updated 2/20/2009 11:42:22 AM ET 2009-02-20T16:42:22

Guest: Howard Dean, Howard Fineman, Jonathan Truley

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

Karl Rove, to be prosecuted; Harriet Miers, to be prosecuted; Josh Bolten, to be prosecuted—so Speaker of the House Pelosi thinks.  And the broader Bush crimes—torture, eavesdropping, rendition, quote, “We should have full examination.”  Quote, “I think that further information might take us to that place”—prosecution.

As Karl Rove tries to cut a deal on his testimony, the speaker calls a truth and reconciliation commission helpful.  And Alberto Gonzales says he would cooperate, quote, “so long as what with we‘re talking about is the truth and things don‘t become politicized.”  Politicized, Alberto, seriously.

Cutting off their states despite their faces: Republican governors, Palin of Alaska, Jindal of Louisiana, Perry of Texas, Barbour of Mississippi, maybe even Sanford of South Carolina, say they might not accept funds from the stimulus, that they all dream of running for president just a coincidence.  Our startled special guest, former Governor Howard Dean.

Insurrection at Rupert Murdoch‘s house: An editor e-mails her colleagues about the racist violent depiction about the president in a “New York Post” cartoon, “I neither commissioned or approved it.  I saw it in the paper yesterday with the rest of the world.  And, I have raised my objections to management.”  And the push begins to revoke the Murdoch waiver that lets him own multiple TV stations and a newspaper in the same city, New York.

The shoe-thrower speaks.  The in-court eloquence of Muntadar al-Zaidi, “I felt the blood of innocents was running under his feet.”

And they have found billionaire conman Allen Stanford, accused of ripping off $8 billion from 50,000 clients.  Allen Stanford who is now linked to Sean Hannity?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  I ordered some gold from our friends at Stanford Coins & Bullions.  Mention my name and you get a free guide book of U.S. coins free for you to purchase.  Go to the Web, Stanfordcoins.com/Hannity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, Hannity‘s new show is—Stanford and son?

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look out, son, this is the big one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

While President Obama went to Canada today to get started on the “clean up America‘s image abroad” part of his to-do list, his bigger problem in our fifth story—cleaning up America‘s image in America.  The president tonight with the new set of provocative quotes from his own party speaker of the House about prosecuting the worse abuses and abusers from the Bush administration.  President Obama is spending seven hours in the Canadian capital today, almost confusing Ottawa with Iowa, the only apparent misstep evident on his first foreign visit.

Here at home, he and Democratic leaders are still possibly at odds over whether to prosecute top Bush officials, a federal appeals court giving the White House until Wednesday to weigh in on a claim of executive privilege that Karl Rove is using to keep from testifying to Congress.  White House counsel, Greg Craig, is urging Congress to reach an agreement with Rove and other former Bush officials that might compel them to testify without involving the White House.

Meantime, on Capitol Hill, Speaker Pelosi indicating she is open to the idea of prosecuting Rove and others, as well as to a truth commission to fully investigate abuses.  In an interview with “Rolling Stone” magazine, the speaker was asked, quote, “Do you foresee a scenario in which senior members of the Bush administration are actually prosecuted?”  Pelosi answering, “I think so.  The American people deserve answers.  Where we are now in terms of prosecution of White House staff is that we have charged them with contempt of Congress.  We‘re talking about Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten and Karl Rove.”

Next question, “I‘m talking more about the level of a Donald Rumsfeld, people who authorized torture and green-lighted the kidnapping and rendition of innocent people.”  The speaker‘s answers, “I did not like their policies, which is why we needed to win the election—to get them out of power.  But I don‘t know what the evidence is against them on any specific charge.”

When reminded that Dick Cheney had been tossed out of the end of the Nixon administration only to return 25 years later, and asked about the danger of other Bush officials returning to office again, the speaker invoking Senator Leahy‘s truth commission proposal in her answer, quote, “We should have full examination.  I‘m not denying that.  What Mr. Leahy is putting forward in terms of a truth-and-reconciliation committee has always been helpful.”

Meantime, no less than Fredo himself, former Bush attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, saying today that he would cooperate with a Leahy truth commission, with a catch.  Mr. Gonzales is saying he‘d be willing to testify, quote, “so long as what we are talking about is the truth and things don‘t become politicized.”  Politicized—it‘s like hearing Alex Rodriguez admit to using steroids and twice gravely say, “I have to take my medicine.”

Time now to call on our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent at “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Alberto Gonzales to start with, to say that he‘d cooperate with the truth commission as long as things don‘t become politicized.  Am I supposed to file that under “I” for irony or “CH” for chutzpah?

FINEMAN:  Well, maybe “O” for outrageous.

