updated 2/17/2009 9:58:50 AM ET 2009-02-17T14:58:50

Guest: Jimmy Carter, Paul F. Tompkins, Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson High: Former President Jimmy Carter discusses how President Obama can pursue peace in the Middle East.  Stimulus passes Congress with minimal GOP suppport.

Spec: Politics; Finance; Stimulus; Congress; Republicans; Middle East;

Jimmy Carter

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

Three Senate Republicans vote for economic recovery, none in the House.  The others would apparently rather have a depression or trust to luck.  The stimulus passes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  Passing this plan is a critical step, but as important as it is, it‘s only the beginning of what I think all of you understand is going to be a long and difficult process of turning our economy around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Between the GOP‘s betrayal of its promise of bipartisanship, and Senator Gregg rhymes with renege—bitterness at the White House?  Oddly, no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president is not going to stop reaching out to Republicans because one Republican he respects decided to change his mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Disaster at Clarence Center, New York: 50 dead in the worst domestic air crash in nearly three years, and with heartbreaking irony, one was 9/11 widow and activist, Beverly Eckert.  She had pushed one president to adopt the 9/11 Commission recommendations.  She had met with another president just last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  She was an inspiration to me and to so many others.  And I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Middle East and the middle of the partisan storm in Washington.  President Jimmy Carter with advice about each to the new commander-in-chief.  He is our special guest.

And the 43rd president—all a Twitter going on Facebook?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president is very technologically connected to the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bushed: The people have spoken on investigating torture.  Worsts: The Republican chairman of Virginia who told campaign volunteers to say that bin Laden and Obama both had friends who bombed the Pentagon—he has spoken again about Abe Lincoln.  And apparently, he doesn‘t know a damn thing about Abe Lincoln.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY FREDERICK, VIRGINIA GOP CHAIRMAN:  By issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, affirming in his Gettyburg Address in 19 -- I‘m sorry—in 1863.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Also, sorry, Jeff Frederick, Lincoln was never a member of the Beatles.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Party on, dude!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

“The Republican Party,” Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas said last week, “had much to learn from the insurgency and the Taliban.”  Tonight, Sessions House colleague, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, further wedged the language of terrorism into American politics.  In the wake of the GOP‘s offer on the stimulus vote and the embarrassing withdrawal of Republican Senator Gregg from the Obama cabinet, Mr. McHenry described the Republicans Taliban USA as, quote, “emboldened.”

On our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The stimulus all but passed and despite the votes of a party all but reduced to saying nothing but no.  The stim not far from being one presidential signature away and one Presidents Day holiday weekend away from becoming law.  In the Senate, the Democrats holding open the vote for Sherrod Brown flying back from his mother‘s wake in Ohio tonight in order to get the Democrats to the 60 procedural votes needed for passage.  Senator Brown will return to Ohio for his mother‘s funeral in the morning.

Senator Kennedy was being treated for brain cancer, has been working from Florida recently and was not able to return for the vote.  As expected, three Republicans voting with the Democrats, senators Collins and Snowe of Maine and Senator Specter of Pennsylvania.  The House passing the $787 billion plan by a vote of 246-183, seven Democrats voting against the measure.

And what has the White House learned from its less than fruitful exercise in attempted bipartisanship?  Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel citing lesson number one as: Do not lose the message war.  Mr. Emanuel telling the “Wall Street Journal,” as the paper put it, that the White House, quote, “lost control of the message for selling their massive stimulus bill last week, fixating on bipartisanship while Republicans were savaging the legislation.”  Lesson two: Do not expect the president to get burned again like this.  Mr. Emanuel saying of Mr. Obama, “He has an open mind, but he has a very firm handshake.”

“Senator See-you-later,” Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Gregg as in renege, who voted against the stim tonight, seeming to admit on CNBC this morning that Republicans in the Senate never had any intention of cooperating with the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL QUINTANILLA, CNBC:  Since you were nominated, it‘s become quite clear that the margin that the president is going rely on in the Senate has come down to really three senators.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, ® NEW HAMPSHIRE:  I think it‘s always been that margin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In the wake of Gregg‘s sayonara, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs addressing whether the council‘s office might ask different questions of its cabinet applicant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBS:  You guys ask questions for a living.  What we might posed with the—are you likely within a seven day period to come to a different conclusion than the one which you are giving the president?  You know, I don‘t know.  I mean, I don‘t know.  The president is not going to stop reaching out to Republicans because one Republican he respects decided to change his mind and continue to serve and represent his state in the U.S.  Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This morning, the president himself anticipating the passage of the stim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It‘s a plan that will ignite spending by businesses and consumers, make the investments necessary for lasting economic growth and prosperity, and save or create more than 3.5 million jobs over the next two years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president‘s top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, downplaying expectations now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, OBAMA ECONOMIC ADVISER:  This president inherited the worst economic disaster since the depression.  This president inherited the largest budget deficits in our country‘s history.  And it is going to take time to work this through.  We are not promising that you‘re going to see some miracle cure, that there is some silver bullet for the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

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

OLBERMANN:  All right.  We appear to have a stim.  Now what?  I mean, what‘s the next step for the White House?  What encore do the Republicans dream up?

