updated 1/13/2009 4:05:06 PM ET 2009-01-13T21:05:06

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

Unfortunately, a president-elect now has to declare the obvious.

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BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT:  Under my administration, the United States does not torture.  We will abide by the Geneva Conventions.

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OLBERMANN:  And yet, we will have John Brennan as counterterrorism adviser, even after he was yanked for contention to head CIA because he had previously supported torture-like interrogation methods.

And the most asked question at the transition Web site: Will Obama prosecute past torturers?  John Dean joins us.

The president-elect, meanwhile, as unemployment spikes to its highest in 16 years, still relentless about the stimulus.

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OBAMA:  Today‘s job report only underscores the need for us to move with a sense of urgency and common purpose.

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OLBERMANN:  The Rod Blagojevich flying circus continues.  He is impeached.  He responds.  He brings a chorus line with him.

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GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS:  Let me close by doing something that I probably won‘t do much after this, but I feel like doing it again, since I did it not too long ago.  I want to quote another British poet.

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OLBERMANN:  There once was a man from Nantucket.  Another has to be seen to be believed news conference and the effect this has on the seating of would-be Senator Burris.

Worsts: Alberto Gonzales is unemployed but there‘s only one job he really wants, commissioner of baseball.  And boom, I‘m a soccer fan.

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ANNOUNCER:  Goal!

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OLBERMANN:  And you can‘t spell Sarah Palin without S-P-I-N.  After this ...

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GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA:  It‘s sad state of affairs in the world of the media today.

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OLBERMANN:  She accuses the media of taking her comments out of context to create adversarial situations, even though the media figure who disseminated those comments was a right-wing propagandist.  But no comment on the irony we missed, the irony she missed, the irony the right-wing filmmaker missed, even though it was staring us all in the face all this time, a picture of Sarah Palin, and written over it in big letters, “How Obama Got Elected.”

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, January 9th, 11 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

The trouble with running as the change candidate with presenting your candidacy as a vessel to wipe clean the abuses of the previous administration is that—upon taking office—people are going to be expecting change, substantial change with the proverbial urgency of “now.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: On the one hand,  President-elect Obama again promising again today that his administration will not torture, on the other, picking as his top adviser on counterterrorism a CIA veteran under fire for his past statements seemingly about favoring torture.  And you thought the Leon Panetta pick was going to be problematic.

President-elect Obama‘s official announcement of his intelligence team, as expected, Panetta at CIA, Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence, each albeit overshadowed by Mr. Obama‘s decision to appoint John Brennan his top adviser on counterterrorism.  Six weeks ago, Mr.  Brennan having withdrawn his name from consideration for the top job at CIA because of fears he might not be able to win Senate approval due to past statements supporting some enhanced interrogation techniques.  No Senate confirmation required for Mr. Brennan‘s post that would be in the West Wing.

At today‘s news conference, the president-elect repeating his previous assertions that his administration will be 100 percent torture-free.

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OBAMA:  I was clear throughout this campaign and have been clear throughout this transition, that under my administration, the United States does not torture.  We will abide by the Geneva Conventions, that we will uphold our highest values and ideals.  And that is a clear charge that I‘ve given to Admiral Blair and to Leon Panetta.

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OLBERMANN:  What might just feel like torture is the reception Mr.  Obama has been getting on Capitol Hill from the Democrats no less.  First, there was the reaction to Panetta.  Now, Senate Democrats openly chaffing at various parts of Obama‘s stimulus package.  With today‘s news that unemployment went to 7.2 percent in December, the highest it has been since 1993, the president-elect leading off today‘s news conference with another plea for a quick passage of his economic plan.

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OBAMA:  Today‘s job report only underscores the need for us to move with a sense of urgency and common purpose.  For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the moment to act and to act without delay.

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OLBERMANN:  It‘s not just Democratic lawmakers to whom President-elect Obama needs to answer.  How about a Nobel Prize-winning columnist?  In his “New York Times” column today, Paul Krugman criticizing the initial stimulus plan offered by Obama as insufficient, as in far too small to tackle the scope of the nation‘s economic problems.  The president-elect is saying he is open to making edits.

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OBAMA:  If Paul Krugman has a good idea, in terms of how to spend money efficiently and effectively to jump-start the economy, then we‘re going to do it.  I think that there are going to be a lot of different opinions out there.  We are going to take all of them in, and at the end of the day, we are going to have a package that Congress passes and I sign.

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OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Craig Crawford, columnist with CQPolitics.com.

Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Starting first with this subject of torture.  Is it a mixed signal to state you will not torture and then to name John Brennan who, I guess it‘s fair to say, has a soft record on wiretapping and enhanced interrogation and rendition to a counterterror post that does not permit Senate confirmation?

