updated 2/23/2009 10:05:18 AM ET 2009-02-23T15:05:18

Guest: Richard Justice, Christian Finnegan, Jonathan Alter, Michael Wolff, Richard Wolffe

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

“New York Post” editor-in-chief, Col Allan, personally ordered the release of his papers Obama cartoon non-apology apology, attacking its critics over the objection of Rupert Murdoch‘s public relations people.  As Michael Wolff reports on war inside News Corp., war outside—a second day of protest, 30 advertisers are contemplating a boycott.

Yet, for the radical right, it is still—target Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN KEYES, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ACTIVIST:  Obama is a radical communist and I think it‘s becoming clear he‘s going to destroy this country.  We are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Alan Keyes, who lost the Illinois Senate seat to Obama 70 percent to 27 percent, goes off the deep end.  How far will the far right go?

(MUSIC)

OLBERMANN:  No truer now than it was then.

The president and the mayors: “Spend smartly the stim money,” he says.  Or else—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  With that comes unprecedented obligations to spend that money wisely, free from politics and free from personal agendas.  On this, I will not compromise or tolerate any shortcuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Who now will tolerate Alex Rodriguez as his steroid story implodes?  He said he took—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, MLB PLAYER:  A substance that you can purchase over-the-counter in D.R. during the 2001, 2002, and 2003 seasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But the substance is not available in the Dominican Republic, over-the-counter, or even with a prescription.  And he had a trainer, one long linked to steroids, traveling with him as recently as the 2007 season.

The real economic crisis: The beer recession.  Domestic beer sales dropped a record 9 percent in the last quarter of 2008.  Do we need a beer bailout or ale out?

And the president says we can no longer “assume that housing prices are going to go up 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent every year.”  So, comedian Rush Limbaugh claims he actually said, “We cannot expect the values of our home to go up 10 percent, 20 percent over our lifetimes never again.”  Is an oxy-cotton bailout possible?

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KEYES:  Welcome to “Making Sense.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

The non-apology apology from the “New York Post” has appropriately had a non-impact impact.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The protests continuing tonight, both outside the headquarters of the right-wing tabloid‘s parent company, News Corp., and inside the newsroom itself—where even the gossip page is distancing itself from the controversy.

All this as right-wing wing-nut Alan Keyes is now warning that President Obama is, as you heard, a radical communist, a usurper who must be stopped or the United States will, quote, “cease to exist.”  No.  I‘m not kidding.

One month to the day after the inauguration, it seems that many still have not gotten used to the idea of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.  For a second straight night, protesters are marching outside News Corp. headquarters in midtown Manhattan, presumably the kind of people the “New York Post” was referring to as having been offended by this cartoon that they took according to the tabloid, as a depiction of President Obama as a thinly-veiled expression of racism.

In an editorial in today‘s paper, “The Post” heavy on the mea, light on the culpa.  Quote, “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.  To them, no apology is due.”

In other words, if you always agree with us, we are sorry.  If you disagreed with us in the past, you obviously just hold a grudge about our wonderfulness.

Alan Keyes‘ grudge, beaten 70 to 27 by Barack Obama in the 2004 Illinois Senate race, also one of 3,744 former MSNBC hosts, Alan Keyes is back in the forefront in the wake of an interview outside of pro-life fund-raiser in Nebraska.  The three-time presidential candidate, basically has yet to win anything he‘s run for, claiming that the new president would destroy this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEYES:  Obama is a radical communist and I think it‘s becoming clear.  That‘s what I told people in Illinois, and now, everybody realizes it‘s true.  He‘s going to destroy this country.  We either are going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Keyes is also declaring the president, an abomination for his pro-choice stance before reviving the ridiculousness that is the rumor that will not die that Mr. Obama is not a citizen of the United States and therefore, he‘s not actually president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEYES:  Is he president of the United States?  According to the Constitution, in order to be eligible for president, you have to be a natural born citizen.  He has refused to provide truth that he is, in fact, a natural born citizen.  And his Kenyan relations say that he was born in Nairobi at a time when his mother was too young to transmit U.S.  citizenship.  So, I‘m not even sure he‘s president of the United States.

No.  That is not a laughing matter.  Neither are many of our military people now who are going to court to ask a question: Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the Constitution?  We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen.

And if we don‘t stop laughing about it and deal it, we are going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion, and civil war.  It‘s time we started acting like grownups.  The person you call President Obama and I frankly refuse to call him that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.

KEYES:  At the moment, he is somebody who is kind of an alleged usurper, who is alleged to be someone who‘s occupying that office without constitutional warrant to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Keyes, it should be noted, is also not sure of the relative whereabouts of his ass and his elbow.

The postmortem in the moment, first Keyes, and time to call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Good evening, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Just setting aside the image of what you would have to do or what you would do to yourself if you had to defend him at a sanity hearing.

