well, I imagine, the mood is pretty positive. But give some specifics. When you look at those battleground state polls, would you like to look at them, smile and put them in your back pocket and not having anybody see them, or what's the reaction to those numbers?

AXELROD: Well, you know, the fact is, one of the advantages of having run for 20 months as we've been up and down and sideways in polls, we've been misled by polls-you know, we don't really set our course by these kinds of polls. What we look at is the enthusiasm that we see out in the field, the people who are knocking on doors, early voting and so on. And those are positive signs.

But the worst thing we can do is become complacent. The worst thing we could so is send a signal that somehow this is over. As Senator Obama said, this is going to be a battle every single day until November 4th. And we're not going to be celebrating prematurely. We're going to fight for this victory right to the end.

OLBERMANN: Do you think there's a chance you're being misled in Indiana? I mean, that's-whatever else happens in this, that's an extraordinary thing to read about. That's not - there is no great Democratic tradition in that state. That's a 10-point lead in the polls. It could be way off and you could still be ahead significantly there.

AXELROD: Well, it's been 44 years since they voted for a Democratic candidate for president. But the truth is, that Indiana, like so many other states, has really felt the lash of these Bush economic policies that Senator McCain essentially wants to continue and I think people have said enough is enough. We want a change.

Now, it's going to be close. And I don't-I'm not sitting here declaring victory in the state of Indiana. But I know this-we were there today and Senator Obama spoke to a huge crowd in Indianapolis. And the enthusiasm level was really something to behold.

And so, you know, the objective signs are that things are going well there. And I spoke to a number of elected officials from throughout the state, including Southern Indiana which has been a particularly difficult terrain for the Democratic candidates. And they are all very bullish.

So, you know, we're going to keep fighting for every vote in that state. And, you know, we're hopeful. It's our neighboring state from Illinois. And we'd love to have and put them in the Democratic column.

OLBERMANN: One poll we did not go into any detail about, but John Harwood mentioned it and I think, I love to know what your read of it. The "Associated Press" yesterday, the only one like this at the moment, likely voters, Obama 44, McCain 43. I mean, I know likely voters can be massaged anyway a pollster likes. You get 100 to nothing score if you go at the right group of likely voters. But can you walk us through what this one means or does not mean?

AXELROD: Well, I don't know. I mean, what it means is that if they are right and everybody else is wrong, they are going to have a jubilant evening on November 4th. Or, at least, their pollster is.

But I think that everything, you know, the sampling in these polls is very important. And you have to look inside the internals. And one element of it suggested that, you know, close to 50 percent of the people there identified themselves as evangelicals in one of their runs.

So, I mean-it's very hard to analyze this-in isolation. I think you have to look at it in combination with all the other polls as John suggested. And I do believe we're in a strong position, but we've certainly not won this election and we're not going to treat it that way.

OLBERMANN: All right. Ground strategy-these reports that McCain is focusing all his remaining resources on the states that George Bush won in 2004. Is there any sense that you need to play any measure of defense in that way, any plans for the senator to campaign any of the states that Kerry won in 2004?

AXELROD: Well, we're fortunate because we are well-fortified. We believe in the states that Kerry won and we're going to spend the preponderance of our time trying to expand the battlefield.

You know, Keith, one of the things we started out to do at the beginning of this race is shatter this red state/blue state paradigm that we've been locked in for so many election cycles, and try and win in places where Democrats haven't won before. We have that opportunity now. And we're going to press our case in those states. And that's where we're going to spend much our time. And, you know, we feel good about it.

Senator Obama was just in Florida, in North Carolina, in Virginia, and, you know, the feeling in all those states in addition to Indiana is very positive. We thing we've got a great opportunity there and we want to make sure we make the strongest possible case.

OLBERMANN: Two last questions. Next Wednesday, when you essentially buy up television for half an hour on most of the channels, any clues to what you are going to show people?

AXELROD: Well, you mean aside from the worst people in the world.

OLBERMANN: Oh, yes, thank you.

AXELROD: . segment that we filmed in there?

OLBERMANN: Yes, you're going to preempt that, is what you're going to do. Any preview?

