updated 12/10/2008 9:55:44 AM ET 2008-12-10T14:55:44

Guests: Clarence Page, Jonathan Alter, Jay Leno

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Corruption so blatant, so cocky, so old fashioned, that in another context, it would be beautiful.  Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois arrested for trying to sell the right to succeed President-elect Obama in the Senate.

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PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY:  The governor‘s own words describing the senate seat, quote, “It‘s a bleeping valuable thing, you just don‘t give it away for nothing,” close quote.  Another quote, “I‘ve got this thing, and it‘s bleeping golden.  I‘m just not giving it up for bleeping nothing.”

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OLBERMANN:  What to do now about the Senate seat?  And will Democrat Dick Durbin‘s suggestion of a special election be OK‘ed by Democrats?  And most importantly—those Blagojevichian adjectives?

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FITZGERALD:  And the bleeps are not really bleeps.

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BUSH:  Ironically, Blagojevich‘s last act, the boycott of Bank of America for pulling the line of credit on a Chicago factory leading to the firing of all employees, it worked.  Bank of America, today, is offering financial help. And about Detroit?  Auto deal, apparently, imminent—as long as Bush gets to pick the “car czar” with the Democrats ready to fire him in a month and pick a new car czar. The Bush talking points, we know O‘Reilly gets them, we know William Kristol gets them, now, we have them courtesy of the “L.A. Times.”  The speech topper on the Bush record document.  A how-to guide for Republicans to try to burnish the Bush‘s place in history, starting with, he “kept the American people safe.”And, the man of the hour.

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JAY LENO, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  Actually, the governor of Illinois the man of the hour but I‘m thrilled just to have a chance to make a bid on the Senate seat.  It was not accepted but I thought $50,000 was more than enough.

(LAUGHTER)

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OLBERMANN:  Jay Leno joins me on the implications of putting a politics-laden, topical news-heavy comedy show on free TV every week night in the middle of primetime.

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LENO:  But we are assuming NBC still has a primetime.

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OLBERMANN:  Indeed, and I‘m talking to it.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Tuesday, December 9th, 41 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. Even in Illinois, where votes cast by dead men are the stuff of legend; even in Illinois, where a horse path once built by a corrupt Chicago mayor in the ‘30s cost them million dollars; even in Illinois, where three of his predecessors wound up going to the penitentiary; even in Illinois, where Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested today charged with trying to sell the right to succeed the president-elect in the Senate and trying to muscle the “Chicago Tribune” and the Chicago Cubs; even in Illinois—in our fifth story tonight: There rings out one single question raised in unison on 1 million lips: Is this guy the dumbest SOB on the planet or the craziest? Governor Blagojevich awakened by a phone call by the FBI this morning, the agent on the other end of the line telling him that a team of agents was on its way to arrest him, the governor asking the agent, quote, “Is this a joke?”  In the long-term, yes, probably.  Right now—not so much.  It is more like a 77-page criminal complaint against the governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, filled with examples of how the men apparently tried to use their positions for professional and personal gain. Quoting the governor, from wiretap evidence about a appointing a successor to the Senate, “I have this thing and it‘s (expletive) golden and I‘m not going to give it up for (expletive) nothing and I‘m not going to do it.  And I can always use it.  I can parachute me there.” That‘s right.  If Governor Blagojevich did not get the price he wanted for the seat, his ace in the hole, he thought, was appointing himself.  Federal prosecutor, Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, yes, that Patrick Fitzgerald, today calling the actions of the governor a new low, adding that the man who put Lincoln in the “Land of Lincoln” would not be pleased.

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FITZGERALD:  The most cynical behavior in all of this, the most appalling, is the fact that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama.  The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.

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OLBERMANN:  That‘s the federal prosecutor Karl Rove wanted to fire, everybody.  And is there any evidence that the president-elect himself was somehow involved?

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FITZGERALD:  There‘s no reference in the complaint to any conversations involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it.

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OLBERMANN:  Governor Blagojevich himself seeming to indicate in one of the wiretaps that President-elect Obama was unwilling to participate in his money-making scheme.  At one point, calling him, “Mother, shut your mouth,” adding, “They‘re not willing to give me anything except appreciation, in exchange of an appointment, (expletive) them.” Last month, Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod had said that the president-elect did talk to Governor Blagojevich about his own replacement in the Senate.  Today, the transition team is saying that Mr. Axelrod misspoke.  The president-elect himself saying he knew nothing, well, first saying something that sounded all too familiar for comfort.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT:  Obviously, like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney‘s office today.  But, as this is an ongoing investigation involving the governor, I don‘t think it will be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time.

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OLBERMANN:  Oh, no.  Not four more years of no commenting on ongoing investigation.  Not that crap.  That‘s not change we can believe in. Truly, there‘s something the president-elect could say about his involvement without compromising Mr. Fitzgerald‘s efforts.

