updated 3/12/2009 11:43:58 AM ET 2009-03-12T15:43:58

Guest: Howard Fineman Howard Dean, Wynnton Melton, Christian Finnegan

DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Only 50 days on the job for the new commander-in-chief, and John McCain joins the chorus of Republicans trying to put the brakes on the “Obama Express.”  But for the president, it‘s full speed ahead in getting the country back on track.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  We don‘t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long-term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The ugly derailment at the RNC continues.  Michael Steele hands out million dollar checks and still manages to upset people.  They were expecting $3 million.

Former DNC chair, Howard Dean, on what could be the worst start for a party leader ever, and the latest GOP cannibalism as Rush Limbaugh devours Newt Gingrich.

Reliving history: The Great Depression is now in living color as some troubled Americans lose the roof over their heads and are forced to move to tent cities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the bottom of the barrel here.  This is—

I don‘t think it can get any worse than this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The economic meltdown as seen on TV: It‘s Jon Stewart versus Jim Cramer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, TV HOST:  They got a saying over at CNBC—they replaced God‘s name with Cramer‘s.

(LAUGHTER)

JIM CRAMER, CNBC:  A comedian‘s attacking me!  Wow!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  And Pelosi goes Hollywood: First, Brad Pitt, and then Richard Gere.  Who‘s the next A-lister to get an audience with madam speaker?  Paul Simon—really?

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(MUSIC)

SHUSTER (on camera):  Good evening from New York.  I‘m David Shuster. 

Keith Olbermann has the night off.

And perhaps at no other moment during the 2008 presidential election did the choice between the candidates look more stark.  In September, Arizona Senator John McCain pretended to suspend his campaign and threatened to bail on the first debate.  Also, he could solve the economic crisis.  Barack Obama‘s campaign said, the then-senator from Illinois, believed the president should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Mr. Obama, now President Obama, is following through by juggling multiple items on his agenda.  It‘s the new Republican talking point: Obama‘s critics ask whether the president is doing too much during his first 100 days—stem cell, health care, and today, education—instead of doing one thing to the exclusion of all others: Reviving the economy.

The senator who suspended his campaign himself told “Politico” in an interview that while he does not want Obama or his administration to fail, quote, “They are just sort of lurching from one crisis to another and that‘s the perception the American people have.”  Republican Senator Arlen Specter added to the sense of doom when he said, quote, “Our economic problems are enormously serious, more serious than is publicly disclosed.  And I think we‘re on the brink of a depression.”

President Obama‘s Republican transportation secretary, Ray LaHood,

fired back at charges that Obama‘s economic policies have made the

recession worse.  He told the “Huffington Post” that Americans who have

been put to work by the stimulus plan—building bridges, repairing roads

are thrilled to have those paychecks.

Yesterday, White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said that to focus only on the economy would be like telling firefighters to point their hoses at just the living room as the rest of your house burns to the ground.  Today, Gibbs defended education as an equally important room in Obama‘s proverbial house of policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think most people in America understand that unless we educate our children and create the workforce that‘s necessary and needed to support some of the industries that we hope will flourish in an economic recovery—it‘s going to take a highly-skilled, highly-educated workforce.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The president himself also defended his ability to juggle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time.  You may forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, and pass the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War.  Likewise, President Roosevelt didn‘t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war, he had to do both.  President Kennedy didn‘t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon.  And we don‘t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long-term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  There is a lot to talk about with our political analyst, Howard Fineman.  He‘s also the senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, whose book, “The Thirteen American Arguments,” has just been released in paperback.

And, Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, David.

SHUSTER:  Howard, given how interconnected all of the nation‘s challenges are—the rising cost of health care, how new scientific research could stimulate the economy, instead of asking whether President Obama‘s doing too much, should the question actually be: Is he doing enough?

FINEMAN:  Well, David, I think the answer to that depends on where you are.  I think among some of the establishment, whether it‘s here in Washington or up in New York on Wall Street or in the media, there have been questions about whether Obama is focusing enough strictly on the immediate problems of the economy.

But I was over at the White House today.  I listened carefully to Robert Gibbs‘ briefing, talked to White House officials, kept an eye on Obama today.  They are very confident that they‘re doing this the right way, that they‘ve got to deal both with the short-term and the long-term and with a very broad focus, because it all relates to the future health of this society.

And the other factor here is not only is he confident and are his people confident, as I judge it, but if you read the polls, the American people—while they are worried about the economy, they, right now, have a lot of faith in Barack Obama as a man, as a leader, as a person of character and they‘re going to go with him following this strategy so far.

SHUSTER:  Howard, if President Obama was the “walk and chew gum” candidate and Senator McCain was the “one thing at a time” candidate, and Obama won, doesn‘t President Obama have an obligation, if not a mandate, to juggle multiple things at the same time?

FINEMAN:  Well, speaking of mandates, how about six-point rise in the stock market today?  Now, it‘s only one day, but that comes at a crucial time, because I think and as I wrote on Newsweek.com, I think among the establishment types, there was real panic and fear and there still is, but this one day tonic of the stock market helps a lot and gives them some breathing space.

