updated 3/9/2009 10:12:56 AM ET 2009-03-09T14:12:56

Guest: Miles Rawls, Allan Havey, Michael Schneider, Lawrence O‘Donnell

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

Six hundred and fifty-one thousand more jobs are gone in February.  The president is trying to put them back one at a time, or 25 at a time, as in 25 cops in Columbus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  These jobs and the jobs of so many other police officers and teachers and firefighters all across Ohio will now be saved because of this recovery plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A new “Newsweek” Poll: Obama now has 72 percent favorability and 58 percent say Republicans who oppose his economic plans have no plan of their own.

Just the language of violence: “I see this as the Alamo,” Glenn Beck now quotes Roger Ailes of fixed news as saying.  “If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we‘d be fine.”

And Boss Limbaugh has now gone sadistic in opposition to healthcare reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Plus, it has the great liberal lion, Teddy Kennedy, pushing it.  Before it‘s all over, it will be called the “Ted Kennedy memorial healthcare bill.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Considering how many prescription pills you‘ve consumed, maybe they could name it after you.

And is Limbaugh cooking the books about his ratings, “An average of 14 million listeners a week,” he boasts, but that‘s probably an average of 1,400,000 listeners at any given moment, not quite the 1,486,000 people who, in any given moment, last night, who were watching this show.

Bushed: The lawyer who prosecuted the president of Liberia for the international court of at The Hague, says the indictment this week for war crimes of the president of Sudan could be a template for the indictment of war crimes of President Bush.

And, Jacko, now maybe Newt, Ken Starr and a Seinfeld reunion?  The ‘90s are coming back?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not that there‘s anything wrong with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and—more now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m out.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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

As Boss Limbaugh and the Republicans continue to demand that nothing be done by the government to fix the economy, advocating instead, the same failed hands-off, rich-get-richer, everything-else-goes-in-the-toilet approach that got us into this mess in the first place.  This morning, a very real reminder of what is at stake and what is being done by President Obama to try and fix it.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Following the news that the unemployment rate has jumped again to its worst rate in the quarter of a century, the president, attending the graduation ceremony of 25 Ohio police cadets whose jobs he helped save by signing the stimulus plan.  A belated graduation ceremony today for the most recent class of cadets in Columbus, Ohio, who were supposed to have graduated in January, except the $13 million budget shortfall having forced that city to lay them off before they had ever hit the streets.  Now, with money from the stimulus bill, a second chance and a solid get for graduation speaker.

Some 651,000 Americans, no doubt, now among those hoping that jobs for them can be found the same way.  That‘s how many more of us, we learned this morning, were cut by employers in February.  The unemployment rate spiking to 8.1 percent, the highest it has been since 1983.  That number reflecting the staggering 4,400,000 Americans who have lost their jobs in the current recession.

Despite those numbers, the president is still enjoying strong numbers of his own in the latest “Newsweek” Poll out tonight, including a 72 percent favorability rating.  Meanwhile, 58 percent of respondents say they believe that Republicans who oppose Obama‘s economic proposal do not have any alternate plans of their own.  Yet oppose him they still do, some viewing it as a mission.

Glenn Beck is telling the “Los Angeles Times” that Roger Ailes came to him with this description of a fixed news organization which he leads quoting, “I see this as the Alamo.  If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we‘d be fine.”  Mr. Ailes, almost everybody defending the Alamo died unless you meant the people who attacked it, you‘re talking about the people who attacked it, the people who hated Americans.

At the White House, Obama press secretary, Robert Gibbs, explained the rationale behind engaging talk show host like Limbaugh, in effect to correct their lies.  Quote, “There‘s a certain amount of theater to it that might make it more fun, but it‘s important that people understand the policy.”

Michael Moore, meanwhile, defending himself against recent suggestions that he is the Limbaugh of the left, pointing out that unlike Limbaugh, the things that he believes in, healthcare for all, an end to the war in Iraq, going after corporate titans.  Those are views that have been shared by most Americans—which brings us back to the president, today refuting Republican lies about stimulus plan before those newly employed members of the police force in Columbus, OH.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  So, for those who still doubt the wisdom of our recovery plan, I ask them to talk to the teachers who are still able to teach our children because we passed this plan.  I ask them to talk to the nurses who are still able to care for our sick, and the firefighters and first responders who are still able to keep our communities safe.  I ask them to come to Ohio and meet the 25 men and women who will soon be protecting the streets of Columbus because we passed this plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Without those 25 new policemen in Columbus, and obviously, they‘re a drop of a drop of a drop in a bucket nationwide, and without more Americans now being put to work because of the stimulus, who are not even getting the publicity that those 25 people did in Columbus—how much worse might those jobless numbers be?  I mean, does it become harder and harder to argue against Obama‘s economic plan on a day with a number like 651,000 that came out today?

FINEMAN:  Well, yes, it does, Keith.  And that‘s one reason I think why our new “Newsweek” Poll shows the president so popular.

