updated 12/22/2008 4:57:04 PM ET 2008-12-22T21:57:04

Guests: Harry Shearer, John Harwood, Rob Boston, John Dean

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

Now, he‘s got a pastor problem.  The president-elect selects Rick Warren to give the religious invocation at the inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT:  Because that‘s what America is about.  That‘s—part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Political genius bringing evangelicals in to the tent.  But how on earth do you foster tolerance by turning over part of the biggest platform in the world to the intolerant?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK WARREN, PASTOR:  I‘m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage.  I‘m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage.  I‘m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and call that marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

WARREN:  Oh, I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Pastor Warren also says he supported California Prop Eight to protect free speech so pastors would not be prosecuted for hate speech, somehow.

A torture commission: The day after Carl Levin tells Rachel he‘d favor one to decide whether or not to prosecute those in the CIA or even Dick Cheney.

As Chrysler goes lights out for a month, the president fiddles while the window for a bailout burns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  I haven‘t made up my mind, yet.  So, you‘re assuming something is going to happen.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No.  We‘re assuming you have a mind.  Harry Shearer joins us on this.

Worsts: Billo tells his own viewers they are wrong.

And, Bushed: The nexus of politics and terror revisited.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Here at home, we prevented numerous terrorist attacks, including an attempt to bomb fuel tanks at JFK Airport.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  By starting a fire at a pipeline 30 miles away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The plot to blow up airliners bound for the east coast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In which the plotters did not have tickets or passports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The scheme to attack a shopping mall in the Chicago area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  By a guy who tried to buy one grenade from an FBI agent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And a plan to destroy the tallest skyscraper in the Los Angeles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The name of which the president could not remember.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Thursday, December 18th, 33 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

As outrage flies over Obama‘s selection of right wing evangelist, Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at that inauguration, words spoken exactly two weeks ago tonight would seem, in retrospect, prescient: “The bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with, it has to just be stopped.”  The speaker was Rick Warren.

In our fifth story: If Warren represents people to whom agreement with their religious beliefs is the only measure of right or wrong, how can Obama gain anything from their side?  And if in preaching their Evangel, Warren compares gay marriage to incest and pedophilia, how can Obama gain anything from his own side?

Even Warren, to some degree, acknowledges this in a just issued statement which reads in part, “I commend President-elect Barack Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me with whom he does not agree on every issue to offer the invocation at his historic inaugural ceremony.  Hopefully, individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.”  Warren statement is just released.

Protest of this choice by no means limited to the 6 million gay and lesbian Americans who helped elect President Obama.  Now, this is the same Rick Warren who campaigned actively for California‘s Proposition Eight banning gay marriage, the same Rick Warren who believes ministers who seek to deny the civil rights of gay Americans are themselves prosecuted for his hate speech, he will deliver the invocation on the west front of the Capitol on January 20th.

In a letter to the president-elect, the Human Rights Campaign is calling Mr. Obama‘s choice of Reverend Warren, quote, “a genuine blow to lesbian, gay, bi- and transgender Americans.  By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.”  The Human Rights Campaign also disputing the idea that Reverend Warren has ever sough or would ever seek the middle-ground, adding, quote, “Reverend Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together, instead, Reverend Warren has often played the role of general in a cultural war waged against LBGT Americans.”

If you were to ask Reverend Warren himself if he were homophobic, as Ann Curry did for an interview airing tomorrow night on “DATELINE NBC,” he would tell you no because of donuts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DATELINE NBC)

ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Are you homophobic?

WARREN:  Of course not.  I have always treated them with respect.  When they come and want to talk to me, I talked to them.  When the protestors came, we served them water and donuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Lost amid the outrage that there will be another preacher at the inauguration, one with an actual role in American history that does not owe to having had a bestselling book.  Mr. Obama is asking the Reverend Doctor Joseph E. Lowery to deliver the benediction.  Reverend Lowery having co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

President-elect Obama mentioning Doctor Lowery and his reasons for having choosing Reverend Warren at a news conference this morning in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.  It is something that I have been consistent on.  I was invited to Rick Warren‘s church to speak despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.  What we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in John Harwood, CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, of course, political correspondent with the “New York Times” as well.

Good evening, John.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC:  Hey, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Our friends in the Washington bureau, including Chuck Todd is going to be covering the Obama White House, as NBC News chief White House correspondent, wrote this morning that David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs have to be smiling at this outrage because it never hurts when you sometimes disappoint/anger your party‘s interest groups.  What is the upside here that they are referencing?