I‘m sure a lot of people are saying, hey, if the stock market‘s going to go up like that in one day when he‘s chewing gum and walking at the same time, give him a whole case of Doublemint.  You know, give him all of the Wrigley‘s because at least for now it‘s working.

And yes, if you look back at the campaign, David, and you remember this, they spent a year and a half to two years developing positions on a whole lot of issues.  If you went to the Web site, it was very robust with specific proposals on a lot of things.  They had a kind of government in waiting, government in exile for a long time before he was sworn in.  So, he‘s got a game plan off with that Web site.

SHUSTER:  Howard, we‘ve seen Senator McCain at several points on the Senate floor essentially criticizing President Obama for not vetoing a stimulus bill that‘s got a lot of pork in it.  Senator McCain again tonight suggested that the president is not bringing the change that he promised.  What is Senator McCain up to, in your mind?

FINEMAN:  Well, a couple things.  First of all, in absence of any other, and even though he lost big time last November, McCain is in certain senses the titular head of the party, not Michael Steele.  That‘s number one.

Number two, John McCain wants to run for the Senate again in Arizona, David, as you know.  He probably is difficult to beat but he could face a Republican challenge from the right.  So, he‘s trying to restore his partisan Republican conservative credentials.  And to give him his due, he really does care about this earmarks business.  There are more than 8,000 earmarks in that bill.

Barack Obama said he wanted to end earmarks, and he‘s using the excuse that this is last year‘s bill to take a pass on it.  So, it‘s a mixture of politics and faith with John McCain.

SHUSTER:  We‘re only halfway through the first 100 days of the presidency.  The presidency‘s only seven weeks old.  How realistic is to hold the Obama administration accountable for the state of anything that was essentially found on its doorstep when President Obama took office?

FINEMAN:  Well, don‘t think it‘s a question of whether it‘s realistic, David.  I think it‘s the facts.  I think people expect quick results.  They voted for Barack Obama by a very large percentage in modern historical terms.  They view him as a capable guy.

He had a running start because, essentially, there was no government here for a month or two before he took over, and he had a lot of influence on the new Congress in January.  They think he‘s effective and capable—the American public does—and they expect him to do a lot in a hurry.  And they expect him to be effective.

On the other hand, if you look at the polls, in terms of his personal approval rating, I think they‘re going to be patient for a while.  And Obama is an unusual combination of energy and patience—energetic but also looking back to the campaign—patience, long-term planning.  That campaign was planned over a two-year period and he executed it beautifully.

I think the American people are crossing their fingers and hoping that as well as he ran the campaign with the long-range plan, he‘ll have one for us and the economy as well.

SHUSTER:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—and, Howard, great to see you, as always and thanks for coming on.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, David.

SHUSTER:  Still ahead for President Obama: Getting his health care plan passed.  And for more on that, let‘s turn to Dr. Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, as well as a former family practice physician in Vermont.

Governor Dean, thanks for your time tonight.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Thanks for having me on, David.

SHUSTER:  Sure.

Any critic of the White House who might try to claim that we should not attempt widespread health care reform at a time of great financial crisis—the health care system and economy, they‘re linked, are they not?

DEAN:  Yes, they are.  And I think the president is doing exactly the right thing.  He‘s doing the short-term thing that‘s have to be fixed, the stimulus package, hopefully a plan to remove the toxic assets from the balance sheets of the banks.

The next thing is health care.  If you want General Motors and Chrysler ever to be healthy again, you got to fix the health care system.  If you want small businesses to start creating jobs again, you got to fix the health care crisis.

And the long-term piece is education.  You know, we‘ve come a long way on education the last five or 10 years.  We got a long way to go.  Particularly with early childhood, zero to three, before kids ever get to school.  That‘s what he‘s tackling today.

And this is all one—this is really one issue, not three issues.  This is one issue.  You want to fix the economy, you have a short-term problem, you have a medium-term problem, and a long-term problem.

SHUSTER:  In the same way that voters want jobs, and polls show they are overwhelmingly in favor of the stimulus plan—are most Americans going to be in favor of fixing health care?  I mean, is there anyone other than the insurance company lobbyist and their Republican supporters who are going to be against this Obama plan?

DEAN:  Well, that is, actually, David, that is about the only people that are against it.  Of course, they have lots and lots of money.  And they are calling it “socialized medicine.” That, unfortunately, doesn‘t work anymore.

You know, Medicare was put in 40-some odd years ago, 44 years ago.  Every Republican voted against it in the Senate.  They called it “socialized medicine.”  Now, it‘s one of the most popular programs.

And what we‘re suggesting that we do is, if you like what you have, you can keep it.  If you like your own insurance and your employer-based health care, you can keep it.  If you want to get into a new plan, you can choose between a private insurance company and a public entity, which would probably be Medicare.

That‘s what the American people want.  Seventy-three percent believe they ought to have the choice—not the insurance companies and not the Republicans—about how they get insurance.  And I think that‘s in the Obama plan, and that‘s the right way to go.

