updated 3/31/2009 10:02:48 AM ET 2009-03-31T14:02:48

Guest: Jonathan Turley, Dan Gross, Chris Kofinis

High: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Spec: Politics; Policies

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

The lamest of lame ducks: In his waning days as vice president, Dick Cheney tried to sabotage then-President-elect Obama, telling the Israelis Obama was Pro-Palestinian, would not support Israel, would, quote, “never make it in the major leagues”—so reports Sy Hersh.

Theory no more: Torture does not work.  Intelligence officials reveal, we got names of al Qaeda and associated groups from Abu Zubaida, then we started to waterboard him and rough him up and then not a single lead he gave up thereafter, not a single plot he confessed to turned out to be legit.

Saving Detroit but not on Detroit‘s terms: The CEO of G.M. is forced out; the CEO of this country warns against forcing his hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The ringing endorsement: Sarah Palin for president. 

Maybe.  Possibly.  Sarah, who, did you say?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, “MEET THE PRESS” MODERATOR:  Would you support Palin?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA:  I‘d have to see who the candidates are and what the situation is at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Delusions of grandeur: Asked if he is jealous of the president, Michael “The Endless Gift” Steele replies .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  What would I be jealous of?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is president of the United States.

STEELE:  I‘m chairman of the RNC.  So, what‘s your point?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, OK.

And jealousy as too simple a diagnosis, “Broadcasting & Cable” asks Billo, “You and Keith Olbermann have ideological differences.  But don‘t you think this feud is good for both of you?”  His reply, “There is no feud.  I have never mentioned the man‘s name in my life.  I will never mention it.”  Ahem!

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  Keith Olbermann went out of his way to defend this valid criticism of our military.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  How embarrassing is that?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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

While Vice President Aaron Burr shot a man, not unlike Dick Cheney did, but on some vast eternal scale of governmental malfeasance, Mr. Burr was always ahead of Mr. Cheney by dint of having post-vice presidency, trying to undermine the next presidential administration, by, in his case, allegedly trying to set up his own country in the south and the west.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Now Cheney is even challenging Burr on that front.  Tonight, news that while still vice president, Mr. Cheney undermined then-President-elect Obama to the Israelis and there‘s been a non-denial denial of Sy Hersh‘s report earlier this month that there were Cheney-controlled death squads intent on killing people in the whispered name of the United States of America.

So much for the complete cooperation with the new administration that President Bush had promised the night of the election—Seymour Hersh writing on the new issue of the “New Yorker” magazine, that when Cheney learned the president-elect had been putting pressure on Israel to stop its bombing campaign in Gaza and to withdraw its ground troops, the then-vice president lashed out, bad mouthing the new guy, diplomacy at its finest.

Quoting Hersh, “Cheney, who worked closely with the Israeli leadership in the lead-up to the Gaza war, portrayed Obama to the Israelis as a pro-Palestinian who would not support their efforts, and in private, disparaged Obama, referring to him at one point as someone who would never make it in the major leagues.”

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on this network, Mr. Hersh is revealing today that Obama‘s policies and desires ultimately prevailed over Cheney‘s, Obama helping to end Israel‘s Gaza offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEYMOUR HERSH, THE NEW YORKER:  What happened is that Obama did communicate to Israel his strong desire that they stop the Gaza offensive.  If you remember, Israelis began bombing Gaza in late December and the bombing continued until right before the inauguration when it stopped.  And I don‘t think there‘s any question that Obama‘s desire had something to do with it.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST:  With the stopping.

HERSH:  Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, a former aide to the vice president possibly confirming the worst while desperately trying to deny it.  He suggested that Hersh‘s previous revelation that Mr. Cheney presided over kind of executive assassination ring was, quote, “certainly true.”  And you will recall that earlier this month, Mr. Hersh claimed to have uncovered at least the outlines of a covert executive assassination right that reported directly to Vice President Cheney‘s office.

This afternoon on CNN, former Cheney national security aide, John Hannah, flat out denying Hersh‘s account, calling it not true, before admitting that the salient detail of the story was certainly true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HANNAH, FMR. CHENEY NAT‘L. SECURITY AIDE:  There‘s clearly a group of people that go to a very extremely well-vetted process, interagency process, that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States or suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to our troops in the field, in certain war theaters, to capture or kill those individuals.  That is certainly true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or it isn‘t.

Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

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

OLBERMANN:  The overview here.  A vice president publicly and privately bad-mouthing the president-elect within weeks of his ascendancy to the presidency—is this unprecedented?

WOLFFE:  Well, there are certainly vice presidents who have done worse things like cook up intelligence to invade the wrong country or seek to authorize torture, for instance.

