updated 3/5/2009 10:30:41 AM ET 2009-03-05T15:30:41

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Chris Cillizza, Jonathan Turley, Michael Musto

High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

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

The elected chairman of the Republican National Committee kowtows to a radio announcer, and an elected Republican governor cheers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, ® LOUISIANA:  I‘m glad he apologized.  As I said before, I think Rush is a leader for many conservatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As Republicans stampede one another to become the first to capitulate to an unelected boss, the Democrats seize the gold mine.  The new ad asking which leader the Republicans just hailed as a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Was it Sarah Palin?

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA:  Nope, nope, nope.

ANNOUNCER:  Bobby Jindal?

JINDAL:  No, no, no.

ANNOUNCER:  Michael Steele?

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  Nope, nope, nope.

ANNOUNCER:  Then who?  Not Rush Limbaugh?

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Boss Limbaugh emulated by the mini-Limbaughs.  One says he hopes Obama fails, quote, “The scorpion must sting the frog.”  You remember that in that fable the scorpion and the frog both died.

And the frog in that equation—the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll tonight.  The president‘s approval increases to a record 68 percent positive and a record 47 percent very positive.

Phony earmark outrage: Eight of the top 20 earmarkers in the Senate—

Republicans.  You wouldn‘t know that from the reaction from Mr. Holier-than-thou from Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA:  So much for the promise of change, Mr.

President.  So much for the promise of change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The promise of the John Yoo memos: There are more to come as the implications of the first set continue to sink in.  President Bush could have ordered an air strike on your house.

Or—on his house.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON MESNICK, “THE BACHELOR” DELEGATE:  Will you marry me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You want to marry me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What the delegate from the series “The Bachelor” meant to say was—he wants to marry somebody else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MESNICK:  And I think the worst thing in the world is to live your life with regrets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Michael Musto on the burgeoning scandal.  That guy, Jason, says ABC told him to throw that fight.  Breaking up with the fiancee was in the script.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

(WOMAN CRYING)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening from New York.

In the parable of “The Scorpion and the Frog,” it is only after much pleading and the promise from the scorpion that he will not sting the frog that the amphibian finally consents to carry his poisonous cargo across the river.  The scorpion—as every child learns—stings the frog anyway, saying as they both sink, “It is my nature.”  Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg is briefly citing the tale today in his defense of Boss Limbaugh and his opening desire for President Obama to fail, quote, “The scorpion must sting the frog.”

Our fifth story: Mr. Goldberg and the Republicans evidently could not be bothered to read through all 449 words of that parable.  The lesson is:

The scorpion and the frog both die!

Despite Michael Steele‘s protestations to the contrary, more evidence today that Boss Limbaugh has assumed leadership, such as it is of Republican Party, such as it is.  His actions saying something else, Steele is confirming in a statement today that he apologized to Limbaugh, quoting from it, “We had a nice conversation last night.  We are all good.”  On his radio show today, the boss with no comment on the Steele apology, calling it, quote, “Yesterday‘s news,” also rejecting reports that he is rooting for President Obama to fail and suggesting that Obama would only stand to gain from an economic failure.

Boss Limbaugh with little hope of pinning the nation‘s economic woes on the new president, though 84 percent of Americans surveyed by NBC News and the “Wall Street Journal”—owned by Rupert Murdoch—of the opinion President Obama inherited the current state of the economy.  A majority of the 84 percent is saying it will not hold him responsible for another year or three.  Thus, the president is now up to a personal record approval rating of 68 percent.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, presumably among the disapproving, the Republican with praise for both Steele‘s apology and boss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JINDAL:  I‘m glad he apologized.  I think the chairman is a breath of fresh air for the party.  As I said before, I think Rush is a leader for many conservatives and says thing that‘s people are concerned about, articulates very well.  The concern people have about growing government spending without an end in sight, with daily new plans, new bailouts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But tell me a story, Governor.  Tell me a story.

Democrats, meanwhile, apparently are just as happy to have Limbaugh at the helm of the opposition.  The DNC chairman, Tim Kaine, today is adapting the language of the late great Leo McKern as “Rumpole of the Bailey” to paint his picture of Boss Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN:  You know, it left a lot of us wondering, well, who‘s really in charge?  It seems like Rush Limbaugh is the kind of the “He Who Must Be Obeyed” these days in the Republican Party.  We got to turn down the high—you know, tune out the high-volume shouters and start to reward the problem-solvers if we‘re going to get out of the economic mess that we‘re in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Democratic causes, believing there is money to be raised on this whole Boss Limbaugh Republican Party debacle, and boss being reminded those of us who are heavy should never let ourselves be seen bouncing in public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AMERICANS UNITED FOR CHANGE)

ANNOUNCER:  Who is the leader Republicans hailed as the hero last weekend?  Was it Sarah Palin?

PALIN:  Nope, nope, nope.

ANNOUNCER:  Bobby Jindal?

JINDAL:  No, no, no.

ANNOUNCER:  Michael Steele?

STEELE:  Nope, nope, nope.