SHUSTER:  You mentioned socialized medicine.  Should we expect to hear the word “socialism” come up again and again during this debate?

DEAN:  We will, but this party is so out of touch, the Republicans are struggling.  They‘re using rhetoric from Joe McCarthy‘s era, and it‘s just ridiculous.  The idea that Medicare is socialism is in borders on nuttiness.

You know, it‘s just unbelievable what‘s going on in the Republican Party.  And they‘re going to have to find their feet.  There‘s a big debate among them about what they‘re going to do.

And I don‘t think screaming and yelling about socialism, if that‘s what you call Medicare, makes any sense whatsoever.  The American people are so far beyond that, they want real change, and I think, so far, the president is delivering real change.

SHUSTER:  He‘s also putting together his health care plan much more sort of in the open, whereas back in the early days of the Clinton administration, they met in secret, and then they introduced a plan to Congress and essentially had an up-or-down vote, and, of course, it got killed.

How much of a difference is this sort of new process going to make this time around?

DEAN:  Well, I think the Congress is the key.  The Congress will receive the bill and they‘ll change it and they‘ll rewrite it, frankly.  And there‘s where you‘re going to see the battle.  You‘re going to see whether the political people, the Democrats in Congress, which we have a large majority in both houses, whether they‘re going to cave in or not to the insurance companies and the Republican filibuster.

My attitude is, if the Republicans filibuster this bill, let them filibuster it.  Don‘t give up the important choices for the American people.  Don‘t take away choice from the American people because you‘re afraid of the insurance companies and the Republicans.  Let them filibuster and see what happens to the Republican Party in 2010.  That will determine the future of the Republican Party.

SHUSTER:  Are you nervous that Democrats, at least in the Senate, are going to be perhaps a couple votes short and may essentially have to decide, OK, if the Republicans really want us to get to 60, let‘s test that filibuster?

DEAN:  I don‘t think they will be short.  I think the American people understand that the—excuse me, the Senate really understands the American people want change.  Three-quarters of the American people support the critical choice provisions in the Obama bill.

And I think there are Republicans that are sensible, thoughtful people.  And some of them are—don‘t just want to be the “party of no,” just as Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter were.  These are thoughtful people.  And I think we can come to a reasonable and thoughtful bill which does include maximum choice for the American consumer.

SHUSTER:  Howard Dean, please stand by, if you would, because Michael Steele is canceling interviews this week, so he can focus on the work of running the Republican Party.  And even that‘s not going well—handing out million dollar checks that some say were supposed to be $3 million checks.

And Rush Limbaugh turns his sights on Newt Gingrich—the GOP soap opera continues.  And the new face-off over the financial meltdown: Jon Stewart takes on Jim Cramer of “Mad Money.”  And today, Cramer responded.

All of that and more—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

               

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Michael Steele is handing out cash to Republicans and that can‘t even claim the revolt within his own party—actually, calm the revolt.  And Rush Limbaugh is done with Newt Gingrich, finished, finito, well done, as soon as he takes another call about Gingrich and plays a few sound bites; but then, that‘s really it.  And later, the snafu at “American Idol” that really puts the lucky in lucky 13.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Remember Reagan‘s 11th commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican?  Well, in our fourth story tonight: It wasn‘t actually Reagan‘s, it was State Chairman Gaylord Parkinson‘s, and apparently, Republicans no longer observe this commandment, any more than they do some of the other ones.

Later, congressional Republicans versus Michael Steele.  But, first, Rush versus Newt.

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, former House Speaker Gingrich joined a handful of other Republicans rejecting Limbaugh‘s wish for President Obama to fail.  Yesterday, Limbaugh responded, playing two sound bites of Gingrich, after a woman called in to complain about Gingrich, saying he was tired of talking about Gingrich and explaining that he doesn‘t need politicians to support him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I wrote a book once at and one of the chapters is—my success is not determined by who wins elections, because they come and go.  They are fly-by-night operators and most of them stand for nothing until they see a poll about what the American people want, and then they go out and try to say one way or another what the American people want while trying to falsely hold on to an ideology at the same time.

And you can‘t count on them.  You can‘t depend on them.  They will

sell you out.  They will throw you overboard to save themselves faster that

and they‘ll use you on their way up as often as they can at the same time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The truly hilarious fact about Limbaugh‘s claim that he‘s tired of talking about Gingrich is that he not only took the call about Gingrich—yes, they screen the calls—but he also have two Gingrich sound bites already cut and ready to cue.  That‘s entertainment.

This is business.  RNC Chairman Michael Steele is reportedly under fire now, not for his words—he has canceled recently scheduled interviews—but for his deeds.  Namely, Steele gave the Republican House and Senate campaign committees 1 million bucks each to help retire their debt—a crucial step if they want to attract strong candidates for 2010.

The problem?  According to the newspaper “The Hill,” previous RNC chairman, Mike Duncan, had checks three times that size written and ready to go until Steele came in and slashed them.

