updated 9/28/2010 4:46:26 PM ET 2010-09-28T20:46:26

Guests: Ezra Klein, Howard Fineman, Heather McGhee, Paul Waldman, Ken Burns

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

Pledge this.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and $16 billion in spending cuts, and then they say we‘re going to somehow magically balance the budget.  That‘s not a serious approach.

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OLBERMANN:  As the president pounced the Republicans on the lemon of a pledge, even the GOP begins to back down.  Those weren‘t plans—they were just measurements.

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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  Once Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin to talk about potential solutions.

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OLBERMANN:  And it‘s really a pledge to nowhere.  The Economic Policy Institute with an astounding crunch of the numbers.  How many jobs would the GOP pledge kill off?

The new health care metric: The number of Americans who think we need more doubles the number who think we need none.  And why is that poll a secret?

Let‘s go to the videotape.

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CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE:  Evolution is a myth and even Darwin himself—

BILL MAHER, TV HOST:  Evolution is a myth?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  You know what?

MAHER:  Have you ever looked at a monkey?

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  Then why aren‘t monkeys still evolving into humans?

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OLBERMANN:  OK, viewer, you just do the joke here.

Sixteen years to the day after the last episode of the epic Ken Burns‘ documentary, “Baseball,” comes “Baseball: The Tenth Inning.”  New history, new commentators.

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CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN:  Baseball didn‘t truly get integrated until you had black players that sucked.

OLBERMANN:  The history of it, it is the only sport that goes forwards and backwards.

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OLBERMANN:  That guy.  My special guest: Ken Burns.

And “Worsts,” why would this former minister of justice in France just said he‘s one of the wildest things in political history.

(SPEAKING FRENCH)

OLBERMAN:  Oh la la.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

With just 36 days until the midterm elections, what if the new governing agenda from the party that wants to assume power appeared to be irresponsible?

In our fifth story, President Obama says the GOP‘s “Pledge to America” is not serious.  While House Democrats still have the chance to lock down the difference between themselves and Republicans on tax cuts for the rich and the middle class with Minority Leader John Boehner daring them to do just that.

President Obama, first, characterizing the pledge could have been speaking to the deficit hypocrites within the opposition.

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OBAMA:  What I‘m seeing out of the Republican leadership over the last several years has been a set of policies that are just irresponsible and we saw in their “Pledge to America” a similar set of irresponsible policies.  They say they want to balance the budget.  They propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and $16 billion in spending cuts, and then they say we‘re going to somehow magically balance the budget.  That‘s not a serious approach.

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OLBERMANN:  As for criticism that pledge is not new and the confession of the third ranking House Republican.

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REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  What we have in this proposal is not necessarily new.  The idea of fiscal responsibility policies, openness and transparency in government, are solid American ideas.  What Republicans are committing to in this “Pledge to America” is taking important first steps in this Congress to steer our national government back to those basic practices.

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OLBERMANN:  Those pledge explainers, like not necessarily new and first steps, doing little, despite support from the so-called insurgents the GOP so desperately needs.  The Maine state coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots is calling the pledge, quote, “a mealy-mouthed sop to the Tea Party movement that is rife with platitudes and little on substance.”  From Tea Party Nation, quote, “A nice PR piece but I don‘t think it is even showing up on our radar.”

Conservatives on the Sunday talk show circuit were equally critical.  But today, the House minority leader was occupied with the top about which the public sides with Democrats, tax cuts for the rich.  Although Boehner put it this way, “If Democratic leaders leave town without stopping all the tax hikes, they are turning their backs on the American people.  Adjourning the Congress without a vote to stop all the tax hikes will be a vote to raise taxes on the American people and destroy jobs.”  He failed to mention that Republicans passed those tax cuts 10 years ago with a built-in expiration date this year.

Mr. Boehner also demanded that Democrats vote on taxes without using the suspension procedure.  Suspension in the House would require a two-thirds vote—more on that in a moment.

Meantime, regarding the Senate‘s failure to vote on taxes before the midterms, Senator Dick Durbin on what he sees as simple math.

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SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  I can count, and I know you can, too.  We have 59 Democrats and not a single Republican in the Senate supports our position that we need to do something that‘s responsible to reduce our deficit, but also to help middle income families bring us out of this recession.  Look at the two major issues—

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST:  Why will that be different after the election?

DURBIN:  Well, I hope it will be different.  Occasionally, one Republican will break ranks and help us.  You know, what it gets down to is we can count, and we know we don‘t have 60 votes for our tax position.  We want to basically say after the election when we still face a deadline, by the end of the year, we‘ll take up all these tax issues.

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OLBERMANN:  However, immediately after the election, the terms of three appointed senators expire from the states of Illinois, West Virginia, and Delaware.  If Republicans win any of those seats and are seated immediately as expected, then the Republican filibuster would be harder to overcome.

