updated 12/3/2009 10:38:34 AM ET 2009-12-03T15:38:34

COUNTDOWN

December 2, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, Markos Moulitsas, Michael Musto

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Afghanistan: Liberals like the withdrawal plan, don't like the troop increase. Conservatives like the troop increase, don't like the withdrawal plan.

This confuses Republicans who assumed Democrats toed the party line without thinking-like they do.

The secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chairman of Joint Chiefs testified to Senate Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: July 2011 is when we expect the transition process to begin.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Is that date conditions-based or not?

GATES: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The far-right thinks Obama should have thrown in more bloodlust, torture, and demands for victory, and it's completely forgotten he already sent 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan 28 days after he was sworn in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISOR: It took him 80-some odd days to do this. It took us 50-some odd days to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan after 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Hey, "Porky Pig," too bad you didn't do anything to keep them out of power when you quit on Afghanistan after 50-some odd days.

McCain again, against health care reform, decries Medicare cuts. The AARP has to remind him those cuts are wasteful spending, you know, like the kind of cuts he promised to make when he ran for president last year.

"Worsts": Lou the birther asks, "Who the hell does this president think he is?" He knows, Lou. You're the one who can't seem to figure it out.

And Tiger Woods apologizes for transgressions, personal failings, says he has "not been true to my values." As a message he left on another woman's voice mail surfaces.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ALLEGED TIGER WOODS' VOICE: Hey, it's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: That's the name of Rachel, the greeter at the bar in-no, Kalika, the marketing manager at the club in Vegas-no, Jaimee, the cocktail waitress in L.A.-in short, Tiger Woods continues to have problems with his putts.

All the news and commentary-now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a long way to go, plenty of holes to play.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

America's relationship with the Islamic world in Cairo, race in Philadelphia, religion and politics, especially abortion, at Notre Dame-to that list of big speeches given by-big moments by President Obama, we can now add his address on Afghanistan from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Will last night's speech be remembered for having the same impacts for having changed as many minds or any minds?

The day after the address devoted to selling the president's new plan for the conflict, including his decision to send roughly 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and his announcement that that U.S. forces would start coming home by July 2011, about 19 months from now-the Taliban responding today that President Obama's plan, quote, "will not pay off," in a statement saying a troop surge is no solution for the problems of Afghanistan and will only bring more American casualties by giving insurgents an opportunity, quote, "to increase their attacks, and shake the American economy."

General McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, telling American troops in Kandahar today that by this time next year, we'll see a level of progress. He added that the war will go on for quite a while, but he believes that it will be decided in the next year or two.

Meantime on Capitol Hill, members of the cabinet-including Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates-testifying today to both chambers of Congress. The sticking point for Republicans: not so much how to pay for the escalation, but about announcing a start date for bringing troops home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: The question is: have we locked ourselves into leaving, Secretary Clinton, in July of 2011?

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Senator Graham, I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving, but what we have done-and I think it was an appropriate position for the president to take-is to signal very clearly to all audiences that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan, we are not interested in running their country, building their nation. We are trying to give them the space and time to be able to build up sufficient forces to defend themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Of course, Democrats, meantime, like the withdrawal date, but not so much the escalation of the forces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: My fear-as is the fear of so many others-is that we could easily get bogged down in an endless war. What happens if this doesn't work? Do we-do we leave in three years, as the president stated, or do we stay longer?

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Pakistan is making progress. We've got a new president in Afghanistan. We've got the right leadership on the ground. We've got the right leadership in the embassy. That now is the time and we can actually turn this thing around. And so, I don't have an expectation that it's-that we're going to get bogged down there.

REP. BILL DELAHUNT (D-MA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: We've been there eight years now. And we're still talking about turning it around. Is 18 months going to be sufficient? What has happened over the course of eight years?

MULLEN: In my view, when you under-resource an effort for an extended

period of time, when you, in many ways, starve an effort, the impact-and

I don't just mean with forces, because we've done it with training, we've

done it intellectually, we've done diplomatically, politically, you name it

we were focused on the other war and that was the priority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Presumably, without knowing it, Admiral Mullen there preemptively eviscerating the chief complaint that arose today from another member of the Bush administration.

The former defense secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld, today's winner of the "Dick Cheney Who Asked You" trophy, for having said in a statement, quote, "In his speech to the nation last night, President Obama claimed that commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive, such a bold misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as secretary of defense, deserves a response. I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006. If any such requests occurred, repeated or not, the White House should promptly make them public.

The president's assertion does a disservice to the truth and in particular to the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought, served, and sacrificed in Afghanistan. In the interests of better understanding the president's announcement last night, I suggest that the Congress review the president's assertion."