Joining us once again is the former chairman of the DNC and a former presidential candidate himself, Howard Dean.

Governor Dean, historically, for Republicans—is this the standard cannibalism realignment after losing power?  Is there something different going on here?

DEAN:  There‘s something different going on here.  The Republicans are usually much more disciplined than we are.  You know, I got quite an interesting welcome to Washington when I came here, but we settled down and did the work we had to do, and everybody worked together and we were able to get huge majorities in the House and Senate, and elect a president.

This is unusual for the Republicans.  They really do usually keep their disagreements behind closed doors.  And it‘s quite a soap opera, I must say.

SHUSTER:  Well, do the Democrats prefer to have Republicans united around a polarizing figure like Rush Limbaugh?  Or does this suggest that perhaps there is room on the GOP side for something of a uniter who‘s more moderate?

DEAN:  Well, you know, I think, ultimately, they‘re going to have do what we did.  You know, we were really hampered by some of the things that we did in the ‘70s and so forth, and especially on the spending side.  And we pulled together; we really—with a lot of people‘s help over a 15-year period—rebuild the Democratic Party.

They have to now face that.  They are really tied to a small group of ideologues—and I would call Rush Limbaugh one of them—that simply is way out of step with the average American.

I mean, let‘s just suppose Rush Limbaugh really does have an audience of 20 million people.  You can‘t get close to winning the presidency with 20 million voters.  And for the 20 million people he has, he‘s alienating tons and tons of other middle of the road, moderate Americans who don‘t want to hear this stuff anymore.

Barack Obama won because he said it was time for Americans to work together.  The Republican Party hasn‘t yet figured that out, and they‘re going to have to do it in order to succeed.  I think they will succeed.  How fast, I don‘t know.  I mean, you know, things go in cycles.  Eventually, somebody over there is going to figure out that you got to talk to moderate voters again, but they haven‘t done it for a long time, and it doesn‘t look like they‘re getting ready to do it any time soon.

SHUSTER:  Now, turning to Michael Steele, the RNC chair, can you explain the tensions between him, the national party, and this congressional committee?

DEAN:  Oh, I can explain those tensions very well.

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN:  Look, the congressional committee has a job to do and that is elect more members right then and there.  Look—and I don‘t, again, want to presume to tell the Republicans how to run it.  But when I came to the DNC, we had big problems.  And my job was to restore the party in terms of making sure we had an operation in every single state that was competent, that we got along well with the state parties, that we had a database that worked, and that‘s what my money was supposed to go to, not just the immediacy of the election.

So, what Michael Steele‘s problem is, he‘s got the committees who want as much money because they‘re in debt and they need some help and they‘re facing the 2010 election, but he‘s got a long-term building job to do for the Republican Party.

And the fights that I got into when I got here is I did not—I did not allow myself to be deterred from the long-term building job, because you got to keep your eye on the long-term ball if you want to succeed, not just the short-term election.

SHUSTER:  But if Michael Steele has now lost the elected Republicans, the Republicans on these congressional committees, and he‘s lost the confidence of the folks like Rush Limbaugh—what does he do now?

DEAN:  Well, I think he can recover, but he‘s got to start standing up to the right-wing of the party.  If—as long as the Republicans live in terror of the right-wing, they‘re not going to win many elections.

SHUSTER:  What does that suggest then about Newt Gingrich?  Is he positioning himself now to try to sort of occupy the middle by condemning Rush Limbaugh, by essentially taking advantage of the fact that there is this vacuum?  Is that what Limbaugh is up to, you think?  Newt Gingrich, I mean.

DEAN:  I have no idea what Newt‘s up to.  You know, he is a smart guy.

But, you know, I‘m looking at this to myself, and I‘m thinking, this is something I have never seen in the Republican Party.  I mean—even after Goldwater, they were relatively disciplined about moving back to the middle and Nixon finally triumphed.  This is a spectacle I‘ve never seen in my lifetime in the Republican Party.  I can‘t wait to see what the next chapter is.

SHUSTER:  And then, does it mean that, strategically, it makes the big difference that the Democratic Party can somehow figure a way to keep it going?

DEAN:  Well, that‘s right.  I mean, they have to hope—they have to have two things.  They have to be disciplined, well-organized, and rebuild their party, and we have to screw it up.  And, hopefully, we won‘t screw it up.

And I think—we talked in the previous segment, the health insurance bill is the key for us.  If we pass health insurance pretty much the way the president wants, I think it‘s going to be very hard to beat us in 2010.  That‘s—you know, it‘s going to take a while to turn around the economy.  And I think the average American is going to see the economy turn but not improve dramatically by the elections in 2010.

Health insurance, they can see right away.  And if they have a choice, and the insurance companies don‘t get to write the health insurance bill, I think that‘s going to reelect both the Congress, give us some more senators, and ultimately re-elect the president.  I think that‘s how important the health insurance bill is.

SHUSTER:  Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former head of the Democratic National Committee—and, Governor Dean, thanks so much for giving us so much of your time tonight.  We appreciate it.

