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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 12, 2008

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, John Harwood, Jonathan Alter, Bill Moyers, Dana Milbank

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

Obama now leads in superdelegates even in the most cautious of counts

NBC.  This on the eve of a West Virginia primary which Senator Clinton is expected to win by 20 to 30 points, which she now claims is more important than the other states or the delegate count or the popular vote.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  John Kennedy didn‘t have the number of delegates he needed when he went to the convention in 1960, but he had something equally as important.  He had West Virginia behind him.


OLBERMANN:  West Virginia where in 1960, the argument that because of his background and religious associations, John Kennedy was unelectable dissolved.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me.  I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton.  This is true.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Lieberman not only supports Senator McCain‘s, he supports Senator McCain‘s attempt to link Senator Obama to Hamas and he insists the Iraqis don‘t want us to, quote, “stay there forever” and that this is consistent with Senator McCain insisting we should stay there forever.

Mr. McCain‘s media free ride, not free enough.  His campaign manager complains to “Newsweek” it has “framed this race exactly as Senator Obama wants it to be framed.”

Bill Moyers on the wake of his new book, “Moyers on Democracy,” joins us.

And: We‘re guessing this is the last time we‘re going to hear Senator Clinton say this.


CLINTON:  If anybody saw “Saturday Night Live,” you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he‘s comfortable and needs another pillow.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE IMPERSONATOR:  My supporters are racist, unlike Senator Obama, I have no ethical standards.


OLBERMANN:  And to answer the emails I have received from everybody in the world—yes, I saw it.


BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  I can‘t do it.  We‘ll do it live.  We‘ll do it live (BEEP).


OLBERMANN:  And you‘re surprised for why?

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.


O‘REILLY:  All right.  Go.  Go.


OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Monday, May 12th, 176 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Rhetoric did not end the campaign, nor media, nor the triumph of will

math ends a campaign - a certain kind of math.  Kate Snow of ABC News reporting, that at the America souvenir shops at National and Dulles airports in Washington, the writing is literally on the wall for Senator Clinton.  The madam president t-shirts, the “Hillary for President” bobblehead dolls, even if anyone but Hillary shirts, all 50 percent off.  “Not politics,” says an employee, sales simply have slowed way down since last week‘s lost in North Carolina and a squeaker in Indiana.

However, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The only thing that will be 50 percent off in tomorrow‘s West Virginia primary, Senator Obama‘s vote total compared to Senator Clinton‘s.  An anticipated route which she has already cast as a turning point in a campaign that was already had more turning points than the Indianapolis 500.

Senator Obama on the trail in West Virginia today, even as his future campaign schedule looks ahead to the general election, the Illinois Democrat will be watching returns tomorrow night from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, swing state central, with other trips planned to Florida and Michigan.  Obama conceding to veterans this morning that he‘s all but written off West Virginia.


OBAMA:  I am extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me.


OBAMA:  I‘m grateful.  I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton.  This is true.


OBAMA:  But when it‘s over, what will unify us as Democrats and what must unify us as Americans is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who‘ve served this nation, and an unshakable fidelity to the ideals for which they risked their lives.


OLBERMANN:  During her campaign stop in Clear Fork, West Virginia today, Senator Clinton tying herself to President Kennedy, noting that he did not have all the delegates that he had needed when he went to the Democratic convention in 1960, even though in 1960, it was Kennedy who had been branded unelectable because of his religious associations.

Senator Clinton is also noting that Democrats usually do not get elected president without winning West Virginia in the general election.


CLINTON:  West Virginia has nearly always picked the president.  So, it‘s especially important that West Virginians vote tomorrow because the eyes of the whole country and practically the whole world are going to be on West Virginia tomorrow night.  West Virginia is making a decision that has far-reaching consequences, to send a message to people what you expect from your next president.


OLBERMANN:  But if Senator Clinton is hoping a win in West Virginia might be enough to convince superdelegates to back her candidacy, that could still be a very difficult argument.  Senator Clinton today losing her lead in the most conservative of the superdelegate counts for the very first time, the NBC News count.

Four new superdelegates to Obama today including Senator Akaka of Hawaii and 23 pickups since Indiana and North Carolina, moving Senator Obama into the lead, 279 to 276.5.  In overall delegates, Senator Obama with 1,869 to Senator Clinton‘s 1,702.5.

Let‘s turn now to our Howard Fineman, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton wanted to make the nomination about the superdelegates and so far they‘ve all broken for her opponent. Is the significance of Senator Obama today, taking this lead in the NBC count as he did in various other counts over the weekend, as big as it would seem?

FINEMAN:  If Chuck Todd says it is true then it‘s big.  No, of course it‘s big, because the slow steady release, sort of like a time capsule release of superdelegates for Obama has made a steady statement for weeks if not months now, Keith.  And it‘s sort of a counter point to all of hopes and spin from the Clinton campaign.

