updated 12/3/2008 10:19:37 AM ET 2008-12-03T15:19:37

Guest: Chris Hayes, Michael Wolff

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Whitewash: A president obsessed with his place in history now rewriting it. The biggest regret of his presidency: The pre-war Iraq intelligence. How everybody else misused it, quote, "It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence." And the economic collapse and the Bush recession-those started in the '90s. Not his problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: A lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over, you know, a decade or so before I arrived in president, during I arrived in president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Tonight: George W. Bush reminds us why his place in history will be that of a terrible president in total denial. Next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA: In fact, remember on the campaign trail I tried to convince the majority of voters that governors knew best. Obviously, that didn't work. I'm here and V.P.-elect Biden is there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin at the governor's meeting-oh, and the president-elect there, too, on the collapsing state economies. New Nixon tapes: Was he joking or half serious when he suggested that Charles Colson they should rechristen the Republican Party after Dick Nixon?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We could change the name of the party.

CHARLES COLSON, FMR. SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ASSISTANT: Great stuff.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Worsts: The Utah state senator introducing a bill to encourage retailers to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." And, "The Man Who Owns the News": Rupert Murdoch unplugged. His biographer, Michael Wolf joins us. Murdoch's feeling towards fixed news? Embarrassment. And he absolutely despises Bill O'Reilly. Well, this leaves me with a moral dilemma, doesn't it? All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.(on camera): Good evening. This is Tuesday, December 2nd, 49 days until the inauguration of President-elect Obama. They have now begun fabricating the platform on the White House steps in which that inauguration will be conducted. Meantime, inside-in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The current president having long argued that history would vindicate him, evidently no longer leaving that to chance, now, personally fabricating the story of his eight years of rule. And it's Mr. Bush's world, unfortunately, the rest of us still having to live in it America fighting wars on two fronts, the economy now officially in recession. The years of Bush administration neglect leading President-elect Obama to meet with the nation's governors to coordinate financial strategy. Some governors are pressing for federal money, too. More on all of that later.The CEOs of the Big Three automakers again are making their way to Washington-no private jets this time-to ask for money, bringing with them detailed plans about how he would spend it. Yet to hear President Bush tell it, not one of those problems seems to be his fault. They merely coincidentally happened on his watch, like bad weather. In an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, supposedly the first of a series of "exit interviews," Mr. Bush either worse at math than we'd already thought, or apparently blaming the nation's current economic woes on his own father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

BUSH: You know, I'm the president during this period of time but I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over, you know, a decade or so, before I arrived in president and during I arrived in president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: During arrived as president, basic English is not one of his strong suits either nor the basic facts. An "Associated Press" interview of regulatory document is showing that the Bush administration ignored early warnings about the potential of the collapse of the banking system in late 2005 and early 2006. A new report from congressional investigators is finding that the Bush administration is now currently failing to provide sufficient oversight of its $700 billion-plus bailout program. Speaking of signs that were ignored, also in the Charlie Gibson interview, the president evading responsibility for invading Iraq under false pretenses, never mind the quagmire resulting since, claiming as his greatest regret, the false intelligence, alleging there were WMD in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

BUSH: The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said, you know, that, you know, the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just a people in my administration. And, you know, that's not a do-over but, you know, I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.

CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS: If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq war?

BUSH: If he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.

GIBSON: No, if you had known he didn't?

BUSH: Oh, I see what you're saying. You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, also, of course, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Well, this is breaking news of the utmost import. Mr. Bush, the younger, apparently, has just been a place-holder during these past eight years as the economy went down. He just happened to live, apparently, near the White House, possibly in it. He was a bystander to all this. This, remarkably, hands-off approach to finance, a direct result of conservative economic philosophy that he adopted-might that have been precisely the problem? Is he, in fact, telling the truth without really realizing it?

FINEMAN: Well, Keith, I have known George Bush for 20 years. I've covered him for 15, starting when he was running for governor down in Texas. It's not just his economic philosophy, Keith. I think George Bush always had nothing short of contempt for the process of government. That's a harsh thing to say but I think it's true. I think he was unfamiliar with it. He didn't really like it. He kept it as arm's length when he was governor of Texas and when he was president of the United States. There were relatively few risks involved in doing that in Austin, Texas. There were global risks of catastrophic proportions in doing that, having that attitude in the White House. Your set-up piece use the term "ignored early warnings," you could say that about Katrina, you could say it about terrorist attacks in the United States, and you could say it about the economic meltdown that we're now in the middle of. He ignored them because he really didn't care that much about how government really worked at a time when we desperately needed government to work.