HARWOOD:  Well, Barack Obama, of course, is becoming president, Keith, of all the people, not just the people who voted for him or backed him in the Democratic primaries.  He‘s made a cardinal principle in this campaign to reach out to people who disagree with him.  He clearly meant it.  And he sees evangelicals—he got a quarter of the vote among white evangelicals, slightly better than John Kerry did, but he thinks there‘s more of an upside, especially among younger evangelicals.

Rick Warren, though he is very conservative on some political issues, is more moderate in style and temperament.  He‘s a younger leader.  The Falwell and the Robertsons are off the stage, and this is an opportunity for Barack Obama to try to make some headway with little substantive cost to his own agenda.

OLBERMANN:  The idea of compromise, though, from those who got Obama elected.  For eight years under the current president, comprise has meant in essence, everybody who‘s not on the far right needs to concede something to the far right and then they‘ll call it a compromise.  So, now, the first compromise for President-elect Obama and, at least, in this case, everybody—it‘s true everybody who is not on the far right still needs to concede something to the far right and that‘s compromise.

Setting aside the issue here, just talking about the politics of the equation, why shouldn‘t the left and much of the center be upset about this?

HARWOOD:  Well, here are a few reasons.  Troops out of Iraq within 16 months; $800 billion stimulus package including alternative energy, infrastructure, aid to cities, a huge program that Barack Obama is continuing to push to dramatically spend healthcare coverage.  He has not backed off one iota of the left-leaning issue agenda that he promoted during the campaign.

We are now in this usual period, Keith, where the only thing we have is optics and symbolism.  And people are looking at those including this choice, including some of his cabinet members and saying, oh, he‘s tacking to the center.  He hasn‘t done it on policy.  And once the administration starts, I think that will be more plain to those in his base and they‘ll be able to be less upset than they right now.

OLBERMANN:  Is there a second political calculation here, John, or am I giving them too much credit here?  Obama statement in there, “It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.”  That is pretty much a first for an American president.  Did he bury his own lead with the Warren invitation or maybe did the Warren invitation buy him some political coverage so that he could make such a blunt statement about gay equality even if it‘s so long in coming?

HARWOOD:  It certainly buys him cover while he is reaching out to those younger evangelicals.  Again, it goes to this point about the substance of his agenda.  He is an advocate of gay and lesbian rights.  There is, incidentally, going to be a place in his parade for gay and lesbians, that hasn‘t been as prominent in past campaigns.

But again, on the substance of the issue, the left ought to be confident that Barack Obama is one of them.  This is a case of symbolism, and it‘s symbolism that, as I said, does not exactly cross from Barack Obama‘s agenda.

OLBERMANN:  In terms of symbolism, finally, John—does Doctor Lowery balance out or he‘s intended to balance out Reverend Warren?

HARWOOD:  Well, absolutely.  And if you look at the most powerful symbolism of this inauguration is the fact that we are swearing in the first African-American president, bridging the divide that is the deepest and most troublesome throughout American history.  So, I think Joseph Lowery, though not chosen to counteract with Warren, is going to be—an issue that he stands for and represents—is going to be much more powerful in the larger scheme of things.

OLBERMANN:  John Harwood of CNBC and the “New York Times”—as always, John, thanks for your time tonight.

HARWOOD:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Beyond the politics, there is the policy that is driving the outrage in the first place.  For more on Reverend Warren and what he stands for, let‘s turn to Rob Boston, the senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ROB BOSTON, AMERICANS UNITED:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The inclusion of a preacher who believes in exclusion and turns to government in order to achieve it or other religious ends, is the entire premise flawed and is it more flawed when you bring in a political equation like this?  I mean, can you teach tolerance to the intolerant merely by being tolerant?

BOSTON:  It would be nice, but I think it‘s a tall order.  I think, one of the reasons people are so disappointed is that, you know, for the past eight years, the religious right‘s voice has been heard very aggressively throughout all facets of the Bush administration.  And now, we were thinking there‘d be a change in tone.  Yet, one of the first voices we are going to hear from this administration is anti-gay, anti-reproductive freedom, anti-science, another religious right fundamentalist.  We need a change in tone.

OLBERMANN:  The comment that Doctor Warren just released, that even he seems to be recognizing, I‘m wondering what‘s your reaction to this is particularly, “I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me.”  Even though there are references here to supposedly both of them representing the idea of civility in American political discourse, is there something of a triumphant tone to what Warren has just said?