ALTER:  Right.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Alan Keyes leads off by saying Obama is a radical communist.  That it‘s clear now that that is what he is.  All right.  A month out from the inauguration—what exactly has Obama done in the last month that shows he‘s a radical communist?

ALTER:  Well, he‘s thrown millions of people into the gulag, you know, he‘s abolished all private property, committed infanticide.  You know, what is it that radical communists actually do?  This is preposterous.  It is kind of amusing on some level, even though Alan Keyes doesn‘t want us to think of it as such.  And it does reflect, really, the desperation to which the far right-wing has sunk.

OLBERMANN:  But in that right-wing picture, that bigger picture between what we saw on “The Post” this week and Keyes—is it becoming clear that the GOP strategy is to try to repeat the Clinton experience only maybe without the slight logic that was behind the Clinton experience—just harass the president from day one?

ALTER:  Yes.  You remember, back in 1993, they tried to say that Bill Clinton wasn‘t legitimately president of the United States.  Now, he didn‘t have a majority.  He had 49 percent in that ‘92 election.  And so, they had just a little bit more plausibility to say that the people didn‘t really vote for him.

But in this case, clearly, Obama, you know, has been confirmed by a majority.  So the whole illegitimacy question is really even more preposterous.  But they‘re trying to do what they did to Clinton starting in 1994, which is to take him out.  But they don‘t have really the shock troops to do it anymore.  Eric cantor is not Newt Gingrich.

(LAUGHTER)

ALTER:  Not as effective.  Alan Keyes doesn‘t have as much material to work with on Obama as some of those Arkansas folks did on Bill Clinton.  They had some real skeletons in Clinton‘s closet that they could, you know, then twist into saying that the Clintons killed people or whatever their idiocies led them to.  They had more material to work with.

In Obama‘s case, there is no material to work with.  So, they have to make it up entirely which makes them seem even more pathetic.

OLBERMANN:  But as long as you feed that community that is looking for some excuse to question the legitimacy of a presidency, have you not—to some degree—done your job?  I mean, has Alan Keyes not—to some degree—done his job in this?

ALTER:  Well, you know, I don‘t really think so, because I think it‘s just sort of makes him and the other Clinton critic—the other Obama critics look ridiculous.  And so, that doesn‘t really, you know, help their cause in the debate.

They are a party that is out of ideas, so they have to resort to these lies, you know, about the fact that he is not a citizen.  You know, this came up during the campaign, Keith, and the Obama campaign actually posted his birth certificate from a Hawaii hospital online.  And, of course, that didn‘t dissuade people from continuing to say that he wasn‘t really born in the United States.  The same way that there wasn‘t anything you could say that could dissuade people from believing that, you know, Franklin Roosevelt was really, you know, (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ALTER:  That he was a communist Jew or that the Clintons really killed people or whatever it is that crazy folks want to believe about our president.  So there‘s no way to kind of end this.  All that you can do is laugh at it and recognize it for the act of desperation that it is.

OLBERMANN:  But—and to the point that even though the right-wing cite the “World Net Daily” authenticated the Obama birth certificate .

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  It tells you the substantial-ness of this or lack

thereof, but to laugh at it is one thing, but there is in there something -

when he starts talking about “neither are many of our military people who are now going ask, do we have to obey a man who‘s not qualified”—when you start bringing that into it, is it entirely still a laughing matter?

       

ALTER:  No, it really isn‘t, because then you do start to have to worry about whether some crazy folks might decide that they don‘t have to obey the commander-in-chief and you do have to start to worry about whether he might get across that line into incitement—where some people might, you know, suggest that the Secret Service should protect him from some loonier extremes.  When they start saying that he must be stopped.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ALTER:  I‘m not quite sure what that means.  But you‘re right, it‘s not a laughing matter.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” of course—as always, Jon, great thanks.  Have a great weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, back to the “New York Post” and the non-apology apology that has had its non-impact impact.  Let‘s turn once again to Michael Wolff, columnist for “Vanity Fair” and author of the book, “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch,” also a founder of the Web site, Newser.com.

Hello, again.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, “THE MAN WHO OWNS THE NEWS”:  Keith, how are you?

OLBERMANN:  Elevating Al Sharpton inside this non-apology apology, obviously, he was the guy, “the opportunist” that they referred to several times though but not by name, and attacking those who were upset, who they felt were not legitimately upset.  Is that a smart move?

WOLFF:  It‘s an extraordinary move.  It‘s like, you know .

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFF:  So, hit your head.  And from my understanding is that “The Post” PR people, and the PR people for “The Post” for a long time, they also smacked their head and said to Col Allan, who‘s the editor of the paper, “Are you nuts?”  And Col, who‘s an incredibly angry guy, a guy who throws things, you know, a guy who smacks his—in my book, I recount a scene where he smacks his fist down and cuff links break apart.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFF:  You know, he said, we are doing it this way and we‘re going after Sharpton.  Now, Sharpton was one of a rather large group of people who yesterday said, “Hey, wait a minute, there‘s something wrong with this.”  But by singling Sharpton out, Col Allan has suddenly made Al Sharpton the spokesperson for this.  Suddenly, we have a situation which is, I guess, sort of Imus-like in its snowball effect.