OLBERMANN: The math that I suggested there on that phrase, "over a decade or so before he arrived as president," the economic problem, that is a decade or so, that's 1990, 1991, 1989, perhaps. That's Bush 41's administration, do you believe that George W. Bush meant his father? Are we getting to the Freudian territory here? What was that all about?

FINEMAN: Well, I don't think you have to get into the Freudian territory to get the basic sense that George Bush didn't want to take the responsibility himself. He was, I think, mostly referring to the Clinton administration, but I don't think he would have minded sweeping in his dad as well. What he was trying to say is that there was a spirit of deregulation in the air in the Clinton administration, among Clinton Democrats, in a party that had been known as the "party of regulation." And George Bush is right about that. But that doesn't explain or excuse his own failures as president to use the proper regulation of government, to try to keep the economy on a more even keel, to anticipate some of the problems of mortgage-backed securities and other things. If as John McCain was saying during the campaign, that these problems were rooted in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Democratic administration, McCain was implicitly blaming George Bush for not being on watch about the problems that Bill Clinton had created. So, it doesn't really get George Bush off the hook no matter how far back in the chain of presidents he goes.

OLBERMANN: Howard, you rattled off the other things this applies to -the two wars, the Katrina aftermath, obviously, the stock market, the soaring unemployment, and none of it his fault. And yet, to Charlie Gibson, he describes his time in the White House as joyful. Do you have to be delusional or enclosed in a bubble to have that? Or is there some sense that, you know, maybe he felt all his job was was to audit this class, or whatever it was the last eight years?

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: I shouldn't laugh.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

FINEMAN: Well, two things. First of all, Keith, I don't entirely believe him when he says it was joyful. I know too many people close who are to him who spent quiet time in the White House with him, watching football games and hanging out on a Sunday-these are people who often described the "lonely guy," who might not have felt overwhelmed by the job but at times, was not happy at all in it. On the other hand, I think George Bush-and this is a family trait -they are fiercely opposed to introspection in the Bush family. They seem to think it's a sign of weakness, to look within themselves and question what they do. George Bush's lack of reflectiveness was a strength, at times, briefly, in the early days. He went into Afghanistan when some people thought it might have been a catastrophe, it wasn't. Initially, he deserved thumbs up for that. But in every other way, his lack of reflectiveness, his lack of willingness to second-guess himself, or even reexamine his decisions, proved very difficult and very troubling for the country. Again, with the possible exception of the last year of the surge, but that begs the question of whether we should have been there to begin with.

OLBERMANN: Yes. But fortunately, none of it was his fault. So, again, introspection, if there's nothing to see in your soul there's no reason to look.

Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek"-great thanks for your time as always, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on President Bush's whitewash of the White House history during the build-up to the Iraq war, let's turn now to Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That term "cherry-picking," implying that a lot of other fruit was left behind on the scene. What about the good intelligence of the absence of WMD in Iraq that was ignored during that time? I didn't hear in the full with Charlie Gibson, I didn't hear President Bush mention any of that.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, one of the things that's so galling about the whole sort of alternative history that the Republican Party and large parts of the right has constructed around the Iraq war, is to pinpoint bad intelligence as this kind of thing that they, on the right, were sadly a victim of, as opposed to the perpetrators of. I mean, we know for a fact that Dick Cheney was driving over to the CIA and standing over the desks of analysts, browbeating them, essentially, into towing his line on the weapons of mass destruction, and then recycling it through and leaking it to the "New York Times," et cetera. So the story they constructed themselves gets the causality of exactly what happened with the intelligence in Iraq exactly backwards.

OLBERMANN: Having a discussion about the false intelligence and how it was Bush's biggest regret of his presidency, it would be predicated both on the idea that he didn't know there was alternate information, as well as complexity from and in the media mainstream here in allowing that premise. It's a really huge assumption in there, is there not?