BOSTON:  Well, Warren, to me, is—he has a great P.R. machine.  And he has people thinking he‘s a moderate, but he‘s really just Jerry Falwell in a Hawaiian shirt.  And we don‘t need that again.  You know, with the sort of passing of the guard of some of the old religious right leader, some of them have died, others of whom are sort of in semi-retirement, a lot of us are hoping for a more moderate religious voice to come to bear.  And we‘re not getting that.

We‘re getting the same old sort of fundamentalism from Rick Warren, who, despite what his P.R. machine cranks out, is not a moderate.  He‘s just another conservative fundamentalist, hard right.

OLBERMANN:  Is this—it seems like it‘s bigger than the 6 million gay and lesbian Americans who voted for Obama, never mind the women, there are any other group that have might have felt particularly represented by the candidate, don‘t Democrats take the civil rights of all Americans when they belong to that group or not, rather seriously?

BOSTON:  I think so.  And, actually, I think one of the interesting things about this, you were talking earlier about Joseph Lowery being involved in this, too.  The comparison is unusual.  You look at Lowery who is this giant of civil right.  He‘s dedicated his life to lifting people up and ensuring equality.  And then you look at Warren who endorsed Proposition Eight which took away the civil rights of an entire class and individuals.  Why would you want to put those two on the same stage?  It simply doesn‘t make sense.

OLBERMANN:  What if this touched some other group?  I mean, if there was another example of intolerance from somebody who had been invited to have a formal and important role at the inauguration, if there were and a validly racist preacher or member of the Aryan nation, you can fill in almost any blank in there you want, a man who‘s come out against left-handed people.  Would there not be more of a clear understanding of why this is such an issue to so many people?

BOSTON:  Oh, certainly.  I mean, if this guy had made anti-Semitic statements, for example, he wouldn‘t be looked at for a second, as it should be.  But, you know, there are a couple of groups you can still bash with impunity in this country.  And Warren has bashed them both.

One, of course, is being gays.  The other, and this is kind of overlooked, is nonbelievers.  Warren has stated that people who don‘t believe in God really aren‘t fit to hold public office in America.

And you can still bash those two groups and get away with it.  Now, I think, you know, maybe we are moving slowly, very slowly down the road where that sort of behavior will not be acceptable but we aren‘t there yet.  And the fact that Rick Warren is being given a national stage is further proof of that.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have any idea what it is, other than getting people to listen to the inaugural address which may or may not be—I mean, the right wing that he brings in to this, what is Obama getting in this equation?  What does he expect to see?  A benefit of the doubt or is he just going to get people who tuned in to hear Rick Warren talk for a minute and a half?

BOSTON:  Well, Obama‘s instincts are all about inclusion.  And normally, I think, that‘s a very good thing.  I mean, obviously, we want that.

But there are ways to reach out and include Rick Warren and the audience he represents without giving him such a high profile role to play in this inauguration.  This is going to be historic.  It‘s a milestone.  And one of the first voices we‘re going to hear is Rick Warren‘s and I just think that is very unfortunate.

OLBERMANN:  Rob Boston from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State—great thanks for your perspective, sir.

BOSTON:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Legal definitions at the very heart of whether or not we will ever see Dick Cheney or the others put on trial for torturing people in your name.  Senator Carl Levin with an unexpected call for an independent commission to determine if prosecution is possible and of whom.  John Dean on the reiteration this week of the remarkable truth nothing more quickly leads to the capture or conviction of a criminal than if he is proud or boastful about his crime.  And the vice president sure seems disturbingly proud of his role in the torture, doesn‘t he?

And breaking news tonight from Minnesota, Al Franken gets a big break from the highest court in that state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The vice president admits to facilitating what everybody except he and the Bush gangs seems to agree is the torture of people being held by the government of the United States.  Senator Carl Levin now is supporting a commission to pursue possible charges against those who helped torture to happen.  Could we see Dick Cheney on trial?  John Dean joins us next.

Also, the nexus of politics and terror, again, as the president now says it is four attacks he has stopped.  He has indeed saved us from terrorist acts committed by people who think they can blow up an airport by lighting fire to a fuel pipeline 30 miles away.

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If ever we come to witness the trial of the people versus Cheney, an astonishing admission this week by the potential defendant, Vice President Dick Cheney, could very well end up as Exhibit A.

Our fourth story tonight: War crimes and the slowly growing momentum for investigations that could lead to indictment.

In an interview with ABC this week in which Mr. Cheney admitted he authorized waterboarding, claiming it is not torture.  In a new interview today, he claims it was moral and ethical, quote, “The foremost obligation we had from a moral or an ethical standpoint was to the oath of office we took when we were sworn in on January 20th of 2001 to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  First seven months don‘t count.

