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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 8

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: John Dean

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

Not Super Tuesday but worthwhile weekend: 185 delegates on the menu in Nebraska, Louisiana, the Virgin Islands, Maine and Washington state.  Another land of Clintonian expectations is already pre-diminished for your convenience.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If this were a primary where everybody could vote all day, I would feel pretty good about it.  But it‘s not.  It‘s a caucus.


OLBERMANN:  I‘ll see your pre-diminished expectations and lower you.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This affection for President Clinton and it would - in winning the Democratic Party.  I think the Clinton brand name is very strong.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama is very strong for Senator Clinton after the loan to her campaign releasing her tax returns.

Florida is very strong for not staging a second primary.  President Clinton is very strong for campaigning exactly the opposite of the way he campaigned last month.  And he was actually overshadowed today in campaigning by presidents.  Look, he does know there‘s an election in November.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  This is an important election.  Prosperity and peace in the ballots.


OLBERMANN:  I didn‘t say he knew a lot about the election in November.  Nor did I say he endorsed John McCain nor even mentioned him, nor even acknowledged he exists.

The big acknowledgement from the CIA director: Waterboarding, might it used to be legal.  Now, it might not be legal.  It is not certain that the technique would be considered to be lawful under current statute.  But the Justice Department will not investigate its use.

Nor thinking spell behind former presidents nor wondering rough (ph) elephant‘s deals nor improved security training for sports mascots.  Our Oddball plays of the month.

And this network‘s apology to President Clinton, Senator Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening.  This is Friday, February 8th, 270 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Democratic Party officials in Michigan have not decided to play a game of chicken with the DNC.  They will be holding tomorrow‘s primer event on the primary calendar, 156 delegates in one key contest between Super Tuesday and upcoming Chesapeake Tuesday.

In our fifth story: Instead, Detroit Red Wings are home Sunday.  And while Michigan mulls over the idea of a primary do-over and Florida last at it, Senators Clinton and Obama are vying this weekend for more delegates than they did in all of January.  Florida‘s default (ph) in the moment, first with the largest chunk of delegates at stake in the Washington caucuses, no surprise that both senators were campaigning in that state today.  At a rally at the University of Puget sound where she picked up the endorsement of the American Association of Nurses.  Senator Clinton explaining why she is against caucuses as a general rule.


CLINTON:  Tomorrow you get a chance to help to pick a president.  And you know, if this were a primary where everybody could vote all day, I would feel pretty good about it.  But it‘s not.  It‘s a caucus.  And you got to show up at 1:00 o‘clock and I‘d already met three nurses outside and I said, will you go to caucus for me.  And they said, well, we‘re working tomorrow.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Obama with a different explanation of why Senator Clinton has been doing better in the primary states and he better in the caucus states in Seattle.  The Illinois Democrat explaining, former first lady is simply better known.


OBAMA:  We are always at a disadvantage with voters who don‘t know me as well because they know an awful lot about Senator Clinton.  And you know, there‘s affection for President Clinton and in the Democratic Party.  I think the Clinton brand name is very strong.  We have to do more work in order for people to peel off from something that they‘re familiar with.  And is easier to do in caucus states, it‘s harder to do in primary states.


OLBERMANN:  All those issues coming to a head in Florida where some at the Democratic National Committee floated an idea for a second primary or perhaps a caucus to replace the decertified vote from month.  But Craig Crawford reporting at said, Florida officials are laughing out loud, saying, just caucuses would cost $4 million and the DNC has only offered to defray $850,000 of that.  He also quote one unidentified, obviously pro-Clinton Democratic bigwig in the sunshine state as saying, quote, “Hillary Clinton won Florida without campaigning here but Obama‘s DNC and media pals now want a do-over when he was the one that broke the rules and ran t ads throughout the state.  That is completely nuts.”  The Obama campaign of course says, that is completely nuts saying, it was reassured by South Carolina‘s Democratic chair that national TV buy did not break the rules, the pledges made by both campaigns to the early voting states.  At this point, let‘s call in our Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to what isn‘t happening.  But first what is.  Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, Virgin Islands and especially, Washington.  Two caucuses, including Washington.  Is this an Obama weekend?

FINEMAN:  Well, it could be.  Because there are caucuses and because while Washington State is close, I think Obama has a late momentum there.  He got the endorsement of the governor, Christine Gregoire, who had been neutral.  So, you got two prominent female politicians supporting Hillary.  But Obama‘s got the governor.  Obama got the endorsement of the biggest union in the state, the service employees.  And he‘s got a lot of money and it is a caucus.  And also, independents can take part.  So, all those factors lead me to think that he‘s got a good shot there.  And he does do well in the other caucus states and by the way, his explanation, I think, was a good one.  Where he had time and money to work from the grassroots up and a small universe of caucusgoers, he has shown that he can really do well.