ANNOUNCER:  Mitch McConnell?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, ® MINORITY LEADER:  No, no, no.

ANNOUNCER:  Then who?  Not Rush Limbaugh?

LIMBAUGH:  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

ANNOUNCER:  Call the Republican leadership.  Tell them to just say no to the politics of Rush Limbaugh.

LIMBAUGH:  I hope he fails.

ANNOUNCER:  Paid for by Americans United for Change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No bouncing.

Time now to call on our own political analyst Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One day, apparently Republicans can‘t or are not allowed to pose Boss Limbaugh for a period of longer than one day.  Is it actually this case now: you‘re either for Limbaugh or against the Republicans?

WOLFFE:  Yes, it does sound like that first Bush Doctrine, you‘re either for them or you‘re with the terrorists, I guess.  And it‘s clear who‘s doing the terrorizing here.  You have a party that ran no less than four elections on being tougher and stronger than anyone else, and they can‘t say “boo” to a radio talk show guy?

It‘s surprising that elected officials are in this quandary and they have put themselves into it.  You know, this is a guy who, apart from bouncing up and down, celebrates his liberty and freedom and all of the other things that are in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence or whatever it was.  And here they don‘t have the freedom to say what they really feel, which is that he is hijacking their party and their message.

You know, this is—this is a sorry state of affairs for—for even the Republicans.

OLBERMANN:  To the degree that—and we can speculate as to how it would sound to hear somebody say, how can you stand up to al Qaeda if you can‘t stand up to Rush Limbaugh?  But the Republican whip, Eric Cantor, his office would not answer the question today of whether he now stands with Limbaugh or stands against him, and it was Cantor who, a year and a half ago, created a Web site called StandWithRush.com.

There are two really heavy issues here for people like Cantor, aren‘t there?  I mean, he‘s got this large figure in the Republican Party versus this new number about Obama‘s approval, which just keeps going up the more that the far-right rants against him.  It‘s—how do they get out of this situation?

WOLFFE:  Well, they do need to actually have a semi-courageous moment and say enough already.  He isn‘t actually a leader of the party.  He‘s not an elected official.

And, look, to draw a comparison, people have said, Democrats are trying to do to Limbaugh what Republicans did to Michael Moore.  There were no Democrats as far as I can remember who were saying they stood with Michael Moore and put up Web sites like that.  They never described Michael Moore as a leader in the party.

And the problem is, they have elevated this guy—who is looking for an audience, there is a commercial motive behind this—to this ideological position.  He is not the solution to their problems.  They need to reach out to the independent voters in places like suburban Richmond, which is in Eric Cantor‘s district, who voted for Obama.  Those are the kinds of people they need to reach and they‘re not going to reach them through Rush Limbaugh.

OLBERMANN:  Those are the people who decided that last election.

We discussed last night that, obviously, the White House, to some degree, provoked or took advantage of the opportunity to seize this uncivil war inside the GOP that had begun and seems to be beginning.  Is there a Democratic endgame to this?  I mean, presumably, if Limbaugh is not running things, he will be mad at the actual Republican politicians who are running things.  But if Limbaugh is running things, doesn‘t that mean Obama basically hasn‘t failed?  Or is the point of all of this from the Democratic point of view—not which side wins a Republican war but just that there be a Republican war in progress at all times?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s exactly the point.  This is a party that obviously is going through several stages of grief.  And they are somewhere between anger and denial right now.  And, there are a lot of things—the guilt phase comes in pretty soon.

Look, they need to figure out what the direction is.  This is a sideshow.  And when—when Rahm Emanuel went on the Sunday talk shows and said Rush was the leader of the party, I scratched my head.  They have just proved him right, and it‘s a monumental blunder for the Republican leadership.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, fairly masterful on Mr. Emanuel‘s part.

MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe—as always, Richard, great thanks.  Have a good night.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  With his “for him or against Republican Party” stance, Boss Limbaugh making it possible, if not mandatory, for all kinds of voices on the right to advocate openly for President Obama‘s failure.  We already touched upon Jonah Goldberg and his complete miscomprehension of the lesson at the heart of “The Scorpion and the Frog.”

Here are some of the lesser voices in the echo chamber.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  I want any force, any person, any element of an overarching big government that would stop your success—I want that organization, that element or that person to fail.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, TV HOST:  I don‘t think there‘s a thing wrong with him saying it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you agree with Rush Limbaugh that we shouldn‘t hope for President Obama to succeed?

TOM DELAY, ® FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  You‘re exactly right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want his policy agenda to fail because that will help the economy.

MICHELLE MALKIN, AUTHOR & SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  When he proposes the same kind of wealth redistribution as policies that appalled me under the Bush administration, yes, I hope they fail.

STEVE DOOCY, TV HOST:  Here‘s Rush Limbaugh and his great analogy with football regarding Barack Obama.

