updated 4/6/2009 9:56:47 AM ET 2009-04-06T13:56:47

Guest: Margaret Carlson, Amy Robach, Natalie Morales

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

President Obama‘s overseas mission to repair America‘s standing in the world continues.  At a town hall in France, he pressed the need for everyone to be engaged in fighting terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  Al Qaeda is still a threat and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly, everything is going to be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  And disarms another overseas crowd with a self-deprecating humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I think we have some translators, if you want to speak French or German, my French and German are terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The audacity of nope: Obama‘s budget passes but the top Republican in the Senate says it was a bipartisan rejection because some Democrats voted against it.  So, what does it say that more Republicans voted against their GOP alternative plan?

Desperate times triggered desperate measures for America‘s unemployed women, and as unemployment soars, so do the number of applications pouring into gentlemen‘s clubs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I never plan on becoming a stripper.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Celebrity smackdown: Madonna‘s quest to adopt a second child from Malawi is rejected by a judge.  But Madonna is fighting the ruling in the court.

And it‘s late night versus the loud-mouth right.  From Boss Limbaugh .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I‘m going to look for an alternative studio somewhere outside New York .

JON STEWART, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  Here‘s my E-ZPass.  Get the (BLEEP) out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  To Glenn Beck .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  I just love my country.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  I‘m sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT:  I just love Glenn Beck sanity.  And I fear for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  To Bill O‘Reilly .

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  In my mind, I think of you as a goon.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT:  I‘m so glad I have this diaper on right now.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER (on camera):  Good evening, from New York.  I‘m David Shuster.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.

Remember the days of “freedom fries” in the house cafeteria, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed France and Germany and any other continental country that did not support the invasion of Iraq as “Old Europe”?  Well, in our fifth story on COUNTDOWN: New Europe and its relationship with the new president of the United States reflected on the breakfast menu of Air Force One this morning as President Obama flew from the U.K. to France for the next stage of his European charm offensive, French toast was the plat du jour.

If it‘s Friday, it must be Strasbourg and Baden-Baden, and then back to Strasbourg again.  Another packed day of diplomacy for the American president: 5:45 p.m. Eastern, met with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, followed by a joint press conference.  Eight a.m., the president and first lady were greeted by a thunderous applause at a town hall-style meeting.  Tickets were distributed to a mix of French, German and other European citizens plus American students studying in France.

Then it was off to Germany, to meet with Chancellor Merkel at her own turf, and another joint press conference/town hall-style meeting.  Some time to sit still at least at a NATO concert with Mrs. Obama, a working dinner with all the NATO leaders, then back to Strasbourg earlier tonight.

Earlier, at that Strasbourg town hall, Mr. Obama inadvertently called on an American for his first question.  What does a president envision his legacy might be when his administration is over?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Well, after only two months, that‘s kind of a big question.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  But here‘s what I would like to see.  And, look, you aim high knowing that you‘ll make mistakes and sometimes you‘ll fall short.

Number one, my first task is to restore the economy of the United States, but, in concert with other nations, to restore global economic growth.  That‘s my number one task, because we are going through the worst crisis since the 1930s.

So, that would be number one.  Number two is I would like to be able to say that as a consequence of my work that we drastically lessen the threat of not only terrorism but also nuclear terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Later in the town hall, President Obama added that the fight against al Qaeda would not be his alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just want to know, what do you expect from the French and the European countries regarding the war on terror?

OBAMA:  Nowhere have we seen more suspicion than around questions of war and peace and how we respond to terrorism.  When 9/11 happened, Europe responded as a true friend would respond to the United States, saying, “We are all Americans.”

After the initial NATO engagement in Afghanistan, we got sidetracked by Iraq, and we have not fully recovered that initial insight that we have a mutual interest in ensuring that organizations like al Qaeda cannot operate.  And I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I‘m now president and George Bush is no longer president, al Qaeda is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly everything is going to be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  After his first question, the president declared that for the rest of the town hall, he would be calling on no more Americans.  He did not anticipate the loophole of duel citizenship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello, Mr. President.  I‘m sorry.  I‘m from Chicago.  Excuse me.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m a student in the high school—the international high school .

OBAMA:  Well, no, I‘m sorry, if you‘re American I can‘t .