OLBERMANN:  Washington, you mentioned the Governor Gregoire coming up for him.  Senators Murray and Cantwell are the big endorser for Clinton.  Is there any way we should be interpreting that other than that state is split as much as the rest of the Democratic electorate that has already voted has been split?

FINEMAN:  No.  I think that‘s the interpretation.  I mean, you can cut it all kinds of ways.  You can talk about experience versus change.  You can talk about younger versus slightly older and the baby boom.  You can talk about women and African-Americans.  The fact is that the two candidates do not disagree in any profound way on the issues.  This is a question of leadership style and of points in the power point versus the poetry of the speech and the big arena.  And it‘s not clear who‘s going to win that battle.  It just is not clear.  But it‘s going to go, I think it‘s going to go pretty much down to the wire in this way and divided but I don‘t think fatally divided Democratic Party.

OLBERMANN:  What about Florida and Michigan, are we beginning to see where they are going, that they are—there could be a second vote in Michigan but Florida is in the books in the DNC, so, eventually, they will have to seat those delegates?

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s going to be the big argument.  Because it‘s quite possible that even with the superdelegates neither Hillary nor Obama have a majority as we heads toward Denver.  And then the question is all going to be about Florida and Michigan.  Do they hold other events to substitute?  Do they insist on the results from earlier?  Will the DNC step in and allow other events?  If it gets to the convention there will be votes on whether to seat the delegation.  There may even be votes if they hold other events on seating competing delegations.  I mean, we don‘t know and these two sides are looking for every advantage are going to play out a million different scenarios and we‘re going to be covering them in almost mind-numbing detail between now and the summer.

OLBERMANN:  I think we have gotten to mind-numbing already by the way.

FINEMAN:  That‘s for you as anchor to say.  Not for me.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  I just did.  Did anything change yesterday or today in terms of adding a sense of urgency to all this either in the Obama camp or the Clinton camp or even at the DNC because these two days were the first full two days of John McCain‘s campaign as the unofficial Republican nominee?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think that‘s going to be an increasing concern.  And some Democrats were asking me about that very thing today.  Now that McCain can pretty much focus on the general election, begin organizing in the Congress and around the country, his agenda, in his focus and now that he‘s pretty much got George Bush onboard which helps with some voters, can the Democrats afford to remain in this tough, bitter dispute tall way through the summer?  And I think the answer is, that they have no choice but it‘s a mistake to think that just because they‘re arguing now, they‘ll be arguing at the convention.  It will be a very exciting convention and probably a unified one in the end.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”, seeking as we are to avoid any unnecessary mind -numbing.  Thank you, Howard.  Have a good weekend.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton‘s money troubles easing in more than ways than one since she wrote that the $5 million check to her own campaign.  Her spokesman telling reporters today that she has raised over $8 million online since the polls closed on Tuesday.  The Obama campaign not releasing its post-Tuesday fund-raising take anymore apparently but Senator Obama is suggesting that Senator Clinton should now follow his lead and release her and her husband‘s income tax returns, so, the public can see exactly where the $5 million she loaned herself came from.  Senator Clinton responding that that would not happen unless or until she secures the Democratic nomination.  Her most recent Senate financial disclosure form from 2006, listing a combined net worth somewhere between $10 million to $25 million.  Senator Obama released tax documents last spring showing income of about $991,000 for he and his wife.  That includes his Senate salary and her income as an administrator of the University of Chicago Hospitals.

If you hadn‘t noticed President Clinton, meanwhile, still a daily presence on the campaign trail for his wife, if you hadn‘t noticed Mr.  Clinton might consider that a good thing.  In an ABC News exclusive, Rob Caldwell from our Portland, Maine, affiliate, WCZH (ph) tracked down the former president Clinton in a dinner and asked Mr. Clinton if he had any regrets about anything he said during the campaign.


BILL CLINTON, FMR UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I think whenever I defend her, A, risk being misquoted and B, risk being the story.  I don‘t want to be the story.  And I don‘t mind being the story in Maine tonight.  But you know what I mean of this.  This is her campaign and her presidency and her decisions.  And so, even if I win an argument, with an another candidate, it‘s not the right thing do.  I need to promote her but not defend her.  And I learned a valuable lesson from all that does up (ph).


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine, thanks for coming in.


OLBERMANN:  See change in that clip from Bill Clinton or more correctly don‘t see him change?  Is that—is that true first of all?  Has he actually managed to keep a lower profile and has that have more of an impact than we‘ve generally given it credit for?

