Guests: Richard Wolffe, Thomas Ricks, Eugene Robinson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Don‘t count your spin before it‘s hatched. Just when the Democrats were beginning to acknowledge security improvements in Iraq, the administration moves the goalposts again, lowering expectations about any of the political benchmarks the security improvements were supposed to permit. And the Declaration of Principles signed with Iraq which sounds like an open-ended commitment for U.S. troops to stay there, to keep the current government in power, keep treatment for American investors preferential. America for sale. Courtesy George W. Bush. Continued. Richard Wolffe on the politics. Thomas Ricks on the tactics.
The Scott McClellan revelation. The current press secretary says, the president would never ask his press secretary to tell anybody anything but the truth, which is what the old press secretary had said.
GOP in crisis: Would-be Republican candidates told bring your own millions, we are having trouble raising any funds.
And Trent Lott, quitting the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TRENT LOTT, ® MISSISSIPPI: I like to be a happy warrior.
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OLBERMANN: Something he‘s evidently in a hurry to go do as a lobbyist before the lobbyist rules tighten up on New Year‘s Day.
Tightening up Iowa: Senator Clinton getting all under-doggish in attacking Senator Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY R. CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said it was universal, he said it was sort of universal. He said it wasn‘t universal. He said it covered everybody. He said didn‘t cover 15 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Photo op for the ages at the White House, Mr. Bush with the Nobel Prize winners, including, you know and bad acting 101.
MARGE SIMPSON: Keith Olbermann?
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. Content burglar Marge Simpson. The Worst Persons in the world becomes a cartoon. I mean, literally. All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then it gets better.
OLBERMANN, (on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, November 26, 334 days until the 2008 presidential election. The Bush administration has just erased another part of your Constitution today, signing a treaty to keep his country in Iraq permanently although by not calling a treaty this administration of loophole-ologist managing to bypass Senate ratification. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The long hard slog of any pretense that the administration ever intended to leave Iraq finally over tonight. Not that it even needs to achieve any progress there now but just to save face, perhaps, Mr. Bush not so much moving as tearing down the goalpost on how it defines progress in Iraq. President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki today releasing a joint Declaration of Principles for friendship and cooperation. Other people would call at it a treaty. The two leaders signing the Declaration during the morning teleconference in addition to the political and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The relationship, as described in a so-called fact sheet on the White House Web site, remarkable in how it outlines the envisioned economic and security arrangement. Economic, “To encourage the flow of foreign investments to Iraq.” Translation, the flow of American investments to Iraq. The Associated Press reporting that the proposal being negotiated includes preferential treatment for American investments. As for security, Iraq would allow the U.S. to establish permanent bases for its troops in Iraq, in return, the U.S. would protect the current Shiite-led Iraqi government against all threats quote, “All other outlaw group, such as criminal remnants of the former regime. And to provide security assurance s to the Iraqi government, to deter any external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq‘s territory.”
Translation—it looks like the U.S. just went from policing the Iraqi civil war to taking sides in it. Offering the Maliki government protection against the Sunni coup or any other internal threat, like say actual democracy. Meanwhile, the White House doing away with the threat of having seen as one of its political goals for Iraq is not being met by changing all of them once again. On Saturday, the American ambassador to that nation, Ryan Crocker cautioned against expecting any quick results in Iraq. Gee, thanks. Quoting Mr. Crocker, “This is going to be a long, hard slog.” Going to be? The Bush administration no longer even bothering to manufacture original spin. That exact term, long, hard slog, recycled from a memo by then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on October 2nd, 2003.
Last but certainly not least, the president devoting a share of his attention to Middle East peace. Something new for him. The principals traveling to him for Tuesday‘s conference in Annapolis. Mr. Bush in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert with Palestinian President Abbas is by definition a home gain. The president has never traveled to Israel as president and has only been to the region four times in seven years. Two of those visits were day trips to Iraq. Another was a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Mr. Maliki. Let‘s turn to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This Declaration of Principles with Iraq, it certainly reads and has the components of a treaty. If that‘s even remotely true, what happened to the idea of the Senate and ratification and all that stuff?
WOLFFE: Keith, this isn‘t a treaty. It‘s a Declaration of a Friendship, of brotherly love. You know, best friends forever as long as you leave 100,000 troops here and spend several billion a month. The White House is right that this is not a treaty as such and now, a dozens of these discussions and agreements with lots of different countries around the world. But what it‘s going to lead to is what they call inside the White House a formalized normalized version of relationships between the two countries. And frankly, you know that does sound an awful lot like a treaty. It just doesn‘t have that ratification.