Now, this is all about Col Allan.  It‘s all about—he chose the cartoon.  He put Al Sharpton in place to go after “The Post” and he has become the focus of everybody‘s annoyance if not rage.

OLBERMANN:  So, how big does the snowball get and who does it run over if runs over anybody?

WOLFF:  Well, I think that—I think it runs over Col Allan.  It‘s running over him right now.  But the danger inside of News Corp. is it could run over many other—it could run over the company.  I mean, it could run over—it‘s now running toward Rupert Murdoch and it‘s running in the form of the issue of the waiver which is exactly what Al Sharpton is attacking because, in order to own the “New York Post” and television stations, Rupert Murdoch had to get a waiver.

So, the Sharpton people and the—or the full range of people protesting this are going at Rupert Murdoch‘s weakest spot—this waiver.  And they are going at it at a moment in time, let‘s remember, we have this cartoon which portrays the president, the black president as a monkey.  Not to mention—hello, there‘s also a governor who is black.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WOLFF:  So, suddenly, Col Allan is the most isolated man in the state of New York, I would say.

OLBERMANN:  So, is this the sort of thing where Murdoch might break precedent and follow up this sort of tepid thumb—fists up apology with an intervention of his own?

WOLFF:  It would be breaking precedent.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WOLFF:  I mean, the thing that Rupert Murdoch never, ever, ever does is acknowledge public pressure, acknowledge that there are other people beyond News Corp., the sovereign state of News Corp.  Now, he will do it later on.  There was a—I think there was another cartoon once upon a time after JFK, Jr. died.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.

WOLFF:  And there was the suggestion of, I think it was a hideous cartoon with Joe Kennedy in hell and the devil saying, “I‘m going—oh, it was just terrible.”

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WOLFF:  But the person who approved that was not fired on the spot, but six months later, he was—he gently disappeared.  So there is.  It is not as if everybody gets away with anything in this company.  It‘s just that Rupert Murdoch doesn‘t like to acknowledge that he‘s been forced to do something.  However, if this is—if there is a sense that this is closing in, that this is going to cost News Corp., yes, Col Allan will be out of there in a New York minute.  I mean, he‘s going to be out of there in an Australian minute.

OLBERMANN:  Murdoch minute.

WOLFF:  Yes, soon anyway.

OLBERMANN:  But we could—I mean, Rupert could just say, “Well, I saw it and I didn‘t like it, so, I‘m making this change” and not acknowledge the public pressure at that point.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFF:  But I think—I mean, the really interesting thing is how much is coming from inside of the company now.  I mean, since I started to write about this yesterday on Newser.com, I‘ve gotten nothing but calls from people within “The Post.”

OLBERMANN:  Wow.

WOLFF:  Everybody is in a whisper mode.  I mean, certainly, the people at page six, you know, have begun, have now—have deflected calls.  They said, “Listen, don‘t call us.  Call the news desk.  Not us.”

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  And when page six takes a moral stance, you know, the original issue is significant one.

Michael Wolff of “Vanity Fair” and the author of “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch” and proprietor of Newser.com—thank you again.  Obviously, I think we‘ll talk about this one, one more time at least.

WOLFF:  Keith, I think we‘re going to be talking about this for some time to come.

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.

The president reserved his pushback today for 70 of the nation‘s leading mayors, warning them to spend the stimulus money wisely.  The warning itself might be wisdom, a way of cutting congressional Republicans right out of the stimulus equation.

What to do in public is always risky business—ask baseball‘s Alex Rodriguez.  Three days later, everything he admitted to about his use of steroids, is passing the test of scrutiny, except where he got them, who he got them from, and what year he stopped using them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The president‘s warning to the mayors about stimulus money, doubling perhaps as a means of cutting the national Republicans completely out of the stimulus process.

Alex Rodriguez‘s steroids story is coming apart like, well, like Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs.

And later in Worsts: It‘s all very nice to rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange about how Americans shouldn‘t have to pay the mortgages of, quote, “losers.”  Doesn‘t that logic demand that we shouldn‘t pay the debts of the loser banks and the loser businesses?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Monday next, President Obama will meet with the nation‘s governors, governors whose states are hurting.  Today, President Obama met with more than 70 mayors from around the country.

Our fourth story tonight: Is the president trying to outflank the Republican Congress?  After they failed to stop the stimulus, Republican governors, led by South Carolina‘s Mark Sanford, picked up the ball, making noises about rejecting stimulus money as wasteful and not stimulative, despite the minor inconvenience that might cause their constituents, Sanford‘s state for instance having the third highest unemployment in the country this past December.

