updated 2/18/2009 10:11:02 AM ET 2009-02-18T15:11:02

Guest: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Laura Flanders, Richard Justice High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Spec: Politics; Government; Policies

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

Prepare to be stimulated.  Signed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  Today does mark the beginning of the end—the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But the nabobs of negativism natter anew, and one of them steps in it up to his neck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR, ® HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  Ninety-three percent of America‘s families are current on their mortgages and, frankly, are out there wondering, you know, who is going to pay for this continued succession of bailouts?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bailouts, you say, Congressman Cantor?  It turns out the last bailout, the bank bailout, the one the minority whip helped steer through Congress, the bank for which Mrs. Eric Cantor works got $267 million bailout dollars.  Opps!

Bush administration postmortem shocker—W v. Dick.  He‘s furious with Bush.  And the ex-president said he would no longer talk about what Cheney wanted to talk about which—was pardoning Scooter.

Two out of two Palin mothers agree, abstinence-only programs don‘t work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRISTOL PALIN, GOV. PALIN‘S DAUGHTER:  Everyone should be abstinent, but it‘s not realistic at all.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA:  Yes, abstinence, you know.  Hey, don‘t get pregnant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts: Comedian Rush Limbaugh again blasts bipartisanship and hoping the president succeeds.  But now goes all biblical on us.  “Do you compromise good versus evil?  As I said last week, should Jesus have made a deal with Satan?”  Pat Robertson responds—Pat Robertson—by trashing Limbaugh as, “not exactly thinking rationally.”

And A-Roid: More apologies, more sniffles, and a few more details, but only could a star who tested positive for steroids confess but still wouldn‘t actually say he used steroids come up with a Freudian slip like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, MLB PLAYER:  I‘m here to take my medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Twice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODRIGUEZ:  I‘m here to take my medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ahh!

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODRIGUEZ:  I knew we weren‘t taking Tic-Tacs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Rote complaint number 236 out of the Republican handbook: “The Obama stimulus could not possibly take effect fast enough.”  In reality, it took only a couple of minutes.

Our fifth story here on the COUNTDOWN: Less than half an hour after the president signed the stimulus package into law this afternoon, construction crews in Tuscumbia, Missouri, beginning work on a new bridge - - the first project in the nation to get started under the $787 billion plan.

In Denver this afternoon—cause—President Obama putting his proverbial John Hancock on the stimulus plan, four weeks to the day after taking office.  In rural Missouri—effect—construction, obviously deeply coordinated and publicized, but construction nonetheless, kicking off on the Osage River Bridge.  Other priorities already replacing the stim on the president‘s crowded agenda, the White House is announcing that Mr.  Obama has authorized an increase of 17,000 additional troops and support personnel to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, General Motors and Chrysler, both racing to submit restructuring plans to the Obama administration, they were due by the end of business today.  G.M. is seeking more than $16.5 billion more in bailout dollars.  Adding it will close five production plants, a total of 20,000 jobs in the U.S. lost.  Chrysler is asking for $5 billion more in loans, saying it will stop production on three vehicle models and cut an additional 3,000 jobs.  “Reuters” reporting this evening, the White House says it will review plans, both plans in the days to come.

Back in Denver, at the Museum of Nature and Science, the president is saying, he hopes today marks a turning point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I don‘t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems.  Nor does it constitute all of what we are going to have to do to turn our economy around.  But today does mark the beginning of the end—the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our Washington correspondent here, Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent from “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  No members of Congress at the bill signing today, not even the Democrats who represent Colorado, the president only had the vice president there and the interior secretary, of course, used to be senator of Colorado, Salazar, the governor of Colorado, the mayor of Denver, and president of the local solar energy installation company who introduced the president.  Was that a congressional shutout as opposed to shoutout piece of intended symbolism on Obama‘s part?

FINEMAN:  Well, I asked Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, about that just a little while ago, Keith, as I was looking at this scene out there.  He said, “Wait a minute, Senator Max Baucus was there.  What are you talking about?”  Which I think just proves your point.

The innocent explanation is, a lot of the congressional bigwigs are out on junkets.  Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, is over in Italy, I believe.  Dick Durbin, best friend in the Senate of the president, I think, is in Turkey.

But, I think, the real thing is that Barack Obama ran on the theme of change you can believe in, and even though the rating of the Democrats on the Hill is lukewarm—you know, it‘s change you can believe in with your fingers crossed for good luck with the Congress.  Obama‘s—you know, one superman, one cape.  That‘s the idea.

OLBERMANN:  It was 29 minutes until the “Associated Press‘” first story about that first bridge being built was posted worldwide, I guess.  Will it be hard to argue against those pictures of Americans at work this afternoon in Missouri, as carefully crafted and timed as that obviously was?

