updated 12/22/2008 5:14:07 PM ET 2008-12-22T22:14:07

Guests: John Dean, Christian Finnegan, Robert Kuttner, Chris Cillizza

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

We waited 11 days for his statement and this is all he stated?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS:  I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath.  I have done nothing wrong.  Now, I‘m dying to answer these charges.  I am dying to show you how innocent I am.

Rudyard Kipling wrote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, boy.  So, now this is about Rudyard Kipling?  Did you try to sell him the Senate seat?

Maybe Norm Coleman would be interested.  He now trails Al Franken in the Minnesota recount.

Finally, somebody does something about Detroit -- $17 billion in loans with a catch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT:  I do want to emphasize to the Big Three automakers and their executives that the American people‘s patience is running out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mark Felt is dead.  The Watergate source “Deep Throat,” that left one man in the know and more a clearinghouse for FBI agents thwarted (ph) by Richard Nixon.  John Dean joins us.

Worsts: The Obama college photos you didn‘t see them before the election because of a conspiracy, the one that exists in the brains of Sean Hannity and Gretchen Carlson.

Bests: Lou Dobbs calls the prime minister of Canada un-American. 

Yes, I know.

And, Sarah Palin palling around with drug dealers?  Bristol Palin‘s future mother-in-law, the day before the baby is due—arrested.  Six counts of drug possession and distribution and/or manufacturing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA:  I love those hockey moms.  You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and the pit bull?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meth?

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, December 19th, 32 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

People who‘ve got to know whether or not their president is a crook.  “Well, I am not a crook.  I‘ve earned everything I‘ve got.”  Substitute the word the governor for president—and in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: You would pretty have not what Richard Nixon said 35 years ago last month, instead, you‘d had what Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said today.  Of course, the governor spiced up with a passage Rudyard Kipling‘s fame poem “If,” and perhaps all you need to know about Blagojevich is he bailed out of the stanza just before Kipling warned “Don‘t look too good nor talk too wise.”

The Illinois governor making his first official comments this afternoon since having been arrested 10 days ago on federal corruption charges.  The governor reciting some Kipling, bashing “Meet the Press”—come on, David just started—in doing so, probably bashing by proxy the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who appeared on the program on Sunday.  B-Rod denied any criminal wrongdoing and vowed to stay on the job indefinitely which is kind of, at least, at times, how long his statement this afternoon seemed to be going on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH:  Thank you very much.  I‘m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrong doing.  That I intend to stay on the job and I will fight this thing every step of the way.  I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath.  I have done nothing wrong.  And I‘m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.  Now, that‘s what I‘m going to do.

Let me tell you what I‘m not going to do.  I‘m not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing.  And that is talk about this case in 30-second sound bites on “Meet the Press” or on the TV news.

Now, I‘m dying to answer these charges.  I am dying to show you how innocent I am.  And I want to assure everyone who is here and everyone who is listening that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way.  However, I intend to answer them in the appropriate forum, in a court of law.  And when I do, I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.  If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you and make allowance for their doubting, too.  If you can wait and not be tired by waiting or being lied about, don‘t deal in lies or being hated.  Don‘t give way to hating.”

Now, I know there are some powerful forces arrayed me.  It‘s kind of lonely right now.  But I have on my side, the most powerful ally there is and it‘s the truth.  And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong.

To the people of Illinois, I ask that they wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath and please reserve judgment.  Afford me the same rights that you and your children have—the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself, the right to your day in court—the same rights that you would expect for yourselves.

And one last thing, to all of those, to those of you who have expressed your support to Patti and me during this difficult time, I‘d like to thank you for your thoughts, I‘d like to thank you for your prayers and I‘d like to thank you for your good wishes.  Patti and I cannot express to you how grateful we are for your kindness.  Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  William Devane is JFK in “The Missiles of October,” right?  Am I right?

Time now to call in Chris Cillizza, White House reporter for the “Washington Post,” also the author of “The Fix” at WashingtonPost.com.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m guessing that answered the question whether or not the governor will be stepping down voluntarily.

CILLIZZA:  Yes.  If there was any doubt, I talked to a lot of Democrats who were privately hoping that he might just get up there and say, “You know what?  You got me.”  But knowing Rod Blagojevich, knowing that he‘s become increasingly isolated over the course of this five-year now federal investigation, not a lot of them had a lot of hope.

He delivered what many people expected, which was a very fierce denial that he had done anything wrong and basically a long take on the fact that his political enemies had created this situation.  It‘s very fascinating.  Three minutes, but a fascination bit of political theater.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, probably the best pure speech by a governor since the fellow who quit New Jersey three or four years ago.  But, who‘s he referring to when he talks about his political enemies and why reference to the political lynch mob, and the reference to “Meet the Press”?  Is this about the prosecutor?  Is it about the attorney general of Illinois?  Who does he see?