OLBERMANN: Yes, if only Woodrow Wilson had known about this, we would have had a League of Nations in 1919. Is the Bush administration trying to guarantee that the next administration is going to have to stay in Iraq? Because once this is formalized, how difficult is it to get out of this deal for the next president if he, say, happens to be of a different political view?
WOLFFE: Well, he‘s trying clearly to tie the hands of the next president. In fact, President Bush has said that to many of us reporters who cover him, and said that he wants to establish what he would call the infrastructure, the framework for his “War on Terror” to continue well into the next administration. He sees himself as a Trumanesque figure. This is akin to the start of the cold war. And he‘s creating the national Security Council and everything that goes with it. In fact, any future president could turn around and say this isn‘t worth the paper it‘s written on, but once you have long-term bases there, you have economic relations there. It‘s extremely hard to extract yourself. Never mind the legal position—militarily, diplomatically, politically, it becomes much harder.
OBLERMANN: Trumanesque from the Truman show, perhaps. Apart from the investment part of this did he just commit this country to keeping Maliki particularly in power even if Maliki would have become a despot or cancel an election or something like that?
WOLFFE: Well, not as such. One thing that curious about this agreement, in fact the precursor to this agreement is that they had to get the signatures not just of Maliki but all people in the presidency council, the Kurdish leader and just about anyone they could find. And the reason is because Maliki really doesn‘t have power on his own. There is no single leader of Iraq. And on the Iraqi side of things, never what the next president here thinks about this, will anyone be on the other side to honor any part of this agreement? I mean, it‘s an open question. Look at what Ambassador Crocker said. Without political reconciliation, there is really no central government.
OLBERMANN: Richard, one last point here. This continuing residue of Scott McClellan, of Dana Perino saying to reporters this morning, she‘s discussed Mr. McClellan forth coming memoir with the president she had with Mr. Bush, has not and would not knowingly pass false information. Number one, that‘s almost the same sentence structure Barry Bonds used in testifying to the grand jury about steroids. And two, given that it is exactly is same sentence structure of what the last press secretary had said. Does Ms. Perino have any credibility on this manner? Who is to say she was not lied to herself by the people who were saying we never lie to you?
WOLFFE: I always thought that McClellan looked a lot bulkier at the end of the administration than the start. But look, McClellan has told friends that nobody has got anything to fear from the truth, that‘s all he‘s going to put out there. And the truth is out there somewhere but whether the president ever shares it with the press secretary on this subject, which really comes down to what the vice president told him and when, I don‘t think we‘ll ever know.
OLBERMANN: The truth is out there. It is now we got another one for you. It‘s the x-files presidency. Richard Wolffe for MSNBC and “Newsweek.” As always sir, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now that it appears Mr. Bush is looking to make his war in Iraq a permanent fixture of our country. Top military leaders at the Pentagon are hoping he will claim ownership before the next assessment of the conflict comes due in March. The last assessment in September you may recall became known as the Petraeus Report. Mr. Bush eager to make General David Petraeus, the public face of the conflict even if it was a political position and he was a serving military man. His opinion, the opinion, even if it was heavily vetted if not written word for word by the White House, leading military officials telling the ‘Los Angeles Times,” they hope the next assessment will incorporate more views that quote, “An incessant spotlight on one general, risks politicizing the military and undermining the public‘s faith that military leaders will give honest assessments of the war‘s progress. Quoting one senior official, “This is not Dave Petraeus‘ war; this is George Bush‘s war.” Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” military affairs correspondent, Thomas Ricks, the author of “Fiasco:
The American Military adventure in Iraq.” Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.
THOMAS RICKS, WASHINGTON POST: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Usually the military carries out the commands from the civilian leadership. That‘s the way it‘s worked previously. Has the Bush administration put the Pentagon on a new and untenable situation? It can‘t win in Iraq and it can‘t leave of its own accord from Iraq?
RICKS: Well, I think that may just be the nature of this war. Reminds me of the famous quote about World War, about the Korean War I‘m sorry, in Korea, a lieutenant said, we can‘t win, we can‘t lose, we can‘t leave. Maybe that‘s pretty much where the Iraq war is now.
OLBERMANN: Are there any indications that this next, in the endless march of assessments, the March assessment, might just be the Petraeus Report the sequel? Is it going to be essentially to what came out in September?
RICKS: I think it‘s going to be tougher than September in a lot of ways. I want to correct you though. I don‘t think it was vetted, the September testimony. As best as I can tell and I was out in Baghdad a couple weeks ago talking to people about this. The best I can tell Petraeus kept it from the White House until the very last moment. In effect, they finished drafting the testimony just a few hours before he gave it. So there was really no chance for people to go over it line by line. I think that the March testimony is going to be in some ways tougher because last time Petraeus put all his credibility on the line and said, give me six months. Well, they gave him six months and if he goes back and says we have tactical improvement on security but can‘t get the strategic goal of the political breakthrough, then he‘s got not a whole lot more to offer. So, I think this is going to be more political. You‘ll probably see Ambassador Ryan Crocker take more of a leading role the next time around.