And there is another issue with which Democrats might want to come to grips sometimes before the midterms: the popularity of their health care reform law.  A recent poll looks like a strong plurality opposes the law, 23 percent of the opposers think the law did not go far enough, 20 percent opposed only a few changes.

Finally, today, President Obama signed into law what may be the last item Democrats passed before the midterm elections, the small business package, which includes tax cuts as well as provisions to make loans more availability.

Let‘s turn first to “Washington Post” staff writer, “Newsweek” magazine columnist and MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein.

Ezra, good evening.

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  How are you, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  The topic tax cuts for the middle class, tax cuts for the rich—the audience is the House Democratic leaders.  What should they be hearing that they don‘t seem to be?

KLEIN:  Well, they should be hearing vote, but the reality is that the House Democratic leaders see much more willing to take a chance on it than Senate leaders.  You heard Dick Durbin saying earlier that they can count to—they can do the math and they don‘t have the votes.

But you mentioned this in your preamble here, I‘m much, much more worried about it when they come back from the election and they may have three fewer seats than they currently do and that‘s just in the lame duck session.

So, right now, we‘re still hearing the House is a little bit uncertain, maybe leaning towards not voting.  But the reality, the House isn‘t going to vote if the Senate definitely isn‘t going to vote.  They don‘t want to be hanging out there without any—without any backup.

So, there is something, and there always is, with the House and the Senate where they got to hold hands and jump together.  And right now, the Senate is refusing to hold hands.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve discussed the notion in the House that the speaker might have a strategic motivation to bring up these tax votes under the suspension process which requires a two-thirds.  Boehner spoke out against that today.

Is he admitting that he fears the possibility that it would be employed?

KLEIN:  Yes.  I mean, I think they do fear it.  It‘s an odd procedure and I do sort of wonder how the Democrats would go along with it.  So, a suspension requires two-thirds vote and what you would be doing and it would be the first time I‘ve really ever seen any of them do this, would be, instead of trying to get the number of votes you need down as Democrats did in reconciliation, you‘d be getting the number of votes you need up so that more Democrats would cross over and vote for the Bush tax cuts for the rich but they still wouldn‘t pass while the Democrats plus Republicans voting for the Bush tax cuts for the middle class would get through.

Somehow, I have trouble seeing it happening.  But if it does, it would be quite a way to end the session.

OLBERMANN:  Turning to this other subject, it would be hard to believe last week, looking ahead, the GOP “Pledge to America” would continue to gain traction for reasons that the GOP could not possibly have wanted.  It‘s been criticized from both ends of things.

Have Democrats actually been handed something that they can pick apart from now until the 2nd of November?

KLEIN:  Very much.  We‘ve talked before about how the difficulty in any election is for the governing party making things a choice between two parties on the referendum, just on them in the economy.

And the GOP‘s pledge made specific.  What is the GOP going to do when they govern?  And the answer was they‘re going to massively increase the deficit.  They‘re going to do tax cuts for wealthy folks.  They‘re going to do roll back the whole health care bill.  They‘re going to do a bunch of other things that don‘t really make a ton of sense.

And amidst all of that, there‘s not going to be any serious fresh thinking about what the economy should look like after one of the greatest economic disasters in our history.

So, faced with that, you know, the Americans who didn‘t love the GOP to begin with are, you know, are a little bit confused.  The Democrats feel like they got a target, but it isn‘t enough.  They do really have to end this session governing well.  And right now, watch them sort of whiffle on the Bush tax cuts does not inspire confidence in either their base or anyone else.

OLBERMANN:  Rolling back health care reform, apart from the fact that would require a veto-proof majority for the Republicans, the highly popular provisions of the law now going into effect, some of them maybe even in that Republican pledge that they would be retained, although they don‘t offer any way to pay for the ones, even the ones they like, and this new polling which looked fairly dire actually shows that there are more people who think the thing didn‘t go far enough, not that went too far.

Should—are any Democrats running on their own success in health care policy?

KLEIN:  A couple of them actually are.  We‘ve begun to see ads coming up on it.  And, you know, what they do and this is smart, it‘s what they need to do, the whole health care reform has always been unpopular.

But all the component parts have always been very popular, the pre-existing conditions.  And that‘s pretty much a Republican strategy and their pledge, right?  We will do these component parts but we‘re not going to do the thing you call the Obamacare bill.

And so, it‘s smart for Democrats to run on the pieces of it and, much more to the point, force Republicans to say which ones they‘ll keep and how.  But so far, they‘ve had trouble doing it because at the end there, the Republicans get to be in this position with yes, health care reform, but we‘re not going to tell you how, where Democrats have to defend sort of every piece of theirs.

But, as you say, the consensus in this country is for health care reform.  Republicans come in and have to answer what‘s going to happen if they have to turn it all back and have to replace it with nothing.  I think it‘s going to be a lot more difficult for them.

OLBERMANN:  Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post”—as always, great thanks, Ezra.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Political mechanics now.  Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman of “Newsweek,” soon to be senior political editor at “The Huffington Post.”