HAYES: Yes. One of the things I think that's most interesting, I mean, you know, in an academic sense, I suppose, is just how much he-even at this late point, when all of us in the world know more or less what happened-in terms of the manipulation of intelligence in the lead-up to Iraq, how much he actually knows. I mean, I wonder if he's read some of the books that have been written about exactly that process. Or I wonder if he still remains kind of in the dark. I mean, one of the images that we take away from a lot of the histories that have already been written on this period is the fact that Cheney sort of acted as his kind of gatekeeper. And you kind of wonder if, even to this day, he doesn't actually understand what really did happen in the run-up to the war that went so terribly wrong.

OLBERMANN: Well, perhaps, exactly to your point, in the interview, the president also claimed that other governments had been relying on the same intelligence. And I seem to recall that anybody who was relying on the same intelligence was getting it from us with our spin on it, with that Cheney stamp on it, and people who were not, like the French, were rather public about the fact that they didn't buy any of it.

HAYES: That's exactly right. I mean, the other crucial point to make about that-in response to that argument which also gets brought up by some of the dead-enders, is the fact that there's a reason that you don't launch preemptive wars, and it has to do with the fact that intelligence is always a very difficult enterprise. It's incredibly difficult to attain certainty even under good conditions when you don't have this heavy political pressure being brought to bear on the intelligence agencies. There's an inherent connection between the doctrine of not launching preemptive wars and the fact that intelligence is, by of its nature, not a sure science. And that connection is something that, I think, the Bush administration and the people who continue to this day to say the war was the right thing to do, they want to get rid of that and say, well, the problem was just the intelligence was wrong. The problem was, actually, the entire notion that you could launch preemptive war in the way they did.

OLBERMANN: So, I'm thinking, have you heard this interview and a second reference to his regrets about WMD, I'm wondering if we're not missing the point here ultimately. Is it really possible that he doesn't regret that it was wrong, he doesn't regret being in charge of the least justified war, probably, in American history? But that he's actually saying, "I regret there were not WMD in Iraq"?

HAYES: That's exactly right. And it was so revealing when Gibson asked him the hypothetical, which everyone immediately understands is a hypothetical about what-if the intelligence were right, was the question, I think, meaning, if you knew there were no weapons-and he said, you mean if they had had weapons?

OLBERMANN: Right.

HAYES: Because that to him was-and that shows exactly how much the intelligence was retrofitted to kind of fit this preconceived notion, even when at this late date, asked that hypothetical question, that's the first scenario that jumps to his mind.

OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly. The intel was wrong we didn't find the WMD, therefore.

HAYES: Right, Keith.

OLBERMANN: . I we knew they were there, then it was the intel that was wrong.

HAYES: Right. That's right.

OLBERMANN: It was the-you know, we know the sun comes up in the west and here it is in the east. Somebody's intel about the sun is wrong.

Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation"-as always, great thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The president-elect tries to help and be helped by the governor's association in their meeting in Philadelphia. But one of the governors tries to steal the thunder for herself. See if you can guess which one. Rupert Murdoch's biographer says this strange man who is now embarrassed by FOX News and despises Bill O'Reilly might want to get rid of the FOX News but can't really afford to. And just because he is dead does not mean we won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore. Thirty-six years later, new Nixon tapes tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Here's the president-elect poised to try to stimulate the economy by funneling money to the states, and as he discussed that with the nation's governors today, could anybody hear them over the sound of Sarah Palin saying to the cameraman "I'm over here"? Later, 36 years later, new Nixon tapes. Worsts: The Utah state senator who wants a law encouraging businesses there to say "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays." And the author of the new and surprising Rupert Murdoch biography, Michael Wolf, joins us. All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The two simplest, most widely offered economic stimulus suggestions: spend on physical infrastructure, have the states spend on almost anything. Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The president-elect trying to arrange for some of both at the annual meeting of the national governor's association, but oddly, one of those governors acting again as if she thought the meeting was actually just another surprise party held in her honor. Mr. Obama and Vice-president Elect Joe Biden, in an unprecedented for a transition team asking the bipartisanship membership of the National Governors Association, including naturally, Governor Palin of Alaska, for their help in fixing the economic crisis at hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Forty-one of the states that are represented here are likely to face budget shortfalls this year or next, forcing you to choose between reining in spending and raising taxes. Jobs are being cut, programs for the needy are at risk. Libraries are being closed and historic sites are being closed. We intend to help save or create 2.5 million jobs. We intend to put tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed middle-class families in your states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Doing so, Obama said, would call for governors not just to implement a plan but participate in crafting it. Meantime, Joe Biden, in the lighter moment, veered kind to off script, lamenting his status in comparison to that of his former rival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I want to thank all of you for being here. And, Governor Palin, I want to thank you particularly. I might point out as I told you, we walked in, since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all. So, maybe you'll walk outside with me or something later and they'll say hello to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: As for Governor Palin, availing herself of the media after those opening remarks, seemingly unable to resist harkening back to the campaign trail in a "I told you so" moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I appreciated that President-elect Obama recognizes, first that he recognizes how valuable it is to have governors in his cabinet. In fact, governors do know best, if you will, when you talk about some of these issues that Senator Obama had brought up. In fact, remember on the campaign trail, I tried to convince the majority of voters that governors knew best. Obviously, that didn't work. I'm here and V.P-elect Biden is there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Joining us now, John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent and, of course, political correspondent with the "New York Times."