OLBERMANN: And there‘s no sign that any of the political reconciliation or even stabilization that the surge and the calming down of things in Iraq was supposed to enable has been enabled?
RICKS: No. And in fact, I think you‘re probably going to have to see more turbulence. The real breakthrough that Americans are talking about in Baghdad now will come from the provincial elections which will pump some new blood into the government and get some new leaders up and running. The problem with that is they‘re going to be bloody and messy, those provincial elections. So, in order to get political progress, you‘ll probably got to have less security, not more.
OLBERMANN: And you‘re assessment of this Declaration of Principles apart from the fact that that‘s another arcane term out of the movie “Citizen Kane”? What is it mean for our being there for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, whatever?
RICKS: I think we‘re going to be there for a long time, no matter what. They have to have this new declaration because they need to move beyond the U.N. mandate that allows the U.S. to be there. That‘s expiring. The Iraqi government wants more control, wants to dictate terms more and so they‘re trying to negotiate some way for U.S. forces to be there. It would be ironic if the Iraqi government ended up kicking the United States out and saying, look, we‘ll just take care of this ourselves.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, while we have you, about the strategy and meeting goals in Afghanistan. What was described in your newspaper yesterday as virtually an unbroken line of tactical achievements. There are tactical achievements there, but is the strategic goal still perceptible? It is still achievable?
RICKS: It‘s elusive. I think that Afghanistan is in many ways a tougher problem than Iraq. I used to live in Afghanistan. I love the country. But when I lived in Afghanistan, it was very clear that the Afghan government‘s width extended about to the suburbs of Kabul. The rest of the country was run by various provincial leaders, warlords and so on. And I think that‘s kind of the way it‘s going. It‘s hard to pull that country together in a way the United States wants. I think we‘re going to end up hearing talk in Afghanistan as we are in Iraq of local solutions. We‘re going to hear about Afghan solutions for Afghan problems. It may not be the solutions we‘ll like, but it‘s something we can live with. So, I think in both countries, the password is going to be accommodation, not victory.
OLBERMANN: Thomas Ricks of the “Washington Post,” author of “Fiasco.” Great thanks and great thanks for the correction on the Petraeus vetting issue, too.
RICKS: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: On January 1st, the law is changed. Former senators must start waiting two years to become lobbyists. Gosh, what a coincidence. Senator Trent Lott just became a former senator.
And two others who reach hope to leave the chamber to become president. Hillary Clinton punches upwards now at Barack Obama in Iowa, again as recently as this afternoon. You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: A possible last-minute hitch in the resignation of Senate minority with Trent Lott so he can become a lobbyist before the laws change on how quickly ex-senators can become lobbyists. Hillary Clinton on the kind of attack many expected Barack Obama to be on against her. And a big night for Worst Persons, John Bathtub Head Gibson, Rudy Giuliani and the “New York Post” duking it out. All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It wasn‘t exactly Richard Nixon being twice elected president in the decade after he wasn‘t elected governor of California, nor Nixon returning from Watergate to getting to attend the dedication of the Reagan presidential library. But Trent Lott‘s political career looked to be as dead as Jacob Marley after he said that a presidential victory by strong term and segregationist party in 1948 would have saved this country from so many problems. In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, it is notable that Lott did not wind up resigning from the Senate until today, nine days shy of five years since that flatly crazy ass remark. His surprise announcement that he‘ll leave office before January 1st, coming just before new laws take effect on January 1st that will ban senators from becoming lobbyists for at least two years after they leave the Senate. Close friends telling several news organizations, close friends of Lott‘s that is, that the new laws played at least a part in his sudden decision to quit the post, though the senator himself is denying it.
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LOTT: It didn‘t have a big role in that decision. You know, there are limits on that already. And as I‘ve talked to my former colleagues, they say that a lot of what you do anyway is lob (ph) with lots of consulting rather than direct lobbying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Instead the senator added he had only decided to run for office again in 2006 because of hurricane Katrina, leaving the logical conclusion that if he stayed only to help the victims of Katrina, but he must feel they no longer need his help. Senator Lott chose instead to wax poetic on the symbolism of hurricane and his constituents.
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LOTT: I didn‘t really realize I was a tree hugger until Katrina and then I realized how much I love these live oak trees and how much they symbolize the strength and resilience and the determination of these people.
