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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for **October 16, 2008**

Read the transcript to the Thursday show


October 16, 2008



Guests: Christopher Hayes, Chris Kofinis

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

And now, it gets violent. Two pro-Obama protestors claim to police that they were beaten at a Palin rally in Laconia, New Hampshire by a 65-year-old woman and more than a dozen of her friends.

The McCain robocalls begin, alleging Obama that has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers.

I'm John McCain and I approve these funny faces I made at the debate. The day after, what uncommitted voters saw as another Obama victory. Obama tries to pivot on McCain's one clear zinger.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last night, Senator McCain said George Bush won't be on the ballot this November. I'm not running against George Bush, I'm running against all those policies of George Bush that you support, Senator McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real winner last night was Joe the Plumber.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, we want to cut taxes because we think like Joe or Jane the Plumber thinks. OK?


OLBERMANN: Except, the real picture of Joe the Plumber is now emerging. He's not a plumber, he's a contractor. He's not an independent voter, he was the talk of right-wing radio before the debate and he compared Obama to Sammy Davis, Jr.-babe.

Pollsters now comparing Obama to Reagan or Lyndon Johnson. The term was "landslide territory," it is not Obama's term.


OBAMA: For those who are getting a little cocky, I got two words for you: New Hampshire.


OLBERMANN: Worsts: California Republicans and the Obama "money" is faced with watermelon, ribs, and a bucket of fried chicken around it.

And, Bill-O and the porn film featuring a Palin look-a-like. I'm assuming he's opposed to it.

And: Senator McCain scheduled to be on with David Letterman-delayed by bad weather. I can report, Plan B is ready.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.




(on camera): Good evening. This is Thursday, October 16th, 19 days until the 2008 presidential election.

What you already knew was ugly, chances are, whatever you caught of last night's debate confirmed that, is tonight, officially, violent.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Just Uttering Senator Obama's name now apparently enough to get you a black eye at a Palin campaign event from a pack of old ladies. I wish I were kidding. I am not. Dateline:

Laconia, New Hampshire, what the Republican vice presidential candidate calls "the great Northwest."

The "Boston Globe" interviewing two young men who claimed they told police they were kicked and harassed when they chanted Obama at yesterday's Palin rally there, one of them with an injury that might back up the story.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know who did it?

GOTTWALD: Yes, A 65-year-old lady along with 15 more because we chanted Obama.

JOSH TAMBLYN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I was in the crowd, just, you know, cheering on Obama and a bunch of old ladies obviously didn't like what I was doing. I was just chanted Obama when they chanted McCain. And boo when they cheered.

I got punched in the face, elbowed, pushed everywhere. I was just harassed and I was escorted out by one of the officers which completely understood that I wasn't doing anything. He watched me for a while, shook my hand, really a nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sorts of things were they saying to you when you were shouting Obama?

TAMBLYN: That I was a traitor, I was anti-American. That I was a scum bag. I shouldn't be alive. Some pretty mean stuff.


OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, this afternoon in Elon, North Carolina, Governor Palin suggesting that a protestor there should be allowed to stay so the crowd could teach him a lesson.


PALIN: Maybe we need to tell security, maybe he not go, maybe he needs to stay and learn a little bit from all of you.


OLBERMANN: Giving her and them the full benefit of the doubt must have been a robust intellectual discussion of some kind. An argument harder to make, though, about the McCain campaign's robocall attacks, since the conversation is always one-sided.

Minutes after Senator McCain dismissed William Ayers as an old, washed-up terrorist at last night's third and final debate, his campaign and RNC auto-dialing voters with claims of Obama having, quote, "worked closely" with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose group, quote, "killed Americans."

Senator McCain also doing nothing at the debate to change the tone of the campaign, in fact, quite the opposite, suggesting that what Senator Obama and his supporters say and do at Democratic rallies is just as bad, if not worse.


MCCAIN: Let me just say, categorically. I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. Whenever you get a large rally of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people, you're going to have some fringe people. You know that. And I've-we've always said that that's not appropriate.

There's a lot of things that been yelled at your rally, Senator Obama, that I'm not happy about, either.


OLBERMANN: Of course, it is hard to find any examples of that, especially when the Democratic nominee makes a habit of not even allowing his supporters to boo Senator McCain, something he did again today, in New Hampshire.


OBAMA: Even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you're worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills, or staying in your homes, my opponent's campaign announced earlier this month that they want to turn the page on the discussion of our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me, instead.