AXELROD: Well, you know, we have been circumspect about sort of talking about the format of it. But you can, I think, be assured that we're going to continue to make the case that we've been making that the course we're on has led to a bad place and that Senator Obama is offering ideas that can ensure that the next four years will be better than the last four. And I think that's what people are looking for now.

With all respect to Joe the Plumber, some of those debates have become a little draining.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

AXELROD: But I think people are really looking for positive ideas about how we can raise incomes again, create jobs, rebuild the middle class. And in doing so, grow our economy again. And that's-and Senator Obama, I think is going to discuss in that half hour, how we do that. And we're hoping lots of folks will be watching, the few that are watching you.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

Last point, obviously, this is not really particular relevant to the campaign, but it's the human equation of people who are interested in this as well. How is the senator, without going into details, it's obviously sad news about his grandmother's health, how is he? You saw him today, how is he doing?

AXELROD: Yes. Well, thanks for asking, Keith. I think he's doing well. It's obviously a difficult time for him, but I think he's happy to have the opportunity to see her now. Doctors suggested this was the time to come.

And so, you know, this woman is an extraordinary woman and she played such a huge role in his life. And, you know, I'm happy and I think that he has the opportunity to go back there, you know, and share with her some of what has been going on with him because she has so much to do with who he is and-as a person. So, you know, it's going to be a tough time.

But I think the good news is that he's almost there and he's going to get a chance to see her. And we're all happy about that.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. Better to be there than not. And that the campaign affords that possibility, best of all.

David Axelrod, chief campaign strategist for the Obama campaign-great thanks for your time tonight, David.

AXELROD: Thanks, Keith. Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: Maybe you caught the pleading reference to Joe the Plumber. Tonight's Campaign Comment: It is everything but the kitchen sink and John McCain needs to put down the snake and back slowly away.

Today, three Republican figures endorsed Obama including one prominent figure from the Bush administration. While Senator McCain got slapped around for spending money not on Republican congressional candidates but on his running mate's clothes, slapped around by one of his own party's mandarins.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The first, the former governor of Minnesota, then the newest of the Goldwater's, and late this afternoon, a key former Bush administration figure, all endorsing Senator Obama today.

Later in Worst: Changing the rules so they can win the game-the New York City council taking on Billo the Clown in our competition.

And tonight's Campaign Comment: One more reference to Joe the Plumber, Senator McCain, and you'll have us all hugging the commode.

You're watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: With the way in the last eight years on their shoulders, it is hard to believe that, a dozen days before the election, anybody from the Bush administration could look morally upright this evening.

But in our fourth story tonight: McCain and his party slowly starting to savage each other, including four Republican stalwarts, three on the record, and one devastatingly off of it, to say nothing of, perhaps, Governor Palin versus McCain.

We start with, well, call them Obamacans, call them Barackefeller Republicans-three broke ranks today and endorsed Obama. Former Bush press secretary, Scott McClellan, the most recent thereof; the former Minnesota governor, Arne Carlson; and most embarrassing, perhaps personally for McCain, C.C. Goldwater, speaking for her siblings, too, invoking their grandfather Barry Goldwater, McCain's predecessor, role model-she's endorsed Obama.

McCain today, apparently, losing every faction of his own party, ticking off Bush supporters and the Republican Congress by blasting them all yesterday for their, quote, "conduct in the war on Iraq, growth in the size of government, $10 trillion debt, owing $500 billion to China, failure of regulatory agencies, climate change, pork excess spending." Also, Bush's Medicare prescription drug bill, executive privilege claims, Cheney's executive-legislative branch straddling, Bush's signing statements, those unilateral revisions of the law he signs everything but the Sosa-Baines trade.

Today, hitting Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson for not adopting the universally panned McCain plan to spend taxpayer money to buy bad mortgages. The GOP has replied, a senior party strategist sitting at McCain for blaming his own colleagues, quote, "Instead of Pelosi and Reid and echoing your opponent's attacks on you, and spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes when congressional Republicans are struggling for money." The list went on.

The "Atlantic" even reports today, quote, "A suspicion in some loyalist precincts that Governor Sarah Palin is beginning to play the Republican base against John McCain."