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OLBERMANN: Oak trees. I‘m joined now by “Washington Post” associate editor and columnist, Eugene Robinson. Great thanks for your time tonight, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So Trent Lott‘s going to be a lobbyist on be half of conservationism and the environment, is that what he just said?
ROBINSON: Yes, I‘m trying to picture him actually physically hugging a tree. It‘s an image that I can‘t quite get out of my head. But no, I don‘t anticipate him in being a lobbyist for environmental causes. He can be an all-purpose lobbyist, really. You know, he was a very powerful senator for a really long time. And I can see any number of industries that would be happy to have him on the payroll.
OLBERMANN: Isn‘t that Katrina argument, though, as completely ridiculous as the idea of him as an environmental lobbyist? I mean, certainly, there remains much more to be done to help the victims of Katrina, especially from a senior leadership position in the Senate.
ROBINSON: Well, there does remain a lot to be done. I guess it depends on which Katrina victims you‘re talking about. If you go to Biloxi, Mississippi, for example, which was kind of wiped out by Katrina, you‘ll see that gambling casinos along the beachfront are coming back; the Hard Rock Cafe is going to open its casino soon and that‘s going to be bigger and better than ever. It is just when you go four or five blocks inland to working class and poor neighborhoods where you find that people really haven‘t been so quick to bounce back. And the federal large ass really hasn‘t reached a lot of people.
ROBINSON: Yes, I know you‘re shocked.
OLBERMANN: I can‘t finish the program. But now, there might be a wrench in this whole process here about getting to the lobbying game before the door closes. The Capitol Hill publication “The Hill” reporting today that there might be a glitch in the plan that the governor of Mississippi has promised to appoint an interim senator until the election in November 2008, which is its own (ph) store but there‘s a state law that mandates if a senator steps down in a non-election year, which is this year, then you have to have a special election within 90 days. Is this going to change the senator‘s plan that he had to stay until next year and thus lose that lobbying opportunity? Or they‘re going to put this up for special election in 90 days?
ROBINSON: You know, I can‘t imagine that this is really going to change his plan. You know, as you pointed out, if he leaves this year, the time frame is shorter between then and when he can become a case three lobbyist and start making millions of dollars. If he stays until next year, he‘s got to wait two full years. Look, if they have to have a special election in Mississippi, and unless the Republican Party completely disintegrates, which is improbable. It‘s possible given the way they‘re going. But it‘s improbable. Then a Republican will be elected. It won‘t change the balance of power in the Senate. The problem is it costs money to run a winning Senate campaign even if you‘re the Republican Party in Mississippi. And the Republican Party congressional campaigns don‘t have any money now. They‘re going to be in this unusual situation where the Democrats are flush with cash and the Republicans don‘t have any money.
OLBERMANN: And to that point, that “New York Times” story that they‘re so short of funds that basically they‘re looking for people and saying, if you have a few million, come on down. Have we gotten back to that idea that the Republican Party from you know, 1890s, the early 1900s, it was essentially you know, how much money for which seat in office, you‘re selling seats the way they used to sell a captain‘s job in the New York City Police Department?
ROBINSON: Right. We‘d love for you to run for Congress as long as you can write a check and buy your seat. But you know, step back for a minute and just kind of look at the Republican Party right now. I don‘t know if you remember, there‘s a movie a few years ago of “Memento” with Guy Pierce. He played a character who had memory loss. And every morning he had to wake up and figure out from scratch who he was and what he was trying to do and why those people were trying to shoot at him. And that‘s kind of what the Republican Party seems to be like now. They‘re kind of waking up and trying to figure out who they are. They seem to lack an identity. So last week, the party woke up and said, well, we‘re supposed to be social conservatives, what are we doing with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney? And so, everybody started looking at Mike Huckabee who is a social conservative. And, I imagine that next week, they‘ll all wake up and say, wait a minute, we‘re supposed to be fiscal conservatives and we‘re the party of the rich and this guy Huckabee talks like some sort of economic populist and he talks about the poor all the time. And so then they‘ll look for somebody else, presumably.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but they‘ve had Guy Pierce disease intermittently since Hoover. So, just a new mutation of it. Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of the “Washington Post.” Always a pleasure, sir, great thanks.