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m also French.

OBAMA:  Wait, wait, wait, wait, hold on.  She said she‘s also French.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

OBAMA:  What does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Double nationality.

OBAMA:  Duel nationality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

OBAMA:  What do you think?  Should we let her ask the question?

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  OK.  Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.  Do you think that the economic crisis is an opportunity to restructure our industries in an ecological and sustainable way?  And also I was wondering whether the dog was already in the White House or not.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  The—we have—we are getting a getting a dog.  This is a very important question in the United States .

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  . what kind of dog we are getting and when we‘re getting it.  It should be there soon.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  I do think that in crisis there‘s always opportunity if it‘s used properly.  So, for example in the United States, we decide to pass a large stimulus package.  If we‘re going to be spending a lot of government money anyway, why not start building high speed rail?

One thing that, as an American who is proud as anybody of my country, I am always jealous about European trains.  And i said to myself, why can‘t we have—why can‘t we have high-speed rail?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  If you‘ve ever wondered what Barack means in Hungarian, pronounced “Barat (ph),” today was your lucky day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m totally European.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And first of all, i wanted to tell that you your name in Hungarian means “peach.”  If you .

OBAMA:  Peach?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

OBAMA:  Oh, OK, well, how about that?  I did not know that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, now you know it.  And we wanted to know

if you—did you ever regret to have run for presidency until now?  I mean

well, did you ever, ask yourself, am I sure to manage—yes.

       

OBAMA:  Yes, that‘s good question.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Michelle definitely asked that question.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Time now to call in on our Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist for the “Washington Post.”

And, Gene, thanks for being on.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Great to be here, David.

SHUSTER:  Gene, with that town hall in Strasbourg this morning, is the era of “You‘re either with us or against us” in the fight against terrorism definitely over?

ROBINSON:  Certainly, the—certainly, it will never be phrased like that again, I think, or at least not by this president.  Look, the president has a kind of an overarching message that he is taking to Europe, which is that for many years, the United States has been the policeman of the world and the shopaholic of the world and it‘s not going to be able to do—to perform those functions quite the way it has been.

So, and—you know, it‘s fascinating though that he takes this message not just to the European leaders but to the Europe people via this town hall, which is really a very different and unusual thing for Europe.

SHUSTER:  Well, and on that point, an American president doing town hall-style meetings in any foreign countries, much less France and Germany, given recent history, is there any precedence for this?  Should we simply just be astounded?

ROBINSON:  I think we should be fascinated at seeing this very American-style of politics taken across the Atlantic.  And it‘s something that Obama has shown himself quite good at essentially going over the heads of the politicians and speaking directly to the public.  He has a way of captivating everyone‘s attention, as he clearly does in Europe.

And just imagine how many millions of people throughout the continent watched this presentation today, and in watching it, not only were, you know, entertained or whatever they were, but also got the messages that he is trying to get across.

SHUSTER:  President Sarkozy said that France has offered to accept a prisoner from Guantanamo Bay as a symbolic gesture.  Is that a sign of how far the U.S.-Franco relationship has come and how effective a diplomat President Obama is, and maybe even how much France really disapproves of the detainment facility in Cuba?

ROBINSON:  I think you probably have to say all of the above.  As you know, French in particular, but throughout Europe, it‘s fair to say that people were appalled at many of the Bush administration‘s war on terror policies, especially Guantanamo.  The word “Guantanamo” came to take on a very special meaning around the world.

One wonders if were George W. Bush still president and had he decided he would close Guantanamo, one wonders if the French would have just said, “Well, you know, you made the problem, you take care of the problem.”  Now, granted, they are only taking one prisoner, but that doesn‘t solve the issue of what to do with the detainees, but it clearly is a gesture to the new president for his new outlook and for adhering to norms of human rights that are closer to those accepted in Europe.

SHUSTER:  The last time Mr. Obama went to Europe over the summer, the McCain campaign derided him as a celebrity, comparing him to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.  Was the kind of popularity we have witnessed this week exactly what the Republicans were fearing?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  Well, I always thought of that Britney campaign as a kind of Republican “Hail Mary” that connected.  It wasn‘t at the end of the game, it was at the end of the half, but it did connect and so they got a little traction with it.  And—but in the end, it did—it wasn‘t that meaningful.