WOLFFE:  Well, there are two things for the White House, two huge things for the White House beyond the stimulus package.  First of all, they‘ve got to figure out how to rescue the nation‘s banking system.  Large chunks of which are really insolvent and the market thinks that.  That‘s how they are valuing it.

And secondly, the housing market—dealing with these underlying problems for homeowners and homes that aren‘t worth as much as the mortgages that are based on them.  So, those two areas are very important as well as the later round of stimulus spending, because, clearly, they didn‘t meet all their goals and they‘re not going to meet them in the next year or so.

For Republicans, look, they feel invigorated.  They feel that they are speaking to their base in terms of holding down government spending or advocating for tax cuts.  The problem is, they‘re just speaking to their base.  So, it doesn‘t change the overall politics of it.  But they have scored some tactical victories.

OLBERMANN:  But if this goes at all well—if this program and perhaps a later one that focuses more on spending in the states and by the states—goes at all well, won‘t the Republicans be talking to a base almost on a ratio of one elected Republican per one member of the base?

WOLFFE:  Yes, you know, this is not a winning strategy.  It‘s a tactical skirmishing.  And the problem for Republicans is that they just—they can get re-elected in their House districts, but in the Senate, there are going to be senators who will be challenged next time around.

You know, they can hope that the economy, I guess, doesn‘t get any better and that Democrats everywhere get punished in the midterms.  But, that‘s a strange thing to hope for and it‘s not much of a pitch to voters in two years time.

OLBERMANN:  Back to this program and the attempts to restart the economy—how important was it to have Doctor Lawrence Summers reset expectations the way we heard that clip put out?

WOLFFE:  Well, exceptionally important.  If you think back to the last major recession that the Clinton administration had to deal with, managing expectations is really 9/10 of the struggle here.  Obviously, you want the economic policies to work but voters don‘t really follow the economic data as much as you would like them to.

So, meeting expectations or holding back expectations, saying to people, “Look, things are moving along the right track, you may not feel it right now but we are making progress.”  That is really the challenge for this administration.  It isn‘t about getting Republican votes.  It‘s about managing the voters and the economic expectations moving forward.

OLBERMANN:  And next week, Obama is going back on the road to sell what exactly?  Is he selling enacting the stim?  Stim II?  Son of stim?  His own leadership?  What‘s he selling?

WOLFFE:  Well, if they are smart, he shouldn‘t really be selling anything directly.  He should be getting surrogates to do the sales pitch.  What he should be doing is positioning himself above the festering swamp of Washington politics, above the procedures, above the vote counting, and the debate about amendments.  He needs to be saying, “I‘m in touch with the American people.  Those folks in Washington don‘t get it and remember that‘s why you voted for this strange insurgent outsider that I am.”

He‘s got to keep reconnected even as president of the United States, not just with the American people but with the very forces that took him to power, which is that, he is not of Washington and that he‘s gone there to change it.  So, it‘s not selling any piece of it; it‘s selling the broader brand that is Barack Obama.

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of brands, last point.  Now we have Mr.  McHenry joining Mr. Sessions—and between them in the last week, used the terms Taliban, insurgency and “emboldened” to describe the Republican Party.  Is anybody tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “There aren‘t many more terms left” and they begin to get a little more violent if you‘re going to continue down this path?

WOLFFE:  You know, it‘s nice to know that there is something as offensive as comparing people to Hitler.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  I mean, really, you know, you don‘t have to focus group this one.  When you ran a general election against the guy for palling around with terrorists, don‘t portray yourself as a terrorist group.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s political analyst, Richard Wolffe, with words to the wise as we begin the weekend.  Thank you, as always, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The latest reincarnation of bipartisanship was born on November 5th, 2008.  At the time of its death this afternoon, it was thus just more than three months old.

For more on the post mortem, Eugene Robinson, associated editor and columnist at the “Washington Post.”

Gene, on this sad night, good evening to you.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  He has a very open hand but he has a very firm handshake.  Have we interpreted Rahm Emanuel correctly, you burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice, that‘s not going to happen?

ROBINSON:  I think we probably have interpreted him right.  It‘s—look, I believe we will continue to see the formalities of bipartisanship or attempted bipartisanship on the part of the president.  Because why not?  I think, people like to see that.  They like to see—they hate to see Washington bickering and why can‘t they all get along.