But at least, we now know that America‘s dissent into torture was apparently the result of Cheney‘s screwing up his own oath of office which actually reads, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush thus becoming the Constitution‘s greatest domestic enemies, having waterboarded and tortured three people.

In past administrations, waterboarders faced charges and hard time if convicted as recently as Vietnam.  This U.S. soldier was court-martialed and bounced out of the army.  And even then-Governor Bush refused to pardon the sheriff who was in prison for having waterboarded.

Last night with Rachel Maddow, Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin discussed Cheney‘s admission and whether the U.S. will seek justice against those who did the Constitution and America‘s reputation this injustice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST:  Do you think there will be prosecutions and will you argue that there should be?

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIR:  What I think it is our role to do is to bring out the facts which we have to state our conclusions which we have, which is where the origin of these techniques began, and then turn over to the Justice Department of the next administration because, clearly, this Justice Department is not willing to take an objective look; to turn over to the next Justice Department all the facts that we can and have put together and get our report, the rest of it declassified.

But then, it seems to me, it is appropriate that there‘d be an outside commission appointed to take this out of politics so they have the clear subpoena authority to get to the parts of this, which are not yet clear, that is the role of the CIA.  We looked at the role of the Department of Defense.  But the role of the CIA has not yet been looked at.  And let an outside commission reach the kind of conclusions which then may or may not lead to indictments or to civil action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining us now, one-time Richard Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, most recently, the author of “Broken Government.”

John, good evening.

JOHN DEAN, FMR. NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Have those remarks and/or changed the landscape at all on this?

DEAN:  Well, I think that the remarks, because of the report that accompanies them from Levin and his committee, as well as Cheney‘s remarkable statements that are almost bordering on boastful confessions are certainly creating new interest in whether this should be prosecuted or not.  I would be surprised if Cheney really wants to test the law but he‘s getting out there pretty close to it.

I think most of the people who might be involved are trying to stay below the cover and hope that the statute of limitations—which in this case, is about eight years—will pass and they‘ll have no criminal exposure.

OLBERMANN:  Well, to that point, why would this be getting that sort of special commission, special prosecutor treatment rather than the incoming attorney general, Mr. Holder, just sending somebody out to arrest these guys before they leave the capital a month from Saturday?

DEAN:  There is a degree of conventional wisdom that suspects that Mr. Obama really doesn‘t want to take this issue on, that he would rather not have his Department of Justice in the middle of this fight.  It‘s not a unifying sort of move that he might be trying to do.  So, I think that might be why Senator Levin suggested a commission.

But, you know, the problem with a commission, Keith, is, it will indeed let the statute of limitations pass.  A commission couldn‘t conceivably determine who might be prosecuted, who might not because the time would pass and there‘d be no chance of doing that unless they‘d change the statute itself, which I doubt they‘d do.

OLBERMANN:  In addition to which as we saw with the 9/11 Commission, the people who screwed up—for lack of a better term—don‘t ever want to be identified as screwing up, so we get these bipartisan commissions and in that case, certainly, almost openly dedicated to not pointing fingers.  Don‘t we have to point fingers?  Is that not the way justice works to some degree?

DEAN:  Well, a commission is a notorious way to not point fingers, you‘re correct.  And if we don‘t, if there is no effort to, indeed, single out who, indeed, is involved, why they are involved, what they‘ve done—this is going to really reflect terribly on the entire country, not just on the Bush administration which is engaged in these activities, but it really will reflect on the Obama administration for its refusal to pursue them and prosecute them.  So, I think there are serious consequences if they refuse to point fingers.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So—from the perspective of justice and this more overarching point that you just made about the nation‘s reputation and, I guess, some sort of, at least, political self-respect, which of the various outcomes is both best and most realistic?

DEAN:  I think the best and probably the most realistic would be if Mr. Obama, indeed, does exactly what he said during the campaign, that he will indeed, when his attorney general is seated, have him instructed to immediately look and see if these offenses have been committed, if they are prosecutable because, of course, the Congress has been messing with these laws, softening it, adding defenses, redefining torture.  But, indeed, to look at it and see what‘s there and then report to him and the nation to make it very clear that this is not the policy the Obama administration or the United States.  Anything less is going to leave it in a very fuzzy, cloudy, and probably difficult way for the country.

OLBERMANN:  And after 40 years in this game and around it, what‘s the most likely outcome?