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The vote on extending tax cuts for the middle class and also for the wealthy—is the House going to punt?  Is it—is it not dead yet?  Is it any clearer today than it was last week?

FINEMAN:  Well, as of a little while ago when I was talking to some of my sources on the Hill, Keith, I‘d say it‘s comatose.  I think Nancy Pelosi would like to do it.  I think some of the political leaders in the House on the Democratic side would like to try to do it.  I know here in Pennsylvania—I‘m in Philadelphia tonight—here in Pennsylvania, Representative Joe Sestak, who‘s running for the Senate, would very much like to do it.  He thinks it would—it would play here.

But there‘s some conservative Democrats who don‘t want to do it, and as Ezra Klein says, without the cooperation of the Senate, the House doesn‘t want to go first in part because some of those Blue Dog Democrats are still angry that they were made by the White House to vote for the cap-and-trade environment bill a year ago, at least that‘s their excuse and they‘re sticking to it.

OLBERMANN:  The sort of admission, semi-admission by Minority Leader Boehner that he seems a little worried that Pelosi might bring the vote through in the House using suspension, the two-thirds.  Is that resonating to any degree from what you‘re hearing?  And is there, in fact, a serious approach from the Democrats to do it that way?

FINEMAN:  It sounds possible.  Again, not entirely likely, I don‘t think.  I think it would be a smart thing for the Democrats to do if they were brave, but that would require them to be brave on this issue and have a positive attitude towards it from the beginning.  You don‘t get anything in politics unless you risk something.  This, I think, would require—call the Republicans‘ bluff.  It would take 60 Republican—approximately 60 Republican votes to bring it up under suspension.

If John Boehner says he wants to vote for it, why not call his bluff on it?  But I don‘t hear a ferment to do it right now.  Maybe they‘ll try it the next few days.  But that‘s not the basic sense that I get.

OLBERMANN:  And swinging back to health care reform—the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Mr. Van Hollen, is disputing the idea that the Democrats are not talking about their health care reform success.  But, really, are they—are they doing this to a greater degree even than Republicans continue to talk about it in terms of the parts they would keep?

FINEMAN:  No.  Again, Ezra is right.  The Republicans are hammering the whole thing as a giant exercise in big government, but the Democrats aren‘t plucking out and running on in any consistent and high-profile way the things that they could argue are good about it—like the fact that kids under 26 can be on their parents‘ plan, like the fact that pre-existing conditions are no longer a bar to coverage, like the fact that there‘s no limitations on coverage now.  These are things that Democrats could challenge the Republicans to oppose.

Why there aren‘t TV ads talking about this up and down and all across the country, I don‘t know.

Here in Pennsylvania, Sestak‘s talking about it but it‘s not his number one issue on the campaign trail—jobs is the number one issue.  It seems like the Democrats don‘t really want to use a lot of political capital on this.  And, once again, if you don‘t use it, you‘re not going to get anything out of it.

OLBERMANN:  Well, and not only that, but there is something to the old cliche about at the end of the day, some porcelain must be broken if you‘re going to get anybody‘s attention to anything.  The politics is to some degree, if it‘s only the clash of ideas, it should at least be that, and the Democratic idea seems to be—let‘s just see if we can tiptoe past this election without anybody noticing the bad things or the good things.

Certainly, there‘s a way where you could just emphasize the good things, isn‘t there?  Or am I asking too much from politicians?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think so.  I mean, that‘s what—Bill Clinton was a master at, plucking out the particulars and selling them in an unemotional way.  Don‘t start with the philosophy.  Start with the kitchen table particulars.  Bill Clinton was really good at it.

In Pennsylvania here, Pat Toomey, the Republican, is a Club for Growth Republican.  He wants to get rid of the whole law.  He wants to, you know, cut taxes.  He‘s the pure thing on the conservative side.

Sestak, I think, would be wise to do an ad saying, OK, Representative Toomey, which parts of the health care law that has gone into effect right now do you want to deny the voters of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia?

OLBERMANN:  Well, these Democrats are not—are not plucking out. 

They‘re plucking off at the moment.

MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, in this transition period between—

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sort of loosening you up for “Huffington Post.”

FINEMAN:  OK.  Thank you very much.  I need it.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve been loosened.  Thank you, Howard.

Apparently, when the GOP made that pledge, it forgot to mention how many people would lose their jobs if those policies were enacted.  Astonishing calculations—next.

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OLBERMANN:  The rhetoric over the GOP pledge is all well and good on both sides.  The numbers from the Economic Policies Institute, though, are astounding.  You may not believe just how many jobs his pledge would eliminate.

She said there was no evolution because monkeys were not turning into people as she watched.  I thought the reverse.  Has she ever seen that?

His last baseball documentary got PBS its highest ratings ever.  His next baseball documentary premieres tomorrow night.  On the other hand, I‘m in it.