I think Barack Obama and his team understand that.  And I think they‘ve gone way, way, way out of their way to demonstrate that they‘re willing to do their best to break that cycle.  However, it got them a total of three votes in the Senate and zero in the House.  So you know, insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

OLBERMANN:  Well, of course, if you get three votes in the Senate and none in the House, you can get almost everything you want done provided there aren‘t any renegades.

ROBINSON:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  But what is their—again, I can‘t, I haven‘t heard a reasonable answer to this one about the Republican plan here.  They totally spurned the White House.  They did so publicly.  They backed away from several compliments to the president.

Have they effectively guaranteed themselves less power in whatever the next negotiation will be?  I mean, will those same concessions ever come their way again, especially if they keep describing themselves like the Taliban?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I think that one does not make concessions to the Taliban, am I right?

OLBERMANN:  Exactly, we are not going to broker with terrorists.

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  I don‘t—you know, I think concessions will be offered situationally.  In other words, if there comes a time when you need to offer a concession in order to get those three votes or to get the legislation through that needs to get through, then I think you do offer it.  But it does change the atmosphere and I think, you know, perhaps the White House will take a harder line next time or at least try to.

OLBERMANN:  And what is the assessment of—is there damage to Obama?  Did he waste capital here in the attempt to reach across the aisle or did he gain some with the American people for being seen to try?

ROBINSON:  I think—this week was a very interesting week.  When Obama went out to Indiana and to Florida, did those town halls, gave his press conference and then gave his speech in Springfield, those appearances, I think, did him a lot of good.  And I think, you know, if that‘s what he does so well, I think what people saw was a president who is trying to reach across the aisle, who‘s trying to be inclusive.

The visuals were very good for him.  I don‘t see how they were good for the Republican Party.  So, I don‘t think he has lost capital.  I think he may have—he may have gained some.

OLBERMANN:  If the stimulus works, if it works fairly well, obviously, the Republicans are going to say, “Well, this improvement would have happened anyway.”  But if there are measurable ways to prove that there are causes and effects to this program actually producing results, what do the Republicans in Congress do then?  Do they suddenly say, “Oh, no, we were actually with you, Mr. President, we just couldn‘t vote that way”?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I don‘t know exactly what they say because—as a practical matter, if the economy, you know, gets at all better in the next year or, say, or the next two years, the president gets credit for that.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  You know, if you are president, if it rains, you know, and you are president, take credit for it and you will get credit for it.  I don‘t quite see how the Republicans having said “No, no, no, no, no” then get to become one of the many fathers of success.  You know, failures has orphans, success has many fathers.  They will be trying to prove their paternity.  I think that will be difficult.

OLBERMANN:  And you mentioned rain, that‘s if you like rain.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Our own Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” have a great weekend.  Thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON:  You too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One of the most outspoken advocates for 9/11 families, for securing the intelligence capacity post 9/11, for securing us all post 9/11, is dead tonight.  The tragedy too obvious, the irony too bitter for words.  Beverly Eckert, whose husband died in the World Trade Center, last night died in a crash of an airplane that left from the same airport as did Flight 93 on 9/11.  Remembering her—next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This is a woman who vowed her husband would not have died in vain.  This was a woman who once, by accident, ran into the speaker of House of Representatives and buttonholed him into an immediate and extemporaneous meeting about 9/11.  Remembering Beverly Eckert.

Later: President Jimmy Carter remedied the Middle East and you may remedy terrorism and is there a remedy for what he calls the robotic partisanship with the GOP?  President Carter is my special guest.

And did you know President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address in some place called Gettyburg?  And he delivered it in 1980s?  The man who explained that has made it to the Worst Persons list tonight.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Late last night, a second shift at a hospital in Buffalo was told to stay where it was.  There was a plane crash.  The hospital would need all hands on deck to care for the wounded as they came pouring through the doors.  It was the same alert with the same hope that had doctors and nurses on stand-by throughout Manhattan on September 11th, 2001.

In our fourth story tonight: Then as now, the doctors stood idle, the nurses waited in vain.  Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashed just outside Buffalo at about 10:20 last night.  As the nurse told the “Buffalo, New York News,” there were no souls to bring in.  All 49 people onboard and one more on the ground—dead.  All of the lives worth remembering, worth celebrating, but one of them was a life intertwined the life of her nation.

Beverly Eckert was flying to Buffalo because that‘s where she and her husband, her late husband Shawn Rooney had met.  She was flying to Buffalo to celebrate what would have been his 58th birthday.  Sean Rooney died on September 11th, 2001 in the south tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, talking to his wife on his cell phone as he tried to get out.