FINEMAN:  You know, that was pure Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff.  I covered him when he was with Bill Clinton, when he was in charge of political symbolism as well in ‘95 and ‘96 for the Clinton re-elect.  I guarantee you, they have a lot of shovel ready, which is the cliche projects, all round the country.

And you can laugh but it‘s important.  The symbolism is important and the psychology of it is important.  You want to show that actual work is being done because the fact is, a lot of this stimulus packages is tax cuts, some of which are or are not so stimulative, a lot of bureaucracy in it.  So, you do want to emphasize what is shovel-ready and what is real and try to turn the psychology of this recession around because a lot of it is psychological.

OLBERMANN:  And if anybody knows shovel-ready, it‘s Rahm Emanuel.  And I‘m sure he would take that as a compliment and it‘s meant to be.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  But over to the auto bailout, $16.6 billion more in taxpayer dollars G.M. wants while cutting 20,000 American jobs, and Chrysler, $5 billion, 3,000 jobs lost.  Money that gets rid of jobs—would that seem to now look like it‘s exact cross-purposes with an Obama administration now trying to do anything it can to create jobs and stimulate the economy?

FINEMAN:  Well, possibly.  And you‘re also going to have the Republicans, the Eric Cantors of the world, saying it‘s all the bailout culture, et cetera.  But you make a point—jobs will be lost.

I think the administration‘s answer, though, I know the White House‘s answer is, if they don‘t seriously consider it, if they don‘t sort of tip the scales in favor of trying to save the auto industry, you are talking about the possible loss of tens of thousands, if not, you know, hundreds of thousands of jobs, because there are 1 million to 1.5 million jobs all throughout the economy that are pretty directly tied to the auto industry.  And even though it will be painful, it‘s going to be really hard to let them sink—although I think there are some Republicans who sound like they are prepared to do it.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Cantor has his own problems which we‘ll get to in a moment.  But one last question we have here about Afghanistan.  Is that going to be a hard sell to the liberal base given how little attention has been paid fairly or unfairly to both of the wars?

FINEMAN:  I think so.  I think you‘re beginning to get the sense on the left as you listen, that they are wondering, you know, where Barack Obama is really coming from.  They remember the fact that, in certain respects, he ran for the right of Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primaries, out-planking her by being tough on Afghanistan.  You‘re hearing a lot of Afghanistan and Vietnam comparisons.

And I think that it is potentially a problem for him but he‘s committed to it, he believes in it.  He‘s not sending as many troops as the generals initially requested.  He stressed today diplomacy and development, that this is a big, serious commitment in a very intractable part of the world, more much intractable than Iraq itself.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSBNC—you know, maybe I gave the impression that the order had switched somehow, my apologies for that.  Thank you, Howard.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  I‘ll take them in any order.  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.

Yesterday, two Republican congressmen issued press releases boasting about projects that they brought into the stim, the bill now law for which they did not vote.  Today, even worse we have—the revelation that the wife of the Republican whip of the House works for a bank that has taken $267 million so far in taxpayer bailout dollars.  The wife of Mr. “Party of No” himself, Eric Cantor—Mrs. “Party of No,” Diana Cantor, runs the Virginia branch of Emigrant Bank‘s wealth management division.

“ProPublica” reporting that earlier this month, the Treasury Department used $267 million to buy preferred stock in the private banking company that owns Emigrant.  In other words, Mrs. Cantor‘s boss‘ bank got $267 million in bailout money that Congressman Cantor voted for.  Early this month, would make it after Congressman Cantor had declared in an interview, quote, “I think most American taxpayers now are sort of scratching their head, wondering when all this bailout stuff is going end, and probably thinking, ‘You know, when is my bailout coming?‘”  His already did.

Already, the minority whip hard at work, attacking President Obama‘s new plan to provide Americans with affordable housing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR:  Ninety-three percent of America‘s families are current on their mortgages and, frankly, are out there wondering, you know, who is going to pay for this continued succession of bailouts?  Homeowners right now are suffering under a skyrocketing property taxes.  And if we put the bill for $50 billion plus on top of all of the bills that families have right now, you may very well be set to encourage more foreclosures.  We just cannot continue to pay for the kind of things that this administration thinks that we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except, the alternative stimulus plan touted this month by the GOP would have offered the same broad concept as the Obama plan—government subsidies for lower mortgage interest rates—only the cost wouldn‘t have been $50 billion.  It would have been $121 billion.

Let‘s turn now to our Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist at the “Washington Post.”

Good evening, Gene.

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

OLBERMANN:  There is every reason to suppose the minority whip‘s wife had nothing to do with how her corporate bosses changed their tax status so that they could get $267 million in our bailout money, but she‘s a principal figure in that company.  She‘s a managing director.  And the company directly benefited from something he voted for.