John, good evening.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The governors' association meeting, the inevitable Palin question in a moment. But to prioritize, Obama's attendance-was that just a great photo-op or could he actually achieve something there?

HARWOOD: Oh, I think he could definitely achieve some of his objectives. First of all, he was visible at a time when President Bush has mostly moved off the stage. A lot of people wonder who's minding the store, who's leading. Barack Obama served that purpose. Second, he was visible in the service of crafting an economic plan at a time when Americans are very concerned about the economy, very scared about the trends going on right now, slow retail sales, all that sort of thing. And finally, he showed outreach to people all across the country. A lot of red states in those 41 states that are headed for budget shortfalls, and I think that outreach to Republican governors, which was very pointed and specific on his part, was a big deal that will earn him some goodwill.

OLBERMANN: The governors are talking about $136 billion in projects, mostly infrastructure, and think some where to it, another $40 billion on Medicaid. Does Obama have the money? Is he going to have the money? Or is the idea of spend through the states so imperative at this point that he's going to have to view this almost like a debt he has to pay?

HARWOOD: No, he doesn't have the money, but, yes, he's going to spend it and he wants to spend it. Barack Obama's been for aid to states and cities throughout the campaign, as part of an economic stimulus and the desire on his part, and that of many other people, is just getting bigger. It's pretty clear right now that the concern for short-term deficits on the Obama economic team and in much of the economic community in the country is next to zero right now. And so, I think we're looking for aid to states and cities that is likely to get bigger rather than smaller. And I'm sure he will draw the lines at some point. But I think the guard rails are kind of off at this point. I don't think he's resisting anything the governors are asking.

OLBERMANN: All right. At this point regarding the issue of bipartisanship, he's got a Bush appointee at the Pentagon, he has two rivals from the primaries in the cabinet, he's got a third in the vice president's mansion, and he's at the governors' meeting throwing around the word "bipartisan" as if it was a souvenir, commemorative half dollar to people. Does the cooperation at some point collide with political reality for the president? Or can he change the political reality just enough under these circumstances to actually forge this thing and make it work?

HARWOOD: Well, certainly, it will collide with reality at some point. But the crisis has changed the reality on the ground, if you will, created more and more of a sense that we need to act. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger at this meeting today, you know, some conservatives are out there saying, oh, big spending through the states or otherwise is old-style Democratic liberalism-Arnold Schwarzenegger said infrastructure spending, it's about time for us to do it. He's in a crisis right now. The more people who feel that way, the more chance he has of bringing Republicans in and especially trying to accelerate some of these classic liberal programs like spending on alternative energy that people say, "Hey, if that will help the economy, let's do it, it's pragmatic."

OLBERMANN: And lastly, John, as promised, the obligatory question about Governor Palin. Is she a publicity-seeking missile at this point or has this continuing focus on her now become ours, as in the media's fault?

HARWOOD: Well, Keith, I think that's a very fair and balanced way to put it.

(LAUGHTER)

HARWOOD: It is the fault of both. Certainly, she relishes the attention. You look at-watch her take those questions and give the answers. She's got a smile on her face. She's loving it and she's loving the idea that she comes out of this campaign with a lot of celebrity that's still alive, still there, as Joe Biden was joking about. But it's also the case that the media thinks that Sarah Palin is great for box office. Those interviews rated very well for TV shows and so people want to put her on and, look, she's got star appeal-whether you love her or whether your hate her, she's got star quality.

OLBERMANN: Just as long as nobody tells her the election is already over.