After his death, Beverly founded voices of September 11th, appearing among other venues on this news hour, in pursuit of her missions, proper memorials, commissions, protections against future failed intelligence.  Just last week, she met with President Obama, with other 9/11 family members and family of those killed by al Qaeda aboard the USS Cole in 2000.

Today, President Obama recalled one of the things that gave her life meaning and drew a lesson from the painful circumstances of her death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day.  One person who understood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight and who I met with just a few days ago.  You see, Beverly lost her husband on 9/11, and became a tireless advocate for those families whose lives were forever changed on that September day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nor was Mr. Obama alone, on hearing the voices of September 11th championed by Beverly Eckert, the former junior senator from New York, now America‘s secretary of state, also remembered her today as more than an advocate, more than a voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  She was one of the principal champions of the idea of the creation of the 9/11 Commission.  I will miss her and I want to just publicly thank her for all she did in the midst of her own tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As you doubtless heard, Flight 3407 struck the ground in Clarence Center, New York, six miles away from the plane‘s intended destination.  Air traffic control lost contact with the flight minutes before the crash.  No indication of anything out of the ordinary.  No Mayday call from the pilot or crew, landing gear in place.

Flames engulfed the wreckage.  The crash sight is burning off the excess jet fuel.  An eyewitness reported hearing a loud boom followed by several more explosions that went on for 10 minutes.

The NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, today retrieving 3407‘s black boxes to determine why, reporting this afternoon that other flights in the area experienced significant ice buildup and the crew inside that flight was talking about that as well.

We don‘t know whether Beverly Eckert saw Lower Manhattan one last time.  She took off last night from the same Newark Airport that was the departure point of United Flight 93 on September 11th 2001.  We do know that she died in the course of pursuing her mission that we not forget those 3,000.  And we knew well before 10:20 p.m. last night, that none of us could forget her.

Former President Carter, a new book, a new idea about solving the timeless riddle of the Middle East and a few thoughts for the new guy about the pursuit of bipartisanship.  He is our special guest tonight.

And the hand-wringing continues, but the people have spoken and it‘s not even close.  Do we want an investigation of torture by the Bush administration?  Yes, clearly, decisively—the numbers say.  Still Bushed is coming up here on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment and billions for stimulus but not a penny for field mice.

First, we celebrated Lincoln‘s birthday yesterday.  Today, well, 148 years ago today, at 4:30 in the afternoon, Abraham Lincoln visiting the state legislature of Ohio at Columbus, receives a telegram.  It is from a congressional clerk in Washington, D.C.  It informs him he has just been officially certified as president of the United States.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Hong Kong, where an Oddball favorite has gone east. 

It turns out wife-caring contests are not just for Scandinavians anymore.  This one has a Valentine‘s Day twist.  That‘s right, ladies, who needs chocolate and fine jewelry when jumping through pink tires while attached to your husband‘s back will do.

Here comes the toughest task yet, the dart board—and our front-runner makes a clear breakaway.  This is, of course, a reversal of the rest of the year metaphorically speaking, when the wife always carries the husband.

To Pattaya, Thailand, where hundreds of revelers are taking their mattresses to the street.  It‘s the town‘s annual bed race where the costume participants push large pieces of bedroom furniture down the main thoroughfare in 90-degree heat.  The race lasted an hour but the bed sores lasted a life time.  And no victories in bed races are not called Bedouins.  The joke is 30 years old.

What the 39th president of the United States has to say to the 44th about the Middle East and world peace, and about bipartisanship at the end of the rainbow in Washington.  President Carter, my special guest next.

And when you try to bring down the stim by bringing up people who opposed the New Deal, probably better for your case if you don‘t bring up people who thought FDR had it wrong but Hitler had it right.  Worst Persons is ahead.

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

Number three: The picture has arrived from Jack Wolf Photography in Pittsburgh.  Yes, two guys just standing at the 50-yard line 10 minutes before the kickoff of Super Bowl, waiting to get thrown off the field.  The one on the left is a hero.  Yes, I know, the whole crew.  Next time, we‘ll all get in one picture.

Number two: Best confession.  Michael McKenna, president of MWR Strategies.  After a Republican retreat at which the GOP started to look for a new catch phrase with which to try to push its nonsense strategy of more offshore drilling to lower prices drill 10 years from now.  The prices have been plummeting for six months.  “Drill, baby, drill impeded the conversation,” Mr. McKenna said.  “We energy guys hated it.  This year, everyone is thinking, maybe they‘ll actually come up with grown-up things to say.”  Wow.

And number one: Best revelation that he‘s clueless.  Steve Doocy of “fixed news and friends” claiming the stimulus contained something like $30 million for a little mouse in Nancy Pelosi‘s district.  And Nancy Pelosi‘s mouse, $50 million.  Actual amount in the stimulus for protecting mice—nothing, zero, no dollars.