Congress having done just that today with the testimony of Admiral Mullen this afternoon.

Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Republicans dislike parts-significant parts of this plan. Democrats dislike significant parts of this plan, obviously, for differing reasons.

If you're the White House, do you-do you rush to that-that old statement that if everybody hates it, we must be doing something right?

ALTER: I think that is probably what they're saying inside. It could have been a lot worse today. The questions on Capitol Hill were mostly quite responsible and appropriate. They're trying to flesh out the policy, and I think people who are reasonable who are trying to govern are taking a wait-and-see attitude rather than leaping on the president to pummel him from either the left or the right. It's kind, of like, let's give it one last old college try-eighteen months, and then assess where we are.

OLBERMANN: Not everybody, of course, is being as responsible as you -

as you suggest there. There were some Republican conservative talking points.

ALTER: Yes.

OLBERMANN: . here that criticize the president for being more of a follower than a leader, suggesting that this decision was more General McChrystal's than it was the president. But was it not the previous president, Mr. Bush, who made a mantra to the point of really just numbing the minds of a nation by claiming he would always listen to the commanders on the ground?

ALTER: Well, first of all, it isn't just rubber-stamping what General McChrystal said. You know, this was the product of nine two-hour meetings, where they went over this very, very carefully and they're trying to apply some real intelligence and put their eye back on the ball.

That was the problem under Bush, is that they got distracted by Iraq, they under-resourced it. What Rumsfeld said today was completely untrue. It was great to see him slam-dunked. They did not respond to what the commanders on the ground wanted. And so, they executed poorly.

And eventually, General Mullen had to fire General McKiernan and start anew at the beginning of this year.

So, we're going to see whether some basic competence works. And it might not. You know, I'm not pollyannaish about this, and I know you aren't either.

This just might not be possible because the Karzai government is not up to it. And in these situations, Keith, the weaker party calls the tune. This was true when the British had their empire, you know, was true with the Saigon regime in Vietnam.

Essentially, Barack Obama is at the mercy of Hamid Karzai. He is holding the cards. He is holding Obama's fate in his hands, this corrupt, hapless autocrat half a world away. And that is-has always been the nature of big power/smaller power relations. The smaller power calls the tune.

And-so, we have to live with that. But that doesn't necessarily mean that this will be a failure.

OLBERMANN: Back here, the issue of the Republican decrying of the timeline, they also did that with the timeline in Iraq, and this was during the Bush administration.

ALTER: Yes.

OLBERMANN: And President Bush implemented one anyway. And-I mean, correct me if I'm mistaken about this, but to this date, virtually none of the scenarios the Republicans warned would come to pass there with a timeline in place had happened. So, why are they relevant about Afghanistan after seven years, eight years of Republican neglect of Afghanistan?

ALTER: Look, everybody was wrong about Iraq. The Republicans were wrong about timelines, the Democrats were wrong in saying that the surge would fail. I was among those who didn't think the surge would work.

The advantage of time lines in Afghanistan is it puts more pressure on Karzai. You know, it's not-McCain has it exactly wrong. The concern is not that the enemy will outlast us. The concern is that the friends-our friends there won't feel the heat and we'll lose our leverage. And the best leverage we have over Karzai is that if we leave, he fails, and he gets removed from power by whoever comes next.

So we need to give him a stake in making this work. And a short time horizon is the best way to do that, as well as, essentially, adhering to the Powell doctrine, which quite sensibly says that you need an exit strategy when you get involved.

OLBERMANN: And have we had any idea yet, any measurement, any polling, any inkling of general public reaction to this yet?

ALTER: You know, I don't think we do. The polls that you would see today would be instant polls. It would not be very reliable.

It's probably not going to be popular. Look, before the speech, this was unpopular. It's very hard after eight years to come in and get people all revved up. But I do think that by explaining the history of this, by taking us back to 9/11, by essentially saying, look, Iraq was a total distraction from taking care of business after 9/11 -- the president did persuade the public that he at least deserves a little bit of time to try to make this work.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of MSNBC and "Newsweek"-as always, Jon, great thanks.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: While Republicans and conservative pundits have been twisting themselves into pretzels to oppose the president for having supported a war that they themselves have supported for eight years and going forward, support indefinitely, for Democrats and progressives, the challenge has been finding a way to reconcile three things: the escalation of war, any war, the escalation of war by this president, the escalation of war by this president even though he campaigned on promises made in an entirely different world economic condition, that he would send more troops to Afghanistan as part of his strategy to complete the U.S. mission there.