Look—justice is made by people so politics can‘t be eliminated.  Other departments of justice have had politics certainly in them and at the top especially.  But Gonzales‘ Justice Department took it to a whole new grim brazen level.  You know, questionnaires, blood oaths, secret handshakes, you name it.  Everybody was vetted for their politics all the way down into the guts of the department.

That‘s what‘s different.  That‘s what he denied under oath.  And that‘s why he‘s in trouble here.

Now, by saying that he‘d be willing to talk to a commission, what he‘s really hoping for is some kind of use immunity where he‘d go talk to this commission .

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  . and them shield himself from any possible prosecution -

yet another tactic by defense lawyers.

       

OLBERMANN:  The “Rolling Stone” interview with the speaker.  Does it seem that Speaker Pelosi who says that she would determine what charge Congress is going to pursue against Bolten and Miers and Rove, that she‘s leaving all of her options open?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I think the news is—she‘s leaving her options open.  But the news based on talking to people around her and advisers to her just this afternoon after that story broke is that she is very serious about this.  The one part of it that Nancy Pelosi doesn‘t really want to mess with, I‘m told, is the evidence about the war in Iraq.

Now, the whole question of the buildup for the war and whether lies were told about that and the reason for that is—she believes that she and other Democrats on the Hill knew that it was a phony deal, said so at the time, and she doesn‘t think there is any percentage of going over that particularly.  But yes on torture, yes on possibly the eavesdropping things, yes on Guantanamo, and certainly, especially yes on the question of coming before the Congress to testify.  She is really determined on that point and seems very eager to try to haul Karl Rove and others into court for contempt.

OLBERMANN:  But the wiggle room that she left for herself and the

point that her interviewer, where Tim Dickinson made in one of the follow-

up questions was—removing somebody from power, having their power expire

as it did in the case of everybody in the Bush administration really isn‘t

enough because the Dick Cheneys of the world are often young enough to

return to power next time, even if it is a quarter of a century later.  Is

the “history often repeats itself” aspect of this in danger of being lost

by political expediency?

       

FINEMAN:  No, I don‘t think so.  That is what she said she would support a commission for, to go over that in detail.  Ironically, George Bush by manfully resisting Dick Cheney‘s efforts to fully exonerate Scooter Libby, at least kept Scooter Libby out of coming back again.  That‘s for sure.

But, you‘re absolutely right.  People like David Addington, Dick Cheney‘s Dick Cheney, remember him, and that whole cast of characters, I‘m sure, will be angling around for influence among all those governors that you were just showing on the air earlier, who are going to be running in 2012.  So, there is a political usefulness in doing what Pelosi‘s thinking of doing.

And I have to say, I‘m surprised that she is as eager to pursue this as she apparently is.  I thought she was going to just leave it to John Conyers and the judiciary committee.  No.  I think Pelosi wants to get after it on everything except the war in Iraq sales job.

OLBERMANN:  Governor Palin, my name is Addington.  It‘s on the card.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: Last question about Rove and the negotiations over whether or not he would and finally testify to Congress.  Immunity—what would he trade for immunity?  What bigger fish could he have than Karl Rove?

FINEMAN:  Well, he‘s a pretty big one.  I agree.  I think, the other one here is Gonzales.  I think it‘s hard to overstate the anger and contempt people have for Alberto Gonzales, in his various performances on the Hill, his testimony in which he was glossing over everything, to put it charitably, that was going on in his department.  They would like to bring Gonzales to account and if Rove can help them to do that, I think that‘s what they want.

But as you mentioned earlier, Greg Craig, the White House counsel, doesn‘t want this confrontation because, ironically, if Rove were to go in to court and assert the executive privilege claim against the Congress, it‘s not at all clear that the Obama White House would object.  They might allow him to do that because it is an unwritten rule between presidents and presidencies that you don‘t do anything to limit the power of future presidents.

Greg Craig doesn‘t want that situation to develop which is why he wants a deal.  But I‘m not sure there‘ll be a deal because Congress wants to make a point here, whatever the White House wants.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—as always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s explore more on that, more on the legal question tonight.  Let‘s turn to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

Jon, good evening to you.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hey.  How is it going?

OLBERMANN:  Is there any kind of agreement that Congress could be discussing with Karl Rove that would include some form or fashion of immunity.  I mean, isn‘t immunity implied by the word “agreement”?

TURLEY:  I can‘t imagine what else they would be talking about.  Whatever they are talking about is a bad deal.  I mean, this is the type of deal that you‘re supposed to limit the options.  It‘s like Henry Ford saying you can have any color of car as long as it is black.  And that‘s the deal you normally give someone in Karl Rove‘s position.

Karl Rove was an obvious and flagrant contempt of the last Congress.  The arguments made by the Bush administration were just woefully inadequate.  They didn‘t have any serious basis.