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN:  That is a tough question.  I—you know, given the fact that the heat is going to take on Rick Warren, he‘s going to take an awful lot more heat if he doesn‘t do something to honor his campaign commitment.  So, I think there‘s a possibility he might, indeed, tell his attorney general, Mr. Holder, if he gets the nomination confirmed, to proceed and take a look at this.

OLBERMANN:  We will see.  John Dean, former White House counsel, columnist, author—always a pleasure to speak with you, my friend.  Thank you, sir.

DEAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Al Franken and Norm Coleman are already in court, suing over the Minnesota Senate recount.  Big victory for the Democrats today—breaking news next.

And something broken here, too, and it‘s not news.  Sean Hannity suggests “Time” magazine traded its Man of the Year Award in exchange for a job with the Obama administration for one of its deputy editors.

A paranoia-filled edition of Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bushed, in a moment.  And Mr. Bush takes us back to the nexus of politics and terror, again.

First, breaking news tonight in a potentially crucial verdict in the battle to strengthen the Democratic majority in the Senate, by defeating the Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman.  The state Supreme Court now getting involved and ruling that Minnesota must count absentee ballots that were tossed from the process due to clerical error.  There‘s an estimated 1,600 of them.  Tonight‘s ruling is good news for Franken, who is expected to do better than Coleman among those absentee ballots and had pushed for the ballots to be included in the count.  The Coleman camp had argued in court against including these ballots, after already losing ground in this week‘s on-going challenges by both tickets against individual ballots cast for the other camp. 

Coleman, in fact, doing so poorly in those challenges that his former lead of several hundred has dwindled by various estimates to at least two, but possibly as many as five, not hundred, just five. 

As for the unfilled Senate seat that has generated not only Olympian sized scandal, but also, in this case, of the president-elect the same recycled questions from the media, a day of quiet.  From Governor Blagojevich himself, not a peep today, despite yesterday‘s claim that he couldn‘t wait to tell his side of the story and might do so yesterday.  Of course, he also yesterday invoked Elvis Presley and said, quote, hang loose.  When President-Elect Obama introduced his choices for three more economic posts today, he was not asked this time about the governor at all. 

Obama has said he will release his transition‘s internal report on the matter next week. 

This president says it‘s imperative that he not leave his successor a crisis.  Doesn‘t mean he‘s going to do anything about the auto industry.  Harry Shearer joins me to see if that makes any sense to him. 

If the shoe was on the other foot, meanwhile, that continues.  The man who threw this has now asked for a pardon. 

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

Number three, people will love him when he‘s dead-gate.  Vice President Cheney becoming the latest to insist that history will generously judge Mr Bush, and thus his administration and thus Mr. Cheney, too.  His, quote, “place in history will likely grow during the next 20 to 30 years.”  He trotted out the argument about how Gerald Ford was vilified for pardoning Richard Nixon, but now he‘s not anymore.  “By the time of his passing a couple of years ago, opinion had totally turned on that.  In fact, most people by then, even many who had been very critical 30 years before, were in agreement that, in fact, it was a good decision.  It was the right thing to do from the standpoint of the country.”

Apart from the reality that the act of pardoning a crooked president to soothe a ruptured nation bears no resemblance to lying that nation into an unnecessary war and getting 4,000 of our troops killed, apart from the fact that 30 years from now, rather, Bush is much more likely to be considered asleep at the switch on 9/11 than he is now, Cheney‘s also wrong about the idea that Gerald Ford is viewed favorably 32 years after he left office.  The last polling on overall presidential popularity done by Rasmussen for July 4th, 2007 still had Ford in a tie for the 12th most unpopular president of all time, even though he was only in office for 30 months. 

Number two, nexus of politics and terror-gate.  The president‘s ever changing number of how many domestic acts he prevented is back up to numerous.  Officially, that would be four, based on his speech at the War College.  “We prevented numerous terrorist attacks, including an attempt to bomb fuel tanks at JFK airport, a plot to blow up airliners bound for the East Coast, a scheme to attack a shopping mall in the Chicago area, and a plan to destroy the tallest sky-scraper in Los Angeles.”  It‘s sky scraper, but OK. 

The sky scraper was the one where Mr. Bush got the name wrong while announcing it to the world, before he told local authorities in Los Angeles that he was going to tell everybody, setting off mild panic there.  The airliners one is the reason you can‘t bring liquid in your carry-on, the British based scheme for which the plotters had not obtained a ticket, nor passport, and chemists laughed at the idea anyway.  The mall was the deal in ‘06 where the guy got no further than trying to buy a hand grenade from an undercover FBI agent.  And the JFK plot, that was the mutant who thought he could cause an airport to blow up by starting a fire at a fuel pipeline 30 miles away. 

