updated 12/1/2009 12:44:42 PM ET 2009-12-01T17:44:42

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Shannyn Moore

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

Signed, sealed—only the speech not yet delivered.  The orders given by the president for more troops to Afghanistan tied—we learned—to a drawn-down to begin as early as next July.  Because without an aggressive push now, the president fears the light at the end of the tunnel would be pushed further away.

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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  You can be assured that the president will talk about the fact that this is not an open-ended commitment.

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OLBERMANN:  Trusting the president is one thing, but when was the last commitment by our Pentagon not an open-ended commitment?  No matter what they said at the time?  And why after its endless lies about Iraq and his endless lies about Pat Tillman—why are we trusting General McChrystal and the Pentagon?  A “Special Comment.”

Afghanistan as the newest Republican excuse to gut health care reform.

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Can we trim up the health care bill and other big ticket items to pay for a war that we can‘t afford to lose?

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OLBERMANN:  Well, no, actually, but you‘ll try.

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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Health care fairness will come if we dedicate the coming weeks to solutions, not scare tactics.

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OLBERMANN:  The latest whoppers from Sister Sarah.  Her former Alaska legislative aide and her former brother-in-law both say stuff in her book is flat-out made up.  And she quotes legendary basketball coach John Wooden about how “our land is everything, our grandfathers paid for it with their lives.”  Only that wasn‘t John Wooden, that was Native American and liberal activist, John Wooden Legs, whose grandfather fought Custer at Little Big Horn.

Sarah Palin can‘t tell the difference between John Wooden and John Wooden Legs.

The Tiger Woods saga: The latest developments and what really happened explained in exactly 28 seconds.

And tonight‘s “Special Comment” on Afghanistan—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

There were in the end, we‘ve learned, four choices: withdrawal immediately or nearly so, a commitment of 10,000 trainers to bring Afghan troops and security forces up to speed, a tightening of the mission with no change in troop levels, and the one President Obama last night informed his government and his military he had chosen—the choice he will report to the nation from West Point at this hour tomorrow night.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: A troop escalation in Afghanistan

what is described within the White House tonight as an aggressive timed push with an exit, troop withdrawals to begin between July of next year and January of 2011.  There will be apparently nearly as many caveats as new troops.

      

Congressional oversight would be intricate and pervasive, budgeting strictly through ordinary congressionally-approved means, and the corporate hand would be kept out of the till, essentially no no-bid military contracting.  A “Special Comment” ahead.

The president over the weekend is issuing his order to send more troops to Afghanistan.  Senior advisers to Mr. Obama are saying that the president intends to commit roughly 30,000 more troops.  The president is calling other world leaders today to inform them of that.  The vice president and cabinet secretaries are also making calls.

The secretary-general of NATO, Anders Rasmussen of Denmark, reaching out to member states via his Facebook page, quoting him, “I‘ve traveled and talked with political leaders in the alliance and called on them to follow suit when the U.S. sends more troops to Afghanistan.  Solidarity has always been the strength of our alliance.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today is announcing that the U.K. will send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan, equaling 1.6 percent of the increased U.S. presence.  President Obama is also meeting in the Oval Office tonight with Defense Secretary Gates and General Petraeus, among others, as well as by telephone with General McChrystal, the top general in Afghanistan.

More than eight years into a conflict that the current commander-in-chief did not start, questions surfacing now about how to pay for this escalation.  The Congressman David Obey, chairman of the appropriations committee, proposing, in fact, a war tax, what he is calling the Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010.

Democrats in the Senate are already dismissing the idea as a qualified nonstarter.

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SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  We‘re in the middle of a recession.  We‘re probably not going to be able to increase taxes to pay for it.  There should have been, as far as I‘m concerned, tax increases long ago on upper bracket folks who did so well during the Bush years.  That‘s where the tax increases should have taken place.  But that should have happened some time ago.

But in the middle of this recession, I don‘t think you‘re going to be able to successfully or fairly to add a tax burden to middle income people.  I don‘t think middle income America is in a position now where they can pay additional taxes, because the economic stress is so great here.

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OLBERMANN:  Republicans meanwhile are using the escalation as an excuse to put, what else, health care reform on hold.

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SEN. RICHARD LUGAR ®, INDIANA:  The war is terribly important.  Jobs and our economy are terribly important.  So, I—this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap-and-trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money.

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OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also a senior strategist to Public Strategies, the author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  Small picture first.  Some of these details—my sense was this administration thinks it will succeed in convincing Afghanistan and the world, underlying Pakistan, that we‘re serious still about Afghanistan, but we‘re not moving in.

Is the fact of Pakistan, actually the biggest of the facts in here, and how does bin Laden‘s supposed presence in Pakistan fit into what the president decided to do?