What we saw then and what we have seen again today is this enormous fascination around the world with President Obama, that people are just transfixed at seeing a different face of America, and that he has a way of getting everybody‘s attention.

SHUSTER:  The ongoing work of the NATO summit, what‘s the goal for the Obama administration with this?  More support for Afghanistan?

ROBINSON:  Yes, but, of course, what everyone thinks the Americans would like, and they, indeed would like, i.e. more European troops, they knew going in they weren‘t going to get it.  It was very clear that the Europeans are not in a mood to provide more troops.  But there are other things the administration can get.

President Obama has laid out a new strategy, a new way forward in Afghanistan or in the process of doing that, and among the things that have to be discussed are command and control issues with the troops that are there.  There have been some issues with multinational generals and perhaps too many of them and perhaps too few foot soldiers and who‘s in charge of what kinds of operations and how well this is all coordinated.  NATO is supposed to be supremely coordinated but it turns out it often isn‘t.

And so, those kinds of things—which will involve some concessions on the parts of the Europeans—I think the administration does have a realistic chance of getting.

SHUSTER:  Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC—and, Gene, thanks as always.  We appreciate it.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, David.

SHUSTER:  The Obama budget passed the House last night with more support than any budget ever did in the Bush administration.  But that hasn‘t stopped the GOP from trying to say that what happened yesterday was bipartisan rejection.

And Republicans defying logic part two—because the Bush Justice Department screwed up the prosecution of former Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens, that means the guy is not only innocent but gets to have a new election, too.

All that and more—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  President Obama got his budget through both houses of Congress easily but some Democrats broke ranks.  So, are Republicans right when they claim the opposition is bipartisan?  Yes and no.  The no part is a lot more interesting.

And why is Sarah Palin calling for a special election in Alaska?  Would you believe Alaska Republicans are complaining about the corrupt Justice Department of President Bush?  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Both the House and Senate last night passed federal budgets remarkably similar to what each other and to what President Obama wanted out of them.

But in a crushing blow to the Democrats, opposition to the budget was bipartisan—at least, in our fourth story tonight: According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  McConnell in a statement last night complained that congressional Democrats passed their budget, quote, “over bipartisan opposition.”

McConnell is right.  In both houses, members of both parties voted against the Democratic budget, two Democrats in the Senate and 20 Democrats in the House.  But the House did not just consider the Democratic budget; they also considered an alternative GOP budget plan introduced by Republican Representative Paul Ryan.

As “Politico” points out, while 20 Democrats, 8 percent of them voted against the Democratic budget, 38 Republicans, 28 percent of them voted against the Republican budget, making opposition to the Republican budget more than twice as bipartisan-like.  McConnell‘s point, of course, is that Democrats are split on their own budget.  But as the “New York Times” reports today, budget votes are historically close, and this was the first time since the Clinton administration that the budget passed the House with more than 230 votes.

McConnell‘s remark, then, sets the stage for coming battles over how to implement the policy commitments made in these budget resolutions, especially over issues like health care reform and global warming measures, such as taxing polluters for their pollution.

With us tonight is a Chris Cillizza, White House reporter for the “Washington Post” and author of “The Fix” blog at WashingtonPost.com.

And good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, David.

SHUSTER:  Chris, flush out for us what McConnell is trying to do by painting opposition to one of the most popular budgets in years of bipartisan.

CILLIZZA:  Well, David, remember that Mitch McConnell is a very smart politician.  He looks at polls and he knows that President Obama is quite popular.  He also knows—so therefore attacking President Obama is not necessarily the best thing to do.

What is he going to do instead?  Attack that post-partisan message of Barack Obama.  Try and present Barack Obama as someone who‘s just riding roughshod over not just the minority party but also some within his party.

This is very much a strategic gambit based on the fact that McConnell as well as many other Republicans know that attacking somebody whose approval ratings are in the 60s and above isn‘t necessarily great, but attacking the underpinnings, that post-partisanship, the themes of the Obama administration might pay long-term dividends.

SHUSTER:  If we can turn the tables for a minute, why was there such massive bipartisan opposition for the Republican budget offered by Congressman Paul Ryan?  I mean, after all, this was the plan that featured Republicans en masse on Wednesday walking down the House steps to signal the plan‘s arrival this week?

