updated 3/18/2009 9:45:57 AM ET 2009-03-18T13:45:57

Guest:  Howard Fineman, Jonathan Turley, James Moore, Markos Moulitsas, Joel McHale High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Spec: Politics; Government; Policies

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

The nation to AIG Insurance, quotes George C. Scott from the movie, “The Hustler.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You owe me money!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The attempts to threaten, cajole, legislate or tax $165 million in—failure bonuses to move it back from AIG to the Treasury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It offends our common sense.  It offends our values.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE:  I think the time has come to—to act as the owner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or do what Republican Senator Grassley wants.  He invokes suicide as an option for AIG execs.

Mr. Bush goes to Calgary.  His first post-presidential speech: No cameras, no reporters, plenty of shoes to be thrown at a poster of him, and he travels from the hotel to the arena via a secret underground tunnel.

Vast left-wing conspiracy week continues.  Number three on the Billo-Goldie ratings of the left-wing menace: “Daily Kos.”  Our special guest, its founder, Markos Moulitsas.

And did you know there was a secret e-mail list that Rachel and I and Frank Rich and the “New York Times” and all of the liberals get their working orders from?  No, I didn‘t either.

John McCain‘s daughter, Meghan, calls out Coultergeist.  So, Laura Ingraham dismisses her as a “plus-sized model.”  Ms. McCain replies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, SEN. MCCAIN‘S DAUGHTER:  That‘s what I feel like right now.  I‘m like, “Kiss my fat ass!”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Anytime anybody invokes their “inner Tyra Banks,” we turn to our Tyra Banks expert, our guest, Joel McHale from “The Soup.”

Worsts: First, Billo declares Bush beat al Qaeda to win the war on terror.  Now, the Mannity says, “If we can‘t use the term ‘war on terror,‘ we have literally, you know, surrendered.”  Hey, oatmeal brains—pick one.

And the continuing obsession of David Letterman with my head; new victim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘ve seen him in person.  In terms of size, like couch pillow, would you say his head is the size of a couch pillow?

(LAUGHTER)

RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST:  Oh, you mean for—

Keith?

LETTERMAN:  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  More or less?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN:  Get a good look at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening from Los Angeles.

New details tonight about the multimillion dollar bonuses paid to AIG executive, provoking—yes—more outrage tonight.  New details about when the president found out about them, including that the top recipient took home more than $6.4 million.  The top 10, a combined $42 million and that 11 people who received such retention bonuses are no longer even with the company.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: How much of the outrage is really over the scandal and what is it worth, if nothing actually comes of it?  Minus any reform, could outrage become the new empty buzz word of the financial crisis?

The wealthiest members of AIG‘s financial product subsidiary in London are getting even wealthier, according to the new details about the pay packages released this afternoon by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.  In the letter he today sent to Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Mr. Cuomo is concluding, quote, “These payments were all made to individuals in a subsidiary whose performance led to crushing losses and the near failure of AIG.  Thus, last week, AIG made more than 73 millionaires in the unit which lost so much money that it bought the firms to its knees, forcing taxpayer bailout.  Something is deeply wrong with this outcome.”

By pouring so many billions into AIG, the first $85 billion on September 16th, more than three weeks before there was even a TARP program, the U.S. government, in effect, now the majority owner of this company.

This afternoon, Congressman Franks is saying, since we own it, we should act like we own it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK:  We own it.  And I do think extending our rights of ownership strengthens the legal case.  I think we should be suing to get those bonuses back not as the government that gave money to this private entity but as the owner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, with a more radical, permanent proposal, when he suggested during a radio interview that AIG executives should enact themselves.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, ® IOWA:  That would make me feel a little bit better towards them if they‘d followed the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I‘m sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Grassley quickly backtracking, saying that, obviously, he did not really mean that AIG executives should kill themselves.  But he still wants them to apologize.  Then, as if it could not get any worse for the Iowa Republican, he said this—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRASSLEY:  It‘s irresponsible for corporations to give bonuses at that time when they‘re so sucking the tit of the taxpayer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What the senator from Iowa meant to say was—ahhh!

Less colorful language coming from the congressman, Eric Cantor, part of the rather-late-to-the-dance effort to blame the bonuses on President Obama.  A senior GOP aide telling “Talking Points Memo,” that two freshmen Republicans, at the direction of the Republican whip, will introduce a bill to direct Treasury to recoup those bonuses, exactly how, the aide did not say.

Democrats in the House and Senate wanting to tax the money back.  Democratic Leader Harry Reid announcing that Senator Baucus will be drafting legislation to impose an excise tax.  Senator Baucus is saying he‘s in the process of finding out the highest excise tax he could possibly excise.

President Obama himself making no comment about AIG today.  His chief spokesman, however, questioned about when Obama learned about the bonuses and why he did discussed them until the contractual deadline about the bonuses had passed last week.  White House Press Secretary Gibbs declaring the president satisfied that he found out about the bonuses in a timely manner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBS:  Yes, the president is satisfied.  The president will not be satisfied until we‘ve exhausted every avenue that he instructed us to yesterday, and the president certainly won‘t be satisfied until, moving forward, we have changed the way we do business in Washington, changed the way we do business on Wall Street, to ensure that there‘s a financial regulatory system that‘s in place in order not to find things like AIG happening again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The “Associated Press,” by the way, is reporting at this hour that it has one source who says that the president first learned of the AIG bonuses last Thursday.