For more on that, let's turn to Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: On its front page today, the folks at "Politico" literally put a shot of Obama in the middle and-I'm sorry. It's just such a funny picture. I don't know who the guy on the right is and what is he doing there. But to make it look like these are the polls and he is in the middle, somewhere.

HAYES: Right.

OLBERMANN: ... oversimplification aside, this is-this is possible, right? You could oppose the war in Afghanistan and still support the president, generally? That's still logically possible?

HAYES: Well, of course. Yes, and, of course, it's logically possible. I mean, look, you know, even more than supporting the president, right, you and I and the magazine I write for and progressives, generally, support some sort of vision of the world that's more peaceful, and it's more equitable, it's more humane, and more sustainable, and they think the president is a good vessel to achieve that world and they're generally in agreement on those goals. And so, you know, that's basically where the kind of point of contact is.

I even think, to be totally honest, the kind of totemic power, this phrase, "support the president" has on our politics itself is an artifact to the fact that we-our politics have been very militarized.

OLBERMANN: Yes.

HAYES: . over the last eight years. It's become this kind of permanent state of war. So, we throw that term around when-you know, that's a term that real comes from a state of war which should be a state of emergency and has become normalcy. And that's part of the fundamental problem.

OLBERMANN: Is it-are we so far removed from the day when people with largely overlapping viewpoints of the world could disagree on a major issue of policy without this kind of reaction that the media-even the media specializing in covering politics-is still viewing it as, wow, a liberal has disagreed with Obama on.

HAYES: Right.

OLBERMANN: . fill in the blank. Therefore, Obama's finished and might as well resign?

HAYES: Yes. I think that one of the legacies of the Bush administration, in this respect, is the fact that there was this kind of "falling behind the leader" attitude taken on the right. Partly, I think that's sort of a function of the way the conservatives view politics, partly was a function of this kind of wartime status. And that proved to be a tragic error.

I mean, I think we can all agree on that. Conservatives and liberals and progressives that if there had been more conservatives speaking up against the Iraq war, right, that might have forestalled that disaster. I mean-so what you want is you want this kind of healthy tension in the public debate in which people kind of hue their principles and they-you know, they disagree with the people they generally agree on because that's going to create better outcomes in the future and much more than a kind of unthinking loyalty will.

OLBERMANN: This might get a little too Marcus Aurelius here-but 18 months ago, as we pointed out last night, the then-candidate Obama wrote this op-ed for "The New York Times" that basically spelled out this, what he's doing right now as his policy in Afghanistan. And it's fair, I think, to say, one opposed this, but one voted for him anyway.

HAYES: Right.

OLBERMANN: Or the world conditions, especially the economy, have hugely changed, he should change, too. But he did write this out for everybody.

HAYES: Yes.

OLBERMANN: We have it in writing. This is the point where Marcus Aurelius writes, "Hey, who's responsible for your sense of surprise, the other guy or yourself?"

HAYES: Right. That's exactly right. I mean, you can say a lot of things about this policy, that it's misguided, that it's tragic, that it's terrible. What you can't say is that this-you didn't see this coming.

I mean, he-they were clear. The Obama campaign, Obama himself:

Iraq was the bad war. Afghanistan was the good war. It had diverted ours resources to Iraq. We were going to reapply them to Afghanistan. We needed to finish the job there. That was a phrase.

So, you know, whatever sentiments people feel about this policy, and I'm deeply, deeply anxious about it and frustrated and disappointed, it's not like there's a great betrayal here. I mean, this was part of the campaign and, you know, people need to face up to that.

OLBERMANN: This is still, however, even politically, predicated on a pullout beginning on or about July 2011, with not too much of a window for delay. The latest that-it was January 2012.

What happens if, for whatever reason, that is delayed? What happens politically? What happens to the support for Obama for those people who are today saying, "I don't like this, but I still-I'm still, you know, on mostly agreement side with him"?

HAYES: Well, a lot happens-a lot depends on the facts on the ground. I mean, you know, if things inshallah get better in Afghanistan, then, you know, it might be fine. If we stick around-if suddenly, you know, we have this sort of peaceful panacea, that seems incredibly unlikely.

And the big fear-I think the fear that people on the left really have is the kind of Lyndon Johnson scenario, in which the war really does become a quagmire. You know, 18 months from now, they want more troops, and that's really, really going to hurt politically.

OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes of "The Nation," let's hope we're not talking about that in 18 months. Great thanks. Have a great night.

HAYES: I hope. Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN: Of course, as you know, Obama should be blamed and pilloried because he would not commit to an endless war in Afghanistan, even though George W. Bush vanquished the Taliban in just 50 days eight years ago. These things were said within moments of each other with no apparent realization that if both of them were indeed true, there would be no argument at all for our troops to be in Afghanistan for the next 25 minutes, let alone the next 25 months.