I was talking to one of their top supporters just a little while ago, who expressed some frustration about it, hinted darkly that it was all about fear, that it‘s a position now where the superdelegates don‘t dare quote, “take it away” from Obama because there would be mayhem to pay in Denver at the convention.

I don‘t think that‘s it.  I think that Obama has carefully and assiduously tried to make the case one at a time and these delegates want to get on board before the magic number is reached.

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  It is literally come to this.  It‘s any possible explanation other than that somebody prefers Obama to Clinton.

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s the one I heard couple of hours ago.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  The “L.A. Times” pointed out over the weekend something that Marcus Moulitsas at “DailyKos” noted last Tuesday.  Senator Clinton might be doing in one construction of this, a favor for Senator Obama because it would look pretty bad if the presumptive nominee lost in West Virginia by 25 points, 30 points to somebody who had already dropped out.  Is there anything to that or is it just a coincidence?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think there‘s much to that.  As a matter of fact, I think, based on talking to people in those states and elsewhere around the country that, I think, this is one of few times where the Obama campaign is being too cute by half.  I think they needed to make more of an effort in Kentucky and West Virginia because those are states that they shouldn‘t now take off the general election map which they‘re in effect doing.  Those are states that Bill Clinton won, that Democrats have generally needed to win.

But what Obama is saying, what he‘s “brain trust” in Chicago was saying is—look, we‘re looking at the different Electoral College map.  We‘re not only offering a new politics, we‘re offering the Democrats a new way to win the White House.

It‘s not based on those spine of voters in Appalachia.  It‘s based on places that you wouldn‘t expect, like perhaps, Virginia or Louisiana or combination of younger voters and African-American voters registered to an unprecedented degree they‘re going to make the difference.  But it‘s a gamble but it‘s one that it looks like the Obama campaign is ready to make.

OLBERMANN:  And another gamble, have they done what it looks like they‘ve done, that this schedule for the campaign where he is, Rush Limbaugh‘s home town for God‘s sakes, and then Florida and Michigan, does this suggest that without saying, this never going to say this, never going to say get out, never going to say it‘s over - he‘s moved on to facing John McCain and really has begun to ignore Hillary Clinton?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s very clever.  It‘s a little bit of both, Keith, because he‘s going to be going to Florida and Michigan.  Now, those are general election states, obviously, but they‘re also states very much at issue in Denver at the convention.  He‘s going to have to take the stance, at least initially, that he doesn‘t want the delegations from those states to be seated, at least not the way Hillary wants them seated.  But he‘s got to be nice to those Democrats because he‘s going to need them in the fall.

So, it‘s a little bit of general election but he‘s also got Oregon and South Dakota, two of the states he expects to win.  By the way, before I forget, I think there was a little bit of news in that video clip you showed just a little while ago, of Obama speaking to veterans in West Virginia.  Even though he‘s not making a big play there, tell me if I‘m wrong, I haven‘t seen the lapel pin, I haven‘t seen the American flag lapel pin for quite sometime.

So, aside from whatever else he‘s doing in West Virginia or not doing in West Virginia and Kentucky where there‘s so many vets and so much a love of that traditionally culture, he‘s sending a signal there that I think people will pick up on.

OLBERMANN:  And probably with good reason for it, too.  I think the times that he has appeared with a lapel pin and I can‘t believe we‘re actually noting these things.

FINEMAN:  Oh, I‘m sorry.

OLBERMANN:  But I think they have been, you know, it‘s not your fault, it‘s not my fault.  It‘s in the air.  But I think those have been Veterans Affairs and Memorial Day and such as that.  I could be incorrect of my memory of that but that‘s where it comes from.

So, there‘s a hook, if you will.

Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—good point, as always, good points.  Thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Plenty reading of the tea leaves regarding Senator Clinton‘s insistence to superdelegates over the weekend that there have been back channel talks between her campaign and that of Senator Obama‘s.

For more on what that might mean, we‘ll turn to CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, John Harwood, also, of course, political writer for the “New York Times,” also the author of the new book, “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.”

John, good evening.  Welcome back.


OLBERMANN:  How common is it for campaigns to communicate especially under these circumstances and what‘s the significance of the Clinton campaign making a point of mentioning it to superdelegates as she did over the weekend past?

HARWOOD:  Keith, when the campaign‘s in the heat of the real fight, it‘s very rare to have communications at any sort of strategic level.  You do have informal communications because a lot of the guys running both sides‘ campaigns are friends with one another, they worked together in past campaigns, but I think this is of a piece for the different phase that we‘re in.

