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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Dec. 14

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Dana Milbank

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about?  St. Rudy of 9/11 to take off his halo for a moment.  Giuliani to reset his campaign from what he did to save New York to what he thinks he did to save New York, to what he will do to save America.  Presumably, leaving out how he personally will make money off saving America.  A new campaign was the center piece slogan: Tested, ready, now.  And give to over for Senator Clinton, too, even using one of the new Giuliani words.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have said for months in this campaign, I am vetted, I am tested.  The Republicans will go after whomever we nominate.


OLBERMANN:   The Democrats turn into the home stretch in Iowa.  Barack Obama‘s reset.  Not a catch phrase but a video blog, saying it‘s OK to switch from Hillary to him.  They would rather switch than fight.  Majority leader, Reid and the Dems reported ready to cave again on FISA, agreeing to retroactive immunity for the telecom giants who helped President Bush spy on you.  From the “Dailykos,” Markos Moulitsas joins us.

Bushed: They‘re either really into the environment or really crooked.  Since, he became president, 600 percent more White House paper shredding.

Waterboarding-gate: CIA‘s alum and flag waiver, John Ciriaco.  Did he inadvertently prove that people who are waterboarded lie to avoid more waterboarding by what he said Abu Zubaydah told him after Zubaydah was waterboarded?

Speaking of all wit, Bill O declares victory on his war on sanity.  Sorry, war on Christmas.  Probably, just forgetting that he already declared victory a week ago.


BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  The far Left secular progressive community is furious, furious, I tell you about, losing the war on Christmas.  We won.


OLBERMANN:  Bill, you sound like Don Quixote.  Nice job on defeating the windmills, Sparky.  And the most awkward moment of 2007, excluding O‘Reilly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You are a rude little pig.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  South Africa and Iraq and really like (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  She‘s going to grow up to work for FOX, isn‘t she?  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, December

14th, 326 days until the 2008 presidential election with 20 days until the

Iowa caucuses to pick up the phone and block with from our strike bound

friends at comedy central, tonight‘s word is—tested.  Not tests or

testes—tested.  In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: It is used by the

Republican and the Democrats who are month ago, seem to be sailing towards

their respective nominations on the simmering windowpane sea of

inevitability.  We begin tonight with Rudolph Giuliani.  Our friend Crystal

Lisa (ph) at the, reporting that Mr. Giuliani is

preparing to deliver a speech tomorrow that his campaign is touting as a

turning point in his bid for the nomination.  He had a lot of those

recently.  Instead of talking exclusively about his record as mayor of New

York as he has done, his advisers is telling “The Post” that he will

actually address what he would do as president.  Some excerpts from

tomorrow‘s speech that have been released by the campaign quote, “If you‘re

looking for perfection, you are not going to find it.  Not me.”  Can‘t

argue with that.  Quoting further, “If you‘re looking for a leader who has

been tested in the time of crisis, a leader who is ready to lead right now”

and just because his advisers said he wouldn‘t be talking about his 9/11 leadership exclusively is not the same thing as saying he wouldn‘t be mentioning it at all.  Here‘s the rest of that excerpt.  “The American people want their children to live free from the fear of Islamic terrorism.  They‘re telling us, get it done.  And we will.”  There it is the noun, the verb, and the 9/11.  But in a week when Mr. Giuliani has been shown to have profited off that war on terrorism, perhaps illegally, in the wake of another scandal in which he billed New York City taxpayers for his mistresses‘ limo rides, the most ironic line in the upcoming speech is possibly this one.  “I welcome the responsibility to restore fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. while we empower millions of people to move out of poverty and achieve the American dream.”  Of being able to make a profit off anything.  Let me call in our political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell who also of course contributes to the  Lawrence, good evening.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be here, Keith.  That is the best Giuliani I‘ve heard from anyone other than Giuliani.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not doing anything.  I‘m just reading the quotes.  The strategy has all been through out this—accept defeats in the early states and then have Giuliani come back strong in Florida on the 29th of January and super Tuesday of February.  But there‘s a problem.  The latest Rasmussen reports falling in Florida.  He‘s falling there, too.  He‘s gone from first to third in less than a month.  Huckabee is now in front - 27 percent, Willard at 23 percent, Giuliani at 19 percent.  Is it an accident that tomorrow‘s speech will take place in Tampa?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, that‘s the obvious place to do it.  They‘re setting up Florida as the fire wall for Giuliani.  The problem is how late it comes in the process.  They‘re in effect saying, OK, we‘re going to lose Iowa.  We‘re going then lose in New Hampshire and then lose South Carolina.  This is a very, very tough way to play this game.  While his numbers are steadily going down, he calls this speech tomorrow; his aides are calling it the closing argument which is as you know, as a courtroom phrase for what defense lawyers do at the last minute in the trial when they‘re trying to save somebody from the gallows.  Giuliani needs a defense lawyer here because of all this scandal talk.  That‘s what‘s brought his numbers down, Keith.  I expected his numbers to slide months ago when the Republican electorate got very familiar with his pro-abortion stances and basically, his liberal policies that are not in sync with them.  His candidacy did not get hit by those revelations.  Once the voters knew about that, they still hung on to his candidacy as the tough guy.  As the person who would protect them.  As the fighter who was there for New York City on 9/11.  It‘s really the Judith Nathan stories and what‘s gone on with the affair and what‘s happened to his family life.  All of those stories now have started to get traction.  And only then, that his numbers come down.  I don‘t see anything in this speech that deals with that other than this line about nobody‘s perfect.  And you know that‘s true but is he the most imperfect of the candidates is what the Republican voters are wondering about.