But, you know, it‘s worth raising the direct comparison with the situation that another vice president found himself in not so long ago, when after a contested election, he stood up in front of national TV and quoted Stephen Douglas talking to Abraham Lincoln saying, “The time for partisan feeling must yield to patriotism.”  And that vice president was Al Gore.  And he was talking about Bush and Cheney and the recent decision from the Supreme Court handing them victory in the 2000 election.

If Vice President Cheney had any recollection of those searing events, then he really should take them to heart, because this is a moment when in a transition, it is important to think about patriotic things like the smooth transfer of power.  Clearly, he was trying to undermine that if Sy Hersh‘s reporting was true and we‘ve seen in the past that it has been true.

OLBERMANN:  And what does that do to those who thought beforehand that Dick Cheney was only interested in helping himself, the 500 people closest to him and a few like-minded people around the world?

WOLFFE:  Well, conspiracies—they are always true, right, especially when it comes to this vice president.  You know, Cheney has unfortunately confirmed the worst feelings at pretty much every turn.  And—look, it‘s just a remarkable situation that you would have a sitting vice president trying actively to undermine the incoming president with a foreign power.  I mean, you know, there was an old saying that politics stopped at the water‘s edge.  But clearly, this takes it to another level.

OLBERMANN:  Hersh‘s current piece in the “New Yorker” is actually about Obama foreign policy‘s success in the region.  The Cheney anecdote is actually a side thing that‘s sort of buried inside.  Hersh wrote that the renewed Israeli-Syrian negotiations over the Golan Heights are now highly likely that would offer Obama his first and perhaps best chance for engagement in the Middle East peace process.

So, Obama succeeds in getting Israel to stop bombing Gaza, and now, he‘s on the edge perhaps of Israeli-Syrian relations—and he‘ll never be a major leaguer how exactly?

WOLFFE:  Well, fortunately, it is not for outgoing vice presidents or presidents for that matter to decide who gets in some major leagues.  And, of course, this is Cheney who also said that Obama was somehow pro-Palestinian.  Obama, in the middle of the campaign, said that he believed that in an undivided Jerusalem.  You know, if that‘s pro-Palestinian, then the Palestinians are really screwed.

There is no rational behavior that can explain what Cheney did in office or how he looks at this situation.  He has clearly convinced himself through some degree of paranoia that only he could save the country against some external (ph) terrorist and everyone else was trying to weaken the country and massacre entire American cities.  That‘s the only way you can really interpret these feelings that he has.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point of—that last clip of Mr. Hannah on the other network today, a Cheney aide who admitted that authority is given to our troops in the field, in certain war theaters to capture or kill certain individuals.  How exactly is that a denial of what Sy Hersh hinted at earlier this month?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s piece of legalities and obfuscation.  And it‘s only ironic that, again, casting back to 2000 for an administration that came in and campaigned against that kind of legal jargon that they should be trying to revise that kind of argument now.  I suspect that someone, if not Sy Hersh, then someone in Congress will get to the bottom of this and there will be legal proceedings.

OLBERMANN:  They had better.

MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe—as always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Two weeks ago, ex-Vice President Cheney having reasserted his claim that he calls “enhanced interrogation,” known to human beings as “torture,” stopped a great many terrorist attacks in the years after the September 11th carnage.  Except, former senior government officials who closely followed those enhanced interrogations are disputing Mr. Cheney.  Those officials are telling the “Washington Post” that the waterboarding of high-profile captive, Abu Zubaida turned to somewhat detainee into a machine who produced only false leads.

Quoting the newspaper, “Not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida‘s tortured confessions.  Nearly all of the leads attainted through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida was obtained before waterboarding was introduced.”

Moreover, those officials are claiming that the drive to waterboard

Zubaida came from the Bush White House, adding, quote, “That the pressure

from upper levels of the government was tremendous.  They couldn‘t stand

the idea that there wasn‘t anything new.  They‘d say, ‘You aren‘t working

hard enough.‘”

The first steps towards opening a criminal investigation against the Bush administration about torture is now underway, only it‘s not by the U.S. government but by Spain.  The “New York Times” reporting, a Spanish court is now building a case against six high-level Bush officials.  Among them Cheney legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, author of the infamous torture justification memo, and not to neglect the Pentagon‘s role, former Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith.  The other two are not Mr. Cheney nor former President Bush.

For more on all of this, let‘s turn to Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Vice President Cheney criticized Obama as recently as two weeks ago when he claimed Americans are now less safe because of the new administration‘s new policies on national security.  And here, we have officials who witnessed the old policies in action, saying they were not only completely ineffective but they turned a fairly cooperative detainee into a guy how just said anything to stop the pain.

Is this the moment in which we have jumped from a theory that torture does not work on any moral or practical level, to a fact that torture does not work on any moral or practical level?