Some legal questions about all of this in a moment, first, the political one.  It‘s time to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  AIG wrote the bonuses in the contracts in March of 2008.  And the previous Congress, the previous president, previous secretary of the treasury started feeding AIG money in September of 2008.  And apparently, according to the “AP” anyway, the president found out about the bonuses last Thursday.

So, explain to me how the Republicans, as implied by what Mr. Cantor supposedly said, how are the Republicans going to try to make this into Obama‘s fault?

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re going to try.  For no other reason that he‘s president and somewhat hapless Tim Geithner as treasury secretary, but I don‘t think it‘s going to fly, because most of the American people are aware of the fact that the attitude of Washington toward business and toward Wall Street in general was, for the most part, until five minutes ago, pretty, pretty coddling.

You know, they treated them with kid gloves.  Here, can‘t we give you more money?  We don‘t want to intrude upon the prerogatives of the private market.  We don‘t want to nationalize.  Can‘t we help you in some way?  Can‘t we change the psychology?

That‘s a bipartisan thing, and I must say, Republicans were in the lead for most of the last 15 years in that attitude.

OLBERMANN:  By the way, the “AP” also is now quoting Rahm Emanuel as saying that Secretary Geithner‘s job is not in jeopardy over this.  But, all of that, I mean, taken into account, if you are the White House, will simply saying—well, they have really good contracts, our hands are kind of tied, the president is satisfied, is that going to fly?  I mean, does retribution and reform of some kind have to occur or have to be seen occurring at the direction of the White House?

FINEMAN:  Yes, it didn‘t fly.  It was shot down you know by about noon on Sunday after Larry Summers, who‘s the in-house version of the treasury secretary, said the contracts are sacrosanct.  Sorry, there is nothing that we can do.

The reason why Rahm Emanuel had to come out and issue a statement saying that Tim Geithner‘s job is not in jeopardy is because his job is in jeopardy, because, certainly, within the treasury and probably the Fed, they knew full well exactly what the terms were of giving these new bonuses to AIG.  As a matter of fact, congressmen like Elijah Cummings, up on the Hill last December, were talking loudly about this, complaining loudly even before Obama got to town.

So, it‘s not going to fly.  And I‘m told tonight, after talking to some Senate Democrats, they really are going to push the tax thing, Keith.  And to answer your earlier question, I was told that they think they can tax 91 percent of the bonuses.  Why it‘s 91 percent, they‘re not entirely clear, but the Senate works in mysterious ways.

OLBERMANN:  As does the financial sector.

One of the arguments, though, about those bonuses is they‘ve been recast as retention devices, that needed to help keep these executives in place.  Is that now officially utter bullcrap because so many of them apparently left after getting the bonuses?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, they left, and other bonuses are going to keep them there, number one.  And number two, in talking to people on the Hill, one of them I talked to is Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, very knowledgeable about business, built up her own business and was great entrepreneurial enrollment before she got on the politics.  She‘s on the finance committee, on commerce, on small business.  She says that‘s baloney.

I mean, really, what‘s it like, Keith, is like saying, the person who wired the booby trap can‘t be prosecuted because they‘re the only ones who know how to unwire the booby trap.  There are police bomb squads if I can pursue the analogy, and she, among other, says that that‘s baloney.  There are other people who can figure out how to unwind the complex derivative insurance contracts that AIG wrote by sort of sprinkling holy water of their AAA bond—of their AAA insurance rating on these crazy instruments.  There are other people who can do that besides the people who are at AIG.

OLBERMANN:  Besides, which AIG apparently devised retention bonuses in which you get the bonus but you don‘t have to stay with the company.  So, somebody else—

FINEMAN:  Yes, the company—and you can lose—and can you lose hundreds of millions of dollars for your company and still get the bonus.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Like I said, they are failure rewards.

Howard Fineman of MSNBC .

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  . and “Newsweek”—as always, sir, great thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what should be done about AIG and whether legally anything can be done, let‘s turn now to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

Good evening, Jon.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The congressional proposal that taxed the money, Howard just said maybe 91 percent, tax it back from the AIG executives.  How you can legally target a tax upon the employees of just one company or even if you‘ve broadened it out a little bit and say, just the company‘s got the bailout money?

TURLEY:  I‘ve been speaking to few people in Congress today about this and I am very skeptical.  It is one thing to try to take this out of the height of AIG, the company, to essentially recoup it out of their coffers.  But to get this money back from the individuals, I would suggest that would be much more difficult.  There are constitutional questions, including bills of attainer and other things, when you go after individuals.  It‘s very hard to make this cat walk backwards.