Let's turn now to Margaret Carlson, Washington editor for "The Week" magazine and political columnist for "Bloomberg News."

Good to talk to you, as always, Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: First, Colin Powell. Now, another Carlson, and Goldwater, and McClellan, what's going on here?

CARLSON: No relation, the governor.

OLBERMANN: OK.

CARLSON: And add to that, Gordon Smith and (INAUDIBLE) Republicans in very tough race that they shouldn't be tough, never mentioning McCain and Palin. This is, you know, just part of, I think, the way that is coming over the McCain campaign. We'll probably see some more of it in the next couple of days. But the name Goldwater, Arizona, it's everything that, you know, McCain loves. And that one must really hurt.

He-you know, on Colin Powell, he made it seem as if, well, it didn't really matter and, you know, who is he. But, you know, these things really hurt, especially, you know, when your friends with these people. It must be really hard to do. It looks easy to do because it's, you know, they get on TV and do it, but I think it's very hard and it must be very hard to be on the receiving end of it as John McCain is.

OLBERMANN: Well, of course, he's now receiving it from both ends, in fact. This interview, after this interview with the "Washington Times" of this laundry list of complaints against the Bush administration and its backlash.

CARLSON: Yes.

OLBERMANN: Turn the question for-his question for Obama at that last debate against McCain. I mean, if Senator McCain wanted to run against Mr. Bush, why didn't he do so in 2004, he's got a campaign before?

CARLSON: Good point. And that was the kitchen sink that he threw. And I'm making no Joe the Plumber references.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.

CARLSON: I'm swearing them off after tonight.

It was everything. And well, he couldn't do it because he had a primary. And during that, John McCain made remarks that are now part of Obama's ads-you know, I voted with Bush 90 percent of the time.

I always wonder why, in a primary, a candidate doesn't think, OK, can an ad be made of this. Is this something I want to say? They all do it, so I guess, you know, when you're in a primary and you're desperate, but that ad is a very, very effective. That's up now with the 90 percent of the time. It's way too late for McCain to run against Bush.

OLBERMANN: And the internal GOP backlash against him running against Bush and Republicans in Congress? I mean, how real is that and can it have an impact on this election in 12 days?

CARLSON: Well, you know, for finger-pointing to be effect, it has to be done early. Preferably before the election itself if you want to save yourself, that Republican strategist, that everyone is guessing (ph) at today, pretty soon, he's going to put his name on it and other people are going to put their names on it because there's a future. I mean, it's that moment in a campaign when, you know, out of rally that Obama had in Virginia, you see the people on the Obama Team with lumps in their throats, fatigue, exuberance, hope, it's almost over. Their guy, they love their guy, it looks like he may win.

And the other side has an equally big lump that their stomach. They've been doing it for two years, it's almost over. It's a little like dying the day after an election.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

CARLSON: It's-the lights go out. And one human reaction is great sadness and the second one is: oh, my God, I need to save myself. And that's what's happening now with the finger-pointing. And as I say, you want to be on offense, not defense. So, you can hear people getting out there early.

OLBERMANN: Well, how early? And is Sarah Palin saving herself? That quote from "The Atlantic" was a suspicion of some McCain loyalist precincts that Governor Palin is beginning to play the Republican base against John McCain.

CARLSON: No, I expect to see Sarah Palin 2012, popping up on my computer any day now. I think, you know-she started leaving the reservation in minor ways when she criticized McCain for leaving Michigan. She said, "Todd and I are going to Michigan." Then she criticized a couple other things. And then, that interview, she dominated the interview. There was about 90 percent of Sarah Palin and 10 percent McCain in the Brian Williams. So, she is looking ahead, that girl.

OLBERMANN: That's gratitude after he bought her all those clothes.

CARLSON: Yes, right.

OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News," great thanks. Take care.

CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Governor Palin thought she'd gotten gotcha interviews. This-this is a gotcha interview. Lights out-there.

First, he said, liberals hate America, then he denied it, then the tape turned up of him saying it, now he's denying he denied it. Worst Persons is ahead.