People want something done.  They want an active president.  They want people out there engaged and the symbolism of those officers there having, keeping, working at their jobs is exactly what Obama‘s plan is designed to do.  That‘s what—that‘s what people want.  They want money spent because that‘s the easiest, quickest way to make sure that people have jobs.

OLBERMANN:  But, on the other side of the equation here, the House leader of the Republicans, John Boehner, not only called for a spending freeze, but he called for a spending freeze and didn‘t start just laughing uproariously.  I mean, he didn‘t lose the straight face there.  That would be a replay, a spending freeze, literally a replay of the disastrous decisions that were made in the Hoover administration in the early 1930s, that things that cemented and put in place the Great Depression.

I mean, how can somebody say that to other Americans, especially ones who‘ve lost their jobs?  That the best thing to do is nothing?

FINEMAN:  Well, Keith, in talking to people like the budget director, Peter Orszag, and to economists in Moody‘s and so forth; we‘re looking at whatever happens, even if Obama succeeds, that unemployment rates are probably cresting into double digits.  That‘s probably going to happen.

The consensus of reasonable economists, virtually in their entirety, not all of them, but virtually in their entirety, is that the big mistake in the Great Depression was not printing enough money and not spending enough money by the government.  That‘s the consensus.  Now, if the Republicans have an alternative, they need to say what it is.  But it‘s clearly can‘t merely just be cutting taxes, and that‘s the box that they find themselves in today, an historical ones that seems pretty well accepted.

OLBERMANN:  The Roger Ailes reference to the Alamo, what‘s worse in there—the exploitation of the Alamo, as if it had been some sort of club in which millionaires were retreating, or this continued undercurrent of just barely violent things in things the right says about who‘s the president right now?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I was thinking of sort of the “Trump Alamo Tower” or something like that.  I mean, I‘ve seen the Alamo, you probably have too, it‘s not a very fancy place, and the people who died in there weren‘t millionaires for sure.

I think—I think that Roger Ailes who believes deeply in the philosophy that he expressed, shares a certain panic on the right, I think.  I think they don‘t feel they have ideas that are selling to the American people.  They don‘t know quite where to go.  They do feel backed into a corner.

But it‘s a corner that largely they backed themselves into in part because of the failures of the Bush administration which, of course, completely ignored whatever was good about the conservative philosophy of limited government.  So, they‘ve lost the handle on limited government.  They don‘t have an alternative to cutting taxes at a time when people know that that‘s not the only answer.

So, they‘re angry and confused.  And that, I think, that was expressed apparently expressed by Ailes to Glenn Beck.

OLBERMANN:  As—and also expressed by the American public to “Newsweek” pollsters.

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Last point here, this nightly shelf life question.  Another part of that Robert Gibbs answer today about the wisdom of taking on Limbaugh.  He got all sort “Art of War” on us—if your enemies are fighting themselves, then don‘t get in the way.

OK, I‘m buying it, sensei (ph).  But, I mean, is there not a shelf life on this one still?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think there is.  And I talked to Gibbs earlier today to try to figure out what‘s going on here.  Because last Sunday, of course, Rahm Emanuel, the chief-of-staff, basically said, come on, let‘s get the war going with Rush Limbaugh, let‘s keep it going, it‘s great for us, great for the party, and great for the White House.  Then Gibbs came out a couple of days ago and said, “Well, maybe it‘s counterproductive.”

Well, Gibbs told me that he wasn‘t talking about the war with Limbaugh; he was talking about some other talking heads on cable, not Limbaugh.  Well, that signals to me that the White House is doubling down on the strategy of really making Limbaugh the picture of the Republican Party and the conservative movement today.

I think they‘re going to push it in their fundraising.  I think they‘re going to push it at the grassroots.  And if that‘s what the Republicans are left to do, the White House will be delighted to have it happen day after day.  I think they‘re pretty much unified on that strategy right now.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they can take on this talking head, because I don‘t know who just claimed who wrote “Art of War,” one Sun Tzu (ph).  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek”—

FINEMAN:  Sun Tzu.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, where were you when I said that?  Thanks.  Have a great weekend.

FINEMAN:  OK.  You, too.

OLBERMANN:  The “Washington Post” today quoted a radio analyst who said the Limbaugh ho-hum; I have boasted his ratings, from the claim of 14 million listeners to 25 million.  Either number would dwarf the daily audience of, say, this program, which is just under 1.5 million viewers last night or would dwarf Bill O‘Reilly‘s, which is just under 4 million, or would dwarf even “NBC Nightly News,” which average 9.3 million viewers last week per night.  Except the 14 million Limbaugh listeners appear to be closer to just 1.4 million.

This is about the different ways radio audiences are counted, compared to television one.  In TV, audience estimates are available for every show, every hour, every half hour, every quarter hour, every minute in some cases.  If we say this newshour had an audience of 1,486,000 last night, that is the average audience total throughout the hour -- 1,486,000 at 8:09 p.m., 1,486,000 at 8:42.