OLBERMANN:  So, if you‘re in this situation and you make a speech that talks about big bold visions about what do you as president, and you ignore the Giuliani‘s partners and scandals and his - 13 of them if you ignore the Judith Nathan scandal, what is it you can do in this situation to try to get back on the rails?    Is there anything you can do in this situation that he‘s not doing?

O‘DONNELL:  I just don‘t see how this speech will grab, will become the center of gravity on the political story tomorrow.  I mean, here‘s a speech going to in Florida when the real campaign is in Iowa.  That‘s where all the press corps is.  That‘s where the concentration is.  And basically, he‘s speaking to an electorate that is not paying attention to this very much.  They don‘t have to.  Floridians can ignore all of this stuff until well into January.  They can do their Christmas shopping tomorrow, which they‘re going to.  And they‘re going to do it on Sunday and they‘re going to be ignoring this stuff.  People in Iowa are going to be paying attention to this stuff next week.  They are going to be paying attention to the campaign.  So, this is a very, very tough play.  This is something that I just don‘t think is going to work.  I‘m not sure what else he can try to do at this point.  He‘s going to try something and he‘s going to try to show people that remember Florida.  He‘s really trying to tell the press.  Remember Florida.  Don‘t worry about what happens to me in Iowa.  Don‘t worry about what happens to me in New Jersey if Romney rolls right over me.  Just remember Florida.  He‘s trying to drill that into us.  The speech is for us as much as anyone else.

OLBERMANN:  Why does he want to be president anyway, if the “Time” report from yesterday that he made $30 million off his part in the shilling of the data mining companies to the Bush administration.  You can‘t wonder if he might have not only greater financial opportunities outside to the White House but maybe even more you know, influence on the way the country is going, if he‘s going to get this handed to the question of eavesdropping on Americans.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he wouldn‘t be the first rich man in the White House.  But look, they‘re running for the presidency starts with ego.  It starts with massive unbridled ego in every person who does it in this modern version of it which involves so much that‘s really kind of horrible to have to go through.  So, you start there.  I don‘t think there‘s anybody watching Rudy Giuliani who doesn‘t think he‘s got as big an ego as any human beings ever had.  So, that‘s what‘s driving him.  And then secondly of course is his interest in governing and his interest in what he thinks is doing good and trying to push the country in his direction, the way he thinks it should go.  That‘s all there.  And yes, he would take a massive pay cut to go into the presidency.  But, I have a feeling, coming out the other end; he would do very well also.

OLBERMANN:  A lot of ifs if that process though.  And speaking of his ego, remind me at some point when we have time to tell the Mets, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers story about Rudy Giuliani.  Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and  Good night, have a great weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  No great build-up or big policy speeches for the extreme makeover Hillary Clinton edition, just a new catch phrase but the same word, tested.  At a podium at the Maytag (ph) auditorium in Johnson, Iowa.  One day after official in her campaign was forced to resign after raising questions about the general election risk of Barack Obama‘s drug use as a teenager.  Something that Senator Obama admitted to more than a dozen years ago.  Senator Clinton selling as an asset the fact that she has already been heavily scrutinized.


CLINTON:  I have said for months in this campaign, I am vetted, I am tested.  The Republicans will go after whomever we nominate.  I‘ve been dealing with their incoming fire for 16 years.  And I‘m still here.  And I think that voters should take that into account.


OLBERMANN:  And with her rival, Senator Obama now holding a substantial nine-point lead in a new Iowa poll out tonight.  Mrs. Clinton also hoping that you might believe she always thought the race would be this close with fewer than three weeks to go until the caucuses begin.


CLINTON:  I guess I‘ve been in enough campaigns over a lot of years to know that there is no predictability and there certainly is no inevitability.  You have to get out and work for every single vote.  That‘s what I have always done.  I don‘t know any other way to do it.


OLBERMANN:  Well, at least one Iowa precinct captain has switched her support from Clinton to Obama and surprisingly, the Obama campaign wants you to know, she has lived to talk about it.  Susan ( INAUDIBLE) posting a video blog on the Obama Web site in which she says recent attacks by Senator Clinton on Senator Obama convinced her to pull that Clinton sign out of her front lawn and put a Barack Obama sign in its place.  Let‘s turn now to decide from our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine.”  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE”:  Good evening, Keith.  I‘d like to say, I‘m not tested or vetted.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE) Thank you very much.  Nor am I.  Remarkably similar language with that word tested from Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton today.  Are they working out some of similar secret political blood staunching handbook?