Now that we‘re getting into the wind down portions of the Democratic campaign, you‘re likely to see more contact.  And by saying that, that‘s a way for Hillary Clinton to reassure that she‘s not out to split up this party.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  There‘s also, the former Clinton staffer who‘s behind this Web site called  Is it correct to say that one thing, whatever the back channel campaign talk has been, one thing they have probably not discussed is a shared ticket?  I mean, is this more of that kind of disingenuous or optimistic, if you will, depending of which word you prefer, efforts to sort of peel off some Obama supporters by saying—look, we can have them both?

HARWOOD:  Keith, I think it is highly, highly unlikely that we‘re going to have a joint ticket and Hillary Clinton doesn‘t have the juice in this race to compel that to happen.  There was a point when that could have been a price for her to get out of thing.  That‘s not the case any more.

And I think this is part of the playing out the string and Hillary Clinton is playing out the string and she‘s indicated she wants to go to June 3rd, her staffers are loyally staying with her.  And I think this is just one other way that her staff can sort of express some of the positive aspiration of the campaign and not give up before their candidate is ready to leave the field.

OLBERMANN:  What about the buyout prospect?  I mean, there‘s a federal law that would prohibit Senator Obama from giving any of his money to Senator Clinton, to help her sort of close down the campaign debts and pay off that nasty creditor of hers namely herself.  But nothing would stop him from soliciting donations for her or in some other way, helping this sort of retire this debt—is that a feasible part of it?  Is that a component in all this?

HARWOOD:  Very feasible part of it.  It‘s very common for winners to help losers in this process.  Now, having said that, nobody is losing too much sleep about this debt because where does the debt go, Keith?  You know it‘s going right back to Bill and Hillary Clinton.  They‘re the ones who loaned their campaigns the money and everybody knows they can make money very quickly.

But I think Barack Obama‘s going to do and maybe it‘s an e-mail, maybe it‘s a big gala fundraiser.  What he needs to do to put this primary campaign behind him and one quick work about the stakes of this campaign that he wants to get to.  What we write about in “Pennsylvania Avenue” is the construction of a polarized stable party system that divides the country in very even parts.

Barack Obama wants to get to a match with John McCain that has the potential, because both of these guys, Keith, can get more votes from the other side than any other recent nominees in recent memory.  This has a potential to shake that campaign, to produce new coalitions, maybe change the electoral map as you and Howard were just discussing.  That is what is so fascinating about this moment and that‘s why everybody ought to read my book.

OLBERMANN:  You and I haven‘t spoken since all this begun and since your book, “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.”

HARWOOD:  I wrote it, by the way, with my colleague Gerry Seib, long time colleague from the “Wall Street Journal.”

OLBERMANN:  Well, we haven‘t spoken since that came out and since this has all happened.  Do you have the sense, I‘ve asked a lot of people this, in the same sense that I do that the Clinton campaign, many of her supporters believe that there is a knockout story out there that Obama could still be dropped with one political punch?

I mean, I‘ve heard again over the weekend past, otherwise rational people insist the media is suppressing some sort of story like this.  Obviously, this people don‘t know the media very well.  But do the Clintons believe this or have they convinced themselves of it or what is it?

HARWOOD:  No, I don‘t think they believe that, Keith.  Look, if they thought there was a knockout punch out there, they would be working so hard right now to try to get that out in front of the American people.  Jeremiah Wright was the best punch they had the opportunity to land, Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground guy, to a similar extent and they tried issue-wise with this gas tax holiday.  That stuff didn‘t work.

Their hopes are not high within the Clinton campaign.  They do know that if you get off the field, the chances are zero.  But nobody is betting the ranch within the Clinton high command that there‘s some big huge scandal that‘s going to drop Barack Obama to his knees.

OLBERMANN:  Just make sure the fans in the stadium do not get out before you got off the field.  John Harwood of CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, co-author of “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.”  Thank you again for your time tonight, John.

HARWOOD:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And tomorrow, starting at 6:00 Eastern here on MSNBC, join Chris Matthews and me for complete coverage of the West Virginia primary, complete coverage and then some.

The McCain people, this time Joe Lieberman, are not letting Hamas go.  The McCain people are already working the media reps; Bill Moyers is here on that.

And if you aren‘t one of the 400,000 who watched it online today, wait until you see the Bill O‘Reilly 1990s “Inside Edition” outtakes which he blows up good, he blows up real good.


OLBERMANN:  While Senator Clinton continues to draw out the Democratic nominating process, John McCain‘s campaign against Barack Obama is already in progress.  News today suggesting Senator Lieberman is his attack dog against Senator Obama and a man named Mark Salter is already trying to soften up the news media for him, and another man named Doug Goodyear and his connection to Myanmar is one of McCain‘s many Achilles‘ heels.

Jonathan Alter on Leiberman and Hamas; Bill Moyers on the media.

And then perhaps like you, I got a little e-mail about some vintage Bill-O combustion video.  It‘s ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  On Friday here, we asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid what Senator Joe Lieberman would have to do to lose his committee chairmanship.  On Sunday, Senator Lieberman perhaps offered an answer.