But in radio, the rating is called the “cume.”  It measures the number of people who listen to a program like Limbaugh‘s, whether they listen for one second a week, or for 15 hours or a week.  And one industry source told us today that the standard way to estimate how many people are listening to a radio show at a given hour or day is to divide the cume by 10.

I‘m joined now by “Variety” television editor, Michael Schneider, who knows that field and radio very well.

Mr. Schneider, thanks for your time tonight.

MICHAEL SCHNEIDER, VARIETY:  No problem.

OLBERMANN:  So, is that math, in your knowledge, more or less correct?  I mean, if Limbaugh has 14 million listeners a week in a way radio measures it, does that mean he actually has 1,400,000 per show the way television would measure it?

SCHNEIDER:  Yes.  It‘s tough to say because there‘s no good way to measure minute-by-minute on radio because radio is not measured the same way TV is.  But that sounds like a decent number.  And when you think about radio and the fact that there are no real radio networks the way there are television networks, that‘s still a pretty strong number for a daytime radio show.

OLBERMANN:  But, of course, you and I will sit there and we can analyze it and we say that‘s a fantastic number for radio, and there‘s no way of denying that.  But people who—even are politically-conscious people, or media-conscious people, they may love numbers and they may love ratings and they may love lists and rankings, but rarely does anybody want to do any actual math.  So, if anybody actually thinks of this at all, they say, they hear—Limbaugh, 14 million; Olbermann, 1.5 million, Maddow, 1.25 million.  Why don‘t Limbaugh and his supporters make it clear that there is some, if not creative counting going on here, certainly some apples and oranges are going on here?

SCHNEIDER:  Right.  I mean, it‘s definitely apples and oranges.  And I supposed it‘s not to their benefit to sit down and explain the differences between radio Arbitron ratings and TV Nielsen ratings, because that 14 million number, obviously, looks a lot more impressive.  So, yes, I think it‘s up to the rest of us to do our homework and make sure we know what a radio rating means.

OLBERMANN:  Is this going to change?  Because Limbaugh even pointed out this today to a supporter in an email, there are daily ratings taken now in about the top 15 markets, but I have not seen them yet.  It is apples and oranges, yet the way they‘re counted, it turns out every apple is counted 10 times and every orange is counted once.  Why are the audiences for the two media counted in such different ways and is it ever going to be even out?

SCHNEIDER:  Yes.  I mean, it starting to and that radio finally has caught up the TV in the major markets like L.A., New York, Boston.  They now have personal people meters.  So, for the first time, Arbitron is actually giving radio stations real ratings—a real number on who‘s listening to what as opposed to before where it was all based on diaries, so radio stations had to depend on people basically trying to remember what they listened to and writing it down in a diary the way TV was done about 30 years ago.

So, radio still has some catching up to do.  It‘s just tougher because radio, it‘s all about the markets and individual radio stations.  There‘s no major network the way there is in TV.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  In my radio days, we used to have the spring book

which we would get in late summer and we‘d find out how we were doing three

months ago.  Lastly -

SCHNEIDER:  Yes.  And that‘s still the way it is for most of the country.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  The question that I was asked yesterday, I can answer this.  Limbaugh today, as an example, referred to the Ted Kennedy-supported healthcare reform and said, “Soon, it will be the Ted Kennedy memorial healthcare bill.”  Do advertisers on a show like that worry about bad taste and—if a morbidly obese guy is talking about a man courageously fighting brain cancer and making fun of him, that‘s in bad taste—do they care about that or is it just the bottom line?

SCHNEIDER:  Yes.  I mean, I think they know what they‘re buying, you sort of compare it to the advertisers on MTV knew that they are buying jackass.  So, when they tuned in and watched two people pee on each other, they know what they are buying.  Same thing here.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Well, I never heard that on Limbaugh‘s show, but I imagine it—we‘re not far from it.

Michael Schneider, television editor for “Variety,” I apologize for putting those words in your mouth.  Great thanks for joining us, sir.

SCHNEIDER:  No problem.

OLBERMANN:  On Limbaugh‘s side of the ball, talk of Limbaugh is a diversion to keep you from paying attention to what‘s really happening out there, like Vice President Biden‘s secret meeting with the unions.  It was a speech.  There were reporters present and a transcript was immediately handed out.

Or the terrible earmarks in the budget bill.  Oh, yes.  Well, there are those, only they‘re not on the whole the product of Democratic senators and congressmen but of Republicans.  And at last, somebody, in this case, Senator McCaskill of Missouri, has stood up, called the Republicans out for their earmark hypocrisy and then them to the freaking cleaners.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans shutdown the government‘s ability to pay bills so they can be heard on an amendment to prevent a return to the Fairness Doctrine, which nobody is proposing a return to anyway.