And this is a tombstone in a private, tiny Muslim cemetery on private land in Upstate New York.  What local town leaders want to do to the dead bodies here, you will not believe.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  We told you the number crunchers at EPI, the Economic Policy Institute, have come up with the first estimate of just how many jobs this country would lose under Republican economic policy.

But in our fourth story tonight before we reveal that number, we‘re going to show you our math first because it‘s fun.

House Republican Leader Boehner says he has a two-pronged approach:

freeze tax rates where President Bush left them and freeze spending except for national security where President Bush left that.

So, what will this do to the economy?  It ain‘t good.

Here‘s how it works.  Job creation is generally tied to gross domestic product, GDP, basically how much money the country makes.  Renewing those Bush tax cuts for the rich would do some good for the GDP.

But the problem is, tax cuts for the rich are the worst way to boost the GDP and create jobs, giving less bang for the buck than any other method.  The tax cuts, EPI says, would boost next year‘s GDP by just $12.2 billion.

And the spending cuts?  Boehner would reduce spending levels to 2008 levels—meaning, a 23 percent cut in spending on infrastructure, on roads, on bridges, on government workers, on teachers, on scientists and so on.  Obviously, paying salaries to workers creates more jobs than helping rich people stuff their savings accounts full of dough.

So, using Congressional Budget Office formulas, the EPI calculates that Boehner‘s spending cuts would cut the gross domestic product by $183.2 billion.

Now, prepare for math -- $12.2 billion gained minus $183.2 billion equals $171 billion.  One hundred and seventy billion dollars lost from America‘s gross domestic product.  That is a 1.1 percent drop from next year‘s estimated GDP.

And remember I told you that GDP is tied to jobs?  The rate is roughly 1 million jobs for every 1 percent GDP.  So, the 1.1 percent drop in GDP from the Republican economic plan would cost America 1.1 million jobs.

But wait, you say, when the Bush cuts were passed in 2001, in 2003, job creation took off, didn‘t it?  Well, Republicans say that uncertainty about tax rates holds back hiring.  In December of 2000, it became certain that George W. Bush would become president and would get to pass some form of the tax cuts he had campaigned on.

But the unemployment rate went from 3.9 percent, the month he was appointed by the Supreme Court, to 4.2 percent after his appointment removed all that uncertainty.

In fairness, the tax cuts did not actually become law until June 2001 when unemployment had risen to 4.5 percent.  So, how many jobs did the tax cuts create when they were signed actually into law?  Unemployment rose to 4.6 percent the next month, 4.9 percent the month after that and then 5 percent, 5.3 percent, 5.5 percent.

But what about his second round of tax cuts signed into law in May of ‘03 when unemployment had risen to 6.1 percent?  It rose to 6.3 percent the next month.

In all the years of his presidency, the unemployment rate dropped only below 4.5 percent when Mr. Bush signed his first tax cuts into law.  In just four months, dropping to 4.4 percent four times in 2006, in the middle of the housing boom.

Let‘s turn now to Heather McGhee, Washington director of Demos, a nonpartisan policy think tank.

Once again, thanks for your time tonight.

HEATHER MCGHEE, DEMOS:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That analysis, saying that certain amount of spending cuts equals another certain amount of jobs lost.  In this case, 1.1 million jobs lost if the Republicans got their way in this pledge.  Does that sound right to you?  And if it does, can you explain why those jobs would be lost?

MCGHEE:  Absolutely.  That was a really important contribution that the Economic Policy Institute made today and I think it really goes to show you the peril of what happens when politicians start legislating talking points instead of actual policies.  Since the Reagan era, you‘ve had the Republican mantra, the sort of bumper sticker being: cut taxes, cut spending.  And that‘s what the Boehner plan would do: cut taxes and cut spending.

Unfortunately, we‘re in the middle of a jobless recovery from the deepest recession we‘ve had since the Great Depression.  Corporations are sitting and hoarding trillions of dollars in cash and they‘re not hiring.  The banks, which are sitting on trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve, are not lending.  States are in the red.  So, they‘re not—because of the housing crisis—so they‘re not able to increase demand.

The federal government has to increase demand and we know, economic data shows from the CBO and all outside commentators that if you have government spending of the type that the Obama plan would do, infrastructure, research, education and energy, you get $1.75 in economic output for every dollar that you spend.  Unfortunately, tax cuts, which are at the core of the Boehner plan, actually are more expensive than they are productive in the economy.

OLBERMANN:  Republicans live on that mantra, tax cuts equals job creation.  Is it not only not true, but is the reverse actually true?  Can tax cuts hurt job creation?

MCGHEE:  In this instance, they absolutely can, particularly because we‘re talking about the Bush tax cuts, which, as we know, the vast majority went to the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans.

Now, if I‘m a working and middle class person who is living paycheck to paycheck, I spend every dollar that I can hold on to.  I spend it on groceries.  I spend it on my kids‘ books.  I spend it on gas for the car—

I immediately through-put that, as we say, out into the economy.