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OBAMA:  I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so, we were not—I was not aware of what was happening.  And as I said, it‘s a sad day for Illinois.  Beyond that, I don‘t think it‘s appropriate to comment.

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OLBERMANN:  Now, was that so hard? Just yesterday, just yesterday, Governor Blagojevich having laughed off the possibility of wiretaps, adding that anything he might be caught saying would be entirely above board.

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GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS:  I think there‘s nothing but sunshine hanging over me.  I appreciate that anybody who want to tape me openly and notoriously, and those who feel like they want to sneakily, and wear, you know, taping devices, I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon in Watergate.

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OLBERMANN:  Well, speak for yourself, governor. Within the Senate scandal, others that in any other context would be bombshells and a half, like a demand for kickbacks from kid‘s hospital programs, and the governor also on tape threatening to withhold state assistance to the parent company of the “Chicago Tribune” in its sale of Wrigley Field unless members of “The Tribune‘s” editorial board who had been critical of him were fired.  Charges that the owner of “The Tribune” denies and the honchos of the paper say they knew nothing about. Time now to call in, Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist of the “Chicago Tribune.”

Clarence, good evening.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to your paper and its tangential involvement in this disaster in a moment.  But to the big question, simply put: Is this guy the stupidest SOB on the planet or the craziest?

PAGE:  Well, I think that Robert Mugabe is going to that honor, in my view, Keith.  But in this hemisphere, Rod Blagojevich is hard to beat.

OLBERMANN:  He really is.  I mean, it‘s such vintage corruption it evokes Tammany Hall or it sounds like Tom Pendergast, the boss of Missouri who got Harry Truman started in politics.  It makes Governor Kerner and Governor Walker and Governor Ryan look like saints.  Did governor.

PAGE:  Yes.  The big difference between Blagojevich and those folks you just named is he was so careless about it.  And also, these charges we‘re talking about all happened in the last month or two.  We‘ve had four years of Blagojevich‘s associates getting indicted or convicted -- 13 of them all together.  He‘s been under investigation, has been in the headline in our paper and elsewhere. And yet, he behaves like this, according to what Fitzgerald says, has been caught on tape.  It‘s just unbelievable.

OLBERMANN:  But did he not realize that it‘s no longer 1928, it‘s 2008?  I mean, how in the world did he think in this day when there are such things as wiretaps and videotapes and all the rest, that nobody would turn him in?  That somehow he‘d get away with this?  That‘s the part that seems to make no sense, not that he got caught.

PAGE:  Well, truly, I‘ve been covering Chicago politics off and on for several decades now and normally the rule of thumb is, always talk as if the person you‘re talking to is wearing a wire.  In Blagojevich‘s case, he seemed to just think he was immune.  And like that sound bite you were just talking about yesterday, he was sounding like Gary Hart—more brazen than Gary Hart, just saying, you know, “Go ahead, follow me, wiretap me.  People put a cloud over my head but there‘s nothing but sunshine over my head.” Well, it turns out people have been wiretapping him and eavesdropping on him and we‘re hearing the results.

OLBERMANN:  So, the other end of this, about a month ago, the president-elect very loudly bowed out of the internal scramble over who would succeed him in the Illinois Senate seat.  Were these his political instincts in play or do you think he knew this was coming?

PAGE:  Well, he knew something was coming because you could see a pattern of distancing himself from Blagojevich for months now through the campaign.  Blagojevich was the only major Democratic governor who didn‘t get a speech, any kind of platform at the Democratic convention, and various other places along the campaign. The Obama campaign has been trying to treat Blagojevich like a non-entity out there.  So, you know, it was no secret that he was under investigation and might possibly get indicted.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but nobody could have imagined this.

PAGE:  Yes, right.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, Clarence, to “The Tribune,” do you know anything about this?  Did anybody at the paper know anything about this and that aspect of all of it?

PAGE:  None of us on the editorial board knew about this.  I saw it like you did, probably, you know, read on the Internet.  I almost spit out my morning coffee.  I was just—I thought it was a joke.  But—and Bruce Dold, editorial page editor, says that—and it‘s quite true, Sam Zell, he told all of us when he took over the paper that he wasn‘t going to meddling in the editorial policy and he has not.  It‘s—and as far as anybody being punished, everybody knows that we‘ve had layoffs at our paper like a lot of media properties.  But none on the editorial board during this period in question. So, it‘s just—I don‘t know, a lot of hot hair being blown out there, I think.  And it got picked up on the FBI tapes.

OLBERMANN:  Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist from the “Chicago Tribune,” great thanks.  And please ask them to start testing the ground water at the capitol, something is wrong out there.

PAGE:  You got it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what happens now, let‘s turn to another proud son of Chicago, our own political analyst, Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine.

Hi.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, that‘s a bit of an insult nowadays probably (ph).  I would take it.