OBAMA: No, you don't-don't boo now, just vote.


OLBERMANN: Time now to bring in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Good to see, sir.


OLBERMANN: It's easy to dismiss that report from Laconia, New Hampshire, but the two guys say they went to the police. If they fabricated that story, they could liable for prosecution, plus, they admit in public to being beaten up by old ladies. Is it plausible and is it disturbing or is this part and parcel of a campaign in 2008?

WOLFFE: Well, it shouldn't be. Look-it's hard to talk about the plausibility of these individuals from this kind of distance. But disturbing, it most definitely is.

And let's just take a step back here. The world is paying a lot of attention to this election. The world has a big stake in it because America is so heavily engaged around the world. And remember, America is doing what it has done for a long time, which is trying to spread democracy.

So, if you are going to advocate for democracy, then you need to pay very careful attention to the peaceful transfer of power which is at the core of this whole process. And when these things happen, and yes, there's some pushing and shoving at lots of events, but when these things happen, when hateful comments are made, when intimidation used, whoever it is, wherever it is, the campaigns need to be very much on top of it and crackdown on it to the full extent that they can.

OLBERMANN: And to that point, the Secret Service is now saying, it is not investigating what supposedly happened at Scranton at the Palin event earlier this week, somebody shouting but nobody-their officer in the crowd did not hear somebody shouting "Kill him," referencing Obama. There's some weird logic to that, but we'll let that pass for a second because they are investigating a second similar incident. We have at least two examples, "treason," "terrorist," those are on tape. We know that happened and there's another allegation that's being investigated of "Kill him."

My question is not about prosecution, but about McCain in this instance, and maybe about Obama, too. Why not a statement-you know, we don't know who said what about Senator Obama, but any implication of physical violence is inappropriate and we urge our supporters and Senator Obama's to, you know, refrain at all costs? Who would disagree with Senator McCain? What response could he possibly get other than applause?

WOLFFE: Well, that would be very important as a tone to set for a leader. And remember that McCain made a big deal out of the-in the debate about the repudiation of Congressman Lewis' comments. The thing about the Secret Service is that they're involved in the protection of the candidates. But it doesn't surprise me that they wouldn't go and take this to the next step.

But a statement, really, isn't enough here, in the sense that it's not surprising that these crowds respond in this way. They are being framed (ph) to think of Obama to think of a terrorist sympathizer, as a friend to terrorists. And remember, that's not just about Bill Ayers. For several months now, the McCain campaign suggested this is the preferred candidate in their own phrase.


WOLFFE: . of Palestinian terrorists, especially Hamas. So, it's not surprising that these crowds feel that this is appropriate response and you have to be extremely careful with that kind of emotion because you cannot control it once it starts.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's tamp it down for a second here.

I think John McCain, right now, has a Bill Ayers problem. Obama got to the topic, in essence, forced his hand last night, McCain had to be somewhat offensive in addressing it and he addressed it almost cursorily, he called him a washed-up terrorist in whom he is not interested. But, his robocalls are about the guy he's not worried about and not interested in.

How many political things are wrong in that picture?

WOLFFE: There are lots of confusing things here about the Ayers strategy. Remember, last night, he raised it himself, McCain did, a response to a question about negative campaigning. And then, he ended that whole conversation saying, "But my campaign is really about the economy."

And, really, here is the bottom line here. Every minute they spend talking about Bill Ayers, is a minute wasted when they should be talking about the economy. It's off topic. It's not what voters care about. And to that extent, McCain is missing his target.

OLBERMANN: And, in a bigger picture here, with the idea of "country

first," still being the thing that hangs behind their heads as they talked

whether or not that still the campaign, we don't know-but Senator McCain has chosen his strategy for the final weeks of the campaign. It risks, to some degree-if McCain loses and Obama wins-it risks, in some quarters, de-legitimizing the election of his opponent, if that is what happens, not to mention potentially fomenting violence even if it never gets any further than some people being beaten up by old ladies.

But to top it off, ultimately, as we look in the zero sum part of the game, it doesn't seem to be working.

WOLFFE: Right. Well-and look, the whole, I think the whole strategy behind the voter registration piece of it, the whole ACORN idea, the scandal they're trying to suggest is out there is to de-legitimize the ultimate result.