LIMBAUGH:  I wanted Warner to make the biggest fool of himself possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Of course, you don‘t want him to succeed.  If he succeeds, that‘s bad for capitalism, that‘s bad for free market.  If Obama succeeds and the country goes down the tubes, everybody gets what Rush has been saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Should we hope that President Obama fails?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes?

RICK SANTORUM, ® FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Absolutely.  We hope that his policies fail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to Chris Cillizza, White House reporter for the “Washington Post” and also, of course, author of its political blog “The Fix.”

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  None of the conservatives in that clip were currently elected officials.  Is that just a coincidence?

CILLIZZA:  It‘s savvy observation, Keith.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA:  No.  It is, in fact, not just a coincidence.  Look—

Republican elected officials know how to read polls.  They look at polling that suggests two things.  Number one, as you cited earlier, the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, that Barack Obama is extremely popular.  Number two, that the American people want bipartisanship.  They may not know what that means necessarily in a practical way, but they want to feel as though their politicians are working together for the greater good.

So, coming out and saying, we want this newly elected president who won 365 electoral votes in places we didn‘t think he could win, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, we want him to fail—it‘s not good politics and that‘s why you see so few Republican elected officials joining the chorus on the right.

OLBERMANN:  In addition to the 68 percent approval that Obama got in the “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll, Gallup did one on Limbaugh, showing his negatives were very high among independents and even one in four Republicans don‘t like him.  How is getting in line behind him a win-win for even just the far-right, even the most conservative wing of the conservative part of the Republican Party?

CILLIZZA:  Well, I think, Keith, you have to see it in context.  Republicans have been decimated in the last two elections.  They‘ve lost more than a dozen Senate seats.  They‘ve lost 50-plus House seats, they‘ve lost the presidency.

And so, they‘re rebuilding piece by piece.  And the first pillar of that rebuilding is the base of the party.  They have to keep those people with them if they want to build toward a governing majority at some point in the future.  Those are the people that Rush Limbaugh speaks to.  Those are the people who listen to him very closely.  And these people like Michael Steele, Phil Gingrey, a Georgia congressman who came across with Rush and apologized about a month ago, these are—they know they need this base of the party if they are going to expand.

So, I don‘t think it‘s a long-term strategy to reach out to independents, because frankly, we know, as you cite in those polls, it‘s not going to work.  But I do think it‘s aimed solely as reassuring the base that their core principles remain intact.

OLBERMANN:  But then, what is, Chris, the GOP endgame?  Similar to the question I asked Richard about the Democratic endgame.

CILLIZZA:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  The stimulus spending plan does not work.  The economy gets worse.  And what happens then?  I mean, the post apocalyptic world of “Mad Max and Thunderdome”?

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  President Rush Limbaugh?  What happens?

CILLIZZA:  Well, don‘t get me wrong, I love the occasional “Mad Max and Thunderdome” references .

OLBERMANN:  OK.

CILLIZZA:  . as much as the next guy.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA:  But I do think that what you will see, what Republicans have to do is try not to say: We‘re rooting for Barack Obama to lose, we‘re rooting for failure.  What they have to say is: We disagree, here‘s our proposal, and we‘d like to see this proposal incorporated.  The problem they have is Barack Obama is the president of the United States.  He‘s a popular, newly elected president.  He has the bully pulpit.

House and Senate Republicans are by and large unknown, not a lot of people paying attention to what they have to say, and we‘re 3 ½ years away from a presidential contest.  So, the voices that might be able to compete at least on some level of equality with Barack Obama, the Bobby Jindal, the Mark Sanford, the Tim Pawlenty, the Sarah Palin, dare I say it, they‘re not out there actively doing this right now.  So, it‘s a real disadvantage for Republicans.

OLBERMANN:  But they are trying to thread a needle here.  I mean, even Rush Limbaugh today exactly said this.  He wants the economy to succeed but Obama to fail.

CILLIZZA:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s—I mean, for that to happen, the dart has to hit the bull‘s eye exactly right at exactly the right speed.

CILLIZZA:  That‘s exactly right.  It‘s extremely, extremely difficult.  And, just from a purely political perspective, Keith, it‘s a hard argument, I think, to make to your average undecided or swing voter: We want the president, who has unveiled these series of instructions on how he wants to make the economy better, we want him to do badly, but we want the economy to do better.

It‘s a very convoluted argument in some ways that Republicans are trying to make.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I‘d be hazarding a guess, I think the Republicans think it‘s going to work and they are just softening up the idea that Obama will get 100 percent of the credit and, I think, they might think they‘d be happy if he only gets 97 percent.  We‘ll see.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post” for Mel Gibson and myself, great thanks.

CILLIZZA:  Well, thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Boss Limbaugh—and that‘s his name henceforth—is a frothy and fun-filled diversion with considerable symbolic meaning.  But it and everything else, seems to take a back seat when you consider that just over 24 hours ago, we were told that a president of the United States was informed by memo by his own Justice Department that as long as he thought he was going after terrorists, he could pull people off American streets without warrant or appeal, or order military raids inside this country.  And like they say on those late-night info commercials—wait, there‘s more.  The promise tonight of more memos to Mr. Bush, ones maybe more astounding.