And the swinging and missing extends back to health care reform.

Tonight, John McCain has suddenly become the conservative's go-to senator.

Yet, for the second time in three days, he has made an extraordinary gaffe. This time criticizing Medicare cuts that are, in fact, exactly the kind of wasteful spending he vowed to cut when he ran for president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein on why on earth the Republicans have turned to John McCain as their anti-health care reform point-man when he's now screwed up twice in two trips to the Senate floor. Markos Moulitsas on Karl Rove's claim that would be hysterically funny if not for the American lives Rove have put at risk: that president Obama should have an open-ended war against an opponent that President Bush already defeated.

And later, is it live or is it Memorex? Billo isn't sure.

And as Michael Musto joins me, we have gotten the name of the movie about the Tiger Woods debacle. Caddyshack-ing up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Senate Democrats today planted a fat lump of coal in Republicans' stockings, telling Republicans they will work up through Christmas if the GOP continues to stall the health care debate.

But in our fourth story tonight: How do we know the Republicans are stalling? First hint: Republicans are now blocking a vote on their own amendment. Second hint: that amendment from John McCain defending the elderly from Medicare cuts was called out as crap today by the American Association of Retired Persons.

Republican leader, Mitchell McConnell, yesterday told Democrats he would not agree to schedule a vote on McCain's amendment which was offered on Monday.

The newspaper "Roll Call" reports the GOP maverick said he was operating at the request of his party leaders, which might explain why his amendment would eliminate almost half a trillion in cuts to Medicare that he himself has previously supported. McCain is saying, "No, that's not right," quote, "I never proposed cuts in Medicare. I proposed savings!" Which is exactly what he's opposing now.

The AARP letter is endorsing the, quote, "savings" realized by cutting the, quote, "waste, fraud, and abuse." "The legislation does reduce any guaranteed Medicare benefits," it says.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now reportedly back to looking for how he can short-circuit Republican stalling with Republican help. Democratic Senator Tom Carper has been working on an alternate version of the public option with an eye toward winning support from Maine Republican, Olympia Snowe, who has endorsed a triggered public option. Her Maine colleague, Susan Collins, told reporters yesterday, she has been in talks with Nancy Ann DeParle, the director of the White House Office of Health Reform.

Joining us now: "Washington Post" staff reporter Ezra Klein, who covers economic and domestic policy.

Good evening to you, sir.

EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Harry Reid, Tom Carper-are they in the process of eviscerating a meaningful public option so they can score an easy win with Republican help from Maine? Or are they going to get something worthwhile as a result of this and cut Joe Lieberman and maybe somebody else out of the process?

KLEIN: Well, I wouldn't call it an easy win. I don't think they would. But, you know, I think what we're seeing here is the public option being compromised into meaninglessness. I think what we're looking at from Carper-and we don't know the details yet, so I should say it's provisional-but the early reporting is that it's going to be a triggered, opt-in, non-Medicare, exchange-limited, nonprofit option.

Now, you only should have so many qualifiers on a single policy, and I think we've reached the point where we have a couple too many. So, I think what's going to come out of here is something that half the people can say, "We got a public option," and half can say, "We don't have a public option."

And I think we're tipping towards the point where the half saying we don't have a public option were actually right.

OLBERMANN: And the idea of Carper's thing is it's severed from the government. By itself, would that either pass muster with progressives, or more importantly, would it improve anything?

KLEIN: I don't think it would pass muster with progressives, but, I think, as you say, more importantly, it won't improve anything. I-you know, I think that we have hit, quite sadly, frankly, the point where you have to ask, "Is the right compromise on the public option a further compromise to the public option?" Or is it to say, OK, you want to kill this? Well, this was here to create affordability and choice, so we need $100 billion more in subsidies and we need national exchanges or any number of other compromises that you might look at.

But I think that, you know, the way they're looking at the math in the Senate right now, it's not even the Republicans from Maine. It's Ben Nelson. It's Joe Lieberman. It's, you know, Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and they're saying, "You know, we can't get this."

But they're-the compromise they're trying to work out isn't a compromise that's going to help anybody, it's a symbolic compromise. And I'm not sure that's worth fighting for.

OLBERMANN: The Republican senator, Judd Gregg, today issued a manual for his colleagues to help stall things, to help drag things out.