FINEMAN:  No.  They‘re both coming out of Manhattan and they‘re coming out of the establishment and they‘re coming out of the east and out of their experience and their vetting and their tested-ness.  All of that‘s true.  But, I don‘t think it fits the mood of the electorate.  At least as I hear it when I travel around, Keith.  I think people want change.  And in Hillary‘s case, she thought the fact that she was a woman, the fact that she would be a kind of restoration of the Clinton years was all the change that the Democratic grassroots was going to want.  Well, that turns out not to be true.  That‘s partly her fault but it‘s partly just her bad luck.  Voters want something more.  And the great irony is that the woman who might be the first woman president might end up being beaten by the guy who could be the first African-American president.

OLBERMANN:  She can‘t attack Obama directly.  It would be suicide for almost any Democratic candidate to go full throttle against another one especially one of the top.  But by saying, she‘s been vetted, by promising, you know, there are no surprises.  Nothing else to pull out from her past, is the implication of a comparison with Obama directed enough?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s too subtle by half.  And there is a lot of grousing under the radar from other campaigns that Obama is being graded on a curve.  That he‘s getting it too easy.  That he‘s being given a pass.  But they don‘t want to come out directly and confront him on his rather thin record of accomplishments in Illinois and so forth.  I mean, there are things you can say.  I think Hillary to some extent is trapped here.  She would like to have a lot of surrogates, perhaps, including her own husband do the attacking.  But I don‘t think Bill Clinton wants to spend the last few weeks of this campaign before Iowa and New Hampshire going after Barack Obama.  So, he doesn‘t want to do it.  And Hillary also is the sort of you-go-girl candidate.  If she doesn‘t do it herself, I don‘t know who‘s going to do it.  So, she‘s kind of trapped especially in Iowa where they don‘t really like that kind of campaigning, at least they say they don‘t.

OLBERMANN:  Something resonates with me and I‘m wondering if it does with you that she might get a lot of mileage out of this argument.  That she‘s been the quote, “Was dealing with her incoming fire for 16 years and I‘m still here.  The Republicans will go after whomever we nominate.”  Is there not, especially for politics, a lot of truth in that?  Whoever the Democrats could trot out somebody who had never been in political office before and spent their entire lives in a monastery and they‘ll be attacked the same way she would be.  Is she not right about that?

FINEMAN:  Well, she is right about it but I‘m not sure that it‘s convincing to enough voters for her to win.  Because Obama and John Edwards, who is still a factor, especially in Iowa and maybe elsewhere, convey a sense of newness about it.  The sort of their lack of brittleness, if you will.  On the one hand, Hillary is saying, I survived, but on the other hand, whenever she says it‘s been 16 years worth of attacks, it also reminds people of just how much damage has been done to her over the years.

OLBERMANN:  So what happens if she loses Iowa?  Or worse, finishes third?

FINEMAN:  Well, they keep talking about these firewalls.  You know, the world is full of firewalls now on both sides.  But New Hampshire is no longer a firewall for Hillary, if it ever was.  My sources up there saying that things are shifting very fast and you‘re seeing those lawn sign switches going on.  And if she loses Iowa, I think she‘s going to have a hard time in New Hampshire and South Carolina and in Nevada.  By the way, if John Edwards, keep John Edward in mind, he‘s got a shot at Iowa and if he does that, that scrambles things further.  But that‘s still not good news for Hillary.  Probably better than for her than if Obama wins it.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  I didn‘t get it right yet.  I‘ve only been here ten years.  MSNBC, have a good weekend, Howard, thanks.

FINEMAN:  You too, Keith, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Back at the ranch.  Why is Harry Reid willing to immunize the telecom giants in the eavesdropping scandal?  And of course Markos Moulitsas of “Dailykos” joins.  As Bill O rejoins the ranks of the Don Quixote‘s, merry mission accomplished.  The war on Christmas has been won for the second time in two weeks.  Now, why is Bill praising Hitler‘s foreign minister?    You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  What on earth would the Senate Majority leader chose an amendment to the FISA Bill that would immunize the telecom giants who helped the government spy on you rather than choosing the amendment that wouldn‘t immunize them?  Markos Moulitsas joins us.  And what did CIA alum, John Ciriaco (ph) say that proves waterboarding makes people lie?  And Bill O‘s war on Christmas fetish and say a very regrettable remark in which he complimented one of the Nazis hanged for war crimes in 1946.  All ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  He is the Senate Majority leader, the spokesman on the floor of the Democratic Party, the majority.  And in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator Harry Reid is now allowing a piece of legislation that gives the Bush administration pretty much all it wants about warrantless wiretapping and he claims that his fellow Democrats made him do it.  There are two FISA Amendment Bills ready to send to the Senate floor.  One from the Judiciary Committee which has more oversight and no amnesty for the telecom companies that give the NSA private information on American citizens, mined in part by a company that gave Rudolph Giuliani a commission.  Then there‘s the amendment from the Senate Intelligence Committee which was engineered in part by Dick Cheney and gives retroactive immunity to the telecom industry.  Which one is the Senate Majority leader putting forward as the primary or base bill for vote next week?  The second one, meaning that most Democrats manage to get 60 votes on an anti-amnesty amendment or to engineer a filibuster, the telecom companies will get off scot-free.  Senator Reid, claiming on the floor this afternoon, that while he examined the possibilities of combining both bills, he rejected that idea and while he does not agree with immunity, he had to send to the floor because so many Democrats supported in it committee that he didn‘t want to break with precedent.  Trying to figure this one out, we‘re joined by the‘s Markos Moulitsas, who‘s also now a contributor to “Newsweek Magazine.”  Markos, how are you?