If I‘m a millionaire or billionaire, I, as you said, Keith, sock it away.

And so, the problem using tax cuts as a stimulus is that it‘s far too expensive and it ties the government‘s hands to do the more effective form of stimulus, such as infrastructure spending.

OLBERMANN:  If it is clear, though, that tax cuts that are at best most expensive and the least effective way to create jobs, why are Democrats insisting on extending any of these tax cuts even if it‘s to people in the middle class?

MCGHEE:  Yes.  I think that‘s a really good question, Keith.  And I think, to answer it, we have to look back at the inequalities in the tax code right now.  In 2005, “The New York Times” did a study of what all the Bush tax cuts meant for the richest and middle class and lower class Americans, and found that because of the Bush tax cuts, the 400 richest households in America were paying the same share of income, on their federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes as Americans making $50,000 to $70,000.

OLBERMANN:  Heather McGhee—

MCGHEE:  The 400 richest households were making—were paying the same taxes, the same share in taxes as those in the middle class.  And so, the middle class and tax cuts for the low income folks are really what we need to be investing in.

OLBERMANN:  Heather, great thanks for your time.  Heather McGhee, the director the D.C. office of Demos.

MCGHEE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The pyramids, the great library at Alexandria, Al Capone‘s vault, all of them, all the supposed great stories units of history plundered, empty, echoing only with dust, until the Bill Maher video vault.  Another Christine O‘Donnell tape has emerged.  Her proof that there is no evolution—ahead.

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OLBERMANN:  Christine O‘Donnell and the Monkeys.  That‘s ahead, first the sanity break.  Once again, we turn to Andy Borowitz of “The Borowitz Report” for the Tweet of the day.  “Christine O‘Donnell‘s philosophy can be summed up as don‘t read, don‘t know.”  Hoping she can get expelled for violating it, doubting she‘ll violate it. 

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Chicago, where correspondent Dorothy Tucker is finishing up her piece on bed bugs with what we in the TV business like to call the on air tag.  Apparently, the woman in the background is not familiar with how television works.  Here‘s a tip, when the light goes on, the camera‘s live.  Hello.  Yes, the latest example of on air (INAUDIBLE).  Sometimes with a live TV, you get caught in an embarrassing moment.  And sometimes see how the station picks its local news. 

Constano (ph), France, Bonjour.  And a boat made of chocolate.  There‘s no earthly way of knowing which direction they are going, for the rowers keep on rowing and they‘re certainly not showing any signs that they‘re slowing.  OK, there aren‘t any really rowers there, and the boat is not doing a good job of what you would call floating. 

They made it as far as they could before the boat sank.  But where are the Umpa Lumpas?  Wasn‘t somebody taking the Umpa Lumpas? 

Finally, it‘s time for what you‘ve all been waiting for, Moroccan soccer highlights.  You may remember two weeks ago, we introduced you to the FAR Rabat keeper, Khali Asri (ph), who made that save on the penalty kick and then saw the biscuit go into the basket while he was celebrating his own wonderfulness. 

Well, look who‘s back.  Mr. Asri is the victim of what I‘m told is a bad first touch.  The easy goal right there.  But instead of pounding his chest, he decides to expose said chest.  When a few teammates make a lame attempt to stop him, Khali runs off the field and into the locker room.  Even Lee Elia thought he over-reacted.  And time marches on. 

How to defeat the Tea Party: keep them talking.  Keep playing those Christine O‘Donnell videotapes.  Next.

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OLBERMANN:  The latest from the Christine O‘Donnell archive reveals that she is more of a mainstream Republican than originally thought, perhaps.  Our third story, falling in line with the majority of the GOP, O‘Donnell says evolution is made up. 

But in a fresh new twist, Miss O‘Donnell argues that if evolution was real, we‘d all be able to head on down to the nearest zoo and watch monkeys turn into people while you wait. 

True to his word, HBO host Bill Maher releasing another clip of Delaware‘s Republican nominee for Senate, explaining her world view from his old ABC show “Politically Incorrect.”  We take you back now to 1998. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM DELAWARE: 

Evolution is a myth and even Darwin himself—

BILL MAHER, “REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  Evolution is a myth?  Have you ever looked at a monkey? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, then why aren‘t they—why aren‘t monkeys still evolving into humans? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Perhaps O‘Donnell was just clarifying comments she had made two years earlier in a debate with an evolutionary biology professor on CNN.  O‘Donnell was then asked to lend her expertise on the subject matter as a member of the right wing Christian group Concerned Women For America. 

Her main concern, quote, “too many people blindly accepting evolution as fact.”  Despite that, O‘Donnell generously offered that evolution might be taught in schools in addition to creationism, because if you teach them together, quote, “then it is not the establishment of religion.”  After all, quote, “evolution is also based on a set of belief systems, i.e. a religion, and that‘s secular humanism.” 