And I think, part of the anger here really shouldn‘t be directed at AIG.  We all knew what AIG was.  The anger, legitimately, can be directed at Congress and both parties.  I mean, you have these members going around expressing complete shock.  But you know, when you give billions and billions of dollars to the “Pirates of Penzance,” you can hardly be surprised that they, you know, spent it on women in Grogge (ph).

I mean, that‘s basically what happened here.  You‘ve got a bunch of executives who ran a major company into the ground by showing utter greed and incompetence, and you gave them all of this money with very few restrictions.  I mean, this money, hundreds of billions of dollars were given to incompetent people with less restrictions that I give my kids when I send them off to school.

(LAUGHTER)

TURLEY:  I say, you can take the money.  You can‘t spend it on candy. 

You can‘t spend it on this or that.

But it appears that if you let a company fail, you‘d get very few restrictions and, in fact, an amendment was put through that protected the bonuses of executives that were brought in before the last stimulus package, I believe, Senator Dodd help put that in.

OLBERMANN:  Well, now that we‘ve got the D‘Oyly Carte (ph) society hyperventilating to turn to the modern major general of your analogy, the former CEO, Hank Greenberg, granted—opened a special office in London to ensure the banks and their risky loans as a way to make quick money.  This man was saying today, quote, “I wouldn‘t pay the bonuses, period.  If they want to sue us, sue us.”

Would there be a reason not make the AIG executives sue to get their bonuses?

TURLEY:  Well, one is that you could very well lose if it‘s a contractual issue.  I have some question about fraud here.  I mean, these contracts seem to have been written in haste when the company could not possibly have honored them short of a bailout.  The bonuses paid by Merrill Lynch also raise very significant questions of that company pushing through bonuses earlier than usual.  And it seems like they were trying to get them under the wire.

I think there are some really serious questions here.  But, look—you can refuse it and force it to go to court, but these people have an upper hand.  You gave them that upper hand by giving them money without the necessary and most obvious restrictions.

OLBERMANN:  But—maybe this is not so much of a legal question, although it works into this.  Why are contracts with AIG executives, white-collared guys, considered sacrosanct, and those with the union workers, not so much when we‘ve heard nothing about, nothing but breaking union contracts in Detroit as a prerequisite to bailing out the auto industry?  And yet, we seem to have nobody even thinking while, just you know, screw the brokers the way that you wanted to screw the autoworkers?

TURLEY:  Well, I think it‘s a legitimate question.  We have a tremendous political failure here.  And think that you could see it in real social unrest.  I think that Congress has finally pushed this country to the breaking point.

People believe, and I think that there is some support for it, that there‘s no rational hand in any of this.  That people aren‘t making basic decisions, and I think that we should pursue getting this money back.  But you may have a better chance getting it from AIG than these new millionaires who may be scot-free.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley from George Washington University—as always, we thank you for your time, sir.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And then there is the man under whose guidance all this unfolded.  That man has left this country to seek asylum in another land—unfortunately, I mean small, a temporarily asylum, as in he stayed there overnight—went to his destination by secret passage, kept photographers away, banished reporters.  Nice to see, even in retirement, even in Canada, same old George W. Bush—next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Next President Bush‘s first post-presidential speech given in secret.  The venue reached in secret.

We continue to meet the liberal menace week.  Markos Moulitsas, the third worst liberal in the country for Bernie and Billo, joins us.

And among the true Worst, yes, Billo again and Boss Limbaugh and the Mannity, too.  But how about a guy who beats up his wife while wearing t-shirt reading, “I heart my marriage”?

This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you were to give a speech focusing on the challenges facing the world in the 21st century, who would be the most knowledgeable speaker you could get—the one person most evidently familiar with those challenges and their geneses to give that speech?

Our fourth story tonight: Well, of course, you would go to the man who created those challenges—former President George W. Bush.  And his already taken his option to give his first post-presidential address speech in this country and symbolically ceded to Will Ferrell, Mr. Bush had to run to the most conservative city, Calgary, in the nicest nearby country, Canada, and still they needed high security to keep the protesters away.

Mr. Bush arrived last night and not getting out of his car and not press the flesh and not shake some hands with all of those people who were not his fans, who did not line the road, on his way to the restaurant where he did not dine in a public area.

For his lunchtime speech today, Mr. Bush was greeted by a couple of hundred protesters, enraging even Canadians enough to throw things and get arrested.  While Mr. Bush basking in his popularity, snuck through an underground tunnel from his hotel to the private luncheon where no media was allowed and no one was allowed to record it or photograph it.  It was called a conversation with George W. Bush, conversation being Bush speak for, I converse, you pay 400 bucks Canadian to hear me converse.

The protesters outside joining the group, Lawyers Against the War, who called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to bar Bush from the country or arrest him for torture and other war crimes.  Lawyer Gail Davidson, having explained on this newshour last night, the Canadian law bars suspected war criminals from entering her country.

Let‘s turn now to Jim Moore, longtime chronicler of all things, Bush, co-author of “Bush‘s Brain,” and now online at both HuffingtonPost.com and MooreThink.com.

Thanks for your time, Jim.