WOLFFE:  Well, you‘re absolutely right to focus on Pakistan as being a much bigger national security factor for the United States.  It‘s got nuclear weapons.  Bin Laden is likely hiding somewhere in its tribal areas.  And it is—it has got to be the most important risk that there is beyond the al Qaeda leadership in that region.

The problem is that this surge is not actually really focused on propping up Pakistan.  It‘s not focused on cleaning up those tribal areas.  And it‘s not really got that much to do with the core leadership of al Qaeda.  You don‘t need that many extra troops to hunt them down.

What this is about is something beyond going after al Qaeda—and the challenge for the president is to explain how beating the Taliban in whatever form it‘s in is going to deal with the al Qaeda leadership.

Remember that people in Pakistan fear that driving out the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan is going to lead to more Taliban militants joining their Pakistani brethren and destabilizing Pakistan.  The Pakistanis were very happy with the Taliban there in Kabul.

OLBERMANN:  The biggest of the micro-issues perhaps is this—that on-the-ground strategy here which was we understand it, it‘s counterterrorism measures, it‘s a city-focused, it‘s training.  ABC reported they‘re going to go around the Karzai government and fund all this at the regional level largely.

Can all these little components actually make a difference?

WOLFFE:  Well, they worked in Iraq, so that‘s an important model that they‘re working on.  And McChrystal and others and Petraeus, especially, are trying to build on that.  Of course, in Iraq what they had was also the support of tribal leaders.  So, you had a weak central government but there were tribal leaders who joined in this fight who in many ways started in Iraq.  That has got to be the key question that the administration has to be sure of in thinking this strategy is going to work in Afghanistan.

But it looks like it‘s limited geographically.  That a lot of the more rural areas are essentially being written off, because even 30,000 extra troops, American troops, while a huge number and hugely costly in blood and treasure, is not enough to secure a place that has never been secured, especially those rural hilly areas in Afghanistan.

OLBERMANN:  And more micro dealing with this country, it seems like it‘s such an obvious thing.  Timelines, a rough start date to end before you actually begin.  These guarantees that Congress is involved every step of the way, including in the financing, the idea that no-bid contractors cannot be involved.

Whatever else the announcement brings, those are cultural earthquakes at the Pentagon.  Will the Pentagon abide by them?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think the Gates Pentagon is very different from the Rumsfeld Pentagon.  So, you‘re looking at a culture that‘s already changed.  These are important political symbols to say this is not like the Bush approach to Iraq.

But it will sound like it.  If you talk about timelines, you talk about staying the course and propping up or standing up the Afghan army, it‘s going to sound very Bush-like.  So, there have to be these important symbols to say this time it‘s different.

But honestly, he cannot set an end date—so trust but verify.  But it‘s still going to sound a lot like Bush.

OLBERMANN:  So, that‘s the big picture.  How does he sell it to the country tomorrow night, especially, given that he did not run on any promise to pull out of Afghanistan?  He did run on change—and as you point out—it hardly seems like change unless you go into the deep weeds.

WOLFFE:  Yes, this is a—this is a very tough political challenge because, of course, the country‘s change is not just Democrats.  People are very mixed opinion here about the war in Afghanistan.  He has to say what the exit looks like.

When is Afghanistan safe enough for American troops to withdraw?  That is going to be the key challenge.  That I know from White House sources is what he‘s going to be focusing on, just as much as he‘s talking about the extra numbers.

But in the end, there‘s going to have to be a certain amount of trust.  He campaigned not against all wars, against dumb wars.  He has to explain why this is not a dumb war.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of “Renegade,” also with Public Strategies—as always, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And for more on the political reaction at home that we can expect, let‘s turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s divide the political reaction to this that you would expect into three parts, from the left, from the right, from the nation as a whole.

So, we‘ll start.  The president gives this speech tomorrow night.  Withdrawal schedule in place even before the first new troops go, tight congressional oversight, tight oversight of military contractors, other bells and whistles.

And the left responds, how?

ALTER:  Well, the left is going to object to it because you still have a lot of Democrats who are just one step shy of pacifism.  It really takes a lot to convince them that there‘s anything that you could call a just war.

And so, he has a pretty high threshold with them in convincing them that this is truly in the national security interest of the United States and he‘ll do that by saying that if there are safe havens for al Qaeda, even if there‘s not currently that much al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan, that is a threat to the United States.  So, he‘s going to need to make that case tomorrow night, particularly to his own supporters.

OLBERMANN:  And it‘s not hundreds of thousands of new troops.  And no matter how loose it might be, there is going in an expiration date on the side of the milk cartoon.

ALTER:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  And the right responds, how?