Steve, just out of professional pride, you, guys, ever check anything before you go on the air or are you just all satisfied that once again you are all lucky enough to find your office without anybody having to send out rescue parties to find you?

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OLBERMANN:  For decades, Israel and Egypt existed in a state of war seen, like the Middle East itself, as a Gordian knot, irresolvable, unsolvable, an eternal flame fueling global hatred, war and terrorism.  On September 17th, 1978, Egypt and Israel signed an accord that led to peace.  Our third story tonight, the man who made that possible will be with us in a minute, returning to the world stage one more time with another plan, a new book offering again a plan for peace in the Mideast, and a little quiet advice to his fifth successor as well. 

The Camp David‘s Accords, signed by Egypt‘s Anwar Sadat, Israel‘s Menachem Begin, witnessed by US president and the facilitator Jimmy Carter, who is our guest tonight, established a milestone and a model for the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.  But after eight years of neglect by President Bush, the shattered cease fire between Hamas and Israel is just one of many crises Mr. Bush left for President Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As promised, with us tonight, the 39th president of the United States, former governor of Georgia, Navy veteran, founder of the Carter Center, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and author of too many books to list, most recent of them, “We Can Have Peace in the Middle East, A Plan That Will Work.”  President Carter, great thanks for your time again tonight.

JIMMY CARTER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s good to be with you.  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  I want to ask simply, what is the plan?  But let me focus that question a little bit.  What is the part of the plan that you think is the key to success that others have not previously hit on? 

CARTER:  Having a president in the White House that will put it a top priority among all the many international events he has to confront, and who has started it at the beginning of his administration, and has already appointed the finest negotiator or peace envoy the United States could possibly produce, Senator George Mitchell.  So a major United States input from the beginning of a president‘s term is absolutely necessary. 

OLBERMANN:  Did President Obama‘s victory, to any degree, preempt that point?  Why do we need an argument for American engagement now that we have a president who is committed to the concept of American engagement? 

CARTER:  The engagement has already been, sadly, crying out for American participation.  Even when the debacle took place and the tragedy came to Gaza, with 1,300 people killed, about 500 women and children, and 22,000 buildings damaged or destroys—I think even that tragedy has brought forward a lot of interest that didn‘t exist before. 

The president of France, the Great Britain‘s prime minister, the leader of European Union have all now been working with the Egyptians to bring about a peace agreement, a cease fire in Gaza between Hamas and Israel.  I predict that in the next two or three days, we‘ll see a success with that, maybe with a one year or an 18-month cease fire agreement. 

So I think to get the rest of the world included, but with the United States in the forefront, is what we‘ve very sadly needed in recent years and have not had. 

OLBERMANN:  That is one kind of change created by factual changes on the ground in the Middle East.  There‘s another one, obviously.  You argue that time is running out to strike a deal here.  How does the most recent vote and the changing demographics in Israel play into this? 

CARTER:  Well, we don‘t know yet what kind of government will be formed.  I think that it will probably be the more right wing, under Netanyahu.  Nobody knows yet.  No matter who is the leader of Israel, the Israeli people want peace; the Palestinian people want peace.  The Lebanese and Syrians want peace.  None of them have it now. 

I think that if a good plan can be put forward, a two-state solution that I describe in my book, then the people of Israel will demand of their leaders accept the proposal.  But it has to be involving the United States as a strong participant, which has been lacking for a long time.  George H.W. Bush really started on this early in his term, and that resulted in the Oslo Peace Agreement.  I started it as soon as I became president, and that resulted in a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt 30 years ago, none of which has been violated since then. 

I think the time has come for it.  The Israelis have now realized too that they got to have a two-state solution, not a one-state solution, which they have been moving toward in the last 20 years by confiscating the property of the Palestinians, leaving no place for a second nation.  You can‘t have a one nation solution.  That would be a catastrophe for Israel.  

OLBERMANN:  Of course, President Carter, the entire context of this has changed so much for Americans in the last decade.  Why—tell us why the Palestinian problem, per se, is so pivotal to addressing extremism in Iraq, in Iran, in the entire Islamic world. 

CARTER:  Well, that has done two things that hurts America.  One is it has escalated Iran and Iran‘s influence and power in that region, which they don‘t deserve to have.  They‘ve become known, even among many Arabs—they‘re not Arabs—among many Muslims that they are the champions of the Palestinians, almost by default.  A peace agreement with American participation, meeting the Palestinians‘ rights, will alleviate that concern. 

Another one of them is the withdraw of Iraq by the United States, which is now going on more expeditiously.  I don‘t think there is any doubt that our invasion of Iraq, which was unwarranted, has greatly escalated Iran‘s status in the region. 