ROBINSON: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I know it was drawn too thin to really look like me, but am I complaining? The Simpsonized Worst Persons in the World. And who is the best Santa in the world? They actually have a competition. You kissed a reindeer, sir. Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1922, Charles Monroe Schultz was born. He conceived, wrote and drew virtually without assistants his singular comic strip, “Peanuts‘ for 50 years. It was scheduled by him to end on February 13th, 2000. He died on February 12th, 2000. As a new biography about him reveals he had met at least three guys named Charlie Brown before he turned 25. And in one of his last conversations with her before his mother‘s death, she had suggested that if they ever got another dog, they should name it Snoopy. Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin with a dog this time on the gridiron, centering on the match up between the crimson tide of Alabama and the tigers of Auburn. Auburn taking home its sixth straight iron goal trophy on the 17-10 victory but not getting away unscathed. In the fourth quarter, quarter back, Jerrod Powers depending a pass on the end zone, turns to the back—runs to the back of the end zone where he‘s bitten on the hand by a police dog. Oh, doctor, that‘s got a sting. A hefty souvenir. Powers was able to continue, torn glove and all. The dog was escorted from the sidelines and caught the first flight to Atlanta for the Michael Vick sentencing.
To (inaudible) Sweden and a warning if you‘re offended by off-color language with a German accent. It‘s the annual Santa of the year competition. Thirty jolly old men from all over the globe, competing in sleigh riding, chimney climbing, porridge eating. The winner was the Santa from down under, the Australian Santa prevailed and the German Sinter Klaus cursed a blue streak. Ear muffs, kiddos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
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OLBERMANN: Oh, yes. When, they asked for months, would Senator Obama take the gloves off on Senator Clinton. Looks like she‘s beaten him to it.
What‘s the word for this, Bush and Gore at the White House? Ironic? Infuriating? Inconvenient? These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best something, Carolina Panthers quarterback David Carr, who either gets points for satire or gets all the sympathy we can find for him. As Carr played poorly in the teams loss yesterday, Carolina‘s fans started chanting, we want more. Carr‘s only healthy backup is named Matt Moore. Carr‘s response, quote, it is not like we were purposely trying not to score points. They were chanting more, but they wanted more points, and we were trying to give it to them.
Number two, best arsonist, an unidentified lunatic in Orange County, Florida. His actions caused hundreds of shoppers to be evacuated from the chain store in question. Yes, attention K-Mart shoppers. He lit lingerie on fire. That‘s hot.
And number one, best creativity in government, Ohio‘s Attorney General Marc Dann. His department listed tips for Ohio‘s holiday shoppers. It included a phone number to a help center that registers consumers‘ problems and complaints. In fact, it was the wrong number. He gave out the number for a telephone sex line charging callers 69 cents a minute to speak with, quote, hot house wives and college students. Well, we are trying everything to keep the economy strong this holiday season.
OLBERMANN: That Senator Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign has made a tactical shift or two in Iowa can no longer be disputed. The campaign this afternoon took another swipe at Barack Obama in a manner pretty much not seen until the gentleman from Illinois pulled pretty much even with the gentle lady from New York. Clinton demanding a series of answers from Obama about campaign financing and the “Washington Post‘s” report that he has been using his own political action committee, Hope Fund, to get money to Democratic groups and candidates in the early voting states.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, 38 days until the Iowa caucuses. How many opportunities to trade barbs? No man can say. Though both candidates still carefully avoid any appearance of mud slinging, Clinton is now regularly referring to the other candidates as her opponents while criticizing their platforms. Her attack on Senator Obama‘s health care plan over the weekend provided him the perfect opportunity to fire back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There‘s a big difference between Senator Obama and me on health care. I have a health care plan that covers every single American. He does not. I have a health care plan that will leave no Americans out. He, by his own admission, leaves 15 million Americans out.
It has been kind of confusing following his description of his own plan. If you go back and look, he said it was universal. He said it was sort of universal. He said it wasn‘t universal. He said he covered everybody. He said he didn‘t cover 15 million. He has a mandate for kids. Now he‘s against mandates. I think you‘re going to have to ask him what his plan actually does.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I presented a health care plan. It‘s the same health care plan now that it was then. So that part of the argument I‘m not clear about. I don‘t know exactly what she meant. In terms of this debate about the mandate, look, this is a manufactured issue. I have committed that I will make sure that every single American in this country has health care they can count on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Even when Senator Clinton was touting her own achievements, claiming that her experience traveling the world as first lady gives her unique qualifications for the White House, she left herself open for gentle but definite ridicule by Senator Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: There are lots of ways in which what I did was the face of America when I was there, when I was representing not just my husband but the country.
OBAMA: If she wants to tout her experience by having visited countries, that‘s fine. I don‘t think that Madeleine Albright would think that Hillary Clinton was the face of foreign policy during the Clinton administration. But maybe she‘ll disagree with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I‘m joined now by our own Craig Crawford, columnist with CQPolitics.com. Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM: Hi. It‘s getting as rough as that Santa competition you had in Oddball.
OLBERMANN: When somebody kisses a reindeer in Iowa, we‘ll break into programming.
CRAWFORD: It will happen.
OLBERMANN: Does this front on approach by Hillary Clinton in some way backfire? Does it authenticate Barack Obama as co-front-runner or nearly? Or had that ship already sailed?