And tell me if I've got this wrong-but if Republicans offered no amendments, cleared the way for Reid to end the debate, move on to a vote, they would reveal the fact that Reid himself does not want to do so yet because he does not have 60 votes, no matter what we're talking about. But, instead, Republicans will conceal Reid's weakness in numbers by obstructing? How does that work to their benefit?

KLEIN: You know, their idea is they can just make as many speeches as they want. And they know, I think, that Reid can't call a vote yet, because he doesn't have Nelson on there, he doesn't have Blanche or Collins. He's got to make changes and they're going to eventually have to let him make some changes.

But you're seeing, I think, the fundamental problem for progressive politics or any politics right now, the conservatives, it may be the same issue-the Senate doesn't work. I mean, the fact that you need unanimous consent to have a vote on something, forgetting cloture, where you need 60 votes to have a vote on anything, you also have 100 people to agree to have the filibuster vote so you can agree to have a vote? I mean, we're having two votes removed now.

So, at some point, I think people have took this process and say, it doesn't just show that Republicans are being obstructionists, but it shows that something is fundamentally broken at the center of the American legislative process. What they're holding up is not the legislation. It is the process by which you make legislation.

And I don't know how long the country can go if you can't even run that correctly.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Alan Grayson may have it right, at least on the cloture vote.

KLEIN: Yes.

OLBERMANN: We may have to reduce that number again. But one seminal point to close here and I've heard different answers to this. The Republicans have said passing any health care reform would be a disaster for the Democrats politically. Then why oppose everything? Can it not be interpreted that even the Republicans think that passing something, almost anything, would ultimately work to the Democrats' benefit?

KLEIN: Yes, they're terrified. I mean, call this the "we can't touch Medicare" problem, right? You have John McCain on the floor right now saying, "You know, anything you do to Medicare, we want to strip it out." Well, Republicans opposed the creation of Medicare. Throughout their history as a party, they've tried to cut it, reform it.

Newt Gingrich said, "We want it to wither on the vine." John McCain, himself, opposed $1.3 trillion to cuts in it when he was running for president, and it's too popular. And this was their problem in '94, too. Newt Gingrich and Bill Kristol both said, "You know, if we let the Democrats pass this bill, it will re-knit the connections between the Democrats in the middle class." And so, they're just in this problem right now where it's hard to oppose this bill, because it will be popular.

What they are afraid of is not that the bill won't work, but that it will.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post"-great thanks for your insight tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: In one breath, Karl Rove has criticized the president for overlaying a 25-month timeline on our involvement in Afghanistan while boasting that President Bush toppled the Taliban in only 50 days. On top of which, if Bush truly had toppled the Taliban, we probably would have been out of Afghanistan by 2004 latest. Karl Rove rewrites history again. He can't even do that well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The Tiger or the ladies? There are three of them now, maybe four. I haven't checked in nearly 30 seconds.

First on this date, a president of the United States, in the 15th month of a profound economic dip, went to Congress and asked it to spend the equivalent of two billion dollars, in today's money, on a public works program to generate jobs and stimulate the economy. The dip was the Great Depression. The president was Herbert Hoover. And the program was Hoover's Public Economic Acceleration or stimulus plan.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Midafluorez (ph) Peru, where these happy couples are preparing for a lifetime of wedded bliss. It's a group wedding ceremony. Here's one of the blushing brides with the groom, and here comes his wife. You heard me, the groom's already married with kids. I thought the Tiger Woods story wasn't until later in the show.

Once the misses came out about his plans to wed yet once again, she rounded out a few family members and they saved their best punches for the public setting. The man left the ceremony without getting married again. And the other couples got to enjoy some free entertainment without the annoying DJ or anything like the Macarena.

Senna (ph), Germany, gutentag (ph), the Annual Santa Championships. Jolly old elves the world over put themselves through a rigorous set of tasks to determine their relative Kris Kringle-ness. Sleigh sling, gingerbread house construction, chimney toss. The event was a success, but predictably, not enough parking for all the reindeer.

Karl Rove, Orly Taitz Limbaugh, and Bill-O the Clown on Obama's Afghanistan speech; too much mature talk; not enough death, destruction and evil. Markos Moulitsas joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: No matter what your reaction to President Obama's Afghanistan speech might be tonight, you did not have to make things up in order to justify for support or your opposition. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, many on the right even managed to stick to the facts while they got another chance to endorse their favorite thing-war. The Republican National Committee applauded. Sarah Palin and William Kristol made qualified endorsements.