Another thing is that Iran has been threatened in the last few years, indirectly and sometimes directly, by the United States, that if we don‘t bomb you, we will encourage Israel to do so.  To remove that threat from Iran would be good.  I think Obama has also promised, as you know, that he is going to negotiate and communicate with the Iranians, with careful preparations made and so forth, with mutual respect, so called. 

All four of those factors will lessen the influence of Iran in that region, and maybe be a factor in reducing their inclination to go with nuclear power. 

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned President Obama and negotiations.  This is also a phrase we could apply to domestic politics.  He has made such a point here about seeking bipartisanship.  We‘ve seen the fruits of this in the last couple of day.  If you were president now, which would you pick, a more stimulative economic package with no Republican votes, or a less stimulative bill with some Republican votes. 

CARTER:  I would have had to do the same thing that Obama has had to do.  He didn‘t get any votes in the House of Representatives.  As you know, Republican representatives are like robots.  They have to do what their bosses tell them.  They can‘t put into consideration what is best for the country or best for their own district.  If they do, they will lose their seat on a committee or they will lose future benefits for that district.  So they have to vote the way they are told. 

I think he had to compromise to some degree to get the three votes in the Senate that‘s been so crucial in getting the bill passed, since they don‘t have a clear—enough margin in the Senate.  So he has done the best he could.  I think some of the amendments made might be beneficial.  In general, I would have preferred what they put forward first, that had Obama‘s approval, but he had to accommodate Democrats in the House, who had a lot of things that weren‘t necessary.  I think this new bill is going to be very good. 

OLBERMANN:  How do we—do you have any suggestions at this point?  How do we, how does this new president address the polarization of the two parties, particularly the Republicans‘ estrangement from the center course or even the possibility of negotiation on some things like this? 

CARTER:  I think he‘ll keep on trying, and do the best he can.  I think maybe this stimulus package, the way we‘ve seen it go through the House and Senate—I hope it will go through the Senate, maybe today, tonight—I think that shows the pattern that he has to follow in the future, if necessary.  It would be a lot better if a substantial number of House members and Senate members who are Republicans would go along with some other proposals. 

This was highly contentious.  I know it involves a lot of philosophy, political attitudes.  But I think, in the least, he can get by with just two or three votes in the Senate, maybe two votes in the future, when we get another vote from Minnesota, and then we‘ve got to clear enough majority in the House to prevail if necessary.  We don‘t always get all the Democratic votes.  They are much more independent in their voting than the Republicans are inclined to be. 

OLBERMANN:  Finally, sir, and thank you for the generosity of your time this evening.  If you don‘t mind, a silly mystery that maybe you could clear up for us.  There was some speculation last month about the visible space, the gap between yourself and President Clinton at the White House meeting with Mr. Obama and the two Presidents Bush.  Can you fill in that gap for us, so to speak. 

CARTER:  That is completely ridiculous.  Ordinarily, men, when they get photographed, don‘t stand touching each other.  I stood the way I always have when we get a bunch of presidents together.  A lot of the speculation was generated because when we came out on the platform, we very ardently embraced and shook hands with the Bushes, Bush senior and his wife, and we didn‘t with the Clintons.  But we had already been with the Clintons about 15 minutes waiting to go out on the platform. 

Bill kissed Rosa.  I kissed Hillary.  We congratulated each other and thanked each other for help.  Both of us ran for president.  We helped each other.  We looked at what Hillary is going to do as secretary of state.  Then we walked out, having been together for 15 minutes, and saw the Bushes for the first time.  And that made it look like the Clintons and me weren‘t speaking to each other.  It was completely erroneous. 

OLBERMANN:  The number of microscopes on any one president, you can only guess how many there would be when there are five in one room. 

CARTER:  That is certainly true.  We had a great time together. 

OLBERMANN:  President Jimmy Carter, I will repeat what I said when we had the good fortune—I had the good fortune to meet you in Denver over the summer, it is my honor, sir.  Thank you. 

CARTER:  It is a pleasure to be on your program, one of the favorites in my family, by the way.

OLBERMANN:  You honor me again, sir.  Take care. 

CARTER:  Good luck to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Jimmy Carter, COUNTDOWN viewer.  We‘ve got to start making the show good.  Also, Karl Rove is on twitter.  Oh, my goodness.  George Bush next?  The Virginia State Republican chairman tries to salute Lincoln and abuse Darwin and makes five factual mistakes in a 49 second statement.  Worst persons ahead.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, bipartisanship, as seen by a member of Obama‘s cabinet, the Republican in it, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, her special guest tonight. 

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

Number three, ridiculous amounts of money-gate.  Mr. Bush has booked his first post-presidential speaking engagement, the lectures he helps would, in his words, make him a, quote, ridiculous amount of do re mi.  He will speak on St. Patrick‘s Day in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Have a nice trip. 