HARWOOD: There you go.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood of CNBC and the "New York Times"-as always, great thanks, John.

HARWOOD: You bet.

OLBERMANN: The Senate election vote in Georgia finally over tonight with polls for the runoff vote closing at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Officials are reporting that voter turnout was light but steady throughout the day, though nearly 500,000 Georgians cast early ballots and absentee voting. It is expected to be higher than normal. Thirty percent of precincts reporting so far tonight and the incumbent Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss is leading his Democratic challenger, Jim Martin, 64 to 36. He didn't get his party's nod for the presidential candidacy, and the secretary of state post that he wanted-that went to another former campaign rival-but New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will have a place in the executive branch, as secretary of commerce, assuming he is confirmed. A Democratic source confirming to NBC News that President-elect Obama will announce that appointment tomorrow in Chicago. Richardson, the fifth member to be nominated so far will be the first Hispanic name to the Obama cabinet. He joins two other former Clinton administration officials, incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and attorney general-appointee, Eric Holder. Good news, gracious, great tennis balls of fire. Internet stunt or the latest attempt to revive a dull sport? And the Utah state senator who wants a law encouraging stores in his state to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." How exactly would you do that? And where exactly would it stop, sir? Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And in suing to try to see Obama's birth certificate. The man says he might be paranoid but at least he recognizes that he might be paranoid. First on this date in 1954, somebody who did not hit the end of the road. The Senate voted to censure one of its own, Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, with all the Democrats and half the Republicans agreeing he had quote, "Acted contrary to Senate ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate and impair its dignity." When he died two years later of hepatitis and alcoholism he was still officially a member of the Senate, though pretty much in name only. Let's play "Oddball." We begin on the Internets with the latest offering from America's bored and pyromaniac youth. Fireball tennis. Don't try this at home nor anywhere else. By dowsing an ordinary tennis ball and setting it alight these Roger Federer wannabes not only risk their own lives, but they give promoters of the sport desperate to save it from its own boredom an idea. To the night skies where star gazers were treated to a rare site. A crescent moon and Venus and Jupiter all carefully aligned to form a giant frowny face over North America. If you were in Australia last night, the face in the sky was actually smiling at you. Yay! And enjoy it while you can, Aussies, because the sky won't grin like this again until November of 2052. But good things come to those who wait. The president on the tapes has been out of office for 34 years, the tapes though are new. And what he says on them about fooling the people sounds fresh out of the Bush administration. And meanwhile it looks like this man's ability to fool himself has just expired. The author of the new Rupert Murdoch biography Michael Wolff joins us. All this ahead but first, time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world. Number three, best confusion, Howard Weitzmann. Mr. Bush's deputy director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management objecting to a bill that would extend federal benefits like health care to the same sex domestic partners of federal employees. Not on legal or philosophical grounds but he heard about a very bad movie last year about insurance fraud. Quote, "Even Hollywood has discussed this in a movie with Adam Sandler, in which I think Chuck and Larry get married." Which of us has to tell Mr. Weitzmann that "Harry Potter" was also just a movie. Number two best try. Seattle artist Deborah Lawrence. Laura Bush asked members of congress to select artists in their districts to design decorations for the White House Christmas tree. Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott picked Ms. Lawrence and she promptly created the nine inch tree ornament with swirls of red and white stripes and in tiny letters glued onto the side of the ball, the words "Impeach Bush." It probably would have wound up on the tree anyway but Ms. Lawrence told people about it so now a White House spokeswoman says it will not be hung after all. Number one best introspection. Daniel John Essek of Kentucky. He's the latest to swallow the urban legend that the president-elect is not a natural-born U.S. citizen. He filed a lawsuit demanding that Obama provide a copy of his birth certificate to a federal judge. "Still," he admitted to reporters, "I may very well be chasing windmills thinking they're monsters." He says he leads an organization, the Society for Liberty and Prosperity, created to teach citizenship and address the woeful lack of civic education. To that point, Mr. Essek said, "I'm seeing a level of ignorance out there like you wouldn't believe." Oh, yes, we would!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: If it is any consolation to those who oppose the creation of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the grounds of paradoxy alone, a possibly consoling thought presents itself tonight. In our third story, it is the Nixon Library that today as in the past continues to roll out new material, especially audiotapes that let us peer still further under the rock of Nixon's already shady public persona. In today's new tapes recorded just after his massive 1972 victory over the Democrat George McGovern, we get both striking parallels to our current president and wake up the kids, some unwitting sexual innuendo from the chief justice of the United States. While there is some debate about whether Chief Justice Warren Burger should have discussed anything with the president about cases the U.S. government had with the court. We at least benefit from the shear hi-larity of hearing them discuss the landmark case of Miller v. California, whose subject was, porn.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WARREN BURGER, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE: I'm struggling with this pornography thing, I don't know how we're coming out but I'm coming out hard on it myself, whether I get the support on it or not.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I feel-I'm square, I'm like Alan, I'm a square. I'm on that. I mean, a square in the sense that they just -I read those cases when I did the Hill v. Time thing and because it relates to the whole freedom of the press thing and let's face it. They've gone overboard. It's always a question of balance. Maybe you can-they say-they go back to these 16th century stuff and say that that-well, what's wrong with that? That was great art. Well, the stuff today is not great art. The stuff today is just-has its purpose, what is that term you have.