Today, after praising mayoral innovations, the president served notice to every government official, including the mayors to whom he was speaking, that stimulus money will stimulate the economy or else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it.  I want everybody here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president is also announcing the creation last night of the White House Office of Urban Affairs to make reality the new administration‘s focus on urban America, home not just to 65 percent of our citizens but also the driver of the nation‘s economy—what‘s left of it.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, on this.

Good evening, Richard.

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

OLBERMANN:  Am I over-reading on this or is the president kind of triangulating those Republicans who have to govern and who need the stimulus money against those who just can sit back and play politics?

WOLFFE:  No.  You are not over-reading it, although I know many people in this White House who would rather have root canal surgery than say they were triangulating.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  And it is more complicated than in the Clinton era, and as much as they love the Clinton era, they are looking at a very different political situation.  First and foremost, they don‘t need Republican votes to get the stimulus through.  Obviously, it‘s already happened.  But there‘s something much more complicated in the sense that they are undermining the Republicans who oppose them by going to those districts, going to the big cities, going to the people who, frankly, are more powerful, more influential and better known than many of those Republican members of Congress, and saying, “They are on our side, they‘re on your side,” the voters‘ side.  So, the politics of this one is much clearer than it seems maybe inside the beltway.  That‘s their strategy.

OLBERMANN:  The president portrayed this now, today, as a politics-free program.  Any hint of fraud or waste and he‘ll call them out on it.  It would be very dramatic-sounding, and such.  Is this, in fact, un-political on his part, nonpolitical or is it really the opposite of it?  Is it hyper-political by actually—what‘s that original term—good governance, I think, I remember that from school books?

WOLFFE:  Right, and introduced in history.

Well, look, there is a long-standing theme and desire inside this White House to have transparency and all those good things like new Web sites.  And that‘s great as far as it goes.  But it is very political.

And the reason is that, you are not really going to have a president in public saying to one of his own agencies, one of his own cabinet secretaries—you are wasting my money.  Could they do it at the state level for demonstration purposes?  Yes.

But the important piece of the demonstration isn‘t actually political at all.  It‘s to say to the capital markets, to those foreign investors, we are being responsible with this money.  And that‘s what really needs to happen, otherwise, everyone‘s borrowing costs will go up.

OLBERMANN:  If the president manages to wedge Republican governors away from Republican mayors, away from Republican senators—what does the National Republican Party do in terms of its opposition to the stimulus other than to throw the equivalent of 527 ads out there?

WOLFFE:  Well, there is no National Republican Party right now. 

And that‘s—

(LAUGHTER)

WOLFFE:  And that‘s the problem.  You‘ve got Michael Steele and you got John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, maybe Eric Cantor, if he gets his wish to come true.

So, do they have a strategy other than saying no?  And when they go back to the districts, when they say, “Hey, I want that earmark.  I want to spend some more money because money in my district is OK, it‘s not frivolous spending”—you know, this strategy doesn‘t really make sense.  So, they need some leadership.  And remember, where is the next leadership going to come from?  It‘s those governors who are saying, “Yes, I‘ll have some of that money now.”

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Michael Steele could grab that new constituency he says he‘s going after and make a hip-hop video about it, I supposed.  It‘d be probably the next thing.

Richard Wolffe—

WOLFFE:  But they wouldn‘t be real jobs.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  It‘d only be temporary work.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC—great thanks.  Have a great weekend.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The world economy may be in nose dive.  But at least you can while away your unemployment playing rock-paper-scissors against a robot.

And, he said it was like a new Boston tea party.  The rant against bailing out the losers and their mortgages.  The problem, his logic applied to business and banking and would mean not bailing out loser businesses and loser banks.

The Worst Person in the World—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and the man who had to ask this question: Where has that crochet needle gone?  And what‘s that sharp sensation in my—

First, on this date in 1914, the great American broadcaster was born.  John Charles Daly was the first network radio newsman who announced the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the first to announce the death of FDR.  He later simultaneously hosted the game show, “What‘s My Line” on CBS television while anchoring the evening news on ABC television and running that network‘s news division.  Quitting when ABC infamously pre-empted the first hour of its scheduled coverage of the Kennedy/Nixon election in 1960 to instead run “Bugs Bunny” and “The Flintstones.”

Let‘s play Oddball, doc.

We begin in London where the epic struggle between man and machine rages on.  First, Deep Blue versus Gary Kasparov at chess.  Now, it‘s Berti the robot challenging his inventors to a game of rock-paper-scissors.  A battle so fierce it makes that tournament between a world chess champion and an IBM supercomputer looked like sedentary hopscotch.  Those brave enough to take on Berti with a special sensory glove, the glove supposedly tells the robot when you‘re about to throw down, then Berti makes his allegedly random selection, a likely story.

Next up on the docket of mechanical innovation, robot beer pong.

Let‘s head down the cable dial to the “Mannity show” on fixed news where they are working on a puzzle.  Yehey!  It‘s like a Barack Obama advent calendar.  Each of the president‘s first 100 days in office Mannity yanks a piece off the Obama picture to reveal a photograph of what Mannity says is really behind change you can believe in.”  Thirty days, 30 pieces removed.