Number two, US attorneys-gate.  The TPM Muckraker site reported last week that Nora Dannehy, the prosecutor looking into the political purges at Justice, was focusing on former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici.  They weren‘t kidding.  “The Washington Post” says Domenici he has been served with a subpoena and a top Rove aide has been interviewed.  Drip, drip, drip. 

Number one, investi-gate.  The president may be imprecise in his answers about this.  Senator Leahy may want a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  But the American people are pretty clear.  ArMD+BO_ rMDNM_new Gallup Poll for “USA Today” on whether there should be investigations of how the Bush administration broke the law in what it called the war on terror; 62 percent of those surveyed want some kind of investigation, criminal or otherwise.  Only 34 percent want neither.  Splitting it down, 61 percent of those favoring any investigation want it to include the prospect of criminal charges, 39 percent favoring the independent, non criminal fact finding panel. 

Three in five Americans are clear about this.  We want to know if Mr.  Bush tortured in our name.  This would suggest, Mr. President, esteemed members of the House and the Senate, that you have your instructions. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The truth revealing promise of Twitter: you can now find out from the man himself whether Karl Rove goes bird hunting with Gene Simmons or with Chris Wallace.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Congressman John Culberson, Republican of Texas.  Now he claims Speaker Pelosi was rushing the stimulus through Congress because she is leaving at 6:00 pm for an eight day trip to Europe.  Pelosi‘s eight day trip to Europe is part of a Congressional delegation to the Vatican and a NATO meeting in Rome.  Besides which, she said if the bill was not passed by today, she would cancel the trip and the House recess and that she and the House, including this Culberson clown, would stay in D.C. until they got it done. 

The runner up, Glenn Beck of Fixed News, still arguing the stimulus is bad because it was like the New Deal, and the New Deal caused the Depression.  His new tack, of course, the new deal was bad; of course it was bad; Henry Ford opposed it.  Beck said that during the ‘30s, the National Recovery Act poster was so ubiquitous, quote, there were more of these in windows in New York City than there were Swastikas in Munich in the time of war.  Ford actually said, I don‘t want anything to do with it.  Funny you mention the Swastika and Henry Ford, Glenny.  Of course, Ford didn‘t want anything to do with American recovery.  Henry Ford was one of America‘s leading supporters of Nazi Germany.  He published an anti-semitic newspaper.  He accepted the highest award offered by the Nazis a year before they started the Second World War.  He opened up Ford plants in Nazi Germany. 

But our winner, Jeff Frederick, member of the Virginia State House of Delegates and the infamous GOP state chair in Virginia, who, with a reporter present, told McCain volunteers to remind would be voters that Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden both had friends who bombed the Pentagon.  Mr. Frederick reminded legislators yesterday that not only was Abraham Lincoln born 200 years ago yesterday, but so, too, was Charles Darwin. 

As they say, how many things are wrong with this picture. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEL. JEFFREY FREDERICK ®, VIRGINIA:  Abraham Lincoln is best known, as you all well know, for freeing the slaves by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, affirming, in his Gettysburg Address, 19 -- I‘m sorry, 1863, saying, “our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” 

Darwin, however, is best known for the Theory of Evolution, arguing that men are not only, quote—are only not not created, but they are not equal as more—as some are more evolved.  Whereas Darwin‘s theory was used by atheists to explain away the belief in god, the last act of Congress signed by Abraham Lincoln, before he was shot, was to place the phrase “In God We Trust” on our national coin. 

(END VIDEO CLIP

OLBERMANN:  Eight mistakes by Delegate Frederick in 49 seconds.  One, you met known not know.  Two, Gettysburg, it is on all the maps.  Three, Lincoln did not give the Gettysburg Address at any point in the 1980s.  Four, Darwin never said that men are, quote, are only not not created but they are not equal.  Five, that not not there would mean you think Darwin was a creationist.  Six, as more some are more—really public speaking courses are now available at low prices these days.  Seven, Darwin was a fiercer and even earlier opponent of slavery than was Lincoln.  And eight, “In God We Trust” first appeared on an American coin in 1864.  The 1865 bill that Lincoln signed was either signed on the same day or before the one he signed establishing homes for injured and old soldiers, and the one he signed creating the Freedman‘s Bureau to give land to the ex-slaves. 