OLBERMANN:  Well, at least today. His lawyers say the governor still has the right to make the appointment to the Senate seat of Barack Obama.  I mean, how is he going—it‘s obvious he‘s going to be stop on that, isn‘t it?  And how?

ALTER:  Well, you know, before today, I would have said, well, of course he can be stopped, but this guy is capable of anything.  He‘s got a couple of screws loose.  It‘s pretty clear.  And he‘s perfectly capable, now that he‘s out on bail, of, you know, making his appointment to the Senate.  And he could even conceivably, you can‘t rule out his plan that was caught on the tape.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

ALTER:  . to appoint himself to the Senate.  So, I was about to say stranger things have happened, but actually, they haven‘t.

OLBERMANN:  No.  But there are certain checks and balances in his appointment not being accepted by the Senate, is that not correct?

ALTER:  Yes.  The Senate can rule on who it will seat.  And the combination of that and Senator Durbin‘s announcement today—and he has tremendous credibility in Springfield and, of course, with the Obama campaign—he‘s very close to the president-elect, Senator Durbin said there should be a law that‘s changed by the Illinois state legislature so that there‘s a special election.  And the odds are that that‘s what will unfold.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that sounds lovely and bipartisan and clean politics and all that, but the Democrats have the Senate to run as best they can.  Are they go along with that idea, the Democrats themselves?

ALTER:  Well, I don‘t think they have anything to say about it outside of Illinois.  And, yes, it‘s true.  It does risk the possibility of the Republican getting elected in that special election.  But there‘s certainly not going to leave this up to Blagojevich at this point.

OLBERMANN:  The mystery of Senate candidate number five, the candidate that Blagojevich favored.

ALTER:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  . or the candidate who favored Blagojevich with some favors or was willing to, let‘s quote the governor from this wiretap evidence in the complaint.  “We were approached ‘pay-to-play.‘  That, you know, he‘d raise me $500,000.  An emissary came.  Then the other guy would raise $1 million, if I made him, Senate candidate five, a senator.” The governor is saying he wanted candidate five to give him something tangible up front.  Does candidate five now have more to worry about than, you know, a special election and do we have any idea who candidate five happens to be?

ALTER:  We do not have any confirmation on who candidate five is.  There‘s a tremendous amount of speculation.  Most of it today is centered on Jesse Jackson, Jr.  My own sense is that, that is less likely because I don‘t think he had the $500,000 or had immediate access to it, to provide the governor and his grubby little, you know, bid for a payoff. You know, who else it might be?  It‘s conceivable that it is Emil Jones, president of the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama‘s mentor who had a pretty decent relationship with the governor.  And would have, through his own fundraising, you know, access to that kind of money.  Were it to be Jones, that will cause a bit more bad publicity for Obama because they were close.

OLBERMANN:  Well, to that point, 11 minutes into a “Nightly News” broadcast tonight, used the headline, “Barack Obama‘s First Scandal” and it was 11 minutes into one of the British newscast, ITV.  As much of an oversimplification it is, and as much as it is contradicted by what Blagojevich said on those tapes, is there a risk of the implication sticking to the president-elect that this is his first political scandal?

ALTER:  Yes.  Sure, because the shorthand is it‘s Illinois.  It‘s people that he knew.  And even though he‘s been distancing himself from Blagojevich for many months, they are connected through Tony Rezko, who brought up a lot about Blagojevich at his recent trial.  We know that he was in that land deal with the Obamas.  So, there‘s going to be some definite guilt by association here even if there‘s not, you know, a closer substantive tie.

And also, I would not rule out the possibility that Blagojevich will start trying, during this case, to try to take down Obama with him and spread a bunch of lies about him.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, was there.

ALTER:  That‘s very, very possible.

OLBERMANN:  With or without reality on his side.

ALTER:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  Well, all right, we‘ll see. Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC and the great state of Illinois, where everything down to visiting nurse association appears to be up for sale.

ALTER:  Unbelievable.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Jon. Governor Blagojevich‘s last public act, the last one he knew was public act, an act in public, wiretaps don‘t count here.  It may have actually done some good.  Bank of America has now reversed on the Republic Windows & Doors line of credit story. The Illinois factory shut down on three days notice, leaving 250 employees to pull an old fashioned sit-in because the bank cut its line of credit two months after the bank got part of the $700 billion taxpayer credit, the big bailout.  The effect, Republic unable to pay salaries, healthcare, or retirement benefits, gave the employees who are guaranteed two months notice, 72 hours notice. Governor Blagojevich promptly declared Illinois would boycott Bank of America.  Today, the bank said it is prepared to provide a, quote, “limited amount of additional loans” to fund a resolution of, quote, “legally entitled employee claims.”  This, even though, the bank is not obligated to pay the workers nor make any additional loans to that company. So, I‘m thinking Rod Blagojevich has also blown his shot at becoming the new car czar. The Detroit bailout looms, as it has been looming for quite a while now as have the stories of the so-called “White House talking points,” an actual copy unearth by the “L.A. Times,” designed for Bush staffers so they can spin the president‘s place in history, entitled, “Speech Topper on the Bush Record.” Well, they can top all they want.  The real Bush record will still speak more loudly.  We will recite it.