So far, there is no telling whatsoever as to what would be behind that Obama picture.  There‘s just no telling.  We‘re all supposed to guess.  But I just don‘t have any earthly—I‘m sure it‘s something really clever back there.  Maybe—I don‘t know.  Maybe a pony?

Alex Rodriguez‘s story begins to come apart at the seams—how he got what he took, when he stopped taking it, and what—who got it for him.  All those questions in serious doubt tonight.

And the real indicator of a staggering, sagging economy—what may be the first beer recession in the nation‘s history.

These stories ahead.  But first, COUNTDOWN‘s best three persons in the world.  Number three, best comeback.

The Worcester‘s buttonquail, the so-called “smiling bird,” thought to be found only on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, and presumed to be extinct.  The good news—one was seen last month in the nation of Colombia.  The bad news, it was seen at a poultry shop.  And then it was eaten by the people who bought it.

Number two, best—you knew this was going to happen—Walter Hoover of Webb City, Missouri.  His cable was shut off, so he reverted to using the old rabbit ears for broadcast TV, which in his town converted to digital on Tuesday.  Having been utterly defeated by technology, Walter promptly shot his television.

And best make you wince story—you‘ve been warned—an unnamed man reported to Huntsville Hospital in Alabama late Wednesday night for treatment of a real emergency.  He said that after a night of drinking with his girlfriend, he had awakened to the rather alarming reality that there was a crochet needle stuck fully into—him.

Not something in the back.  Something in the front.

As police continue to investigate, the needle has been removed.  No serious damage.

The bad news is, while he dozed, he had a needle stuck into his—front.  The good news is, he has been declared the world‘s soundest sleeper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Less than 72 hours after his confessional news conference designed to begin rebuilding his support among fans and advertisers, baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez‘s already improbable story of how and when he used steroids has fallen apart.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN.

He said the drug boli, Primobolan, had been obtained for him by a cousin.  Today a newspaper report revealed Rodriguez had a personal trainer long linked to steroids.  He said the steroids had been purchased over the counter in the Dominican Republic.  Today, another report revealed the drug is not even legally available there with a prescription.

And he insisted he had not used any performance-enhancing drugs since the 2003 season.  But today, the story about that notorious trainer included the startling revelation that the man had traveled with Rodriguez as recently as the baseball season of 2007.

As detailed in baseball‘s “Mitchell Report,” Angel Presinal was the personal trainer to Indian slugger Juan Gonzalez in 2001, when a bag owned either by Gonzalez or Presinal, containing anabolic steroids and syringes, was discovered at the airport in Toronto.  Each man denied ownership of the bag, but Presinal was banned from the clubhouses of Major League Baseball.

Players, however, continued to train with him—players like Alex Rodriguez.  The “New York Daily News” today reporting Presinal accompanied Rodriguez for the entire 2007 season, stayed in the same hotels as he did, splitting a room with Rodriguez‘s mysterious cousin, who has now been identified as a man named Yuri Sucart.

A source tells the newspaper, “You would never see Alex with [Presinal].  They would meet in one of their rooms.”

And that boli that Rodriguez said his cousin obtained over the counter in the Dominican Republic, the D.R.?  ESPN spoke to Dr. Pia Veras, who oversees the agency that regulates pharmaceutical drugs in the Dominican.  He says boli—Primobolan—is not legally available over the counter in his country, not even with a prescription, and that the same was true for the timeframe Rodriguez says he was using the drug, from 2001 to 2003.

Joining me for the second time this week about this is Richard Justice, sports columnist for the “Houston Chronicle.”

Richard, good evening again.

RICHARD JUSTICE, SPORTS COLUMNIST, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE”:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  When he got it, when he used it, where he got it, who he got it from.  They‘re all in doubt now.

This ship is sinking kind of fast, isn‘t it?

JUSTICE:  Well, he‘s managed to shift the debate from where he got it, who he got it from, and all of that—he‘ll have plenty of time to answer that to MLB investigators—to how dumb are you to come in front of hundreds of reporters and tell a story that can be unraveled within hours?

Beginning with the fact that he tested positive for two substances, and now saying, hey, my cousin and I were just fooling around with this one thing we did.

It just doesn‘t make any sense—for this guy, particularly, one of the most calculated people you‘ll ever meet.  That‘s one of the reasons players—his teammates haven‘t liked him over the years.  They view him as a phony.

And to tell a story that just didn‘t hold water for two hours, is just

it boggles your mind.  It really does.

OLBERMANN:  The country is remarkably forgiving, especially to its athletes.  Jason Giambi—five years ago now, I guess it is—apologized for using steroids.  Never said the word “steroids”—still has never said the word “steroids”—and was almost utterly forgiven.

Given that this was a sport in a country looking for almost any excuse to forgive Alex Rodriguez, how could he—and maybe more importantly, how could the people who make money from him—have screwed up this news conference and this apology so badly?