JAMES MOORE, MOORETHINK.COM:  Sure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Does Mr. Bush get the humiliating circumstances of this appearance?  Or does he have some functionary telling him, you know, that Bono guy could only wish that he could sell out the Telus Convention Center in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

MOORE:  I don‘t think that he gets it.  He didn‘t get it when he was president, obviously.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

MOORE:  So, how can he get now?  Certainly not immediately after he leaves office.  I think it‘s interesting the location he chose, because Calgary is at heart of the oil patch.  It‘s at the center of the energy industry in Canada.  It‘s the cowboy capital of Canada.  So, if there‘s any place that‘s going to be friendly to this guy, it‘s going to be up there.

I think another interesting thing is, I read one of the quotes when the president, the former president was leaving.  Somebody asking why he had not criticized President Obama, and he said, “I think he deserves my silence.”

I would suggest that we all deserve his silence.

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE:  Even the people who paid 400 bucks to see him talk.

OLBERMANN:  So, just sit there for like a silent Will Ferrell.

MOORE:  It would be very harmless.

OLBERMANN:  There was a new definitive finding on the matter of torture.  We‘re going to explore that later in the hour, but based on his own admission of authorizing what everybody except him and Fredo call torture, can this man now—and I mean it seriously—travel outside of North America without a phalanx of lawyers?

MOORE:  It‘s an interesting question and it would obviously create a big international situation.  But I‘m confident and I would suspect that many countries have legal officials and attorneys general who are probably wondering if perhaps they shouldn‘t do something to reduce this man to custody when he leaves the United States of America.

Based on our laws, he‘s violated laws.  We have simply, as a culture, chosen not prosecute this guy.  And if he goes to certain country, eventually, he‘s going to be confronted by this, would be my suspicion that there might be a warrant issued.  Now, what happens after that, who knows, he‘s still protected by Secret Service, but it would create a bit of an international incident and it‘s easy to make an argument that he‘s violated laws internationally and people the on hold him accountable.

Our culture, our country, our democracy has not yet held this president accountable.  Maybe somebody else will.

OLBERMANN:  Give me your suspicion on this other point.  He hails from this strain of evangelical Christianity that has given us leaders who are absolutely certain right up until they are forced to repent by circumstance or evidence or lawsuit.  After, you know, five or 10 years as global pariah, is there—the prospect of a genuine Bush mea culpa somewhere in the distant future or is it just not—

MOORE:  Ha!

OLBERMANN:  OK, well that answers my question.

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE:  It‘s not—it‘s just not going to happen, Keith.  It hasn‘t happened in the history in the Bush family and I don‘t mean to laugh.  It hasn‘t—there‘s—we have no incidents or no case of it happening among the Bushes, happening among anybody who‘s been in his administration.  I think it‘s a fair and important question to ask.  But we‘re all going to grow older and grayer waiting for that to happen.  If we‘re waiting for a bush Bo say, wait a minute, I‘m sorry.

As you well know, a part of this speech process in him traveling around making money to give these speeches is putting his spin on history.  They‘re trying—they‘re trying to change the way his time in office is interpreted by historians, and to do a mea culpa is not to say—we made a mistake, to admit a mistake.  It will screw it all up if they are trying to change history and they ain‘t going to do it.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the other thing is, if they want to change history, is they can have no press there.  This has to be recorded, because right now, Will Ferrell owns a George Bush revisionist history, visual image.

MOORE:  It means a well-taken (ph) dream.

OLBERMANN:  There it is.

Jim Moore, co-author of “Bush‘s Brain,” who gave the most succinct answer to any of my longwinded questions in history, contributor to the “Huffington Post” and Moorethink.com—great thanks, Jim.

MOORE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  David Letterman and his fascination with my head returned to late-night TV last night.  This time it was Rachel forced to defend me and my melon.

And in Worsts: Boss Limbaugh accuses the president of ginning a lynch mob against those poor innocent men, real boys—the really innocent boys at AIG.  Oddly though, he calls to boil them in oil and send them to the guillotine and encourage hara-kiri.  It appears to have all come from Republicans.

Worst Persons ahead - you are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and a recession special at a German brothel.  Take 100 percent off.

But, first, on this date in 1906, in a speech at Gridiron Club in Washington, citing the excesses of investigative journalism, President Theodore Roosevelt evoked a character from “The Pilgrim‘s Progress” of the 17th century British author, John Bunyan, the Man with the Muck-rake.  And thus was born the verb, to muckrake.

Let‘s play Oddball.”

We begin at Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City.  Last night, our own

Rachel Maddow got her late show turned with Dave.  She had barely settled

into her seat and Mr. Letterman had a pressing issue he needed to discuss -

again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN:  Here‘s the deal.  I‘ve been watching your television program and it comes right on after the big-headed boy, what‘s his name?

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Keith Olbermann, yes.

LETTERMAN:  Keith Olbermann, yes, he has a giant head.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Can‘t you just let it go?  You need to discuss bailouts, bonuses, Obama.  Letterman would not let the heady manner rest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN:  You‘ve seen him in person.  In terms of size, like couch pillow, would you say his head is the size of a couch pillow?