TURLEY:  Well, that‘s, of course, the great irony about torture, is that it‘s long been known to produce absolute garbage.  We had hoped that the moral limitations would be enough to prevent the United States government from starting a torture program.  But history has shown that it has very little practical benefit.

And the terrible thing is, how cheaply the Bush administration sold our collective soul on this issue, how little we got for it.  It‘s the ultimate Faustian bargain.  The appearance that is left is that there were people on the White House, on a visceral level, wanted to have rough techniques exercised against these people.  And it seemed to almost have the technique being the main driving force that they wanted to see it used as opposed to its purpose.

The great irony as well is that we‘ve seen how legitimate means produce legitimate information.  Part of the value of being in the legal system is it forces people to focus on the facts, what they know, and to get information that‘s reliable and usable instead of the garbage produced here at such a—just prohibitive cost for this country.  The only thing we got out of this was condemnation of the ages.  We got nothing else.

OLBERMANN:  Have we seen any movement yet out of the Holder Justice Department or any other part of the Obama administration about doing something about Bush administration abuses of power like torture?

TURLEY:  No.  I think that the White House is still desperately hoping that people will forget about this.  President Obama has clearly been told by his political advisers that this would not be good for him and not be good for his administration.  But, of course, this isn‘t supposed to be a discretionary act.  We are bound to do this.

Now, the Spanish inquiry creates a very interesting prospect for Obama

that he can take the high road finally, right now, by saying that we prefer to do our own investigation.  It‘s not my choice.  I‘ll have a special prosecutor in the United States look into these, not have foreign tribunal.  He can do that and take the high ground, and he can regain what we‘ve lost.  But if he doesn‘t, then he will be blocking not just an investigation in the United States of known war crimes, but he‘ll be blocking an international effort to look into the same acts.

OLBERMANN:  The Cheney national security aide suggested this afternoon that the Sy Hersh‘s account of an executive assassination ring that reported to the vice president‘s office, it‘s not true.  Then he described what was true and, of course, it describes exactly that, only with a different name to it.

Should the Spanish prosecutors be taken notes?  Because they don‘t include Cheney in their investigation here, they‘re focusing on six other figures.

TURLEY:  Well, I think so.  But, you know, Dick Cheney is every criminal defense attorney‘s nightmare.  I mean, he‘s going around; virtually selling torture like it‘s a sham product.

And, you know, this is very embarrassing for Obama, because the reason he is out there, the reason he‘s having these conversations is because Obama is protecting him from a criminal charge, from a criminal investigation.

He wouldn‘t be doing this if Obama simply said—look, what you are describing is a crime.  Now, you can keep on talking about it.  You can incriminate yourself but I‘m not going to protect you.  I‘m going to leave it to a professional prosecutor to determine whether what you are saying so proudly happens to be a criminal act.

OLBERMANN:  You are an expert on the U.S. Constitution.  I don‘t know

we‘ve never discussed what you know about the Spanish government.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  But do you have any idea why on earth—I mean, even the Spanish magistrate who‘s doing this in Spain seems to be pulling his punches in not going after the former vice president and president of this country.  Do you got any idea why?

TURLEY:  Well, lawyers transcend boundaries, thank God.

(LAUGHTER)

TURLEY:  But one of the reasons maybe, you can always charge the higher-ups, you tend to go for lower-lying fruit, although these are fairly high-up individuals.  But you tend to go for the first line of defendants.  And then if you have a case, you go for the higher ones.

But there is another reason.  It‘s well known the Obama administration is protecting President Bush and Vice President Cheney from criminal investigation.  And if he went after the two of them, the U.S. government could move aggressively to shut down the inquiry.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—great thanks for your time.  And I guess I‘m one who‘s going to have to say it, so, here it goes—put me on camera for this and two box if you still have it.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  No one expects the Spanish inquisition.

TURLEY:  Oh.  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Jon.

The subtraction of ethics and common sense from public life did not start in the Bush White House, and it didn‘t start in the financial sector, and it certainly did not started in the American auto industry.  But there is an amplification effect that seems to come into play whenever ethics and common sense get benched.

And so, tonight, as the president gets tough with Detroit, this nagging question rises anew: Why are we gentler with Wall Street than we are with Chrysler Street and Jefferson Avenue in Detroit?  Why are the contracts that require us to pay those AIG bonuses more sacrosanct than are the contracts that require us to pay those UAW employees?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We can‘t stop the AIG bonuses because of the sanctity of the contract.  But today, the Democratic president gently warned Detroit‘s unions that they‘d better not take their contracts too seriously or he might let their whole industry go under.

And the Republican Party, not so Republican, certainly no party at the moment—Michael Steele again.  John McCain asked about endorsing Sarah Palin and he might as well have answered, “Sarah Palin—Sarah Palin, who?”