DEAN:  Thanks for having me on.

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome.

Coming up on COUNTDOWN: We are gathering developments out of Alabama on a breaking news story there.  Police say a man went on a shooting spree in southern Alabama involving two separate towns.  We‘ll bring you the details—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  On this date in Boston, Massachusetts, in the year 1876, the very first successful voice transmission on a telephone line occurred when Alexander Graham Bell calls his assistant Thomas Watson.  The words of the first telephone call were from Bell, and they‘re fairly common knowledge.  “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”

What you never hear about is the content of the second ever telephone call.  It says here, “Mr. Watson, I‘m looking for a Mr. Mayhopher (ph), first name, Jack.  Baba booey!  Baba booey!”

Let‘s play Oddball.

Speaking of dirty phone calls, for the first time in “American Idol” history, that show‘s finalists have been narrowed down to 13 contestants, up one from the traditional 12.  Fans know that to vote for their favorite singer, they dial an 866 number; followed by the word “idols,” followed by the number of their pick.  “American Idol” owns 866-IDOLS-01 to 866-IDOLS-12.

Guess who owns 866-IDOLS-13?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, there, sexy guy!  Welcome to an exciting new way to go live, one-on-one with hot, horny girls waiting right now to talk to you!  Live one-on-one talk with a nasty girl who will do anything you want for just $3.99 per minute!  Because we love nasty talk as much as you do!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Paula?  It‘s a phone sex line.  “Idol” said they will come up with a wholesome family number for their spare contestant.  So, don‘t worry, sexy guy.

Let‘s head to southern Japan, on Sukara (ph) Island, where this is an actual volcano eruption, and not a commercial for dianetics.  Taking a look at the fixed camera set up by the Japanese Transportation Ministry, you can see lava and thick black smoke spewing into the air early this morning.  There are reports that debris landed more than a mile and a half away, but there was no damage or injury because the Japanese were monitoring the volcano.  I guess better wishes of Louisiana Governor‘s Bobby Jindal. 

Finally, let‘s get a check of Oddball weather down in New Zealand, from a TV New Zealand meteorologist, Karen Olsen.  Karen? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, hello there.  It‘s very stormy over the northern parts of the North Island today.  Easterly gales with gusts up around 120 kilometers an hour recorded about—here‘s a few rainfall totals for you.  Here we go. 

SHUSTER:  Recapping, it‘s partly edit text here and edit location.  Edit location is lovely this time of year.  And edit location is where they shoot “Lord of the Rings.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Mad about money.  After Jon Stewart unleashed on Jim Cramer of CNBC today, Cramer responds.  We will show you the financial face-off.  And what happens when you get stars like Brad Pitt and Richard Gere on Capitol Hill?  You get a very happy speaker of the House.  Christian Finnegan on the Hollywood invasion of D.C. 

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

Number three, best stand-up, stand-up, “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno has announced a free comedy show on April 7th at the Palace at Auburn Hills for any of the almost 12 percent of Michiganders who are currently unemployed.  The state currently has the nation‘s highest unemployment rate, due largely to Detroit‘s faltering automobile industry.  Leno is known to have a things for cars, and he said Detroit is one of his favorite towns.  Parking and refreshments are also on the house.  Tickets will be available Monday and will be distributed on the honor system.  Just say you‘re unemployed and the show is free. 

Number two, best DUI arrest.  Monday morning in Pinellas County, Florida, authorities pulled over Mr. Henry C. Romeu for driving a car with only three tires.  Largo police observed the car was missing a rear passenger tire, so they pulled Romeu over.  Here‘s the shocker: he was drunk.  Romeu blew nearly twice the legal limit on a Breathalyzer test.  He was arrested and later released. 

And number one, best chimpanzee news.  In a scientific paper published yesterday, it was revealed Santino the chimp at a zoo in Sweden has learned to plan ahead.  You see, Santino is not a people chimp.  So each day Santino plans for their visit, collecting rocks and pebbles, placing them in piles around his enclosure, so that when the humans arrive, he will have a full arsenal to chuck at them.  Experts say a chimp anticipating future aggravation is a breakthrough.  Officials say they are impressed with Santino‘s weapons planning ability, and admit they should have listened to the chimp when he predicted the global economic meltdown. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  This has been a horrifying afternoon and evening for a lot of residents in southern Alabama.  We want to bring you the latest now on a shooting spree that ended a short time ago.  Officials in southern Alabama, right near the border of Florida, in Geneva, are reporting at least seven people killed and an eighth, the gunman, apparently at a number of different incidents that happened late this afternoon. 

Joining us now for the latest is the mayor of Geneva, Alabama, Mayor Wynnton Melton.  Mayor Melton, can you tell us exactly how many killed and how many injured and how did all of this wrap up tonight? 

WYNNTON MELTON, MAYOR OF GENEVA, ALABAMA:  To the best of my knowledge, it started with the gunman‘s mother, about 20 miles from where we are here in Geneva, Alabama.  Then it—most of the murders took place in Samson, Alabama, where there were eight fatalities.  And then he left Samson, heading 52 east towards Geneva, Alabama, he was just randomly shooting everything he could see.  And he shot a gentleman on a pickup truck and killed him. 