O‘Donnell also alleged that DNA is linked to God.  And citing the well known journal scientific journal “The Book of Genesis,” O‘Donnell pointed out “God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods, and there‘s just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.” 

She also challenged the merits of carbon dating—well, pushes against dating of all kinds.  Oh, Carbon.  “They use carbon dating as an example to prove that something is millions of years old.  We had the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens.  And carbon dating test that they used then would have to then prove that these were hundreds of millions of years younger.  When what happened was they had the exact same results on the fossils and canyons that they did on the test that was supposedly 100 millions of years old.  It‘s the kind of inconsistent tests like this that they‘re basing their facts on.” 

As “New York Magazine” reports, O‘Donnell based her facts on tests run by the Institute for Creation Research, whose credo is “Biblical, accurate, certain.”  The website posts such recent intensive articles like “Water Flea Study Inadvertently Fits Genesis Mandate” and “Even Bacteria Seem to Follow Golden Rule.” 

Joining me now is (INAUDIBLE) show business morning—never follow children or an animal act or performing bacteria, the senior correspondent for “American Prospect Magazine,” co-author of “Free Ride, John McCain and the Media,” Paul Waldman.  Paul, good evening. 

PAUL WALDMAN, “AMERICAN PROSPECT”:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  When the “I dabbled in witchcraft” clip was released, O‘Donnell and her camp got to it right away, addressed it right away.  She has remained silent and they have remained silent on this.  Is that an admission that this is still her evolution, and there‘s been no evolution on her position on evolution? 

WALDMAN:  Well, this kind of thing is really—whether you‘re talking about her belief that scientists have created mice with fully functioning human brains or her apparent belief that your average chimp is a member of the X-Men, that‘s really the last thing in the world that Christine O‘Donnell wants to be talking about. 

Everyone on both sides understands that the number one priority for voters right now is jobs and the economy.  And Christine O‘Donnell is kind of riding this Tea Party tiger, even though that‘s not really where she comes from.  Her career has been built on the conservative culture war. 

So the thing that she does not want to talk about is all those things that she spent the last 20 years talking about.  What she would be on much safer ground talking about is just that the economy is really bad and we need change.  If she gets pulled into this culture war stuff, it‘s not very good for her.  So chances are she‘ll just be hoping that it goes away. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it a plus for her in Delaware?  Do we have any idea how they feel about evolution in Delaware?  Or is this some idea that she would be making decisions potentially on scientific issues of concern to voters there? 

WALDMAN:  Well, that may be troubling to you and me.  But one of the things that‘s going to happen regardless of whether the Democrats hold on to the House and regardless of what happens in any individual race, is we‘re going to see a pretty significant increase in the size of the Congressional Wing Nut Caucus. 

You know, we may look at people like Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann and find them alternately amusing and horrifying.  But there are going to be a lot more people like them in Congress.  And the GOP, as the Tea Party is kind of taking over it, it‘s becoming simultaneously more radical and also dumber.  And I think that‘s what we‘re going to see in the coming Congress with the sort of new incarnation of the Republican party. 

OLBERMANN:  I appreciate that I‘m probably asking for a kind of consistency that is not requisite on that side of the equation.  But Sharron Angle recently belittled insurance mandates for illness that was classified under autism and she used air quotes.  By embracing candidates who are rejecting science and medicine and, I don‘t know, the formula that goes into H-2O, can the tea party continue to claim that it‘s only about small government, that all the other issues are irrelevant?  Or are they suddenly getting big, crazy tent on their supporters? 

WALDMAN:  Yes, they can try to claim that and that they‘re sort of anti-establishment and they‘re against establishment Republicans as well as establishment Democrats.  But what you see whenever they get into the details of those issues is that they‘re really just extremely conservative Republicans.  On health care, the provision that she was objecting to is something that is going to take effect in 2014, where there are going to be certain kinds of conditions that insurance companies are going to have to cover. 

Right now, for instance, they treat having a uterus as a pre-existing condition.  And a lot of plans don‘t cover any kind of maternity care.  Well, when you start speaking out against the Affordable Care Act, which will change that, all of a sudden that kind of view is not so popular.  But that is sort of what the view is on the extreme right.  And that‘s where the Tea Party really is, despite all the rhetoric that they‘re just concerned about deficits and the size of government. 

OLBERMANN:  They will get every vote from everybody exactly like them.  But the more they talk, the fewer people exactly like them there are.  Paul Waldman, senior correspondent with “The American Prospect,” thank you again, Paul. 

WALDMAN:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  How to make a Ken Burns documentary about things that happened exclusively in the video age, on the eve of “The Tenth Inning.”  We‘ll ask Ken Burns. 

This is the former minister of justice in France.  She lost that job because they thought she wasn‘t that serious and kind of was show busy and sexy.  That was before she made this amazing blooper.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, why Democrats are too scared to run a national campaign this midterm season.

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OLBERMANN:  On the eve of the premier of “Baseball, the Tenth Inning,” My special guest, its maker Ken Burns.  That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches—in stores a month from now—times for tonight‘s Worst Persons in the World. 