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Oh, you mean for—Keith?

LETTERMAN:  Yes.  More or less?  I think so.

MADDOW:  I don‘t think of him as outsize, I guess.

LETTERMAN:  OK.  Get a good look at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Rachel.

David, just a quick reminder, we‘ve been through this, 7 7/8, maybe an eight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN:  Look there he is.  Yes, get in there.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Really, what is it?  It‘s like a 20 or something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I wrote that bit, too.

To the White House, in the annual St. Patrick‘s Day celebration, the president met this morning with a Taoiseach of Ireland—that would be the prime minister for the rest of us—before going the traditional “Kiss me, I‘m Irish” t-shirt in favor of a more subdued display of green, and as custom dictates, the prime minister gave the president the bowl of shamrocks.

Outside the executive mansion, the spraying of the green—White House fountain is being used to mark the occasion for the first time ever being dyed green.  Yes, that is just a bad color sea coming out of fountain.  Maybe lime aid but nothing better than that.

Left-wing smear machine week continues, and another stunning revelation.  Apparently, there‘s a super secret e-mail account that those of us on the left used to organize our smears.  I found out about this morning from a right-wing blogger.  Markos Moulitsas of the “Daily Kos” joins us.

Meantime on the right, Meghan McCain is invoking her inner Tyra Banks and telling the likes of Laura Ingraham to quote, “kiss her fat ass,” unquote.  These stories ahead, but time for COUNTDOWN‘s best persons in the world.

Number three, best dubious plea of innocence, Pauline Terry, night club owner of Kent, England.  Police there suspected her place was a haven for illegal drug use.  So she wrote the police a letter that she hoped would clear her establishment and make her case that the club was clean.  Unfortunately, police ran the letter down to forensics and determined that it was covered in cocaine. 

Number two, best police surprise, Britain‘s top cop, Sir Paul Stephenson, brand-new metropolitan police commissioner.  He led a raid of 80 officers, complete with a battering ram, to say nothing of countless media in tow, at the home of a suspected gang leader who was not home.  The suspect had been arrested hours earlier after allegedly himself breaking into a different home a little more quietly. 

And number one, best recession response, an unidentified brothel in Berlin in Germany.  During what it calls off-peek hours, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, it is offering a flat fee for its services.  Access to the professional women in the place, plus unlimited food and drinks, 70 Euros, about 90 dollars. 

Let‘s try a TV experiment.  For the sake of kids who might be watching and would have to stifle their laughs so their parents don‘t find out that they would get this joke, let me try to broadcast this joke telepathically.  All right, one hint.  Think the endless salad bar special at the sizzler. 

OK, now you got it. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The problem with a good conspiracy theory is that inevitably somebody blabs.  However, as we continue Know Your Top Five Bill-O and Goldie Left Wing Smear Merchants week with our guest Markos Moulitsas, number three, the Daily Kos, there is the surprise in our third story tonight, a left-wing conspiracy so well policed that it includes Rachel Maddow, David Shuster, the “New York Times” and me.  And I only found about it this morning from a right-wing blog.

The reality of this, as reported at Politico.com, quote, “for the past two years, several hundred left leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics have talked stories and compared notes in an off the record, online meeting space called JournoList.  Proof of a vast liberal media conspiracy?  Not at all says Ezra Klein, the 24 year old ‘American Prospect‘ blogging wonder kind, who formed JournoList in February 2007.  Basically, he says, it‘s just a list where journalists and policy wonks can discuss issues freely.”

Other so-called J-Listers also commented to Politico, characterizing their exchanges in a similar fashion.  But from the right wing blog RedState.com and a man named Erick Erickson comes this, “Politico this morning shows the left has moved into a secret email list serve, where left wing bloggers, policy guys and journalists collaborate online to form news stories that inevitably skew to the left.”

Wait, it gets better than this.  “I‘m told such luminaries as David Shuster at MSNBC, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, a host of “New York Times” magazine writers, Frank Rich and others all collaborate on this list.”

Your told?  Your told by what, a voice in your own head?  Checked with David and Rach.  None of us are on the list.  I had never even heard of it until somebody told me about the RedState not.  Rachel had not heard about it until I asked her about  this afternoon.  Now that‘s a secret left-wing conspiracy.  It‘s so secret the people who are in it don‘t even know they‘re in it. 

Besides which, everybody knows I take my instructions from our next guest, the founder and publisher of DailyKos.com, Markos Moulitsas.  Good evening, Markos.  Congratulations on being number three on the list. 

MARKOS MOULITSAS:  Thanks so much.  Glad to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to that Bill-O list in a moment.  First, something else from Red State.  “I‘m told quite reliably, I might add, that left wing bloggers and policy guys use this site as an express train to get their ideas into the mainstream media.  The questions now are, who all is on the list, what hit jobs have come through this list?”

So the JournoList thing gets magnified into a permanent record of some sort of what everybody on the left is doing when we all have this groupthink.  Or should we be surprised that this is the interpretation of this by the right? 