CRAWFORD:  Well, apparently, the Obama team had trouble finding people with intelligence in the intelligence community who weren‘t singed in some way by their proximity to the control rods of the agency and some of the activities that went on.  I think every president can find something like that they want in their White House and realize they‘d have trouble with confirmation has a right to have him there.  The key thing is not to give them power over the people who do have Senate confirmation and that‘s what we‘ve seen in other administrations.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, the Leon Panetta nomination at Central Intelligence—has that controversy died down?  Is he likely to get confirmed?  Is he likely to get confirmed easily?

CRAWFORD:  Seems to.  You know, Panetta is someone who has written

a couple of columns, anyway, that I have seen where he has been very clear in opposing torture and has even called for an executive order banning torture once the new president was in office, something we‘ll wait and see if Obama actually does.

       

But in general, Obama‘s just managing this tension in so many areas between idealism and pragmatism to on something like torture and the intelligence community.  The idealists believe that what‘s right works, and pragmatists believe that what works is right, and Obama is always kind of in between.  He balances it pretty well, though.  Sometimes, I think this guy could balance a city bus on a high wire.

OLBERMANN:  Well, certainly today, he had to balance the topic of this security team, and the economy, again, really began to take over this news conference.  Those unemployment numbers today, in a perverse way, would they help him in making his case about the stimulus program with Congress?

CRAWFORD:  The sense of panic is something presidents have often used to great success in getting things through Congress, the way Congress works, if everyone is not in a panic, sometimes you can‘t get something done.  It‘s a good thing in cases like Franklin Roosevelt, who had to close the banks right after he was inaugurated, the very next day, and get the economy going again eventually, and get Congress moving, get legislation.

Other presidents have used panic for other reasons, like George Bush, getting us into the war in Iraq.  So you know—and keep the funding going for it.  So, you know, that is a technique presidents use.

And in this case, yes.  Although in Obama‘s case, if he gooses up the panic too much, they are going—they might want to spend a lot more money than he wants to and grow the deficit even more than it already is.

OLBERMANN:  Well, and to that point, Craig, the criticism that the recovery plan needs to be even bigger and bolder than it is right now, as Paul Krugman expressed it.  When John Harwood talked to the president-elect earlier this week, he said this is—he is starting on the low end of what the economists have told him is needed.  Is he already building in that Capitol Hill inflation that you just referred to?  Or is there real debate over whether you should be small or large at the start?

CRAWFORD:  Well, the trouble for presidents when they have to propose spending bills, it sort of violates the old rule of bargaining that always let the other guy name the first price.  So, you know, once you put a price on there, then the haggling begins.  And that may be what they are looking at and, certainly, what usually happens.  Once you put something out there, it just keeps growing.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, is that it?  Let the other guy name—well, thank you (INAUDIBLE).  It took me 50 years to find that out.

Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly” with practical tips for all of us—great thanks, have a great weekend.

CRAWFORD:  You bet.  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Beyond whether the Obama administration intends to engage in torture, which he is treating as opened and shut, there is the equally important question of whether his government plans to investigate and prosecute Bush administration officials for their treatment of detainees at places like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other facilities.  In fact, visitors to the Obama Web site Change.gov have voted this the number one question they‘d like to have answered.  The second highest ranking question about the oversight of the banking industry does not even come close.

The question posed by Bob Fertik of New York City, “Will you appoint a special prosecutor—ideally Patrick Fitzgerald—to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”

This afternoon on that Web site, the Obama transition team categorizing that question as one it has, quote, “previously answered,” posting an answer given by Vice President-elect Biden during a December 21st interview, quote, “The questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is—is something the Justice Department decides.  Barack Obama and I are—

President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past.  We are focusing on the future.  I‘m not ruling prosecution in and not ruling it out.”

“I just think,” the vice president-elect concluded, “we should be looking forward.  I think we should be looking forward, not backwards.”

We always look forward to the presence of John Dean, Nixon White House counsel, author of “Broken Government” joining us now from Los Angeles.

John, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  The vice president-elect‘s contention that investigating torture is something the Justice Department decides.  If you only be following the Justice Department for the last eight years and you just assume it‘s a political branch of the president‘s party, as opposed to an actual independent prosecutorial force, does that sound a little strange?  Is it possible that they are leaving up to the attorney general, thinking he‘ll make the right choice?

DEAN:  Well, it‘s interesting if they indeed have made that policy decision in their Web answer, it‘s really going to confront Eric Holder and his confirmation hearing next week with addressing and explaining to Congress as to what they are going to do about torture.