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OLBERMANN:  President Bush gets to pick the car czar.  Senate Republicans want to pick which environmental issues get erased from the deal.  The ever imminent auto bailout is as ever imminent tonight.  Later, you get to see actual White House talking points—just like Bill O‘Reilly does. And the sea change in American TV, the same show every week night at 10:00 o‘clock, 9:00 Central.  Jay Leno joins me—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Even at the virtually drop-dead hour for the American auto industry, the Republicans are ready to let them crash for the sake of big oil. In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: A mini-bailout for Detroit seemingly imminent but the GOP, reportedly, is still demanding the Democrats excise the environmental part of the deal, the language that would demand automakers drop lawsuits, challenging tough emissions in standards in several states. The current president having already won two concessions of his own that the $15 billion in bailout money not come from the bank bailout and that he, Mr. Bush, gets to appoint a so-called “car czar,” charged with disbursing the funds and directly supervising the reorganization plans of G.M. and Chrysler, who‘ve asked the government for those short-term loans to prevent their financial collapse.  Ford, in no small development, will not ask for federal assistance. As for this Bush picked-overseer, the White House composing an official title of “financial viability adviser” and that the post be contained within the Commerce Department, meaning, no Senate confirmation would be needed. Meantime, while the Democrat‘s draft would seem to allow this, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she hopes the “car czar” would, quote, “not be replaced by soon-to-be President Obama,” raising the prospect that the outgoing and incoming administrations would—what is this word?  Cooperate. Time now to call in Lawrence O‘Donnell, contributor to HuffingtonPost.com and, of course, an MSNBC political analyst.

Lawrence, good evening.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  And, of course, Keith, you want the guy from Boston to talk about the “car czar.”  OK.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  Well, better than anybody from Chicago to talk about appointed position here tonight. Within Pelosi‘s comment, was there an inference to be made here that, yes, Mr. Bush might get to pick this financial viability dude and on January 20th, Mr. Obama gets to pick a different financial viability dude?

O‘DONNELL:  Absolutely.  This will be a fireable position and if President Obama doesn‘t like what he sees, either in the initial choice or in the performance, over a couple of weeks, it could be a new one.

OLBERMANN:  We talked last night about the prospect that the current White House might be viewing this bailout as a union-busting opportunity.  Would even George Bush be so bold as to put somebody in this position right now to do just that?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he may want to be but, in the position, there won‘t be enough time to do that or do anything like that before President Obama comes in and the Democrats and President Obama would not allow that.  And so, it isn‘t really within the powers of the “car czar” as currently described.

OLBERMANN:  Pelosi suggested Paul Volcker for this position, and, of course, he‘s already got a job as of a month from now, heading the economic recovery board.  Did she sink his chances by simply mentioning him?

O‘DONNELL:  Maybe, maybe not, because one of the guiding principles in this kind of panic-governing is the avoidance of responsibility, Keith.  Bush doesn‘t really want the responsibility of putting someone in there in a job that is likely to fail.  Pelosi and the Democrats don‘t really want the responsibility of putting someone in there in a job that is likely to fail.  So, that creates the opportunity for some cooperation. Here‘s what the job requires according to the law written so far—expertise in economic stabilization, financial aid to commerce and industry, financial restructuring, energy efficiency, and then, environmental protection.  I don‘t know anybody who fits that bill.  Paul Volcker certainly doesn‘t.

OLBERMANN:  And to the point of reality here, there‘s also—these timelines confuse me.  The auto industry has, supposedly, until the end of March to indicate it has or will turn around.  Is that even remotely realistic?  I mean, could any industry go back from death‘s door to what—this looks pretty good in a period of four months?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, they‘ll really just have to get their term paper in then, Keith.  March 31st is, show us your term paper that describes how you‘re going to restructure this industry.  Then you get into the question of what really is restructuring and what isn‘t.  But sure, they can deliver a document by March 31st that legitimatizes whatever loans they‘ve gotten in the meantime, and maybe make some argument for them to get more money.  That‘s really all that is. You know, people complain about how slow government is and it‘s deliberative process, now you‘re seeing what happens when it operates really fast in a panic.  It ain‘t pretty and it is internally inconsistent.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, windows opened and dollar bills blow out them. Last question, are we facing a prospect of a senatorial filibuster by Republicans who just happened to be from a state this is filled up with plants from carmakers but none from any of the American Big Three, just a coincidence?