But firs, the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of the Republican presidential nominee-McCain in the Membrane.

Number three: Eating their own. Republicans in North Carolina running an ad against Democratic Senate challenger Kay Hagan in saying, don't vote for her because if Hagan wins, they get a blank check. As Politico.com notes, the blank check implies Democrats in control of the Senate, the House and the White House, it would seem to presume-a Republican ad presuming an Obama victory. Opps.

Number two: Taking hockey mom literally. The National Hockey League, St. Louis Blues have invited Governor Palin to drop the ceremonial first puck for their home game tomorrow night. This, even though, Governor Palin dropped the ceremonial first puck for the Philadelphia Flyers' opening game on the 11th and the Flyers lost that game and all five they have played since, and they are now 0-6.

Oh, "People" magazine has an interview with the governor and her husband using reader questions, one of which includes this wondering, "We wondered if you had anymore unique baby names up your sleeves." "We did," the governor replied. "We never got our Zamboni in. I always wanted a son named Zamboni." And somehow, you do not know, this is a Zamboni, the ice-resurfacing machine named for its maker Frank J. Zamboni, Jr.

The number one: John McCain was against spending campaign money on clothing before he did it. From the archives, May 25th, 1993, Senator McCain speaking on the floor of the Senate, quote, "The amendment before the Senate is a very simple one. It restricts the use of campaign funds for inherently personal purposes. The amendment would restrict individuals from using campaign funds for such thing as home mortgage payments, clothing purchases."

Continuing: "If we're truly going to have campaign finance reform, I do not believe that campaign funds should be used for such things as country club dues, tuxedos. If we in Congress learned one thing from President Clinton's $200 haircut last week, it should be that the public does not approve of its elected officials being treated as royalty, we should be no different."

Eight months later, McCain was back on the Senate floor, "Campaign funds have been used to buy such items as a jumbo illuminated globe from Hammacher Schlemmer, for trips to exotic locals such as Thailand, Taiwan, and Italy, and for tuxedos and an unexplainable $299 for bow ties."

We should have pointed that the $75,000 at Neiman Marcus, the $49,000 at Saks, the $5,000 at Bloomingdale's, has not been itemized. So, we don't know if there were bow ties. And if, perhaps, the $299 bow tie might now seem like a bargain in Palin land.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. Why are you suing? It's only a voodoo doll with your picture on it. First, on this date in 1925, John William Carson was born. Johnny Carson's first big time job was reading the time, the weather and the call letters at a television station I later worked at, Channel Two in Los Angeles. I did not know that. Let's play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: We begin in South Africa, and this is the gotcha interview. Seen a lot of sand bagging from the liberal media elites this election cycle, but this is going too far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For members of parliament to actually digest and go through the documentation that is going to be presented to the public and the opportunity for proper engagement is actually after the taping of the-

OLBERMANN: And down goes South African MP (INAUDIBLE). The TV station apologized for the tumble and the broken chair, made sure it would never happen again by selling the rest of their booby trapped guest chairs to the Fox News Channel.

To the baseball diamond, and now there's really no reason to watch the 2008 World Series. The fifth inning of last night's game between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, the Rays' shortstop Jason Bartlett stole second, triggering the fulfillment of Taco Bell's steal a base, steal a taco promotion. Thanks to the Bartlett seasoned beef stimulus package, everyone in America is now entitled to one free 89 cent Taco next Tuesday.

This is a replay of last year when Jacoby Elsbury (ph) of the Red Sox thieved a base, turning him into a cult hero, otherwise known as Taco-by Elsbury. The fast food chain may have hoped that Phillies pitcher Taco-Cole Hamels or Ray's outfielder Taco-Baldelli would swipe this year's bag. Hey, they're still taking the free grub.

Finally, to New Orleans, where we discover that an all of the above energy policy is going to do something bad to America's house pets. It's a freaking glow in the dark cat. Mr. Green Jeans is a science experiment cloned with a gene that reveals his green tongue, green eyes and green gums when they are exposed to fluorescent light. Or maybe he just ate some green eggs and ham or a taco. The hope here is that Mr. Green Jeans will help find cures for genetic diseases. And if that don't work, scientists will just sell the glow kitty to college stoners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: One of the founders of the far right Freedom's Watch slams Senator Obama for taking a private flight, quote, to go visit grandma, even though Obama's grandmother is, as you know, gravely ill. Among other things wrong with what he said, he forgot to mention Joe the plumber. Why John McCain needs to drop this, and fast, in tonight's Campaign Comment.