CILLIZZA:  I mean, at this point, I think, he views almost anyone who aren‘t Rod or Patti Blagojevich as his enemies.  Even his chief of staff has resigned.  There was a question at the press conference later whether his chief of staff might turn on him and become sort of an informant.

But I think that “Meet the Press” reference was clearly aimed at Lisa Madigan.  She‘s the state attorney general.  She‘s the daughter of Mike Madigan who, to put it mildly, he and Rod Blagojevich have not gotten along for a long time.  And she‘s the person most likely who is going to challenge him if he wound up seeking a third term.  So, I think that was a little jab at her.

But again, in the end, Rod Blagojevich has done to himself.  It‘s not Lisa Madigan‘s fault.  She‘s probably taking advantage of the situation, but I‘m not sure you can blame her.

OLBERMANN:  I know that the general assessment of this was people were amazed that he was currently cool and he sounded Reaganesque in his if the delivery if it will a bit higher pitch, but I thought I heard a lot of nervous catching of breath.

CILLIZZA:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  .heavy breathing, and that twice repeated “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight,” it‘s very tough to repeat a phrase exactly the same way fanatically three times.  Never mind the words, what did the tone sound, did it sound odd to you?

CILLIZZA:  It did.  And, you know, Keith, I‘ll go back—go back to the day before this—he was arrested.  He appears with workers striking outside a plant and he‘s much more breezy.  He sort of says “let the sunlight shine on me.  I have nothing to hide.  All you will hear on those tapes—the wiretap is me using colorful language.”

He was much more halting today.  I caught that same thing, the heavy breathing.  He was clearly nervous.  And I hate to say it, but there were some sort of Nixonian tendencies there.  You know, the whole “I want to tell you the truth” that reminded me of, you know, someone saying, “I want to tell where that secret treasure is buried.  I just can‘t do it, yet.”

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, Chris, the national implications here.  The Minnesota seat is still and we will delve into that in a moment.  The New York Senate seat is still empty; Illinois is not going to get filled anytime soon.  When Congress convenes in January, how badly are Democrats going to want to have those actual bodies in those actual seats?  And what is the likelihood when are we going to get one from Illinois?

CILLIZZA:  You know, this prolongs the process.  The reality is that if Rod Blagojevich stays in office, the impeachment proceedings are going to have to continue in the state legislature.  He can wait to veto the bill, which I‘d assume he would do.  It then would have to go back to the state legislature.  You‘re looking at a number of openings, including Minnesota, where we are probably not going to have a declared winner when Congress reopens.

And remember, Harry Reid and the Democrats want to pass Barack Obama‘s agenda, especially the economic stimulus as soon as possible.  Keep the momentum he has built, he, being Barack Obama during this transition period.  Keep the momentum he has built, he being Barack Obama during this transition period.  It‘s going to be harder when they are down three or four senators as they inevitably are going to be.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post,” good enough to come to us here on a Friday before Christmas—great thanks, have a good weekend, a good holiday season.

CILLIZZA:  Keith, for you, anything.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of that Minnesota Senate seat, day four of the canvassing board meeting in that state to decide the fate of hundreds of disputed ballots in the recount between the Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken.  A turning point this morning, Franken is taking the lead in this contest for the very first time.  The “Minneapolis Star Tribune” reporting now that the Democrat is in front of the Republican by 251 votes out of 3 million cast.  The canvassing board to resume its count of challenged ballots on Monday.

Our friend, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com is now projecting that Franken will lead by 70 votes once all of the disputed ballots have been reviewed.  The race however is far from over, but the circumstance such that it might prove difficult for Senator Coleman to regain his lead.

Up next: What happens to some 1,600 absentee ballots that were rejected in error?  As we reported last night, the state Supreme Court turning down a motion by the Coleman campaign to keep those ballots from being counted.  But—and it is a doozy of a “but,” both candidates and county officials must come to an agreement on the validity of each ballot by the 31st of this month.  Ballots that the Coleman campaign doesn‘t want to see counted in any event.

And a reminder, January 6th, is the start date for the new session of Congress.  Beyond that, Senator Coleman going back to the Minnesota Supreme Court over a question of duplicate ballots, in an attempt to keep the recount from being certified.

But lest you think nothing ever actually happens, presto, it‘s an auto industry bailout.  But who is looking out for the children of Wasilla, Alaska?  The city is described by state troopers as Alaska‘s meth capital.  They are not saying that the drug one woman there has been accused of distributing perhaps manufacturing, but there are six felony counts against her.  And oh, by the way, her son and his fiancee are expecting their first baby tomorrow.  The very pregnant fiancee is, of course, the daughter of Governor Sarah Palin.