CRAWFORD: It had already sailed. It was beyond the horizon. She was long beyond being able to pretend he wasn‘t there. And he hadn‘t either. He had been pretending she wasn‘t there for a long time and then seemed to notice that she was. And so both sides are going at each other. And I think they need to do that. The big problem I see for Senator Clinton in this exchange, though, Keith, is that she shouldn‘t let John Edwards get ignored.
Maybe she ought to attack him, too, because the more Edwards is in the picture and siphoning some votes away from Obama, the better off she is. She needs both those guys against her and not just one.
OLBERMANN: What is this thing today with the PAC? Does it look like Obama used money out of that marginally improperly, rewarding those who endorsed him? Or is it just Senator Clinton trying to make it look like that?
CRAWFORD: No, I think it‘s a pretty real story. It‘s a little bit convoluted for a lot of voters who might want to take the time—need to take the time to get into it that is required to understand it. But essentially, he was using a pot of money that‘s not supposed to be used to benefit your presidential campaign. He was using that money to give it to people who are endorsing him in these early and critical voting states. So it seems that he was using that money to benefit his presidential campaign.
Now, that‘s politics as usual. The underbelly of these races is that a lot of these local politicians do get—let‘s say it—bribed for their support by candidates. But he was doing it in a way here that‘s not quite kosher. Although the FEC hasn‘t really ruled that it is illegal. It is politics as usual and this is supposed to be the candidate who is not politics as usual.
OLBERMANN: There‘s the rub there. Meanwhile, it‘s official; we talked about this months ago. Now, Oprah Winfrey is actually on the books to campaign for Obama, a two-day tour through Iowa and New Hampshire the weekend after next. Is this going to tip the balance in his favor? Or are we going to find out that there‘s a silent majority that just does not like her?
CRAWFORD: I don‘t get this one. I don‘t see it helping him. I saw him announce to some voters that she would campaign in Iowa. They immediately said, what about us? When is she coming to New Hampshire. I heard one woman say, we need Oprah. I‘m not sure it helps him. These stars are trouble sometimes. They don‘t stick to the script. She might get off message. She might say things the campaign doesn‘t want to be said.
They‘ve got their own issues. They tend to over shadow the candidates sometimes. He‘s already a rock star in his own right. I think he was better keeping her at arm‘s length.
OLBERMANN: And it really only works if she gives out like a new clock radio to everybody in the audience. You get a clock radio, you get a—
Last point here, Giuliani versus Romney. ABC did a full report on this tonight, second item after Dick Cheney‘s heart flutter. The media is noticing that they‘re butting heads now. Are the voters in Iowa noticing this? Supposedly, only a few dozen people showed up to one of the Giuliani rallies the other day. Is it too late for him out there?
CRAWFORD: Giuliani has a problem in these early states. I have just been in New Hampshire a week. I saw an event in Manchester where once you subtracted the Ron Paul supporters, who came to Giuliani‘s event to support their own candidate, plus some Dennis Kucinich supporters, and Giuliani‘s own staff, there were only about 35 people there for an outdoor rally. I saw Huckabee in Iowa draw a bigger crowd in Cedar Rapids the day before Giuliani visited there. In fact, the Giuliani people changed the room at the last minute to a smaller room so it wouldn‘t look so bad.
Giuliani had this weird theory, Keith, in the campaign; I can lose the first week, two weeks, maybe even three weeks of races and still be the front-runner. Maybe that will work. But we have never seen it work before.
OLBERMANN: Yes, there‘s some rationalizations going on there, one of which we‘ll address in a little bit. Craig Crawford of MSNBC and CQPolitics.com. As always, Craig, great thanks.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: The worst persons in the world segment gains the kind of authenticity that real life cannot provide. Only the animated world of “The Simpsons” can. Back in our hum drum three-dimensional version, Mr. Giuliani explaining that he really voted for Richard Nixon in 1972, even though he cast his actual ballot for George McGovern. No, really.
OLBERMANN: Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, keeping tabs. Tonight it features my favorite topic, me. We had a kind of television harmonic convergence last night. In the Eastern and Central time zones, I was on two of the four broadcast networks simultaneously, “Football Night in America” on NBC, “The Simpsons” on Fox. Just for good measure, they then replayed the bit part I did on “Family Guy” on Fox. In the slightly less egotistical of the reasons for mentioning this, the worst persons segment made it onto 50 percent of American broadcast TV last night.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, TIVO remote, you‘ve changed my life. I‘ve gotten so much accomplished. I saved “Lost,” watched all of “Rome” in a day and got through “2 ½ men” in 2 ½ minutes. Then I ran out of space and had to choose between “Sophie‘s Choice” and “Schindler‘s List.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is everything Hollywood makes so excellent?