He was intercepted by Geneva Police.  Officer Ricky Morgan rammed his vehicle and knocked him off of the road.  He did fire at Officer Morgan at least twice, narrowly missing him in the police vehicle.  Chief of Police of Geneva Franky Williams was approaching the scene.  The gunman fired the assault rifle at Chief Williams, striking his vehicle in a number of places and grazing Chief Williams on the shoulder, not seriously.  He‘s fine.  But it did graze him on the shoulder. 

By that time, we had a number of officers involved, and they were chasing him through the city of Geneva.  He turned north on Alabama Highway 27.  And for some reason, unknown to us at this time, pulled into the parking lot of an industry we know as Reliable Products here, a metal fabrications plant, where he again was approached by officers that fired at him. 

An exchange of fire took place.  He went into the building, where at least 400 people were working, but he did not fire at any of them.  Instead, he fired on himself and killed himself.  The total fatality, as far as I know now, are ten, including the gunman.  Or maybe—let‘s see.  Let me count there—

SHUSTER:  Mayor, just to be clear, it sounds like ten including the gunman—but it sounds like this could have been a lot worse.  I just heard you say that he went into a building that had 400 people and essentially committed suicide in front of them, did not shoot anybody.  Is that what you‘re saying? 

MELTON:  That‘s right.  I don‘t know if he was in front of them.  But he went in the building and killed himself where 400 people were working.  That is correct. 

SHUSTER:  Can you describe how long all of this lasted today, how long was this sort of rampage and shooting spree? 

MELTON:  Probably in the neighborhood of 30 minutes. 

SHUSTER:  And, again, the injured have been accounted for, at least ten dead.  Obviously, a lot of people shaken up.  Any indication whatsoever who the gunman is, what his motivation may have been? 

MELTON:  I heard he was a white male in his mid-30s.  And no one to this point knows.  It‘s being investigated by a number of law enforcement agencies.  The motive is unknown.  Maybe it will be revealed within the investigation.  But no one knows the motives at this juncture, to the best of my knowledge. 

SHUSTER:  Mayor Wynnton Melton is the mayor of Geneva, Alabama, where this incident happened.  He‘s reporting at least ten people dead, including the gunman.  And again, the news is it could have been even worse.  As horrifying as it was, with this gunman essentially going on a rampage and shooting indiscriminately across three different towns, he finished essentially at a building that had 400 people in it.  He did not shoot anyone there.  He simply turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. 

But again, a horrifying 30 minutes at least in southern Alabama, and a horrible, horrible evening for so many families and people affected by the shooting spree.  We will, of course, have more throughout the night on MSNBC.

Coming up, the war of words between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer.  And Capitol Hill getting a dose of the paparazzi treatment, with all of the Hollywood heavyweights, and the politician all seem to say, we‘re ready for our close-up, Mr. DeMille. 

And when Rachel Maddow joins you at the top of the hour, today‘s huge rally on Wall Street; is it a sign that the recovery plans are starting to work?  The woman in charge of overseeing the Tarp funds joins Rachel. 

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, children left behind-gate.  With great fanfare, Mr. Bush pushed through his education initiative, No Child Left Behind.  But at the same time, he was also pushing through tax cuts for the rich, he was neglecting government programs that helped families with children when they‘re not in school.  Today, a new report from the National Center on Family Homelessness revealed the results.  The study of the years 2005 and 2006 indicates that at some point each year, approximately 1.5 million children, including toddlers and infants, went without a home.  One out of 50 children in America not left behind, left without a roof. 

Number two, cronyism-gate.  A federal grand jury Friday indicted former NASA official Courtney Stadd (ph) on charges he steered 15 million dollars to Mississippi State University, which just happened to be a client of his consulting business.  Stadd denies the charges, which is to be expected, considering a 2006 e-mail he wrote to MSU saying, quote, if I intervene anymore, then all sorts of red flags will go up.  Stadd was not merely a Bush appointee, he was a veteran of the 2000 Bush campaign.  After he left NASA, he asked MSU to raise his monthly compensation to 10,000 a month because of his, quote, revectoring of the outstanding NASA contract.  If convicted, Stadd faces a revectoring of his own of up to 15 years in prison. 

Number one, the American way-gate.  Two United Nations human rights investigators today announced a global investigation into how various countries may have committed human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism, specifically which countries kidnapped suspects abroad and transferred them to other countries for interrogations that would be illegal on home soil.  In other words, it‘s begun.  The Bush administration is officially under investigation by the United Nations for kidnapping and facilitating torture.  The two investigators are offering a warning to the current administration, quote, “we will not let the United States off the hook simply because of the change in administration.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  In the beginning, there were no stocks and no stock market and mankind was much more serene, even if it was living in caves.  But all of that changed.  The economy tanks, stocks took a nose-dive and all manner of commentators began pointing the finger of blame.  Of course, there‘s plenty of blame to go around.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the rancor has produced a full-blown war between Jon Stewart of the “Daily Show” and Jim Cramer of our sister network, CNBC. 