All that ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world. Theme warning, it's about how we treat our politicians.

Number three, Mayor Kathleen Savolt of Mamarinick (ph), New York. She was ticketed by town cop Michael Patrillo for driving while using a cell phone. She said it was an urgent call and she was not in a place she could have immediately pulled over. A judge thus dismissed the ticket so officer Patrillo went to the mayor's house and gave her a new target. You may want to watch officer Patrillo real carefully.

Number two, Senator Obama, probably a little surprised to learn that his face is appearing on the new Lottery tickets in the city of Mesa, Colombia. The Lottery manager there says the pictures he puts on the ticket help to determine how well they sell. "We're always looking for somebody people are raving about," he says.

Number one, the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. Very unusual to see a public person suing over the use of his image, but the president is doing so for the second time this year. First, it was an Irish airline. Now, it's to stop a company that makes a Sarkozy voodoo doll that you can stick pins into. Curiously, the same company makes a voodoo of Segolene Royale, who Sarkozy defeated for the presidency last year. Funny, she hasn't sued. Maybe her doll worked.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: For all the Republican outrage at what they have perceived as the latest outrages against their candidates and their families, you would think there might be some places GOP water carriers might not go. You'd be wrong again. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, now it is Barack Obama and his gravely ill grandmother sideswiped by the former chairman of the rabid right wing attack group Freedoms Watch. It was live on this network today.

Asked by our David Shuster about the Sarah Palin wardrobe malfunction, Brad Blakeman decided to expose a sick and diseased corner of his own psyche. Having compared Obama's spending already to that of, quote, a drunken sailor, another inopportune phrase, at a time he reprimanded when, quote, we should be watching our funds. The last you will hear from Mr. Schuster is a mix of disbelief and disgust.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC ANCHOR: If it's so important not to be spending money like a drunken sailor-I haven't asked you this yet, but I'm curious to hear your view of the amount of money, 150,000 dollars that was spent on Sarah Palin's clothes at high end stores like Saks and Neiman. I don't even think you shop at Saks and Neiman.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FREEDOM WATCH: No, I don't. Let me tell you this. You know what the outrage is? It's Barack Obama taking a 767 campaign plane to go visit grandma. Forget about the energy wasted. What about the hundreds of thousands of dollars to take a private trip when this guy should be humping his bags on a commercial plane or a smaller plane. Taking a 767 of campaign money from people who could least afford it is more of an outrage in my opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Let's bring in Sam Seder, co-host of the Air America show. Good evening, Sam.

SAM SEDER, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Thanks, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: I thought I was immune to being outraged by Republicans who take attacks like that. But to mock Obama's trip to see his ailing grandmother. Is that possible? Did I actually hear that?

SEDER: That was exactly my reaction. I saw the thing live and I had my TV behind me and I thought it's not possibly someone seriously saying this. I don't know whether or not to be offended by the stunning insensitivity or just the stunning stupidity of this guy. You're talking about raising the specter of Palin going out spending 150,000 dollars on her wardrobe, buying her seven-year-old kid a Louis Vuitton bag, and somehow comparing this in the heat of a campaign to visiting your gravely ill grandmother.

It's astonishing. Then you add into that mix the story that didn't get that much play about Palin bringing her kids on trips and having the state of Alaska pay for her kids to go on trips and stay in luxury hotels, when the Alaska law clearly says that unless they're there on official business, they have no business being paid for by the state. It's just bizarre.

OLBERMANN: In the contempt in this, that phrase, to go see grandma, as if Obama was out there shopping for clothes at Neiman Marcus. Does anybody in the Republican party connect the dots in this way, that this is the kind of stuff that leads to the mess they're in right now?