CILLIZZA:  Well, you know, political calculation always starts at home, David.  So, each of these members, and I would say this for the 20 Democrats who voted against President Obama‘s budget plan as well, they are looking at their own districts and they are trying to figure out whether this is the kind of thing they can sell in two years‘ time when they stand on the ballot.

So, for a lot of these Republican members, they might well sit in districts that the president carried and they are a little bit worried that breaking with him on what he has called the fundamental blueprint for his agenda could resound against them come 2010.  So, they are looking out for their own interests first and then the interests of the Republican Party.

SHUSTER:  And then, moving ahead, what do last night‘s votes then tell us about the battles ahead?

CILLIZZA:  Well, you know, the battles ahead, I think are going to be a lot tougher.  The truth of the matter is, while the budget blueprint passed relatively easily, the real fight, as you mentioned, over health care certainly, the spending on health care over the spending on global climate change—those are going to be real crisis points within the Democratic Party.  There are many more Democratic senators who have voiced opposition or at least concern about the spending on those proposals.

This was something that essentially say, “OK, let‘s start the process,” but this fall, we are going to see the real fight, and that‘s when Barack Obama‘s political power and ability to exert sway over his own caucus will come into play.  Can he keep them in line on a big spending health care proposal that will come less than one year before many of them will see the voters again?

SHUSTER:  On the GOP side of the ledger, the entire Republican Party has now voted against the economic stimulus package and the Obama budget.  What are they supposed to tell voters in 2010 if voters think the economy is starting to turn around by then?

CILLIZZA:  There is no question, David, that when they voted unanimously on the House side and three Republicans breaking ranks on the Senate side, it was a big political risk.

Now, I would say that some Republicans are probably a little bit nervous this past week in New York‘s 20th district, the special election.  The Republican candidate ran on his opposition to the economic stimulus plan, the Democrat ran on his support for the economic stimulus plan.  We wound up basically with a tie.  We don‘t know who won yet.

But if the Democrat winds up winning, there will be some Republican members of the House certainly who say, “Maybe I should have thought about voting for that plan.”

SHUSTER:  Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post”—and, Chris, thanks as always.  We appreciate it.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you, David.

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome.

Coming up: A big surprise for Madonna today, after local adoption officials gave her the green light of a second adoption of a child from Malawi, a local judge has now denied her request.  Madonna plans to fight all the way to the Supreme Court there.

And lions—baby lions, oh.  Your Friday night Oddball is next, including another gem from 911 calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  On this date in 1973, Mr. Martin Cooper, a researcher for Motorola in New York City completed the first-ever cellphone call.  The man on the receiving end of the phone call was Joe Engel, the chief of research for Bell Laboratories.  Both Motorola and Bell were attempting to pioneer cellular technology.  Motorola won the race and rubbed it in.

By the way, the phone Cooper used was one of those bricks, it was called DynaTAC.  It was nine inches tall, weight 9 ½ pounds and sadly, the only ring tone you could download was “Love Train” by the O‘Jays.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin with another 911 call, this time in Sherman, Texas.  At 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, a man called for help because he had gotten his Ferrari stuck on some train tracks.  The man called from inside the Ferrari on the train tracks.  Thank goodness his power locks were functioning.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR:  Nine-one-one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m scared, I‘m lost, I‘m stranded out on a railroad track and I took the wrong turn somewhere.  I‘m so lost.  There‘s a train coming, and I‘m going—I‘m going get killed.

911 OPERATOR:  Are you in the car on the train tracks?  Get out of

get out of the car.

       

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  I‘m getting out.  I‘m getting out.  I‘m getting out.  Oh, my gosh.  Yes, I‘m out.

911 OPERATOR:  OK.  Walk away from the car if there‘s a train coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it‘s a train.  Yes.  Hold on, the train‘s coming.  Hold.  There goes my car.

911 OPERATOR:  The train hit your car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to hit it real quick.  It‘s a Ferrari.

(INAUDIBLE)

(BLEEP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it‘s done.

911 OPERATOR:  Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m here.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The Ferrari was totaled, the train was OK, the driver was charged with a DUI and the 911 operator needs only two more miracles for sainthood.