It began last week when the “Daily Show” compiled an eight-minute segment highlighting CNBC anchors and pundits who had said the stock market was doing just great.  Stewart said, quote, “if I had only followed CNBC‘s advice, I would have a million dollars today, provided I started with $100 million.” 

The “Daily Show‘s” wrath included Jim Cramer of CNBC “Mad Money.”  And yesterday Cramer responded in a post on MainStreet.com, saying that Stewart took some of his words out of context.  And then last night came Stewart‘s retort—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Unfortunately, we haven‘t heard a thing from CNBC.  Although Jim Cramer did write an article for MainStreet.com, complaining that we had unfairly used a video clip out of context to make it look like he recommended buying Bear Stearns‘ stock a week before it collapsed.  Well, we went back to the tape to listen. 

JIM CRAMER, CNBC ANCHOR:  Should I be worried about Bear Stearns in terms of liquidity and get my money out of there?  No, no, no!  Bear Stearns is fine.  Do not take your money out.  If there‘s one take-away other than plus 400, Bear Stearns is not in trouble! 

STEWART:  OK, I was wrong.  Actually, it‘s true.  He wasn‘t saying to buy Bear Stearns.  He was simply saying that if Bear was your broker or that your money was at Bear, your money would not disappear.  He was not addressing the value of holding Bear stock.  So Jim Cramer, I apologize.  That was out of context.  Technically, you are correct.  You weren‘t suggesting to buy Bear Stearns. 

That was something that you did five days earlier in your buy or sell segment. 

CRAMER:  I believe in the Bear franchise.  You know what, at 69 bucks, I‘m not giving up on the thing. 

STEWART:  Yeah!  Of course, while Cramer wasn‘t giving up on Bear at 69, 11 days later, the stock market was more comfortable with it at two. 

But it‘s all sort of equivocal.  I‘m reiterating.  I like Bear in 60s, I like Bear in 70s.  He‘s not saying literally, I‘m asking you to buy Bear Stearns.  For that, you‘d have to go back a full seven weeks before the stock completely collapsed. 

CRAMER:  I‘m asking people who are watching this video to buy Bear Stearns. 

STEWART:  Now, that was seven weeks before it collapsed.  In the interest of context, continue. 

CRAMER:  I‘m asking people who are watching this video to buy Bear Stearns.  Now, Bear Stearns acts much better than it should.  Now that‘s just intuition.  And I don‘t want to put too much faith in intuition.  But I have had good intuition over 29 years of investing.  And I just think this one has a very big upside and very limited downside here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  This morning on “The Today Show,” Meredith Vieira asked Mr.

Cramer about the “Daily Show‘s” commentary. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEREDITH VIEIRA, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  You know what he‘s saying about you, that you advised investors to buy Bear Stearns.  You said you were taken out of context. 

CRAMER:  On October 6th, 2008, I came on this show and did something you‘re never supposed to do if you have a stock show.  I said people should sell everything.  That was 35 percent ago.  Whatever he says, Bear Stearns this or that, that was a call that should have wrecked my career.  It would have if the market had gone up.  But I stuck my neck out and did it and saved a lot of people‘s money. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  But then Mr. Cramer was shown highlights from last night‘s “Daily Show,” the clip we already show you, to get Cramer‘s reaction. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAMER:  I‘m asking people who are watching this video to buy Bear Stearns. 

VIEIRA:  Did you make a mistake? 

CRAMER:  Did I make a mistake?  OK, well, first of all, any time you recommend a stock and it goes down, you‘ve made a mistake.  Here‘s the shocker, almost every stock is down.  Any stock you recommended is bad.  You know, Warren Buffett, I could run tapes for him, he would look like a complete fool.  This is a terrible market, which is why I told people to sell everything. 

But you think he‘s going to run that tape?  No, because he‘s got a comedy show.  Maybe he‘s going to start talking about tier one capital and how to save Citi, but that would kill his ratings. 

VIEIRA:  So you don‘t regret having said it? 

CRAMER:  Of course, I regret recommending any stock.  I regret the fact that I had the CEO of Wachovia on and he said to buy it and I agreed with him.  Of course, the SEC is investigating.  I regret the fact that the market is down and that I liked some of the market.  But I did come on this show and tell everyone to sell. 

You know, when Stewart makes that call, I‘m all over him.  I don‘t think he‘s going to do that because he‘s a comedian. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  There may be many morals to the story, but here‘s two:

videotape lives on, unless and until mankind is turned back to rubble.  If Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer want to keep thrashing this out, they will probably have an audience.  Mr. Cramer is even listed as a guest on the “Daily Show” for Thursday night, according to Comedy Central‘s website. 