So, you know, you're asking voters to project out beyond an election day, that's never going to work. It's like saying-do we want Democrats to run the whole of Washington? You're already assuming people are saying, you're going to lose-never a winning strategy.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," in the flesh today. As always, sir, great thanks for coming by.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The morning after the debate, there's also the matter of "Joe the Plumber" - "Joe, the Unlicensed Plumber." The tale of whose tax bracket revealing itself today to be utter fiction. Outside Toledo, Ohio on Sunday, Joe Wurzelbacher approaching Senator Obama to question him about his tax plan, telling him that he was a plumber, quote, "getting ready to buy a company that makes $250,000 to $280,000 a year. Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Last night, Senator McCain pouncing on that exchange as a cautionary tale for the common Americans, citing Joe the Plumber 21 times and using him as his object lesson of the evils of the Obama tax plan-except, none of it adds up.

Joe the Plumber is not licensed as a plumber. Joe the Plumber has no specific plans for buying his boss's business. Joe the Plumber's boss' business is not making $250,000 a year, but closer to $100,000. And buying it might be difficult because in 2006, Joe the Plumber only made $40,000 -- a figure that would save him at least $500 a year under Obama's tax plan.

Despite all that, in Pennsylvania this morning, Senator McCain is still plumbing the depths with "Good ole Joe."


MCCAIN: The real winner last night was Joe the Plumber.


MCCAIN: He-Joe is the man.


OLBERMANN: That means you finished second or third.

Senator McCain adding that Senator Obama will, quote, "take Joe's money and give it to someone else. We're not going to stand for that."

Well, good luck doing that, anyway. Mr. Wurzelbacher's opposition to taxes apparently extends to not paying them at all-period. Politico reporting that according to records at Lucas County, Ohio and the Court of Common Pleas there, Samuel J.-the J is for Joe-Wurzelbacher has a lien placed against him for more than $1,100 dating from January of 2007.

Finally, Senator McCain's entire premise in raising Joe the Plumber was based on the idea that an average Joe could be earning $250,000 and that would qualify as struggling and in dire need of tax relief.

Here's Senator Obama's response.


OBAMA: Same argument, same philosophy, that we give more and more to millionaires and billionaires, that they're all going to some-that prosperity will trickle down on all of us somehow. And then he's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he is fighting for.


OBAMA: How many plumbers do you know making $250,000 a year?


OLBERMANN: Lots to talk about with Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.

Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So, if Joe the non-plumber, really, was the big winner last night, what does that say about Senator McCain's candidacy?

HAYES: Well, I think what it says is that, you know, for all their flaws, they still excel at throwing out chum in the water for the press to turn on. I mean, if you turn on the TV today, this guy has got like, you know, 10 satellite trucks outside his house and he's being interviewed. And I think he's enjoying his 15 minutes.

But the entire thing, Keith, is transparently absurd. There's 300 million people in the United States. There's probably about 120 million people who are going to cast votes in this election.

And, you know, you can pick anyone at random. And, you know, Senator Obama could have said, look, I have this supporter who's a young black woman in New York City who is, you know, is taking out student loans to advance her education and she's not going to get much help from McCain's plan. You can pick, you know, a far more-in California.

The point, though, is if the McCain campaign understood that the press has this obsession with the white male working class voter as somehow a stand in for the whole nation and they just sold that, and, you know, judging by 24 hours in the news cycle, I supposed it worked a little bit.

OLBERMANN: So, Senator McCain's last, best attempt to connect with struggling Americans on this issue of taxes, whether we, you know, reject the whole construct of this, let's just accept it for the sake of the argument.

HAYES: Right.

OLBERMANN: It is, however-using the example of a guy who he thinks makes $250,000 a year-except he's really making like $40,000 -- who is not really trying to buy a business that isn't worth $250,000 anyway. How is that not an example of being in touch with the common guy but being completely out of touch?

HAYES: You know, it perfectly sums up the entire mythos that this conservative populism functions on. And the point is that, you know, even if he has this business that brought in $280,000, he would only paying the higher marginal rate on the $30,000 above $250,000.

But leaving that aside for a moment, there's this tremendous gap between the mythical creature of Joe the Plumber and the actual real life guy-and we this time and time again. Sarah Palin is a perfect example. And what it shows is that the modern Republican Party and the McCain campaign, and the right-wing, are so much more heavily-invested in a caricature of ordinariness than they are in actual real life ordinary people. And that's, I think, the takeaway that's so perfectly illustrated by this.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, I'm just thinking suddenly of the old TV ads, you probably would remember this, with Josephine the Plumber. But that's another story altogether.

Something else that, right now, falls entirely into the realm of simple irony. There's no indication that these people are related. But Joe's name, Wurzelbacher, it seems so unusual. It turns out it's not. Ohio is teeming with Wurzelbachers.