The chairman of Lincoln‘s own party in Virginia, who doesn‘t know shinola about Lincoln.  Jeff Fred—Jeff Fred—Fred—Jeff—Fred—

Fred—Frederick.  Jeff Frederick, come back when you‘re ready, today‘s worst person in the world—Gettyburg. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Karl Rove is on the run from the law.  He has got a gun and he is tweeting.  In our number one story, since the 20th of January, when Bush White House staffers were officially able to stop pretending they were busy running the country, they have had plenty of time to explore new adventures with their partners in right wing media.  Most notably, Karl Rove now has own page on the social networking site Twitter. And in a recent Tweet—that‘s what the young‘ns call them—we found out about his hunting trip with some of the actors from Fox Noise. 

Still ducking a subpoena to appear before Congress, Rove, wearing the greenest shirt over there, posted this picture of himself and some fellow gun toters during a bird hunting trip in South Texas.  Tweeters—Rove promised Tweeters, quote, an autographed photo for the person who could identify the gentleman on the far left?  I didn‘t know they had a far left where these guys got together.

Anyway, one of the guesses in the comments section was Gene Simmons from Kiss.  Actually, you are close; Chris Wallace of Fixed News.  In a separate photo, another member of the expedition, Fred Barnes of Fox Noise, with a shotgun in one hand and a dead bird in the other.  That was a fair fight.  Among the Dick Cheney jokes in the comments for this picture, quoting Alex_Ross, “so this is what propagandists do when they hang out, neato.” 

Joining me now, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, the host of VH-1‘s “Best Week Every.”  Good evening, Paul.

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

OLBERMANN:  Karl Rove and the cast of Fox News going out to shoot animals.  Why do we want to see these pictures? 

TOMPKINS:  I don‘t know if it‘s so much that we want to see them or if we feel that we have already seen them.  Like if somebody said, hey, you have seen pictures of Karl Rove with dead things, right, you would probably say, yes, I probably have.  Then they show you the picture and you say, I guess I haven‘t.  I just imagined that I have. 

OLBERMANN:  If you look through Rove‘s place in this Tweeter function here, he actually answers questions from his fellow Tweeters.  Does this suggest that John Conyers or other prominent Democrats need to get accounts in a hurry? 

TOMPKINS:  Well, if Mr. Conyers does, he should use a really clever user name that Karl Rove will not be hip to.  Something like Not John Conyers or John Conyerz, with a Z. 

OLBERMANN:  Two Zs.  At least at this point, a lot of what Rove has posted has been to the affect of read my new editorial in the “Wall Street Journal,” or watch me tonight on Hannity, or other advertisements for his fictional work.  At some point, he is going to let the hair down and reveal more interesting, sort of personal material? 

TOMPKINS:  Yes, I mean, does he really need to tell people watch me on Hannity?  Anybody who is following him is going to be watching Fox News anyway.  He might as well just write, you will see me on Hannity when you watch Hannity tonight.  I‘m distressed to find out that his Tweets are no more interesting than mine.  I‘m kind of saying, hey, watch me on COUNTDOWN tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  His are to the effect of notes to hostages, you will be shown Karl Rove at 8:35 p.m.  Are we ruining something here Paul?  We are talking about this on national TV.  Might he stop and we won‘t get anymore of these pictures of Rove with dead birds or dead minded conservatives. 

TOMPKINS:  Well, there is a chance that he might stop now that the flashlight has been shone in his face.  But if you want to see pictures of Karl Rove with dead birds, there is plenty to be seen at my Karl Rove fan fiction website.  I wrote it on a lot of hunting trips.  If it matters to you, they‘re not photos.  They‘re made with MS Paint Box.

OLBERMANN:  Very nice.  We mentioned the fact that users can comment on the Rove photos.  That might be therapeutic for people who are not particularly happy, perhaps.  I‘m just thinking of the man who called himself the architect of the Bush victories. 

TOMPKINS:  Yes.  You would like to think that some comment you write on Twitter would cause a single tear to roll dramatically down Karl Rove‘s face.  But I think if you‘re going to help out lying people into an unnecessary war, you are probably immune to user comments.  Although, he hasn‘t posted any Youtube videos.  Those people are animals. 

OLBERMANN:  So we had Pete Hoekstra, the Congressman from House Intelligence, giving out his delegation‘s security and their approximate location every hour or two on a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have Rove on Twitter.  There is only one question left here, are we going to get Bush on Twitter? 

TOMPKINS:  That would be amazing.  I would like to see what predictive texts we‘ll do if he can get that from his phone.  That would be some interesting stuff.  It would have a dream like “Twin Peaks” quality. 

OLBERMANN:  Or it might be the best written stuff he‘s ever typed out. 

TOMPKINS:  He is just waiting for his medium. 

OLBERMANN:  There it is.  Comedian Paul F. Tompkins—I know I said Tweeter a couple times there.  Twitter, Tweets—the host of VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  I got the important part right.  Thanks for joining us, Paul.  Have a good weekend.

TOMPKINS:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,106th day since the President Tweet 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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