And a charge that the GOP still owes $750,000 in expenses on its convention last summer in St. Paul.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  First, Wall Street broke the economy, crippling everybody who relies on credit from student loans to car companies.  Then Wall Street speculated on gas, crippling everyone tied to gas prices, from gas stations to car companies.  Then fear of Wall Street collapse caused Americans to shut their wallets, crippling everyone who depends on consumer spending, from retail outlets to car companies.

So, in our fourth story tonight: Time to crack down on—car companies.  Well, they do seem to be central to every crisis.

President Obama today is giving deadlines to two of America‘s Big Three carmakers.  G.M. is getting 60 days funding to get its act together, with some indications some of its historic brands may become history in the process.  Mr. Obama is declaring Chrysler so weak it gets 30 days of funding in which to work out an alliance with Fiat—announcement of that deal coming within hours of Mr. Obama‘s statement.  And while he said at the start he had no intention of running G.M., before long, he sounded awful close to saying, “Come on down to Uncle Sam‘s auto mart.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired just like always.  Your warranty will be safe.  In fact, it will be safer than it‘s ever been because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “Cal Worthington Obama” also fired G.M.‘s boss, CEO Rick Wagoner, who took a wrong turn with his emphasis on SUVs and with his trip to Washington last year in a private jet, but also had his supporters after winning union concessions and severing the cost of retiree health care.  Some Michigan Republicans and Democrats are calling his ouster a symbolic one.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pressed repeatedly on the different tactics between those use on Motown and Wall Street, in a span of less than a minute, found himself asking the questions being more specific, failed to reply with specifics, and then said he did not want to get too general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Are you trying to communicate that these bank really—don‘t worry about this, this isn‘t coming your way?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No, I .

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  I think it‘s a fair question.

GIBBS:  It is.  It‘s a little general and somewhat nonspecific.  And again, what I‘m—I guess what I‘m asking is, instead of looking at every entity as the same entity, I think that‘s—I don‘t think that‘s hypothetically productive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Well, do you want me to ask the question that way by inserting all the names of all the banks who have received aid and ask if it would apply to that?  I mean, would that be more helpful?

GIBBS:  Well, again, understanding that some of the circumstances are different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Why Rick Wagoner and not Ken Lewis?

GIBBS:  Again, some of these things are—I don‘t have anything specific on Bank of America.  But, again, I just don‘t want to be generalistic across the board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  With us now, Dan Gross, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Much thanks for your time tonight, sir.

DAN GROSS, NEWSWEEK:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, the president did not forcibly take over either G.M. or Chrysler today.  But to what extent does he now—in at least the political sense—own both of these car companies?

GROSS:  He totally owns them, their short-term fate.  And he really owns the workers as well—because what we saw today is a sense that these are going to be either broken up or severely shrunk and they‘re going to be tens—perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who will need to find other things to do.  He got at that a little—toward the end of his remarks about what sorts of things the administration would be doing.

But I think we need to hear a lot more details about that.

OLBERMANN:  Politico.com reported today that Mr. Obama has what they described as a more jaundiced view of the automakers than Wall Street.  Given that G.M.‘s mistake was to keep feeding the American appetite for SUV, Wall Street‘s mistake was to, you know, cripple the entire global economy, how does Wall Street come out more favorably in this comparison in a view from any White House?

GROSS:  Well, two reasons.  One, you know, the genius of Wall Street was to screw thing up on such a massive, galactic scale that their demise would threaten western civilization as we know it and a lot of eastern civilization.  Whereas, the car companies would just take down a lot of kind of blue collar people and dealerships in the Midwest.

The second reason is a kind of cultural fit.  You know, there are a lot of people in the Democratic Party and this administration who are tight with people on Wall Street.  These are their classmates from college.

When you are running for president you go to the Hamptons, you got to Upper East Side of Manhattan, you go to Martha‘s Vineyard, you rub elbows with these people.  This is where you raise money from.  It‘s one of the power bases.  You are not in Birmingham and Southfield and the suburbs of Detroit.  So, there‘s a kind of cultural fit here, too.

OLBERMANN:  But—and exactly to that point.  The same White House that argued it had to intervene and save the bonuses of AIG executives, because these are contractually obligated bonuses, is now telling middle-class union workers, not just these ones but ones essentially across the nation, they have to make some concessions even though those concessions might violate or render neutral their contracts.

I mean, how does the White House economic team which is—as you suggest—run by Wall Street veterans portray this as anything but, you know, another edition with new membership of the same rich boy‘s club in the same sort of action they‘ve taken for 70 or 150 years?

GROSS:  Well, it will take some fancy footwork.  But, you know, they might say in their defense that, yes, we are—you know, in AIG‘s case contracts were sacred.  We‘re, you know, we are not a nation of laws without them.  In this case, we have to look to rip up the union contracts but also the deals that the franchisees have, all the dealers, they have these laws.  They want to rip those up as well.