To Germany, where “Hakuna Matata” people, “The Circle of Life” is complete.  These four fuzzy lion cubs were introduced to the media today at the Wuppertal zoo and it only looks like one guy is holding one of the cubs wrong, kind of a President Bush-Angela Merkel hold there.  There are three girls and boy kitties (ph) here.  They were born in February, which makes them all just a few months old.

Can you feel—the zoo says the foursome have quickly become their biggest attraction.

Finally, to a pet shop in Milford, Connecticut, where, just in time for Easter, this bunny rabbit is on sale, two noses for the price of one.  Yes, it‘s a rabbit with two honkers.  The shop owner says in spite of its four nostrils, the rabbit is otherwise healthy.

Veterinarians suspect the abnormality is a result of too much inbreeding.  They also note that the deformity could be beneficial to its fellow hare.  After all, they keep losing races to tortoises by a nose.

Politics Alaskan-style: Now that the charges against former Senator Ted Stevens have been dropped, apparently, that means he is not guilty of any wrongdoing and that he deserves a do-over election.  Margaret Carlson will pick that logic apart.

And—the late night lash-out against the lunatic right.  The amazing week that was, including David Letterman‘s assessment that Bill O‘Reilly is a “goon,” an assessment made right to Billo‘s face.  You can‘t miss that.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  And the late night lash out against the lunatic right.  The amazing week that was, including David Letterman‘s assessment that Bill O‘Reilly is a goon, an assessment made right to Bill-O‘s face.  You can‘t miss that ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and the state Republican party are outraged that the liberal Obama Justice Department is letting a convicted criminal walk free, not because he is innocent, but because of some legal technicality that places the criminal‘s rights above justice, by which I mean, in our number three story tonight, the Alaskan Republican party is not only celebrating Attorney General Eric Holder‘s Decision to drop the conviction of former Senator Ted Stevens, they want the Democrat who beat Stevens to resign. 

Governor Palin saying she doesn‘t want to, quote, split hairs over whether new Senator Mark Begich should resign, still agrees with her party that the state should hold a special election to give Stevens another crack at it.  Stevens, of course, was convicted on seven felony counts related to his acceptance of free gifts, and one week later lost his election. 

Alaska‘s other senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski and Republican Congressman Don Young oppose a new special election.  Stevens, whose proclamation of innocence was apparently not believed by voters, who also did not expect vindication upon appeal, is arguing that he was railroaded by a corrupt Justice Department.  An odd argument to make for your qualifications as senator if you, yourself, actually supported the nomination of the allegedly corrupt Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, which Senator Stevens did, voting it to confirm Gonzalez on February 3rd, 2005. 

Joining us now is Margaret Carlson, political columnist for “Bloomberg News” and Washington editor at large for “The Week Magazine.”  Margaret, thanks for being here tonight.

MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”:  Hi David.  Thank you. 

SHUSTER:  Any basis in law for calling for a special election, let alone calling for Begich to step down? 

CARLSON:  None at all.  We haven‘t faced this very many times but the idea that the state would go to the expense of another election because somebody who—by the way, have you ever seen a better case of public corruption?  There‘s an entire wing of a house that everyone knows was built by Bill Allen, the oil industry exec.  The only thing that‘s being quibbled over, even with the prosecutorial misconduct, that we know so far is that Bill Allen said one time that the renovations were worth around 200,000 dollars and another time 80,000 dollar.  I mean, that reminds me of, you know, we know what you are, lady of the night, we are just quibbling over the price. 

This is not the difference between petty and grand larceny.  It is grand larceny with those amounts.  And this is not to mention the Viking grill and the shiatsu massage chair, all the things that were in evidence and remain undisputed. 

SHUSTER:  Finish this thought, if you would: if I were to say, Senator Stevens has been vindicated, I would be wrong because? 

CARLSON:  Let‘s see, if Ted Bundy was out on a technicality, would we think he was vindicated?  I don‘t think so.  I mean there are criminals walking the street, free because there was some prosecutorial mismanagement and misconduct.  And as a country, we have decided the way to enforce, you know, protections on people who are within the justice system is to let them go if there is misconduct. 

We‘d rather have guilty people go free than to have a Justice Department that is acting in an unjust way.  It doesn‘t go to the guilt or innocence of the person who is thereby freed. 