OLBERMANN:  There has been relative to Justice—not necessarily with Mr. Holder—but on the blogosphere.  There‘s been a lot of buzz during the week about some of the other appointments at Justice, should we be looking into their identities, their backgrounds, their comments on this things, to determine, try to guess whether or not—whether the attorney general who decides or the president-elect who decides whether the Obama administration winds up investigating or prosecuting torture?

DEAN:  Well, we have seen some announcements, indeed, that suggests that people who have no tolerance for this kind of activity.  For example, a lot of these problems started with the Office of Legal Counsel.  The nominee that Obama has suggested, Dawn Johnson, to head that office is somebody who has no tolerance for torture, somebody who is, indeed, been very outspoken about her opposition to the things that have come out of the Office of Legal Counsel.  So, indeed, there are some hints coming out as to the direction they are headed.

OLBERMANN:  Tuesday of this week, John Conyers, the Democrat of Michigan, introduced legislation that would set up what he called as “National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties.”  It would have subpoena power.  It would have a $3 million budget.  But you have this extraordinary economic circumstance that we are in and the stimulus package to try to sell to whoever is reluctant about it, health care system is obviously a key ingredient, Iraq, Afghanistan, all these things that are major consequence.

Is there likely to be enough political capital for a commission like that to become a reality?

DEAN:  Well, commissions are where you take issues you don‘t want to confront and bury them.  And that has been the long history of commissions.  I have the greatest respect for John Conyers, known him since my days at the House Judiciary Committee.  And this is sort of a fallback position.

I hope we don‘t go there.  I hope there‘s something much more definitive than a commission.

OLBERMANN:  What do you make—speaking of being definitive, was there a definitive answer contained in the suddenly reposted quote from Vice President-elect Biden about this, that—because I would think anybody reading that would suggest that the tone of it is—yes, that is an already answered question and the answer was: we are looking forward and not backwards, which would suggest no prosecutions.

DEAN:  Well, it could also—put this in context, Keith, you have 155 countries on which the United States is one, that are party to the convention against torture.  There is a moral obligation on all those countries to investigate torture when it occurs.  This is a universal jurisdiction.  Torture is considered right up there with genocide.

And so, if the United States passes on their moral obligation to investigate this, other countries are likely to step in, and this is going to be a huge embarrassment for the Obama administration.  So, maybe what they‘re saying is, “We are going to toss this to Holder, let him decide what to do with it.”  And that will defer the issue, at least, from other countries starting an investigation.

OLBERMANN:  My goodness, what would we do if we had decided not to prosecute this in the Obama administration, and in two years‘ time, some international agency made up of many of our allies said, “Well, you know what—you‘re going to have to have this investigation”?  How would this country necessarily get up on its hind legs and say, “No, you can‘t come and investigate us,” simply because we don‘t like that kind of international investigation or would we have to cooperate to try to continue to restore the country‘s good image?

DEAN:  I think at that point, we‘d be forced to do something to ourselves.  It would be—you know, this is a terrible international incident that‘s waiting to happen.  There are a number of prosecutors that have already made hints in foreign countries that they‘re going to not let this issue drop.  So, if the United States does drop it, we are going to be confronted with a real incident.

OLBERMANN:  Goodness.  John Dean, author of “Worse Than Watergate” and “Broken Government”—as always, John, great thanks, have a great weekend.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Illinois insists its secretary of state does not have to sign the document for Roland Burris to be seated by the Senate.  The Senate insists it will not seat Roland Burris without the secretary of state signing the document.  An utterly oblivious governor, meantime, holds another news conference in which he does everything but sing show tunes.

Meantime, the governor of Alaska says she was taken out of context by a right-wing filmmaker, although she is making no such claim about being quoted as shrieking “That guy is evil” when she was shown a picture of me.  So, the highlight of my years unsullied.

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OLBERMANN:  A possible deal in the works at this hour, supposedly, over signatures that could get Roland Burris seated as the new junior senator from Illinois.  Apparently, that‘s of no concern to the newly-impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich, who topped even himself for crazy news conferences this afternoon.  We will show it to you—next.

Later, another governor claims her self-topping remarks were taken out of context, even though the context had been provided by a sycophantic right-wing interviewer.

And in Worsts: The former attorney general who wants to become commissioner of baseball.  Quick, baseball owners, sell your teams.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Over the generations, the governors of Illinois have seemingly managed to corrupt everything there, from the choice of senators to the visiting nurse association.  Yet, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Rod Blagojevich, today, became the first of them ever impeached, and not only is he still refusing to resign, he is claiming he is the victim there.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: As he took a jog this morning in the snow, the Illinois House voted 114-1 in favor of impeachment and precipitating a trial in the Senate that will likely begin in the last week of this month, maybe sooner.  Hours after that decision, the governor took to the podium to share his extraordinary interpretation of today‘s events.