And importantly, they are telling the bondholders, who are other rich people, that they might have to settle for less than they otherwise might expect to receive.

OLBERMANN:  So, what next, Dan, for Detroit and for the White House?

GROSS:  I think this is the beginning of a process rather than the end.  I think you have to divide between Chrysler, which I think they have essentially given up on; and to be fair, Chrysler‘s owners, Cerberus, have probably come close to giving up on.  We have Fiat coming in.  They‘re going to get a big chunk of ownership for no money down basically.  We‘re not sure if they‘re going to get the loans.

And truth be told, they are the fifth biggest automaker.  Their departure would not be such a big deal.  It‘s GM that we really have to worry about.  Just as we have AIG and Citigroup problem, not a banking problem; we have a GM problem, not a car-making problem.

OLBERMANN:  Dan Gross of “Newsweek,” author also of “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation”—thank you, Dan.

GROSS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  So, someday soon, we might not have American cars to drive on American streets but the good news is, those streets will soon be paved with Kentucky Fried Chicken.

And, asked to apologize for pimping President Bush‘s falsehoods about WMD in Iraq, William Kristol starts talking about instead—well, you won‘t believe what he starts talking about instead.  Ahead in Worst Persons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Eighty years ago today, actor Richard A. Dysart was born, best known from his days leading the law firm on “L.A. Law.”  He has been a spectacularly successful and memorable character actor starring as George C. Scott‘s nemesis, Dr. Welbeck, in the vastly underrated Paddy Chayefsky‘s satire, “The Hospital,” through being there and along the way playing everybody from Dwight Eisenhower to Harry Truman, to Harry Truman‘s secretary of war, Henry Stimson, to Abe Lincoln‘s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton.  Happy birthday, Richard A Dicar.  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Louisville.  Louisville, where Colonel Sanders has found part time work filling potholes.  This economy is killing everybody.  Part of a KFC ad blitz.  The fast food chain offering to fill your town‘s potholes.  All you need to do is let them spray paint their logo on your street. 

The colonel wants to plop his mixture asphalt and 11 herbs and spices into the potholes in five American cities.  Louisville is on board.  Boston is thinking about it.  If they don‘t do this in New York, I‘m going to have to start a strike or something.  It is yet to be seen to seen how smart it is to ask people to read the street while they‘re driving on it.  Or to associate your food brand with the stuff they fill potholes with. 

In Lima, Peru, Princess Inca claims to be the first woman ever to levitate in South America.  I find it hard to believe she is the first.  Still, this is somehow treated as a news event.  The princess levitated four feet off the ground for half an hour.  The bamboo pole she has her hand on is either a magic wand or a structural support for the hidden seat on which she is resting. 

The flowing skirt, I‘m just guessing here, might be obscuring the rod leading from the stick, which is explained why Princess Inca was not wearing a more sensible pair of pants. 

Speaking of no visible means of support, there is Sarah Palin, who has not gotten a ringing endorsement from her former running mate, John McCain.  In fact, she didn‘t even get a tepid one. 

Bill-O boasts to a cable magazine how much his ratings are up because Obama was elected.  Except his ratings are down and plenty since Obama was elected.  We will check his accuracy, if any, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Speaking to a group of conservatives last week, the GOP‘s most recent presidential nominee joked over 50 million people voted for me and Sarah Palin, mostly for Sarah Palin.  In our third story, even though John McCain credits Sarah Palin with earning him some votes, it is not certain whether or not he would vote for her. 

Speaking on “Meet the Press,” the senator perhaps experiencing some delayed form of buyer‘s remorse.  Pressed on his former running mate‘s own presidential ambitions, the man who catapulted Governor Palin to the political stage playing the role of artful dodger. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Would you like to see Sarah Palin become president? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I would like to see her compete.  I think we have very good candidates, John Huntsman.  The problem is when I run down these names, I always leave out a name.  Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty.  There are so many.  There is a lot of good, fresh talent out there. 

GREGORY:  Would you support Palin? 

MCCAIN:  I would have to see who the candidates are and what the situation at the time.  Have no doubt of my respect, admiration and love for Sarah and her family. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Any dessert or coffee, governor?  Ringing endorsement it was not.  If you thought that was awkward, enter RNC Chairman Michael Steele and the continuation of a bizarre televised meltdown with Don Lemon of CNN.  After claiming that the boss Limbaugh furor was all part of his plan, after saying he would seek the presidency if that‘s where God wants me to be, Mr. Steele, perhaps ailing from delusions of grandeur, this time likening President Obama to a mere political fri-enemy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  I like the president personally, even though I think he has a thing about me.  I haven‘t quite figured out what that is. 

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR:  You haven‘t spoken to him? 