So thanks for stopping all these.  Nice work, Jack Armstrong. 

Number one, insult the dead-gate.  This is a White House talking point still, even though your average three-year-old could disprove it using only an Etch-A-Sketch.  Spokesman Tony Fratto, on the air with Fixed News parent John Scott.  Scott gave the setup line about how 9/11 was unforeseeable and thus not even slightly Bush‘s responsibility and said, “nobody was thinking that there would be terrorists flying 767s into buildings at that point.” 

Mr. Fratto replied, quote, “that‘s true.  I mean, no one could have anticipated that kind of attack, or very few people.”  Yes, well, it ain‘t true and out of respect for the people who died that day, you damn well better stop saying it.  A president‘s daily brief as far back as December 1998 says bin Laden was preparing to hijack U.S. aircraft in hopes of trading hostages for jailed radicals.  The August 6th, 2001 brief, of course, told President Bush, if he read it, that there were patterns of suspicious activities in this country, consistent with preparations for hijackings. 

The FBI agent John O‘Neil repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings, basically got drummed out of the Bureau for saying it.  The FAA had distributed a CD-Rom early in 2001 to the airlines and the airports warning that terrorists might hijack a plane in order to use it as a weapon.  That Mr. Fratto‘s employers might not have been expected to know the exact hour of these attacks does not give him or anyone else the right to perpetuate the lie that 9/11 was impossible to conceive.  Clearly, many inside this nation‘s government anticipated it.  It was Mr. Bush and his gang who chose to ignore them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Would you buy a car with a ten-year warranty from a car maker that‘s in Chapter 11?  Less than 24 hours after Chrysler announced it will hold off its own total collapse by closing all of its factories for at least the next month, in our third story tonight, Mr. Bush has finally announced he has finally gotten to a plan.  He‘s come up with a plan to come up with another plan, not necessarily to save the American auto industry, but to at least ensure that if Chrysler and General Motors do go bankrupt, their bankruptcies will not be, quote, disorderly. 

Rest easy, America, the man who saved New Orleans is on the case.  Among the possibilities, as we suggested, some kind of bankruptcy plan that involves federal assistance.  The preferred Democratic route of taking as much as 14 billion or so out of the 700 billion allocated for Wall Street.  The White House still right now in negotiations with both GM and Chrysler And the unions.  The White House seeking additional concessions from the workers, of course, on top of those already made to keep the companies afloat. 

Mr. Bush‘s obliviousness to the human stakes of the survival of the car companies on par with his obliviousness to human suffering during Katrina.  All this being seen during a speech today at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, in which the president spoke not of what might happen to American workers, but what might happen to the markets. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m worried about a disorderly bankruptcy and what it would do to the psychology and the markets.  And, frankly, there‘s one other consideration.  And that is I feel an obligation to my successor.  I‘ve thought about what it would be like for me to become president during this period.  I have—I believe that good policy is not to dump him a major catastrophe in his first day of office. 

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OLBERMANN:  And yet, of course, a dump of historic proportions is exactly what Mr. Bush is leaving his successor, not to mention his eight-year dump on the rest of us.  Joining us now from New Orleans, humorist and social critic Harry Shearer, a Grammy nominee for his CD “Songs of The Bushmen,” and of course a cast member on “The Simpsons.”  His band, the High Value Detainees, is set to play in Los Angeles the day before the inauguration.  Harry, thanks for joining us. 

HARRY SHEARER, SOCIAL CRITIC:  My pleasure, Keith.  Speaking of dumps, yes.  No, it‘s good stuff. 

OLBERMANN:  Bankruptcy is not the same as failure.  But as the suggestion—the question posed at the beginning of the segment here, who‘s going to buy a car from a company that‘s in bankruptcy or even one that the president is considering forcing into bankruptcy. 

SHEARER:  Well, I know that question has been raised a lot.  Having flown on a number of airlines that were in bankruptcy, there‘s a certain trust that we now have decided we‘ll afford to companies in the throes of bankruptcy.  I know that the ten-year warranty is an issue, but when you get on an airplane, you trust your life to a bankrupt corporation and somehow we‘ve managed to do that. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s hopefully shorter than ten years, that period of time. 

SHEARER:  Yes, it is. 