ALTER:  Well, they‘re already starting to trash this, which to me is, you know, truly—it‘s—it approaches being unconscionable, because they clearly support the goals of this intervention.  They supported escalation.  He is escalating.  And they simply can‘t ever bring it—can‘t bring themselves to support this president no matter what he says.  And this is the final proof of that.

OLBERMANN:  And the country gets the whole package?  And we‘re already, as we‘ve been pointed out, split more evenly on Afghanistan than Republican versus Democrat on this.  And we as a nation respond to the whole package, how?

ALTER:  We‘re going to have to see how great a job he does.

You know, Keith, there was a great political scientist, Richard Neustadt, who said that the only real power that a president has is the power to persuade.

We know that Barack Obama is a great speaker.  We know he has persuasive powers.  This is a test.  This is not a popular endeavor.  He is going to have to persuade all Americans that it is in our interest in lives and in treasure to pursue this venture.

OLBERMANN:  And coming back to the base, the other political wild card I‘m wondering about in this, can they get anywhere by selling this, especially to the left, as we‘re cleaning up, not just George W. Bush‘s mess as president in Afghanistan and Dick Cheney‘s mess as vice president in Afghanistan, but you know what, we have to clean up when Dick Cheney cut and ran from Afghanistan in 1991 after he basically...

ALTER:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  ... created the Taliban while he was secretary of defense.

Does that have any miles to it?

ALTER:  Well, I wouldn‘t go so far as to say he created the Taliban.  But what they did was, after supporting the mujahideen, who were fighting the Soviets and drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan, we basically cut and run under Republican leadership.  And we left a huge mess inside that country.

So, what we‘re doing here—you can expect to hear the president say this—is finishing the job.  He‘s going to be very focused on this being the ending of something, not the beginning of something new.  So, you will see him as you suggested, put this in the context of cleaning up really close to 20 years of ill-considered American foreign policy.

OLBERMANN:  The Cheney-ian stables, I guess.

ALTER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—great thanks. 

Talk to you tomorrow.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Ahead in this newshour: trust the president?  OK.  But trust the Pentagon?  Trust the general at the heart of the Pat Tillman story?  Trust an escalation will lead to a de-escalation?  Haven‘t we heard all this before?  My “Special Comment” ahead.

And a programming note, we will, of course, bring you complete coverage of the president‘s speech tomorrow from West Point.  I‘ll be on right beforehand at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.  Chris, Rachel and I join you right after the speech.  Special edition of “COUNTDOWN” at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Rachel at 10:00 Eastern, Chris at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, Ed at midnight Eastern.

Much sooner than that, John McCain has just stepped into the health care debate.  Well, he stepped in a lot more than just that actually.  Senator McCain complains about the lack of specifics about supposed cuts to Medicare, then he lists them specifically.  And he warns Americans of, quote, “all kind of provisions” that they‘re either unaware of or many of us have also become unaware of.

So, Mr. McCain, how long has it been since you became unaware of these provisions?

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OLBERMANN:  While nearly every other Republican had gone crazy over it, John McCain had been largely quiet on health care reform until today.  Apparently, as usual, the first thought was the good one.  A remarkable performance you‘ll have to see to believe.

Also, Sarah Palin thinks the former UCLA basketball coaching legend was named John Wooden Legs.

And my “Special Comment” on Afghanistan.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Today, the Senate bill to reform health care in part by creating a public option reached the floor for debate by the full chamber.  The question now in tonight‘s fourth story, is whether that means the public option is making history or is becoming history.

Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the bill to the floor with the public option, but while promising today transparency in the legislative process, the public option‘s fate depends largely on what transpires behind closed doors.

Reid, reportedly, was to talk health care tonight with the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  And Democratic Senator Ben Nelson told “Politico,” debate will end, quote, “when there are 60 votes,” meaning when Reid has privately persuaded 60 senators to block a Republican filibuster so he, Reid, can bring the bill up for a vote.

Some monkey wrenches in the debate coming from the Urban Institute endorsing a strong public option with a trigger mechanism, which the Firedoglake blog and others see as a fig leaf for killing the option.

And the Congressional Budget Office released new estimates on the bill, predicting minor savings for most people, especially those at big companies, but considerable savings—factoring in subsidies and their improved insurance—for those less well-off buying insurance on their own.

But it was John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, who stole the spotlight today in a heated debate with Arizona Republican John McCain, including a dramatic back-and-forth over the bill‘s lack of specificity for which he had specifics.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  A half a trillion dollars in cuts that are unspecified as to how.  Medicare advantage cuts totaling $118 billion.  Medicare advisory board that would cost $23 billion.  Hospital penalties totaling $7.1 billion.  Home health care cuts totaling $42.1 billion.  The list goes on and on.