But if you Google that name, and up pops a Robert Wurzelbacher-again, is evidently no relationship to Joe-but that Wurzelbacher was the son-in-law of Charles Keating of the Keating Five.

Chris, if you're running a campaign and you do that, and that name comes up, and so, they say, yes, son-in-law of Charles Keating, don't you cross Joe off of your list of stunts solely to avoid that name being mentioned even once?

HAYES: Look, I don't think they are putting that much thought into anything they're doing. I think this was-I think this was-in fact, they actually it was a little classless, honestly. I mean, you thrust this guy now in the spotlight and he's got, you know, he's got satellite trucks outside of his house, people are now looking at what his property records are. I mean, you know, I think he's sort of enjoying it, and he-like you said, he was already kind of this right-wing talk radio sensation.

But the fact of the matter is, you know, like everything else in this campaign, I don't think a tremendous amount of forethought went into the Joe the Plumber stunt last night.

OLBERMANN: And, between all that what we know about this, and the fact that, indeed, the right-wing yakkers were talking about this guy before the debate and the resemblance of this entire episode to your standard political plant gets bigger and bigger with every passing hour. You mentioned the term takeaway before. Is another takeaway here, you know, yet, another gimmick that got about as much vetting as the selection of Governor Palin did?

HAYES: Yes, it was another gimmick. And again, they have their own tactics and their strategy in the McCain campaign. So, what do they do today? I mean, they supposed they won some kind of marginal short term victory by eating up an entire day of the news cycle with peopling talking into this guy and looking what his property tax records are.

But I don't think it advanced the ball on a broader economic argument particularly the delicious irony of the core of all this, is that the guy is making, you know, $40,000 a year and would benefit more from Senator Obama's tax plan. I don't see how they didn't just shoot themselves in the foot.

OLBERMANN: Now, see, I got it. It's coming to me, it's coming to me. For the next 19 days, voter of the day, each day John McCain announces some lucky voter who is really representative of why you should vote for him, not vote for Obama. And all the camera crews rush to guy's house. It's like a national kind.

HAYES: And (INAUDIBLE) his campaign to go and help them out.


OLBERMANN: That's right. You don't-you're not going to have to pay attention to McCain or Palin.


OLBERMANN: . you can just go and visit Joe the Plumber or Jane, whether it's Josephine the Plumber.

Chris Hayes of "The Nation" magazine, as always, Chris, great thanks.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Plumber, unlicensed plumber-big deal. If you're John McCain, it's-it's-it's close enough. Just like so much else last night. We'll truth-squad the debate.

And then Mr. McCain meeting a different kind of squad, more like "firing." The McCain-Letterman debate tonight. It is extraordinary. Well, the sneak preview, and you'll never believe whose name came up during that one and which of them brought it up.


OLBERMANN: I'd like to apologize for calling them old ladies.

He called him "Senator Government" and when he corrected it to Obama, he insisted Senator Obama voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Breyer, even though Obama did not make it to the Senate until 11 years after the Senator confirmed Breyer. A lot of truth-squadding from last nights debate.

I'd like to apologize for calling them old ladies.

And, is this good news or bad news for Obama? Forecasters are now using the "L" word, not that one. Chris Kofinis joins us.

Plus in Worst: Bill O'Reilly and a porn film starring a Sarah Palin look-a-like. Stay tuned to see if he is for or against.

I'd like to apologize for calling them old ladies.


OLBERMANN: And in the frequency with which he used them on the campaign trail, it should be no surprised that some of John McCain's worse most obvious canards about used things about Barack Obama ended up in the debate last night.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Tonight, a partial inventory of McCain misspeaks from debate number 49.

There were, of course, the obvious muffs anyone could make, albeit, ideally not in such quantity, calling, for instance, Governor Palin a bresh of freth air, calling Obama "Senator Government," saying Obama voted for Supreme Court Justice Breyer, even though Obama was not in the Senate at that time, it was a decade earlier; promising he would fight for the line item veto ruled unconstitutional in 1988, and in some golden oldies-hitching on the nuclear subs to show how safe nuclear power is-despite this year's nuclear leak aboard the USS Houston; accusing Obama of breaking a pledge to participate in public campaign financing, knowing that the pledge was always conditional and working out an agreement for same with the Republican nominee; putting the launch of Obama's political career in Bill Ayers' living room instead of where it really happened in a Ramada Inn and no-that's not a holiday. And claiming Obama earmarks $300 million for an overhead projector rather than, yes, a planetarium projector, for projecting overhead in a planetarium.