OLBERMANN: Marge Simpson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Keith Olbermann?
OLBERMANN: That‘s right, content burglar, Marge Simpson. You‘ve been watching TV shows but skipping the commercials that pay for them. That makes you the Worst Person in the World.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, lighten up. You TV fat cats have plenty of money. My cousin Maureen saw you flying in business class.
OLBERMANN: I was upgraded against my will. Look, Marge, you think I‘m handsome, don‘t you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.
OLBERMANN: Well it takes a team of 20 people to keep me that way.
Without ad money, I‘d look like a swamp monster from a child‘s nightmare.
And under here I‘ll look even worse. Then it gets better, then even worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop it. Oh, stop it. I‘ll watch the commercials.
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OLBERMANN: Forty six seconds away from an Emmy. They drew me thin, bless them. No such luck on “Football Night.” But the boys seemed to particularly enjoy this one. So my producers twisted my arm and I agreed to let them replay it here.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keith Olbermann has this week‘s selection for the Worst Person in the NFL. Keith?
OLBERMANN: We‘re not going to kick away from him. What? They don‘t show NFC highlights in Colorado? We respect him and he‘s the best. We have guys on our coverage teams that are paid to make big tackles. And they are what, eight feet tall? And during the game the league lets them use maces and those big fishing nets?
Man with message and fork not reach Denver? Devin Hester‘s (ph) exploits before today‘s Bears game against the Broncos, nine returns for touchdowns, were news to Todd Sauerbrown (ph) of the Broncos? They kept it a secret from him. When Sauerbrown punted to him and Hester ran it back and Todd fell over from the breeze and Hester made it ten touchdowns, Todd still didn‘t notice?
You thought it would be different because you were kicking off to him and not punting? Maybe it was a different Devin Hester on the kick return team, or his other brother Devin? Mr. Sauerbrown, you‘re just going to get faked by a move he borrowed from Marie Osmund from “Dancing with the Stars.” So after he returned your kickoff and your punt for touchdowns, finally you get the message and you do the smart thing. You let them block one of them. Wise move, grasshopper.
Do not kick to Hester! Do not kick to Hester! Todd, we‘re not going to kick away from him, Sauerbrown, once suspended by the league for violating the substance policy, perhaps now to be suspended by the league for violating the stupid policy, this week‘s Worst Person in the NFL.
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OLBERMANN: Not that he exactly bailed out on me or anything. But just for the record, Todd Sauerbrown was pretty much nominated by my non-identical twin brother Chris Collinsworth right there.
An inconvenient photo op, the Nobel Prize winners today at the White House. Mr. Bush, this is a Mr. Gore. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to bathtub head himself, John Gibson, host of Fox noise‘s “The Big”—I‘m sorry, co-host. How is that working out for you? After the Scott McClellan Freudian slip, Gibby reiterates, whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal. If it was Karl Rove, I‘d pin it on him myself. Bathtub head‘s explanation, he knows that inside story, that she was part of a, quote, anti-bush cabal inside the CIA, something that should be rooted out.
John, you do realize that you‘re such a non-insider, that you‘ve just exhausted your knowledge on the subject by successfully spelling CIA.
Our runner up, Rudolph Giuliani, buying those rationalizations by the car load lot. Trying now to take back his 1972 presidential vote for George McGovern by telling “The Weekly Standard,” quote, I had traditionally been a Democrat. It was almost like a reflex mode. I actually remember saying to myself, if I was a person really deciding who should be president right now, I‘d probably vote for Nixon because the country would be safer with Nixon. My concern was the Soviets, foreign policy, strong military.
So you were for Nixon before you were against him? Come on, Rudy, 334 days to the election; you‘ve already run out of BS?
But our winner, the “New York Post,” mocking the Ohio University poll showing that 62 percent of Americans agree that it is either likely or somewhat likely that the government failed to heed warnings about 9/11. You know, like the intel round up titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” or the flight school warning from Phoenix or the Tenet briefing. So this is what the clowns at the “New York Post” put up as their headline about this; “Blame U.S. for 9/11 Idiots in Majority.”
But how big of a majority? And who are those blame U.S. for 9/11 idiots? Same newspaper, “New York Post,” April 12th, 2002, front page, “Bush Knew; Pres was warned of possible hijackings before terror attacks.”
See, anybody can throw somebody under a bus, even a president under a bus. But it takes particularly elastic morality to pretend you have pulled him out from under the bus, then to start yelling at others as if they did it. The “New York Post,” your best defense against dog droppings, today‘s Worst Persons in the World!