Scandal?  You betcha.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The auto bailout and its caveats and whether or not it was essential and whether or not it can work.  The death of “Deep Throat,” Mark Felt and his still unidentified assistants in a veritable assembly line of leaks revealing Watergate—assessed for us by John Dean.

And the insurance company which it says it owes the victims of an arson fire nothing because they‘d insist they did not actually die from fire.  The Worst Persons in the World—ahead tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The auto industry was bailed out today: $17.4 billion in emergency loans to prevent G.M. and Chrysler from collapsing.  During an eight-minute long televised announcement, time to end before the stock market opened, President Bush laid out a so-called “rescue package” complete with conditions, deadlines, and concessions especially from the unions.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Instead of bankruptcy for two of the Big Three, the federal government will tap the fund initially set aside to bail out the financial industry.  But unlike the lifeline for the banks, this one has strings attached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  By giving the auto companies a chance to restructure, we will shield the American people from a harsh economic blow at a vulnerable time.  And we will give American workers an opportunity to show the world, once again, they can meet challenges with ingenuity and determination, and bounce back from tough times, and emerge stronger than before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Please submit your receipts.  At the same time, Mr.  Bush was outlining his plan which includes a requirement that management and the United Auto Workers get union wages on par with those of foreign automakers, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was suggesting Congress release the second half of that $700 billion package approved for Wall Street.  His reasoning, the auto bailout had basically exhausted the remainder of the first half.

As for President-elect Barack Obama, who encouraged the current president to use the TARP money shortly after the election, echoed his support but not without putting the onus on management as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT:  I do want to emphasize to the Big Three automakers and their executives that the American people‘s patience is running out and that they should seize on this opportunity over the next several weeks and months to come up with a plan that is sustainable.  And that means that they are going to have to make some hard choices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, Republican senators, many of who are from states in bed with those foreign automakers and who had blocked an earlier piece of legislation that bore striking resemblances to this one, they are not happy.  Lindsey Graham objecting to TARP money for the car companies, in a statement, quote, “These funds were supposed to be used to stabilize financial institutions.  The TARP legislation would certainly not have passed if we had known it was going to use for this purpose.”

Likewise, for John McCain, quote, “Just last week, the Senate rejected a bailout plan because it failed to provide assurances that the domestic manufacturers would fundamentally change the way they do business to ensure their long-term viability.  I find it unacceptable that we would leave the American taxpayer with a tab of tens of billions of dollars while failing to receive any serious concessions from the industry.”

We are joined by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the “American Prospect,” and author of “Obama‘s Challenge: America‘s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency.”

Good evening, sir.  Thank you for your time tonight.

ROBERT KUTTNER, AUTHOR, “OBAMA‘S CHALLENGE”:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with the obviously, the most relevant questions.  Was this necessary and is it going to work?

KUTTNER:  Well, I think it‘s necessary to give the automakers some breathing room if they are going to restructure themselves.  I mean, we‘ve got a very serious recession.  Auto sales are down 40 percent.  And the question is: Are you going to let these companies go bankrupt or are you going to give them one last chance to try produce cars that are fuel-efficient, that Americans want to buy, that don‘t fall apart after a few years?

But this is going to take a little bit of time.  This is not going to be done on three or four months.  What I find interesting is that senators like Graham and McCain are being very tough about what they expect from the automakers in the way of concessions and in the way of accountability.  You don‘t hear any of this when it comes to the much, much larger sums that are going to the banks.

OLBERMANN:  Well, certainly, and that‘s perhaps the most intriguing subplot to this $17.4 billion for the auto industry, $250 billion for the banks.  And, I guess, there‘s another in total that it will workout over around $682 billion-something for the banks.  Again, I made the joke about save your receipts, it‘s as if the banks and mortgage companies didn‘t have to sign for the money, it was just take as much as you need.  Where is that scream for any kind of clarity or accountability from those financial institutions?

KUTTNER:  Well, Wall Street, obviously, has more powerful friends in Washington than the automakers do.  And when you think about it, it‘s easier to run a bank if you don‘t try and run it like a casino than it is to figure out how to make a car that people want to buy.  And both sets of executives have not been doing a stellar job.

But you would think for the $700 billion that the taxpayers are giving to the banks, you would have even something approaching the kind of accountability that‘s being demands of the automakers.  And yet, Paulson is just shoveling out the money.  The treasury is not demanding any kind of accounting about what the banks are doing.  You just have to hope that when the Obama team comes on in a month from now, they‘ll do a better job both with the banks and with the automakers.