What in the hell could be more astounding than a president convinced he was authorized to send troops into your bedroom?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  More budgetary bluster as the co-conspirators in the earmark industry, the Republicans shout “J‘accuse” at the Democrats.  More memos from John Yoo as the Justice Department unlocks the door to the “Bush house of memo” horrors.  More controversy as the kid on “The Bachelor” says dumping the fiancee was in the script.

And more inanity from Billo, having blamed at least one dead rape victim—of course, he‘s the right guy to speak to a support group for rape victims.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We told you yesterday of the Republican Party‘s phony-baloney righteous outrage over Mr. Obama‘s budget for the next fiscal year, the 12 months starting in October.  Tonight, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The party of fiscal conservatism now in a lather about the bill called the “omnibus spending bill” to fund the government from this Friday up until October.  Why?  Because that bill contains earmarks, which, as we know, are the work of Satan.

Are the earmarks wasteful?  Well, wait until you hear who put them in the bill.  No, the real problem is that mean, old President Obama promised to end earmarks forever.  And when that promise was broken, it did so, so loudly it even woke up Senator John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  So much for the promise of change, Mr. President.  So much for the promise of change.  This may be, in all of the years I have been coming to this floor to complain about the earmark, pork-barrel corruption that this system has bred, this may be probably the worst.  Probably the worst .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  According to the nonpartisan group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the $410 billion omnibus spending bill contains 8,570 attributable earmarks totaling $7.7 billion, which is less than 2 percent of total spending.  Sure, but it‘s still $7.7 billion.  At least some of that spending which Mr. McCain lamented yesterday would seem to have self-apparent explanations.

Why would L.A. and L.A. alone need tattoo removal funding to help decrease violence?  Why single out Hawaii for expenditures in astronomy?  Because, Mr. McCain, gangs are to L.A. what clear skies are to Hawaii.

Still, Mr. McCain‘s implication merits a response.  Is this the change Mr. Obama promised?  First, the bill was negotiated by congressional Democrats and Republicans in December.  Second, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the earmark total is down half a billion from last year.  Third, that $7.7 billion total in earmarks, Mr. Obama‘s campaign promise was that he would limit earmark to the earmark total from 1994.

Let‘s see.  What was that 1994 total again?  Oh, yes, $7.8 billion. 

Calculus, this ain‘t.

Fourth, in 2006, the last of several years of Republican earmarked orgies, congressional earmarks totals $29 billion.  Then fifth, even with everything else going on, less than two months into its very existence, the Obama White House is already in talks with congressional Democrats to reform the earmark process.  An announcement expected by the time Mr. Obama signs the omnibus bill.

And now we come to the hypocrisy portion of our programming.  To his credit, Mr. McCain has none of these earmarks.  To his credit, the senator called out his own party for their own ear-malarkey—about which more in a moment.

To his discredit, McCain may not request earmarks but he does vote for them when he wants to, when conservative House members got sweeteners added to win their votes for the $700 billion bank bailouts last year when congressional earmarks were tacked on for funding of the Iraq war.  And McCain even supports some specific earmarks such as military housing, foreign aid for Israel, even praising some venues at which he appeared during his campaign, despite the fact they got their funding from earmarks.

And then there are McCain‘s buddies like Joe Lieberman, who is getting $44 million in earmarks in this one.  And his fellow campaign adviser, Lindsey Graham, $41 million in earmarks in this deal.  Both Graham and Lieberman are well ahead of, for instance, the raging socialist, Bernie Sanders.

McCain rightly points his finger at his party leaders, so we will, too.  Senate Republican whip, Jon Kyl, so twisted on this issue, we are saving him for Best Persons later in this newshour.

But how about Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell?  He not only campaigned last year specifically on his record of dragging earmarks back to his state of Kentucky, but this year, now, his name is on more than $75 million in earmarks and $50 million of that is in the budget only because he and he alone put it there.  And his big GOP task force on earmark reform, its recommendations were never adopted by the Senate Republican Conference.

The number one earmarker in the country is a Republican senator, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, spending $76 million all by his own self, and a whopping $471 million when you include earmarks also requested by other senators -- 471.  Republicans are making up three of the top five earmarkers, and six of the top 10.  In fact, 40 percent of the omnibus bill earmarks are Republican earmarks.

And if you tell yourself, well, they only have 40 percent of the Senate seat, so it‘s pretty much even.  Consider this—according to number-crunching at “Huffington Post,” when you look at individual earmarks, those for which only one senator is responsible, Democrats account for $677 million in earmark spending; Republicans, $669 million—nearly the same amount.  The problem for the Republicans in this math, it takes 57 Democrats to spend that much, but only 40 Republicans.

Don‘t raise the bridge.  Lower the river.  Don‘t go up to get the cat. 

Bring down the tree the cat is in.

And—good news, everyone.  Sean Hannity and Lou Holtz have proved there is no global warming.  You know how they know?  You won‘t believe it, but we‘ll tell you anyway in Worst Persons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and it‘s no cussing week.  What the amper sound, pound, capital Z question mark?