Doesn‘t he have to announce that?  Isn‘t he supposed to recuse himself from voting?  Isn‘t that in “Robert‘s Rules of Orders” or something?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  You know, in U.S. Congress, it probably isn‘t but it should be.  If I were in charge of, say, buying ink for the “Washington Post” and I happened to place a very large order with the company that may wife worked for, I think that my bosses would appreciate knowing that.  And I think that—it‘s a sort of thing that ought to be disclosed.  Especially, frankly, by someone who is subsequently so critical of the very notion of bailing anybody out.

OLBERMANN:  But there‘s a context for this.  Last week, Mr. Cantor‘s spokesman sent out obscenity-riddled parody of the AFSCME ad to “Politico.”  I do apologize.  Yesterday, Mr. Cantor posted this boastful video at YouTube.  No Republicans voted for the stimulus.  The music was “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith.  Tonight, they had to pull that down because of a copyright infringement that Cantor‘s office had never checked about.

Now, this with the conflict of interest on the bank bailout.  My question here is fairly simple—Eric Cantor helps the Republicans how?

ROBINSON:  Too soon to tell, Keith.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Alex Rodriguez.

ROBINSON:  Right.  We are—look, he is—seems to have become the kind of de facto young, fresh face of the Republican opposition.  I wonder about the strategy.  I wondered all along.

It seems to me that an opposition party that has one message which is “No, no, no,” is not going to make a lot of headway given the present circumstances.  And I think you see that in the recent Gallup Poll that has Congress‘ rating among the public going way up compared to where it was, with both Democrats and independents deciding that they think a whole lot better of Congress now than they did even just a month ago.

And Republicans, even Republicans, only thinking slightly worse of Congress.  Only down by like four points.  So, this doesn‘t even seem to have a lot of traction among the Republican base.

OLBERMANN:  But specifically, there are a lot of complicated questions here about Mr. Cantor.  But let me again simplify—what is the deal with this guy?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  Conservative, ambitious, a man who knows a vacuum when he sees it, and decides to rush in.  He—you know, has been working his way up in the Republican leadership and clearly, at least to my thinking, sees that John Boehner—he seems to be part of the past and, I think Eric Cantor believes he is the future of the Republican Party in Congress.  He is in regular touch with Newt Gingrich and I think he‘s probably planning his own version of the 1994 Republican revolution.

OLBERMANN:  OK.

ROBINSON:  Or attempt at such.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  OK, thank you for that addendum there.

Last point here, between the two Republican congressmen who boasted in the press releases about the things they put in the stim, even though they didn‘t vote for the stim, and the Cantor inconsistency on bailouts—is there something of pattern here?  Is that Republicans getting in line for the very handouts that they profess to be against on principle?

ROBINSON:  I am shocked that such a thing is happening.  I will—I will take this Republican opposition to the stimulus program and to all the stuff a lot more seriously the first time a Republican congressperson or governor says, “No thanks to that.”  Like Sarah Palin did, but actually didn‘t.  No thanks for that “bridge to nowhere.”  I want to hear the “no thanks” and then take it more seriously.  I haven‘t heard it yet.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Lindsey Graham already said, “What am I an idiot? 

I‘m not going to do that.”  He answers his own question.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Our own Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post”—thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also, and this will be the only time I‘m going to say this.  So, press record right now.  Governor Palin and former President George W. Bush are each, simultaneously today, right about something.  At a news conference meant extensively for him to apologize for taking medicine, Alex Rodriguez kept saying he now had to take his medicine.  Plus tonight, we will show you what may be the greatest verbal blooper in television news history and she says it twice.  You‘re one-word clue—peanuts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The newest ex-vice president reportedly furious at the newest ex-president, Mr. Bush in turn declaring his conversation with Mr.  Cheney—over.  Sarah Palin, advocate of abstinence-only sex-ed, suddenly will sing a revised tune after her daughter starts pointing out the flaws in the system and uses is word like “choice.”  And, closing the old actor‘s home to replace it with condos versus Billo and the comedian—tonight‘s Worst Person in the World is ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s one for you, TiVo—President Bush was right.

In our fourth story tonight: The news that the former president even enraged his own vice president, but in this case—last time I‘m saying this—President Bush was right.  “New York Daily” Washington bureau chief, Tom DeFrank reports that Vice President Cheney is, quote, “furious with Bush,” according to an unnamed Cheney source after Mr. Bush refused to pardon Cheney‘s former chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

You may remember that Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice after he had lied to federal law enforcement about the White House leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame‘s identity, specifically masking Cheney‘s knowledge of an involvement in that leak—a leak engineered to punish Plame‘s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, for publicly debunking the Bush/Cheney claim that Iraq had tried uranium they allocate from Niger.