ALTER:  Well, I think we did take Jim Clyburn‘s advice in South Carolina to chill out as Clyburn said.  You haven‘t heard him in the news too much lately which has been a good thing for Hillary.  But meanwhile, he is continuing to campaign very aggressively, particularly in African-American areas.  If they can cut Obama‘s overwhelming margin in the African community even a little bit from, you know, four, five to one to three or more to one, that‘s an advantage for the Clintons.  So, he, in some ways is still an asset and although by his admission, messed up bad, he continues to be a help right now, I think, to his wife‘s campaign.

OLBERMANN:  Overwhelming impact.  If anything, both these campaigns have been trying to underwhelm.  How long can you—can both sides in this continue to play, the oh, no know, the Lou Holtz (ph) trick.  Notre dame‘s opponent this weekend is really tough.  It‘s a high school from Dennison (p) Minnesota.  No, no, it is real tough.  They‘ve got great players.  How long can they both continue this and still seem plausible or credible?

ALTER:  I think until one of them opens up, you know, at least some kind of a lead.  I mean, right now they really are deadlocked.  So, they can both claim to be a challenger and the underdog.  But you know, if Obama say, has a big weekend, and then say, he were to sweep the Potomac (ph) primaries next Tuesday, he‘s not going to be able to pretend any longer that he is the underdog.

OLBERMANN:  This financial issue here, obviously asking for release of the tax records and returns and all that, it‘s a fairly standard thing of almost any political campaign.  But the actual decision she made to loan herself $5 million, is this turning out to be, as she suggested a really good investment?  Was this a great ploy because it somehow galvanized fund-raising?  Or what has this impact been?

ALTER:  Well, first of all, they needed it for Super Tuesday.  Remember, they closed gap—Obama had momentum and they stopped some of that momentum and the money there helped.  That $5 million has helped, we don‘t know exactly how, of course.  But I think long-term, it‘s going to be a problem for her even though it helped to generate some very generous online donations.  Because what it‘s done, it has opened this question of where they get the money from.  You know, is this Ron Burkholt (ph) money now going to be part of the dialogue?  I think it will.  And it does give the Clinton people—excuse me - the Obama people an opportunity to say, look, what is this about saying, you won‘t release your tax returns until after the convention?  After you are the nominee?  That‘s not going wash for her.  I think, before we are done with this particular flap, she‘s going to have to release her taxes.

OLBERMANN:  And one other part of this.  Is Governor Romney sitting at home in Boston planning the next four years of his life out going, loan, loan myself that money?

ALTER:  Yes, that could have worked for him meanwhile, his children and grandchildren are probably fretting a little bit, too, how much is going to be leftover for them.

OLBERMANN:  Have we seen this before, a loan to - who else had done this?

ALTER:  Well, to be honest, the only loan that comes to mind is what they call the huge loan which was a problem for Richard Nixon in the 1960s campaign.  His brother, Donald Nixon, took a huge loan~ from Howard Hughes and that dominated the headlines for several weeks.  But I‘m sure that there are other examples that didn‘t come to mind.

OLBERMANN:  I thought you would invoke Charles Evans.  A loan out on the last beard in American politics.  Our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” magazine.  Thanks for coming in and have a good weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And by now you probably heard on this network yesterday my colleague David Shuster discussing Chelsea Clinton‘s role appears for her in her mother‘s campaign as a guest quote, “Doesn‘t it seem like Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?”  At the greatest possible respect for David Shuster‘s work, his reporting for this show and others is insidious and excellent and his political insight is keen.  All that being noted, it was an utterly inappropriate and indefensible thing to say.  But Clintons have every right to be furious, hurt and appalled.  Many of us here have similar reactions.  Once that transcend political parties and politics itself.  David has been suspended and remains only for me to apologize without limit to President Clinton, to Senator Clinton and to Ms. Clinton on behalf of MSNBC.  We are literally, dreadfully sorry.

Neither of these men may want to admit it but George W. Bush and John McCain belong to the same party.  First hint of that is the first step (ph) of how a lame duck president sees his role in the McCain campaign coming today.  Talk about torture—what about the tortured logic on water boarding?  The administration says, it‘s probably is not legal now.  But probably it was before.  So now, nobody has to bother investigating any waterboarding that went on before.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  President Bush actually acknowledges there is a presidential election this November and the Republican candidate in it though he never mentions his name, fair enough.  The candidate probably won‘t be mentioning Mr. Bush‘s name much either.  Also: Late charges that just not Roger Clemens use illegal performance enhancing drugs, but so too did his wife.  And in Worst, perfect Fox noise has one honest show on the air and Roger Ailes just dumped it.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  At the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, in Washington earlier this morning, President Bush repeated one of his different carnages (ph) about presidential historian, he said again, if they‘re still analyzing number one, we think he means George Washington, 43 doesn‘t have to worry about it.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: It‘s number 44 everybody else is worried about to such a degree that even Mr. Bush himself has finally noticed.  There is a presidential election in November.  The question is why he chose this very moment as the analysis of his presidency of his disapproval ratings historical to chime in on campaign 2008.  His job approval is at an all-time low in the AP-Apsos (ph)poll: 30 percent and all time low inside his own party, fewer than 2/3, 61 percent.  Even among the faithfullest faithful at CPAC today, some conservatives in attendance denied the president even polite applause as he first summarized how his policies has left the country in such great job and explained how the country is in such crappy shape that we need four more years of conservative leadership.  Leadership he seemed to imply Senator John McCain could provide.