Of course, their success is not measured by ratings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I thought it was incoherent because his policy was in-he didn't even announce a policy other than to get out of there. This is all about satisfying-it's all political! The whole-he didn't use the word victory. He didn't talk about winning anything. He talked about bringing it to a successful conclusion. But what-what's the conclusion?!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Call it mission accomplished, Rush. The conclusion was pretty clear, actually, get as much done within the window and get out. The generals got the troops they wanted. The troops begin to come home next year. On television, Bill-O came out swinging at the president for not tearing off his shirt like Hulk Hogan last night. "You know, there wasn't a sense of urgency that you would expect from a wartime commander, saying, look, these are bad guys. We're fighting evil. He didn't define evil."

No, calling the Taliban ruthless, repressive and radical, not exactly calling them terror merchants or MFers, or whatever phrase O'Reilly would have used. Nor was calling al Qaeda, quote, "a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world's great religion, to justify the slaughter of innocents."

Then there was Karl Rove. In an all-time piece of pretzel logic, he claimed that he and his boss had defeated the enemy in Afghanistan faster than it took Obama to make a decision on Afghanistan. About fighting the guys Karl Rove and George Bush had already defeated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Look, this-it took him 80-some odd days to do this. It took us 50-some odd days to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan after 9/11. It took him 80-some odd days for him to basically say, I'm going to give McChrystal three quarters of what he requested in order to get done the job I told him to do on March 27th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Well, then Obama won't need 25 months. To Berkeley, California now, and the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas. Markos, good evening.

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILY KOS: Good evening. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: How could anybody with a satisfactory oxygen supply argue that they beat the Taliban, but eight years later, there should be an open-ended war to beat the Taliban?

MOULITSAS: Well, if you're looking for intellectual consistency with these guys, you're obviously going to be sorely disappointed. But I'll try to give it a serious answer. What happened, yes, the Taliban was knocked off in 50 days or so. But then the administration, the Bush/Cheney/Rove administration, ignored the issue, and it gave the Taliban eight years to perfect the art of asymmetrical warfare. Now the Taliban is far more effective than it ever was those early days. And it's all because of the incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush/Cheney/Rove gang.

OLBERMANN: What does it say that people like Rove essentially get what they want, what they understand, what they love, bombs and blood, and they still can't help themselves? They still have to find something to criticize and not contextually, and not contextually, but in terms of volume.

MOULITSAS: Well, I mean, I think it shows that these guys are not talking-they're not engaging in good faith. They're not good faith participants in the political process. All they want to do is criticize and delay and obstruct and say no. And whenever they deign to give advice to Democrats, I think there should be a notice that that advice isn't going to be received well. Even if Democrats accepted every bit of, quote, advice from the Republicans, they would still get criticized; they would still be accused of being un-American and all that other BS.

So, you know, if you're going to be honest about it, move forward and ignore Republicans. They're not good faith actors.

OLBERMANN: Some of the less laughable criticism and the criticism that would fall the most tenuously into that category you just described was about cost. But even there, they overplayed their hands on this. John Boehner said, use stimulus money to pay for Afghanistan. Lindsey Graham says, delay health care reform to pay for Afghanistan.

Why the need to overplay what might be, you know, at least a pair of eights in your hand so severely? I mean, why not say, we can't afford this, stop. Certainly, that would resonate with their own base sufficiently. And it would be heard, and maybe even reluctantly allied to by progressives, who are also saying, we can't afford this, period.

MOULITSAS: Well, that would assume that that criticism from Boehner and company is actually good faith criticism, like I said. I mean, they have no interest in paying for this thing. They don't care about the human cost of these wars, because it's not their children who are doing the dying and fighting and being kept from their families and children in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they don't care about the money, because it's not them, or it's not even their grandchildren who are going to be paying for these wars. It's going to be on the backs of the middle class.

so it's not an honest criticism. We've had eight years of war. We have, what, a trillion dollars-trillion dollars spent in Iraq. We've had 250 billion dollars in Afghanistan. And not once did they care. They didn't even bother putting that money in the budget. They hid it from the budget. So now they're going to claim that they're really concerned about costs? It's all nonsense.

OLBERMANN: The answers to the kind of criticism and examination that this policy, now that it's revealed in some detail, really needs; did the president answer any of those points last night, to your satisfaction?

MOULITSAS: Not to my satisfaction. But I think there's a very clear division within my world, my political side of the political divide, the base. People who want out of Iraq and people who want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt and try to fix this mess created by Bush and Cheney. I think it's almost a 50/50 split.

I think, though, that we can all agree that Obama said in a year we're going to start drawing down, and we're going to be watching carefully. We'll hold Obama to that. Because we do need to get out. If we can't do it now, if the next best option is within a year, I'll take it. But it better happen.

OLBERMANN: Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, kind of a shot across the bow. I'll second that. Great thanks.