In new screw ups, in his own fields of supposed expertise, Columbia-no, not the number one importer of U.S. agriculture - Oh Canada; his own mortgage plan, no, not the same as Hillary Clinton's; on Iraq, botching the central element of Joe Biden's Iraq plan, not three countries as McCain said, but three divisions of one country.

On taxes-small business pay half of all taxes? U.S. companies among the highest tax in the world. Quote, "Both are wrong," reports the "Washington Post." More than half U.S. corporations paid zero taxes from '96 to 2000, and, in fact, most federal taxes are paid by ordinary people. One tax claim needing no debunking at all because Senator McCain revealed the truth about it himself in the course of the very same debate. First, he claimed Obama, not he, would raise taxes.


MCCAIN: Why would you want to increase anybody's taxes right now? Why would you want to do that? Anyone-anyone in America, nobody likes taxes. Let's not raise anybody's taxes. I'm not going to raise taxes the way Senator Obama wants to raise taxes.


OLBERMANN: McCain not raising taxes, refuted just 25 minutes later by McCain admitting his healthcare plan will tax benefits.


MCCAIN: Ninety-five percent of the people in America will receive

more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present

benefits, which may be taxed, which will be taxed -


OLBERMANN: Likewise on abortion, while journalists again refuted McCain's smear that Obama voted to let babies die after delivery, no one had to debunk McCain's claim about Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court.


MCCAIN: I would never and have never in all the years I've been there imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court.


OLBERMANN: Just two minutes after denying the Roe v. Wade litmus test, McCain admitted how he would decide the judge's qualifications.


MCCAIN: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade, that would be part of those qualifications.


OLBERMANN: Let me give you a few more, but it's only an hour long show.

The 50th of the 49 debates was tonight: McCain versus Letterman.

Guess which of them mentioned me first?

And: Bill-O, and Sarah Palin, and porn. The Good Lord's gift to Worst Persons: ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Membrane, in a moment and Governor Palin going all Edith Piaf on our butts. We don't apologize, we're America. First, on this date in 1921, the moment for every sports fan who ever wanted to see their team get rid of the coach or the manger immediately, during the game. As the Rock Island Independence of the league that became the NFL struggled against the Chicago Cardinals, owner Walter Flanagan simply had enough. He walked up to half back Jimmy Conzulman (ph), and told him to run into the next huddle, and tell player/coach Frank Coughlin that Coughlin was fired. Oh, and tell Coughlin that you're the coach now, in the middle of the game, which Rock Island went on to win, as they did four of the five games after Conzulman took over.

On that note, let's play Oddball.


OLBERMANN: We begin with an update on Greg Packer of Huntington, Long Island, known in media circles as the man on the street. For reporters at book signings or sporting events hoping to capture the pulse of John Q. Public, Greg Packer has always been the go-to go. Quoted in news reports dozens of times. In 2003, he became so omnipresent, the Associated Press asked reporters to avoid quoting Greg Packer.

So in 2003, we got the reaction from the man on the street.

Do you suppose your days as the man on the street are going to be over now?

GREG PACKER, "MAN ON THE STREET": As you see here tonight, Keith, I don't think it's over. I think maybe it's just beginning.

OLBERMANN: Beginning indeed. Since then, he's been quoted in dozens of other places. We've spotted him outside St. Pat's Cathedral talking about the Pope, at the front of the line for the new iPod last year. Guess where Greg Packer of Huntington, Long Island showed up yesterday?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: I think this guy escaped from the 1960s. Who is going to win tonight?

PACKER: McCain. John McCain! John McCain!

OLBERMANN: So, now, McCain has Joe the unlicensed plumber and Greg the licensed Packer. Good luck with that.

More wackiness from the scene of last night's debate, where in the background of another network's post-game coverage you can see a man with an enormous melon walking around. Bill-O, is that you behind Greta? It seems Mr. Met, whose home, Shea Stadium, in Flushing, New York, is currently being demolished, found refuge at the campus of Hofstra University, and dropped by the spin room to claim that the Phillies didn't really beat the Dodgers last night.

Unfortunately, Fox security tried to block out Mr. Met. And eventually Mr. Met-no-his helmet was removed Darth Vader style and he walked away in shame, and thousands of kids in the TV audience screamed in horror.