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BLAGOJEVICH:  Let me say, to begin with, that the House‘s action today was, of course, not a surprise.  It was a foregone conclusion.  In fact, what the House did today, they‘ve been talking about doing for the last couple of years.  In fact, the first discussion of doing what they did today, they started talking about back in the summer of 2007 when they failed to pass a budget and we were facing a government shutdown, and I was calling the House into special session to try to work to get a budget so we can keep government operating.

So, this is not something that came as a complete surprise to me.  It happened kind of fast, but again, kind of expected and part of the process that has essentially been the dynamic in Illinois since I was re-elected governor in November of 2006.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  William Devane, “Missiles of October.”  That‘s it.

What followed was a 10-minute messianic rant about how the House has been out to get him because of all the good he has done.  Blagojevich even brought props, the families he says he helped and for whom he is being impeached.

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BLAGOJEVICH:  In my view, those of us who make the rules ought to be able to follow a simple lesson that I was taught to believe in in Sunday school, called the “golden rule.”  That you should do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

And so, from the moment of my re-election, I have been pushing and prodding the House to expand healthcare.  And unfortunately, they consistently stood in the way of those expansions.  So, the House‘s action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I‘ve done things to fight for families who are with me here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Then came specific examples and specific families—like prescription drugs from Canada, eh?

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BLAGOJEVICH:  A lot of senior citizens in Illinois have had the benefit of being able to afford their medicine at prices they can afford.  The House is impeaching me for that.  Is that an impeachable offense?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How about preventive female healthcare?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH:  We have the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, the only one of its kind in America that allows for all 261,000 uninsured women in our state to get those mammograms, get the cervical cancer screenings.  That‘s a life-saving program the House would not act on.  I found a way with our lawyers to do it around the legislative process.  My question to you: Is that an impeachable act?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The governor finally showcasing a teenager who could not afford surgery under state guidelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH:  We intervened and acted in a way with legal advice around the legislature, Omar Castillo (ph) got that surgery.  He got his liver.  He is now alive and well, and he‘s going to live a long and full and happy life.  Is that an impeachable offense?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You‘re saying he wasn‘t alive before?

Not once did he mention what actually forced this impeachment issue, his alleged attempt to sell the Obama Senate seat, choosing instead to attest his innocence and paint himself as the only defender of the people of Illinois.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH:  I have a job to do for the people.  They hired me not just to say that I‘m for things that could help them, but they hired me to fight for them.  And I‘m going to fight for them every step of the way because if I didn‘t fight for them, the result that we‘ve provided for people would not have happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Finally, Blagojevich closed his extraordinary monologue, there were no questions, with yet another poetry slam.  First it was Rudyard Kipling, today, Rod Stewart.  No, I‘m just kidding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH:  Let me close by doing something that I probably won‘t do much after this, but I feel like doing it again, since I did it not too long ago.  I want to quote another British poet.  And so, I‘ll leave you with this poem by Tennyson, which goes like this, “Though we are not now the strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak bay time and by fate, but strong in will; to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”  Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tip your waitresses.

One note on Governor Blagojevich‘s last political appointee would-be Senator Burress: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made it clear that according to Senate rules, Mr. Burress needs the Illinois secretary of state to sign his nomination papers, and while the Illinois Supreme Court today ruled that the latter does not need to happen, the Senate still disagrees.  The senior senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, is saying Mr.  Burris will not be seated without the autograph, adding that the best thing to do would be to wait until after Blagojevich‘s impeachment and let a new governor fill that seat.

So then you would have two guys claiming to be the junior senator from Illinois.  But tonight, a possible deal in the works, the Illinois secretary of state putting his signature and seal on a separate piece of paper, which Burris hopes will be enough to fulfill the Senate‘s requirement.  Cut and paste.

Which of these little fellows is the football coach of the

University of Kansas and which is a finalist for prestigious online sports honor?

And last year, he said it‘s not just a fear slogan to say

“Democrats are communist.”  This year, he‘s insisted everybody should stop calling politicians they don‘t like communists.  You mean everybody else but you?

Worst Persons is ahead.  This is the COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Bushed in a moment, and the payback for rendition and torture.