STEELE:  No. 

LEMON:  You have reached out. 

STEELE:  Yes.  Several times and I‘m done. 

LEMON:  There‘s no bipartisan—

STEELE:  No, not that I know of.

LEMON:  Is there any professional jealousy? 

STEELE:  Not on my part.  What would I be jealous of?

LEMON:  He is the president of the United States. 

STEELE:  I‘m chairman of the RNC.  So what‘s your point?  We both have leadership responsibilities and roles.  I‘m not equating the two.  My point is, you are on your track, I‘m on my track.  You do your thing, I do my thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This as an RNC entity is being accused of not doing its thing, as in not paying for services rendered.  “Huffington Post” reporting that the committee in charge of coordinating this past summer‘s convention in Minneapolis is being sued for failing to pay nearly 800,000 dollars in expenses to one of its vendors.  Behind the whole issue, one of the GOP‘s key players, Jeff Larson, benefactor to Senator Norm Coleman and the man responsible for buying Governor Palin those expensive clothes. 

Joining me now, Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis.  Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Steele said he was not equating being RNC chair with being president of the United States.  In fact, isn‘t that exactly what he was doing? 

KOFINIS:  That is exactly what he was doing.  It gives you a small indication of how deep this illogical rabbit hole goes in Chairman Steele‘s mind.  What is interesting about this, it seems like Chairman Steele is out there destroying every last vestige of the Republican party.  Has this man done one interview where he hasn‘t done damage to himself and the party? 

My recommendation is that he calls out the imaginary army that he controls as commander in chief to stop himself from doing anymore interviews.  This has gotten to the point where surreal is not a good enough word to describe his performance on these television shows. 

OLBERMANN:  To Mr. McCain, this notion of I would like to see Sarah Palin compete, is this code?  Is this how a former presidential nominee admits he picked the wrong running mate? 

KOFINIS:  I think it is code for basically him saying, I‘m not going to endorse Governor Palin, not now, not ever.  I think it gives you a very strong indication that he has come to terms with the fact that this was a disastrous decision.  It really makes you wonder—the chilling part to this is, you know, a few months ago, before the election obviously, this was a person, had they won, who would have been a heartbeat away from the presidency.  Now, a few months later, it is clear that Senator McCain does not think he made the right choice, that he is not willing to come out and endorse her. 

Again, it is another indication of the strategic free fall this Republican party is in. 

OLBERMANN:  So in it we have the chairman of the RNC, who is discussing whether or not he is jealous of the president, a former presidential nominee saying basically who would vote for the unknown guy From Utah, at least that would be as likely as voting for his own running mate, the woman he was going to put in the succession of the White House.  Every party that gets as resoundingly kicked out of power as this year‘s Republicans did goes through the circular firing squad bit.  Why does this continue?  When do these guys stop reloading? 

KOFINIS:  I‘m not sure they are going to stop reloading any time soon.  Between Governor Palin, Chairman Steele, Governor Jindal, it is like the three stooges have taken over the Republican party.  They don‘t seem to understand the damage they are doing. 

I go back to a point I made before.  What this is really about is a party that doesn‘t have any understanding of where it wants to go.  You have all these egos fighting to basically become the voice and the force within the Republican party.  They‘re just not ready for prime time. 

Instead of stepping back and coming to terms with the fact we need to figure out what party we are and know what are our ideals and ideas; they keep trying to fill that void.  And they are not ready to do that.  Unfortunately, until they step back, you‘ll see this firing squad get louder and louder and louder. 

OLBERMANN:  How could McCain have answered that question and not made it look bad in some way for somebody in his party?  If had just said, yes, I think she would make a great one, would that not have gotten Jindal and Pawlenty supporters mad at him?  Was there a way out of that answer? 

KOFINIS:  I think there are two ways to do it.  One, you could have said, you know, I‘m not going to answer this question.  We‘re years away from that.  That would still have gotten him a little bit in trouble.  Probably the easiest way to go out is saying, right now, I‘m not thinking about 2012 or 2016 or any presidential election.  I‘m worried about the state of the country.  Or he could have done the easy thing and said I‘m going to clearly endorse Governor Palin.  That would be the candidate I choose. 

I think it speaks volumes he didn‘t do that.  It is a strong indication that he is not going support her four years from now.  That raises an interesting question.  What does the Republican party do?  What do they do four years from now if it looks like Governor Palin is going to be the force that she‘s going to be in that party.  Do they choose her and, in a sense, commit political suicide. 

She is not a viable candidate.  They are not going to listen to me about that.  But she isn‘t. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, as we noted before, the Wig party did field somebody for the presidency and then go out of business.  Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist, had nothing to do with that.  Thank you, Chris. 