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OLBERMANN:  He angrily charged that Congress has never done a major bill this way.  You know, the way it‘s always done.

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MCCAIN:  There has never been a major reform implemented by the Congress of the United States unless it‘s bipartisan in measure—in nature.  So what has happened?  Business as usual.

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OLBERMANN:  And in a shocking breach of protocol, revealed that during the debate over this bill, Senator McCain has become unaware of some of its provisions.

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MCCAIN:  I don‘t believe that the American people want this 2,000-and-some-page monstrosity, which is full—which is full of all kinds of provisions that they are either unaware of or even in the study of this legislation many of us have also become unaware of.

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OLBERMANN:  With us tonight, a senator who has become more aware of provisions in this bill, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Was “Politico” right regarding Mr. Nelson‘s implication that as long as this debate continues, we know that that means that Senator Reid lacks the votes to hold off a Republican filibuster?

WHITEHOUSE:  I‘m not sure it‘s quite that exact a correspondence.  This is after all the United States Senate.  This is a major piece of legislation.  There are a great number of people, both for and against it, who want to be heard and, frankly, deserve the chance to be heard as long as they‘re being productive and participating in a meaningful way.

I think, eventually, the debate will degenerate into tomfoolery.  But while it‘s going on, I think it would be wise for the majority leader to let that play out, even if he has 60 votes in his pocket, so that it‘s clear to the American public and clear to all the members of the Senate that everybody had a chance to have their say.

That said, I think when Christmas starts to roll around, it will be time to start to move, and I would hope we‘d have the 60 votes by then.

OLBERMANN:  Has something made the calculus more complex than it seems to an outsider like myself?  I mean, any Democrat that votes for the weakest kind of health care reform is going to be attacked by Republicans for doing so.  And isn‘t the price still the same for voting for a weak bill as it is for blocking filibuster of a stronger bill and then voting against it?

WHITEHOUSE:  Well, I think that we are—we have a good bill right now.  We certainly had the 60 votes necessary to get it on the floor.  We have a process ahead that will allow a lot of the people who‘ve expressed their concerns and skepticism about elements of the bill to get it off their chest, to get their votes, to have it heard, and to try to work out compromises that will suit them.  And I think there‘s room for compromise still in this bill.

So, I remain optimistic that the majority leader is going to be able to work through those concerns to 60 Democratic votes or, if necessary, 59 Democratic votes and maybe one Republican vote.

OLBERMANN:  The last time we spoke, you were more optimistic than those of us watching from outside the fishbowl.  Do you remain that way?  And what can you tell us specifically about why that is the case?

WHITEHOUSE:  I—you know, I‘m not an expert.  I‘ve only been here a couple of years now.  But just a sense from my colleagues that this is kind—this is a moment destiny.

And for years, people have tried to get this kind of health care reform to the Senate floor.  It was Senator Kennedy‘s legacy.  And I think the sense of his presence is very much still with us.

Enormous amounts of work have gone into the bill, thousands of senator hours, tens of thousands of staff hours.  It is a thought-free, good solid piece of legislation.  And so, all of that gives a lot of momentum.

Are there still disagreements?  Are there still people seeking to find a, you know, trading point or to get a real concern resolved?  Yes, I‘m sure.  But that‘s what the process is all about.  And so, I remain pretty convinced that we‘re going to be able to get through this.

OLBERMANN:  So, what do you think of this “New York Times” report that suggests we‘re essentially watching Mr. Reid persuade the left that, “A,” he really tried, but, “B,” the votes are not really there for the public option?  Are we watching a play that ends with progressives blinking before conservative Democrats, too?

WHITEHOUSE:  It‘s possible.  But I wouldn‘t go there yet, not by any stretch of the imagination.  I mean, the leader put a solid public option proposal in.  We believe that we can get a vote for a public option, if it has a trigger mechanism as opposed to an opt-in or an opt-out.  That gives him a little bit more leeway to work with.

I think whether you opt-in or opt-out, or call it a trigger—a lot of that is semantics.  When the dust settles, there needs to be a significant public option that provide real competition to the insurance industry and gives people who want out from the way they‘ve been treated by the private insurers for years an alternative.  And I think if we can do that, a lot of the other details around the corners will seem less relevant.

OLBERMANN:  So, ultimately, though, if a public option is x‘ed at the bill signing ceremony, it would have an opt-in or opt-out or some other qualifier to it?

WHITEHOUSE:  It would seem that is where we are just in terms of the vote count.  I think that that‘s probably the likeliest outcome right now.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, as usual, more information per word than anybody else we know in the Senate.

Great thanks as always for that and for your time, sir.