OLBERMANN: McCain versus Obama. Some of the forecasters are now using the L word. It's not Letterman. Would the big guy have to go to plan B again? No, Senator McCain shows up and invokes my name. These stories ahead, but first, the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of the Republican presidential nominee, McCain in the Membrane.

Number three, Fredericks of Virginia. The McCain National Campaign and the Virginia GOP both insisting today the senator will appear at an event in Virginia on Saturday with state party chairman Jeff Frederick. He's the one caught by "Time Magazine" telling 30 McCain volunteers to emphasize similarities between Obama and Osama bin Laden when they talk to other people because, quoting Mr. Frederick, both have friends that bombed the Pentagon.

At the debate, didn't Senator McCain say every time there's been an out of bounds remark made by a Republican, no matter where they are, I have repudiated them? Well, the senator is going to Virginia to repudiate Mr. Frederick and his unconscionable bin Laden comparison in person, no doubt.

Number two, the threat to the fabric of democracy, not so much. While the Republicans continue to light each other's hair on fire about the group ACORN and its voter registration misses and hits, this sober statement from a prominent official, "I think there's probably less fraud than is being discussed. As we're coming into the closing days of any campaign, there are those who enjoy chaos."

Who said that? Who disagrees with the ACORN axis of evil? Charlie Crist, the Republican governor of Florida. His secretary of state, another Republican, says he doesn't think ACORN is committing systematic voter fraud, that there might be one dubious case in his state.

Number one, Sarah Palin and the unforgiven. Adding a new line to one of the messages prerecorded in her head, the one about how, quote, it sure would be nice if just once Barack Obama said he wants America to win. The new tag to this is we are always proud to be Americans, and we don't apologize for being Americans.

Just skipping for a moment your husband's registered membership in a group founded by a guy who didn't want Alaskans to be Americans. About the not apologizing, you may have just missed this, but Defense Secretary Rumsfeld apologized for the mistreatment of Iraqis in American custody. And then the new Defense Secretary Mr. Gates apologized for the air raid in September of last year in which we killed dozens of Afghan civilians. And President Bush publicly apologized for Abu Ghraib, and President Bush then publicly apologized for Walter Reed.

And Ronald Reagan apologized for the internment of Japanese Americans here during the Second World War. Ronald Reagan. Reagan, Governor Palin. Surely you've heard of him. He was from the lower 48.


OLBERMANN: It's almost 60 years since it happened; a presidential campaign ballooning to utter predictability, the L word, landslide, thrown around, and the Gallup company discontinuing polling with two weeks to go because, gosh, why bother. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, knowing his history and at least the psychological rudiments of complacency, Senator Obama wants no L words uttered. And yet uttered they have been.

From today, Obama 354, rounded up, McCain 184, rounded up.

And the second least happy person about that right now, Mr. B. Obama.


OBAMA: We are 19 days away from changing this country, 19 days away. But for those who are getting a little cocky, I have two words for you, New Hampshire. I learned right here, with the help of my great friend and supporter Hillary Clinton, that you cannot let up. You can't pay too much attention to polls.


OLBERMANN: Still, NBC's own political unit today reported we're on landslide watch now. Obama's evident success is forcing the McCain campaign to focus on defending traditional Republican states like Virginia and Colorado. Another sign of weakness yesterday when the RNC pulled presidential ads out of Wisconsin.

This while Obama goes on offense shifting resources back to the red states of North Dakota and Georgia. The campaign is also signaling a move into two GOP leaning Appalachian states, Kentucky and West Virginia. Tomorrow, Obama begins what the Democrats are calling a red state tour, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida.

Let's turn to Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist, former communication director for the John Edwards presidential campaign. Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Complacency, is this really a fear among Democrats, given how much flatly revenge is possible in this vote, given the uniqueness of this vote for African-Americans? As somebody put it, this is a vote 400 years in the making. With those components, can there really be complacency?

KOFINIS: There can be. And complacency is the enemy of any campaign. The last thing you want to do as a campaign is somehow convince your voters that this election is over, so why bother? That is the exact opposite thing you are hearing from the Obama campaign. That's a very smart message.

I think, today, in particular, when Senator Obama talked about remembering New Hampshire, it wasn't simply about a call to action, it was really lighting that fire you want, you know, final last 19 days of any campaign, particularly a campaign that is this critical. You want your voters mobilized. You want them impassioned. You want them energized. And you want them, obviously, to go vote.

At the end of the day, the only polls that matter and the only thing that matters in terms of where you are in the polls are the ones after election day. You want those votes to come out. I think what you are going to see from the Obama campaign is a very aggressive get out the voter effort, with this very aggressive call to action message you saw today.