“I respect the jury‘s verdict,” Mr. Bush said at that time, and thereupon promptly commuted Libby‘s sentence of 30 months.  Libby did not serve a single day in prison.  But unprecedented commutation proved insufficient for Mr. Cheney, quote, “He,” Cheney, “went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush, pushing a Libby pardon,” according to an unnamed Cheney defender.  Another quote, “He tried to make it happen right up until the very end.  On the phone, in person, until Mr. Bush tired of saying no told aides he did not want to discuss it anymore.”

Last month, an official who worked with both men told DeFrank that the relationship, quote, “isn‘t what it was back in 2000.  It‘s been a long, long time since I‘ve heard the president say, ‘Run that by the vice president‘s office.‘  I used to hear that all the time.”

Today, Matt Lauer asked former Bush adviser, Karl Rove, now a FOX noise, also hit deep in the Plame leak about DeFrank‘s report on Cheney‘s reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE TODAY SHOW)

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISOR:  I know that he fell strongly about this.  But I think the tabloids kind of get these things overblown.  There are two very close men who have a long and enduring relationship that‘s good and positive.

MATT LAUER, NBC ANCHOR:  Hasn‘t been soured because of the lack of pardon?

ROVE:  Look, no, I don‘t detect that at all.  It‘s obviously something Dick Cheney feels strongly about, but the president laid out in the commutation of Scooter Libby, the grounds on which he was making his decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today, we asked representatives for both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush how often the two have spoken since January 20th.  And neither office replied to our question.

As for Rove‘s dismissal of the story because, quote, “The tabloids tend to get these things overblown,” a quick portrait of tabloid reporter Tom DeFrank—former president of the White House Correspondents Association, covered presidents for longer than anybody not named Helen Thomas, referred to by President Ford as, quote, “one of the finest journalists I have ever known,” respected too by Mr. Bush who has granted DeFrank a total of 22 separate interviews.  And in 2007, Tom DeFrank‘s book party was attended by Karl Rove.

On Mr. Bush‘s last day in office, Mr. Bush said he was proud not to have issued last-minute pardons.  Nancy Pelosi recalling their conversation, quote, “He said people who have gotten pardons are usually people who have influence or know friends in high places and it‘s not available to ordinary people.  So—he was very proud of that.”

Was Cheney asking for something unavailable to ordinary pardoned applicants?  On January 21st, Cheney called Libby‘s conviction, quote, “a miscarriage of justice.”

Justice Department pardon guidelines specifically say, quote, “Persons seeking a pardon on grounds of innocence or miscarriage of justice bear a formidable burden of persuasion.”  Under DOJ‘s factors for recommending pardons, input from the prosecutor—which has not happened—and demoralizing effect on law enforcement of pardoning, quote, “a prominent individual.”  Admission of guilt—none in this case.  Expression of remorse—none in this case.  And whether the offense was, quote, “very serious, e.g., breach of public trust.”  In which case, a suitable length of time should have elapsed in order to avoid denigrating the seriousness of the offense.

Libby was convicted in the summer of 2007.  There is a minimum of five-year waiting period for pardons.  And if you still think Cheney was not seeking special favors for his loyal scapegoat, we called the Justice Department today to ask about the status of Libby‘s pardon application.  He never filed one.

I say this as somebody who once smashed the three words—quail, club, hunt, into just two words.  This was two of the greatest bloopers in TV news history.  And here‘s the third, why Billo might not beat out comedian Rush Limbaugh for tonight‘s Worst Person honors—here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Best in the moment, and there‘s been no change in the sea ice for 30 years now or there‘s 9 percent less now, whatever.

First, 35 years ago today, in the city of Ashburn, the state of Georgia erected a 40-foot tall monument to the crop that once dominated much of the area—the peanut.  A giant peanut monument—the state of Georgia erecting a 40-foot tall peanut.  The relevance of this will become startlingly apparent as I say—let‘s play Oddball.

It is with empathy as someone who once accidentally referred on network radio to the anatomy of a female quail that we bring you Zain Verjee of CNN‘s “The Situation Room,” reporting on the decision by Northwest Airlines to serve peanuts on their flights and, indeed, we have a situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Northwest began serving peanuts this month as its merger partner Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has done for years.  Georgia is the top peanut-producing state in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, as an allergist once said, “little peanuts never hurt anybody.”

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  To Algiers in Algeria, where a guy is eating nails.  Watch the self-proclaimed man who eats anything.  With steady diet of newspaper, candle and nails, the human disposal act is sure to impress the record-keeping folks over at the “Guinness Book” department of human achievement.  Just one minor caveat—Guinness stopped keeping eating records in 1991 over concerns that people would hurt themselves, save by eating nails—or peanuts.