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILYKOS.COM:  A pleasure.  Nice to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Are you buying this from Senator Reid?  I mean he had to send the bill to the floor even though he personally doesn‘t support amnesty?  He has no choice?  They twisted his arm?  He twisted his own arm?  Who twisted who‘s arm?

MOULITSAS:  I absolutely do not buy this at all.  First of all, this bill - the FISA bill that‘s currently in operation does not expire until February.  So, I‘m not quite sure what the big hurry is especially at the time of year where the Senate has a lot of business on its play.  Things like funding government.  Things like repealing the ultimate minimum tax you know, which is going to affect a lot of middle-class families.  Those are the things that are priorities right now and need to happen.  This does not need to happen and even in February, the worst-case scenario is that we go back to the original FISA Bill which was perfectly adequate to protect this country from terrorist threats.

OLBERMANN:  And don‘t forget, Congress also has to work - to continue its great work on pro-Christmas legislation.

MOULITSAS:  Of course.

OLBERMANN:  Fourteen Democrats, including the presidential candidates, sent this letter to Reid to urge him to send the second amendment to the floor.  But right now, Mr. Dodd seems to be the only one of the Democrats who has worked up enough to actively call for the filibuster.  Why isn‘t everybody on this one particular issue equally outraged in the Democratic Party?

MOULITSAS:  I don‘t know.  It‘s something clearly broken in the Senate right now.  I mean this is a body that is about to give Bush more money for war in Iraq in exchange for pork.  I mean, these are the priorities of the Senate.  So, I‘m not quite sure why Dodd is the only person to show any kind of leadership.  I mean, I would at least expect some of the presidential candidates you know, the Biden and Clinton and Obama.  People who are in Iowa and New Hampshire talking about how they‘re such great leaders but we‘re not seeing that leadership.  I mean, this would be a great example for any of them to prove to the electorate, prove to the voters that they in fact could be leaders.

OLBERMANN:  Rather than dropping hints about each other and throwing cats.

MOULITSAS:  Right.  I mean, leading is - is a quite a concept and people like me would like to see it in action as opposed to just hearing talk about it.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Show your math.  Do an example of this rather than giving a speech.  And in the Senate, particularly, Democrats constantly complained that the Republicans and the president keep blocking their efforts to do exactly what we‘re talking about, actually get something done.  But in this case, it‘s the Democrats.  There‘s no way around this.  Who are deliberately thwarting their own stated agenda?  How long are the voters going to put up with that?

MOULITSAS:  It‘s tough to say.  I mean, right now, the problem is that there aren‘t any alternatives.  I mean, clearly, the American public is not happy with the Senate or the House of Congress.  It has an approval rating below George Bush.  I mean, we have a country that does not like George Bush.  Is not happy with the Bush presidency.  Is giving him approval ratings in the 20s.  Considers him incompetent and weak.  And you have Democrats who are afraid of the Mr. 20 percent George Bush presidency.  So, I mean, it‘s clearly a problem.  Now, the question is, where can they go?  And at this point, there really aren‘t any alternatives because the Republicans are not, are clearly not an option.  And the Democrats are weak and unprincipled and afraid of standing strong and leading.  So really, it is a dilemma and I think what‘s it‘s going to lead to is an increased cynicism from the American public towards Congress and the government.  And rightfully so.

OLBERMANN:  And let me throw my own cynicism thing on to the pile.  My own log on to the pile of this.  Maybe it‘s not even that.  Maybe it‘s not fear.  Is this a hobbsie (ph) in choice that the Democrats have to either try to fix the problems for this administration between now and the election, or stall, go to the four corners defense and offense, and let the thing continue to fester so they can run on it in November of 2008?

MOULITSAS:  I mean, I would, I wish that‘s what they were doing.  The problem is that they‘re not really drawing contrasts with the Republicans.  I mean, to me, the way to do that, would be to basically make clear that it is the Republicans that are extracting force George Bush to do each of those 50 vetos, 55, I think, force him to actually use those vetoes.  Force Republicans to filibuster.  I‘m talking about a real filibuster base on end, on the Senate floor, refusing to let this legislation come through.  Force them to do that.  Let the American people know that it is the Republicans that are opposing this.  And that the Democrats are going to be the party that can offer the good things.  What they‘re doing instead is they‘re becoming conflicted in it.