WHITEHOUSE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin can‘t tell basketball legend John Wooden from Native American legend John Wooden Legs.

A Bush official can‘t comprehend that 9/11 happened during the Bush administration.

And the fateful intersection of a presidency and somebody else‘s war.  “Special Comment” on Afghanistan—tonight on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  In 1888, Mark Twain famously wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.  It‘s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

For Sister Sarah Palin, the difference between the right person you claim to be quoting is the difference between basketball‘s John Wooden and Native American activist John Wooden Legs.  That‘s next.

But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Dateline: Surrey, British Columbia.  Number three: Best paranoid freedom of speech suppression.  Border guards at the Peace Arch on the U.S./Canada line—last week, they stopped “Democracy Now” host, Amy Goodman, had weapons-carrying agents search her car, held her passport for a time.  They were afraid she would say something dangerous in Canada.  Seriously.

I mean, in theory, you could stop somebody who is going to advocate violence or the like, but they‘re fear, as Ms. Goodman recounted it, was that she was going to speak out against the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  Seriously. When she said, no, that wasn‘t what she was going to talk about in Canada, they asked her again six times.  You guys may want to rethink your priorities.  And if you‘re that desperate to prevent criticism of some Olympic games, you shouldn‘t detain a noted commentator and write her scripts for her. 

Dateline Palm Beach Garden, number two, best self-contradiction, Orly Tates Limbaugh.  Using stolen e-mails and cherry-picking and misunderstanding quotes from him, he has declared global warming to be a hoax.  But today, within seconds of each other, he angrily made these two self contradictory remarks.  A, “there isn‘t any data that supports global warming,” and B, “anybody that suppressed data said there was man-made global warming was doing us a favor.” 

Thank you for proving yourself wrong again. 

And dateline Windermere, Florida, number one, best drama.  Elin Nordegren Woods, wife of the greatest golfer, the insufferable one-time strike breaker and crowd abuser, Tiger Woods.   After his car fire hydrant mashy accident, hubby canceled three visits with the Florida highway patrol and a gold news conference and his participation in the next tournament, which just happens to be the Tiger Woods World Challenge.  “I thought I should use some golf terminology to explain what I think Mrs. Tiger was doing.”  She was playing a bad lie.   

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OLBERMANN:  More people have managed to slog through Sarah Palin‘s memoir.  We know that because they‘re finding still more errors.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, she has misquoted and misattributed and misused the words of a Native American activist, hilariousing mistaking Mr. John Wooden Legs for basketball‘s Coach John Wooden.  She is annoying former friend, who say she‘s lying about them. 

And in non-book news, she quit again, this time something called the Turkey Trot Race.  What is it with Palin and turkeys?  The quote, first.  Chapter three of “Going Rogue” entitled “Drill, Baby, Drill,” relays these stirring words attributed to UCLA basketball legend Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden: “our land is  everything to us,” the wizard of Westwood supposedly said.  “I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land.  We remember our grandfathers paid for it with their lives.” 

But Coach Wooden never said that.  As noted by “Huffington Post” Jeffrey Dunn, John Wooden Legs, a Native American activist, one time tribal president of the northern Cheyenne, whose grandfather fought Custer at Little Big Horn, he said something close to it.  But the legs quote from an essay includes references to the Cheyenne and ends with “we remember our grandfathers for it with their life.”

Dunn notes that the Palin botched quote perfectly matches one from a website called the Quote Garden.  So Palin has hastily cut and pasted a quote from a Native American activist to support her Drill Baby, Drill meme, and attributed it to a great basketball coach. 

But the former governor‘s penchant to get even is causing her more trouble still.  Her ex-brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten is breaking his silence of more than a year, and is considering legal action over the book.  The center of Palin‘s Troopergate scandal calls Palin‘s book a, quote, “pack of lies” and Wooten, an Air Force veteran, says, “Sarah Palin is only about Sarah.  She doesn‘t care about the men and women in uniform.  It‘s all about advancing Sarah‘s career.”

Meantime, Palin had announced on Twitter that she would be running the 5K Turkey Trot Charity Race in Washington State on Thanksgiving Day.  But about 40 minutes into the run, she quit to avoid crowds at the end of the race. 

Let‘s bring in radio host, “Huffington Post” contributor Shannyn Moore.  Shannyn, good evening. 

SHANNYN MOORE, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That misquote fits hand in glove with Palin‘s wonderful record about Alaska native issues, and by the fact that she twisted it for her drill, baby, drill chapter.  Can you expand on that? 

MOORE:  I think Jeffrey Dunn did an amazing job on his piece today on Huffington.  You know, it was funny, because Coach Wooden said a few things that I think Sarah probably should have listened to, you know, and didn‘t.  I think most notably was, don‘t confuse, you know, your person-hood with your basketball-man-ship, and don‘t confuse achievement with activity.       She has this huge amount of activity and not a lot of achievement. 