And, how many times has this happened to you?  You go to a sporting event and there sitting in front of you blocking your view and spoiling your evening is the president of the United States.  The hoops fan who trash-talked Obama joins us later here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Republicans last night succeeded in blocking the funding bill needed to keep the government running past midnight tonight.  In our fourth story this evening: The motive for this high-stakes opposition—principle, of course, purely principle.  About which more in a moment.

Republicans outraged by the $410 billion omnibus spending bill which will keep government operations on track until September, because it contains almost 9,000 earmarks totaling $7.7 billions.  On Wednesday night, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill laid out the howling, hilarious hypocrisy involved in Republicans who fought mythical earmarks in the president‘s stimulus bill promptly loading more than their share of earmarks into this real spending bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI:  I listened while podiums were pounded about wasteful spending during the debate on the stimulus bill, during the debate on the economic recovery bill.  I watched as my friends across the aisle took to the airwaves and gave many different speeches about wasteful spending in the stimulus bill.

Let me quote some of the things they said, “Pet programs, honey pot for whatever you need, a porkulus bill, wasteful spending, pet projects, earmarks, earmarks, earmarks, an orgy of spending.”

That was what they said about the stimulus bill, when, in reality, there were no earmarks in the stimulus bill.  No fewer than 17 different Republican senators stood up and absolutely with righteous indignation talked about the pet projects in the stimulus bill.  And guess what?  Every single one of them has earmarks in this bill.  In fact, the Republican leader has twice as many solo earmarks in this bill than the Democratic leaders.

America, don‘t be fooled.  Earmarking is an equal opportunity activity.  It‘s a bad habit.  And the minority party is taking full advantage of it.  Don‘t take anyone seriously that says one thing and does another.  That‘s the worst sin of all.

Any parent knows one basic rule: The example you set is way more important than anything you say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Last night, Senate Leader Reid lost not only an unnamed Republican vote but two Democrats as well, forcing Democrats to pass a stopgap spending measure, good until Wednesday.  At issue: Republicans do expect to let the bill pass, despite all those awful earmarks of theirs, they just want a chance to be heard on a dozen amendments, even though none of them are expected to pass, even though some have nothing to do with the budget like labor laws and the Fairness Doctrine.

Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, contributor at “Huffington Post” and former Democratic chief of staff for the Senate Finance Committee.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be here, Keith.  And one of my favorite subjects.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  I‘m glad it is.

Senator Mccaskill‘s point, look to the Republican example not their words.  What‘s the lesson on the example?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, here are the things Claire McCaskill knows: That six out of 10 of the top 10 earmarkers are Republicans.  That most of the earmark money in this omnibus bill was requested by and/or supported by President Bush.  That 40 percent of the earmarks in this bill are Republican earmarks.

And what Senator McCaskill and a lot of other senators know, is that there are plenty of good earmarks in this bill, and not all earmarks are bad and not all earmarks are embarrassing.  And so—and it‘s a tiny, tiny piece of the federal government, it‘s less 1 percent of the federal budget.  So, Senator McCain who has apparently now staked a career on his opposition to earmarks is someone who has devoted his attention to less than 1 percent of what the federal government does, and is completely willing to ignore 99 percent of what the government does.

OLBERMANN:  And so, the Republicans as a party stake their, at least their current reputation, to delay this vote, not to kill it, not to offer some sort of alternative, not to go out on strike to get all the earmarks removed, but to offer this collection of doomed, irrelevant amendments.  How does that help them shed the “party of no” label rather than augment it?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, this is partially set up for things to come.  This is partially a way of saying you have to deal with us, you have to deal with us on healthcare, you have to deal with us on other things moving through the Senate.  And that is a reality and it can‘t be escaped.

But, really, this is the only thing they have found in the current political environment where they think there‘s any traction at all, is just to hold up, you know, a $100,000 grant to some organization somewhere and say this is an absolute outrage that the government is doing this.  They don‘t have a better position than the Democrats on Iraq.  They don‘t have a better position than the Democrats on intervention in the economy, how to save the banking system, what to do in the mortgage crisis.  They‘re not advancing any of those.

This is it.  This is what the party is about now—it‘s earmarks, earmarks, earmarks.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence, explain something we heard from the Democratic side the other day.  Alcee Hastings, the congressman, reported said, quote, “I wish Harry Reid would do thing by 51 votes instead of 60 votes, if the Republicans don‘t like it, make them filibuster.”

Explain that.  What‘s he referring to?

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, I could go on a lot about this.  This is the House of Representatives never understands the Senate.  It‘s stunning what a gulf there is between those two couches, that they‘re living so close to each other.

The House has very limited debate.  In a typical House bill, most members of the House never get to say anything and it‘s very embarrassing when they do.  They‘re allowed to speak for 30 seconds or one minute or a maximum of two minutes in the House.  They have nothing to say, it‘s just cheerleader stuff.