Governor Palin suddenly has a different outlook on abstinence-only sex-ed—kind of taught the reality of the world by her own daughter.  And the Alex Rodriguez kiss-and-cry.  He still insists he didn‘t know what he was taking for three years.  That led to a positive test for steroids and he still won‘t say that they were steroids.  These stories ahead.

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

Number three: Best political solution.  Gary Schneeberger, the PR man

for Focus on the Family, saying, the media needs to stop calling the

religious right the religious right, quote, “When writers include terms

like religious right and fundamentalist, they can create negative

impressions,” he says.  “Terms like religious right have been traditionally

used in a pejorative way to suggest extremism.”  That term religious right

that was coined by Jerry Falwell.

Number two: Best indication vultures are circling.  Senator Roland Burris of Illinois, the story changes again.  He told reporters in Peoria last night that at request of the governor‘s brother, he did try to raise campaign funds for Rod Blagojevich at the same time he was pitching himself as a possible Senate appointee, only he just wasn‘t any good at it.

And number one: Best invisible research.  George Will writing a global warming denial screen in the “Washington Post,” quote, “According to the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”  That is news to the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center which has responded, quote, “We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15th, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million square kilometers, and on February 15th, 2009, global sea ice are was 15.45 square kilometers.  George, that‘s about nine percent less global sea ice, as opposed to say, the same. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is a whistle blower in the house of hypocrisy that is Governor Sarah Palin, her daughter, Bristol.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, she‘s now speaking out about being a teenage mother and she says that abstinence is not realistic, and that having her baby was her own choice, and that her mother‘s view on that, quote, doesn‘t matter.  In fact, Bristol Palin said she would love to be an advocate.  Quoting her, “I hope that people learn from my story and just like prevent teen pregnancy, I guess.” 

In that same interview airing on Fox News Channel‘s “On the Record.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I don‘t want to pry to personally.  Obviously, contraception is an issue here.  Is that something you were just lazy about or not interested?  Or do you have a philosophical or religious opposition to it? 

BRISTOL PALIN, DAUGHTER OF GOV. SARAH PALIN:  No.  I don‘t want to get into details about that.  I think abstinence is, like, like—I don‘t know how to put it.  Like, the main—everyone should be abstinent, whatever, but it is not realistic at all. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, while head in the sand social conservatives are pushing fairy tales over sound policy, life happens.  As for a woman‘s right to choose, it is implicitly accepted in Bristol Palin‘s comments, despite her mother‘s anti-choice position. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  They thought that, like, my mom was going to make me have the baby.  It was my choice to have the baby.  It doesn‘t matter what my mom‘s views are on it.  It was my decision.  I wish people would realize that, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in the host of GritTV.org, Laura Flanders. 

Thanks for your time tonight. 

LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG:  Glad to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  Is this not the mirror image of the conservative‘s joke about reality that a liberal is just a conservative who hasn‘t been mugged yet? 

FLANDERS:  I think there is a name for people who only teach their kids about abstinence and that‘s grandparents.  And Sarah Palin is finding that out.  The scariest thing in that conversation with Greta Van Susteren was—well, I thought the scariest thing was the part where Bristol Palin said that talking with her mother was worse than labor.  I mean, I guess Katie Couric found that out.  Can any of us imagine what a Palin presidency would be like, like a Nadya Suleman labor? 

OLBERMANN:  So, what happens though?  Despite the governor‘s signal that some of this seemed to be getting through to her, what happens to the issue of the abstinence-only program, when next it comes up in Sarah Palin‘s next campaign? 

FLANDERS:  Well, I don‘t think that not getting it has ever been a real obstacle for Sarah Palin.  But I certainly think that if this abstinence-only policy comes up, people will be—one thing I hope that it is Bristol Palin who is raising the question and saying, when are you going to start abstaining from lying to kids.  Next thing, you know, Anchorage schools have been abiding by this abstinence-only non-education program.  Babies like Tripp are what we have to show for it. 

This isn‘t just stuff that doesn‘t work and misleads kids.  It has been expensive.  We have been spending 176 million dollars a year on this stuff.  And I think it is time that people like Bristol Palin, you know, got a chance to say it doesn‘t work.  I lost ten years of my life.  I want my house, my education, my life back. 

OLBERMANN:  With Bristol Palin using the one word choice, such—in that word such a profound repudiation of the social engineers on the right.  Do we think her mother gets the dichotomy between her public positions on all these issues and the people she is pandering to and the real life that she is experiencing with her own daughter and her grandchild? 