So, it‘s very hard to see how you negotiate from that standpoint.  Also, the idea that he would flip on someone like Alberto Gonzales, I think, is—it‘s just not going to happen.  He is not made of that type of stuff and I also think that Karl Rove himself has much to answer for.  If the Justice Department was politicized, then one end of that process dead-ended in his office.

OLBERMANN:  Fredo Corleone also is not the target.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  You want Vito Corleone.  So, that‘s the other aspect of Rove and Gonzales.

But Howard Fineman‘s point of the president to president courtesy -

is that what Greg Craig is stepping in for?  What is he doing in this and why is he involved in this process rather than standing aside?

       

TURLEY:  Well, you know, this is part of the process of finding yourself in power.  It changes your outlook.  It‘s like no one really cares about lawns until they are a new homeowner, and suddenly, you find that people like the White House counsel become incredibly risk-averse.  They don‘t want to have a fight of this kind.

But it really would be George Bush that would be undermining these traditions.  You‘re not supposed to be restricting the executive privilege of your successors.  It‘s really George Bush that would be coming in and trying to exercise a sort of dead hand control over the new administration.  I think he would lose.

But this is really one of those principled fights that we expected between the two administrations.  They have very different views, I hope, of executive privilege.  You know, George Bush seemed at war from the minute he took the first oath with the concept of the separation of powers.  And even before 9/11, he really chaffed at the idea of sharing power and it continued to his very last day.

There‘s no reason to compromise with a position like that.

OLBERMANN:  I can‘t resist—although this is not particularly where we started, I can‘t resist getting your reaction to Pelosi‘s comments since we talked so often about what in the larger sense, never mind Rove and whether or not he‘ll testify, but in a larger sense, what the Obama administration has to do about the Bush administration.  Are you encouraged by what the speaker said to “Rolling Stone” or is this more indecision 2009?

TURLEY:  Well, I must say that I am still skeptical.  I‘m glad that Speaker Pelosi has come out so fervently.  But remember, she was the one who was blocking any impeachment inquiry and continually said that she couldn‘t imagine what evidence would be presented for impeachment.

And so, I would love to see this type of aggressive role of Congress in dealing with this.  But I am very concerned about this idea of compromises and negotiations.  Many of these things become sort of Capitol Hill kabuki of approved questions and answers.  That‘s not what we want.  And we certainly do not need another commission like the 9/11 Commission.

You know, after the Gaza conflict, Ambassador Rice with the Obama administration came forward and asked for an investigation of war crimes.  And you could almost hear the laughter around the world, where we are so quick to say—and rightfully so—that there should be a war crimes investigation unless it involves Americans and unless it involves our leaders.  And we‘ve got to overcome that image of being a nation of hypocrites and it‘s only going to happen if we investigate.

OLBERMANN:  Nothing to see here.  Keep moving.  We‘ve got it all under control.

Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—as always, Jon, great thanks for your time tonight.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, five Republican governors—at least four of whom think they are the next Republican president—are actually threatening to refuse to accept stimulus money for projects in their state.  That ultimate partisanship, their political futures prioritize ahead of their constituents‘ immediate needs, finding unexpected contrast tonight.  The “New York Post” cartoon, the writer of the stimulus portrayed as a crazed chimp shot by police.  It is again protested, only today, the protests are inside not outside—a “New York Post” editor standing up to Rupert Murdoch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Kit Bonds of this world may boast that they got their constituents jobs money even though they did not vote for the stimulus bill that included those jobs and that money, but at least they were smart enough to get the jobs and money to their constituents.  Five Republican governors, at least four with presidential aspirations, threaten to turn down the money from the stim.  The reaction from Howard Dean next.

And insurrection at the “New York Post” after the chimpanzee cartoon yesterday.

And in Worsts: Authorities fine Allen Stanford, the financier, accused of trying to rip-off his clients for $8 billion, and the rest of us find Stanford‘s link to Sean Hannity.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Just a coincidence, four, possibly five Republican governors, each with dreams of being on the presidential ticket in 2012, are talking about not accepting money for projects in their state, money from the stimulus plan.

Just a coincidence.  The fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Putting their national partisan future desires ahead of their constituents‘ bipartisan immediate needs.  To say nothing of the reality gaps, state lawmakers in each case could overrule them and take the money anyway.  Former governor, former DNC Chair Howard Dean will join us with reaction in a moment.

The chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, has led this charge among certain GOP governors against the stimulus, quoting, “The spending plan will prove to be an absolute disaster.  The bottom line is, it‘s horrible.”  Today, Sanford did confess that being against the plan, quote, “doesn‘t preclude taking the money.”

Governor Sanford‘s prior bloviation on this, actually inspired a special provision in the stimulus bill, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn included language that basically forces governors to publicly accept or decline the federal aid.  The provision then empowers the state‘s legislature to accept the money even if the governor does not.