First, on this date in 1993, Dr. Albert Sabin died.  He was the developer of the live virus polio vaccine.  But a decade before his passing, he was suddenly afflicted with a rare condition that left him for 10 days with indescribable pain, then some paralysis and then recovery.  It was only then, he said, in his 52nd year as a doctor, that he realized that the primary responsibility of physicians was to stop their patients‘ pain.  He even tearfully, on television, apologized to all of his previous patients, whom he said he‘d often put second behind research.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin on the Internets with another extreme cat rescue caught on tape.  This is in Japan.  We‘re not sure how long the black and white tabby was up there.  We‘re not sure if the fire department tried using a ladder.  We are sure that breaking out the chainsaw is never a good idea.

A trampoline might have been a little more extreme.  Still, aside from getting the leg dinged up, the cat is alive, if this in fact is real and I‘m beginning to doubt it.  On the other hand, the owner there now gets more sunlight in their foyer.

Let‘s remain on the Internets, and now, it‘s Biscuit the dog.  He‘s asleep and he‘s having some dream, maybe pulling the sled in the Iditarod, maybe he‘s chasing after little chuckwagon, maybe he knocked over a bank and he‘s running for his life.  One thing is for sure, he‘s hauling butt.  He‘s moving so fast that when he gets up, he does notice there‘s a wall there.

There‘s a wall there, Biscuit, there‘s a wall—oh, he puts the biscuit in the basket.

Biscuit is OK.  Not only did the guy taping this not say anything to stop Biscuit, he posted the video online for everybody to see and to embarrass his own dog.  Forget sleepwalking, fellow.  I think next time, a little (ph) sleep going on the rug might be in order.

President Bush told by his Department of Justice that he could seize anybody off the streets of any American city provided he was convince that person was a terrorist.  Or he could order a military raid anywhere in this country.  Tonight, we learn the memo that said that were just the first that will be revealed and soon.  Jonathan Turley joins us. 

And you‘re angry at Jason for dissing Melissa on “The Bachelor?”  Shouldn‘t you be more worried that Jason said it was in the script for the unscripted show called “The Bachelor?”  Michael Musto on that ahead. 

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best self-contradictions promised, Senator Kyl of Arizona.  After Senator Schumer of New York down played porky items in the stimulus, Senator Kyl said Schumer is wrong if he thinks taxpayers don‘t care about billions of dollars in earmarks and pork in the so-called stimulus bill.  They do care, because it wastes their money. 

Even Fixed news put up an list of Kyl‘s earmarks, a long list, said the interviewer, and it said they totaled to 118 million dollars.  To which Kyl replied, they‘re not earmarks under the definition. 

Number two, best reason for airlines to listen to their customers, three of the world‘s top pole vaulters tried to check their poles in the Sidney Airport.  No, said security personnel.  You will have to carry them through the terminal.  The polls 18 feet tall.  So they‘re on the escalator and the Australia star Paul Burgess (ph) sees a glass sign over head, and he says to his teammate, Steve Hooker, look out for that glass sign.  And Hooker manages to avoid hitting it with his vaulting pole.  But unfortunately, Burgess has put down his pole and the handle gets wedged into the escalator, and the tip smashes through the ceiling and cuts this long hole in the plaster. 

Number one, best fantasy, Mckay Hatch of Pasadena, California.  Last year, he started what he called a cuss-free week locally.  Now he‘s gotten L.A. County to proclaim this no cussing week.  Next year, he says he‘s going for statewide no cuss free week.  And then, quote, who knows?  Maybe worldwide.  Mr. Hatch is a sophomore in high school.  He‘s 15.  When the hormones completely kick in, that will be the end of cuss-free week.  I‘m thinking June, July at the latest. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  After releasing Bush-era legal memos which had attempted to provide cover if the president had wanted to use the military to run raids in this country or pull people off the streets without warrants or suppress free speech or the media, sources at the Justice Department today said, prepare yourself.  There are more of these memos on the way and right soon.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the new information dovetails perfectly with and may lend critical mass to tomorrow‘s Senate hearing about creating an independent Truth Commission on Bush‘s counter-terrorism policies. 

The current Justice Department may soon disclose more secret opinions from the Bush-era, post-9/11, as part of an accelerated review process.  This is according to unnamed DOJ officials speaking to the “New York Times.”  Legal memoranda on warrantlesss wiretaps and torture may be among those forthcoming.  The nine memos released yesterday, you may have heard, claimed extraordinary power for the president, like the use of the military to make searches and seizures within the U.S. without a warrant, and the assertion, from a memo dated October 23rd, 2001, that, quote, “first amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the over-riding need to wage war successfully.” 

The Senate Judiciary hearing tomorrow on what a Truth Commission might look like thus given new impetus from committee member Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  Quote, “these memos appear to have given the Bush administration a legal blank check to trample on American civil rights.  We need to get to the bottom of OLC”—the Office of the Legal Counsel—“at the Justice Department and ensure it never happens again.” 