The Senate has the principle of unlimited debate, which sounds pretty good in the democracy, until you find yourself debating something for three or four months.  And so, in contradiction to the principle of unlimited debate, there is a thing called a cloture motion, and that cloture motion simply says there will be no more amendments allowed on a bill and we will then take a vote on the complete bill.  So, we never see filibusters in the Senate.  What we see are very long lists of amendments that one side or the other is ready to advance on a bill—and a lot of those amendments will be reasonable-sounding things.

And so, the principle of unlimited debate runs into the necessity to move forward and that‘s where cloture motions come through.  If the—if the majority leader, being a Republican or a Democrat, ever said to the minority, we‘re just going to go for our votes, for our 51 votes, that they would lose, because the other side would simply continue to offer amendments.  They don‘t have to filibuster.  They never have to filibuster.

OLBERMANN:  Well, maybe Congressman Hastings actually said, I wish Harry Reid could do thing by 51 votes, which would have been a good cheerleading motion from the House.

In any event, our own Lawrence O‘Donnell, great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, Secretary of State Clinton gave a Russian diplomat a gag gift of a red button.  Red button did you say?  OK.  I‘ll listen to this backstory.

And, he gave a speech with reporters present and a transcript to all those who were not.  So, what kind of delusion would make Glenn Beck claim that Joe Biden met in secret with the unions?  Worst Person is ahead -- next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the worst prize a four-year-old kid would win?  First, on this date in 1885 was born the legendary humorist and sports writer Ring Lardner (ph), now sadly underrated in both fields.  When he combined those fields, as in his first book, “You Know Me, Al,” About the baseball player who had an excuse everything, the comedy was so enduring that two years ago, a “Wall Street Journal” contributor suggested that of all American humor classics, “You Know Me Al” was the one that‘s funniest still today.  “Huckleberry Fin” placed fifth. 

Let‘s play Oddball. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This gag did not make the list.  We begin in Geneva, in Switzerland, where Secretary of State Clinton is meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.  Things are tense, time to give the Russian guy a present.  Very nice box and inside a red button.  What better to improve U.S./Russian relations than with a nuclear winter gag gift? 

Secretary Clinton gave the button to Mr. Lavrov as a means to reset the relationship between the two countries.  In fact, the word reset was printed on the base of the button in Russian.  One slight problem. 

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We worked hard to get the right Russian word.  Do you think we got it? 

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER:  You got this wrong. 

CLINTON:  I got it wrong? 

OLBERMANN:  Uh-oh.  Foreign minister pointed out the word written on the button means overcharge, not reset.  Could have been worse, could have said, easy.  Luckily, Secretary Clinton had a backup souvenir, and later presented Mr. Lavrov with an I can see Alaska from my house t-shirt. 

To Seoul in South Korea.  Here‘s to the ladies who punch.  We now join members of the Grandma Tae Kwon Do Federation Demonstration Team already process.  Aged 58 to 80, they endure a two-hour daily workout that would make Mr. Miagi weep.  The kicking gives them confidence.  Seventy two-year-old black belt Park Yun Jah (ph) tells anyone who will listen, quote, if any punk gets drunk and tries to do anything stupid, I think I can knock him out in a single blow.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president‘s night at a basketball game enlivened by the liveliest of fans.  That fan joins us. 

And the ‘90s are making some sort of come back, Ken Starr included. 

Fasten your seat belt.

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best promotion gone bad.  A Lottery in Taiwan designed to boost spending during the recession there offered the lucky winner the exclusive 15-day use of a tropical island, Tang Hu County (ph), with white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, free drinks, food and electricity.  The island prize was won by Yae Chien Wi (ph).  He is four-years-old. 

Number two, best bad move by a would-be unauthorized immigrant.  A 40-year-old chef arrived at Manchester airport in England last week from his native Mexico.  He said he was there for a quick visit to a friend opening a restaurant in town.  In a routing search of his luggage, however, authorities found a huge folder of recipes and a good luck card to him from the folks at his church, wishing him well on his new life in the United Kingdom.  He then admitted yes, he was just going to overstay his Visa. 

Number one, best snappy repose to a stupid statement, Don in Los Angeles, blowing California Republican Congressman John Campbell out of the freaking water.  Congressman Campbell told the “Washington Independent” that, quote, “people are starting to feel like we are living through the scenario that happened in “Atlas Shrugged.”  That‘s the Rand novel in which the creative people, the Atlases, punished for their efforts by socialism, all quit their creative jobs and society collapses around them in a matter of like hours. 

“The achievers,” Campbell rambled on, “the people who create all the things that benefit the rest of us are going on strike.  I‘m seeing at a small level a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they‘ll be punished for them.” 