SHUSTER:  Under Attorney General Gonzalez, with apparently no objection from Senator Stevens, the Bush Justice Department notoriously targeted Democratic officials disproportionately more than Republicans, trumped up claims of voter fraud prior to elections, and fired prosecutors who refused to bring politically motivated cases to trial.  Why is today the first time we are hearing from Palin and other Republicans complaining about the corrupt Bush Justice Department? 

CARLSON:  It‘s only when your ox is gored.  The Karl Rove U.S.  attorneys were all over the country being fired for not bringing corruption cases against Democrats.  Governor Siegelman in Alabama went to prison in what looks like, to many people, a politically motivated prosecution by a Republican U.S. attorney.  There was a woman in Governor Ryan‘s administration in Wisconsin who went to prison.  She was a low-level clerk in a travel office.  And when the judge finally got the case, he released her immediately and said, what a travesty of justice. 

There are others.  But this had is the one they care about.  By the way, these senators write and Republicans write the public corruption laws.  It is very hard to prosecute them because the laws are so lax.  Your ordinary embezzler would be thrilled to come under the laws that apply to our members of Congress.  Getting them convicted is very, very difficult. 

In this case, these were members of the public integrity section of Justice who, by the way, were chosen by the Bush administration, some of whom might have been those who were chosen after they were asked what religion they were, you know, what school they had gone to, whether they believed in stem cell research.  There was a litmus test to get into Bush‘s Justice Department. 

SHUSTER:  Finally, just in case there is a special election, people should probably know whether Stevens was actually guilty.  Was he? 

SHUSTER:  Well, as I said, you know, am I going to believe my lying eyes when I see the pictures of the A-frame chalet? 

SHUSTER:  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week Magazine.”  Margaret, thanks as always for your time.  We appreciate it. 

CARLSON:  Good night, David. 

SHUSTER:  Good night. 

Coming up, the very bad week for the right, as seen through the eyes of late-night comedians, including Steven Colbert‘s evisceration of Glenn Beck.  A surprising trend in the economic crisis, professional women out of work are turning to stripping to pay the bills.

A judge tells Madonna she cannot adopt another child from Malawi.  She is fighting the decision in that country‘s Supreme Court. 

And at the top of the hour, Rachel examines the fallout from President Bush‘s detainee policies at Gitmo, as North Korea holds two American journalists in custody.  Officials there say, what‘s the problem?  It‘s not like we‘re Gitmo. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Have you ever gotten an e-mail at work talking about how your company‘s most valuable asset is its people?  And have you ever looked for a job with the euphemism pounding the pavement in the back of your mind?  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, both phrases with a twist.  As laid off workers get creative in finding a new job, they really are this potential new employer‘s most valuable asset.  And their new physical reality has to do not with pounding the pavement, but rather dancing around a pole. 

Our correspondent Natalie Morales talked with one woman who lost her job six years ago and made the unexpected career switch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATALIE MORALES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  From corporate layoffs to executives taking it off, their clothes, that is.  For some, desperate times call for desperate measures.  With the economic downturn, gentlemen‘s clubs across the country have reported an increase in applications from an unlikely group of career women. 

RANDY NEWTON, STRIPPER:  I never planned on becoming a stripper. 

MORALES:  Randy Newton once held a white collar analyst job at Morgan Stanley.  Now, she dances three or four nights a week at Rick‘s Cabaret in Manhattan, and is making six figures a year in just tips. 

NEWTON:  I was laid off from my job and I couldn‘t find another job that I liked.  I couldn‘t find a job, period.  So, I was offered a job as a waitress and eventually started stripping. 

MORALES:  Randy says more women than ever are applying for jobs at Rick‘s, as many as 50 a week.  The money is good, up to 1,500 dollars a night, and no time clock to punch. 

NEWTON:  If I want to take a month off and go to Vegas or I want to go to France, I can. 

MORALES:  It is not just New York.  Clubs across the country have seen an uptick in applicants, whose professions have fallen on hard times. 

EUGENE DUPONT, DANCERS ROYALE CLUB:  I see mortgage brokers, mortgage appraisers, people that have had their lifestyles based on personality and linked to the real estate industry.  You know, obviously, they are not going like gang busters like they used to. 