FLANDERS:  Well, again, you have got that getting it question.  Keith, I mean, I hope that every time people hear a Palin talk about choice, there‘s some little Sarah Palin for President doll that loses its wings.  Because the choice that they are so proud of Bristol having exercised is exactly the kind of choice that her mom would deny to other folks.  I mean, this is a person, Sarah Palin, who believes in criminalizing abortion, no matter what, no exceptions, except for the health or life of the mother, the woman or the girl.  No exceptions for the incest kid, no exception for the survivor of rape.  This stuff is sick and Bristol knows it. 

OLBERMANN:  We love choice as long as you make the choice that we love. 

FLANDERS:  That‘s right.  That‘s like we like small government except when it comes to your personal life.  And we do mean your personal life. 

OLBERMANN:  Or the 267 million dollar bailout money that‘s going to the wife‘s bank. 

FLANDERS:  You mean—

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Cantor. 

FLANDERS:  Well, that and—you know, all of these deficit hawks who are against the bailout.  I guess you can say that they are bailout fans who just haven‘t gone bankrupt yet. 

OLBERMANN:  Back to this point and sort of the closing out of it.  The conservatives love and still love former Vice President Cheney, but they did not love his belief that gay marriage should be left up to the states.  Obviously, he held that position, I think it is safe to assume, in part because he has a daughter who is gay.  Is there a—is there a theme here that there is a willingness to dictate to the rest of us on these issues?  But if it applies personally to them, they get a pass because they are conservatives and, therefore, they deserve a pass? 

FLANDERS:  Yes.  I think that‘s the grand old hypocrisy party phenomenon playing out here.  One rule for us and one rule for everybody else.  You see it when it comes to their foreign policy and here you see it when it comes to the personal stuff.  Again, we could laugh about it all we like.  But this level of hypocrisy has been costing lives.  Bristol Palin quite kind of sweetly admitted that she feels she has lost ten years of her life here.  That matters.  It matters not only when it‘s a Palin child, but anybody‘s child out there.  We have to get smarter about this stuff. 

OLBERMANN:  Laura Flanders, host of GritTV.org, thanks for your time tonight. 

FLANDERS:  Glad to be here, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  He had just signed a contract for a quarter of a billion dollars as one of the planet‘s most highly paid athletes.  So naturally, Alex Rodriguez injected a drug he knew almost nothing about a couple of times a month for every three year there.  His Bizarre news conference deconstructed. 

And how many deep ends can comedian Rush Limbaugh go off?  Now supporting Democrats, he says, is like Jesus making a deal with the Devil. 

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

Number three, bailout-gate.  If you are wondering where the first 350 billion dollars went under the Bush administration, you are in unusual company tonight.  The Treasury Department has now been sued as a follow up to a Freedom of Information Act request by Freedom Watch.  That is a remnant of the Larry Klayman conservative group Judicial Watch, that deposed half the Clinton Administration.  Mr. Klayman may have more than just a court to deal with on this, however.  As noted previously here, the Treasury Department apparently does not have meticulous records of where that 350 billion went. 

Remember, today we call it a bailout.  Tomorrow, they will call it, why daddy went to jail. 

Number two, torture-gate.  Big picture, more on the Justice Department internal investigation to how bad its former lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradberry were at lawyering.  They wrote the Justice Department briefs that Mr. Bush and his co-conspirators kept citing as legal authorizes for water boarding and such at Gitmo and elsewhere.  The developments today, “the New York Times” reporting several senators want the report made public.  And the paper making something explicit that “Newsweek” had implied, that the internal report process, quote, “can refer cases for criminal investigations, but legal experts say a more likely possibility is a referral to Bar Associations for potential disciplinary actions.” 

In other words, whether or not there are prosecutions for torture, Bibby, Bradberry, and Yoo might wind up becoming ex bad lawyers. 

Number one, also torture-gate.  Small picture, Army private Brandon Neely (ph) has talked to the Associated Press about his time as a guard at Gitmo.  “The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong,” he says.  The stuff?  Beatings of prisoners.  Not beatings vaguely rationalized by being part of that Jack Bauer crap, enhanced interrogations.  Go in, beat a prisoner up, never say a word to him. 

Revenge.  Revenge because this began in 2002 and soldiers like Brandon Neely were told these were some of the people responsible for 9/11.  So when a shackled detainee came off the bus and started to resist being jammed into a small cage, Neely says he grabbed him and shoved him face first into the cement floor and was only vaguely aware that he was doing this to a trembling old man.  Neely later found out the old man had started to resist him because he assumed he was about to be executed. 