O‘DONNELL:  Probably not a filibuster.  This does take 60 votes.  But I would be surprised if they stood in the way and were then responsible for stopping this and, therefore, then responsible for the possibility of General Motors going into bankruptcy.  Again, the avoidance of responsibility principle in this kind of governing usually moves the outcome toward this kind of weird finish that we‘re seeing now.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  It‘s politically OK if G.M. goes under of its own weight, but not if you voted to make sure it goes.  All right, I get it now. Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC.

O‘DONNELL:  Exactly.  No one wants that responsibility.

OLBERMANN:  . of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post,” of course, Lawrence O‘Donnell with us once again—thank you kindly for you time tonight, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Suggestions: Do not interrupt a male rhino during mating season, but do interrupt the conservative of his writing a long column about a liberal plot to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, and even he can‘t name a single liberal plotting to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.  The Worst Persons in the World—ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Bushed in a moment, and it turns out the Pentagon knew about the prospect of roadside bombs, IEDs, in Iraq before we invaded Iraq, not after. First, on this date in 1930, Henry Zuckerman was born, intent on comedic fame, he adopted a somewhat snappier stage name and using it.  He hosted “Saturday Night Live” 10 times, co-created “Get Smart,” wrote the screenplays for “The Graduate” and “Catch 22.” co-directed “Heaven Can Wait” and has been on everything from the new Steve Allen Show to the “Daily Show.”  So, Happy Birthday to Buck Henry. Let‘s play Oddball. Are you here for an affair, sir?  We begin in the wildlife park in Adelaide, Australia where the Saturo (ph), the white rhino is only the land.  Why?  Two words: mating season.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is boy rivalry.  You know, he wants to get to the females first.  And if he can‘t let him in with the females, maybe we‘ll have to give him a cold shower.

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OLBERMANN:  Considering Saturo spent more than seven hours chasing the ladies and even then it took more than three tranquilizer darts before he calmed down enough to return to his pen, I seriously doubt a simple cold shower is going to help, even a big one. To the Internets and someone called Marina (ph) who lives in Austria and apparently has far too much time on her hands, she designed the world‘s longest and hardest agility course for mice.  And then her pet mouse Brainstorm completed it for your viewing pleasure.  Marina says she trains her mice using only positive reinforcement and to what this might entail, she offered this clue on her Web site, quote, “Not at least because my mice are not just pets but also, food for my reptiles.  I attach great importance to their physical health.” In short, this is not a cute Internet video you‘ve been watching.  It is “Death Race 2008.” White House talking points, we‘ve all heard about them.  Now we get to see a set of them nearly real-time as we get to see Jay Leno in primetime.  He joins us on the big switch for him, for political comedy and for network television. But first, because they‘re not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, “Bushed.” Number three, Harrietgate.  The president expressing one of the great regrets of his tenure, the nomination of Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court.  You mean how dumb it was?  Oh, no.  That he had to withdraw it. Quote, “There‘s no doubt in my mind that my dear friend Harriet Myers would have had the same judicial philosophy 20 years after I went home and had the intellectual fire power to do the job.” He then described the nomination and then withdrawal process as quote, “This really, really good person got chucked out there and man the lions tore her up.” Mr. Bush said this in an interview with the ultraconservative “National Review”, the same publication which of course called for the withdrawal of the Myers nomination 11 days of Mr. Bush proposed it dismissing her at one of the quote, “president‘s cronies.” Number two, Gitmogate.  So you set up this extralegal cockamamie detention and you don‘t even think through the scenario.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 plotters declare want to plead guilty so they can get the death penalty and be executed but nobody knows for sure whether or not detainees who plead guilty can be executed.  So the judge has to tell them that and they withdraw their pleas? So you tear up the Constitution and torture these people so you can find 9/11 plotters guilty but you screw it up so badly that when they save you the trouble and plead guilty, you might have to say, “No thanks.”  President Wile E. Coyote, super genius! And number one, IED-gate, one of the top ten most disturbing realities of the war in Iraq.  The concept, evidently a surprise to all on our side, of the improvised explosive device.  The use of roadside bombs by insurgents to kill Americans.  Well, it was not a surprise after all.  The Pentagon‘s inspector general has issued a 72-page report revealing that the military was aware of the threat posed by mines and improvised explosive devices and of the available of mine resistant vehicles years before the insurgent actions began in Iraq in 2003. Which makes the report‘s other finding, that Marine Corps leaders simply stopped processing an urgent process from combat commanders in Anbar Province, for MRAPs, the IED resistant vehicles in 2005, makes that even more heinous.  So not only did the Bush administration and the Bush Pentagon ignore the prewar intel, that the WMD we sought to recover were not in Iraq.  But the Bush administration and the Pentagon ignored that if we removed Saddam Hussein an insurgency of some sort would develop in Iraq.  And now we learn the Bush administration and the Bush Pentagon ignored the prewar intel that when a insurgency did develop, it would use roadside bombs to kill the troops we needlessly sent there. I don‘t know what, if any religion you belong to but I suspect you will agree that people that ignored so many foretellings of preventable death should have a long time to think about it in hell!