OLBERMANN:  This loan, bailout, bridge loan, various descriptions used today, apart of this plan under the President Bush scheme called for the industry, the auto industry, to become viable by March 31st.  Has anybody defined viable and whatever it is?  Is it possible by March 31st?

KUTTNER:  No, it‘s totally impossible.  I mean, you‘re talking about a radical restructuring of the industry which could take a year, could take two years.  And I think it‘s their last chance.  Obama will probably give them more money but he will have more accountability.  The government will probably be involved in the restructuring.

You know, there‘s a historic parallel, Keith.  In 1941, when we went to war, they shut down the assembly lines, and within eight months they retooled the auto assembly lines to make tanks, and bombers, and fighters.  And this was the ingenuity of the American industry, American workers on display.  If we can do that to win a war, we ought to be able to do that to save this industry.  But it‘s not going to be done by March 31st.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, everything gets done with somebody‘s palm being greased.  And I don‘t mean that necessarily with money being handed, but there are interest being solved.  Hank Paulson now responds this by saying, “Look, well, now, the rest of the front half of the bailout for Wall Street is gone.  Now, you have to release the rest of the money to the financial institutions.”  Did that—is it as straightforward, a quid pro quo, as that looks?  Did this thing happen for Detroit because Paulson was somehow empowered to go and ask for the rest of the mortgage bailout?

KUTTNER:  No, I think the two things (INAUDIBLE).  I mean, I think Bush did not want to see the auto industry fold as his final legacy in his last 30 days in office.  And I think Paulson has such little credibility with Congress given how he‘s run this bailout, that they are not going to give him the remaining $350 billion.  They are going to wait for the Obama team to come in, they‘re going to put more conditions on it, and one hopes the Obama team will do a better job.

I mean, don‘t forget, originally, this was going to be money used to buy up toxic bonds.  And then, Paulson couldn‘t make that work, so he turns around and just gives the money to the banks.

OLBERMANN:  Robert Kuttner, the co-editor of the “American Prospect,” author of “Obama‘s Challenge”—great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

KUTTNER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Serene political discourse South Korean-style.  This—this is a filibuster.  Thank you.

And there‘s nothing like watching a public figure self-destruct.  Sean Hannity‘s now daily conspiracy theory about Barack Obama.  This one involves a cigarette and a hat.  Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.  And he‘s not only Canadian, he‘s un-American.

First—the time line is a little murky—but on this date in 1904, the hockey team from Dawson City in Canada‘s Yukon Territory finally got going on its cross continental journey to face Ottawa in the Stanley Cup championship.  Delayed by cold weather, good weather, bad weather, bicycles freezing in the snow, avalanches, missed trains, missed boats, dog-sled teams that didn‘t dog-sled, on a transcontinental rural trip from Vancouver to Ottawa, the Klondikers finally got there and played game one of the best-of-three series on January 13th and they lost to Ottawa, nine-to-two.  Three days later, in game two, Dawson City lost to Ottawa 23-to-two.  For some reason, there is no epic story known about their trip back to the Yukon.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Appropriately, we begin at 1060 West Addison at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the NHL‘s Blackhawks are getting set to host an outdoor hockey game on New Year‘s day on NBC.  The grass field that normally hosts Cub baseball is being converted into an ice hockey rink complete with two-fully functioning Zambonis.  Well, one fully functioning Zamboni.

Frozen breaks, dude.  The driver was fine.  And the ice-cleaner was none the worse for wear, if you can believe that.  And now, you know why they don‘t drive those things in reverse.

To South Korea‘s national assembly where it is the season to be brawly.  A committee inside that room is talking about a trade deal with the United States.  The people outside don‘t like the deal.  They are using crowbars and a sledgehammer to gain entry and filibuster.

But before they get pass the furniture barricade, the guys inside empty a couple of fire extinguishers on the angry mob of lawmakers who go and find themselves a spigot and return the favor with a nice drink from a fire hose.  Now, if you are getting a kind of South Korean parliament deja vu feeling, that‘s only because this is a rematch.  Almost exactly a year ago, December of 2007, this was the scene at the previous South Korean donnybrook.  Can‘t we all just get along and stick to throwing shoes?

The man who was Watergate‘s Deep Throat is dead.  John Dean on the place of history or in history of Mark Felt and all those who told what Mark Felt what he told Bob Woodward.  And, drug charges against the future mother-in-law of Sarah Palin‘s daughter Bristol.  The day before Bristol is due to give birth.  Wow.

These stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Number three: Best evidence.  These marbles have fallen through a hole in his pocket.  Lou Dobbs on CNN complaining about people complaining about the economy and plays a tape of Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada who‘s asked, “Are you scared?”  Harper replies, “I‘m very worried about the Canadian economy.”  Dobbs comes back on with, “We‘re all concerned.  We‘re all worried.  Anyone paying attention is concerned and worried.  But, are you scared?  Are you afraid?  No, that‘s un-American.”

That was about the point at which Lou realized that yes, the prime minister of Canada is by definition “un-American.”

Number two, best the grass is greener moment, Darren Corbett of West Yorkshire in England.  He was volunteer for the stage act of hypnotist David Knight.  To thank him, Knight cured Corbett‘s habit of smoking 30 cigarettes a day by transferring his addiction from tobacco to a popular British snack, fries that smell like scampi.  He now has to eat 20 packages a day of scampi fries. 

Number, truly the best person.  At his local Home Depot on Tuesday, Mr. Gil Steward saw on the floor a man‘s wallet.  It was filled with nearly 1,000 in cash.  Mr. Steward picked up and gave it to the manager.  Minutes later, another man was shaking his hand vigorously, thanking him because that cash was money for his Christmas presents and his mortgage payment.  Mr. Steward happened to go back to Home Depot yesterday.  That‘s when he saw on the floor a big bag full of money.  He took that to the manager too.  And then he was being thanked by another guy from a vending machine company, who had somehow dropped the receipts.  Mr Steward says it‘s just a fluke, but he adds, I think I‘m going to play the Lottery this weekend.  A merry Christmas to Gil Steward. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As it proves, today is the day we were meant to learn the true identity of Deep Throat, a secret which “Washington Post” journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein promised they would keep until the man or woman had passed away.  Instead, he outed himself 33 years after Watergate, admitting, quote, I‘m the guy they used to call Deep Throat. 

Tonight, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, W. Mark Felt, the former deputy associate director of the FBI, has died of congestive heart failure in Santa Rosa, California.  He was 95.  Throughout his life, Mr. Felt consistently had denied that he was the confirming source for Woodward and Bernstein‘s investigation into the 1972 break in at the Watergate hotel, not even telling his own family of his role until 2002.  He reportedly felt ashamed of leaking, of being a disloyal government servant. 

According to his son, Mark Jr., quote, he would not have done it if he didn‘t feel it was the only way to get around the corruption in the White House and the Justice Department.  He was tortured inside, but never would show it.  But finally, his children convinced him he was, in fact, a hero.  He went public in a May, 2005 article in “Vanity Fair.”  Immortalized by Hal Holbrooke in the movie “All the President‘s Men,” the true identity of Deep Throat fueled decades of speculation about everybody from Nixon‘s chief of staff, Alexander Haig, to Pat Buchanan, to John Dean, who joins us in a moment. 

But it was Mark Felt, first code named by Bob Woodward with those same initials, my friend, who was secretly meeting with the reporter.  Simultaneously leaking information to the “Washington Post,” while also assigned to investigate the source of the leak.  It turns out Nixon actually knew Mark Felt was leaking information.  His chief of staff, H.R.  Halderman, clearly told him that on one of the Watergate tapes.  But adds, quote, if we move on him, he‘ll go out and unload on everything.  He knows everything that is to be known in the FBI. 

I‘m joined now by the White House counsel at the time of Watergate, John Dean, author, of course, of “Worse than Watergate,” and “Broken Government.”  Always a pleasure, sir.  Thank you for your time again tonight. 

JOHN DEAN, AUTHOR, “WORSE THAN WATERGATE”:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Mark Felt struggled for decades with his identity and his legacy as Deep Throat.  Now that he‘s gone, what do you think that legacy is?  Place him in history for us.

DEAN:  Well, as you said, we did know he was leaking.  In fact, he had a reputation in the Department of Justice.  It was not favorable.  Some called him a white rat, because he did leak a lot.  I think because of Watergate and his role of Deep Throat, a lot of people are going to consider that very heroic.  People who are still Nixon apologists are not going to feel it so heroic.  I personally think it was very daring, very important.  Indeed, he changed history by at least supporting Woodward And giving him comfort in what he was doing and making sure the stories were published.   

OLBERMANN:  As we‘ve discussed several times, John, Mark Felt gave information he could not personally have known.  He gave wrong information, as you have so thoroughly documented.  There were obviously people feeding Mark Felt, a series of associate Deep Throats, if you forgive the expression.  Is knowing their identities and their motives essential for historical understanding or is Mark Felt‘s identity enough? 