Our fourth story tonight: Lieberman now embracing the most scurrilous divisive garbage the right wing has to offer against Barack Obama.  Asked about the false rumor that Hamas endorsed Obama for president, Leiberman not only repeated it, he inserted his own tenuous links to insinuate that his fellow senator, fellow American wishes death for America, death for Israel.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT:  The fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say that they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question why.  And it suggests the difference between these two candidates.  I think Hamas and Hezbollah which is now in control of Beirut apparently, are proxies, are words of Iran which is the very same country that constantly shouts death to America, death to Israel.


OLBERMANN:  Boy, that‘s a long string right there.

First of all, the spokesperson was actually the senior political adviser to this man.  Ismail Haniya, elected as Palestinian prime minister from the politico ring of Hamas, who‘s written op eds for both the “New York Times” and “Washington Post.”

And second, the reporter quoting him was a right-wing neo-con who sold a book last year using the line: “Why is Hillary Clinton the jihadist choice for president?”

Thirdly, the nation‘s biggest Jewish groups have already defended Senator Obama against this stuff.

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter, also, of course, senior editor of “Newsweek.”  Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  So, McCain has what in Joe Lieberman?  Is he a hatchet man, is he a hatchet man sort of dressed up in independent or bipartisan clothing?  What is his role?

ALTER:  A hatchet man is a good word to describe him and it‘s a very useful for John McCain.  I mean, imagine if Barack Obama had Chuck Hagel or Richard Lugar or respectable Republican senator who is going with him to all of these events, it‘s very helpful with independent voters.

But you got to realize, Joe Lieberman has been a hatchet man going back to when he was first elected to the Senate.  He charged Lowell Weicker in 1988 by saying, he was, you know, too close to Fidel Castro which was kind of preposterous at the time.  So, what he does is sort of under these almost clerical clothing, he will pull up a knife and stick it in and use his piety and his reputation for morale rectitude as a cover for some very negative politics.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, indeed.  Just that slow measured, almost put you to sleep kind of speaking voice in which it allows him to get away with all sorts of things.  But Lieberman did not mention about this supposed Hamas spokesperson, why he was actually answering the question, why Obama.

Let me read the exact quote, “I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance.”

Well, I mean, that‘s a political death sentence right there.  I mean, who wants to come out against domination and arrogance?

ALTER:  Yes, I mean, look, these Hamas, they are baby killers.  But the point is that it‘s just ridiculous to associate—this guilt by association is going on this campaign - it has reached almost absurd lengths.

I mean, do we want to say because John McCain went down to Liberty

University, you know, where Jerry Falwell was not long done with saying

that we had it coming, the 9/11, these are retaliation for AIDS, God‘s

vengeance—are we assuming that that somehow reflects John McCain‘s

views?  No

So, why imply or suggest in any fashion, that something that Hamas says tells us anything whatsoever about who Barack Obama is?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s one thing, you know, when you use that perhaps the John Hagee analogy, if you sought somebody‘s endorsement as McCain has John Hagee, well, that‘s one thing that you get the endorsement and everything that comes with the endorsement, including the guy.

If somebody just, you know, somebody from another galaxy were suddenly to support or announce over some, you know, international interstellar communications, we know we‘re I‘m going with this it‘s just—it‘s everything travels backwards on any kind of connection.  I say something about you and therefore everything I‘ve ever said about everybody in the world suddenly becomes your fault.

ALTER:  Well, this is what they had to work with and they will.  They‘ll use it and you‘ll hear about Bill Ayers and you know, anything that‘s at hand, they will use.  But it does give them another weapon to have Joe Lieberman doing.

OLBERMANN:  This one in particular, this idea though that somehow the Democrat is automatically soft on terror, on international relations, on defending Israel, it worked to a great degree in 2002 and 2004.  Not so much in 2006.  Do we have any gauge on where voters are in 2008 on this - on their self education on this?

ALTER:  Well, I think they‘re further along.  And you know, the policies of the last seven years are pretty hard to defend.

And so, there‘s at least a chance if Obama is a skillful enough candidate in framing the argument that the war in Iraq was actually a distraction from catching al Qaeda.  He makes the point; he hasn‘t implanted the point in the consciousness of the American public yet.  That‘s his challenge over time.  And it‘s a political one.

We don‘t know yet how he‘ll measure up because what we do know, Republicans will come back with this “soft on terrorism” argument that they‘ve been making so successfully against Democrats.

OLBERMANN:  Our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Thank you, Jon.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What did pink panther say when he squeezed the ant?  Dead ant.  Dead ant - actually, I‘ll just have the cheese whiz even if I have to walk on my hind legs to get it.  That apparently is for real.