Neely, now in law enforcement in Texas, says he feels guilt and shame over what he did, to the point that his upbringing in a military family and non-disclosure agreement he signed as he left Gitmo don‘t matter to him.  “Speaking out,” he says now, “is a good way to deal with this.”  And that is as true for us as a nation as it is for Brandon Neely as an individual.  He will do his first television interview in about 20 minutes from now on Rachel‘s show.  I think we had all better watch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Alex Rodriguez holds a news conference about taking medicine he should not have taken and twice says, quote, I have to take my medicine.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Dr. David Tillman, CEO of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.  Closing its hospital and retirement home in southern California, the proverbial Old Actors Home.  About 120 retire performers and behind the camera people, wardrobe artists, everybody, will be farmed out to various nursing homes, this because the funds says it is losing 10 million dollars a year and is rapidly running out of money.  Except that its latest financial statements from last November indicated no losses and its statement from July of 2007, when it opened a brand-new multi-million dollar gymnasium, showed about a 10 percent increase in money in the fund from the previous year. 

As late as last October, the family of a veteran Hollywood actor asked that in lieu of flowers, donations in his memory be made to the Motion Picture and Television Home, and now its residents are being evicted, told, in essence, to go and die somewhere else.  Amid rotten stories of money suddenly vanishing and more stories that the fund wants to instead open a condo-like development. 

Number two, Bill-O the clown.  As you know, everything bad in the world he perceives is caused by NBC, us and al Qaeda.  Commenting again on Nadya Suleman‘s octuplets, he says, “she was paid by NBC to do the interview with ‘The Today Show.‘  I don‘t know how much.  You know she was.” 

You are full of it.  You barely know where your elbow is.  And this one will probably require a retraction, sir.  My guess is there will be lawyers.  The statement from my friend Allison Gollist (ph) of NBC News, quote, “NBC News does not pay for interviews.  We did not pay Nadya Suleman or anyone who represents her for our interview.  We didn‘t license a single photo or video from her or anyone who represents her, not a dime.  There is no deal with anyone at NBC Universal.”

Doesn‘t leave you a lot of room there, Billy.  Hint, retraction.  This does explain why Fox scrubbed its transcript of O‘Reilly‘s show to make it look like O‘Reilly didn‘t say she was paid by NBC to do the interview, but as if he was actually said she was made by NBC to do the interview.  Sleaze bags. 

But our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, again rejecting bipartisanship.  They returned to his insistence that he wants President Obama to fail.  “People who are unbridled by morality or immoral, if you will, this Constitution is a restriction to them.  It is punitive to them.  The very people trying to undermine the constitution because it‘s an obstacle to them are the very people we put in power lately, over the years.  The Constitution is under assault by people who find it restrictive and unpalatable.” 

Seriously, you are agreeing with me about how you have been unbridled by morality and how Bush tried to undermine the Constitution because it was an obstacle to him?  I have got to be misreading this.  And I am. 

“How do you come to compromise with people like that?  Well, everybody says we‘ve got to compromise, bipartisanship; we‘ve got to get along.  How do you compromise good versus evil?  As I said last week, should Jesus have made a deal with Satan?”  

Rush Limbaugh getting biblical.  The Biblical getting him back.  Saying he hoped Obama failed was, quote, “a terrible thing to say.  I mean, he is the president of all the country.  If he succeeds, the country succeeds.  If he doesn‘t, it hurts us all.  Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.” 

Pat Robertson said that about Limbaugh.  Pat Robertson.  Rush Limbaugh just got schooled by Pat Robertson.  Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For an athlete widely being credited with apologizing for using steroids, Alex Rodriguez sure has been meticulous about not admitting he used steroids.  At a follow up news conference, just eight days after he admitted to using something that triggered a positive test during a steroid sweep in 2003, Rodriguez went as far today as using the term bolly (ph) to describe the substance he and unidentified cousin obtained in the Dominican Republic and injected each other with about twice a month for three years, never knowing whether it was horse laxatives or lighter fluid, and apparently never realizing bolly was a nickname for the steroid Primobolan. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, but at least he produced two world class Freudian slips.  Rodriguez again maintained he never used anything inappropriate earlier than 2001, nor later than 2003, save for a product later banned for containing some amounts of amphetamine.  This little energy boosting stuff that his unnamed cousin found in the Dominican. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  Going back to 2001, my cousin started telling me about a substance you could purchase over the counter in DR, known in the streets known as Bolly or Bolle.  My cousin and I, one more ignorant than the other, decided it was a good idea to start taking it.  All these years, I never thought I did anything that was wrong. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you didn‘t think it was wrong, why were you so secretive and so reluctant to ask for assistance with what you were doing? 