DEAN:  I think it‘s enough.  We certainly are not going to add anything by knowing who fed Felt what and why.  It‘s not going to illuminate anything.  It‘s not going to change the picture.  It‘s, however, a good mystery story, still.  I suspect some Watergate buffs will still try to piece those pieces together.  It is difficult to put all the information into Felt‘s ambit, if you will.  So I think people will continue to look at it. 

OLBERMANN:  We can‘t call you a buff.  You‘re closer to somebody who had the inside picture is still trying to wait for the corners to develop on the Koda-chrome.  What remains?  What are the questions that you would still have about Felt‘s role and the role of those who worked with him on the inside to get this information out? 

DEAN:  As you know, I was something of a Deep Throat sleuth myself and spent a lot—wasted maybe a lot of time trying to figure it out.  The reason I never had Mark Felt directly in my radar is because he didn‘t fit.  Woodward always told me that when you have all the clues, you‘ll understand exactly who it is and they‘ll all fit.  They don‘t all fit. 

For example, one of Woodward‘s greatest stories is when he breaks the fact that one of more of Nixon tapes have been erased in the first week of November, 1973.  However, Felt has left the FBI six months before that.  When I looked at that, Keith, nobody, outside a very small group in the White House, had that information.  I still can‘t put those kinds of pieces together and answer those kinds of questions about him as Woodward‘s sole source. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it possible—I don‘t know that we‘ve discussed this before.  Is it possible that there was somebody in the White House—you said we hear the tapes about the knowledge that Felt was a leaker—who was playing an inside out game, who was seemingly supportive of Nixon on the inside towards the end, and was still feeding Felt after Felt left the FBI with information like that which you just described? 

DEAN:  It is possible.  There‘s no question it‘s possible.  In fact, when I romanticized what who Deep Throat might be, I always hoped it would be a White House insider.  I thought Pat Buchanan would be a wonderful Deep Throat.  Pat doesn‘t exactly share that feeling, but nor did Dave Gergen when I named him as a potential Deep Throat.  Some of these people took great offense to this. 

I think it‘s very possible somebody could have or indeed, in the particular story I‘m talking about, Woodward identified all those people—sources for that story—as White House sources.  So it may well be a little bit of journalistic license, if you will. 

OLBERMANN:  Try to sum this up and Mark Felt and what he helped reveal and what that meant for the country and what you did for the country and what those who stood up at various times through that did.  That aside, you pointed this out already and many times in many other conversations, this is just an extraordinary fascinating mystery story, even if it weren‘t a political mystery story.  What is left?  What is the secret that remains to this that you would like to ask whoever actually could supply the correct answer? 

DEAN:  Well, Keith, we certainly know why they broke in.  We know it was an act of stupidity, a very foolish fishing expedition to find information on Larry O‘Brien.  We know why it was covered up, because there was a similar foolish break in the Daniel Elsberg psychiatrist office by the same people who had been arrested at the Watergate.  What we don‘t know and what we still may find out is Howard Baker‘s famous question, what did the president know and when did he know it?  There are still tapes coming out in the next couple batches that could well tell us much more about Nixon‘s actual knowledge.  Those kind of interest me. 

OLBERMANN:  Given that the country survived, I guess this is the gift that keeps on giving.  John Dean, always my pleasure, sir, merry Christmas a little early, take care. 

DEAN:  Same to you, Keith.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  For cynics and others who like to know which politicians are palling around with which kind of wrong-doers, the mother of Sarah Palin‘s future son-in-law arrested, six drug felony counts in Wasilla, Alaska. 

A nightmarish fire set by a woman trying to cover up the fact she had not filled out some paper work.  Three people killed.  Nearly two years later, the insurance company says it owes the dead nothing because they did not die from the fire.  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, with everything new, crazy thing that Rick Warren says, is he turning into Barack Obama‘s second Reverend Wright? 

But first, because they‘re not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, gay-gate; 66 members of the United Nations are supporting a measure urging the world to decriminalize homosexuality.  Nearly 80 countries still ban it.  Some punish it with stoning or torture.  Or in the six in which it is still a capital offense, hanging or decapitation.  The declaration was proposed by the French, the French with their right wing government.  It is opposed by the Russians, the Chinese, the Islamic nations and George Bush‘s America.  No comment yet from Pastor Rick, the Internet porn I‘m addicted to, is all straight, Warren. 

Number two, environment-gate.  Now, we know why the Bush pushed through a midnight regulation insisting federal agencies could not consider the global warming implications of a given project: so that Mr. Bush‘s corrupt head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen L. Johnson, could rule, as he did last night, any last minute applications by utilities to build new coal fired power plants may not be reviewed for greenhouse emissions or its impact on global warming.  This even though the Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA can regulate the top global warming gas, Carbon Dioxide.  Johnson is a global warming denier, who has gone so far as to suppress global warming findings by his own administration and lied about it to Congress.  Well, he‘s now vaulted a higher hurdle.  Steven L.  Johnson has, in effect, overruled the Supreme Court. 