BURGER: A redeeming social purpose.

NIXON: Yeah! Good God!

BURGER: One of the biggest frauds .

NIXON: That was a Brennan opinion, wasn't it?

BURGER: I think so.

NIXON: Yeah.

BURGER: That's the phrase that emanated from some of the campuses in this period and .

NIXON: Redeeming social purpose.

BURGER: This means that if they have one of these outrageous orgies then if they mention Vietnam or the condition of the ghettos, that redeems the whole thing.

NIXON: Oh, boy. Isn't that something.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And that was the man Richard Nixon put in charge of the Supreme Court. If they mention Vietnam at one of those outrageous orgies - - as Nixon hoped Burger won that case, 5-4, leading to the so-called Miller standard of using contemporary community standards to judge porn. In that same discussion on the White House phone on the morning of January 2nd, 1972, we also hear Nixon and Burger praise the rising star William Rehnquist. In terms of modern parallels the most obviously lie in what Nixon really thought about his 1972 re-election. A month later, White House aide Chuck Colson shed light on how Republicans won the working man by winning the support of one union man, Peter J. Brennan who Nixon rewarded with the Labor Department.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHUCK COLSON, NIXON AIDE: And Brennan has gotten the damnedest press reaction, Mr. President, the damnedest fan mail.

NIXON: Is that right?

COLSON: Oh, it's incredible. I mean one is, he brought in a, some of them to me, that, one, is people saying, "We weren't really sure, we voted for Nixon, we weren't really sure. But now we are. He does believe in the working man and he's - " You know, I think this has really hit a .

NIXON: You mean the idea that, the appointment of a working man makes them think we're for the working man. Isn't that .

COLSON: That's precisely it.

NIXON: They talk about all the tokenism. We appoint blacks and they don't think you're for blacks .

COLSON: No, exactly.

NIXON: And Mexicans, they don't think you're for Mexicans. But a working man, by golly, that is really something.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And if you thought President Bush was the first to fail to make good on promises of uniting, not dividing, here is what Mr. Nixon said to the nation on election night, 1972.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIXON: I tried to conduct myself in this campaign in a way that would not divide our country. Not divide it regionally or by parties or in any other way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Well, not dividing the country by party, regionally in any way, here he is in that conversation just a month later speaking with Colson about Brennan and the future.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

COLSON: He went to the space shot and a young fellow said I voted for Nixon and I wasn't really sure. But he said now I'm - and he said I'm a Democrat but now I'm switching my registration because when a man like you can be made secretary of labor, that's the party I want to be in. Anecdotal evidence, but .

NIXON: Great.

COLSON: But of course, that's boosted his spirits because he really .

NIXON: Great. Marvelous.

COLSON: He feels he's - So I don't think.

NIXON: Great.

COLSON: I really don't care who the hell they put in as the party chairman. The fundamental dichotomy here, the fundamental cleavage within the Democratic Party is such that with what you're doing to build the new majority and what I hope to help you doing, I think we're going to keep them split and I'm awful bullish about what we can do in this country in terms of the basic philosophies and the basic biases of people. They may not ever become Republicans but they're Nixon. Some way to perpetuate that, I don't know?

NIXON: We could change the name of the party.

COLSON: Great stuff.