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, an epic interview of Bill-O by broadcasting and cable in which he flatly states he has never and will never mention my name on his show.  Presumably, he has forgotten that he already has mentioned my name on his show. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, how Republicans are trying to keep the lid on the crimes of George Bush by blocking a key nominee to justice by Barack Obama. 

In worsts, as Glenn Beck cries again and asks, who killed the spirit of the day after 9/11, maybe the answer is the guy who said he hates 9/11 victims‘ families.  That would be Glenn Beck.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bill-o is so mighty and powerful, he makes the chairman of NBC run away.  And he may have been speaking at a benefit for rape victims, but he thinks he is the real victim here.  And he has never mentioned my name on the air in his life, and he never will.  Which makes the clip from his show that we‘re going to play for you tonight mighty embarrassing indeed. 

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

The bronze to Charles E.F. Millard, the Bush administration‘s director of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Cooperation.  Just months before the economy hit the wall last year, he took most of the 64 billion dollars in the government pension fund, the fund from which more than a million Americans get pension checks, and which guarantees the pensions of another 43 million of us, and he moved it out of bonds and into stocks, foreign market stocks, real estate company stocks, stocks tied to private equity funds. 

The funds‘ stocks promptly dropped 23 percent, as of last September 30th.  Pension Guarantee will not say how much its stocks have dropped since last September 30th.  Mr. Millard is a former managing director of Lehman Brothers.  I‘m not sure, but I think he is now the CEO of the hot dog cart over here on Sixth Avenue. 

Silver, the disgraced ex-“New York Times” columnist William Kristol.  A caller to C-Span pointed out how he and so much of the right wing echo chamber had hyped the president‘s phony claim—the former president‘s phony claim that Iraq had WMD.  And he asked, will you personally apologize to those folks right now?  Simple yes or no, thank you.  Kristol did as asked.  “No, I think the war was right.  I think we‘ve succeeded in the war.  I think those lives—we should honor those soldiers who gave their lives and fought so hard and also were wounded for what they did.  Also in Afghanistan”—

It must be great when faced with criticism of the greatest mistake of your life, the only time you utterly failed in the very limited demands made on you by your nation, the time you prevaricated, and Americans died as a result, Bill, it must be nice to be addressed by that and then just be able to change the topic.  “And also in Afghanistan”—

But our winner, Glenn Beck getting more pub out of this transparent, holier than thou, hypocritical 9/12 project, which the “New York Times” today described as, quote, “an initiative to reclaim the values and principles that he said were evident on the day after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.  On a special broadcast, he asks, what ever happened to the country that loved the underdog and stood up for the little guy?  What happened to the voice of the forgotten man?” 

Well, what happened to it was people like Glenn Beck killed it out of selfishness and prejudice and the hatred that boils in their souls.  Two days before the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Glenn Beck, Mr. Spirit of 9/12, went on the radio and said, quote, “you know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims‘ families.  It took me about a year.  And when I see a 9/11 victim family on television or whatever, I‘m just like, oh shut up.  I‘m so sick of them because they‘re always complaining.  We did our best for them.” 

To Beck‘s credit, he noted to the Times, quote, “if you take what I say as gospel, you are an idiot.”  You ever see “The Music Man,” where the con artist walks into River City and sells the rubles band instrument after band instrument that they can‘t possibly afford.  Harold Hill, or as he now calls himself, Glenn Beck, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s no way to map the depth and breadth of Bill O‘Reilly‘s ego.  It would be like trying to measure the universe with a plastic ruler.  There is no way to catalog his mistakes, his distortions, his self-delusions, his hypocrisies and his outright lies.  It would be like trying to count the grains of sands on Earth by hand. 

But in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, lately there‘s something new in the otherwise unchanging O‘Reilly formula.  The old man is getting sloppy.  The programming editor of “Broadcasting and Cable Magazine,” Marissa Guthrie, conducted a question and answer session with Bill-O the Clown and produced a staggering variety of what at ESPN we used to call lay ups, easily disproved, factually inaccurate, self-contradictory moments, some of them disproved by videotapes from his own shows.  Including one when he was confronted with the name of he who must not be named: me. 

As ever, Bill-O blurts, we translate and explain.  First, the funniest, most embarrassing O‘Reilly mistake.  Ms. Guthrie, “congratulations on 100 consecutive months as the top rated on cable news.  That‘s quite an accomplishment in this day and age.”  Bill-O: “I don‘t think it has ever been done in any kind of TV milieu.  We had our people research all programs going back to the ‘50s like “Gun Smoke” and things like that.  Nobody has ever stayed on top this long.” 

See, you need new people.  “The Today Show” has been in first place for 694 consecutive weeks, as of last Friday, which calculates out to 166 executive months, every one of them since May 1995.  “Meet the Press” has been in first place for 131 consecutive months, ever since May of 1988. 