MOULITSAS:  I don‘t think it‘s surprising at all, actually.  You have a situation where the right has been completely discredited.  And they‘re casting about it for reasons, because as we know, conservatism doesn‘t fail.  It can only be failed.  So if it‘s not them, then what could it be?  Apparently, it‘s these conspiracy theories. 

OLBERMANN:  So is that the same sort of thinking that—that it must be failed?  That there‘s some trickery involved if the conservatives don‘t win that got you number three on the O‘Reilly/Goldberg list?  Or do you actually deserve to be there?  And have you already in fact celebrated your success? 

MOULITSAS:  I always celebrate.  I mean I looked for—I looked on as O‘Reilly attacked you for years and turned you into this ratings powerhouse on MSNBC, so I thought, I could use a little bit of O‘Reilly love.  I‘m glad that he‘s actually delivered some of that.

But I think there is a conspiracy and it goes like this: I wake up in morning and I check out Youtube clips of Bill O‘Reilly screaming at his audience, and I see Glenn Beck crying on his show. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

MOULITSAS:  And I think—and I go on my blog, and I write, did you catch these idiots last night?  And then somebody else—this is very nefarious.  Somebody else also sees those clips, and they also write about what a bunch of morons Fox News is featuring that night.  And suddenly you have some kind of collusion.  It‘s all very insidious. 

OLBERMANN:  At no point is the actual shock of the event, these, you know, perpetual repetitions of the Hindenburg disaster that we see.  At no point are these credited as being part of this equation.  But there is another possibility here, isn‘t it?  That there‘s an assumption that there is a left-wing conspiracy, because there has, in fact, been a right-wing conspiracy, that there are talking points that used to come out of the White House, obviously not anymore. 

But that entire news days were built around this little cheat sheet that a lot—several guys put out.  One being John Moody at Fox News.  And they all followed it like it was the tablets, with Moses coming down from the mountain. 

MOULITSAS:  Yes, absolutely.  And I don‘t begrudge them for doing that.  They‘ve been very effective for decades by pushing out this conservative message to the masses, by being on message and unified in pushing out that message, across various media, radio, television, the Internet, and so on. 

So I totally see this as a case of projection.  The fact of the matter is people like me get too much e-mail already.  I‘m sure you get enough e-mails.  Do you really need to be on another list of someone tell you what to think, when we can think for ourselves, thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  Plus, we don‘t have time to read all of these e-mails that we‘re getting.  The bottom line, people think what, they‘re vampires, they never sleep.  While we have you here, let me ask you about something of substance in the news that has not gotten the attention that it deserves nationally.  The latest of the endless series of the Norm Coleman defenses in this litigation against the man who beat him for the Minnesota Senate seat, Al Franken.  Jon Cornyn of Texas is now citing Bush v. Gore.  What does Bush v. Gore have to do with Coleman v. reality?

MOULITSAS:  Well, Bush v. Gore was obviously a partisan hack ruling that was so bad and so unconstitutional that the Supreme Court itself, the majority said, don‘t ever cite this decision ever again, because they knew it was very poor legal under-pinnings.  But it was a hacked partisan decision designed to make sure that their favorite candidate, George Bush, won the presidency. 

Now, of course, Republicans are very, very much desperate.  They want to hold onto that Minnesota seat.  This is going to be seat number 59 for the Democrats.  They‘re doing everything they can.  And they are praying for their own hacked partisan rule from the courts.  They‘re not going to get it.  It‘s only a matter of time before Al Franken is actually seated and is rightfully called Senator Al Franken. 

OLBERMANN:  Good thing too.  Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, number three on the list of the top three left wing smear merchants.  Thank you and don‘t forget to send me my email full of marching orders in the morning. 

MOULITSAS:  Absolutely.  Thanks so much. 

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, an actual mid figure in the vast right-wing conspiracy, Laura Ingram, has now inherited the wind.  She criticized Meghan McCain, so Miss McCain has gone all Tyra Banks on her but.  First, Bill-O says everybody knows Bush won the war on terror.  Now the Manatee says we‘re surrendering in it.  Would guys just pick one delusion and stick to it please?  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special Senator Chuck Hagel on an oldy but a baddy, the risk of Russia looking to put its bombers Cuba or Venezuela.  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, war is the first casualty of library-gate.  Last week, Politico reported that Bush advisers have decided to de-emphasize the Iraq war as part of the Bush presidential library.  Now Talking Points Memo points out the Iraq war—how it is handled in Mr. Bush‘s official biography on the Bush library website.  Iraq is not mentioned at all.  Tax cuts, you got them.  No Child Behind, got that.  Barney and Ms. Beasley, they‘re in there. 

That‘s showing the troops how much you care for them, Mr. Sir.  That‘s showing them how personally moved you were by their deaths and their maimings. 

Number two, Mr. Bush‘s other botched war-gate, Afghanistan.  Also not mentioned in his bio on the website of the library, the war that made sense at the time, because we were told its goal was to get bin Laden and al Qaeda.  As last year‘s soaring fatality rate continues to rise, as Taliban continue to control most of the country, as more of our troops head there, as all of this unfolds, in new polling, the war that made sense, now viewed by an all-time high of 42 percent of Americans as a mistake. 