Speaking of that, a wayback machine produces something special on the YouTube.  I had nothing to do with this getting out.  Next: The keeping tabs inside “Inside Edition” edition.


OLBERMANN:  In a moment, Bushed and the plan to reveal the link between Iran and weapons killing Americans in Iraq and then the expert said, “There‘s no link.”

But first, May 12th, the birthday of Arthur Nading (ph) who taught literature and English to 35 years worth of students, from Joe Klein of “Time” magazine, to Chris Berman of ESPN to me, in the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, on behalf of the other 3,000 or so students still in his debt and still learning from him.  I send him our love and very best wishes.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And I know this hanging part that I still point there somewhere.  We begin on the Internet where some nice lady took the time to teach a freaking ant eater how to walk on its hind legs.  And how did she manage to teach him such an unnatural position?  By using what appears to be cheese whiz as the lure.  That‘s right.  Tabs and cheese, little whiz.  Next task by the ant eater the DVD of the Blues Brothers and teach him to say—have you got me my cheese whiz, boy?

In Malacca in Malaysia where kung fu master Hu In Hu Ye (ph) only has one thing to give tourist, the finger.  He has been entertaining crowds by punching through coconut using only that supreme digit (ph) for years, but Hu In Hu Ye (ph) says he is ready to retire, not to least because the finger looks like this.  A can opener would have worked really well.

Playing the refs, though one political expert recently noted the media may be his base.  Senator McCain‘s campaign is already complaining about coverage biased about him.  Bill Moyers will be here. 

And Mr. McCain‘s choice for manager of the Republican convention has a little problem just now.  He was a lobbyist for Myanmar.  These stories ahead, but first the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed. 

Number three, Siegelman-gate.  You heard about the jailing of the former Democrat governor of Alabama Don Siegelman.  Every new development underscores the likelihood that he was prosecuted to keep him from unseating the Republican who had succeeded him.  He claims it was Karl Rove‘s doing.  Now it involves Mr. Bush‘s head of the Office of Special Council, Scott Block. 

A week ago, the FBI raided Mr. Block‘s office, searched his home and seized his computers, investigating possible obstruction of justice.  Now it turns out that when career employees in Block‘s office opened a file on the Siegelman case, just to see if perhaps there was political targeting, Block personally ordered it closed down.  The problem is, legally, it does not appear Mr. Block had any right legally to do that.  No, you can have Mr. Siegelman‘s cell, Mr. Block. 

Number two, Blackwater-gate.  Despite its mercenaries murdering 17 Iraqi civilians last September, its contract to serve the State Department in Iraq has been renewed for at least one more year.  The State‘s rationalization for this, A, there are no other companies with 800 mercenaries on staff to serve as, quote, guards, unquote, in Iraq.  And B, Blackwater is not facing any charge here or in Iraq for the slaughter in Baghdad in last September.  Of course, that is largely because the State Department helped make it impossible for them to face any charges here or in Iraq. 

Number one, you do realize they are making this up about Iran-gate?  Major General Kevin Burgener (ph) convened a news conference in Baghdad last Wednesday to list 20,000 items of ammunition, explosives and weapons captured or uncovered by U.S. and Iraqi governmental forces in the last weeks of fighting, 45 rocket propelled grenades, 570 assorted explosive devices, 1,800 mortars and artillery rounds. 

The point?  This was the big day, this was the day, according to the “L.A. Times,” that the American military was to show the media of the world the conclusive evidence that at least some of the weaponry used by Iraqi insurgents had been supplied by Iran.  The U.S. military spokesman confirming to that newspaper that that‘s what the dog and pony show was to include.  They were all ready to show off Iran‘s tangible responsibility for some of the haul of the machinery of death, to establish the link between American fatalities and Iran, trademarks or company logos or made in Tehran stickers or something. 

When U.S. explosive experts took a second look at all this stuff, they then said, none of this is from Iran.  Twenty thousand blowing up things, hard count of those supplied by Iran, zero.  Percentage imported from Iran, no percent!  Amount of tangible evidence linking Iran to anti-American uprising in Baghdad?  None.  You do realize they are making this up about Iran? 


OLBERMANN:  It is remarkable in the era of Swift Boating and official campaign commercials featuring images of Osama bin Laden that any campaign would actually spend more than an hour per year bemoaning a perceived imbalance of media coverage of its candidate.  Yet, in our third story tonight, a long time John McCain aid has shot “Newsweek” an e-mail complaining of media bias for Barack Obama.  The method behind the madness and a man who has seen the political media as both participant and recipient, Bill Moyers in just a moment. 