NIXON: Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Change the name in the party? So there it is, history's missing puzzle piece. Karl Rove's dream of a permanent Republican majority could have been reality it turns out if only they had changed their names to the Nixonlicans. Rupert Murdoch's on the record biographer about how the man who owns the news would disown Bill O'Reilly if he could. And remember the Virginia politico who told his McCain campaign volunteers to compare Obama to bin Laden. He says today he meant it but it was a joke and it is the media's fault. Hat trick.

Worst persons ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The agony of Rupert Murdoch, Fox News makes him millions but he's increasingly shamed by it. So says the author of the new on the record biography of Murdoch. Michael Wolff joins us next. But first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze to Billo. Increasing evidence that the election caused himself to distance himself, even further than usual from reality. On the radio, "There are accusations of mistreatment at Guantanamo but there is certainly no proof that that ever happened." Yeah. That kind of contradict this is quote from somebody who visited Gitmo in June of 2005. "There have been abuses by U.S. interrogators there, but not many and now we have some stats to back that up." It also contradicts what the same visitor said after a second trip to Gitmo in June, 2006. "Muhammad al Gitani (ph), thought to be directly involved with the 9/11 attack, was treated harshly and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld ordered that Gitani could be subjected to coerced interrogation." Who is it that disagrees with Bill O'Reilly's contention that there is no proof of mistreatment at Gitmo? Bill O'Reilly. He was the visitor who had confirmed the abuses. The runner up? Virginia Republican State Chairman Jeff Frederick, you remember him, the guy who was caught telling his McCain volunteers with a reporter present from "Time Magazine" to compare Barack Obama to Osama bin laden to Virginia's voters because, quote, "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon." Mr. Frederick stands by his statement, sort of. "What I said," he told the Associated Press editors today, "was true." Then he said, "It was the stupid joke I gave to somebody in a small crowd of people and that's what happens. But it's unfortunate that we live a 'gotcha' society." So he simultaneously insisting it was quote, "a bad joke" and that he meant it and that it was the media's fault. But our winner is Utah State Senator Chris Butters saying he's introducing a bill that would quote, "encourage the use of Merry Christmas by retailers in his state." "I'm sick of the Christmas wars," he says. "We're a Christian nation and ought to use the word." Mr. Butters doesn't explain how the law would encourage store owners to have their employees to use the phrase. He claims he has support from other Utah state senators but can't or won't name then and he has apparently not realized if he could somehow pass a law encouraging people to say "Merry Christmas" in stores, somebody else could pass a law encouraging people to say "Merry Christmas" in synagogues or mosques. Utah Senator Chris, the character on "South Park" is just a coincidence, Butters, today's worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: It is not a simplistic portrait, in our number one story on THE COUNTDOWN, Rupert Murdoch, quote, "Never seems to be surrounded by the brightest bulbs, the A-team. His life is largely spent around people for whom Fox News is vulgarity and a joke. And Murdoch despises Bill O'Reilly." The author of the man who owns the news, Michael Wolff, is here and perhaps he'll explain to us why Murdoch has quote, "come to like the liberals more than the conservatives and many of them have come to like him, too. Bono and Tony Blair and the Google guys and Nicole Kidman and David Geffen are in his and his wife Wendy's circle." And though that may jibe with Murdoch's disdain of O'Reilly, Murdoch is not alone. As we mentioned in yesterday's worst, just in passing, mind you, again, quoting from the book, "It is not just Murdoch and everybody else at News Corp's highest level who absolutely despises Bill O'Reilly, the bullying mean-spirited and hugely successful evening commentator, but Roger Ailes himself who loathes him." But plenty of the Murdoch we know and love or something, of the Murdoch we know, is in the book. "Being warlike is his point. He likes to be the cause of the conflict, he likes to set the house on fire and watch all the fire engines drive maniacally down the road." Joining me, as promised, "Vanity Fair" columnist and the author of "The Man Who Owns the News," Michael Wolff, welcome.

MICHAEL WOLFF, "THE MAN WHO OWNS THE NEWS": Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: First, obviously Murdoch and O'Reilly, one of my mortal enemies hates the other. You have upended my worldview. What do I do now?

WOLFF: You know, mine, also. I sat there-and you mentioned this - because I try to talk in a respectful way, Bill O'Reilly. And then he would get this look, which was like he was revulsion and then, it was like this and then-I started to see this around all of Murdoch's people. You would say "O'Reilly" and they would go-and no one says, O'Reilly, we hate him. But everybody-the facial, it goes into a contortion.