OLBERMANN:  What is this?  Do you have any insight on this?  Because it remains one of the mysteries of the entirety of the fall, even the late summer.  What is this continuing and powerful protective streak toward the, quote/unquote, market, but not toward the working middle class of Detroit or, you know, for that matter, of New Orleans? 

SHEARER:  Well, Keith, the market is where the people in Detroit and New Orleans have to go buy their food.  Look, there is an ideology at work here.  And I think we saw it most clearly in the big TARP bailout, which is, OK, the problem is these companies are too big to fail, so the solution is, as a price for getting federal aid, get bigger, merge with each other.  It‘s like going to the doctor, you get cured of lung cancer because you were smoking too many cigarettes and you‘re prescribed smoking two packs a day for you. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there something dangerous about ascribing this calamity in this industry just to incompetence?  There presumably has been some, just as presumably there have been issues with the unions?  Don‘t these become fig leaves, at some point, that disguise the results of a very conscious, orchestrated ideology at work here, which you touched on here with the idea of making the bigger company, when they‘re too big to fail? 

SHEARER:  Yes.  But I would not go past sort of ordinary politics.  I mean, the senators from those southern states which have BMW and Toyota and Nissan plants in them gave huge tax—or those states gave huge tax breaks to those companies to lure them down there.  I‘m sure that there probably were campaign contributions that cycled their way back to those senators in gratitude.  That‘s the American political system writ large, or writ huge or Brit Hume.  But that‘s what we have. 

OLBERMANN:  The note on which we began here, should we not be surprised at finding a big dump as we come to President Bush‘s end?  I suppose that‘s the case.  But what exactly is the scale of the clean-up job of—I won‘t make the reference again.  But what‘s Obama‘s clean-up job going to be like?  Any idea? 

SHEARER:  First of all, I find it amusingly nervy that the president is now so considerate as to not want to dump a big crisis on Obama‘s desk.  Thank god the war in Afghanistan is wrapped up, so we don‘t have to deal with that mess.  I have great respect for the—sort of the self possession of Barack Obama, but it seems to me, when regarding the two troublesome wars, shall we say, and the troublesome economy, as well as the troublesome climate, and a few other major problems being dumped on his desk January 20th, that I find it hard to believe he doesn‘t go into a secret part of his bedroom and weep in falsetto at about 1:00 in the morning, just considering this. 

You know, the size of these problems, on the one hand, and the scale of the hopes on the other are going to collide in some way very soon. 

OLBERMANN:  And here is Bush saying, simultaneously, that he will not leave this great crisis for his successor.  And, yet, really, sitting there and blithely, almost—not only ignoring the human equation in what‘s happening in the auto industry, but neither is he coming to a decision.  Even if it were a decision based entirely on its impact on the markets, at least it would be a decision.  This is Nero-like. 

SHEARER:  Yes, it is.  But he is talking slower as he comes to the end.  I noticed that at the AEA—AEI appearance.  One thing that occurs to me is the creative thinking being done in the Bush administration is being done for a specific purpose.  We all found out I think last week that they had inserted into the original bailout a provision that the—what we thought was going to be restrictions on corporate executive pay and bonuses only applied if the Feds bought assets at an auction, and then the Treasury decided not to have any auctions. 

So they‘re not doing nothing.  Let‘s put it that way.  They‘re still paying attention to what, I guess, they really care about. 

OLBERMANN:  When does the public start paying attention to things like that? 

SHEARER:  Should be any time now.  Right after dinner. 

OLBERMANN:  Humorist and social critic Harry Shearer, always a pleasure, my friend.  Thanks for being with us. 

SHEARER:  Good luck with your cold. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, kindly.  I‘ll get rid of it next year, I hope. 

The international shoe-gasm continues unabated.  Now, the flinger asked for a pardon. 

The war on Christmas.  Bill-O the clown‘s own viewers complain he‘s wasting their time.  He tells them they‘re wrong.  Worsts coming up. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the president-elect‘s disturbing choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration.  The San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is her guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Rachel Maddow with Mayor Gavin Newsom on Obama‘s Rick Warren decision at the top of the hour.  Before that, the new shoe review.  The guy who threw his size 10s at Mr. Bush asks for a pardon.  First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, and in this holiday season, what more could you ask for than an all Fox edition of tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Bill-O the Clown.  Tuesday night literally claiming he had saved Christmas in Great Bearington (ph), Massachusetts, that while that town might be saying it was shutting off municipal Christmas decorations at 10:00 p.m. to lower it‘s carbon footprint, quote, “the real strategy here is to diminish the public display of Christmas in that secular town.”  But there are signs the natives are restless.  Evidently, Fixed News was swamped with complaints about O‘Reilly‘s obsession with a war that isn‘t happening, because he began his comedy hour last night by saying, “while, our ratings have been very high this month, some viewers have written to me complaining we‘re over covering the Christmas controversies.  They say the subject really isn‘t that important.  Well, they‘re wrong.” 