First, on this date in 1902 was born Ann Nixon, now Ann Nixon Cooper, the Atlanta resident who was 18 when women got to vote in this country, who grew to adulthood, as more and more African-Americans lost the vote who is near the age when hope passes, just as Segregation was finally thwarted, and who Barack Obama praised on the night of his election.  Mrs.  Cooper said “I ain‘t got time to die because I‘ve got to see a black president.”  She said this just before her birthday today, a birthday in which she turned 107.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin on the impeccable sports Web site, Deadspin, where voting for 2008‘s sports human of the year is tighter than spandex on a hippopotamus.  The finalist, this man, Buzz Bissinger, the talented and excitable sports writer who on HBO got so comically angry at sports bloggers, he was about four seconds away from spontaneous combustion.

Against him, 8-month-old infant, Bode Lubber, who gained fame on the Internet for his Halloween costume last year when he went as Baby Mangino, the tiny doppelganger of ginormous Kansas Jayhawk football head coach Mark Mangino.  Bode‘s mom used eye liner and a KU jacket to transform the boy.  While the Lubers could not have foreseen their baby‘s stardom, they are thrilled their son may become the first sports human of the year to still have messy diapers.  Wait, that is not true if Buzz Bissinger (ph) wins? 

Checking up on weather in Germany, where it‘s partly cloudy with a chance of—oh, a kitty it.  Meteorologist Yerg Cackleman (ph) -- and Yerg with the weather—was filing this live report Tuesday evening—or filling perhaps, like we do every night—when a stray cat wandered through the bottom of the shot.  You saw his little tail there, brushed up against his leg.  Not missing a beat, Yerg Cackleman with the weather, scooped the cat up and held it in his arms while he completed his two-minute update.  Cackleman then threw to sports, where an anchor named Deiter was touching a monkey. 

Finally, in Beijing, these ladies are not just burning calories, they are juicing batteries, combining green energy with outdoor stationary bicycles.  A few hours on the electro-bike can power a TV for ten hours.  Sure, it seems like a lot of work just to watch “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” marathon, but don‘t forget about those toned thighs and calves.  This is China‘s first known electro-bike setup, but it‘s still not our favorite make-shift bicycle contraption, which is in Guatemala, where you need to order your margarita about two days in advance. 

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OLBERMANN:  The president‘s obsession with being seen as a liberator now extending to the nation‘s kids; he liberated them through No Child Left Behind, he says.  How he has also liberated another 524,000 Americans from their jobs. 

And day two of Sarah Palin‘s call me when you got no class saga about Caroline Kennedy.  She is, as ever, blaming the media. 

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

Number three, bailout-gate.  The new Warren Commission—well, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren‘s Congressional oversight panel—it‘s latest report says that it still can‘t get straight answers from the Treasury Department about how it has spent the money, in large part because the Treasury Department does not seem to have kept track of how it has spent the money. 

It actually gets worse.  Mr. Paulson‘s office issued answers to each of Professor Warren‘s questions.  One of the answers begins, quote, “as long as confidence remains low, banks will remain cautious about extending credit and consumers and businesses will remain cautious about taking on new loans.  As confidence returns, Treasury expects to see more credit extended.”

Then the Treasury answer to another question begins, “while confidence is low, banks remain cautious about extending credit.  Consumers and businesses will remain cautious about taking on new loans.  As confidence returns, we expect to see more credit extended.”

The Treasury Department is in reruns. 

Number two, neo-con job-gate.  A 4,600 word denial in the new issue of “The National Interest,” which sounds like one of those forced confessions from the Lenin show trials or maybe something out of 1984 -- Stalin show trials, forgive me.  Richard Perle, who the day after linked Iraq to 9/11 and told the CIA director Iraq also has to pay, now writes, “I‘ve been widely but wrongly depicted as deeply involved in the making of administration policy, especially with respect to Iraq.  I certainly supported and argued publicly for the decision to remove Saddam.  But had I been the architect of that war, our policy would have been very different.  About the many mistakes made in Iraq, one thing is certain, they had nothing to do with ideology.  They did not draw inspiration from or reflect neo-conservative ideas.” 

Also, he has never even heard of Iraq and he‘s not even Richard Perle and he didn‘t even write the article. 

Number one, torture-gate.  The story is all too familiar, a citizen of another country is drinking coffee at a cafe in a bustling city center.  Before he passes out, he vaguely realizes the coffee has been spiked.  Next thing he knows, he is on a private plane being renditioned to another country.  He wakes next in a cold cell and when he tells them he needs medication for diabetes and arthritis and a heart condition, they instead torture him, and they move him from country to country and cell to cell, while at home, his desperate friends and neighbors try to find out what happened to him and how to save his life. 