Number one, a new Gonzo-gate, with extra added Condi.  Speaking for Dr. Rice, Alberto Gonzales, while White House counsel, appears to have lied to Congress about the infamous 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union Address about Saddam Hussein and Uranium in Niger.  In 2004, Gonzales answered the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence‘s request for testimony from Dr. Rice, because the then National Security Adviser refused to testify.  He wrote that the CIA had twice orally cleared the Uranium claim for use in Bush‘s speeches. 

Unfortunately, the House Oversight Committee has now turned up evidence that Gonzales, speaking for Rice, was not telling the truth about those two oral clearances.  One of the writers of Bush‘s speech on September 12th, 2002 has told the committee that the White House instructed him to include the Uranium lie, and when he did, the CIA rejected the claim, refused to clear the use of the language, because the story was, quote, not sufficiently reliable to include it in the speech.  Then the Uranium crap was included in Mr. Bush‘s speech of September 26.  The deputy director of intelligence at the CIA told the committee that said personally she phoned Condoleezza Rice, quote, recommending that it be taken out. 

So Condi wouldn‘t testify.  Then Gonzales responded on her behalf and put lies in her mouth. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sometimes fate just lets a nation collectively dodge a bullet.  The other grandmother of Sarah Palin‘s grand child, due tomorrow, arrested on six charges of drug possession, drug distribution and/or production.  Feel the breeze as the projectile whizzes past us.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

A tie for the bronze between Sean Hannity and Gretchen Carlson of Fixed News.  Seen these, the pictures of Obama taken in college, just released by the classmate who took them in the new “Time Magazine?”  Carlson need a vacation.  She said “there are some very intriguing Barack Obama photos.  Look at this one.  This is him smoking a cigarette, which we had not seen.  Would it have served any purpose to release these photos before the election.” 

Hannity, meanwhile, senses a conspiracy.  “Where were these pictures during the campaign?  Just take a look at this.  Barack Obama has a hat, you know, pulling a drag on a cigarette.  Do you think the media thought it might not help Barack Obama?” 

Well, of course.  John McCain would have won, if only America would have known Barack Obama smoked cigarettes and used to own a hat. 

The silver to the Florida State Department of Revenue.  In September, Scott Anderson of Titusville was not charged any sales tax for a small purchase at the hardware store.  He thinks that‘s because he works for the Federal Parks Service, and the store might have incorrectly charged his purchase to the Park Services tax free account.  So he calculated the tax himself and he mailed a check, along with a letter of explanation to the state of Florida.  A month later, he got a letter back, charging him 50 dollars in fines, because it decided he was a business which had not paid his taxes.  Mr. Anderson wrote another explanation, promptly got back another letter from the state saying he now owed 650 dollars in fines, and faced criminal prosecution. 

A local TV station got involved here and a Florida tax official said the threats will stop and Anderson will not be fined either.  By the way, the amount of sales tax he was not charged but paid himself, the part that set all this off, a dollar and a half. 

But our winner, Carl Lindner Jr., chairman of Great American Insurance Company.  A fire set in a Houston office building in March 2007 seeking to cover up the fact she had not filled out paperwork by a certain deadline killed three people.  Their names were Shana Ellis, Janet Hargrove and Marvin Wells (ph).  Their survivors sued, seeking a total of 25 million dollars in damage.  Great American Insurance has asked the court to rule that it doesn‘t owe the families a dime.  Mr. Lindner‘s company, Great American, says is insurance policies do not cover payments for pollution, discharges of pollution, or seepage of pollution, or pollution gases, or pollution related smoke. 

Great American Insurance is claiming that the victims died not because of the fire, but because of pollution in the form of smoke.  Great American is the so-called excess insurer in this macab case.  The lawyer for the primary insurer, responsible for the first million dollar, says he thinks the claim is outrageous.  But, it is not to Carl Lindner, chairman of the Great American Insurance Company, and today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A drug bust in the Crystal Meth capital of Alaska.  Six felony counts, some for manufacturing a substance.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the new thriller in Wasilla and the target, the future mother-in-law of Governor Sarah Palin‘s pregnant daughter, which could mean really, just by definition, Governor Sarah Palin is palling around with drug dealers. 

Forty two year old Sherri Johnston (ph) was arrested yesterday at her home in Wasilla, a town that state troopers declared last September was the Meth capitol of Alaska.  It happened after police served a warrant on her home, at the, quote, conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation.  Johnston was charged with six felony drug counts, specifically second degree misconduct involving a controlled substance that is generally manufactured or delivered, and fourth degree misconduct involving controlled substances or possession. 