BUSH:  We‘ve had good debates and soon we‘ll have a nominee who will carry a conservative banner into this election and beyond and the stakes in November are high.  This is an important election.  Prosperity and peace are in the ballots.  So, with confidence in our vision, and faith in our values, let us go forward, fight for victory, and keep the White House in 2008.  God bless you.  And God bless America.


OLBERMANN:  The White House later denied endorsing John McCain.  But Mr. Bush‘s remarks calling the eventual nominee a conservative and just one day after Senator McCain was booed by CPAC when he tried to win over who argue he is not sufficiently conservative.  Also not sufficiently conservative for CPAC, a rare distinction that she shares with the president of the United States, MSNBC political analyst, Rachel Maddow of Air America radio.  Good to see you.


OLBERMANN:  Was Bush endorsing him?  Was he damning him with faint praise?  Did he just forget his name maybe?

MADDOW:  I think Bush was there to endorse himself.  I think Bush was there to remind his party and to remind the country that there is at least one room full of people in America that will still cheer for him when he speaks.  And he is worried about his legacy.  And part of his legacy whether or not his party allows him to participate, even nominally in the process of choosing his successor.  And I essentially think that he was there to say don‘t pretend I don‘t exist the way you guys did in all the Republican debates.

OLBERMANN:  Well, but that then, raises two very important questions about this campaign.  Should the Democratic campaign simply then consist of a series of ads saying, vote for and then later on, you just dub in whichever wins the nomination.  Hillary or Barack.  Because of this videotape right here.  And just show this again and again and in an endless loop all summer and fall.  Would that not be the simplest way to handle a campaign?

MADDOW:  The hugging.  It will also be the cheapest campaign ever which might be a nice for the country.  You know, so, many gallons of ink have been spilled in past week or so about how much the far right wing hates John McCain.  And you know, I think it made us kind of forget that a lot of Americans would see it as a badge of honor to be disapproved of by Ann Coulter, for example.  So, that puts new company with a lot of American heroes like the 9/11 widows and Senator Max Cleland, the triple amputee vet.  Democrats, I think, have really enjoyed seeing the right wing eat its‘ own and see them get so upset about John McCain.  But it‘s probably time to stop enjoying that show and instead start pointing out that McCain is really running to continue all of the most hated things about the Bush administration, particularly the war and his ruinous fiscal policy.

OBLERMANN:  So, what then—that‘s the next extending of this question.  What does Senator McCain do if Mr. Bush gets frisky about campaigning and wants to be out there and wants to be—by name involve?

MADDOW:  Meaning, he has a few options.  He can pull the fire alarm.  You know, he could start talking about torture.  That will probably make Bush leave.  Talking about having been tortured.  He can accuse Bush of having black baby.  I mean, the options for him at this point in terms of getting back at George Bush are legion.  John McCain is probably going to run on war, on the Iraq war and his hopes for an Iran war.  And so, he may make—make the mistake of having Bush out there as kind of a war trinket on the campaign trail.  I think it would be dumb because people don‘t think of just war when they look at George Bush.  They think warmonger and that‘s something that John McCain should probably avoid.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Plus, shoot the economy to hell and the Constitution and several other things that he brings along his baggage.  But lastly, I mean, you go just past this.  And you‘re talking about things that people don‘t really register the importance of.  We just read pieces of—one more sentence in the script again.  The White House later denied endorsing McCain.  This is a two-term Republican president.  This is unprecedented.  There‘s no - there all the ha-ha, all the jokes, they don‘t want to be associated, it‘s the same party and the option is a Democrat, would you think there would be the need to deny endorsing the presumptive Republican nominee, is that possible?

MADDOW:  You know, the only way—the only way this really makes sense at this point, maybe think Huckabee is going to run away with Kansas this weekend, maybe they think there‘s some chance for something other than McCain.  They hate John McCain.  They‘re Constitutionally incapable of endorsing him.  Bush‘s endorsement may not mean much but they really are absolutely rabid (ph) as a party.