MOULITSAS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Looks like the computer graphics whizzes of Taipei guessed correctly. Tiger Woods apologizes, won't say exactly for what. But there are now at least three rumored girlfriends in the thought bubble. Noted sports authority Michael Musto will join me.

How Bill-O has just inadvertently invoked the meltdown. He and Dobbs and Bachmann make it an all-star night for worst persons.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, more on Afghanistan.

Her guest, UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: So, to paraphrase a blogger at NBCSports.Com, I wonder if, it comes to that, if Tiger Woods will be paying the Mrs. with one of those oversized checks they give you for winning a golf tournament? Michael Musto joins me next.

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

The bronze to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has again given us stupidity gold: "the federal government now owns or controls 30 percent of the private economy. Just over a year ago, you couldn't say that. Just over a year ago, 100 of the private economy was private. Today, 30 percent is owned or controlled by the government."

Before trying to argue this with logic-the government bailed out part of the private economy that was about to go bankrupt; Ms. Bachmann's party supported it. Let's review the key part of that quote: "just over a year ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private." Just like it is now. Just like it was in the year 1449. This is akin to a statement like, today 100 percent of Michele Bachmann's problems are half-mental.

The runner-up, Lou Dobbs. Senator James Inhofe claimed that the president will "make the statement that he will commit ourselves to the emission standards that are included in the House bill on climate change, and then insisted Obama had no right to unilaterally sign a treaty in Helsinki, as if making a verbal commitment were the same thing.

And Lou went nuts. Well, more nuts. "Senator, this begs the question, if I may put it forward right now: who the hell does this president think he is?" Well, Lou, he thinks he's the president. And unlike you, who think you're an independent, and who think you're going to wind up on cNBC, and who thinks you're going to become senator from New Jersey, and believes people aren't making fun of you when they tell you that you should be president; this president appears to be, you know, sane.

But our winner, Bill-O. Made a boo-boo on his comedy hour the other day. It was the Osama Obama-a lot of us has done this. I've done it. Sometimes it's deliberate, but not in this case, I don't think. That's not what this is about. It's that Billy apparently thought he was taping his show when they were actually on the network as he spoke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Patriots on deck, tonight, starring a congressman who says-you're not going to believe it-President Bush allowed Obama-Osama-now I'm going to have to cut that again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Oh, Bill, seriously? You can't remember whether you're doing it on tape or-

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: We'll do it live! We'll do it live. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it. We'll do it live! I'll write it and we'll do it live!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Bill-O the clown, today's worst person-oh, let's cut this again, sorry. Oh, we're live? Oh, crap.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Programming note. I will be interrupting the following segment in a few moments to fulfill paragraph 17, clause three of my contract, which requires me to annually light the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Trust me, I'll be talking to Mr. Jay Pierpont Comcast about that.

On to our number one story, in which we discovered today that Tiger Woods' golf handicap is women who work at night spots. Add a Los Angeles waitress and a Las Vegas club executive to his foursome. And after apparently seeking one too many birdies, Woods today apologized on his website at length without whatever saying he was apologizing for. "I have let me family down and I regret those transgressions with all my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults. I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failure behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone."

That shot has pretty much landed in the sand trap of the reality of fame. The tabloid of record of "Life & Style Magazine" now reporting that Tiger Woods and Vegas nightclub marketing manager Kalika (ph) have hooked up a bunch of times, while "Us Weekly" found a cocktail waitress and distinguished alum of VH-1's "Tool Academy," Jaime Grubbs (ph), who claims a 31-month relationship with Woods and says she has a message, has played it, that she says is from Woods, asking her to take her name off her out-going voice mail message, that she says proves everything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, PGA GOLFER: Hey, it's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. And, what do you call it, just have it as a number on the voice mail. Just have it as your telephone number. That's it, OK? You've got to do this for me. Huge, quickly. All right, bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Or you can have a man's name on it, or maybe a nunnery. Joining me now, columnist for the "Village Voice," author of "Fork on The Left, Knife in The Back," Michael Musto. So to continue the golf analogies and the use of the warnings of the links here, fore! Good evening, Michael?

MICHAEL MUSTO, "THE VILLAGE VOICE": Hi, Keith. Can you take my name off here?

OLBERMANN: I've got a serious question to start. You know the intricacies of the media and controversies. Was this scandal necessary? If after the car accident he had not hidden, had not made up this screwy cover story, might the media have let him get away with it, especially the sports media? Which has been giving him a free pass for like 15 years.

MUSTO: Yes, the sports media still won't even say that JFK cheated. These people have given him such a free pass for so long. Tiger has made Mary Lou Retton look dangerous, and she is. Those teeth. But I would never want to hear you say, was this scandal necessary again, Keith. That is crazy talk.