Bill, you are not only not the longest running top rated program ever in any kind of TV milieu, you are not even the second current longest running top rated program this week.  How embarrassing for you.  How embarrassing nobody at Fox knows enough about television to tell you this obvious fact. 

Here are two embarrassing admissions that pertain to the president and ratings, and what Bill-O thinks of his colleagues at Fox.  “ I think that the ratings over the past three months prove beyond any doubt that many Americans are uneasy with the direction of the country.  Sixty two million Americans voted against Barack Obama.  Some of these people are concerned.” 

Apparently not that many; 62 million people voted against Obama.  Since the election—since October 31st of last year, O‘Reilly‘s audience is up, let me get the number, oh, I‘m sorry.  Since October 31st of last year, O‘Reilly‘s audience is down 568,000 viewers a night, down.  Gosh, Bill, using your logic, doesn‘t that mean more people are uneasy with the direction of your show than the direction of the country? 

“My program is the least skeptical of the so-called conservative programs.  We give the president the benefit of the doubt.  And we never cheap shot him.” 

Uh-oh.  By implication, Bill is saying the other conservative shows do cheap shot him?  So Bill, does Sean Hannity cheap shot Obama?  Glenn Beck?  Bill, who will never go deaf listening to colleagues tell him he is a team player, didn‘t think this part of the interview through.  Did he?

Nor this, the NBC part.  “NBC is corrupt top to bottom.  They say, oh, it is only MSNBC.  No, it‘s not.  It is across the board.  What they did to the Branchini family was disgraceful.  Every media outlet in the country should come in on that.” 

The Branchini family?  You mean Alexa Branchini of It Happened to Alexa Foundation?  What on Earth are you talking about?  Miss Guthrie, “what did they do?”  Bill-O, “they attacked a foundation that helps rape victims and their families for having me MC a charitable event.” 

We didn‘t attack them.  We attacked you for having had the hypocrisy to attend a fund raiser for rape victim after you twice came out and blamed rape victims for their own victimization and, in one case, death. 

Ms. Guthrie, “NBC has denied that they had anything to do with that.” 

Bill-O, “that‘s a lie.  NBC‘s air drove all of that.  The Internet cannot get traction unless it has an outlet, a national outlet.  NBC provided that.  I hope you‘re understanding this.  There aren‘t two sides to this story.  There‘s what happened and the NBC lie about what happened.  That is it.” 

Let me see if I‘m correctly summarizing your evidence of what you previously described as a well-financed cabal to smear you about this.  One, you called the raped and murdered Jennifer Moore moronic and you described how her drunkenness and scanty attire led to her horrible death.  Two, you said the raped and molested teenager Sean Hornbeck enjoyed parts of his captivity more than he had life with his family. 

Three, in a bitter irony, you wound up headlining a fund raiser for rape victims, a fact promoted by the support group.  Four, the irony was noted on several websites.  Five, we raised it here.  Six, Amanda Terkel wrote about it at ThinkProgress.org.  Seven, you sent an employee to follow her and stalk her in a car for two hours.  Therefore, eight, this is a conspiracy against you. 

Bill, a rhetorical question, in private, has any doctor ever used the world megalomania to you? 

Two final and more humorous snatches of O‘Reilly and buffoonery.  The first about NBC Chairman Jeff Zucker.  Ms. Guthrie, “Do you know Jeff Zucker.” 

Bill-O, “of course.  I have known Zucker for a long time.” 

Ms. Guthrie, “so what do you talk about when you bump into each other?” 

Bill-O, “I don‘t bump into him.  He sees me, he runs.” 

No one boasts more physically intimidating others than does a coward.  It is Zucker who runs, Bill.  Twice in my life time I have encountered Bill O‘Reilly in person.  Once at a charity dinner and once on a baseball field.  On both occasions, as I arrived, he backed up to a position about 20, 25 feet away from me.  If I moved slightly toward him, say 18 inches closer, he backed up 18 inches. 

He stopped staring at me only when I looked at him.  He is a big woos. 

Finally, he is a big liar.  On the zero to 100 scale on Bill-O‘s phony boasts this might be the 100.  Ms Guthrie, “obviously you and Keith Olbermann have ideological differences.  Don‘t you think this feud is good for both of you.” 

Bill-O, “there is no feud.  I have never mentioned the man‘s name in my life and will never mention it.” 

Oh, so what is this then from your show on February 15th, 2007? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Not only were there no apologizes given and no pink slips issued for William Arkin‘s outburst, but Keith Olbermann went out of his way to defend this valid criticism of our military. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There was the other time you mentioned my name on your shown in 1998, when you also mispronounced it.  I wouldn‘t want to play that tape, too, because then I would just be embarrassing you.  You are doing such a thorough job doing that yourself. 

That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,151st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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