At the top of the COUNTDOWN, the worlds of movies and politics collide.  Believe it or not, the politicians love sharing the spotlight with the Hollywood set.  Imagine that?  Christian Finnegan joins us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  They say D.C. is Hollywood for ugly people, but can that be true if Hollywood comes to D.C.?  Our number one story, our nation‘s capital, the nerve center of American politics, beacon of legislative power and a virtual ground zero for dueling sexiest men alive; the gauntlet was thrown last month when George Clooney ditched the Oscars to discuss Darfur with President Obama and Vice President Biden.  Not to be outdone, Brad Pitt made his move.  With him, his new leading lady, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  She and a seemingly smitten Majority Whip James Clyburn met with a fully goateed-Pitt on Capitol Hill last week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  It really is an honor to have him here.  And I know for some of my staff and for bragging rights to my children and my grandchildren, a real treat for me as well. 

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  I did not realize when the speaker asked me to chair the Katrina task force that it would lead to my getting in a position to make my grandchildren so envious of me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That‘s right.  Hide behind the grandkids.  Pitt pushing his Make it Right Campaign for New Orleans, sent the capital into a frenzy.  Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, during a photo-op with Pitt, joked, how will people tell us apart?  Pitt better watch his back.  Richard Gere was in town yesterday, attending an event for Tibet.  With him, his new leading lady, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Yes, he crushed the alliance formally known as Brancy with a single hug.  Brad?  Brad who? 

No word on whether or not the speaker negotiated autographed DVD copies of “Nights in Rodanthe” for fellow members of Congress. 

Who can possibly top a Pitt/Gere tag team?  Matt Damon?  That creepy guy from “Twilight?”  On the speaker‘s schedule tomorrow, singer Paul Simon.  Joining us now, comedian Christian Finnegan, who will be headlining at the Comic‘s Comedy‘s Club in New York City this Friday and Saturday.  Good evening, Christian. 

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN:  Good evening to you, David. 

SHUSTER:  Nancy Pelosi has had a star-studded week.  Can we expect her to do a reverse Schwarzenegger and after she wraps up her political career, will she build her future in film?  Perhaps she can join forces with Gere to star in “ An Officer and a Legislator.”

FINNEGAN:  Right, he sweeps in during a filibuster, and sweeps her off her feet.  The music starts twirling.  I actually don‘t see Nancy Pelosi as a leading lady.  I see her more in the quirky comedic role.  Is it just me or does Nancy Pelosi give off a serious Julie Hagerty (ph) vibe?  Every time I see her, I ask myself, is she really that twitchy and high strung or is that shtick? 

SHUSTER:  Tomorrow, Speaker Pelosi is supposed to meet with singer Paul Simon.  He has a lot to stand up to.  What can he do to stand out?  

FINNEGAN:  What people don‘t know is that once a year all the big celebrities have what they call a fantasy spokesperson draft.  Obviously, Katrina victims had the top pick.  Brad Pitt is like the Lebron of celebrity spokesperson.  Tibet is a little further back.  They keep going to the well with Richard Gere.  He keeps putting up numbers.  Obviously, Paul Simon is there for Children‘s Health Insurance.  That‘s a bit of a reach.  I‘m pretty sure he would have been around in round three. 

SHUSTER:  Also spotted around D.C., Rob Lowe.  According to one Congressman‘s Twitter page, Lowe was at the House last night watching members vote on school lunches.  Is that a sign Hollywood needs to come up with new material when actors would rather watch legislative proceedings rather than say, Jonas Brothers, the 3-D concert experience? 

FINNEGAN:  First of all, I‘m not going to sit here and let you malign the Jo-Bros.  But it‘s kind of ridiculous seeing what‘s his name—Rob Lowe sort of leverage his “West Wing” cred.  Is James Gandolfini going to order a hit now?  You can see Rob Lowe sitting in the House, being like, I used to be on a sound stage just like this.  Where is that Steny Hoyer guy with my egg white omelet? 

SHUSTER:  There are reports of a Bush administration celebrity back in town.  Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino gave a speech yesterday to the National Apartment Association.  She told the “Politico,” quote, it was fun to be behind a podium and not feeling like I was going to be beat up.  Brad Pitt greeted by paparazzi and gushing members of Congress.  Dana Perino, happy that she escaped a speech injury free.  Does that pretty much sum up the difference between Hollywood and D.C. in a nutshell?

FINNEGAN:  That kind of thing happens in Hollywood, too.  Sometimes if you play a role effectively enough, you get type cast.  You hear James Earl Jones, you automatically think Darth Vader.  I‘m sure Dana Perino is very talented.  I‘m sure she‘s very versatile.  But when I see that woman‘s face, all I can think is, I‘m about to hear something evil and/or stupid. 

SHUSTER:  Comedian Christian Finnegan, headlining at the Comic‘s Comedy Club in New York City this Friday and Saturday.  Christian, thanks as always.  We appreciate it. 

FINNEGAN:  Bye.

SHUSTER:  That will do it for this Tuesday‘s edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m David Shuster in for Keith Olbermann.  You can catch me weekdays at 6:00 pm Eastern on “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.”  Thanks for watching.  Our MSNBC coverage continues with “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  Hey, Rachel.

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

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