The memoranda are being released in part because of a civil lawsuit filed against this man, John Yoo, the Bush administration assistant attorney general, the man who authored many of the suspect legal opinions.  He‘s being sued by Jose Padilla, who was detained for years as an enemy combatant, but who was ultimately convicted in a regular old civilian criminal quaint procedure. 

Let‘s call now upon Constitutional law professor from George Washington University, Jonathan Turley.  Jon, good evening. 

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  First to the ones we already know about; Senator Whitehouse described these as a legal blank check.  Am I wrong or is the description maybe closer to something like a legal justification for a police state or a quasi-military takeover of the U.S. government? 

TURLEY:  Well, these memos provide the very definition of tyranny.  These memos include everything that a petty despot would want from the military use—domestic use of the military in searches and seizures, suspension of free press, free speech, arrests of individuals without legal process.  The amazing thing is that this is the blueprint of our government, not the people we were fighting. 

But what‘s really pathetic is the memo on January 15th, where Bradbury finally just says we don‘t believe most of this stuff.  This is just something that can‘t be sustained.  And so you‘ve got eight years of Constitutional terror for civil libertarians, followed by five days of legal contrition.  And it‘s really quite pathetic.  It‘s basically an effort of Bush lawyers to say, we want to go back into the Bar, despite the fact that for the last eight years, we have been saying we can suspend every element of a free nation. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, we repent.  We repent.  How much worse could this get?  What do you—what do you suspect?  What do you fear is in those memos that we haven‘t seen yet that may be released shortly? 

TURLEY:  Well, these memos weren‘t written in a vacuum.  They were written for a reason.  They went to people like John Yoo and Viet Din and others to hear what the president wanted them to say.  And the question then is what did they do in response?  Well, we know, among other things, that they created a torture program.  The question is, how much more don‘t we know?  And I think we‘re going to find out that this was the mere foundation for a greater edifice that has yet to be disclosed. 

OLBERMANN:  How did these memos and the perspective ones tie into what we already know about Bush administration abuses, do you think? 

TURLEY:  Really, I have to tell you, I was taken aback.  I have debated John Yoo.  I have known him for years.  And I still cannot believe that he would produce this type of work.  First of all, it‘s really bad in terms of its legal analysis.  He‘s arguing that powers of self-defense, where officers can use lethal force, can be a justification for warrantless surveillance.  It‘s a type of stuff that you send back papers with law students over. 

And it really does show, I think, the great tragedy of a very bright individual working very, very hard to satisfy the president and to tell him what he wanted to hear. 

OLBERMANN:  How this dovetails into the Truth Commission and this idea that Pat Leahy is going to have a conference tomorrow to basically throw out ideas about what to do if they go ahead with one.  Senator Feingold tonight endorsed the idea of a Truth Commission.  But he said you have to include at least the possibility of prosecution.  It can‘t be a broad immunization policy. 

If that‘s part of the deal, can you and I support the Truth Commission?  I am going to defer to you on this. 

TURLEY:  I have to tell you, I think that we have got to say enough, that we are no longer a nation of chumps.  You have a bunch of people here who—and many of which are my friends—who are trying to work mightily hard to avoid what they know they are morally and legally obligated to do.  Now, what this shows is it was never a question about political power.  It was the lack of personal conviction.  So it‘s up to the rest of us to say, if President Obama means it, and knows about the law, we need a special prosecutor and we need to investigate, not another commission. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, that‘s two votes for that.  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, as always, great thanks.  And I know my opinion is in good hands with you.  Thank you. 

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Nothing yet from the Department of Justice on prosecuting the guy from “The Bachelor,” who proposed to one woman, then dumped her for another, then revealed his bosses at ABC told him to.  Michael Musto visits on this issue. 

He blames the victims for being raped.  They help rape victims through trials.  For some reason, they want him at their fund-raiser. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest Howard Dean on the state of the GOP and its new leader, Boss Limbaugh. 

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds out-live them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s other 50 running scandals, Still Bushed. 

Number three, You, Yoo, you‘re not good-gate.  A postscript to this memo story.  Last night here, John Dean pointed out the CYA component.  Jonathan Turley just mentioned it, too.  Today, TPM Muckraker connected the dots.  Consider this footnote written by Steven Bradbury, Mr. Bush‘s last head of the Office of Legal Council, in the don‘t listen to the other memos memo, which was written just six weeks ago.  The memo was not, quote, “intended to suggest in any way that the attorneys involved in the preparation of the opinions in question did not satisfy all applicable standards of professional responsibility.” 

Huh?  Remember that the Justice Department is conducting an internal investigation that could wind up leading to several lawyers losing their licenses because their memos, approving crap like water boarding, were shoddy pieces of amateur lawyering.  According to a preliminary draft of that report, the several lawyers up for disbarment are John Yoo, Jay Bybee and the guy who wrote the PS, Steven Bradbury.  Toads. 