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OLBERMANN:  President Bush tells interviewers he does not care how history will portray him but in our third story tonight, “The Los Angeles Times” has obtained an internal White House memo giving Cabinet members talking points for painting history a rosy portrait of Mr. Bush, even though his image will only get worse as new and damning facts emerge.  What does the memo say and how are we obligated to correct its bizarre claims? To start it says Mr. Bush, quote, “Promised to raise standards and accountability in public schools and delivered the No Child Left Behind,” an act so poorly received, “The Times” points out, that it became a standard applause line this year from Democrats. Also from the memo, “He curbed AIDS in Africa.  Its spread has slowed and Mr. Bush has won phrase for this” but he has not won any praise from withholding funds from groups that prevent condom use, a proven life saver, in favor of abstinence only programs, which have also failed in this country. Also, Mr. Bush‘s his foreign aide puritan, Randall Tobias, quit last year after patronizing an escort service linked to prostitution. Also from the memo, “Mr. Bush lifted the economy with his tax cuts” and quote, “responded with bold measures to prevent an economic meltdown.” In 2005 he told a 57-year-old single mother of three, one of the mentally challenged, that it was, quote, “fantastic, uniquely American that she had to work three jobs” unlike half a million people that have no job as of November in the first presidency for decades during which family earning power fell and income disparity continued to rise, the meltdown he prevented, now having claimed several Wall Street institutions, which had weathered 1929 and 9/11 or 43 And of course, the old stand-by quote, “He kept the American people safe.”  Not counting 20 percent of his first term, January 1, 2001, until September 11, 2001. On 9/11 he sat reading “My Pet Goat” for seven minutes after learning America was under attack and then covered up environmental danger at Ground Zero.  And failed to provide for the health of rescue workers.  He helped bin Laden‘s family flee the country, opposed the 9/11 Commission, opposed the Department of Homeland Security, tried to outsource American‘s port security to Dubai, did not keep us safe from the shoe bomber, alert passengers and crew did that, did not keep five Americans safe from anthrax and never caught their killer, still has not caught the killer of 17 sailors aboard the USS Coal, still has not caught the killer of 3,000 on 9/11, outsourcing that to Afghans, turning that country into a narcostate giving bin Laden a safe haven in the region of Waziristan by literally endorsing a truce that Pakistan signed with the Taliban there. And most of all, not keeping safe 4,200 Americans dead in his war, a war that made us less safe, invading a country that posed no grave or gathering threat, provided a check on Iraq and igniting insurrection by disbanding the Ba‘athist Party, creating a Muslim theocracy purged of its moderate intelligentsia, one in which freedom has marched backwards for women and Lebanon too elected a Muslim theocracy run by Hamas (sic), no less. Keeping us safe?  Terrorism is rising worldwide.  The still thriving enemy has claimed Pakistan‘s Benazir Bhutto and thousands of people in India, including 200 in Mumbai just last month.  Russia can now invade U.S.  allies without fear of retribution.  And Mr. Bush failed to prevent Kim Jong-Il from joining the ranks of nuclear powers, despite even more ample warning than he received prior to 9/11. He lifted not a finger to keep a major American city safe from wind and water. And what, finally, of the claims of talking points that Mr. Bush has always upheld quote “the honor and dignity of his office.”  You must define dignity downward to find it in a lie.  The lie of mission accomplished.  Of upholding the Constitution or protecting Habeas Corpus.  That we do not eavesdrop without warrants, we do not eavesdrop on Americans.  The lie that we do not torture, that we do not play politics with justice, that we do not use the wheels of justice to crush dissent, that we do not betray those who serve us in secret, that we uphold rather than commute the penalties for those who do, that we do not stage fake news conferences, do not censor science, do not plant propaganda in Iraqi newspapers nor pay U.S.  columnists who write it in American newspapers. Or push respected Americans to vaporize their honor and dignity with lies to the world.  Or lie about the causes of the credit crisis, high gas prices or even that he watched the first plane hit the North Tower on TV.  Where is the honor of vowing a crusade, of daring those that would kill American troops to “bring it on”, of promising to care for the troops after you put them in harm‘s way without body armor or up-armored vehicles? Where was the honor, the dignity in giving a dead soldier‘s mother a presidential coin and telling her, “Don‘t sell it on eBay.”  His memo revealing yet another lie.  He does care how history will portray him and now he knows. From THE TONIGHT SHOW, to the earlier TONIGHT SHOW, my special guest, Jay Leno on the move to primetime and what it means for the political content of his work. George Will complains about something the liberals are not doing.  And Sean Hannity complains about something the liberals did not intend to do and didn‘t even try to do to Ted Stevens, he did it himself.  And Billo complains about somebody who will not come on his show even though they asked him.  