OLBERMANN: But Obama and the red states, Kentucky, North Dakota, seriously?

KOFINIS: Well, it's fascinating how this battleground map changed in just a short amount of time. States that traditionally vote Republican have now swung not only to toss-ups, but in some cases leaning toward Senator Obama and the Democrats. Not only I think you are seeing this swing in places like Kentucky, you're seeing it in Georgia. You're seeing it in West Virginia. And I think it is a reflection of how much this country is moving in another direction.

Listen, there's a chance-and I don't want to presumptuous about it, but there is a change that this could be a realignment election kind of like we saw in 1980. If voters come out and are as energized as I think they are, they have a chance not only to move this country in a new direction, in a way that's clearly a win for Senator Obama, but in a big, dramatic way. I think that is also what's going to energize a lot of Democrats and a lot of supporters of Senator Obama.

OLBERMANN: Bob Dole's pollster today said he does not understand what the McCain camp is doing at this point, still spending-it's more specific than that. He's talking about the spending of time and resources in Iowa and Wisconsin when they are far behind, probably outside the margin of being able to catch up in those two states. When Bob Dole's pollster says rethink things, where does that say you are in the campaign?

KOFINIS: You know, I've kind of given up trying to understand the strategic thinking of the McCain campaign. It basically is a head in the sand type of strategic thinking. We've talked about this a lot. I think it really tells you something, that this campaign seems to suffers from a strategic dysfunction that's plaguing every part of their campaign, from their message, from their tactics on the ground, from their debate strategy, to now where they compete in key battlegrounds. It's almost like they are living in alternative universe, where they're ignoring the polls and the trends.

They are not going to win Iowa. I think that state is gone. They're not going to win places like Minnesota, obviously, or Michigan. They are not going down to a smaller group of states. It's a big problem for them. It's like they just don't want to believe it.

OLBERMANN: The Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, we're not using the L word. Great thanks for your time.

KOFINIS: Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN: The other L word, David Letterman, shown here with plan B in case Senator McCain did not show up again tonight. Guess who came up in the conversation. By the way, Joe Biden on Jay Leno tonight.

And worst persons. This isn't racism, she said. It's just food, fried chicken and watermelon and Obama.

First, the biggest headline breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals, Bushed.

Counter-terrorism is just a Republican slogan-gate. Congressional investigators have uncovered appalling security conditions at two American labs which handle deadly germs and toxins, you know, bio-terrorism stuff. I don't want to scare you, but even the Congressional investigation is so shoddily insecure that the Associated Press figured out in which two cities the unidentified labs are located.

I'm not going to reveal them here, but listen to the details of these so-called bio-safety level four facilities. One of them has only a couple of security cameras, motion detectors and guards. Plus, there's a window that looks directly from the outside of the building into the room where the deadly germs are handled.

The building other has an incomplete security barrier around it and no live security camera monitoring it. The investigators saw some guy just walk in off the street via the loading dock, no guards present. So the next time we hear something about how we will have to sell out this right or that one for the sake of counter-terrorism or how the anthrax case was all cleared up, remember how President Bush has permitted the picture windows and unguarded loading docks of bio-safety level four. Whatever you do, do not start contemplating bio-safety level three.


OLBERMANN: John McCain and David Letterman and an exclusive sneak peak at some last lingering shots across the bow of the candidate that the TV star has been slowly dismembering for the last three weeks. That's ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Fixed News. Once, Colin Powell was its darling and those who criticized him un-American. Now, Fox is writing stuff like "Colin Powell has his dancing shoes on, fueling speculation that he's gearing up to do the Obama two-step. The normally staid former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff performed an impromptu hip-hop dance alongside well known rap stars Tuesday, following a speech at a festival in London celebrating African-American music and fashion. His address at the Africa rising celebration inside London's Royal Albert Hall fueled speculation that and endorsement of Barack Obama is imminent."

So because he briefly did a hip-hop dance move and he's African-American, that means he's going to endorse Obama and you have to discredit him with racial stereotypes because he might endorse Obama? See, what you really needed to hear was a quote from Joe the Plumber on whether or not the dance made General Powell look like Sammy Davis, Jr., the way he said Obama did.

Our runner up tonight, Bill-O the Clown, equating violence shouts directed at Obama at Palin and McCain events to any criticism of or satire about Governor Palin. Now, there's a porn movie being produced with a Sarah Palin look alike. Are you opposed to it? Are you demanding an invitation to the premiere?