In the comments section of the website, Don from Los Angeles writes, “Dear Congressman Campbell, I am a business owner and employer in Los Angeles.  Please refer all work being turned down by the achievers that you know to this achiever.  I will be happy to take on any business they turn down.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Forget the president‘s blackberry list, there‘s now an even more exclusive club, people who have trash talked with the president of the United States at a basketball game.  So far, the group consists of one person.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Washington Wizards fan Miles Rawls will join us presently.  You will recall that the president took in a basketball game a week ago tonight in Washington, rooting for the visiting team, his beloved Chicago Bulls.  But one row back, in his usual seat, was Wizards season ticket holder, Mr. Rawls.  He had heard a rumor the president would be there, so he was prepared, sporting an Obama t-shirt.

Mr. Rawls, known for being good and loud at the games, had no intention of changing things up for the president.  When the Wizards were up by 15 points, he told the president, quote, “you can tell them to warm up the limo, sir, because this is a wrap here.” 

But the president was unphased.  At one point, when it looked like Chicago was making a come back, President Obama said, according to Rawls, “now I think you need to sit down.”  The Bulls ultimately lost in a blowout and the president did, in fact, leave a few minutes early. 

Joining me now, as promised, Washington Wizards fan Miles Rawls, who also happens to be the commissioner of the Barry Farms Goodman League.  Thank you for your time tonight, Mr. Rawls. 

MILES RAWLS, WIZARDS FAN:  Thank you, Keith.  Thanks for inviting me. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the back and forth in a moment.  First, you did actually—it was more than just words thrown back and forth.  You actually met the president, right? 

RAWLS:  Yes, we met him when he first came through and shook hands.  And I asked him how did he like my t-shirt.  He told me that was a great t-shirt.  So he sat down.  I said, if you‘re a Bulls fan, you need to keep your cheering to a low roar, because these are Wizards fans over in this section. 

OLBERMANN:  There was an usher at the game who was not familiar with you for some reason, and he suggested you might want to tone down your usual level of enthusiasm? 

RAWLS:  Well, Joann is very familiar with me.  But there was talk around the place that when they found out Obama was going to sit next to me, they didn‘t know if I was going to—wonder was I going to tone down.  So when I came to my seat, she told me to be on my best behavior.  I said for what?  She said the president‘s sitting next to you.  I said he‘s going to enjoy the show.  I said you guys know I don‘t cut no corners.  For 285 a game, I do me. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘re damned right you should, for that price.  I should make this clear, you‘re not like that Robin Ficker guy at those games, who used to verbally abuse people and players, particularly, at the Washington games.  Right?  This is good natured primarily, isn‘t it? 

RAWLS:  Good natured basketball.  Robbin Ficker was a heckler.  I‘m a fan and I know the game.  The visiting team, even my own teammates, the coaches, they know when I come to the game.  If they‘re not on top of their game, I scream across, holler, instructions out.  Plenty of people tell me I should be the coach of the game.  So this is not heckling and they look forward to it. 

When I miss a game, they ask me where have you been.  I‘m missing all of March, because I‘d down here at the federal law enforcement academy down here in Georgia, doing this interview for you. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, we appreciate that.  We ran through some of the exchanges between you and the president.  What else—was there sort of running commentary between you two?  What else did you guys say? 

RAWLS:  Running commentary.  When he got up—he told me when we got up by 10 early in the first half, he said, you know the wizards can‘t hold the lead.  I said, yes, you‘re right.  He says, don‘t get too happy.  Tyrus Thomas come down and tomahawked a dunk.  He looked up at me, pointed up at the big screen and said, did you see that?  I said, we‘ll get you back, if you don‘t leave. 

Right behind then, McGhee comes down tomahawks one down.  That‘s when we exchanged high-fives.  I said I told you I would get you back if you don‘t leave.  That brought us to half time.  I said, where you going, can‘t take no more?  He said, I‘m coming back.  I‘ll be right back.  I‘m going up to my suite.  I‘ll be back. 

To be that close to the president, talking smack to him, and exchanging pleasantries, that was a treat in itself. 

OLBERMANN:  Give me your assessment of him as a fan.  He knows his stuff and he knows what to expect if he‘s going to sit in the front row? 

RAWLS:  Yes, he knows.  He was rooting for them, clapping, pumping—he‘s a lefty, so he was pumping his left fist and everything.  But it was a little somber, because I got the best of him because my team won.  But he‘s a real fan, laid back, drinking beer.  I was surprised.  But unless you know he‘s down there, just came to the game to have a good time.  He just didn‘t know that the best talker in the business was going to be sitting right behind him. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, you know, in these economic times and the speechifying that these guys do, he may need you for that, too.  Any job prospects coming out of that one. 

RAWLS:  The phone has been ringing off the hook.  So when I get back in D.C. on the 28th of March, I‘m taking on all comers.  And like I said, the Wizards guys, they enjoyed it.  And the president even enjoyed it.  We had a good time.  I thanked him, told him I was proud of him, and I told him to rev that limo up when we were up 15 with four minutes to go.  So he told me, yes, it‘s time to go. 