Number one, definitely it was torture-gate.  The “New York Review of Books” has obtained a confidential report from 2007 by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which not only had access to Guantanamo Bay, but was allowed to interview 14 high-level detainees there.  American officials, with green lights from Washington, five times in one week, wrapped a towel around Abu Zubaydah‘s neck and used it to swing him around, smashing his body against a wall.  Then they put him into a box and cut off the air supply.  Then they waterboarded him until he vomited. 

Then there was Walid bin Attash, left hanging by his wrists for hours, standing on his one leg, in between his beatings.  All of this and more credible enough for the Red Cross to call it literally torture.  The Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, establishes how it shall be determined whether, quote, torture has been committed.  The ultimate deciding body, as agreed to by our country, is the Red Cross. 

According to the authority recognized by the United States of America, the United States of America committed war crimes, violated the Geneva Conventions, committed torture.  So the debate is over.  Let the prosecutions begin. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Invoking her inner-Tyra Banks, John McCain‘s daughter takes down her second female conservative pundit in one week.  Joel McHale joins me, if he is done spilling water all over the set. 

JOEL MCHALE, “THE SOUP”:  Sorry.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze tonight to Bradley Gellard of Apollo Beach, Florida, near Tampa, just another tawdry case of spousal abuse, a man choking his wife.  Fortunately, she got free before tragedy and he has been arrested.  Mr.  Gellard, however, elevated the story to the level of the macabre by dint of what he was wearing, an I Heart My Marriage t-shirt.  The shirt is a promotional item from a movie last year, “Fireproof,” about a husband who has a spiritual awakening and tries to save his failing marriage.  It was the box office hit in Evangelical circles. 

The runner up, the Manatee.  Protesting as ever, something he didn‘t quite hear correctly, or maybe just doesn‘t understand, “if we can‘t use the term war on terror, we can‘t use the term enemy combatants, it sounds to me like, in many ways, even linguistically, we have literally, you know, surrendered.”

Sean, don‘t you remember what Bill-O said? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Look, by all accounts, the Bush administration defeated al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda was marginalized, been downgraded as a threat to the world.  So we won the terror war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  By all accounts, Sean.  Don‘t you watch Bill-O.  No need to surrender if we already won.

But our winner, speaking of totally mixed messages, Boss Limbaugh.  First, he announced that AIG traders deserved their 165 million dollars in bonuses.  Today he went a little further.  “A lynch mob expanding, the peasants with their pitch forks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads.  Death threats are pouring in, all this being ginned up by the Obama administration.”

Really?  The senator who invoked the rhetoric of suicide as a good solution at AIG was Charles Grassley, not of the Obama administration, but of the Republican party.  And the man who offered this piece of hyperbole:

“I was going to recommend boiling in oil in Times Square, but look, because these are the people who invented these crazy credit default swap that are leading the whole disaster.”  That was Mort Kondracke, not of the Obama administration, but of Fixed News. 

Or how about the guy who said this?  “I‘m all in favor of keeping this heaping opprobrium.  I would deny them the bonuses if possible.  I would be for an exemplary hanging or two.  Have it in Times Square.  Invite Madame DuFarge.  You borrow a guillotine from the French.  We could have a party.  If that‘s what it takes to maintain popular support, let‘s do it. 

That was Charles Krauthammer, also not of the Obama administration, but rather of ultra-conservative column infamy.  So, Boss Limbaugh, when you describe the administration ginning up a lynch mob, the only thing that comes across as ginned up is you?  Boss Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The fight between Meghan McCain and Laura Ingram has moved from sideshow into popcorn and candy territory, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, with choice phrases involving both asses and idiots.  Joel McHale, who is neither, is breathlessly waiting to join us. 

It began when Miss McCain, daughter, of course, of Senator John McCain took on Coulter-geist.  Writing at the website DailyBeast.com, McCain said, quote, I consider myself a progressive Republican but here‘s what I don‘t get about Coulter: is she for real or not?  Are some of her statements just gimmicks to gain publicity for her books?  I don‘t like her demeanor.  Everything about her is extreme, her voice, interview tactics and especially the public statement she makes about liberals.  Maybe her popularity stems from the fact that watching her is sometimes like watching a train wreck.” 

And although Coulter-geist did not respond, Ms. Ingram stepped in, calling McCain, quote, “just another valley girl gone awry,” and referring to her at the end of the day as a, quote, “plus-sized model.”  First, Ms.  McCain responded on her blog that gratuitous insults about her weight were unnecessary.  Then she appeared on “The View” and quoted Tyra Banks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN:  I‘m a pop culture junky, but when Tyra Banks went on her show in her bathing suit and said, kiss my fat ass, that‘s what I feel like right now.  I‘m like, kiss my fat ass, you know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ms. Ingraham‘s response, on her blog, characterized Ms.

McCain as a, quote, “useful idiot.” 