So, certain Republican governors can take the time to complain about the so-called “strings” attached to the money even when their states are experiencing crashing shortfalls in balancing their budgets—like Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, his state faces a budget gap of more than $1.5 billion next year.  Governor Rick Perry of Texas, quoting, “We need the freedom to say ‘No thanks.‘”  And Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

It is no coincidence that many of these governors maybe presidential or vice-presidential contenders in 2012 including Governor Palin, who also griped about the stim.  “I wish he,” that would be the president, “would veto it and send it back until our lawmakers can read it and know what‘s in it.”  We‘re holding our breath on that.

Joining me now, as promised, the former of the Democratic National Committee and former governor, Howard Dean.

Thanks for coming in in person, sir.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Thanks for having me on.  First time I‘ve ever been in this studio, not the first time on your show.

OLBERMANN:  It is totally underwhelming, isn‘t it?

DEAN:  Yes, it‘s great.

OLBERMANN:  These governors know or they should know that they can be overruled by the states.  Does that not make the political ambition contained in this obvious to almost anybody and kind of embarrassing?

DEAN:  First of all, people who are pretty well-respected like Charlie Crist of Florida are going to take the money and the majority of Republicans will take the money.  Look, it‘s legitimate to talk about whether you want to take the money or not.  It‘s not legitimate in the middle of the biggest fiscal crisis that we have to tell your people and your state that their taxes are going up because you refuse on political grounds to take this money.  This is nonsense.  This is nonsense.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m fascinated by Governor Crist‘s response, because, of course, not only is he taking the money, but he introduced President Obama in Florida to talk about this plan and he is now talking about additional money and additional waivers that would allow him to get more money out of the stimulus, more money out of the federal government.  Who rewards him politically in this polarized time because, obviously, the Republicans will come after him for impropriety?

DEAN:  The voters will reward him.  You know, something—it‘s interesting that these five governors are doing this because, when I was governor, which was for a long time, and also a chairman of the governors association, governors, Republican or Democrat, are much more kind of bipartisan than Congress people.  When you are a governor, most of the reasonable solutions of how to fix problems are in the middle someplace, and you have to actually do something.

So, this kind of posturing is unusual for governors and you don‘t usually see this.  You usually see Democratic and Republican governors pretty much on the same page.

OLBERMANN:  Well, how does it work in Louisiana, particularly in that sense, which is still requiring as much aid as probably we can give them on a national level.

DEAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  And Bobby Jindal‘s position—is that from not having been there long enough or what?  Well, how could you .

DEAN:  Keith, this is just politics.  That‘s all it is.  And it‘s a bad time for politics.

I think, one of the messages from President Obama is—look, can‘t we just put the politics aside?  Barack Obama is in the White House today because his message was the younger generation‘s message to my generation, which is—please stop fighting about this stuff and get something done where we can agree.

And the Republican Party hasn‘t gotten that yet.  Not one of them voted for the stimulus package in the House, only three voted for it in the Senate.  Their tactic is the same tactic as they used in 1994 against Bill Clinton.  It is not going to work.

We have a different electorate.  They are fed up with this.  They‘ve seen what happens when you behave like that and they‘re not going to put up with it.

I think the Republican Party is making a huge mistake and I think these five governors are making a big mistake politically to do this, because their own people are going to say, “What do you mean—our taxes are going to go up $1.5 billion in Louisiana, or our kids aren‘t going to go to school for three weeks?”

OLBERMANN:  What—who is more responsible, I hate to put it in these terms, but who‘s more responsible, these governors or somebody like Senator Bond of Missouri who is out on the campaign trail essentially in Missouri taking credit for aspects of the stimulus bill that he brought to Missouri and these jobs and this money and all the rest when he voted against—he is taking credit for something he voted against?

DEAN:  He is in trouble though.  I mean, he‘s going to have a strong opponent.  I think Robin Carnahan, extraordinary secretary of state, is going to run against him.  And he knows he‘s in trouble.  And that‘s a tough vote for him to go home and explain now.

People are not stupid.  I think one of the things that got the Republicans in so much trouble is, that they assume that voters were dumb and they wouldn‘t notice if they voted no in Washington and then came home and took credit for the stuff that the people like in Missouri, you can‘t do that.  You‘ve got to make a principled stand.

If you make a principled stand in what you believe in and vote no, then you can go home and sell the no.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

DEAN:  And people will respect you for it.  But what you can‘t do is vote no and then go ahead and pretend you didn‘t vote that way because people don‘t like that kind of stuff.  They don‘t like it when Democrats do it either.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Well, from the position of having just recently been the head of the DNC.  Is that—what is—is the Republican—you had the 50-state strategy.

DEAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Is the Republican strategy the no-state strategy?  What is going on here?

DEAN:  Well, they—look, to be serious about this, they have—it took us a long time to recover from the mistakes that we made.  The biggest mistake we made, honestly, was not to talk about our values.  We talked about issues and not values, because every consultant in Washington said, oh, don‘t talk about our values, you might—well, the Republicans figured this out a long time ago.  And it took us a while to kind of turn the ship around and then we finally realized we had to be in every state talking to every American about our values.

They have this blood-letting to do about who‘s going to run this party?  Is it going to be the far-right, these five governors, these folks?  Is it going to be the old style right-wing or is it going to be a new kind of Republican?  And they aren‘t going to ever win unless they can reorient this party to talk about things the American people care about.

Voting and getting all their votes against the stimulus package is a losing strategy because people are going to see them as obstructionists.  And it‘s one thing to be obstructionist to the time where politics matters. 

People are scared.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

DEAN:  They don‘t want any of this kind of stuff.  They want this stuff to go away and stop.  That‘s why Barack Obama won.  Not so much just because he was a Democrat and the Republicans screwed everything up, it‘s because his message was, “It‘s time to stop this; it‘s time to come together.”  The Republicans haven‘t gotten the message yet and they‘re going to have to get it in order for them to succeed as a party.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  Governor Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee—great pleasure to see you, sir.

DEAN:  Thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for coming in.

In Alfred Hitchcock‘s world, the birds revolted, in 21st century France, it looks like it‘s going to be the horses.  Today was their bestial day.  And, how Governor Palin managed to charge the people of Alaska $60 for a day she was interviewed by FOX News.

The Worst Persons in the World is ahead, you‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment and they‘ve found the 150 missing bowling balls of Frankfurt, New York.

First, on this date in 1859, Congressman Dan Sickles of New York became the first defendant ever found not guilty of murder by reason of temporary insanity.  Sickles, who later became one of the least effective Union generals in the Civil War had shot his wife‘s lover, Philip Barton Key, who was himself merely the district attorney of Washington, D.C. and the son of the man who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner.”  He had shot Key man across the street from the White House.  And one of Sickles defense attorneys who tried the then-unique temporary insanity defense was Edwin Stanton, who would become Abraham Lincoln‘s secretary of war.  Think of what that story would have been like.  Nancy Grace could have milked that story for 42 weeks.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

And we begin with the “Oddball” horse chase of the week.  In Paris, this wild stallion tossed it rider at the Elysee Palace and decided to make a run for it.  The Day-Glo yellow vest, that‘s not going to help you blend in, pal.  Before long a cruiser pulled up along side and for a moment it looked like that policewoman was going to jump on Indiana Jones style.  No.  She thought better of it.  So they were forced to use the old pit maneuver. 

No, actually the horse ran out of gas and was taken into custody.

The protest of the Obama chimpanzee cartoon in the “New York Post” not limited to outside the building today.  The internal rebellion at the house of Murdoch.

And the extraordinary appearance of the shoe thrower in court in Baghdad. 

No apologies.

These stories ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World.”

Number three, best indecipherable crime update.  The missing bowling balls at Thurston‘s Lanes in New York have been found.  After remodeling Thurston‘s Lanes were reopened.  Bowlers were surprised to discover that all 150 of the places balls were missing.  It proves were not stolen.  Somebody for reasons yet unclear stuffed all or most of them in the alleys ball returns.  They were, in essence, hidden.  The investigation continues.

Number, two, best expansion of a lie.  Glenn Beck.  Remember last year when the right wing added the wrong numbers to make it look like the average auto workers was making a whopping $70 an hour to make sure Detroit‘s problems would look like they were the sole responsibility of the union‘s?

Beck has corrected the hour.  “I saw something come across my desk that the average UAW worker makes $154 if you look at, if you add in the all the benefits.”

Close.  The latest estimate from a survey from Beck‘s own bosses by Barclay‘s Capital.  $55 an hour.  Good work, Glen, you are only off by 300 percent.

And number one, best reminder that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Former Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum gave a lecture on Islam at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln arguing that Americans just don‘t know enough about the religion.  Santorum illustrated this by asking students to raise their hands if they knew what the difference was between Sunnis and Shi‘a.  Then he said we didn‘t realize that Muslims believe that quote, “a democracy could not exist because Mohammad already made the perfect law and the Koran is perfect just the way it is because it is written in Islamic.”

Rick, Islamic would be the term for the people or an adjective.  It‘s not the language.  Arabic would be the language.  Raise your hand if you knew that Mr. Santorum.  No.  No.  Your hand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Protests outside the “New York Post” were one thing, protests inside that newspaper quite another.

Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN, an associate editor of Rupert Murdoch‘s traditionally criticize and you are fired tabloid has e-mailed her colleagues saying the paper depicted the writer of the stimulus as the crazed chimpanzee shot and killed Monday by Connecticut police.  The e-mail and thus the evidentially large internal dissension became public before the several hundred people protested outside of Murdoch‘s Newscorp headquarters Huffington Post revealed that e-mail from “Post” associate editor Sandra Guzman to other unnamed employees at the newspaper.

It read in part, “Please know I had nothing to do with this Sean Delonas cartoon.  I neither commissioned or approved it.  I saw it in the paper yesterday and raised my objections to management.”

Reverend Al Sharpton so the protests will continue tomorrow and filmmaker Spike Lee will join them then.  Also that he will be contacting the Federal Trade Commission in hopes of getting it to revoke or at least inquire into the special waiver of its rules that permits Murdoch to own several TV stations and a newspaper in the same city.

As to today‘s edition of the “Post”?  No mention of the controversy and the cartoon can be accessed at the “New York Post” Web site.  Joining us now, Michael Wolff, columnist for “Vanity Fair”, author of the book “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch and founder of the Web site newser.com.  Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL WOLFF, “VANITY FAIR”:  How are you?

OLBERMANN:  Not bad.  And yourself?

WOLFF:  I‘m just fine.

OLBERMANN:  The normal Murdoch stonewalling seems to have been chosen first in this case.  Is this going to work?

WOLFF:  No.  I think this doesn‘t involve Rupert Murdoch.  The secret here and the really interesting development is Rupert Murdoch is not happy with this.  I would say actually slightly educated speculation is he is livid.  This is not what Rupert wants.  This is not where he wants to be.  He is actually a rather a fan of Barack Obama‘s plus he‘s positioning himself vis-a-vis this new administration so his “New York Post” to come along and be so out of sync, so tone deaf, so off the point to put it mildly is going to be a problem for a lot of people there.

OLBERMANN:  So the people who would ordinarily be in trouble the editor, which would be the editor, Ms. Guzman and whoever she was answering, you don‘t take Newscorp‘s secrets outside of the building under any circumstances, they are OK now?

WOLFF:  No.  I think she is fine.  The person who is in trouble is the editor of the paper, Col Allen (ph).  And Col Allen, who is a long time Murdoch associate, very close to the Murdoch family, has pushed it too far.  I think this is a serious moment in the history of the “New York Post”.

OLBERMANN:  So how does this end up?  Obviously, if he‘s upset they are not going to ignore it.  Does there some point in the future Col Allen disappear?  Is there a private apology?

WOLFF:  I think he‘s disappeared.  Col Allen is coming to tend of his run.  He has spoken about his, the possibility of going back to Australia.  This is part of an exit.  I think Col has been deeply frustrated with the fact that Murdoch likes Barack Obama.  That Murdoch is actually becoming in his old age rather liberal and I think he‘s been under a lot of pressure, Col has, toe the line, say nice things about Barack Obama.  I think it exploded here.  I think—I know exactly what happened.  This cartoon came in.  It crossed his desk.  It crossed Col Allen‘s desk, nobody else.  He looked at it and probably said, you know, I should probably send this back because this is—but he said I‘m going to go with it.  It was just one of those moments that an editor makes a call that‘s career defining.

OLBERMANN:  That is the internal.  Is there any external or will we never hear from this again from Rupert Murdoch‘s lips or anybody else in the “Post”?

WOLFF:  We will never hear of it.  It‘s that interesting Newscorp thing, they can close down and since they don‘t respond to outside pressure.  The outside world does not exist.  They will pretend.  It will close down.  Never again.

OLBERMANN:  We will hear about it eight years like I finally heard about why they got rid of me in 2001.  Didn‘t hear about it until 2009.

WOLFF:  Absolutely.  It will just happen.  It will go from Murdoch‘s ears and maybe one other person‘s ears and it will bust happen.  But never again.  In no Murdoch publications around the world will this ever surface.

OLBERMANN:  There is nothing to the Sharpton-Murdoch waiver bid?  That‘s not going to go to the FTC?

WOLFF:  No.  That will go nowhere.  That is—Al always brings this up and nobody fools around with Murdoch when it comes to regulatory policies.  He‘s been there.  He can outflank everyone.  Al is making his point well and he is using that to sort of say—it is sending a little message to Rupert, a message which Rupert is getting which is the times are changing.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Michael Wolff of “Vanity Fair.”  His definitive book on this is “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch”, very insightful and very entertaining, thank you, sir.

WOLFF:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Can the other shoe drop on a man who threw both of his shoes at then President Bush?  Extraordinary testimony in Baghdad today.