So he shook everybody‘s hand and everybody had a good time in that section. 

OLBERMANN:  He has probably had a not so fun ten years as a Bulls fans.  In any event, Miles Rawls, the Wizards who did not back down from a little trash talk with President Obama.  Thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend, sir.  Thanks again. 

RAWLS:  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  The Chicago Bulls, so ‘90s.  Suddenly, the ‘90s seem to be avenging themselves.  A Michael Jackson return, now a partial “Seinfeld” reunion, and a Newt Gingrich come back?  And another idiotic remark from a Republican.  Senator Demint of South Carolina helps an insult to the education system that is more successful than the one in South Carolina. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the continuing crises of Michael Steele.  She will be joined by the reporter who broke the story of the 60,000 dollars in Steele‘s Senate campaign funds that wound up at a commodities trading house. 

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

Number three, Gonzo-gate.  The firing of those US attorneys, because they would not prosecute Democrats on voter fraud; one of them was Todd Graves, ousted as the USA for Western Missouri because he ignored the demands of Bradley Slozman of the Justice Department to sue Democratic officials for not purging Missouri voters from the state rolls.  That case was so onerous to the true believers inside the Bush administration that not only was Graves fired, but Slozman was named to replace him.  Slozman, of course, the guy whose e-mail thread proved he was hiring people for non-political jobs at Justice based entirely on their politics. 

It turns out this purge case he went personally to Missouri to prosecute, thrown out of court.  And now the appeal of that throwing out has been withdrawn by the Justice Department, The Obama Justice Department. 

Number two, hypocrisy-gate.  Yesterday, it was Ari Fleischer bashing the calling out of Boss Limbaugh, after Fleischer had called out, almost threatened Bill Maher in 2001.  Now it‘s barbecue Karl Rove, “this is the same old style politics that we grew to really dislike in the 1990s, when the White House saw everything through a political perspective, road tested it by running polls and focus groups, and did everything with a very keen eye toward the politics of the matter, not what was in the best interests of the country.” 

The news here is he said this on Fixed News, out loud, with a straight face.  Degrees of difficulty that if attempted by a sane man who require taking four Xanax and hit himself with a hammer right between the eyes.  Banning stem cell research, Karl, not political.  Turning the Justice Department into the Stalinist purge police, not political.  Putting the Democratic governor of Alabama in jail, not political.  Terrorizing the nation to rationalize a phony profit making war in Iraq, not political. 

Karl, to modify an old phrase, you‘re now an insult to your own intelligence. 

Number one, war crimes-gate.  You may have heard that the International Criminal Court at the Hague this week issued a warrant for the arrest of the president of Sudan, Omar al Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.  So Syracuse University International Law professor David Crane, who prosecuted the former president of Liberia Charles Taylor, at the ICC, says, guess what, the legal principles and structure of this new indictment, the court could use those to draw up a similar indictment of President Bush.  Don‘t go putting flame under your Jiffy Pop on high quite yet.  This country signed the statutes setting up the court in 2000.  Bush unsigned them two years later.  Of course, President Obama is reportedly reconsidering resigning them. 

Still a reporter asked me today what I thought Mr. Bush can, could or should do post-presidency.  So I suggested looking into the political asylum laws around the world and the ones about extradition. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Michael Jackson has already come back, the cast of “Seinfeld” is going to, Newt Gingrich is threatening to follow.  It is the revenge of the ‘90s.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Coulter-geist, speaking of so ‘90s, complaining to the Manatee about the president and Boss Limbaugh.  “The important point here, Sean, is that I‘m a little bitter.  What does a girl have to do to get some love from the president?  Obama used to attack you and me.  He‘s attacking Rush?”  Ann, the biggest outlets carrying your column are now Richard Mellon Scapes “Vanity Newspaper” in Pittsburgh and the website MyFoxDallas.  You‘re lucky that I still bother to call you out. 

Our runners up, Brett Baier and Glenn Beck over there in the paranoia department at Fixed News.  Bugs Beck reported that when Vice President Biden spoke to the executive council of the AFL-CIO he was, quote, meeting in secret today with the unions, and compared it to Dick Cheney‘s meetings with oil executives.  News actor Baier, meanwhile, said the Biden/AFL-CIO visit, quite, was anything but transparent. 

The White House issued a full transcript of the speech and, for the first time in the history of its executive council meetings, the a AFL-CIO allowed a pool of print reporters to cover Biden‘s speech.  Other than that, no transparency whatsoever.  The transparency is in the space between Beck‘s ears.  

But our winner, Republican Senator Jim Demint, arguing to continue a program of school vouchers, private school vouchers, in Washington, D.C.  He said of the D.C. high school system, quote, “parents tell us if they are sending their kids off to public schools, the chances are very good they‘re going to end up in a gang, rather than graduating high school.” 