Besides which, where do you think the market for this is? Democrats? To again quote Rich Lowry of the "National Review" and Fox noise, "I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a later straighter on the couch and said, hey, I think she just winked at me and her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling, it was almost mesmerizing."

But our winner, Diane Fideli (ph), president of the Chaffee Community Republican Women Federated of the Inland Empire in southern California. That's roughly San Bernardino. She has sent out about 200 hard and e-mail copies of her group's latest newsletter. It includes an apparent joke that if elected, Barack Obama's face will appear not on currency but on food stamps. There's an illustration. Obama with some watermelon, ribs, a bucket of fried chicken, Cool Aid. She says, it was just food to me. It didn't mean anything else.

She also says there was no racial undertone to the food stamp idea itself, that this was just a play on Obama saying he didn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills. Though the first sentence of her article accompanying this piece of crap reads, "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would Obama be on? Food stamps, what else?"

Miss Fideli says she's going to apologize to the members of her club. In the interim, we have the standard non-apology apology for the rest of us, putting the onus on the recipients of her racism: "I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended." She says, it couldn't be racism because she once supported Allen Keyes. And "I didn't see it the way it's being taken. I never connected."

Well, then maybe it's not racism. Maybe you're just a moron. President Diane Fideli of the Chaffee Community Republican Women Federated of Southern California's Inland Empire, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, Senator John McCain actually showed up to the "Late Show with David Letterman" to say I screwed up. don't think we were just joking about whether the senator would make it this time. There was a two-hour flight delay into Newark Airport this afternoon, so the McCain campaign employed a helicopter to take the senator from Philadelphia to New York, so he would not miss the taping of the Late Show, again.

Long before McCain's transportation issues surfaced, I was wisely placed on standby.


LETTERMAN: I'm all for giving everybody a second chance. And he's hear tonight and we will talk about it. But it was horrible because we had to have that Keith Olbermann from MSNBC, XYZ YOU EIO. In fact, because we're not taking any chances, Keith Olbermann, is he back there? OK. That's good.

Keith Olbermann ran over at a moment's notice-did you see the head on that guy? He has an enormous head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little large.

OLBERMANN: Biff, can you measure that guy's head? Do me a favor, just take a look at the size. There he is. Get in there.

That's like a 20 or something.


OLBERMANN: But this time, at least, Senator McCain neither canceled nor suspended.


LETTERMAN: Nice to see you, John. Thank you very much for being here.

MCCAIN: Thank you for the bus tour. Trip down memory lane there.

LETTERMAN: Yes. Can you stay?

MCCAIN: Yes, sir. Depends on how bad it gets. I have a son in the Marine Corps, and I asked him to Fedex his helmet and flak jacket. But it didn't get here in time.

LETTERMAN: I think you'll be all right. What exactly happened? I thought I was doing my part to save the economy, and then later I get to thinking maybe I'm not important enough.

MCCAIN: Can I give you an answer?


MCCAIN: I screwed up.


MCCAIN: Look at all the conversation I gave you.


MCCAIN: Including having Mr. Olbermann on.

LETTERMAN: You know, John, you called me-you called me-

MCCAIN: I haven't had so much fun since my last interrogation.

LETTERMAN: You called me an hour and a half and said, we've got to get right back to Washington. But you didn't go right back to Washington.

MCCAIN: I screwed up. What can I say? What can I say?


OLBERMANN: There were, of course, other exchanges with Mr. Letterman tonight, on whether Governor Palin was his first choice for VP. Quote, absolutely. On whether Governor Palin was the woman to lead the nation through the next 9/11 attack, quote, absolutely, she's inspired Americans. That's the thing we need. On whether Mrs. Palin had said that Senator Obama pals around with terrorists, McCain started to say he didn't know, then said, quote, yes, and he did.

And when McCain discussed William Ayers, Letterman asked Senator McCain about his relationship with G. Gordon Liddy. McCain said I know Gordon Liddy. He paid his debt. He went to prison. He paid his debt.

So questions about Palin's readiness to serve in the event of an emergency, G. Gordon Liddy, domestic terrorists, about why, if McCain knows how to get bin Laden, he hasn't done anything about it and is holding out until after the election. This is a tradition as old as Will Rogers. The keenest questions do not come from the political professionals. They come from people like David Letterman. Nice work.

That's COUNTDOWN for this the 1,996th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann-I have a giant head - - good night and good luck.



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