Number two, freedom of dissent-gate.  In June, 2006, in public, at a ski resort at Beaver Creek, Colorado, an American named Stephen Howards saw Vice President Dick Cheney, went up to him and said the Bush administration‘s policies in Iraq were disgusting.  Having spoken his peace, he left.  Ten minutes later, members of Cheney‘s Secret Service detail arrested Mr. Howards, accusing him of assault on the vice president.  He was briefly detained, then released, then charged with harassment.

Then the local district attorney found out about it and dropped the charges.  Mr. Howards sued five Secret Service agents and for two years they have tried to get Cheney under oath to tell his version of events.  A judge in Denver has finally ordered that Cheney has to give a deposition on videotape.  Given these newly revealed memos, though, Mr. Howards is probably lucky Mr. Cheney did not call him a terrorist and order the 82nd Airborne to blow him up. 

Number one, bailout-gate.  Maurice Hank Greenberg, the former CEO of the Bush bailed out and re-bailed out and soon to be re-re-bailed out insurance company AIG, was notorious in his day for also being a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.  He gave 25 million dollars to the group to help it change the law so that company shareholders could no longer sue because the company they had invested in was guilty of fraudulent accounting for financial reporting.  In other words, lying about its financial health.  Those efforts failed.  And yesterday AIG was sued by a company shareholder for fraudulent accounting or financial reporting, lying about its financial health, just what Hank Greenberg had fought so hard to prevent. 

Who is suing AIG?  Who is claiming AIG‘s fraudulent reporting destroyed his, the big shareholder‘s, fortune?  Hank Greenberg.  Once again, today we call it a bailout.  Tomorrow, we will call it, why daddy went to jail. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The shocking scandal is unbelievable news from the world of network television.  The reality show “The Bachelor,” with his star breaking his TV engagement and asking the runner up to date him was working off a script.  Michael Musto is next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze Bill-O.  He is still planning to address a fund raiser this month for the It Happened to Alexa Foundation.  This is a group doing the best possible work, supporting rape victims, especially during trials.  Nearly three years ago, O‘Reilly called a murdered rape victim moronic and suggested that the way she was dressed, she was asking for it.  He, of course, never apologized.  Today comes word from the group‘s executive director, Ellen Ogello (ph), who told us, quote, “Bill O‘Reilly is still speaking at the fund-raiser.  We are aware of his comments.  We don‘t have any comment about it.  I don‘t feel as if it would be productive.”  How productive is it to have a man who blames rape victims speak to a group supporting rape victims for people who blame rape victims? 

Runner up, Newt Gingrich, on Twitter.  It may be new technology, but he‘s the same old liar.  His Tweet, that as they flew into Santa Barbara, California, he and his wife pointed out you could see the oil rigs offshore.  Ironically, they have had no spill since 1969.  True, other than one two weeks ago from Exxon‘s rig, a mile long and ten feet wide.  And other than the one three months ago Sunday from platform A, 1,100 gallons right in to the Santa Barbara Channel. 

But our winners, the Manatee and former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.  Hannity‘s topic with Holtz and with one of John McCain‘s campaign spokespeople, global warming.  Global warming?  You‘re talking global warming with Lou Holtz.  Low Holtz barely makes sense talking Notre Dame football. 

“I‘m walking over here.  I don‘t have a coat on.  I‘m freezing.  Thank god for global warming or I would be really cold.”  Hannity said, “maybe it‘s just a coincidence that nearly every global warming protest occurs on the exact same day we have a major snowstorm.  Or maybe the big guy up there is trying to send a message to these people.” 

You mean Limbaugh?  Hannity also repeated the only point he‘s been able to conjure up from that slow-moving brain of his, that there couldn‘t be global warming because it still gets cold here in the winter.  “Nancy Pelosi couldn‘t make it because of the snow!”

Don‘t you get this, even after it‘s been explained slowly to you using small words?  The snowstorm Sunday is not proof there isn‘t global warming.  Just like when it hit 68 degrees here three days after Christmas, that was not proof that there is global warming.  If global warming already had enough immediate impact to reverse the normal weather, to prevent all snowstorms in the winter, we‘d all be preparing to die within five years anyway!

Sean Hannity and Low Holtz, today‘s worst persons in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Breaking news on the baseball performance-enhancing drug front.  Alex Rodriguez, admitted steroid user, and as we reported to you previously, possibly suspected of worst, has suddenly been found to have a cyst in his right hip, and must now see a hip specialist.  No indication at this point as to how long he might not be able to play. 

Elsewhere, I feel like Charles Van Doran during the quiz show scandal.  Yes, it‘s true, reality television is scripted.  Literally, several viewers did not know that.  Thus did this nation wake in unified pain and anger today.  For the first time, everyone from Ellen Degeneres to Elizabeth Hasselbeck banded together in collective grief.  Our number one story, a nation outraged by the season finale of “the Bachelor.”

To bring the sane few of you up to speed, Bachelor Jason was first introduced to the world on the last season of “The Bachelorette.”  Jason reached the semis, got down on one knee, proposed to Bachelorette Diana, when show told him she liked the other guy. 