Nearly 70 percent of the public high school students in the District of Columbia graduated last year, as compared to just 56 percent who graduated in Demint‘s state of South Carolina.  His statement reported by the conservative “Washington Times” has now prompted a clarification from his office, suggesting he disagreed with that statement.  Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The 1990s, fannie packs, Zima, Hootie and the Blowfish, me doing a show on MSNBC at 8:00 Eastern.  Our number one story, as the teens approach, just 10 months in the offing, it looked like the ‘90s are out for revenge.  Today news of a possible “Seinfeld” reunion of sorts.  Newt Gingrich is threatening to return to elected office.  Over my dead Furby.

Yesterday, we learned that Michael Jackson was returning to the stage to do ten shows in London this summer, hoping to regain his ‘90s magic, back when he was financially solvent and a responsible chimp owner.  Today, news that the big four “Seinfeld” stars, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis Dreifus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards will appear as themselves in multiple episodes of Larry David‘s impeccable HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” 

And if Boss Limbaugh was not enough proof that the right wing was recycling the tried and failed politics and limited aerobics of the ‘90s, Newt Gingrich, the Republican House speaker during much of the ‘90s, told reporters last night, he will consider a run for the presidency in 2012.  Gingrich and his wife, quote, “will look seriously, and we‘ll probably get our family totally engaged, probably in January 2001.  If we think it‘s necessary, we‘ll probably do it.” 

Cue Frank Stanza.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Heredity, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you to my friend, Jerry Stiller.  Let‘s turn to another friend, comedian and actor Allan Havey.  Allan, good evening. 

ALLAN HAVEY, COMEDIAN:  Hi, Keith, thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN:  A pleasure.  The return of Michael Jackson, of “Seinfeld,” of Newt Gingrich.  The stock market is back at levels we haven‘t seen since the ‘90s.  Ken Starr showed up in the Supreme Court of California yesterday.  Is this some sort of cosmic recycling? 

HAVEY:  Absolutely.  You know, the ‘90s were a very innocent time.  You can‘t forget that.  Twitter was a kid that hung out near the men‘s room.  Larry Craig‘s favorite movie was “My Left Foot.”  I mean, it was so long ago that Eliot Spitzer was client number three.  Ken Starr was here in California giving an oral argument in support of Proposition 8, but the gay community says, as long as Ken‘s argument is oral, there is no argument. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it—one—Republicans going back—the idea of the

Republicans going back to Newt Gingrich, and the 1990s for a future leader,

is there some sort of lack of confidence that Joe the Plumber will be ready

by 2012?  What‘s this all about? 

HAVEY:  Well, it‘s over for the Republican party right now.  Their stock is down.  Newt is out.  Newt is not funny.  I‘m praying and other comedians are praying for a Palin/Joe the Plumber ticket.  Palin has that wisdom, those eagle eyes.  Joe has the biggest snake in the business that can weed out any crap that gets in her way.  That‘s what we‘re hoping for out here. 

OLBERMANN:  To “Seinfeld,” I know it has been on a rerun loop since the new episodes ended.  But it and “Friends” were essentially the last all consuming live action TV comedies.  A lot of unhappy stuff has happened since “Seinfeld” went off the air.  Is there a value to having—some sort of cosmic value to having these four people back together again on TV? 

HAVEY:  Oh, absolutely.  And the fact that they‘re going to be on Curb, that‘s a great combination.  I know that some bad stuff has happened to some of the “Seinfeld” people, but, you know, “Seinfeld” was an innocent time.  Think about it, the only N-world Michael Richards ever used was Newman. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, we can deal with the “Seinfeld” return, maybe not so much Newt Gingrich so much.  Are there other ‘90s phenomenons that have not been mentioned yet that you would not mind seeing make a come back? 

HAVEY:  Well this is my dream list from the ‘90s.  I would like to see Kurt Cobain, Dan Rather and silicone breast implants come back.  If you put the implants on Dan, give him a plunging neckline, he‘ll knock Katie Couric off the air. 

OLBERMANN:  Anything from the ‘90s you wouldn‘t want to see returned? 

HAVEY:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes, Rwanda, the Bosnian War and Vanilla Ice. 

OLBERMANN:  Unfortunately, I think Ice is around somewhere.  What does it say for the theory of evolution, lastly, that people still scream and yell, and not in a running away sense, over Michael Jackson?  I mean at what point in this millennium will the world get over this guy? 

HAVEY:  Seven hundred years. 

OLBERMANN:  OK. 

HAVEY:  No, that‘s how long it takes plastic to decompose, 700 years.  I looked it up.  Until a teenaged boy walks into a police station with Michael Jackson‘s nose, he‘s going to be with us forever.  We have to have Chris Hansen on security for the next tour. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll call him next time I see him over there in the main office. 

HAVEY:  He‘s around. 

OLBERMANN:  On that note, Allan Havey, marvelous comedian, good friend.  Great thanks, sir, have a good weekend. 

HAVEY:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,127th 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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