The latest Wall Street bandit Alan Stanford accused of ripping off 50,000 customers.  While Sean Hannity tried to get his listeners to become Alan Stanford‘s customers.  “Worst Persons” ahead.

And when Rachel Maddow joins you at the top of the hour, the new RNC chair Michael Steele plans to target the hip-hop audience because he thinks he can bring it to the Republican Party.  Sure he does.

But first, because they may be gone but The headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals “Still Bushed.”

Number three, talking points-gate.  As has been established by several former Fox News employees, the channel regularly relied on memos sent from the Bush White House for guidelines to shape its quote “news” unquote coverage.  Bill O‘Reilly and others often read those talking points sometimes nearly verbatim.  Now more evidence that the details may have changed but the propaganda structure is in place.

First it was Fox‘s John Scott reading a congressional committee press release word for word including a typo.  Now it‘s the channel‘s newest water carrier, Bret Bair reading whatever is put in front of him by the remnants of the Bush media machine.  In a special on the stimulus package Bair said, quote, “In fact, as the U.S. fights two wars the administration is asking the Pentagon to cut its budget by 10 percent.  In fact the Obama administration‘s 2010 budget for the Pentagon is up by $14 billion over this year.  What is cut by 10 percent was the 2010 budget figures submitted last fall by Bush‘s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Justice-gate.  The list of Bushies that refuse to investigate with the many Justice Department internal investigations as recently as last month was a little longer than we thought.  Nine.  Plus two senators, a congresswoman and a congressional chief of staff.  The whole list is not there, however, but we do have Karl Rove and Harriet Meiers, we knew them, also Richard Klingler and William Kelly.  The senators are New Mexico‘s Pete Domenici and Missouri‘s, “look what I got you in the stimulus I didn‘t vote for” Bond.

Number three, Blackwatergate, one of five Blackwater guards accused of murdering 14 Iraqis during a Baghdad traffic jam asked a U.S. district judge to throw the charges out.  The judge said no.  The attorneys said the U.S. government did not have the jurisdiction to charge the men even throw an amendment permits our government prosecute civilian contractors working in support of defense department efforts in other countries.  The attorneys announced Blackwater was not supporting the defense department because those specific guards were working security for State Department employees when they shot up the traffic jam.  The judge stifled any indication he was about to laugh or cry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Comedian Rush Limbaugh and President Barack Obama agree.  Neither wants the Fairness Doctrine restored to radio.  So naturally rush says the president is lying.  He is up against Governor Palin charging Alaska taxpayers for every interview and phone call and photo op she does at her own house.

And Sean Hannity trying to convince his listeners to be clients of the accused Wall Street con man Alan Stanford.  And there‘s audio.  A huge harvest of “Worst Persons.”  That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t condone throwing shoes at anyone, least of all a president, but I understand it.  And as the Iraqi journalist who threw his at then President Bush goes to court today, his eloquent and pained explanation may enable you to understand it too.

That‘s next but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story tonight, tonight‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”

The bronze, good old Sarah Palin.  She has been advised by the State of Alaska that she owes an additional $17,000 in personal income taxes.  That the money she got from filing expense reports counts as income.  Her expense reports of the last two months of 2008 have thus become part of the public record and parts are astounding.  Any time she did what she considered work for the state while at her home in Wasilla she put in for per diem.  Phone conversation at her house with Senator Elizabeth Dole, that‘s $60 meal and incidental expenses Alaska owes her.  The interview with the rightwing lunatic Web site Human Events, 60 bucks.  Photos taken with the University of Anchorage Basketball team, 60 bucks per diem.  November 9th appearance from Wasilla on Fixed News, another big 60.

Runner up, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  He has authored a fiery op-ed as yet unpublished for the “Wall Street Journal.”  Subject, his opposition to the old radio Fairness Doctrine.  Problem?  Yesterday the Obama White House reiterated again the president‘s opposition to the reinstitution of the old radio Fairness Doctrine.

Rather than say see, I was right.  He is still foaming.  Told that the press spokesman for the White House, Ben Lebolt (ph) said “Obama does not believe it should be reinstated,” comedian basically called the president a liar.

“At the next break, I‘m going to fire off a note to the people at the ‘Journal‘ because there is an expiration date on every Obama statement.  He can say today he doesn‘t believe in it and an then emergency will come up in a day or two or a week and force him to change his mind.”

So now the “Journal” has an outdated useless Limbaugh column, as if there could be any other kind and Limbaugh‘s mortal enemy, the Fairness Doctrine, turns out to be a figment of his paranoia.

Comedian doesn‘t understand what the Fairness Doctrine was.  Relax, Rush, if it did come back, it wouldn‘t force you to be fair.  Thus your livelihood is still secure.