It‘s really egregious here what she actually did do to Native Americans,  far worse than any of her misquoting them.  When you look at subsistence issues, we had people deciding whether they should have food or heating oil last year, who were starving until she went to western Alaska with Franklin Graham, incidentally, with some cookies she had baked.  So then she had to have the courts tell her that she had to do voting assistance for people who speak Yupik here.  So the things that she‘s done not the native Alaskans here have been far worse than her misquoting one. 

OLBERMANN:  Also, I mean, in basketball terms, she did claim to be a basketball player, and she didn‘t recognize that that was probably something that John Wooden wouldn‘t have talked about, about the land and grandfathers and such.  Among the—

MOORE:  Or quitting. 

OLBERMANN:  In Alaska.  It‘s not just this officer Wooten, the former brother-in-law, complaining here.  The first legislative director that she had, John Bitney, has said, “I‘m just pilloried right and left, and turned into the big bad wolf here”—talking about the book—“ for stuff I didn‘t do.  It‘s like I‘m this fictional character, that she‘s decided to make me out to be this incompetent slob.”

How did that former, never mind ally, associate, become a target of the governor in this book? 

MOORE:  She wasn‘t just a legislative director.  She was—he was really responsible for getting her elected, and was a very close ally, part of this inner circle.  And for her to come out in her book and sort of have these really paltry accusations against him, about his lunch on his tie or being addicted to blackberry games—you know, he broke his silence on my television show here.  And when asked by an audience member if she was sane, he said,  is a sociopath sane?  And that he‘d had enough. 

So many people—so many people that during the election held their silence and kept their loyalty to her, you know, have decided now that being an American and standing up to her is more important.  And they‘re coming out of the woodwork here. 

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t these complaints perfectly mirror those from the McCain campaign, that she literally made things up?  Not nuance, not subtlety, not misquotes, but borderline delusional? 

MOORE:  Yes, reality deficit disorder?  Yes, absolutely.  Isn‘t it ironic that she keeps telling the press to stop making things up, to stand up for the troops, yet she throws great, wonderful veterans, who have had their service to the military and to Alaskans, under the bus in this book continually.  John Bitny did mention that he knew exactly what Schmidt was saying when he said he was going bring in a nutritionist.  He said she never eats.  She‘s a Red Bull and White Mocha kind of girl, and she doesn‘t eat.  It‘s made her difficult to work with at times.  So not only is he telling his own story, but he‘s validating that of the McCain camp. 

OLBERMANN:  And the Turkey Trot Run basically a symbolism for this whole thing.  She gets near the finish line, and then quits at the last moment? 

MOORE:  Yeah, yeah.  The whole—the quitter thing.  You know, that‘s really the way a lot of Alaskans see her, is the quitter.  Even those people that really supported her at one point, they‘re left with no governor.  So we‘ll see how this all turns out.  But the more she talks, the more people don‘t like her. 

OLBERMANN:  Shannyn Moore, talk show host, contributor to the “Huffington Post.”  My guess at this point, just sort of dawned on me, she‘ll be brought down and her career will be ended not by her enemies, not by her critics, but by her friends.  Great thanks, Shannyn. 

MOORE:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Another president prepares to explain why he believes the Pentagon—when he says more is ultimately less, this time in Afghanistan.  I believe the president.  I don‘t believe the Pentagon.  Special comment ahead. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, an opinion based on fresh, firsthand information, Dan Rather back from Afghanistan, complete with an opinion that might surprise you.  Dan is her special guest. 

First, the worsts.  The former Bush administration official who was paid with your tax dollars and who believes there were no terrorist attacks in this country during the Bush presidency.  Can we get her salary back?    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The president and Afghanistan, my special comment next. 

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

The bronze to Mike Huckabee.  Maurice Clemmons is still on the loose after fatally ambushing four police officers in Washington State.  Clemmons, obviously, literally one of the worst persons in the world, was first released from prison, from a 95-year sentence, after that sentence was commuted by then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.  Mr. Huckabee‘s spokesman issued a lengthy statement about the tragedy and on the process by which Mr. Clemmons was a free man.  Not once did he imply that the governor had the slightest sense of responsibility or even involvement in the commutation.  There‘s no joke here.  From a stalwart of the party of the Willie Horton ad, it‘s just shameful.  It‘s career ending. 