JUSTICE:  You know, this smacked of a professional athlete, a kid that‘s had his shoes kissed every room he walked into from the time he was 16 years old.  Your value system gets screwed up.  You think whatever the truth I say is, is the truth.

And, you know, and in defense of him, he‘s told the larger truth—“I cheated.”  I think he understands that.  Now he‘s decided he‘s going to lie about everything else.  And he just—I guess it was just a failure to understand.

And everything has crumbled for him.  This is the guy that wanted to be Cal Ripken squared.  And he was so careful about everything, and he just can‘t bring himself to say “I‘m sorry.”

I have told this—Roger Clemens‘.  If you just say—if you just say, “I‘m sorry,” you can‘t believe how many people will just say “Hey, we want to forgive you.”

OLBERMANN:  As we‘ve discussed, this has been true for Pete Rose for 20 years, and he‘s only occasionally gotten even glimpses of that.

But what‘s going to happen now?  Because there was an ESPN report today that Major League Baseball is now going to look into this relationship between Rodriguez and his trainer, Presinal, and that the possibility of a suspension rests on this relationship, because this guy has essentially been banned by baseball, and you‘re not supposed to associate with him.

Do we have any idea where this is going from here?

JUSTICE:  Well, Commissioner Bud Selig has wanted to suspend guys through the years for this—Bonds on a couple of occasions.  His people have talked him out of it.  And his position is, “Hey, I‘m over here.  You‘re over here.  Let‘s draw a line.”

I don‘t think he‘s going to, and here‘s the reason.  I think, if Alex

cooperates with MLB investigators, and if they perceive he‘s being honest -

and in this interview, there‘ll be all kinds of follow-up questions—I think they‘ll let it go, because, let‘s remember, Bud Selig is also a protector of the game.

And you know—and, Keith, when you talk about jail time for Bonds or suspension for A-Rod, it doesn‘t matter.  The things they value the most—their greatness, their legacy, all that—that is all gone.  So, all this other stuff is almost irrelevant.

OLBERMANN:  But there is still a season ahead of us and ahead of Alex Rodriguez, and this prospect of suspension.  I‘ve always wondered—and I‘m sure the commissioner has thought of it in these terms, too.

If you were to suspend him on whatever pretext you wanted to and say, all right, now the union, the players‘ association, is going to appeal, are you not saying, “OK, I‘m the commissioner of baseball, and I‘m standing up for what‘s right and what people—how people should behave.  You guys in the union are clearly defending somebody who is wrong.  Go ahead.  Defend him.  See if you can overturn it.  So what?”

JUSTICE:  He‘s had that discussion with people on his staff, probably two dozen times.  And there are times you talk to him, early in the day when he‘s set on doing it.  And they always talk him out of it.  Hey, there‘s no point in doing it.

You know, Bonds is gone now, basically.  McGwire is gone.  Sosa‘s gone.  They‘re all gone.

Alex Rodriguez has nine years left on his contract.  He‘s going to be the poster boy for everything that‘s happened.  Any room he walks into, whenever he steps on a field, that‘s the first thing people are going to think of.

We think great athletes have to be mentally tough.  This guy is going to have to have mental toughness, you know, beyond what is comprehensible - - beyond what Michael Jordan would be able to comprehend.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  That‘s if he‘s still in the major leagues a month from now, because at the rate of deterioration, he‘s going to have to seek political asylum in some other country at this point.

JUSTICE:  Yes. You know, if this keeps—yes, if this keeps going, it‘s going to get ugly.  I mean, what next?

You know, at some point—John Smoltz said this today—at some point, somebody is going to have to come out and just tell the whole truth, and they‘ll find out.  Maybe people are forgiving.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Richard Justice of the “Houston Chronicle.”  Twice in one week on this.

All right.  Let‘s—maybe we can give it a rest, I hope.

Take care, Richard.  Thanks.

JUSTICE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Is the nation‘s real economic problem a record-breaking drop in the sale of beer?  I‘m not kidding.

A twofer and worse from comedian Rush Limbaugh.  And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Obama and Afghanistan.  Her special guest is David Kilcullen, the former adviser to General Petraeus, now helping the new president on his new policy.

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

Number three, George Bush‘s America-gate, that long-term impact of eight years of deregulation and spending billions on pointless war.

From Morristown, New Jersey, and one of the wealthiest counties in the nation a year after the—the year after the demand at food banks jumped 30 percent—comes the story of Mr. and Mrs. Driesen (ph).  He works at a movie theater.  She works at a government office.  They have a combined income of $55,000 a year.

So, how much did they give when they stopped by the Interfaith Pantry?  Unfortunately, nothing.  They were there to ask for some baby food.  Fifty-five thousand a year.