SEDER: I think that's exactly the point. When I heard this guy say this, Blakeman say this, it immediately reminded me of that moment in the last debate where John McCain sort of sneered about the health of the mother. And I just thought like, you know, on what planet are these people living? Ultimately, this is what we want from our politicians, them to care about their family members, care about their mothers, care about their daughters, care about their sisters.

And this idea that this is going to somehow-I think it just simply shows that this Republican party and the people who are willing now to come out and be a surrogate for it at this point, they are completely out of touch with what American values are.

OLBERMANN: But they have-one thing they're in touch in-with is this idea of fake umbrage. What would have happened if the roles were reversed and this was some mid-level Democrat making a remark like this about McCain going to see his mother, Palin going to see her parents, anybody in that party going-or any kind of family emergency involving anybody connected to the Republican campaign?

SEDER: Of course it would be an eight-day story and every single Republican going out there would be talking that Barack Obama doesn't have family values, and this is exactly why you can't trust him and this notion that somehow Democrats could attack people for loving their family. They seem to have completely lost their rudder. It's almost like there should be a commissioner of surrogates who should be looking into whether or not a guy like Blakeman is somehow betting against McCain to win. There's really no other explanation to come out and criticize someone for visiting their ill grandmother.

OLBERMANN: He's throwing the election, because he bought 100 contracts on Intrade favoring Obama.

SEDER: Exactly. That's exactly what I thought.

OLBERMANN: You know what? That would be the most rational explanation I've heard for this lunatic saying this despicable thing so far today. I'm giving you credit for that, at least.

SEDER: I appreciate that.

OLBERMANN: Sam Seder of Air America radio, it's always a pleasure, Sam. Thanks for coming in.

The Republicans may be without a conscience, but they do have a plumber. Tonight's campaign comment, it is having no positive impact on the race, but he keeps mentioning it every 25 seconds. Enough already.

And there is late breaking Joe the plumber news.

And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks he's irreplaceable, so the city council decided to overrule term limits voted for twice by New York's residents. They're all in the mix for worst person honors tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Tonight's campaign comment, Joe the plumber is apparently affecting about one voter in 100, meaning the ratio of John McCain's references to him to the impact on the race is about 14 billion to one. Breaking news, Joe turns out to be in it for the money. That's next, but first time COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to the New York City Council, which today voted to overturn term limits, which would thus allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg and two-thirds of the City Council to run for election when they otherwise could not legally have done so. My god, if that isn't constitutional, it's the most obvious conflict of interest in the world. The term limits were approved twice by the voters of the city. The courts will doubtless decide if there could be possibly any legal basis, but obviously council members have no ethical basis for overruling voters and doing so to further their own political careers. Mayor Bloomberg's argument is that he is irreplaceable during a time of economical crisis. It's nonsense. You are irreplaceable? Then stay on as an unpaid adviser to your successor. I'm sure he'll be happy to have your help. Otherwise, the people said get out! So get out!

The runner-up, Republican Congressman Robin Hayes of North Carolina. In a warm-up act for McCain over the weekend, he said, quote, liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God. Then he denied saying it and his spokeswoman said he, quote, absolutely denies making the comment. Then an audiotape turned up of him saying it. Now, in a debate with his opponent, he's denying he denied it. Quote, I did not deny what I said, but the context in which it was presented to us. Congressman, if you need any help with that shovel-no, you seem to be doing a great job just digging yourself in deeper and deeper. Sorry, I wouldn't dream of interfering.

But our winner, Bill-O the Clown, confronted on a radio show, his own, by a caller name Jay from Pennsylvania about John McCain's relationship with domestic terrorist G. Gordon Liddy. He told his radio listeners, Gordon Liddy did, how to shoot ATF agents, and he drew up plans to bomb the Brookings Institution, and whose show McCain has frequently appeared, and who McCain just said last week he was proud to know. Jay added, Gordon Liddy also held a fund raiser for him, McCain, in 1998, so he knows-

Bill-O cut him off there. OK, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, that's 20 years ago. Whoa, whoa, whoa, it's 20 years ago. If you want to make a comparison to Liddy sending the guy some money and holding a fund-raiser 20 years ago, come on, it's ridiculous. As Jay from Belfont so neatly replied, quote, it's ten. Bill-O the Clown, on whose show it just never adds up, tonight's worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, tonight's campaign comment and John McCain's announcement today of the start of his "Joe the Plumber Tour." Senator, what do you mean start? Every day since the last debate, eight long days ago, when you first mentioned this guy and did so more often than Jackie Mason mentions his tour dates, every day has been your "Joe the Plumber" tour.