Finally, he is tried in an extra-constitutional court, where he is permitted only the most perfunctory of defenses.  He is convicted on manufactured evidence that he can neither see nor challenge and he is told he will stay in prison indefinitely.  Some alleged terrorists rotting at Gitmo, awaiting the moment that we as a nation come to our senses?  No, this is the journey of Emanuel Zeltzer (ph) of New York.  He‘s a lawyer.  The city from which he was kidnapped last March was London.  The place he was taken to was in Belarus.  And the place he languishes to this day is a KGB penal colony. 

His alleged crimes?  Economic espionage against Belarus, using false official documents, and possession of illegal drugs.  Until he was renditioned, Zeltzer had never been in Belarus and the illegal drugs he was convicted of possessing, his medication for diabetes and arthritis and a heart condition.  A private law firm and Amnesty International and our State Department are doing all they can to rescue this New York attorney.  And one can only wonder if it has dawned on any of them that the impunity with which the KGB and Belarus did this to this American must, at least in part, have been inspired by what we Americans have done to whoever George Bush‘s minions have damned well felt like doing it to. 

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OLBERMANN:  President Bush yesterday told the “Dallas Morning News” that the Freedom Institute at his presidential library will not be the, quote, George Bush is a wonderful person center, nor the center for Republican party campaign tactics, because it will be a place of debate and thought, unlike, say, the Bush White House.  Our third story tonight, freedom and the George Bush is a wonderful person legacy.

In the very last President Bush policy speech ever, he first told an elementary school of inner city, mostly minority students, that they are the easiest children for him to forget about, seriously.  He was talking about vulnerable kids and then, well, just listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Guess who generally those children are?  They happen to be inner city kids, children whose parents don‘t speak English as a first language.  They are the easiest children to forget about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He then defend No Child Left Behind, denying that it pushes schools to teach the test to teach kids, to teach kids how to read, for instance, just so they can pass the test.  Here it is, President Bush denying that he is teaching children to read just so they can pass the test. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And for those who claim we are teaching the test, un-unh.  We are teaching a child to read so he or she can pass the test. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just a sec. 

Returning to our theme, Mr. Bush‘s self-portrait as Bush the liberator managed to sneak that that speech, while still on the topic of No Child Left Behind. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Now under this system, if your public school is failing, you‘ll have the option of transferring to another public school or charter school.  And it‘s—I view that as liberation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But if his record as Bush the liberator is sufficiently important to him, his legacy that he even claims the liberation of American school kids, it is fitting for us to consider that liberation record.  No Child Left Behind has liberated schools like the Houston schools, liberated of 3,000 dropouts by no longer listing them as dropouts; like Missouri liberated from No Child Left Behind‘s penalties for poor test scores by lowering the standards on its own test; like low-scoring kids pushed out of schools that don‘t want low scores to cost them their funding, and high scoring kids, now taken for granted by school, forced to ration their resources elsewhere.

But American children have not been the sole beneficiaries of Bush the liberator.  He liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein, in the process also liberating Iran of Saddam Hussein, and liberating Iraq‘s Islamic extremists, who promptly liberated Iraq of its previous religious diversity, liberated Iraq of its educated class, a Mideast model of secular professional society under Saddam.  Now, you‘re free to disagree with Saddam, as long as you agree with Allah. 

The violence of sectarian cleansing has liberated almost five million Iraqis of their homes, many of the two million who fled the country altogether educated professionals, liberating Iraq‘s struggling economy of their contributions apparently forever. 

And then there are the free people of Afghanistan.  No, not him.  Yes, he was liberated from Tora Bora, but now he‘s a free man in Pakistan.  I mean the liberated people still in Afghanistan.  Once oppressed by the official government of the Taliban, they, too, have been liberated and now enjoy the wide range of freedoms and gender-specific reforms under way today in the villages and towns outside Kabul, held today by the unofficial narco-government of the Taliban. 

But Mr. Bush‘s Freedom March was not limited to Afghanistan and Iraq.  It spread to liberate other areas too, like the Gaza Strip, which held free elections and chose as its leaders Hamas.  And Lebanon, liberated from Syrian influence, subsequently voting instead for Hezbollah. 

Only in the past few months, however, has it become plausible to imagine that Mr. Bush might ever be remembered for anything more than Iraq.  But in a mere eight years, he managed to liberate the most powerful economy in the world from the checks and balances of keeping it safe, liberating our Bernie Madoffs of their SEC, OTS, Federal Reserve and CFTC chains, leading at least one investor to liberate himself of this mortal coil, as did one of Europe‘s richest and most powerful men once he was neither. 