OLBERMANN:  Absolutely.  Markos Moulitsas from the and now of “Newsweek.”  Great thanks of your time and by the way, you‘ll like this next political note, I think.  Thanks.

MOULITSAS:  I‘m loving it.  Just the teasers.  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  On waterboarding-gate, how ex-CIA agent, John Ceriaco (ph) inadvertently proved waterboarding produces false information, also known as making stuff up.  And none of us initially noticed it.  It was during his first interview with Brian Ross from ABC News, as he told him exactly how the al Qaeda minion, Abu Zubaydah, reacted to the torture.  Listen carefully for the stuff of what Zubaydah said had happened in his cell after he was waterboarded.


JOHN CIRIACO, EX-CIA AGENT:  He was able to withstand waterboarding for quite sometime and by that, I mean probably 30, 35 seconds.

BRIAN ROSS, HOST:  That‘s quite sometime.

CIRIACO:  Which is quite sometime.  A short time afterwards, in the next day or so, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in the cell during the night and told him to cooperate because his cooperation would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured.  And from that day on, he answered every question just like I‘m sitting here speaking to you.


OLBERMANN:  Now, if you‘re a member of the religious right who supports waterboarding, you‘re in a pickle right there because in your frame of reference, Allah is a false prophet, doesn‘t exist and couldn‘t possibly have visited Zubaydah in his cell.  So, Zubaydah made that stuff up to avoid more waterboarding.  For the rest of us, more tolerant folks, there is still htat question—Allah visited you in the middle of the night or did you just make stuff up to avoid more waterboarding?

So, we all encounter this problem before.  It‘s late at night and you can‘t find your cat.  Well, South Korean scientists have solved the problem with glow in the dark cats.

And Bill O versus Congressman Shea (ph) versus Tony Blankley in the Friday night lights battle for Worst Person Honors.  First the latest in the administration‘s 50 other scandals.  Bushed.  Number three: War profiteering-gate.  The Air Force said it‘s reviewing the contracts after it was revealed it that paid the Allison Environmental groups $32 million to build a base in Iraq.  The Iraqi government couldn‘t get rights to the ground.  Allison Environmental build nothing but apparently still got the $32 million.  Number two: Politics and terror-gate.  A jury acquitted one of the so-called liberty city seven.  Seven morons tried as terrorists because they tried to con $50,000 out of an FBI agent posing as an al Qaeda agent during deadlock on the other six dependants.  And number one:

Needless secrecy-gate.  As radar online quotes the Web site,, federal spending on contracts for paper shredding have risen dramatically.  In 2000, it was just under $453,000.  Halfway through 2007, it‘s $2.9 million.  We‘re just being environmentally conscious.


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  We‘re short on time tonight so, let‘s leave it at this.  On some previous December 14th, something curious happened and I said something glib about it. let‘s play “Oddball.” 

Sorry.  I got behind on the script.  We begin just outside Moscow where winter enthusiasts were not content just to sit around, on the snow  or swim in ice cold water, they have ballet to do as well.  There‘s nothing says happy holidays like a bunch of fat 50-something-year-old Russians wearing tutus and shaking their  stuff.  That‘s why they call it “Nutcracker”. 

To South Korea, where, while they still can‘t figure out how to  have a parliamentary debate without it turning into an all-out brawl—nice use of a phone as a weapon there, Naomi Campbell—they can figure out how to make  a seemingly normal kitty cat glow in the dark.  No, this has nothing to do with Kim Jung-Il.  No secret nuclear weapon programs—it‘s science.  You take a cat, you clone it with a genetic mutation: a red  fluorescence protein in its skin  tissue.  And then, switch off the lights and—presto!  Your household pet doubles up as an attractive holiday display.

A twofer tonight from the Frank Burns of news: declares victory—again—in the war on Christmas.  One in his brain.  And he says the Nazi leader who  sent French and Hungarian Jews to the death camps, quote, “made good points.”  Enough to drive you to floor cheeseburgers.  The top most awkward moments of 2007.  These stories, ahead. 

First on COUNTDOWN “Best Persons in the World”: number three, best security—the screeners at the airport in Nuremburg in Germany.  They told a 64-year-old  passenger he could not carry a  two-pint bottle of vodka on board his flight, so he chugged it.  They think he‘ll be out of the hospital shortly. 

Number two, best attempt at matching the movie title:  the crew and 170  passengers on board a Vietnam Airlines flight were delayed by two hours before take-off from Dan Nang and  then raced from the plane upon arrival at Hanoi when they found loose scorpions on the plane. 