Oh, no, she didn‘t!  But she did.  Jason got his heart handed to him, along with his own TV show.  Which brings us to this season‘s “The Bachelor,” with our hero Jason, braving the cruel dating world by way of various hot tub and massage dates, telling 23 other women he‘s just not into them. 

Last night, the payoff for millions of Americans invested in Jason‘s eight week televised quest for love, down to two women, Molly and Melissa.  Melissa loves to laugh, but Molly has great eye make up. 

What to do?  What to do?  Jason makes his choice, but America didn‘t want to see what was coming next.  I give you “The Bachelor” in slightly over one minute. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am so in love with Jason right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know how I could ever let you go, but I have to. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wow.  I‘m shocked. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m so happy.  Gosh, I‘ve never felt like this. 

This is unbelievable. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know if I can ever say good-bye to you. 

Will you marry me?  I love you, I love you, I love you. 

I haven‘t been able to stop thinking about Molly. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you think this is going to go? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know.  I mean, this is real.  We‘re not right for each other.  I think the worst thing in the world is to live your life with regrets. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re such a bastard.  Leave me alone, please. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing else matters right now except for what she‘s going through. 

It‘s been a long time. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Melissa was out here earlier.  I ended things with her.  What I was hoping was we could have a shot. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Um—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, when she said, um, somebody moved the cue card.  Who better to follow that than Michael Musto, columnist of “The Village Voice” and author of “La Dolce Musto.”  Michael, welcome back. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Everybody‘s amazed.  I‘m amazed everybody‘s amazed.  This Jason clown tells “People Magazine” he had to dump Melissa on TV because it was in his contract.  Do people besides my producers, specifically my executive producer, watch these shows and believe they are not working from a loose script? 

MUSTO:  I watched and I actually believed that it was real.  Then again, I think on “Survivor” they don‘t have a trailer where they can wash down the worms with champagne.  Keith, this was phonier that Mickey Rourke‘s normal guy routine.  This script isn‘t working, that‘s even worse.  Seven seasons, one trip down the altar, Trystia and Ryan, not that I watched. 

They need a new script.  This is like if the “Last Comic Standing” was Paulie Shore. 

OLBERMANN:  Still, there is a blow back against this goof ball today.  “Entertainment Weekly” called the guy Jason an even bigger jackass than we thought.  And Elizabeth Hasselbeck lamented about how she lost three hours of her life to this program, even if she watched it while wearing a wedding veil.  It‘s pretty bad when you loose the Hasselbeck seal after approval, is it not? 

MUSTO:  Oh yes, this is the woman who is for the war in Iraq.  She‘s for preventing gays from getting married.  But what harms her delicate sensibilities and what offends her is some douche nozzle reading from a script and saying he changing his mind on TV.  Her priorities are so up her hoo-ha, Barbara Walters can‘t even find them. 

And she‘s no naive, this Hasselbeck, if I can keep going, Keith, that she probably sits at home waiting for interest checks from Bernie Madoff.  Look, I have wasted five years watching her on “The View” instead of watering my Chia Pet or something, and I‘m not mad.  Actually, I am. 

OLBERMANN:  No, no, Michael, stop.  No.  There was an 11th hour appeal to Jason from this bachelorette who told him to tick off last year, Diana.  She basically told him she picked the wrong guy.  The second half of this after the rose show is tonight.  What are the chances Jason has now dumped Molly and is dating Diana?  And is this not the plot line of WWE wrestling, although there are fewer folding chairs broken over fewer people‘s heads? 

MUSTO:  It‘s actually the plot of “As The World Turns” from 1962, as you would recall. I would like to break chairs over all these people‘s heads.  I think what‘s actually is going to end up is that Jason is going to end up asking—what‘s her name—Darva Conger, remember her, to get married.  And she is going to be like, no, I‘m now with Richard Hatch.  I turned him straight.  We‘re having conjugal visits. 

Forget the after the rose.  It is going to be after the snap dragon. 

OLBERMANN:  Diana should ask this Melissa, because this—this doesn‘t bold well for the whole conservative argument about sanctity of marriage.  Is this part of our country‘s problem here, we‘re too concerned with crap like this on “The Bachelor” and not what‘s actually going on around us? 

MUSTO:  I think they could argue that Jason does actually care about the sanctity of marriage, and that‘s why he went for the right person, even though it was scripted.  No, you‘re right.  I think this is the problem.  I think two ding bats getting married is not in my Bible.  I think it‘s wrong.  What next?  People and their pets getting married?  Jason and Molly, whatever you do, it‘s fine with me.  Just keep it behind closed doors.  Not on my TV set.  You, too, Elizabeth Hasselbeck. 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  It says in the Bible, thou shall not exceed 60 minutes of thy time on the television box.  Michael Musto of “The Village voice.”  It‘s always a bizarre pleasure, Michael.  Thank you. 

MUSTO:  Likewise.   

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,124th day since the previous president declared 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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