State troopers not releasing information about the kind or amount of drugs.  Mrs. Johnston is, of course, the mother of Levi Johnston, the 18 year old who drew notoriety in September, just before the Republican National Convention, of course, when Governor Palin announced that her teenage daughter, Bristol, was pregnant and Levi was the father.  Governor Palin showing that natural empathy and connection to the average American that has rocketed her to the top of the greasy political poll.  Her spokesman today responding to the sad news by saying, quote, this is not a state government matter.  Therefore, the governor‘s communications staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities. 

Mrs. Johnston was booked at the Matthsew (ph) pre-trial facility yesterday and released at about 2:00 pm on a 5,000 dollar bond.  Bristol Palin is due to give birth tomorrow, according to her grandfather.  And the previously announced impending marriage between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston is still apparently impending. 

Let‘s turn now to our old friend, comedian Christian Finnegan. 

Christian, good evening. 

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN:  So lovely to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m thinking that with that last statement, “this is not a government matter.  Therefore, the governor‘s communication staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities.”  With that, the governor‘s refusal to say, you know, a human thing about this, like this is sad news or I hope this works out, that her silence on this also serves as a big giant go to it for commentators and comedians.  What do you think? 

FINNEGAN:  I guess somebody has to fill the vacuum.  The sad truth is that nothing you say or I say would be nearly as entertaining as seeing Sarah Palin discuss this head on.  Can you imagine that press conference?  You know, I‘m just feeling so sad about the methamphetamines and also, too, as well, the addicts with the facial sores and the neck tattoos and the paying for random sex acts at the bus depo.  It‘s just so not awesome. 

To think we‘re going to be deprived of that press conference is just devastating to me. 

OLBERMANN:  Think of it this way, maybe you‘ll get to hear all that at the trial.  Let‘s play this out a little further.  These are the future in laws of Governor Palin‘s daughters.  So if we can assume then social interaction between the governor and Mrs. Johnston, at some point, then particularly if you put the governor‘s standards to this for what constitutes this, is it a stretch to say the governor‘s been palling around with a drug dealer? 

FINNEGAN:  This is the problem when you start playing guilt by association; eventually, one of your associations is going to make you look like an ass.  Keith, I strongly urge you not to go down the same path, because, right at this very moment, it could be said that you are palling around with someone who is responsible for over 40,000 dollars theft of office supplies.  There is also a public indecency thing.  But my point is, nobody‘s hands are clean here, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s not 40,000 dollars of office supplies left in that office behind you.  So I don‘t know what—

FINNEGAN:  Not here.  Many years of temp work. 

OLBERMANN:  Will this, do you think, become the governors most persistent backdrop, at least symbolically speaking, because there‘s not photo op like this, but since the turkey slaughter videotape. 

FINNEGAN:  You keep thinking it‘s the last one.  This woman is a genius.  The way they just keep littering out there, a little piece, a little piece.  Just when the turkey thing is starting to get old, a new hit single drops.  I‘m telling you, this Meth lab is the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the turkey slaughter‘s “Love Me Do.”  I mean, which makes you know she‘s got a “Sergeant Pepper” some day.  I‘ve got my fingers crossed waiting for it.

OLBERMANN:  Mrs. Johnston‘s, Governor Palin‘s, brand-new grandchild is due tomorrow.  The timing of this is just extraordinary.  You want to take a venture here, in light of recent developments, about baby names. 

FINNEGAN:  If it‘s a girl, Crystal is a nice name.  A boy, Methew.  Methew maybe.  I will say this for the record, I wish that kid the best.  I guarantee you, knowing what we know now, Levi Johnston is going to be a great father, because he‘s obviously used to being around people with no teeth. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you think the 64,000 dollar question, is this going to reduce Governor Palin‘s likelihood that she‘d run for president in 2012 and please say no? 

FINNEGAN:  Not if I have anything to do with it.  The Palin 2012 presidential campaign, I feel about that like the way a comic book geek feels about a new Lord of the Rings movie.  I am willing—even if the Republican don‘t nominate her, I say we just get a party started.  We‘ll start collecting signatures.  I know a couple people over at Huff Post.  We‘ll get this thing going.  What do you think, Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m in.  Put me down for line number one.  I‘ll write my name right now.   

FINNEGAN:  Dare to dream.

OLBERMANN:  The comedian Christian Finnegan, many thanks, and please empty your pockets before you leave. 

FINNEGAN:  Happy Holidays.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,050th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Up next, Rachel with the latest bizarre Rick Warren interview, and whether he might self-destruct before the inaugural.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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