Number one, best overreaction: the unnamed teacher at Booth Preschool in Roxbury, Connecticut.  She was working late when, suddenly, she heard over the school P. A. system somebody say, “You‘re in the jungle, baby,  you‘re going to die.”  So, she barricaded herself in the  classroom and called the cops who sent six troopers and three police dogs to find the culprits: a teenage school custodian, two of his friends singing the Guns and Roses song “Welcome to the  Jungle” into the P. A. system, including the lyric, “You‘re in  the jungle, baby, you‘re going to die.”


OLBERMANN:  Bill O‘Reilly claims to be a crusader for Christmas but, in reality, his true concern is not Jesus Christ whose biblical revelations he indicated on the air were made—“what, 5,000 years ago?”  A neat trick even for him, considering he is said to have been alive 2,000 years ago.  Nor is O‘Reilly‘s focus Santa really nor even Frosty the Snowman.  More like a straw man of the  war on Christmas.  And now, on our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Bill O. declares victory—again.  And racks up yet another win against the secular progressives—that preceding by 24 hours O‘Reilly giving a pass to Barnes and Noble on the Christmas fran—because that company sells his book.  But, first, the victory dance—O‘Reilly two nights ago, reveling in his righteousness, “No joy in S. P. Ville.  The far-left secular progressive community is furious—furious, I tell you, about losing the war on Christmas.” 

Ooh!  Who cares?  Who is fighting this on either side except you and your  anti-Semitic friends?

He then gave examples of his great victory:  “In Wisconsin, the state assembly has voted to restore the name of the Christmas tree to the “Christmas tree.  S. P.s had changed it to the “holiday tree”.  On Capitol Hill, the House voted  yesterday 372 to nine to recognize the importance of the Christmas tradition and to condemn bigotry against Christmas.”

O‘Reilly then called out the nine lawmakers who voted against  the resolution.  More on that in a moment.  “So all over the country, the sights and sounds of Christmas are on display, few department stores are telling  employees not to say ‘merry Christmas‘, and the Taliban-like oppression of the holiday has  largely ceased.”

Ease up, Colonel Burns.  The Taliban used to cut off the fingers of women wearing nail polish.  When you hear of somebody doing  that here, then you can invoke the Taliban.  And, just for good measure, Bill O. then compared a critic, a writer from the “Philadelphia Daily News”, to other great religion-haters of the ages: “Joseph Stalin, Mao, and Fidel salute you.”  And he finished up by declaring that “the fact is, reporting on Christmas is one of the most important things we‘ve done.”  Now, give an allelluia—have done.  “The bottom line is this: we won.”

But, just one day later, a focus on  the family fellow trying to tell Bill O. that Barnes and Noble was intentionally removing the word Christmas and  using that holiday theme.  O‘Reilly suddenly switched gears, uttering the genius line, “They sell a lot of books at Barnes and Noble.”  No kidding.  And, when the guests suggested people should spend their money in a place that‘s not scared to  wish you a merry Christmas, O‘Reilly replied, I think a lot of people feel the same way.  Which is why we reversed the trend.  But I‘m not going to come down hard on Barnes and Noble.”

That doesn‘t even scratch the surface of O‘Reilly‘s war on sanity.  Since he already declared victory a week ago.   Since the long history of his reportage on this war, including one delusion after another like the false claim that the Plano Independent School District in Texas two years ago had told students they  could not wear red and green because they were Christmas colors.  Never happened.  To get to the bottom of the war on Christmas, with regard to our nation‘s capital, let‘s turn to the national political reporter of “The Washington  Post”, MSNBC Analyst Dana Milbank.  Dana, good evening, ho-ho-ho.


OLBERMANN:  Big picture first: war on Christmas, mission accomplished?

MILBANK:  Well, this is no time, Keith, to cut and run in this war.  And I think the secularists are in their last throes.  I believe, there are pockets of  dead-enders.  But, if they want to continue to fight, I say, bring them on.  

OLBERMANN:  The vote in the House that we‘ve mentioned—this was truly a cultural touchdown.  In October, congress had voted on resolutions to recognize the Islamic faith and Rahmadan.  They voted to support the Indian celebration, Diwali.  Tuesday, they voted on this Christmas resolution to acknowledge the international religious importance of Christmas and the Christian faith and all the resolutions passed overwhelmingly.  So, does this mean that a renewed war on Christmas or war on Rahmadan or war on Diwali would require some sort of, you know, congressional authorization vote?

MILBANK:  That‘s an excellent question.  The president should this reach  his desk and, perhaps, get around  it by issuing a signing statement, saying this is merely a cessation of hostilities.  But, to put it in perspective, the congress does hundreds of these, not just for holidays.  They‘ve done one for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Volleyball Team, NASCAR, the African-American Spiritual—literally, dozens a week of this.

OLBERMANN:  The war on the University of Nebraska of Lincoln Volleyball Team.  All right, the serious point of this, Congressman Steve King of Iowa was incensed that anybody voted against this: nine Democrats voted against the Christmas resolution.  One of those who did, Jim  McDermott of Seattle shot back  and he said that he was protesting.  It was a protest vote.  He said, while republicans are passing a resolution celebrating Christmas, the president was vetoing health care for children.  There‘s a little bit of irony going on  around here.  So, this is what it has come down to?  The only way to get some Republicans to pay attention to children‘s health care as chip is to vote against a—you know—an unnecessary boilerplate Christmas resolution?