Number two, e-mail-gate.  A year ago next Thursday, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California, belittled Democrats‘ calls for an investigation into the Bush administration use of private and Republican National Committee e-mail accounts and sloppy, probably illegal, handling of e-mail records.  Are we simply going on a fishing expedition at $40,000 to $50,000 a month, Issa asked?

White House counsel Greg Craig will receive a letter demanding that the president put in place a system that ensures all White House e-mails be preserved, even if official business was done through private e-mail accounts.

That letter is signed by Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California.  He serves the district surrounding—where is it?  The City of Hypocrisy, isn‘t it?  Somewhere near Whittier?

Number one, denial-gate.  Richard Perle, former chairman of Bush‘s Defense Policy Board, architect of the neocon arguments that have made this nation the third most popular one internationally on our continent.

Addressing a foreign policy forum at Washington‘s Nixon Center, asked about the letters to President Bush giving a supposed moral imperative to removing Saddam Hussein that he wrote, Perle replied “I don‘t have the letters in front of me.”

On the national security strategy doctrine he authored, advocating preemptive war, he said, “I don‘t know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements.  My guess is he didn‘t.”

The report that he co-wrote 13 years ago, launching neocon policy.  “My name was on it, because I signed up for the study group.  I didn‘t approve it.  I didn‘t read it.  There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy.  I can‘t find a single example of a neoconservative supposed to have had influence over the Bush administration arguing that we should impose democracy by force.”

Mr. Perle—if that is his real name—added, “You know I love you, baby.  I wouldn‘t leave you!  It wasn‘t my fault!  Honest!  I ran out of gas.  I had a flat tire.  I didn‘t have enough money for cab fare.  My tux didn‘t get back from the cleaners!  An old friend came in from out of town.  Someone stole my care.  There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts! 

It wasn‘t my fault, I swear to God!”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is a beer recession.  There has apparently never been a beer recession before in this country.  “We‘re toast, dude.”

That‘s next.  But first on COUNTDOWN, number two story tonight.  Worst persons in the world.  The bronze tonight—with my apologies to my corporate cousins, who I have uniformly defended here from all attacks—to Rick Santelli of CNBC.

He attacked the stimulus and mortgage rescue plans from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange yesterday on the air, the highlights of which were as follows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTELLI, CNBC BUSINESS NEWS:  ... promoting bad behavior.

How about this, president and new administration?  Why don‘t you put up a Web site to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum, to see if we really want to subsidize the losers‘ mortgages?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  When a few of the traders on the floor then cheered, Santelli turned to address them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTELLI:  This is America!  How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor‘s mortgage, that has an extra bathroom and can‘t bill their bills?  Raise their hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES:  Boo!!

SANTELLI:  President Obama, are you listening?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know, Mr. Santelli.  But I‘m wondering if it occurred to him that his arguments against the government promoting bad behavior and subsidizing the losers, and paying for their neighbors‘ mortgages, that those comments, carried to their logical extreme, are the best arguments for not bailing out the bad banks, and not bailing out bonus-crazy Wall Street guys, and not bailing out any of those Mercantile traders who happen to be standing behind him?

Geez Louise, man.  Come back and join us here in the real world.

Businesspeople in this country right now are viewed like actors were after Booth shot Lincoln.  When we try to fix what you all did to this country, just sit down and hush up.

The runner-up, comedian Rush Limbaugh, supposedly quoting the president, knocking him for talking down the American economy when he said -- quoting comedian—“that we all must learn to live within our means and not expect the values of our homes to go up 10, 20 percent over our lifetimes.  Never again.”

Of course, that isn‘t what Obama said.  Wednesday in Mesa, Arizona, he said we should “not assume that housing prices are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent every year.”

So, Rush, you got the time range wildly wrong—every year versus our lifetimes.  And you got the numbers wildly wrong -- 10 to 20 as opposed to 20, 30, 40.  So, for you, that‘s pretty accurate.

And our winner, comedian again.  With the White House having reiterated that the president, like Rush, opposes reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, his op-ed for the Murdoch Street Journal today about how the president was going to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine looked pretty stupid.

So he rephrased it as an open letter in which he asked, “Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as local content, diversity of ownership and public interest rules—all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments, but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?”

Later, Mr. Limbaugh wrote that, “the AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a scarce resource.”  Which makes you wonder how anything could be its death knell.

And lastly, he decried, “government-imposed censorship, disguised as fairness and balance.”

Wait.  Fair and balanced is some sort of euphemism for censorship and one-sidedness.  Why does that sound so familiar?

Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t have to tell you things are bad.  Everyone knows things are bad.  It‘s a depression.  Everybody‘s out of work or scared of losing their job.  The dollar buys a nickel‘s worth.  Banks are going bust.  Shopkeepers can‘t sell beer.

Beer sales are running low, and nobody knows what to do.  There‘s no end to it.

In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, for the first time since records have been kept, starting in 1959, beer sales are down, and dramatically so.

We know things are bad.  Worse than bad, they‘re crazy.  Everything‘s going crazy.  So we don‘t go out for a beer anymore.