OLBERMANN:  Beyond belief.  Somebody in that White House—well, all right.  Now it makes sense.  Somebody in the White House that believed all the gaffes (ph) about Iraq and believe everything else that‘s concluded that Huckabee can win every remaining delegate.  You‘re absolutely right.  Rachel Maddow, host of the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America and with us here on MSNBC.  Great thanks.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Have a good weekend.

And a special thanksgiving late message, a little late from your friendly neighborhood police department at L card (ph) in the end.

And put all of Bush administration‘s new rulings on waterboarding together, you get this.  It isn‘t legal now but it was legal earlier, so, we don‘t need to start a criminal investigation.  These stories are coming up.

But first: The latest in the administration‘s 50 other scandals - Bushed.

Number three: Detainee-gate.  In 2004, the Justice Department established the prosecution team to be at to ready in the event there abuse of detainees at Gitmo or elsewhere.  Justice reveals today that 24 cases of possible abuse have been referred to the team by the Pentagon and the CIA‘s inspector general and the team has declined to prosecute all but two of them.

Number two: Quail-gate.  It was two years ago next Monday that the vice president actually shot his fellow hunter, Harry Whittington during quail equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel as the private Armstrong ranch in Corpus Christi, Texas.  But guess what?  Mr. Cheney is returning to Armstrong this weekend for the 2008 hunt.  So, to all those in the metro Corpus area, please keep travel to a minimum and keep the roads clear at all times to make it‘s easier for the ambulance drivers.

Number one: Underqualified-gate.  Reports from the Conservative Political Action Conference that the push is on to get Senator McCain to choose as his vice-presidential running-mate, Secretary of State Rice.  Supporters even have a Web site, a campaign, and a logo.  Think Condi.  At least, that‘s what many assume the site and that phrase are about.  They may have the wrong end of the stick here.  May not be think Condi.  It may be think Condi!


OLBERMANN:  February 8th, birthday of an American icon, besides our ace camera one, Bernie Sweetman (ph) who turns 206 today, no, this is also the birthday of James Dean, the iconic star of “Rebel Without a Cause” would have been 77 years old.  When he died he was 24.  For perspective, this is also Nick Nolte‘s birthday, and he is 67. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

OLBERMANN:  We begin in Elcarte (ph), Indiana, where the phrase “to cop a feel” just took on a whole new nuance, especially for those of you with the Spoonerism disease.  This is the local police station, very early on Thanksgiving morning.  All seems normal until that lady in the miniskirt decides to get friendly, give thanks in some sort of different kind of way. 

First she climbed on the desk, then she goes to the back room to get frisked, or climbing back onto the desk to pose for pictures.  The thin blue line, thus seldom having seemed more thin or more blue. 

To the fourth rock from the Sun, the red planet, where just weeks after the cameras picked up what appeared to be a small an extremely small ape-like Martian on camera, it turned out to be just a rock.  We‘re falling, help! 

The European Space Agency Mars Express Satellite has found nothing, absolutely nothing.  No definitive proof of life.  No definitive proof of no life.  It just, however, did send us this cool animation instead, so we put it TV. 

It‘s best of the worst time. “Oddball‘s” plays of the month.  And a bad one for staying on your feet.  The big news, waterboarding is probably illegal now, but that still doesn‘t mean this guy feels he needs to be investigate our government‘s use of it.  These stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three Best Persons in the World.” Number three, best apology.  Traffic Judge Bernice D‘Angelos (ph) of Philadelphia has formally apologized to Edward Stanley Harris.  Since October 1990, Philadelphia has been trying to get him to pay $1,500 worth of parking tickets. 

The thing is, Edward Stanley Harris did not incur the tickets, Edwin Shelby Harris (ph) did, his twin brother, who subsequently became a drifter.  Every year since the city threatened to suspend Edward‘s license.  Last November another judge refused to even look at the paperwork and threatened to send Edward to jail for his brother‘s tickets, so he paid up. 

Now this judge, D‘Angelos has stepped in, apologized to Edward and refunded his money.  So you know what happen next year, obviously.  They start coming after him again. 

Number two, best misguided attempt of cleanliness.  An unnamed woman in Pompano Beach, Florida, she just painted her trailer home, she decided to clean the paint off of her hands with gasoline next to the stove.  Ka-boom.  She got away with minor burns on her hands. 

And number one, best win by the bureaucracy.  A man is under arrest in Sutherland, Oregon, for allegedly having stolen an antique slot machine from a home where his own wife is employed or was at least as a housekeeper.  Loading the machine into the getaway car, he broke one of the vehicle‘s windows.  The wife then unintentionally tipped the cops when she filed a claim with her insurance company for the broken window.  


OLBERMANN:  Remember how we just did our Bush segment 12 minutes ago?  Yes, well, it is time for another one.  Not that we had three new scandals since then.  The new scandal rate is estimated only one for every 20 minutes or so.  No, in our third story tonight, due to the abundance of election coverage, to compensate for the shortfall in our usual watchdogging, we now offer an extra serving of “Bushed.”