The McCain broadside was triggered by a “Newsweek” piece that included this quotation about the general election: quote, “it‘s going to be Swift Boat times five on both sides.”  A prediction given a little more credence regarding McCain than Obama, considering the source was an unnamed McCain adviser.  Longtime McCain aide Mark Salter accused “Newsweek” of buying Obama‘s spin for suggesting that McCain could stop the independent groups, known as 527s, from running smear ads against Obama.  This despite “Newsweek” quoting McCain‘s own former strategist John Weaver, charging that McCain, quote, could say, “if any major donors or political operators do that you would be personas non grata in my administration.” 

Instead, Salter used the unflattering “Newsweek” image as a fig leaf to justify his own announcement that as far as those unofficial 527 ads go, all bets are off.  Joining us tonight, a media giant, the host of “Bill Moyer‘s Journal,” former press secretary to President Johnson, now author of “Moyers on Democracy.”  It‘s a pleasure to see you here, sir.

BILL MOYERS, “BILL MOYER‘S JOURNAL”:  Good to see you too. 

OLBERMANN:  What is this about?  Is the McCain camp, do you think, with you experience on both sides of this ball—are they setting a baseline?  Are they working the refs before the game start? 

MOYERS:  They are working the refs.  You do that to put the other side on the offensive, put the press on the defensive, make them come around.  You also do it because it‘s still popular in this country to harangue the press.  You can get people on your side just by coming against the force in American that everybody finds some reason to dislike. 

OLBERMANN:  If there are media biases, if there‘s something to it, do you think they are about either an individual or towards an individual or are they about ways of seeing the world and ways of communicating information? 

MOYERS:  I said to a reporter many years ago, 40 years ago, who was just back from Vietnam, who is telling the truth out there?  He said everyone.  Everyone sees what‘s happening through the lens of his own experience.  That‘s part of it.  Part of it is there is some partisan bias in some segments of the press.  There‘s ideological bias.  We have had the rise in your time and mine of a very partisan, ideological press. 

They see the press.  They see the world through a certain way and they want you to see it or else, if you don‘t.  Part of it is simply the fact that the bias in the media is towards simplification.  Beware of the terrible simplifier said the great Swiss historian Jacob Bucart (ph), and that is the danger we all face in simplifying things.  I once did an interview with Saul Bellow, the great novelist, when I was at CBS.  He said Moyers, the day will come when nobody will be heard who doesn‘t speak in short verse the truth. 

Well, sometimes, as Jonathan Alter said in the green room a moment ago, you can speak and not be heard.  But for sure, you will not be heard unless you learn to speak in a way—with bumper stickers. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, that can be violated on occasion, as I think your career has proved and certain bursts of things from here have suggested that we can break through that every once in a while.  Having said that, clearly the tendency is towards truncating everything, condensing everything into that eventual black hole of information where nothing escapes.  How does it apply, as you look ahead towards this general election campaign?  How does it apply to each of the candidates in turn? 

MOYERS:  I think it means for all of them that they will not really get too the deep, profound, structural problems that we face as a country.  We will not have a discourse in this campaign over the fact that the great American wealth machine is benefiting only those at the top.  We will not get to the fact that 10 percent of the people own 60 percent of the wealth and 70 percent of the people have no net worth.  We will not get to the issues how to we rebuild the infrastructure, the sewer, the water, the highways.  We will just be constantly in this battle of bumper stickers. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you see perhaps a possibility of breaking through that because of what happened when one of the candidates in the Democratic race positioned herself behind an obviously viscerally pleasing idea to suspend the gas tax for a period of time and was kicked in the butt by the candidate who went, no, this is pandering.  And the voters seemed to agree with him. 

MOYERS:  I was greatly encouraged by the fact that people saw through that flimsy rational for the gas tax.  I was also greatly encouraged by the fact that the Jeremiah Wright fracas did not bring Barack Obama down.  I have never seen anything like this in my long career.  I‘ve seen the politics of personal destruction, but never have I seen a pastor and parishioner come to such grief in public and the parishioner have to break with his pastor.  I thought that would hurt Obama in Indiana and even in North Carolina, where, by the way, the bond between the congregation and pulpit in those African-American churches, where I have done films before, documentaries before, so strong. 

But the voters in Indiana and North Carolina sifted through that and saw that guilt by association, as Jonathan Alter said earlier, is not going to work.  People realize that the right wing and some in the partisan and mainstream press, were trying to link the man who was running for president in the pew with the man who wasn‘t running for president in the pulpit, and they made a distinction.  And that ability to reach nuance is a very saving grace in America. 

One reason, and Jonathan and I were talking about this earlier, we now have the Internet, which is an antidote to the herd of the mainstream media.  So that, as Jonathan was saying to me earlier, six million people actually saw Obama‘s Philadelphia speech on civil rights on Youtube.  That‘s a marvelous way for people to judge for themselves what they have seen only in sound bites on the evening news. 

OLBERMANN:  My last point, you want to take this opportunity to confess your role in the whole strategy that allowed Obama to cut himself away from Jeremiah Wright?  That was all planned where he looked good on your show and then go to the National Press Club and not look so good? 