A big battle in “Worsts” ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Jay Leno on bringing political humor to primetime on free TV every weeknight.  He joins us next. But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” The bronze tonight, George Will.  Writing in paranoid dismay in “The Washington Post” warning of a liberal plot that no liberals seem interested in carrying out.  “In talk radio,” Mr. Will writes, beautiful but nonsensically, “liberals are seeking intellectual protectionism in the form of regulations that suppress ideological rivals.” He continues, “If reactionary liberals unsatisfied with dominating the mainstream media, academia and Hollywood were competitive on talk radio they would be uninterested in reviving the Fairness Doctrine.” But, George, they are uninterested.  All the liberals supposedly behind the plot to kill off right wing radio, including the president-elect, have denied any desire to reintroduce the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a point underscored in your 740 word column you don‘t mention one name of any liberal supposedly pushing to reinstate the doctrine. The runner up, the manatee, here‘s the dishonesty of the lunatic fringe.  Sean Hannity is complaining about the swiftness with which Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was quote, “indicted, tried, convicted, voted out of office.”  He claimed, quoting again, “Liberals can get away with whatever they need to get away for political expediency.  If you‘re a Republican like Ted Stevens, even though the case against you is a lot more murky, you know, justice moves at lightning speed.  Not only do you get indicted, you get tried and convicted in record time but the Justice Department moves so fast it‘s like some kind of national emergency.” What Hannity left out there was Stevens asked for the swiftest trial possible.  After he was indicted on July 29, Stevens‘ attorney asked for trial to start at the end of September so Stevens would clear his name before the election.  “This is not a complex case.  And it should move quickly,” Brendan Sullivan said.  “This is the first time in my life I‘ve asked for a speedy trial.” So it moved at lightning speed, Sean, not because of some liberal plot, but because Ted Stevens, the conservative, asked for it.  But our winner, Billo the Clown, you can add to the many adjectives “liar.” Newt Gingrich went on his show and responded to some of the backlash against Prop 8 in California and said, quote, “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in the country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence.” “The New Yorker‘s” Rich Hertzberg bashed Gingrich appropriately.  Billo, of course, sent two of his stalker producers to wait outside Hertzberg‘s home to ambush him to claim he took Gingrich out of context, demand a apology and most importantly, accused Hertzberg of never watching O‘Reilly‘s show.  Standard stuff. But Billo also claims Hertzberg refused to go on O‘Reilly‘s ego fest.  It turns out O‘Reilly was lying about that, Hertzberg, “The New Yorker‘s” editor and the magazine‘s publicist, they all say nobody at Fox had ever asked Hertzberg to go on.  If he had been asked he would have said yes and still would. You want to know what this one is really about?  This continues to be about the journalistic icons of Billy‘s youth.  “News Day”, “The New York Times”, “The New Yorker” and NBC all rejecting him. Billo the Liar, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One show, five nights a week in primetime on broadcast network television.  This has never been done before, unless you count all the mutations of “Law and Order” or “CSI” or if like me you‘re old enough to remember this.  The “ABC Sunday Night Movie” and the “ABC Monday Night Movie” and the “ABC Tuesday Night Movie,” etc. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, “Keeping Tabs”.  Original and radical and yet probably the safest thing a broadcast station has ever done, taking highest rated late night program, THE TONIGHT SHOW, and morphing it into a primetime series, Jay Leno at 10:00 Eastern, Monday through Friday.  He‘ll join us presently. It launches in the fall after Conan O‘Brien succeeds Jay at THE TONIGHT SHOW.  Leno keeps most of the format, the monologue, the band right down to Kevin Eubanks, “Headlines,” “Jay Walking”, etc. At today‘s news conference he joked that, quote, “I‘ll be on right after the last hour of THE TODAY SHOW.”  And NBC brass was remarkably frank.  Suddenly the company only has 16 hours of primetime to fill each week, not 21.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC GRABOFF, NBC ENTERTAINMENT CO-CHAIRMAN:  The threshold for this is much lower than it would be a scripted program.  The threshold of ratings.  Because the cost of this show is much her than it is for a scripted program.  So, we are able to also, offer something to our advertisers that‘s more innovative because it is more of a joinable in progress, somewhat DVR proof. This is not an apples to apples comparison.  We‘re not trying to compete with “CSI Miami” and those types of shows, this is a unique show and it will stand on its own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And if the advent of reality TV and DVR‘s may have made this inevitable.  It‘s against the TV landscape, revolutionary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As promised, here he is, the man of the hour, the hour being now 10:00 Eastern, Jay Leno.  Congratulations.  We can‘t get rid of you, huh?