The silver to Glenn Beck, using hacked e-mails and cherry picking details from them, when he could not possibly actually understand, not only to falsely claim there is no climate change, but to insist, in the latest Beck paranoid conspiracy of the day, that because of it we‘re going to be invaded—we‘re going to start giving away our oil or something.  “You think it will be better when Russia takes Alaska, when we have to sell China the Gulf, when we have to sell those reserves?  Somebody else comes in and we can‘t say anything about it?  Do you think your environment is going to be better or worse?  If you think that America is just this hate-filled place, do you think when the rest of the world is in charge of you, of us”—

Well, at least we know now why Sarah Palin quit as governor.  The Russians could see her house from Russia, not the other way around. 

But our winner, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.  That this is not a smart person, not a sensitive person, maybe not a person person has long been pretty clear.  But this takes it to a new level. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  There is one thing I would say about Ft. Hood, which I feel very strongly about, which is—and I don‘t say this to be political.  I think it matters a lot what we call it.  And we had a terrorist attack on our country.  They want to do all their investigations.  I don‘t know all of their thinking that goes into it.  But we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush‘s term.  I hope they‘re not looking at this politically.  I do think we owe it to the American people to call it what it is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ft. Hood has to be called a terrorist attack, right now, before any investigations.  But either 9/11 wasn‘t during President Bush‘s term or it wasn‘t a terrorist attack.  Either way, Dana Perino is an embarrassment, and today‘s worst person in the—how do you pronounce this, W-O-R-L-D—world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on the president‘s address to the nation tomorrow night on the future of our military presence in Afghanistan. 

Mr. President, it now falls to you to be both former Republican

Senator George Aiken and the man to whom he spoke, Lyndon Johnson. You must declare victory, and get out. 

You should survey the dismal array of options in front of you—even the orders given out last night  -- sort them into the unacceptable, the unsuccessful, and the merely un-palatable, and then put your arm down on the table and wipe the entire assortment of them off your desk—off this nation‘s desk—and into the proverbial scrap heap of history. 

Unless you are utterly convinced—willing to bet American lives on it—that the military understands the clock is running, and that the check is not blank, and the Pentagon will go to sleep when you tell it to, even though the Pentagon is a bunch of perpetually 12-year old boys desperate to stay up as late as possible, by any means necessary—unless you‘re sure of all that, get out now. 

We are, at present, fighting, in no particular order, the Taliban; a series of sleazy political-slash-military adventurers, not the least of whom is this mountebank election-fixer Karzai, and what National Security Advisor Jones estimated in October was around eight dozen al-Qaeda in the neighborhood. 

But poll after poll, and anecdote after anecdote, of the reality of public opinion inside Afghanistan is that its residents believe we are fighting Afghanistan. That we, sir, have become an occupying force.  Yes, if we leave, Afghanistan certainly will have an occupying force, one way or the other, whether it‘s from Pakistan, or consisting of foreign fighters who will try to ally themselves with the Taliban. 

Can you prevent that?  Can you convince the Afghans that you can prevent that?  Can you convince Americans that it is the only way to un-do Bush and Cheney policy catastrophes dating back to Cheney‘s days as Secretary of Defense in the ‘90s?

If not, Mr. President, that way lies Vietnam. If you liked Iraq, you‘ll love Afghanistan with 35,000 more troops, complete with the new wrinkle, straight from the minder-binder lingo of Joseph Heller‘s “Catch-22.”

President Obama will be presenting an exit strategy for Afghanistan.  The exit strategy that begins by entering still further.  Lose to win, sink to swim, escalate to disengage.  And even this disconnect of fundamental logic is predicated on the assumption that once the extra troops go in, when the President says “OK, time for adult swim, generals, time to get out of the pool and bring the troops with you,” that the Pentagon is just going to say “yeppers.”

The Pentagon, often to our eternal relief, but just as often, sadly, to our eternal regret is in the war business. You were right, Mr.  President, to slow the process down, once a series of exit strategies had been offered to you by men whose power and in some case livelihoods are predicated on making sure all exit strategies, everywhere, forever, don‘t really result in any service-man or woman actually exiting. 

These men are still in the belly of what President Eisenhower so rightly, so prophetically, christened the Military-Industrial Complex. Now, and later as the civilian gray eminences with “retired” next to their names, formally lobbying the House and Senate, informally lobbying the nation through television and the printed word, to “engage” here, or “serve” there, or “invest” everywhere; they are, in many cases, just glorified hardware salesmen. 

It was political and operational brilliance, Sir, to retain Mr. Bush‘s last Secretary of Defense Mr. Gates.  It was transitional and bipartisan insight, sir, to maintain General Stanley McChrystal as a key leader in the field. 

And it was a subtle but powerful reminder to the authoritarian minded war-hawks like John McCain, and the blithering idiots like former Governor Palin, of the civilian authority of the Constitution.  It was a picture drawn in crayon for ease of digestion by the right, to tell our employees at the Pentagon to take their loaded options and go away and come back with some real ones. 