Nothing says megalomania better than announcing to your own customers that they‘re wrong. 

Our runner up, Gretchen Carlson, who seems to have caught whatever Bill-O has.  I mean the Christmas delusion.  “I‘m so enraged by all these Atheist displays and trying to push Jesus to the back seat on Christmas day.”  The guest on her show tried to get her to throttle back a little bit, saying, “I would advise some of the people of faith who are watching this happen in their towns and cities across the country not to go stealing their signs, you know.  Let them make fools of themselves in the public square and say a prayer for them.”

The voice of comparative reason there was not enough for Carlson, who begun to lose It: “If you let them do that, then over time, they‘ll have the control.  If you don‘t stand up and fight for it, it might just disappear.  I‘m talking about Christianity.” 

The non-panicky guest tried to talk Ms. Carlson off her ledge of persecution complex was Michelle Malkin.  When Michelle Malkin is the cooler head, you know you are in big trouble. 

And to our winner, the manatee.  This is paranoia, quote, “shocker, the president elect is crowned “Time Magazine‘s” person of the year.  This after “Time Magazine‘s DC bureau chief accepts a job in the Obama White House.  I‘m sure it‘s a coincidence.” 

Seriously, it was a bribe to get a decreasingly relevant magazine cover.  Echoing Carlson and Malkin, Hannity had to be talked down by one of his guests, who replied, “I think “Time Magazine” can defend naming him the man of the year.  They normally name the winner of a presidential election campaign the man of the year.  The cooler head in this case was the national distributor of right wing media paranoia, Brent Bozell.  And when Brent Bozell is the reasonable one, you are Sean Hannity, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The farewell kiss felt round the world is far from fading.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush has now asked for a pardon.  Not from President Bush, from the Iraqi prime minister.  Four days after the president ducked, the still jailed journalist, Muntadir al Zaidi (ph) has reportedly apologized in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, quoting, “it‘s too late to now regret the big and ugly act that I perpetrated.” 

Al Zaidi also asked for the prime minister‘s pardon, instead of the possible multi-year imprisonment for having insulted a foreign leader.  Meantime today, activists in Cairo, Egypt hit a poster of President Bush with a shoe protesting al Zaidi‘s detention.  And shoe throwing as a general symbol of political protest is still potent in Manila today.  A migrant workers group threw shoes at a picture of President Gloria Arroyo. 

But all the shoe news was not laden with regret and frustration.  An Egyptian man has offered his 20-year-old daughter to al Zaidi for marriage.  And the daughter, Amal Guma (ph), reportedly agreed.  Quoting her, “this is something that would honor me.  I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I were attached to this hero.”  Bring your own shoes. 

As for shoe-hurling comedy.  If you missed it, we covered some of it with “The Soup‘s” Joe Mchale, who dodged most of the 37 pieces of footwear that came his way.  I kept it simple, one shoe, one miss.  Well, kind of grazed me.  And the late night host are not done with the topic either. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, “THE LATE LATE SHOW”:  It was reported today that the Iraqi journalist who threw the shoes at President Bush had his arm broken when security subdued him.  They broke his arm.  Even worse, it was his shoe-throwing arm.  That guy is out for the season. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  More bad news coming out of the Middle East.  Apparently now Iran—Iran, yes, is developing a long-range loafer. 

JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  President Bush announced before he leaves office, he wants to visit the poorest regions of the world, any place where people can‘t afford to buy shoes. 

Well, you know, I‘ll tell you, that—that Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush the other day said he planned his attack for months.  Planned it for months.  That‘s what he said.  I mean, you take off one shoe; you throw it.  You the throw the other shoe.  He planned it for months.  And he still missed both times. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And new postings on the web, which range from the low-tech

--

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

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OLBERMANN:  From that to new sketch comedy, courtesy of FunnyOrDie.com. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Zainab here from Zainab‘s Shoe‘s, Iraq‘s number one discount footwear emporium.  We have new mephistos now on sale for 149 Dinar.  We have shoes you can throw at anything that makes you mad, mail boxes, graffiti, the computer screen, that neighbor!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nice mustache.  I used to have one like that, only it wasn‘t fake.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,049th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  I don‘t know why I really said that.  Good night and good luck.

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

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