But our winner, the manatee.  You heard of the latest Bernie Madoff wannabe, Alan Stanford, the billionaire, certificate of deposit guru who fled after trying to defraud 50,000 of his clients out of $8 billion.  They found him tonight.  One of his scams is the Stanford Financial Group, one of its scams is Stanford Coins and Bullion.  And guess who one of Sean Hannity‘s biggest radio sponsors is?  He even reads them himself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  I have been buying gold.  As a matter of fact, two weeks ago I ordered some gold from our friends at Stanford Coins and Bullion.  Call Stanford Coins and Bullion, mention my name and get a free guidebook of U.S. coins free with purchase.  Or go to the Web, stanfordcoins.com/hannity.

OLBERMANN:  Mention my name and get your pocket picked personally by Alan Stanford.  And if you order now he will come to your house and vacuum the gold from your teeth.  You weight, before the economic scandals finishing shaking out Sean Hannity‘s company will be left applying for a bailout from the Obama administration.  Maybe he can melt down his statuette for being tonight‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is in the context of anybody else‘s sense of what an apology is not very much of one.  The traditional non-apology apology that blames the person who was offended.

For “The New York Post,” Rupert Murdoch and Newscorp it is an extraordinary admission.  The “New York Post” has apologized for that cartoon from Monday‘s newspaper.  In an editorial posted already on its Web site, “Wednesday‘s page six cartoon caricaturing Monday‘s shooting of a chimpanzee has created considerable controversy,” the “Post” writes.  “It shows two police officers standing over the chimp‘s body, they‘ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill, one officer says.  It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill, period.  But it has been taken of something else,” the “Post” writes.  “As a depiction of President Obama as a thinly veiled expression of racism.  This most certainly was not its intent.  To those who were offended by the image we apologize.

“However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with ‘The Post” in the past and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.”  As an aside my picture does not appear anywhere near this editorial response from the “Post” tonight.  “To them,” however, “‘The Post‘ continues, no apology is due.  Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon.”

So “The New York Post” has in its own fashion apologized for the Obama chimpanzee cartoon.  We happen to have for another topic plan to be interviewing Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post” who is in the Washington bureau with us now and can address as we sort through the reaction to this.  Gene, thanks for your time tonight.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It is a non-apology apology, if you are offended we are sorry. 

But for the “Post” they might as well knock their own building down.

ROBINSON:  For the “Post” this is extraordinary.  I certainly never expected anything like this from that newspaper.  But it‘s a very odd apology even if you accept the nonapology form because he‘s—they‘re sorry to people who are offended but if those people who were offended ever had any disagreement with the “Post” or I guess with the Fox, with Newscorp we are not sorry to them.  They can take a hike.  So what if you fall into both categories?  I guess you don‘t get an apology.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  None of us could be legitimately upset by that—Al Sharpton could not have been legitimately.  Obviously it is directed at Al Sharpton.  It is not about me or anyone like me, it is about Al Sharpton leading a protest outside their building around the corner.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Anyone who was offended and joined the protest or walked past it and lent support, too bad, you don‘t get an apology because we are not sorry to you.  But we are sorry to the other people if they took offense at this patently offensive cartoon that was amazing to have passed an editor‘s desk in the first place.

OLBERMANN:  To that point it is an interesting event occur in the context of the interview we had with Michael Wolff who wrote this definitive book about Rupert Murdoch and not in this discussion but in the previous one, we were talking about how Rupert Murdoch has been liberalized by his second life and most sympathetic to President Obama and before him President-elect Obama and before him candidate Obama.  There is no doubt something of this consequence which even Michael didn‘t see coming must have been directed by Rupert Murdoch and tamped down beneath him to throw some sort of snide remark at his critics.

ROBINSON:  That would be my scenario.  I would think an order came from awfully high in Newscorp, say you are sorry.  Now.  Do it quickly.  They didn‘t want this to get out of hand.  And I think they in this case is probably Rupert Murdoch.  There is another issue, though.  How does that get in the paper in the first place?  I would be curious.  I don‘t know anything about this.  I would be curious about the diversity of the work r force of the “New York Post” and the editorial staff and whose eyes might have seen that cartoon.  I think that is one reason why diversity is a good thing.  It keeps you out of situations like this sometimes.

OLBERMANN:  And quickly, do you think that is the end of it in terms of the protests or will that continue?

ROBINSON:  I‘m not sure where it goes from here.  I agree with Michael Wolff that Al Sharpton won‘t get anywhere with sort of regulatory actions against Rupert Murdoch.  We will have to see.  We have to digest this extraordinary turn of events.  Didn‘t think it would happen.

OLBERMANN:  This just in, “The New York Post” sort of apologizes.  Gene Robinson of the good “Post” - “The Washington Post.”  And MSNBC.  Thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And with that breaking news that is this, COUNTDOWN for the 2,112th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.

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

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