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST:  Thank you, the governor of Illinois is the man of the hour but I‘m thrilled just of the a chance to make a bid on the Senate seat.  It was not accepted but I thought 50 grand was more than enough to be senator from Illinois.

OLBERMANN:  Apparently that would have worked with the governor if somebody hadn‘t stopped him in time.

LENO:  And I loved his Josh Brolin from “Harvey Milk” hair.  Did you see that?  What was that hair style?  What did this guy just step out after a 1980 yearbook.  You see that?

OLBERMANN:  We know where he will be stepping into in the immediate future.  This brings up a serious point here.  This will be a five-night-a-week, obviously largely topical program in the middle of primetime or the end of primetime on a broadcast network.  Is 21st century America ready for this?  A lot of political humor and the stuff you‘ve been doing in late night now moved to primetime?

LENO:  We are assuming that NBC still has a primetime, OK?  There‘s your error right there.  That‘s sort of the problem.  You know, it‘s a different model now, this is not something that would have worked 10 years ago or even five or six years ago. And right now people go—you know, it‘s interesting, when you talk to young people they don‘t know channel 2 from channel 4 from channel 148 to channel 307.  They just watch what they watch and that‘s what we‘re counting on.  Look we don‘t expect to beat shows like “CSI” that go against us, but those shows are only on 22 weeks, we‘re on 46 to 48 weeks so we can do topical stuff on a nightly basis. Plus people go to bed earlier now.  10:30 is like 11:30 used to be.  I speak to young people now, young couples that have kids or children and maybe they‘re not driving their car as much, they‘re taking public transportation and getting up earlier so it‘s a chance to do this stuff at a different time.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think—Our concern here is obviously the political element of things.  And that‘s obviously one of your loves, let alone one of your areas of expertise, do you expect that that - would there be more of a spotlight on that stuff at 10:00 at night than there would be at 11:30 or will there not be that much of a difference?

LENO:  I think you get more eyes watching.  I think what will happen is lots of people, what happens at 11:30.  They tune in.  They watch the monologue.  They watch the comedy.  If they don‘t like what you have coming up, whether a stunt or a guest, they turn it off and they go to bed.

That‘s—when you work in late-night television you‘re always fighting sleep.  The worst thing for us is 12:00 to 12:06 on all the networks because you have that long six minute commercial.  And people just go “all right, enough already” and they turn off the TV and they go to bed.  This is a chance to kind of move it up a little bit and see what happens. And it‘s cheap to do.

OLBERMANN:  I was going to say it‘s a win on every level.  As a television move stepping back from it and, obviously, you have got to be pleased by it but as a TV move it solves like 17 problems all at once.  This is one of great, seeding the cloud just right and getting 12” of snow from it moves in TV history, don‘t you think?

LENO:  I don‘t know.  I hope so.  This is not something I would have done at the beginning of my career, taking a chance.  But at this point, I said to NBC, do research.  I‘m a great believer in low self-esteem.  I never think much about anything I do unless other people like it.  So that‘s what they did.  They did some research and initially they offered me a half hour show at 8:00 every night. And I said, just me telling jokes and doing one or two comely sketches doesn‘t seem like enough to hold it.  I ‘d rather do a show with more elements in it like THE TONIGHT SHOW does and then Jeff Zucker at some point suggested 10:00 and I said, let‘s check into that.  And we realized we were doing at 11:30 than some other shows like “Lipstick Jungle” or “My Own Worst Enemy” did at 10:00.  They were getting a 2.7, we were getting a 4.3 an hour and a half later.  And I thought, well, all right, maybe this can work earlier.  We‘re going to certainly try hard and try to make it work and if it works you‘re a hero and if not, it‘s the classic NBC failing upward.  You screwed up?  We‘re going to give you a promotion.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ll be vice president of something. So if this works, what does this portend for the future of television?  Is it next what NBC only has to get two other shows, one for 8:00 five nights a week and one for 9:00 five nights a week?

LENO:  Well, the word is CBS is talking about putting Letterman on at 9:59.  That‘s what I hear.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let me ask you one more topical thing since you‘re going to be topical as ever on this.

LENO:  Go ahead.

OLBERMANN:  The largest buyers of cars in the world, number one is the United States.  Number two is China.  Number three is you.  So how do you feel about the bailout of Detroit and are you eligible to be the car czar?  Where is this going to go?

LENO:  No.  Actually I found out if I buy just two more cars I am eligible for a bailout so I‘m going to Washington to do this.  I love the idea of a car czar.  Like these idiots in Washington know anything about— You have people who are trillions of dollars in debt yelling at people who are billions of dollars in debt so to me the whole thing is ridiculous.  I want Nancy Pelosi designing the new Corvette.  I think it will be a very exciting automobile.

OLBERMANN:  I think she designed the old one.  Jay Leno, congratulations again.  Thanks ever so much for spending a couple of minutes with us.  We appreciate it.

LENO:  Come see me in person so I don‘t have to do this phone thing.

OLBERMANN:  You got it.  The next time I‘m in town I‘ll even make a special trip.  I‘ll see you in the new year.

LENO:  Thanks, pal.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,040 day since the deck la rags of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.  It‘s a good thing we‘ll never be on a network which relies on one or two shows a night to fill up all of its primetime—wait a minute!

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.

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