The shocking evidence courtesy of Nate Silver at 538 dot—is there anything that guy doesn‘t follow?  The graph shows the alcohol sales—the red line there—normally recession-proof, other than a noticeable correlation during the recession of 1991, that large red drip in the middle there.

But now, off-premise alcohol sales have plunged more than nine percent.  Most of that is from beer—a 14 percent decline.  Sales of wine and spirits have dropped only slightly.

Thus, can a beer stimulus plan be far off?

But also on the decline, gambling, off by nearly nine percent compared to a year ago.  And lingerie sales are down—many of you that didn‘t lose your undershirt—while regular old underwear is doing OK.  As are movie tickets—increased sales.

If you think this displays a triumph of wholesome stuff, consider this.  The sale of Girl Scout cookies—they have crumbled.

Let‘s bring in comedian Christian Finnegan, whose Comedy Central special “Au Contraire,” debuts on the 9th of May.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Christian, good evening.  Good evening.

FINNEGAN:  Lovely to be here, sir.

OLBERMANN:  Why beer as a barometer of the economy?

FINNEGAN:  All right.  Well, let‘s not get—you have to remember, this study really was focused on beer sold for home consumption.  And that makes sense, considering so few people are able to stay in their homes now.

I think you‘d see a major uptick in sales of beer consumed in church basements, shantytowns and dumpsters.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Although I don‘t see anybody out on the street behind me, except here on Friday nights.  They must be home doing something.

FINNEGAN:  I suppose so.

OLBERMANN:  So, what—I mean, should this be setting off some sort of alarm unlike almost any other leading economic indicator?

FINNEGAN:  Look  I don‘t think anyone has their finger on the pulse of America‘s drinking habits like a traveling standup comedian.

(LAUGHTER)

And I choose to look at the positive.  For example, next weekend I‘m headed to St. Louis.  Lovely town, St. Louis.

But based on my prior experiences there, a slight downturn in beer consumption may not be entirely negative.  Maybe that means one fewer audience member audibly questions my sexuality.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s because it comes out of the tap, right out of the—because of the brewery lines from Anheuser-Busch just drip...

FINNEGAN:  It‘s an IV drip, really.

OLBERMANN:  Our friend Nate @538.com suggested that there might be a guilt thing.  The quote from Nate is, “This might be a deliberate effort to deny oneself pleasure.”

Could that be what‘s really going on?  Or does that lead us into all sorts of difficult psychology?

FINNEGAN:  First of all, what sort of Bizarro fairytale world is Nate Silver living in where people drink for pleasure?  I drink for one reason and only one reason, to stop me from murdering people.

But, you know, times are tough.  They call for—it calls for desperate measures, you know.  And let me tell you, you do not want to show up hung over to the job fair, OK.  When you vomit all over your new Men‘s Wearhouse suit, recruiters don‘t look well on that.

OLBERMANN:  The government‘s been obviously trying to bail out banks, the theory that they are—or some of them, anyway—are too big to fail.  What of it?  Is beer too big to fail?

FINNEGAN:  Absolutely.  I mean, we‘re talking major ripple effect.  I mean, first of all, without beer, say goodbye to the karaoke industry—just off the top of my head.

Do you really think Eddie behind the camera here is going to belt out “Sweet Child of Mine” without some help from the silver bullet?  It‘s not going to happen.

And then, without beer, you‘re probably talking about the condom industry going down.  I mean, Trojan can‘t survive a nation of unclouded minds.

And then, that has its own ripple effect.

I don‘t think people understand how much awkward, post-one-night-stand brunches mean to IHOP‘s bottom line.  I mean, the dominoes just keep falling.

OLBERMANN:  And you spoke of the ripple effect, what about declining sales in Ripple and other...

FINNEGAN:  Deeper?

OLBERMANN:  ... wines, yes?

FINNEGAN:  Oh, if only—I‘m making up the difference myself on the Thunderbird.

OLBERMANN:  Should the president try to help on these things?  I mean, should he be seen, you know, drinking in public, perhaps at the news conferences or while talking to Republicans?  And, you know, eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies to try to boost those sales, too?

FINNEGAN:  Well, especially, I mean, with the beer.  I mean, we finally have a president ostensibly who is, like, proud of drinking.  I mean, he‘s always saying, like, oh, I‘m always up for a beer.

The problem is, I don‘t think people buy it with Obama.  It‘s kind of the same thing with Bush.  Whenever he talked about being sober for 20 years, everybody was, like, “Ye-e-e-ah, right.”

I mean, Obama—he can say what he wants.  I cannot picture him ripping through a six-pack of natty light.  It‘s not going to happen.

OLBERMANN:  Comedian Christian Finnegan, as we wait for the Alex Rodriguez endorsement of beer, which I‘m sure will increase sales immediately.

Thank you, Christian.  Have a good weekend.

FINNEGAN:  Always a sincere pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 2113th 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   

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