MOYERS:  We all were in the same prayer meeting.  We saw the vision at the same time.  No, after the whole thing broke—I‘m in the same fellowship of churches that Jeremiah Wright belongs to.  But I have never met the man.  After all this broke, I was wondering, who this is man?  What‘s his ministry?  What‘s he about?  And several African American preachers called me and theologians, and said, why don‘t we do a round table discussion on black liberation theology?  I said guys, nobody will get it unless Jeremiah Wright speaks for himself.  If he wants to come on my show, that‘s fine, and he did. 

That was on Friday and Monday, he went to the National Press Corps.  And people have stopped me on the street, written to me to say, how do you explain that a man who could be so reasonable on Friday night could be so angry on Monday morning?  Well, he‘s like all of the rest of us.  I think he was angry that out of 205711 minutes of preaching at 11:00 on Sunday over 36 years, 15 to 20 seconds were how his ministry was going to be described.  I think he was angry because he was worried about brining Obama down. 

There was anger.  He said some absurd things.  But most of them were taken out of context. 

OLBERMANN:  He did not have the good fortune to have you there at the press club with him.  Bill Moyers, now the author of the new book “Moyers on Democracy,” a pleasure and an honor to have you here. 

MOYERS:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  A reminder, another one, that old videotape never dies and does not even fade away.  I don‘t know if you know this gentleman, Bill.  This might be 19 years old, this tape.  Wait until you see it. 

And in worsts, Wal-Mart versus its catastrophically injured employee. 

This one is finally over.  Amen.  Next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  The sad truth that videotape does not bio-degrade leading our number two story tonight, Keeping Tabs.  Before the owners of “Inside Edition” could make a copyright claim and get it pulled down, one newly posted outtake from that show had been seen 400,000 times on Youtube.  There was even a second version played backwards, inter-cut with the cheering of delirious German crowds from 1930s.  Chronologically, this dates to between 1989 and 1995.  But artistically, it is timeless. 


O‘REILLY:  That‘s tomorrow and that is it for us today.  OK, I don‘t know.  Whatever it is, it‘s not right on the teleprompter.  I don‘t know what that is.  I have never seen that. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There it is.  We are going to do a sting. 

O‘REILLY:  I can‘t read it.  There‘s no words on it? 


O‘REILLY:  There‘s no words there to play us out.  What does that mean?  To play us out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sting is going to do—it‘s a Sting video. 

O‘REILLY:  What is—


O‘REILLY:  I don‘t know what that means, to play us out.  What does that mean?  To end the show? 


O‘REILLY:  All right, go, go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Five, four, three—

O‘REILLY:  That‘s tomorrow and that is it—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Again, five, four, three—

O‘REILLY:  That‘s tomorrow and that is it for us today.  And we will leave you with a—I can‘t do it.  We‘ll do it live. 


O‘REILLY:  We‘ll do it live, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  We‘ll do it live. 

I‘ll write it and we‘ll do it live.   This (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sucks.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In five, four, three—

O‘REILLY:  That‘s tomorrow.  And that is it for us today.  I‘ll Bill O‘Reilly.  Thanks again for watching.  We‘ll leave you with Sting and a cut off his new album.  Take it away. 


OLBERMANN:  Wow!  I mean wow!  He had hair?  I‘m confident somewhere there‘s an outtake of me that looks a little like that.  If have you it, please post it immediately.  Send me a link.  It will probably be from when I was at Fox. 

Another video, not nearly as popular on Youtube, but far less popular in the camp of one presidential candidate.  We‘ll sum this up; I don‘t think Senator Clinton is ever going to use “Saturday Night Live” again in her own defense.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze, actually an update; we are reliably informed that the case of Wal-Mart versus Jim and Debbie Shank will, by this time tomorrow, finally be officially over.  Control of Debbie Shank‘s trust fund, for which Wal-Mart had sued after her horrible accident, and after they insisted that they had to sue because they had paid her medical expenses and had to get the money back, before they finally realized how much bad publicity and even anger this was engendering.  That money will be back in Jim Shank‘s control tomorrow.  Amen!

The runner-up, Doug Goodyear, nominated by Senator McCain as manager of this summer‘s Republican convention.  A McCain spokesman said his management experience and expertise made him an ideal choice for the gig.  Then it turned out Mr. Goodyear is also CEO of a firm called DCI, which got 348,000 dollars for lobbying on behalf of the military dictatorship of Myanmar, the one currently blocking international relief aid to its own citizens devastated after last week‘s cyclones. 

But our winner is—big day for him—Bill-O.  Remember last year, the FBI asked the media in Seattle to publish a photo of two men seen, quote, acting suspiciously on a ferry?  Fellow passengers saw them taking photos of the ferry.  He took a photo of them?  The “Seattle Post Intelligencer” newspaper refused, noting there were no charges and that neither man was described as a suspect in anything. 