Senator, I know you have found in this man something to be enthusiastic about, but you do realize you are merely re-enacting the years-old Republican strategy about campaign strategy: find something irrelevant, inappropriate, or ineffective; hammer it and hammer it and hammer it until people promise to vote for you if only you'd stop. And when it doesn't work, do more of it, and yell it even louder! A noun, a verb, and Joe the Plumber!

Yes, you heard me, Senator, when it doesn't work. Early in the week, Suffolk University completed polling on the impact of this latest McCain strategy. To be fair, this was before those new ads, the ones in which eight or ten different people claim they are the Joe the Plumber, in some sort of creepy cross between the movies "Spartacus" and "V for Vendetta."

Nevertheless, the results in the battleground state of Ohio, of week one of America held hostage by Joe the Plumber? Almost nothing. Sixty-eight percent of Ohio respondents recognized the name. Confidentially, I understand three percent were mumbling it to themselves like Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman." Sixty-eight percent of Ohio respondents recognized the name. Of that group six percent said this story made it more likely that they'd vote for McCain; four percent said this story made it more likely that they'd vote for Obama. Eighty-five percent said it would have no impact on them whatsoever.

Same thing in Missouri. Eighty percent recognition there. Eight percent of the 80 percent more likely to vote for McCain. Three percent of the 80 percent more likely to vote for Obama. Eighty-six percent, unaffected.

So John McCain is, if he's lucky, getting this net effect: About one voter out of every one hundred may be leaning a little bit more towards him. And remember, this campaign stunt essentially blotted out the great fireball in the sky that was supposed to be William The Blow-Things-Up-Guy.

It's eclipsed Sarah the Reformer, and John the Maverick, for that matter.

With the campaign's last big-time free television event, the debate, now an almost distant memory, JTP is the campaign. Senator, Joe the Plumber is going into the toilet and taking you with him.

So, naturally, you have taken the next step, umbrage about Joe the Plumber. That he approached Obama, lied to Obama's face about a business that wasn't worth what he said it was, that he wasn't about to buy like he said he was, has gotten lost in this barrage of nonsense, Senator.

That you made him some kind of phony every-man symbol for economic savaging of the middle class which Obama would not effect, but you in fact would, has gotten wall papered over, Senator.

You're mad that people have made fun of him, when he didn't ask to be famous. You made him famous! You're mad that people questioned his story, when he didn't ask for people to question his story. You made a story out of his question! You're mad that people have criticized him, when he didn't ask to be criticized. Senator, these are not attacks on Joe the Plumber! They're attacks on John the Liar!

Not to mention Sarah the Shop-aholic and Phil the Economy-Killer; G. Gordon the Domestic Terrorist; Steve the Schmidt-Head; Charlie the Banker; the other Joe the Fact-Checker; Rick the Lobbyist; Randy the Lobbyist;

Wayne the Lobbyist; William the Saddam Lobbyist; Vinnie the Chin and, of course, Bob the Builder.

Sen. McCain, there are only two people benefiting from all of this, Barack Obama and Joe Wurzelbacher, who I'm reliably informed tonight has a lawyer peddling a book proposal on his behalf to major publishers as we speak.

I'm pretty sure Sen. Obama is right. He can probably survive two more weeks of personal attacks, but America probably can't survive four more years of government by the Republican Party. However, even more urgent, more pressing right now, he isn't working for you, and he's driving the rest of us to consider going back to the days of out-houses and wooden aqueducts.

On behalf of a tortured nation, with blood streaming from its collective ears, I'm begging you, enough with Joe the Plumber already!

A book deal; next it will be chocolate covered likenesses of his head.

That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,003 day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith the Anchor, good night and good luck.

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

END

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