Right here, as promised, the host of the pop culture program of record, E exclamation point network‘s “The Soup,” Joel McHale. 

MCHALE:  Yes, the useful idiot. 

OLBERMANN:  How are you?

MCHALE:  Nice to see you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for cleaning this up. 

MCHALE:  I spilled about a gallon of water here a second ago. 

OLBERMANN:  Some of the books fell over too.  They are fake books.  This won‘t get resolved until we get all three of them in the same room, with Ms. McCain walking in like an ordinary human being, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham just sliding into that space between the bottom of the door and the top of the floor. 

MCHALE:  Yes, if they get in the same room, that means the Ceylon civil war will continue, and that means they‘ll all be there.  And if they‘re Ceylons, that‘s like a two, three, and an eight.  Meghan being an eight.  Other two not as attractive, because I like a little—sorry.  Just a little meat on my bones. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, OK.  I‘m—OK.  There‘s nothing that I can say about that. 

MCHALE:  Sorry, go ahead. 

OLBERMANN:  -- that will get me into more trouble than I already am on this topic.  In fact, would you recommend, and I know you are the expert, the reigning expert on this woman, would you think this is built for Tyra Banks to try to intervene with? 

MCHALE:  I can‘t believe that I am going to say this, Keith, but this is below Tyra. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow. 

MCHALE:  Just a little bit.  But it‘s nice to know that probably in 200 years, she‘ll be as well quoted as Ralph Waldo Emerson, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  Because what, all books have been destroyed and there are no records of anything. 

MCHALE:  It will be like “Fahrenheit 451” and it will just be Tyra. 

OLBERMANN:  Or “Roller Ball.”  We lost 20th century and 19th century. 

MCHALE:  Are you quoting the old “Roller Ball” or the updated?  The one with LL Cool J. 

OLBERMANN:  Who saw that?  There‘s also no dialogue. 

MCHALE:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  Coulter-Geist has not said anything about this and has been thoroughly ripped and insightfully ripped by the daughter of the last Republican presidential candidate. 

MCHALE:  I have no idea why that dude is being so quiet. 

OLBERMANN:  I was just thinking also one thing about Laura Ingram getting involved.  I think this is fairly well known, although it‘s been broadcast before, she once actually volunteered this information that on her death bed, her mother said—her last words from her mother, a very poignant moment in most people‘s lives, were Laura, why are you so bossy?  I‘m not making this up. 

MCHALE:  Really? 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m quoting her.  This sort of summarized this.  Why did she step in if Coulter didn‘t even respond? 

MCHALE:  That‘s a good question.  I mean, Seacrest—I say the same thing to Seacrest all of the time, why you are being so bossy?  That‘s incredible and I would like to talk to her mom. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, you can‘t because she passed away. 

MCHALE:  I‘ll get the Ouji Board. 

OLBERMANN:  Dying words.  By the way, if those were the dying words, why would you admit that.  Nobody is going to check.  You‘re a wonderful daughter. 

MCHALE:  That would be a weird thing to say at the eulogy, like, and her last words to me were—

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Let‘s change topics, quickly.  Levi Johnston, the ex-fiancee of Bristol Palin, with this quote, “it‘s just us, me not being mature enough, or something, and having a kid and thinking it could be better for us to separate for a while,” end quote.  Well, that it says all, doesn‘t it? 

MCHALE:  Yes, the Palins heard that and they gave him a wolf pelt.  They said, we‘ll give you a 20-minute head start while we fire up the helicopter. 

But I like that quote.  That‘s how I sound when I am playing XBox. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you have a suggestion, now that everyone else has chimed in on this, on the AIG guys, the bonuses, the 165 million dollars?  Do we get it back?  Do we try to turn this? 

MCHALE:  Yes, they need to go on the Howie Mandel‘s show, and with all of the briefcases, each would like—they can get the money back that way.  And every time they go to the bank, the bankers‘ only option is you know life in a white-collar prison. 

OLBERMANN:  Or open up one of the briefcase and it‘s got a spring-loaded pellet gun of some sort. 

MCHALE:  Yes.  Or maybe Cheney can be there. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.   

MCHALE:  Sorry.   

OLBERMANN:  And he could be useful in his post-vice presidential career.  Speaking of post-careers, the protest in Canada involves throwing shoes at a poster of Bush. 

MCHALE:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s a Canadian protester, not the real guy.  Just the poster? 

MCHALE:  Well, I wanted to know, Bush is going up there. 

OLBERMANN:  He‘s there already. 

MCHALE:  He‘s there.  Why did they have the reception at a Foot Locker? 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s true. 

MCHALE:  I feel like it was set that up way.  And, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Joel McHale, the host of “The Soup.”  Who is on the show this week? 

MCHALE:  You are. 

OLBERMANN:  Great. 

MCHALE:  Keith Olbermann on “The Soup” this week, giving legitimacy to the E! Network. 

OLBERMANN:  I will come over and spill something on you.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,138th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, from Los Angeles, good night and good luck. 

MCHALE:  Owe.

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

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