OLBERMANN: OK. The specifics of this. If you're Tiger Woods, why would you leave a message on an alleged mistress's voice mail saying, hi, it's Tiger? If you're going to do that, why not just leave the message at the switchboard of "US Weekly" or better yet, "OK! Magazine?"

MUSTO: I know, it's like O.J. leaving a message, I'm coming over to cut two heads off later. See you later. It's crazy, Keith. It's so incriminating. Why not rent a dirigible, my wife's getting suspicious; could you block your name. Crazy stuff.

OLBERMANN: TMZ reported that Mrs. Tiger has called up Mrs. Grubbs. That is the Hollywood lady. And she left her a message. Where's that tape?

MUSTO: I'm sure Tiger gave it to "US Weekly." No, I don't know.

Look, he called her, or Mrs. Tiger called?

OLBERMANN: Mrs. Tiger then called and said something like, you know who my husband is because you're blanking him.

MUSTO: Well, the whole family should stop calling this woman. It's destroying their image. And they're going to have to get a bigger plan-

I think a bigger monthly plan.

OLBERMANN: That's right.

MUSTO: I'm sure Grubbs already sold that one on eBay. They don't called her Grubbs for nothing.

OLBERMANN: Three hundred text messages, they better have a good plan. TMZ reported the Woods' estate, the actual home outside Orlando, has these surveillance cameras. Oops. The police haven't seen it. Now, presumably, they'll have to. They would see what? Mrs. Tiger going all Judge Smails on Mr. Tiger?

MUSTO: No, I think you would see a whole bunch of decapitated Thanksgiving turkeys, five or six cars sinking into the mud, like in the movie "Psycho," and a long line of Vegas hostesses waiting for their hush money.

OLBERMANN: The apology today. How do you apologize for five paragraphs on your own website, without ever saying what you did, especially if the apology is next to two ads for your own merchandise. And the theme is buy more, save more.

MUSTO: I clicked on that and he's selling the phone messages. I got three for the price of two. Even Carrie Prejean-what's her name-

OLBERMANN: Carrie Prejean.

MUSTO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Oh, wait a minute. I've got to light the button. Here you go. Go!

MUSTO: You're not allowed to say that?

OLBERMANN: No, I just had to light the tree. The cue came a little early. I had to do it. I'm sorry.

MUSTO: More tax money of mine going to the Con-Ed bill. I detest cheap sentiment. Back to the important things. Carrie Prejean acknowledged her scandals as they came out ever hour, on the hour. This guy thinks if he can use the blanket term, "transgressions," that will cover it. Sorry, mister, I want details. How many hostesses? Did you tip?

OLBERMANN: And, honestly, the request in there for privacy-I can't remember who said this. It may have been a line from a movie or a baseball player told me it or something. I'm cleaning it up, but the phrase was, if you want privacy, don't go chasing cocktail waitresses.

MUSTO: I think that was in Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" or maybe it's "What Happened in Vegas." Yeah, you're right. Even weirder is Tiger put out a press release saying, give me privacy. But whatever the case, we should honor his wishes and show some him human decency and let him crash cars and cheat in private. Be decent, people.

OLBERMANN: This is certainly a different position-a kinder, gentler Michael Musto, as reflected to some degree. Don't want to see it in public? Or just private will do? You will be able to get the video later on?

MUSTO: This is just an act.

OLBERMANN: All right. Who-other than you, who is happy at these, you know, human train wrecks going on? I mean, the White House gate crashers? The kid with the-the two people with the kid and the balloon? Jon and Kate Gosselin? Governor Mark Sanford? Who's happy because Tiger Woods has sort of stepped up and taken the scandal control?

MUSTO: As you say, I'm happy. The gate crashers are really pissed because someone is crashing more than they are. But I think Governor Sanford is happy that he takes planes, because his wife can't bash the windows of a 747. Though I've seen her, maybe she can.

I think Letterman is happy. He's really behind Tiger. And, you know what, Adam Lambert is totally behind Tiger. When did I turn into Buddy Hackett?

OLBERMANN: By the way, this just in, the gate crashers say they were invited to have an affair with Tiger Woods. No, sorry. Michael Musto of the "Village Voice"-

MUSTO: Just the cocktail hour.

OLBERMANN: Thank you very much. That's COUNTDOWN for this 2,407th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, and as Tiger Woods might sign off, thanks for watching me here, playing golf's annual skins game.

Now to discuss the new troop deployments in Afghanistan with US Ambassador Susan Rice, and make the segue here for herself, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.

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

END

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