The bronze to Rasheda Dati (ph), the former justice minister of France.  She made a bit of a boo-boo o in a television interview about the economy.  All you really need to know before seeing this is there are two words in French and English that are nearly identical.  Plus, those two words sound like each other as well.  One is the word inflation (ph), which means inflation.  And the other one is fellation (ph), which doesn‘t. 

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OLBERMANN:  The translation into English of the full quote was “when I see some of them looking for returns of 20 or 25 percent when a time when fellatio is close to zero, and in particular in a slump, that means we are destroying businesses.”  Vive la France. 

Our runner up, Chris Wallace of Fox PAC.  On his Sunday pretend news interview show, he selects a power player of the week.  This week it was Nick Ayers (ph), executive director of the Republican Governors‘ Association.  Mr. Wallace complimented Mr. Ayers because he, quote, “has built the RGA into the biggest political committee in town, which, at the end of June, had more than 40 million dollars cash on hand.” 

Mr. Wallace said this without the slightest smidgen of irony or self-awareness, considering that one million of that 40 million, the largest individual donation so far, was made by Fox PAC, which Mr. Wallace seems to think is some sort of television news organization. 

But our winner, Bob McCarthy, town supervisor of Sydney, New York.  That‘s in Delaware County.  And he has just set some sort of record for Islamo-phobia.  About 30 Muslims live in a 450 acre farm area there.  Town Supervisor McCarthy is trying to get the town attorney to sue that little community and force it to dig up the bodies of a handful of Muslims who are buried there. 

To quote him, “they just came in and buried the bodies and didn‘t go through—there‘s no funding there.  It‘s not a standard kind of deal.  It‘s going to be a liability to the town.” 

McCarthy adds, “I don‘t know what the exact law is.”  In fact, there is no law.  No local or state laws cover cemeteries on private land.  Plus, the city of Sydney approved that cemetery on private land five years ago.  And state troopers have been there to confirm everything is above board.  And the town government of Sydney, New York wants the graves desecrated and the dead Muslims exhumed because the burials didn‘t break any laws and were already approved. 

Maybe they are Muslim zombies just waiting for the cue to jump out of the ground and do something terrible to that prime target of Sydney, freaking New York.  I mean, it is only 38 miles from Binghamton.  Sydney, New York town supervisor Bob McCarthy, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In September 1994, the Montreal Expos, the remnants of which are the Washington Nationals, had just finished a strike shortened season with the best record in the game.  Barry Bonds was well over 500 home runs away from Hank Aaron‘s all time record.  And to date, the most famous Major Leaguer from the island of Japan was pitcher Masinori Mashimor Khabi (ph). 

In our number one story, tomorrow night, Ken Burns and Lynn Novak‘s baseball documentary resumes on PBS with “The Tenth Inning,” with one dispassionate observer calling the effort “the finest television program ever made.” 

Ken Burns joins me in a moment.  “The Tenth Inning‘s” premier will span two nights.  Top of the inning tomorrow; the bottom of the tenth on Wednesday.  The documentary explores everything from the ‘94 strike to the rise in prominence of international players in the majors.  The highlights, perhaps, interviews with a warm, erudite Pedro Martinez and wry, and usually microphone reluctant Ichiro Suzuki. 

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OLBERMANN:  Between the lines, Burns chronicles the rise of the Braves in the early ‘90s, the Yankees in the late ‘90s, the curse of the Bambino, forever broken by the Red Sox in 2004, which gave them less to complain about.  The film also deals with the inescapable issue of performance enhancing drugs.  Mr. Burns getting interviews on the subjects of PEDs from primary sources like Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and fans, such as the comedian Chris Rock. 

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CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN:  People get upset.  Who in the whole country wouldn‘t take a pill to make more money at their job?  You would.  Hey, there‘s a pill and you‘re going to get paid like Steven Spielberg; you would take the pill.  You just would. 

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OLBERMANN:  I‘m joined by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.  “Baseball, The Tenth Inning” premieres tomorrow night on PBS.  And that cup was not for water.  We‘re going to do some testing for both of us. 

KEN BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER:  Cheers. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  Your standards for doing these series have been pretty consistent over the years.  It‘s a part of America that allows us to see the whole of America in microcosm.  What about baseball in the last 16 years tells us about the country in the last 16 years? 

BURNS:  What doesn‘t?  I mean, you know, from money—deregulation—deregulation, which was so rampant in the ‘90s, allowed the steroids to flood.  It allowed the players to do whatever—to take whatever they wanted without—with impunity and without any worry of punishment. 

Everything is there.  We live in a pharmacological culture, as Chris Rock was saying.  We give our kids pills to do better in school and everything else.  This is all part of who we are.  The sociologist Jacques Barzington (ph) said if you want to know the heart and soul of America, study baseball.  And sometimes that heart and soul isn‘t so pleasant.