OLBERMANN: Bush and gore, doesn‘t always mean what first comes to mind. Football, two of the under-performing running backs in the NFL this league, Reggie Bush and Frank Gore. Foot wear, the nun Bush slip-on shoe has an elastic Gore, the technical term for a widener in the fabric. Australia, there‘s the Gore Cove Bushland Reserve.
But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, nevertheless, none of those Bush-Gore combos is ever likely to supplant ours. Thus the fascination with an unlikely photo op reunion today in the Oval Office, no less. The occasion, honoring the five American winners of the various Nobel Prizes. White House spokesman Tony Fratto confirming that Mr. Bush personally called Al Gore over a week ago to, quote, lock that in and make sure he was going to be able to come.
Mr. Gore made it all right. The former presidential rivals met privately in the Oval Office prior to the Nobel winner‘s photo opportunity. When reporters caught up with Mr. Gore after the event, literally having to chase him out the side door, he said he talked about global warming with the president and only about global warming. When asked about the 2008 campaign and if he missed the White House, Mr. Gore said, no comment.
Let‘s bring in, for the first time on COUNTDOWN, comedian Patton Oswalt, whose new album is “Werewolves and Lollipops.” Nice to see you and not on a train.
PATTON OSWALT, COMEDIAN: I no, exactly. That was such an odd meeting between us.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t think the Amtrak service from Boston to New York has recovered yet.
OLBERMANN: Back when it came out, Mr. Bush was asked if he would go see the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” Mr. Gore‘s movie, and he responded, doubt it. So now they‘ve met alone in the Oval Office. They have talked about global warming. How do you think that went?
OSWALT: You know, it‘s so interesting that the original lineup of Van Halen is on tour right now. It feels like if Sammy Hagar had been forced to serve David Lee Roth a shot of tequila somewhere at an after-party. It is sort of that same thing going on now. It feels like this is the original lineup of the presidency, having to meet with the kind of weird second lineup. And it‘s just—I don‘t know. Maybe the awkwardness could power the White House for a little while, you know, be kind of green.
OLBERMANN: Or the envy could make somebody kind of green and that could do it, too. This was originally scheduled for Mr. Gore‘s convenience. They had another date for it and Gore was supposed to be out of the country, apparently. As we heard, the president called Al Gore to make sure he could make it. Doesn‘t that—It sounds a little desperate, like a bad dating habit there or something. Somebody is afraid they‘re going to get stood up?
OSWALT: Yes, it does kind of make you feel like he had a lot of birthday parties where no one showed up. I can only hope that maybe Gore sent back his RSVP and just wrote, doubt it, which would have been a nice full circle from when they asked Bush about if he would go see “An Inconvenient Truth.”
OLBERMANN: Or he could have just said, you‘re living in my house. The former vice president tried to avoid the media afterwards. We saw him go out the side entrance of the White House, and then he steadfastly avoided answering any actual political questions. Of course, he has described himself as a recovering politician. Do you think he has recovered, or did meeting President Bush cause a relapse?
OSWALT: I hope that doesn‘t make him fall off the wagon. You know, the guy is teetering as it is. He‘s doing so much good right now. But I think it‘s a little mean for you and I to bring up relapse and recovery around our president. Maybe we should just move on for decorum‘s sake.
OLBERMANN: And moving on, another sign of this drag that the president has had on allies. The Australian prime minister, John Howard, was beaten by the labor party leader there, Kevin Rudd, over the weekend, in part over the Howard support of the war in Iraq. Yet, shockingly, as we‘ve seen this video, Mr. Rudd in the back of the video has, on at least one occasion, been seen nibbling on his own ear wax. Unless this was one of the great computer generated graphics of all time. Assuming it is not, the lesson here is what, better to have a wax-eater than a war monger?
OSWALT: Maybe the lesson is even if you‘re eating the wax out of your own ears, you still know that the war is a mistake? I don‘t know. That‘s like the two girls one glass of politics right now and the guy still won. So it doesn‘t speak well for Bush‘s popularity.
OLBERMANN: And lastly here, the Donald Rumsfeld doll is coming out just in time for Christmas, with 28 classic utterances from the former defense secretary. Who is going to buy this?
OSWALT: You know what? I don‘t know who is not going to buy it. I can‘t think of anything more fun and festive than, you know, phrases that led to young men and women being killed needlessly. It‘s a wonderful holiday gift.
OLBERMANN: For the entire family. Comedian Patton Oswalt, whose new album, “Werewolves and Lollipops,” is available in stores. Or if you run into him on a train. Great thanks. Good to talk to you, sir.
OSWALT: Keith, we‘ll always have Boston.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,671st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann. I‘m Joined tomorrow night by Norman Lloyd. Good night and good luck.
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