You reminded them, Mr. President, that Mr. Gates works for the people of the United States of America, not the other way around.  You reminded them, Mr. President, that General McChrystal is our employee, not our dictator.  You‘ve reminded them Mr. President.  Now, tonight, remind yourself. 

Stanley McChrystal.  General McChrystal has doubtless served his country bravely and honorably and at great risk.  But to date his lasting legacy will be as the great facilitator of the obscenity that was transmuting the greatest symbol of this nation‘s true patriotism, of its actual willingness to sacrifice, into a distorted circus fun-house mirror version of such selflessness. 

Friendly fire killed Pat Tillman.  Mr. McChrystal killed the truth about Pat Tillman.  And that willingness to stand truth on its head on behalf of “selling” a war, or the generic idea of America being at war, to turn a dead hero into a meaningless recruiting poster, should ring essentially relevant right now.

From the very center of a part of our nation that could lie to the public, could lie to his mother, about what really happened to Pat Tillman, from the very man who was at the operational center of that plan, comes the entire series of plans to help us supposedly find the way out of Afghanistan?  We are supposed to believe General McChrystal isn‘t lying about Afghanistan? 

Didn‘t he blow his credibility by lying, so obviously and so painfully, about Pat Tillman?  Why are we still believing the McChrystals?  Their reasons might sound better than the ones they helped George Bush and Dick Cheney fabricate for Iraq.  But surely they are just as transparently oblivious of the forest.

Half of them insist we must stay in Afghanistan out of fear of not repeating Iraq, while the other half, believing Bush failed in Iraq by having too few troops, insist we must stay in Afghanistan out of fear of repeating Iraq. And they are suddenly sounding frighteningly similar to what the Soviet generals were telling the Soviet politicos in the 1980s about Afghanistan. 

Sure, it‘s not going well.  Sure, we need to get out.  We all see that. But first let‘s make sure it‘s stabilized and then we get out. The Afghans will be impressed by our commitment and will then take over the cost of policing themselves, even though that cost would be several times their gross national product.  Just send in those extra troops, just for awhile.  Just 350,000. 

I‘m sorry, did I say 350,000?  I meant 35,000.  Must be a coffee stain on the paper.

Mr. President, last fall, you were elected.  Not General McChrystal, not Secretary Gates, not another Bushian Drone of a politician.  You.  On the Change Ticket, on the pitch that all politicians are not created equal. 

And upon arrival you were greeted by a Three Mile Island of an economy, so bad that in the most paranoid recesses of the mind one could wonder if the Republicans didn‘t plan it that way, to leave you in the position of having to prove the ultimate negative, that you staved off worldwide financial collapse, that if you had not done what you so swiftly did, that this “economic cloudy day” would have otherwise been the “biblical flood of finance.”

So, much of the change for which you were elected, sir, has thus far been understandably, if begrudgingly, tabled, delayed, made more open-ended.  But patience ebbs, Mr. President.  And while the first one thousand key decisions of your presidency were already made about the economy, the first public, easy-to-discern, mouse-or-elephant kind of decision becomes public tomorrow night at West Point at eight o‘clock. 

You know this, Mr. President: we cannot afford this war.  Nothing makes less sense to our economy than the cost of supply for 35,000 new troops.  Nothing will do more to slow economic recovery.  You might as well shoot the revivified auto industry or embrace the John Boehner Health Care Reform and Spray-Tan Reimbursement System. 

You know this, Mr. President: we cannot afford this war.  Nothing makes less sense to our status in the world than for us to re-up as occupiers of Afghanistan, and for you to look like you were unable to extricate yourself from a military Chinese Finger Puzzle left for you by Bush and Cheney and the rest of Halliburton‘s hench-men. 

And most of all, and those of us who have watched these first nine months trust both your judgment and the fact that you know this, Mr.  President: unless you are exactly right, we cannot afford this war.  For if all else is even, and everything from the opinion of the generals to the opinion of the public is even, we cannot afford to send these troops back into that quagmire for second tours, or thirds, or fourths, or fifths. 

We cannot afford this ethically, sir.  The country has, for eight shameful years, forgotten its moral compass and its world purpose.  And here is your chance to reassert that there is, in fact, American exceptionalism.  We are better.  We know when to stop making our troops suffer, in order to make our generals happy. 

You, sir, called for change, for the better way, for the safety of our citizens, including those citizens being wasted in war-for-the-sake-of-war, for a reasserting of our moral force.  And we listened. And now you must listen. You must listen to yourself. 

Good night, and good luck.

And now here‘s my very dear friend, Rachel Maddow.

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

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