Number three, not investigating waterboarding-gate-gate.  CIA Director Michael Hayden yesterday admitted waterboarding does not seem to be legal.  But he also claimed it was legal when the CIA did it in 2002 and 2003.  Why?  No, you didn‘t miss the waterboarding is just fine act of 2001.  The Justice Department simply says so.  Therefore, Attorney General Mukasey testified yesterday he will not investigate anyone for waterboarding back then, saying his agency cannot investigate conduct that his agency authorized. 

All of which explains Senator Dick Durbin‘s new letter to Mukasey, explaining, no, I wasn‘t asking you to investigate the waterboarders.  I want you to investigate the people who said it was OK in the first place.  A probe that Senator Durbin is now asking of the DOJ‘s inspector general. 

Bringing us to number two, the original waterboarding-gate.  The New York Times reporting that the CIA destroyed its waterboarding tapes at the same time the judge in the Moussaoui case was asking about them.  Conflicting with Hayden‘s claim last December that the tapes were destroyed only after it had been determined they had no relevance to any judicial inquiries. 

And at number one, telecom immunity-gate.  The Senate is still not taking sides on whether to give big telecom communities immunity for helping the Bush administration illegally eavesdrop on Americans and whatever they plan to do next.  The FISA vote now expected Tuesday.  Mr.  Bush having said he will veto any FISA bill which lacks that immunity even though he says vetoing the bill will endanger American lives. 

All of which fodder again for our “Broken Government” series with John Dean, White House counsel in the Nixon administration, author of “Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, & Judicial Branches.”

John, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Are we seeing a new pattern here among the new hires?  OK.  I will uphold the law but please don‘t expect me go after the guys who broke the law before I got here? 

DEAN:  Well, that‘s certainly a fair way to characterize it.  But it does run a little bit deeper.  If, for example, the CIA and its contractors were really relying and reasonably relying on the Department of Justice in taking their action in waterboarding, and indeed, a lot of precedent for them to have a free pass.  That happened during Watergate.  The burglars who broke into Daniel Ellsberg‘s psychiatrist office were told by two White House aides, Hunt and Liddy, that the president had authorized it.  That was a false statement.  But they relied on it and they were given a pass.  So there is precedent for this sort of pass. 

OLBERMANN:  Does the DOJ determination of 2002, that waterboarding was legal at that point, does it carry any legal weight?  Does it really—as Mukasey has kind of posited, this thing does it really tie his hands today or does he have any options? 

DEAN:  It really doesn‘t carry any weight with the courts.  It certainly has some value within the Department of Justice.  But I think that Senator Durbin has put his finger on the question and what, if Mukasey were playing it straight, he would be looking at, was it a reasonable determination?  Were there games being played between the Department of Justice and the White House?

And if that‘s the case, indeed then these may not be reasonable, even relied on, but it might be a part of a grand conspiracy to employ what is in effect war crimes.  So that‘s the rub that he is refusing even look at that issue. 

OLBERMANN:  The Ellsberg case that you just referred to obviously included a president being falsely relied upon as the authoritative figure, legally and otherwise.  We know President Bush signed off on the waterboarding.  Is he in legal jeopardy for having government agents break the law?  And if he is in legal jeopardy where would that legal jeopardy originate from?  Who would prosecute that?  Who would follow that up? 

DEAN:  Well, of course, under the Nixon doctrine he wouldn‘t be, because as Nixon famously said, if a president does it, it is legal.  That doctrine does not carry much weight.  I think—I don‘t think Bush, as a practical matter, has much exposure, certainly not in the United States or abroad. 

I think possibly somebody like Dick Cheney or some of his aides could indeed have some problems in the future where states and countries that prosecute war crimes and more information comes out, they may well have jeopardy. 

So I don‘t think the president himself is going to be in any trouble.  But I think Cheney and people like David Addington ought to be very careful what countries they travel to when they leave office. 

OLBERMANN:  Goodness.  Yes.  Tuesday we have the FISA vote.  If the Democrats cave in, and they agree to shield the telecoms lawsuits filed by Americans, never mind any prosecution, but just the civil action, does that mean that the end of any possible inquiry in any way, shape or form into that illegal wiretapping and whatever the next stage might be of the monitoring of Internet and phone communications? 

DEAN:  Well, it certainly would end the civil pursuit of that inquiry, if that—indeed, if they do cave.  And if they do cave, it is not likely that they are going to be inclined to pick up a congressional investigation which should indeed be digging into these issues and they have been very reluctant to do it so far. 