MILBANK:  I guess so.  I‘m not sure Jim McDermott really has his symbolism down exactly right.  This is the guy they called “Baghdad Jim” because he went to see Saddam Hussein on the eve of the Iraq war.  I‘m not sure this makes his point exactly on this chip.  Perhaps, a better move would  have actually been to bring in Tiny Tim and have the actual photo up there in the  capitol. 

OLBERMANN:  Congressman King, though, that‘s the one, that‘s the interesting part of this equation.  He said he was motivated by the secularists in the country who are trying to eradicate Christ from Christmas and, now, he said in a radio interview, every child should be taught the tenets of Christianity.  This is where that Taliban analogy really falls down because, if you‘re forcing people to celebrate a religious event in a particular way, if you‘re demanding people to be religious, that would seem closer in spirit to the Taliban, would it not? 

MILBANK:  Yes, I suppose so.  In fact, if Congressman King were to use the proper analogy,  he would still be calling the other side the godless  communists and his own side could, in fact, be the Taliban.  But in the holiday spirit, let‘s grant him this and, of course, there are other battles to begin  fighting.  I don‘t know if you noticed this but Bill O‘Reilly, your friend, last night announced that there are nine days in Hannukkah.  Now, for the past 5,000 years, there have only been eight.  So, I can see where this battle going next year. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, man!  Last thing: everybody down there at the  Christmas festivities are the members of the executive, legislative, and judicial  branches grateful as they should be to Bill O‘Reilly for sparing them?

MILBANK:  Ah, they are.  They are—the White House is continuing  its holiday party tradition.  The president, in such a good mood, he even had the reporters over there last night.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, what do you think we go to the White House for a holiday party?  Are we still going to buy into this petty gofer frown?  Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC, have a great weekend and any holiday that you care to support and enjoy. 

MILBANK:  And you, too. 

OLBERMANN:  A great year for moments that make you  cringe, including Miss South Carolina‘s  meaningless string of words at a pageant.  Oh, and if you thought this Christmas dribble was bad, wait until you see worse on the Nazi Bill O‘Reilly claims.  Next on COUNTDOWN. 


OLBERMANN:  They‘re all back: Kevin Federline, Britney Spears, back from the midnight run at the gas station, even Commissioner Gordon—the threat of sanctions and mean stuff.  Tony Blankley versus Congressman Chris Shays versus Bill O. praising Hitlers on his show.  Only in “Worst Persons”.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN is “Keeping Tabs” wherein Britney Spears‘ trip to a gas station produces its succession of staggering consequences.  You may recall, she had claimed to be sick when she failed to show up for her own deposition in her custody battle with Kevin Federline but she was spotted on the evening of the same day at a gas station,  simply perky as only she can do.  Now K-Fed‘s lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan wants sanctions against spears, according to  If not, there will have to be an invasion.  He will ask Commissioner Scott Gordon—

Commissioner Gordon—to bar Spears from even requesting further rights from that judge  until she sits for said deposition.  Why don‘t you get a sanction against her for leaving her assistant who actually pumped the gas at the station and then driving away? 

A quick program note, depending on where you‘re watching this, it may be too late.  But, if not, I was fortunate enough to be Bill Moyers guest on this week‘s edition of his program on PBS.  It airs tonight: “Bill Moyers‘ Journal” on your local PBS station, different times in different cities, as they say.  And as they also say, check your listings.  And, thanks, Bill.  You can take your hint there.

Crying for mommy when the judge sends you to jail?  Where does that fit amoong 2007‘s most awkward moments?  But she saved an oompa-loompa.  That‘s ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World”. The bronze: Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut recounting, in the wake of baseball steroid report yesterday, the testimony of Mark Maguire and Rafael Palmero in Congress in March 2005 -- you know, when Mark Maguire basically denied having ever heard of Mark Maguire.  Shays says, “Personally, I was just  stunned by it because I haven‘t seen worse behavior in anyone in my 20 years in public life in Congress.”

Come on, congressman, the Chairman of Blackwater testified in front of you.  The president you supported lied us into war in front of you, got thousands of Americans killed pointlessly.  And Maguire and Palmero are the worst you‘ve seen in 20 years? 

The runner-up: Fox Business.  The oxygen is getting thin over there, evidently.  Tuesday morning, they brought on Constance Stellas to predict what the Federal Reserve Board would do later that day about interest rates.  Ms. Stellas used extensive charts and calculations to say the rate would be cut by half a point.  Actually, it was cut by a quarter point.  And who is this Miss Stellas who was off by 100 percent?  A trained investor?  A market analyst?  A retired fed board member?  An astrologer—in fact, the author of “The Everything Sex Signs Book: Astrology Between the Sheets”.  This might explain why you have not heard Roger Ale say a word about Fox Business in weeks.