So far, in last year alone, Mr. Bush has liberated two and a half million Americans from the rat race, that nine to five, paycheck-to-paycheck grind, liberating the rMD+IN_rMDNM_Dow of almost 2,000 points since he took office, liberating home owners of 18 percent of the value of their homes, so that even the owner of this home in Georgia says he has to sell his White House.  A bittersweet reminder that the resident of its inspiration leaves us with only one final saving liberating grace, that soon we will be liberated of him. 

Another politician who will never convinced or convicted of being too hard on themselves, Sarah Palin, spinning her latest interview disaster as the fault of the media, even though the interviewer was a radical right-winger. 

Worsts, Glenn Beck demand people stop comparing politicians they don‘t like to communists, which will be a problem for the commentator who does the most comparing of politicians he does not like to communists.  That would be Glenn Beck, hypocrite. 

And when Rachel Maddow joins you at the top of the hour, she will be joined by one of the 114 Illinois state legislators who voted to impeach Governor Blagojevich today, as opposed to the one guy who didn‘t. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was the great Charles Barkley who once claimed he was misquoted in his own autobiography.  Sarah Palin claims she was taken out of context in an interview conducted by a right-wing propaganda film producer.  That‘s next, but first time for tonight‘s two story, the worst persons in the world. 

The bronze tonight to two unnamed students at Woonsaga (ph) high school in Woonsaga, Rhode Island.  Here‘s the mixed message of all mixed messages, two boys, 15 and 16, were desperate not to be late for school, so they stole a car, the keys to which were found in the pocket of one of the guys as he sat in the detention room because he was late for school anyway. 

Runner up, Alberto Gonzalez, the disgraced former attorney general, apparently does not realize he is the disgraced former attorney general.  He admits he has been looking for work in the private sector since last April with no luck.  But at least the current downturn has provided him with a new rationalization.  “It is a rough economy right now,” he tells a newspaper in Austin, “and it‘s a tough time for a lot of law firms.  Greater opportunities will present themselves once the stories out there.”

Part Of the problem might be Mr. Gonzalez‘s expectations.  “I‘m very fortunate that I‘m at a point in my life where if I wanted to do something completely different, be baseball commissioner, for example,” he says, “seriously, I would love a job in baseball, a plug there, I can do it.” 

Speaking as a life long baseball fan, historian, reporter and customer, I would rather see the game  banished from the face of the Earth. 

Speaking of which, our winner, Glenn Beck.  After he lost his show on CNN, he‘s got a perfect fit over there on Fox Noise.  In advertisements for the new show, Beck says, “I‘m tired of the politics of left and right, right and wrong.  We argue back and forth.  If you haven‘t voted for the donkey, you‘re just a hate monger.  The other side, those donkeys, trying to turn us into communist Russia, stop.” 

Seems to be a complex psychological, hypocritical, self-hate phenomenon going here, because it is Beck who is the one who constantly claims that Democrats are communists.  In August, he called Obama a, quote, Marxist.  A year ago, he called Hillary Clinton “Comrade Clinton” and said a plan of hers “sounds like the Soviet Union.” 

Beck said of John Edwards, quote, “he is a Communist.”  He called a Harvard professor, quote, “Stalin.”  After John McCain sewed up the Republican nomination last winter, Beck said, “it‘s not just a fear slogan to say Democrats are communist.  We are on a collision course with socialism, communism here in the United States.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Beck and the rest of us, he is not on a collision course with sanity.  Glenn, if it is hypocritical self-hate, at least you have plenty of company, Beck, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Governor Sarah Palin is consistent to a fault on one central point regarding her shortcomings: it is never her, it is always us, even if she has to stretch the definition of us to include a right wing propagandist who once boasted he had sketched out a plan to assassinate OJ Simpson. 

Once again, in our number one story tonight, Governor Palin claims the media is guilty of taking her comments out of context, even though it was her new conservative champion John Ziegler who posted more than nine minutes of an interview with her on the Internet, and provided all the context there is.  Even though her answers to his questions, many of which we played in full here yesterday, were clear, or as clear as they could be in Palin speak, like what she said about Caroline Kennedy—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I‘ve been interested also to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled, and if she‘ll be handled with kid gloves or if she‘ll be under such a microscope also.  It‘s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.  As we watch that, we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also, that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy, versus say the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A lengthy statement from the governor‘s office today, quote, “I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective US senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office.” 

The governor setting up a straw man there, since the media was not claiming that she was critiquing Kennedy‘s qualifications.  We didn‘t see that, nor did Politico.com, which the statement specifically cites.  Yet the governor, in that statement, quote, “expressed dismay at continuing efforts in the media to take her comments out of context to create adversarial situations.”