MORALES:  In Rhode Island, 150 people showed up when the Foxy Lady Club held a job fair.  And it is not just dancers.  Behind the bar at Dancers Royale in Orlando is Geo Hall, who just happens to have dual degrees in bio-chemistry and biology. 

GEO HALL, BAR TENDER:  With the way the job economy is right now, I had to find another income.  And this is a quick, I don‘t want to say easy source of income, but it was a job that was offered and I took it. 

MORALES:  While the adult club industry says its bottom line is down 30 percent, with customers spending less, it has noticed an increase in patrons. 

NEWTON:  They come here to escape their problems. 

MORALES:  Good news for Randy Newton, dancing through tough times. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  NBC‘s Natalie Morales reporting. 

Time to bring back a COUNTDOWN classic, keeping tabs.  News on the Mad-adoption front, a judge in Malawi has denied Madonna‘s request to adopt a four-year-old girl, saying high-profile celebrity adoptions could lead to child trafficking.  But now the Material Girl‘s lawyer says the pop icon will appeal the decision.  Our correspondent is Amy Robach. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMY ROBACH, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It is the news Madonna had been waiting 18 months to hear, but not the outcome she expected.  After five days of hearings and deliberations, a Malawian judge denied the pop star‘s request to adopt four-year-old Mercy James.  Madonna first met Mercy in Malawi in 2007, after she adopted her now three-year-old son, David Banda. 

Since then, Madonna has started a charity in Malawi to fund a day care center.  And she is planning to build a new school there.  Madonna‘s lawyers spent the last 18 months working with the Malawian government to go through the proper channels for Mercy‘s adoption, a job made harder by the pop star‘s recent high-profile divorce. 

ASHLEY PEARSON, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:  This adoption is actually more controversial than the last one was, because when she adopted David, she was married to Guy Richie.  Now she‘s adopting as a 50-year-old single mom. 

ROBACH:  Some human rights activists in Malawi complained that Madonna was receiving special treatment and trying to skirt laws that banned non-residents from adopting children. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Madonna is behaving like a bully, because she has the money.  She has the—

ROBACH:  Top officials in Malawi‘s government supported Madonna‘s adoption request, saying she has helped more than 25,000 children since her first visit to Malawi in 2006. 

PEARSON:  I think the case of one small little girl versus a great deal of good that she is going to be able to do for the country as a whole, and that trade off definitely seems to be worth it to the leaders of Malawi. 

ROBACH: This trip to Malawi was a real family affair for Madonna, with 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes (ph), at her side and eight-year-old son, Rocco, never far behind.  Three-year-old, David, got a chance to reunite with his biological father, who told Madonna he was grateful to her for saving David from a possible early death in Malawi.

That is a fate that Mercy could now be facing.  She is one of the estimated one million Malawian children who have been orphaned by an AIDS epidemic in one of the world‘s poorest countries.  For them, Madonna‘s mission of mercy is about more than just one four-year-old girl. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  Amy Robach reporting. 

Coming up, the week the right went wrong on late night TV, including David Letterman‘s awkward appraisal of Bill O‘Reilly, calling him a goon.  Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Boss Limbaugh has had it with New York.  Glenn Beck calls himself a rodeo clown.  And Bill O‘Reilly proclaims he‘s journalist.  Our number one story, all in a week‘s work for the right-wing talkers, AKA the blow hard lunatics.  Fortunately for us, the late night comics took note.  The week that was, as the right gets a dose of late night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  I saw a thing today on TV, maybe you saw this as well.  It‘s an announcement about how they are preparing and planning a new image for the Republican party.  Take a look, it‘s fascinating. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Republicans are being tired as being seen the party of no.  Instead, they want to be known as the party of yes.  That‘s right, we are saying yes to everything.  Shady military contracts for our political donors?  Yes.  Torturing random people with no regard for the Constitution?  Yes.  Seedy back-room sex?  Hell, yes. 

The GOP, looking ahead to 2028. 

LETTERMAN:  See what I‘m saying?  Yes.  Ladies and gentlemen, here‘s Bill O‘Reilly.  

Here‘s what breaks my heart about this, because in my mind, I think of you as a goon.  But then when you look at—look at this picture, look at how sweet and adorable that kid is.  And it breaks my heart, because I have a sweet, adorable kid like that.  And I think, oh, great what if he, too, becomes a goon? 