But, our winner, Bill O.  Honestly, they‘re stacking up like planes at all theaters at rush hour.  Going nuts over Tim Robins against because he appeared for John Edwards in Iowa.  Now, Bernard Goldberg even says to Bill, “Robins is a bright guy.  I think, he made a couple of good  points.”  Then, Jane Hall said Robins‘ criticism of media oversimplification of the Democratic race, quote, “I think is valid.”  Whereupon, the Frank Burns of news replies, “But Von Ribbentropp, in the Nazi hierarchy made valid points, Jane.”

OK, skip the Nazi reference part in comparing Robins to Ribbentropp and it was just Ribbentropp—he made up the ‘Von‘ part.  The news here is, Von Ribbentropp made valid points?  Hitler‘s foreign minister, the guy who convinced France and Hungary and much of Eastern Europe to deport their Jews to the German death camps.  The man who was hanged for his war crimes.    That Ribbentropp?  Ribbentropp made valid points, Bill?  Do you want to name one of them?  Until then, what?  Should you just assume what we should just assume—everything that was ever said by Ribbentropp in the Nazi hierarchy, you  approved?  Idiot!  Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”.


OLBERMANN:  Looking back with gusto on the astonishing number of public humiliations and embarrassments in the news in 2007, our number one story tonight.  Of course, the list of politicians and celebrities who made fools of themselves is almost endless.  “Time” magazine‘s latest issue, managing to whittle down the top ten awkward moments, every one of them already covered here on COUNTDOWN.  So, what better way to start the weekend than with a hit parade of humiliations, beginning with Britney Spears? 

The queen of embarrassment in her personal life and in a comeback performance that  convinced so many that they really don‘t want their MTV. 


OLBERMANN:  Less of Britney really is more.  Close behind Ms. Spears, Paris Hilton‘s courtroom connection—a fit she went through when a judge sent her back to jail to finish out what turned out to be four entire days.  Since there were no cameras in court, but with the magic of sticks and paper, the COUNTDOWN Public Theater immortalized the moment. 


UNIDENTIFIED PUPPET JUDGE:  The defendant is remanded to county jail to serve the remainder of her 45-day sentence.  This order is forthwith...


PUPPET JUDGE:  Sergeants, take her away and book her.  Sergeant, take her away!  Sergeant, book her.  

UNIDENTIFIED PUPPET SERGEANT:  Nice to meet you, Sergeant Take Her Away.

PUPPET PARIS HILTON:  This isn‘t life, Mom!  Mom!  Mom, I just broke a heel!


OLBERMANN:  That was before she saved the oompa-loompa.  Of course, humiliation knows no bounds, especially when you‘re going through a nasty divorce.  Somebody leaves you your own angry voice-mail message berating your 11-year-old child.  Here‘s some of the ear-full heard around the world when Alec Baldwin‘s daughter pressed one:


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR:  I am going to get on a plane.  I‘m going to come out there for the day and I‘m going to straighten your [ bleep ] out when I see you.  Do you understand me?  You‘d better be ready Friday, the 20th, to meet with me.  So, I will let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are.  You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK?


OLBERMANN:  Could have been worse.  He could have been drunk.  Recovering alcoholic David Hasselhoff off the wagon and on the floor for wrestling a double burger and being lectured by his daughter.  An internet video that keeps repeating itself like a bad meal.  


DAVID HASSELHOFF, ACTOR:  This is a mess. 

HASSELHOFF‘S DAUGHTER (off-camera):  Dad, you‘re going to promise me you won‘t get alcohol tonight.  OK?


MS. HASSELHOFF:  Do you promise me you are not going to get alcohol today?




MS. HASSELHOFF:  If you get alcohol tonight,  you‘re fired from your show tomorrow.  The doctor is coming over here  in the morning to check your  alcohol level.  If you get any alcohol in your system, you‘re going to be fired  from the show.  Tomorrow.  Do you hear me?  No alcohol. 


OLBERMANN:  Where‘s Kit when you need a designated driver?  Get me William Daniels, staff.  And finally, there are those who seemed poised to drive the rest of us to drink, like Warren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen at the Miss Teen USA Pageant.  Answering the question, “Why do you think polls show 1/5 of Americans can‘t find the U. S. on a map?”


WARREN CAITLIN UPTON, MISS SOUTH CAROLINA-TEEN:  I‘ve heard so many believe that U. S. Americans are unable  to do so because some people out there in our nation don‘t have that.  And I believe our education such as South Africa and Iraq, everywhere such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U. S. should help the should help South Africa, and should help Iraq and the Asian  countries, so we will be able to build up our future.


OLBERMANN:  In “Time‘s” official list, the most awkward moment: the introduction of Iranian President Ahmadinejad by Columbia University President Lead Volunteer.  Miss Upton coming in third runner-up but first among those of us hoping to build up our future and everywhere like, such as. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,689th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Such as.  From New York, on behalf of U. S.  Americans everywhere, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.  



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