So this may be the end of the story, we are seeing.  And I think it‘s to the chagrin of a lot of people who thought the law meant somebody and that they indeed were supposed to follow it. 

OLBERMANN:  Extraordinary.  The former White House counsel, John Dean, author, of course, of “Broken Government.” Great thanks as always for joining us, John.  And have a great weekend. 

DEAN:  You, too, Keith, thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  From the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous, an accusation that Mrs. Roger Clemens used human growth hormone?  I thought I saw her pitch at Yankee Stadium three years ago. 

And it had to happen sooner or later.   Roger Ailes has cancelled the best show on “Fixed” News.  Details ahead on the “Worst Persons in the World.”


OLBERMANN:  First the pitchers, now the pitchers‘ wives.  Any way you look at it, the latest bizarre twist in baseball steroids scandal is opener in tonight‘s celebrity and entertainment news.  Late today The New York Daily News reporting its sources claim Roger Clemens and his wife, Debbie, are now implicated.  That former Clemens trainer, Brian McNamee, told congressional investigators that he also injected Mrs. Clemens with human growth hormone at her husband‘s direction. 

No.  She never did have a part-time job under the name Johan Santana.  This was allegedly in order to buff up her figure for this 2003 photo shoot with Rog in Sports  Illustrated.  Clemens attorney calling the allegation “amazing.” McNamee‘s lawyers not saying much except that the issue is Roger Clemens and not Debbie Clemens. 

Actor Kevin Federline, caught between TV reality and real reality.  Real reality winning for now.  Federline put his plans for a new reality TV show on hold.  The seriously real problems of his ex-wife Britney Spears given as the reason for the delay according to The New York Post.  Federline‘s show on the E! network, described as documenting his life as a single working father with children to raise.  No word on what E! will replace the postponed show with.  But it will star Ryan Seacrest. 

As for the mother of his kids, late word tonight the courts just gave her father the power to fire her business manager, Sam Lufti.  Ms. Spears‘ parents have accused him of manipulating, drugging and imprisoning their daughter. 

And three weeks after the death of Heath Ledger, his New York apartment is up for rent.  The unit, in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, is 4,400 square feet, large even by celebrity standards.  With three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, along with an office and a balcony.  One New York broker predicted the bare bones reality, quoting, “as ghoulish as it sounds, people will rent that place in a heartbeat, especially when the vacancy rate is below 1 percent.” 

Animals acting way too human.  Humans acting way too much like animals and being tackled by bees.  All part of life‘s rich pageant.  In tonight‘s “Oddball‘s” plays of the night.  That‘s next.  But first, we have COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” 

The bronze to the Webmasters at  A list of headlines linking visitors to various news stories including one about efforts to disperse a group of men convicted of sexual offenses who have been camped under a bridge in Miami.  The headline the Web site composed for that story” “Those Weren‘t Veterans, John Edwards, They Were Sex Offenders.” It is safe to assume Bill-O does not write nor approve the link language at his Web site.  The culprits here more likely his minions trying to brownnose him, which is disgusting in several different levels.  Instead they have just created a sixth apology Bill-O owes homeless vets and Senator Edwards.

Our runner-up, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay explaining on “HARDBALL” yesterday that, “man is not causing climate change, climate change may be a phenomenon, but there is no science to suggest that man is the cause of climate change, it is arrogance to suggest that man can affect climate change.” Mr. DeLay‘s latest bout of tertiary moronity came during an attack on Senator McCain and it suggests not just his own ignorance about science, but also that he is intent on doing for the Republican presidential campaign exactly what he did for the Republican majority in Congress—squish it like a bug. 

But our winner is Roger Ailes and FOX “Noise,” which confirms to the TVNewser Web site that it is revamping its media program “FOX News Watch,” and replacing its only host for the last decade, Eric Burns.  It turn, Burns says he has no idea why the change is being made, nor why—has he been told why he‘s being let go. 

That “fair and balanced” is a marketing phrase seemingly designed to describe a product that is the exact opposite does not erase the fact there are some people who have worked at FOX and actually worked to achieve the spirit the sales took implies. 

Eric Burns has been one of those people and his colleagues on that show have at minimum shown at least the spark of the idea.  And I speak as somebody the show slapped around a couple of weeks ago and one of the panelists slapped around last night pointlessly, I think, but what the hell, it was good show, it was a fair show, and Burns made it an entertaining show.  And to take him and it off, well, his bosses are damn fools.  But we knew that already. 

Roger Ailes, for dropping Eric Burns, today‘s “Worst Person,: on the other hand, now I can stop being so soft on FOX, “in the World!” 


OLBERMANN:  On this date in 1936, in an effort to forestall crippling bidding wars for incoming talent, the National Football League conducted its first ever draft of college players.  The winner of the first Heisman Trophy, Jay Berwanger, of the University of Chicago, was the first choice by the Philadelphia Eagles, who promptly traded his rights to the Chicago Bears. 