OLBERMANN: But money triumphs that issue?

WOLFF: Completely.

OLBERMANN: Do a hypothetical having studied this man now carefully enough to write this great book. If he became utterly convinced that some God spoke to him and said, not only would a liberal news network make you five times the money that Fox News makes you, but one will exist and it will put Fox News out of business, would he go down the street tomorrow. Shut off Fox News and put on a liberal version of it just for the money?

WOLFF: In a New York minute. Absolutely! Let's remember. What Fox is. And obviously, Murdoch is a conservative and has conservative views and that jibes with that but there's not really what's going on there. What's going on is he saw a market niche. It was easy to get in, it was easy service these people, it was cheaper to service these people and he went for it and he was absolutely right. Actually, at the time he started Fox, remember, he's supporting Tony Blair. He's begun an affair with a woman 38 years his junior. He's changing.

OLBERMANN: Mm-hmm.

WOLFF: But, nevertheless, he gets-Roger Ailes comes along and he says, this guy knows television, which is totally true. And he saw a money-making formula.

OLBERMANN: But you mentioned changing. He's changing personally. How is somebody who's life is so much represented by his work, how is he actually changed if what he creates-what he does for a living, what people who work for him do for a living, his impact on the world. If it's not changed and it's just as vulgar as a value judgment, but if it's just as that way as it was before .

WOLFF: Look at what has changed. He runs a perfectly straight-up-the-middle news operation in the U.K. on the satellite. BSkyB. Very good. You know? If not faultless, really strong news programming. Also, and this is critical to my book, also is the "Wall Street Journal." Why does he buy the "Wall Street Journal"? Why does he buy a paper that's known for its seriousness, its probity, its high journalistic standards? Well, he buys it because he's in the process of-he wants something else - he wants - -and it's partly legacy and it's partly just the experience of a different kind of newspaper. But there is underlying this, an idea of change. That he is becoming something else. Now let's not exaggerate this. He's still Rupert Murdoch and always remember, he's Rupert Murdoch but, and this is a key thing, he is married to somebody different. And one of the interesting things about Murdoch is he is-how would we say this-hen pecked. His conservatism of let's say his middle years, especially the '80s, he's married to his second wife Anna Murdoch, who is classically and in a doctrinaire way a Catholic conservative. And this is part of - he is mollifying at home. OK, OK, OK. I'll be what you want. OK, OK, OK. Now he's with a woman 38 years his junior, quite young, quite liberal and quite open. And certainly, engaged with all of the Hollywood people, and suddenly, he's, like, OK, dear, we'll go out. And in fact, he's now on the phone with David Geffen a couple of times a week.

OLBERMANN: We need to send her a fruit basket or something. What is his next windmill? Is it buy "The New York Times", is it kill "The New York Times", is it get Fox Business Channel off the mat? What is it that he wants now?

WOLFF: I think it's "The New York Times." Very much. I mean, Fox's business channel. I said to him before the book was finished. I said, "Rupert, you've got to tell me, are you going to close down this turkey?" (inaudible)

OLBERMANN: I had that conversation with him, too.

WOLFF: But I think it really is "The New York Times". He would sit there in the nine months that I sat with him, he was eith4er paging through the "Wall Street Journal" and he pages it and it's like this violent thing that he does, slashing. Or looking at "The New York Times" and again, grumbling. But, also, always at every point, having this discussion with his people. Can we call them? I have no idea how they understand him. I puzzled over these tapes hours and hours and hours, what did he say? But yes, "The New York Times", it is there, it is in front of him. He's been openly plotting with his people, how do I get this?

OLBERMANN: They would-they would put up storm barricades on 43rd Street before that came through.

WOLFF: I don't know. I mean, $800 million is what you can buy "The New York Times" for today.

OLBERMANN: I don't have it. It's a nice thought, though. Michael Wolff, the author of "The Man Who Owns the News," great thanks for your time. Good luck with the book, I know Fox executives who have said exactly the same thing you just did. I'm really not sure what he said. The tapes are absolutely on the march there. That's COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,033rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Before we go, the NBC News projection is in. NBC News projects that Senator Saxby Chambliss will as expected retain his seat in the run-off against the Democratic challenger Jim Martin tonight in Georgia. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with the woman who owns the news. Good evening, Rachel.

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

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC's copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,