But I think the good news in “The Tenth Inning” is that despite all this stuff, despite the strike, despite the steroids, this is still the greatest game ever invented, and the resilience of the game is the real star of “The Tenth Inning,” how despite everything, just like in every other decade, where people were saying, oh, baseball is washed up, gambling is dangerous, absence of African-Americans, pay under the table—there was a complaint in our first inning that, you know, oh, they don‘t play baseball the way they used to.  That was 1858.  That‘s your amphetamines.

Free agency was going to kill it.  Collusion was going to kill it.  The strike was going to kill it.  Steroids is going to kill it.  Steroids is now in our rear-view mirror.  It hasn‘t killed it and nothing will. 

OLBERMANN:  With this one, you literally start in a different place.  Explain that, because it is—with the American theme of all of your work, it truly is a departure. 

BURNS:  As you remember in the first nine episodes, nine innings, after a little prologue, we began everything with the Star Spangled Banner, which is how all games should begin.  The last words of the Star Spangled Banner are,  apparently, “play ball.” 

And we chose to go to the Dominican Republic to see these kids who are playing barefoot in back alleys with two by twos instead of a bat, throwing a rag around, no mitts, running around with this sort of essential joy about this game that we love so much, that isn‘t running down a field or a gridiron or on a rink or in a court, but this wonderful great game which they get.

And the siren song that‘s going to move them off that island, I think, is the Star Spangled Banner and the promise, both real and bittersweet, that they will eventually get to the Major Leagues, and lift themselves and, by extension, their whole country out of the abject poverty that they live in. 

OLBERMANN:  Your style traditionally—not exclusively, but traditionally heavy on making the most you can and the most imaginative use you could of still photographs.  Certainly “The Civil War,” much of “Baseball,” a lot of “The War,” Second World War documentary, a lot of “Jazz.”  How did you stay true to your own vision of what a documentary film should be in an era that is entirely recorded on videotape from six different angles each shot? 

BURNS:  Exactly, and we had to edit that.  There‘s a tyranny of choice there , just as there‘s a tyranny of no choice, say, in “The Civil War,” where there‘s not a single old photograph of the actual battles, so you had to sort of re-create and do it.  What we did is we kept what you just said, the DNA is still about that individual images, the ability to convey complex information. 

And while we have the great cooperation of MLB, which helped us at every turn and gave us this footage, and let us, you know, see all the different camera angles, we return again and again to a photograph that would anchor you, I think, in meaning, as well as illustration.  You don‘t want to just merely illustrate.  You also want to have meaning, where one-and-one, word and image don‘t always add up to two, but sometimes to three, because that‘s what we want.  We want that strange and improbable calculus in our lives. 

OLBERMANN:  Who is the breakout commentator this time?  And who is your Shelby Foot or your Buck O‘Neal?  I‘m thinking Marcos Breton or Howard Bryant or Pedro Martinez. 

OLBERMANN:  Pedro is so surprising.  We did an unbelievable interview with him and Ichiro and Joe Torre.  They‘re all great.  Mike Barnicle sort anchors fandom in the most dramatic way.  Marcus Breton, particularly in the top of the tenth, is so moving.  He knows Barry Bonds.  He‘s a fan of the Giants.  He knows what it is to be a Hispanic-American growing up in America, without the role models, and with their resistance in baseball, is at least what rewarded that group in the midst of an era we are talking against them. 

And I think that, in some ways, it‘s Torre and Pedro, in terms of the people who played.  And Howard Bryant is great and so is Tom Berducci, and so many people.  And so are you. 

OLBERMANN:  No, no, no, no. 

BURNS:  You don‘t get the opening statement for nothing, buster. 

OLBERMANN:  Far be it for me to question your film making, but the first voice you hear in one of these sort of sets the tone for the whole thing.  And you open with this lunk who is talking about something about drowning in the river. 

BURNS:  No, no, no, this is the only game that goes forwards and backwards at the same time.  And that‘s the thing.  You go to somebody who is trying to convince you at a bar that football is the about best game or basketball is the game, and you say how many points does Wilt Chamberlain have?  They have no idea.  How many yards does Walter Payton have?  They have no idea.

But the casual fan, the person who has, you know, had ten beers, knows what 714 means, what hitting 406 means in 1941, having a 56-game hitting streak also in 1941, what 755 and now even 762 means.  These are all important numbers.  A 300 hitter means the same thing to my three daughters as it does to me, but more importantly, it means to Abraham Burns, who fought in the Civil War.  And tell me anything else in American life that has that consistency. 

OLBERMANN:  A pleasure to be with you on this project, Mr. Burns. 

BURNS:  It was a great ride.  Thank you for your help. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly.  Ken Burns.  And “Baseball, The Tenth Inning” starts tomorrow night and Wednesday night on PBS.  OK. 

That‘s September 27th.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

And now why Democrats, like a commitment-phobic guy, find it hard to talk about what they actually believe in.  That‘s my line.  Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel.

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