Mr. Ziegler today went on the attack, telling the own David Shuster that he was a joke and alleged news person for his anti-Palin bias.  Last night, Bill O‘Reilly towed the line: “Governor Palin is right to be angry with the media.  It exploited and demeaned her because it largely wanted Barack Obama to win the election.” 

She did not demean herself at all.  And how did we miss this, the simple apparent irony of it.  In that nine-minute exert of the governor, the words ‘How Obama Got Elected‘ are plastered over it, with part of the answer right there before our eyes. 

Let‘s turn now to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also, of course, the host of VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Good evening, Paul.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In this interview, Palin accused of media of bias in favor of Caroline Kennedy, I guess because she‘s upper class.  And then we said that, what she said, used her own words.  Then in her statement, Palin says, I was talking about the seemingly arbitrary media coverage of those who seek public office.  Am I missing something obvious, maybe as obvious as that graphic yesterday, that would make Governor Palin‘s statement about what she said make some sort of sense in ordinary English usage? 

TOMPKINS:  It doesn‘t make a lot of sense.  It is kind of arbitrary when you think about it, the idea of Caroline Kennedy maybe for the Senate; people aren‘t really scrutinizing that at all.  And then Sarah Palin, just because she‘s running for the second most and potentially most powerful position in elected office, all of a sudden, everybody wants to know all about her.  How arbitrary!

OLBERMANN:  Real invasion of privacy there.  I agree with you.  Does it seem though that—the word that is used by every politician when they get caught saying something that was too stupid to have gotten out of their mouth in one piece—do you think she knows—does it seem like she knows what the word context actually means? 

TOMPKINS:  She might have a grasp of the idea of context, but not how to actually use it in context.  I don‘t know if she—what more she wants us to see of her, if she wants us to find a secret room in an office building, and enter her head, John Molcovitz style.  I don‘t know what is left to know about her.

OLBERMANN:  There might be a lot of room—I‘m sorry.  There‘s this one from Ziegler‘s blog, which we‘ve quoted a couple times, that she saw a photo of me and, quote, “she literally let out a shriek and, pointing to his photograph, declared, that guy is evil.”  Does some context change her meaning there, Paul? 

TOMPKINS:  First of all, congratulations.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you. 

TOMPKINS:  Secondly, I think the context does change the meaning.  If you look at the movies from the villain‘s point of view, James Bond seems like a real jerk.  If you were Goldfinger, wouldn‘t you be tempted to say, what do you care if I want to rob Fort Knox?  You‘re not even American.  Did you hear the song?  I love gold? 

OLBERMANN:  By the way, the world evil spelled backwards is live.  Did you know, by the way, that Tina Fey was exploiting her, but apparently Fred Armison was not exploiting Barack Obama? 

TOMPKINS:  I think because people weren‘t talking about the Fred Armison Obama impression that much.  It‘s only exploitation if it actually gets result.  If you talk about how great family values are and you trot your family out and then people start talking about your family, and you get upset about it.  That kind of exploitation.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re allowed to talk about our families; you‘re not allowed to talk about our families. 

TOMPKINS:  Indeed. 

OLBERMANN:  One of greatest details of context in all its visual wonder was the governor‘s interview last November about how brutal it was to be a candidate on the national stage, while she stood in front of those poor turkeys being slaughtered.  I assume that she would have rather that we had taken it completely out of context, that there was no such context at all. 

TOMPKINS:  I think she‘s probably the only person, when she saw this footage, was probably the only person that said yes, that is perfect.  This is the perfect metaphor for me and the media.  They want to just grind me up so they can feed themselves.  Just like that turkey, that turkey agreed to be penned, caught and slaughtered, just like I agreed to be interviewed. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the solution for this, for the context, for the governor to sort of stream uninterrupted video of herself 24 hours a day? 

TOMPKINS:  There it is.  You‘ve found her out.  This is her TV series pitch.  A lot of people had her pegged for one of those judge shows.  I think she set her sights a little higher and she said, yes, me and my family are absolutely reality show material. 

OLBERMANN:  And a whole network just for them, 24 hours. 

TOMPKINS:  Why not?

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, maximum donation for a Palin run for reelection to governor or a run for senator from Alaska would be a grand over the next two years, a run for president would be 2,300 bucks maximum.  Are you in? 

TOMPKINS:  This is the first I‘m hearing of this, although I have to check my in-box.  I‘m still sorting through the 4,000 e-mails I get from the Obama people every day. 

OLBERMANN:  I just think it‘s worth 2,300 to keep her around.  Paul F.  Tompkins, host of VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” as always, Paul, thanks for coming in.  Have a good weekend. 

TOMPKINS:  Thank you.  You too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 2,071st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, 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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