Naturally, Bill-O sent his little stalker producer Jesse to the home of the publisher of the Post-Intelligencer to demand to know if he was proud of that position since the FBI had yet to find him.  “So now we have a situation where some Americans are putting all of us in danger because they hate Mr. Bush so much.  The man remains at large.  The FBI is still looking for them.  But the Post-Intelligencer remains unrepentant.” 

This just in from the FBI.  The two men appeared at a U.S. embassy several weeks ago and identified themselves, European business consultants on a trip to Seattle.  They had some time off.  They took a ferry ride and took pictures of each other.  And they gave the pictures that they took to the U.S. embassy.  Of course, the possibility of that kind of innocent explanation never occur to you if your multi-million dollar salary depends on feeding paranoid fears. 

Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  There may be only two rules in life.  One is never trust anybody to play fair at a model United Nations or in a simulated government laboratory class.  And, two, never trust political satirists whose comedy initially favors you to keep on favoring you.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, I don‘t know if she ever experienced the first rule first hand, but 48 hours ago, Senator Clinton doubtlessly experienced the second one.  So much for quoting “Saturday Night Live” in her self-defense. 


AMY POEHLER, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”:  First, I‘m a sore loser.  If, on the other hand, Senator Obama is chosen, I will probably refuse to campaign for him.  Or if I do so, it will be in a resentful, half-hearted way, thus ensuring his defeat, so that I can run again in 2012. 

Second, my supporters are racist.  I‘m not bragging, that‘s just the way it is.  Unlike Senator Obama, I have no ethical standards. 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”  Good evening, Dana.


OLBERMANN:  As a pop cultural sign post, litmus test, is that a pretty good indication the Democratic race is actually over? 

MILBANK:  It‘s a pretty good indication “Saturday Night Live” needed to make a bit of a makeup call here, to borrow from your sports background.  And I think they did that.  It‘s their commentary.  But, as we have seen before, it has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy here, and that‘s the danger for Clinton, that she will now be seen as the sore loser, even if she wins West Virginia by 30 points tomorrow night. 

OLBERMANN:  A great point.  I was wondering if she set herself up for that kind of pie in the face, because political satirists and comedians like to be perceived as influential, but I don‘t know if they like to be taken seriously, as in don‘t turn us into part your campaign.  Was that the problem? 

MILBANK:  Satirists are the ultimate opportunists.  They said at the time they were going for the joke.  When the joke could be turned around, it is.  The axiom is there is—nations have no permanent allies or friends, only permanent interests.  That‘s true for satirists as well. 

OLBERMANN:  “Saturday Night Live” has always been at war with east Asia.  Let me play a little game here.  This is the quote, “this,” the West Virginia primary, “is going to be a crucial turning point in this election.”  Would you guess, please, whether that was said by Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton or by Hillary Clinton herself, please? 

MILBANK:  It‘s a bit unfair, Keith, since I was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and heard almost that exact same line uttered by the candidate herself.  So this is life imitating art here, to some extent.  Let‘s be fair to Hillary Clinton.  She‘s probably being kept in a total media blackout, has no idea what‘s being said here.  I bet there‘s parental controls on her computer, noise-canceling head phones on her ears, maybe some of those airlines eye patches or something.  But she cannot possibly be hearing what everyone‘s been saying. 

OLBERMANN:  Boy.  We will have to talk louder.  Which do you think is more likely here, that the senator will end her candidacy by the end of next month or that Bill Clinton will come out and say that the Obama camp got to the “Saturday Night Live” people and they didn‘t support her at the beginning; and don‘t you listen to them, and don‘t you forget it? 

MILBANK:  Well, Clinton drop out I would say is 50/50.  The likelihood of Bill doing that blame would be probably done tomorrow if he hasn‘t already. 

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t think that will have shown—how did she find out about the first one if they don‘t show her stuff like this?  They only show her the good stuff? 

MILBANK:  Can you imagine the poor guy who has to say, sit down here, I‘m going to play this little clip for you.  Maybe that‘s what happened to Mark Penn. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, I see.  He forgot to wear his suit of armor for that.  I‘m suddenly thinking of Dick Shawn in the movie “The Producers;” I just told them all we‘re winning.  Our own Dana Milbank from the “Washington Post.”  Thank you, Dana? 

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  We will see who plays him on “Saturday Night Live.”

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 1,838th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  Reminding you, not exactly sure what we are going to talk about after the polls close, but we will continue to open our mouths and join in your surprise at what emerges.  Chris Matthews and I with MSNBC‘s coverage tomorrow night of the West Virginia primary, 6:00 eastern.  Senator Clinton is favored by 25 to 30 points.  Bring your popcorn.  And we‘ll do it live!  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.