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Glenn Beck is a talk show host.  Rush Limbaugh is a talk show host.  They‘re not journalist.

LETTERMAN:  What are you? 

O‘REILLY:  I‘m a journalist. 

LETTERMAN:  What is the difference? 

O‘REILLY:  I don‘t know.  I got a degree I paid a lot of money for. 

LETTERMAN:  Where is your journal? 

O‘REILLY:  Right on my wall.  I went out, covered stories. 

LETTERMAN:  What you do is mostly commentary? 

O‘REILLY:  Now it is, yes.  But I was a hard-news reporter.  But those guys are basically entertainers and they—

LETTERMAN:  You are an entertainer. 

O‘REILLY:  Somewhat. 

LETTERMAN:  What do you mean somewhat? 

O‘REILLY:  We are informational driven.  We give information, Dave, which is why I know a lot.  Which is why I‘ve been number one for 100 months. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes, you‘re in the that entertaining. 

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  I‘m not sure any of us truly comprehend the devastating ramifications of this recession/depression/aaahhh that we‘ve been going through, until now. 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Personal income taxes for the upper middle class and the rich are about to skyrocket; 31 percent for all New Yorkers making more than 500,000 dollars a year. 

I will tell you what I‘m going to do?  I‘m going to look for an alternative studio somewhere outside New York.  I will sell my apartment.  I will sell my condominium.  I‘m going to get out of there totally, because this is just absurd and it‘s ridiculous. 

STEWART:  Finally!  For years—for years—for years—for years, New Yorkers have done everything in our power to get this guy to leave town.  we passed laws making it tougher for hot dog vendors to sell on the street.  We hold gay pride parades.  There are barely any gay people in the city.  We just thought it would make him uncomfortable, so we shipped them in.

We all, as New Yorkers, come together to do this one thing, get rid of Rush Limbaugh.  He was the Truman in our city-wide Truman Show.  We knew he was into drugs, so we cleaned up Times Square.  Even opened up a Disney Store in the very place he would normally go to buy drugs. 

We knew he liked cigars.  So we all, in New York, made an agreement that people who smoke cigars are douche bags. 

I guess there‘s one more thing I want to say to him, if you‘re heading out from Uptown, take 42nd Street west to 9th Avenue, make left, go four blocks, Lincoln Tunnel is on your right.  And you know what, here is my Easy Pass, get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of here. 

STEVEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Once again, I have been electrified by Glenn Beck.  You see, I watch Glenn‘s show with the TV balanced on the edge of my tub.  And after the short-term memory loss and the seizures subside, he make a lot of sense. 

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Truth is they don‘t surround us.  We surround them. 

COLBERT:  Who are them?  Them‘s the ones we‘re surrounding.  And we?  We‘re the voices in Glenn‘s head telling him to get us to take back what is rightfully ours.  It‘s all part of Glenn‘s 9/12 project.  I will let Glenn explain. 

BECK:  We weren‘t told how to behave that day after 9/11, we just knew it was right.  It was the opposite of what we feel today. 

Are you ready to be that person you were that day after 9/11 on 9/12? 

COLBERT:  Ready!  The adult diapers come in handy.  You never have to leave your bunker.  Now, by 9/12, Glenn doesn‘t just mean the day after 9/11.  It also stands for his nine principles and 12 values that will move us beyond the complacency we felt on 9/10, and beyond the fear we felt on 9/11, to the compassion we felt on 9/12 and hopefully, we will all eventually get to the way Glenn felt on 9/9/2005. 

BECK:  This is horrible to say, and I wonder if I‘m alone in this.  You know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims‘ families.  I don‘t hate all of them.  I hate probably about ten of them.  But when I see, you know, 9/11 victims‘ family on television or whatever, I‘m just like, oh, shut up.  I‘m so sick of them, because they are always complaining.  And we did our best for them. 

COLBERT:  Good point.  The 9/12 project is not for families directly affected by 9/11, just people building their careers on it. 

BECK:  I‘m sorry.  I just love my country and I fear for it.  I‘m sorry. 

COLBERT:  I just love Glenn Beck‘s sanity and I fear for it.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  A not so good week for the right on late night.  That will do it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN.  Up next on MSNBC, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  I‘m David Shuster in for Keith Olbermann, have a great weekend, everybody.

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

END   

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