The Bears though had not done enough scouting.  Berwanger said that to play pro football, he wanted a two-year contract worth then an incredible amount of money, $25,000.  The bears said, to hell with that.  And Berwanger went into sports writing and into the plastics business.  He would never play a minute in the NFL.  A fitting introduction to our regular recap of the best of the worst, “Oddball‘s” plays of the month for January 2008. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin in China.

We begin in Canberra, Australia. 

We begin in Rome where a bunch of balls are storming the city... 

We begin in indoor India, out of doors in indoor, actually, where this man has crabs. 

San Luis Obispo, California, hello.  It‘s the  COUNTDOWN elephant seal chase of the week.  Nobody knows why this 1,500 pound load left his beach, wiggled under a fence over a highway and onto a grassy knoll, but now he likes it there.  Move it, you disgusting fat body. 

To Glendale, Arizona, site of this week‘s Fiesta Bowl between West Virginia University and the University of Oklahoma, and the Mountaineers steamrolled the favored Sooners 48-28.  But the real beauty of the game would not be found in a box score, but rather on the sidelines. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s a big miss. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Boy, they shouldn‘t let those two guys sit together. 

OLBERMANN:  To Lubbock, Texas, where Bob Knight has new strategy for dealing with the evil media.  Knight brought his 21-month-old grandson with him to act as a human shield. 

BOB KNIGHT, RECENTLY RESIGNED TEXAS TECH MEN‘S BASKETBALL:  Who knows?  I don‘t know any of that stuff.  You guys read fairy tales on that (expletive deleted). 

OLBERMANN:  Ear muffs, Junior. 

A naked guy sprinting across the pitch, dodging security, avoiding capture.  There was one thing this week (INAUDIBLE) couldn‘t outrun, right there, Bertie the Burnley Bee, the team mascot.  Out of nowhere with the three-point takedown. 

Where earlier this morning on the “Today” show, and an amazing display of endurance and shrinkage, this guy sat submerged in a tub of ice for 40 minutes. 

Good, clean, family-friendly cattle drive until—zookeeper! 

Zookeeper!  These two cows are killing each other. 

Anyway, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and in advance of next week‘s GOP primary, artists have created a Mt. Rushmore Republican candidates out of sand.  This first one here is either Mitt Romney or Guy Smiley from “Sesame Street.” Here is Rudy Giuliani looking a lot like Jimmy Carter.  And finally there is the smiling helmet-less Darth Vader from “Return of the Jedi,” which may or may not also be Fred Thompson. 

This is a butter Obama bust, and it is the work of Iowa native Norma Lyon (ph).  As for the accuracy of the Obama bust, dairy experts say the likeness is somewhat off, but is still within the “margarine” of error. 


OLBERMANN:  We begin in Jerusalem, President Bush landing in Israel to try to jump start sluggish Arab-Israeli peace talks.  His first stop over to the house of Israeli President Shimon Peres for a disco bar mitzvah. 


OLBERMANN:  Hey, I‘m trying to dance here, pal. 

Let‘s head to Mars.  For a first look at this recently published photo taken by the NASA probe Spirit in 2004.  Nothing earth shattering to see here unless you consider the first ever documented proof of a Martian sasquatch!

To the English city of Widdilcy (ph) where the Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz” has really let himself go. 

Seoul, South Korea, where earlier this week celebrity crooner Na Hoon-a (ph) called a news conference to dispel ugly rumors.  Apparently somebody in the media floated the story that the singer had been castrated by a Japanese gang leader because of some sort of lover‘s quarrel.  Na Hoon-a refused to stand for this, instead, deciding to stand on the table and offering to whip out the truth on live TV. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can show you for five minutes, do I have to show you or would you just believe me? 

OLBERMANN:  I believe you!  I believe you! 

We begin once again San Luis Obispo, California, in day 10 of the elephant seal stand-off.  Today‘s shocking development, fatso is now patrolling the fence.  And it looks like somebody could just end all this, of course, by opening the gate over there. 

We begin at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.  It‘s the new personal Taser/mp3 player. 

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (while being Tased):  Oh God!  Ya-ya!

OLBERMANN:  Now you can listen to Metallica‘s “Ride the Lightning” as you make degenerate criminals ride the lightning. 

Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Ow!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At least keep them in that order, I‘ll tell you. 


OLBERMANN:  All right.  This late update from the Britney Spears story.  The manager that the court that has just permitted Britney Spears‘ parents to fire, it‘s not Sam Lufti, it turns out to be Howard Grossman that can be fired.  I don‘t ever want to talk about Britney Spears again in my life. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,745th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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