RODRIGUEZ:  That‘s a good question. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There were a lot of good answers, not informative ones, but good.  See if you can discern a pattern in his answers to all the questions that were variations of the simplest one, why? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODRIGUEZ:  That‘s the game.  Part of being young and stupid.  I guess when you are young and stupid, you are young and stupid.  I was pretty naive and pretty young. 

I was a young kid. 

I entered the game when I was 18. 

I entered the game when I was 18.

I was 18 years old, right out of high school. 

I wish I knew.  I was 24.  I was young.  I was 24, 25 years old.  When you are 24 and you‘re 25, and you are curious and you‘re ignorant—I decided to stop.  I was a young guy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When not rehearsed, Rodriguez slipped with one of the great ironic answers in sports news conference history, twice. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RODRIGUEZ:  I laid my bed.  I‘m going to have to sit on it.  I‘m here to take my medicine. 

I‘m here to take my medicine.  I knew we weren‘t taking Tic-Tacs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  At this point, joining me now, Richard Justice, sports columnist for the “Houston Chronicle.”  Always a pleasure, Richard.  Good evening to you. 

RICHARD JUSTICE, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE”:  Hey, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The thread of logic seemed pretty thin in some key places here.  Follow me on this; he claimed the drugs were over the counter, but he was very careful to keep the fact that he was doing this Bolly stuff away from the team trainers in Texas and the doctors and his own strength coaches and everybody else.  And the fact that he didn‘t know what this was and he didn‘t know whether or not it did anything good for him did not cause him to stop taking the stuff for three years.  I‘m missing something in this chain. 

JUSTICE:  One of the reasons people don‘t like Alex Rodriguez is he is so calculated.  You never feel like you are getting real person.  You feel like you are getting some PR person‘s answers that he spits out.  That was some of what you had today.  We have now in baseball the art of the incremental confession.  The format in the news conference didn‘t allow follow ups. 

You know, one time you‘d like one of these guys just to come out, release a statement saying, here is what I did.  Here is why I did it.  And stop using ignorance as an excuse. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that exact point.  For more than a week, even some of his critics have described him as admitting to using steroids or—today apologizing for using steroids.  Did I miss it?  Don‘t you have to use the word?  Don‘t you have to say I‘m sorry I used steroids? 

JUSTICE:  Well, in the first interview with Peter Gammons of ESPN, he didn‘t even admit using steroids.  When you finish with that one, you though, hey, he must have gone to GNC and got something that doesn‘t even amount to being steroids.  We are just moving the ball along here.  This is the pattern a lot of these guys, Miguel Tejada, same way, you get caught and then you confess. 

Guys aren‘t running to the front of the line.  You know, the culture that he talked about, you feel like you are above the law; you feel like the rules don‘t apply to you.  So it is very hard for guys like this to come forward and say I‘m throwing myself on the mercy of the court.  Just believe me.  I‘m young and dumb and don‘t ask any more questions. 

OLBERMANN:  This is a good time to interject one set of names that hasn‘t thrown too heavily into this story, just as it wasn‘t during Clemens or Bonds or anything else; it‘s not as if the owners, certainly up to 2003, really gave a damn what the players might be injecting themselves with. 

JUSTICE:  No, you are right.  I think that‘s the one part of the story we have learned in this Alex Rodriguez thing, is that when he talked about the culture; he didn‘t know what he was using and calculated—I think there‘s truth to that, in that there was peer pressure.  Not only that, Keith, you and I know general managers that sort of looked down on a player if he didn‘t try it.  Hey, this guy is not trying as hard as he should have.

So you are right.  It was the wild wild west in that.  Now that they

are getting caught, it is very hard to come forward and say oh, you know, I

I should have known.  They did know.  I mean, when you use steroids, you are crossing the line.  You‘re breaking the law.  But there was such a culture around them that they all thought it was OK. 

OLBERMANN:  Bottom line for those fans who care, between steroids and human growth hormone and stuff you can buy over the counter in the Dominican Republic, what should we assume about the actual breadth of this problem in baseball? 

JUSTICE:  I always felt there was heavy usage among some players, but not as much as we thought.  What would trigger a positive test probably a lot of guys were experimenting with things, because you heard old-timers—you and I have heard hall of famers say, hey, you give me a silver bullet that allows me to win 100 more games or something else, I would try it.  There were a lot of guys tainted.

You and I both heard young guys say hey, if the guy next to me gains 17 pounds of muscle over the winter, what am I supposed to do? 

OLBERMANN:  We should remind people that the first player we know of who used artificial testosterone as part of a medical experiment was Pud Galvin (ph) of Pittsburgh in 1889.  It is not like this started the other day. 

In any event, Richard Justice of the “Houston Chronicle,” I‘m sorry it is always about this topic.  It‘s always a pleasure to chat with you. 

JUSTICE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 2,110th 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.

END   

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,