Guest: Emily Heil, Robert Bauer, Clarence Page
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The other ACORN drops: A repeat of the purging of U.S. attorneys. The Obama campaign asked the attorney general to have a special prosecutor investigate if the Bush administration and the McCain-Palin campaign are illegally working together to disseminate "unsupported spurious allegations of vote fraud." The charge: the White House and the Justice Department guilty of "unwarranted and politically motivated intervention in the upcoming election" on Senator McCain's behalf. Ohio: The Supreme Court overrules a Republican judge. Two hundred thousand new registrations cannot be challenged. Hard hitting questions from a network anchorman? Oh, sorry, hard hitting campaign questions from a network funny man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, TV TALK SHOW HOST: I mean, if you are unable to fulfill your office, we get a 9/11 attack, Sarah Palin is the president who leads us through that.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. She has-she's been a governor of a state with 24,000 employees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The "SNL" conquest (ph): Tomorrow, the governor; last night, the senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would your friend Joe be, by any chance, an imaginary friend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Joe the Plumber lives in a cigar box under my bed with our friend Simon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Bests: The $9.5 million parking ticket. Worst: Rick Santorum says voters hate Obama because he will not wear a flag pin. What's on that his lapel, Rick-a broach? And as comedians get serious, the serious try to get comic at the Al Smith Dinner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rupert, the other day, FOX News actually accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock.
MCCAIN: I understand that Keith Olbermann has ordered up his very own "mission accomplished" banner. If they need any decorating advice on that banner, ask Keith to call me, so I can tell him right where to put it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I'm assuming, senator, that you mean that same location which you pulled your vice presidential nominee. (INAUDIBLE)
All that and more: Now-on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Friday, October 17th, 18 days until the 2008 presidential election.
An election that the Obama campaign today formally and in official request for a special prosecutor, suggested the McCain campaign is conspiring to steal, with help from the White House and Department of Justice. Our fifth story tonight: With the election itself at stake, breaking news that Obama is setting the stage for a dramatic re-enactment of the battle over Republican corruption of the DOJ, to suppress Democratic vote in 2004 and 2006. Only this time, with this Democrat, the battle now being joined before it's too late. It is unfolding by the hour tonight. First: Two top officials at the Justice Department leaked the fact that the DOJ is seeking evidence that ACORN, a network of community groups, might be involved in a coordinated national scam to register fake voters. The background: Every election, ACORN uses part time workers to register new voters. Every election, a handful of workers rip off ACORN by making up voter names. ACORN itself is required by law to submit even the names it knows are fake and ACORN even flags those names for officials to exclude. And even though none of this voter registration fraud has led to significant voter fraud or fake votes cast, for the last two election cycles, Republicans from the White House down, have tried to tighten voting restrictions, which often screened out poor and minority voters. That is Democrats by ginning up a handful of registration fraud cases as evidence of widespread fraud in voting itself. That's why several DOJ prosecutors were fired in 2006 for having rejected political pressure to pursue unfounded voting fraud cases. Special prosecutor, Dora Dannehy, is now investigating the Bush administration's use of the DOJ in that effort. And now, less two years later, this letter from the Obama campaign to the attorney general, Michael Mukasey today, quote, "I request that Special Prosecutor Dannehy's inquiry include a review of any involvement by Justice Department and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee systematic development and dissemination of unsupported spurious allegations of vote fraud." DOJ replying to COUNTDOWN tonight, quote, "We will review the letter." So, could there be any evidence that Senator McCain might be pushing hyperbolic allegations of voting fraud?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: And that relationship, we need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Any evidence, perhaps, that Mr. Mukasey is responding to political pressure-a pressure coming in to the last days of the campaign when even Justice Department guidelines discouraged these investigations precisely because of partisan concerns? September 16th, Assistant House Republican Whip Tom Feeney and 38 others write to Mukasey about ACORN. Last Friday, House Republican Whip Roy Blunt and five others write to Mukasey about ACORN. On Tuesday, Republican Senator John Cornyn writes to Mukasey about ACORN. Three Republicans from the battleground state of Wisconsin write to Mukasey about ACORN. Yesterday, two senior DOJ officials revealed the ACORN investigation to the "Associated Press," to quote, "They spoke on condition of anonymity because DOJ regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations particularly so close to an election." Today, this RNC Republican press release, quote, "The New Mexico Republican Party say they believe 28 people voted fraudulently in June." The chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party is Alan Weh, the same GOP chief who asked Karl Rove in 2005 to fire New Mexico's state U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, precisely because Iglesias had refused to tow the line on pursuing bogus voter fraud claims. Rachel Maddow and the politics in a moment. First, we're joined now by the general counsel to the Obama campaign, Bob Bauer, whose letter to Attorney General Mukasey we just quoted. Thank you for your time, tonight, sir.
ROBERT BAUER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN GENERAL COUNSEL: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Have we got this pretty much right that you are essentially raising the possibility, asking for a special prosecutor to determine whether the McCain campaign is essentially conspiring with the Republican National Committee in what would be probably a pretty crucial illegal part with official government elements at the White House, at the Justice Department to create this phony appearance of widespread voting fraud that winds itself to crackdowns that wind up only suppressing Democratic votes?
BAUER: You do have it right. You have it exactly right. And I think it's important, Keith, if I could, to put it within the broader context of the kind of negative, unprecedentedly vicious and negative campaign, the McCain Palin campaign is currently running. Wherever you look at every level, you see these tactics being used. And now, this toxin appears to have entered into the Justice Department, not too long after the administration promised to clean up after the U.S. attorney dismissals and the scandal over the U.S. attorney dismissals. So, what we are seeing here is, I'm afraid to say evidence, that on another level yet again, along with the robocalls, along with the negative ads, along with all of these activities, these viciously negative activities, we now have legal tactics that are being used of a similarly vicious nature. And they threaten to poison the Department of Justice and the impartial administration of the law. We're asking Attorney General Mukasey, who came to the Department of Justice to clean up after the U.S. attorney scandal to take the action necessary to remove this matter from, frankly, political hands and put them in independent hands. And you pointed out, there is a special prosecutor, Nora Dannehy who could easily take this on and make it part of her extended responsibilities.
OLBERMANN: Can you, Mr. Bauer, connect the dots for me? Explain why and how crackdowns on voting fraud would reduce Democratic votes disproportionably to Republican votes?
BAUER: Well, there's an attempt here at all phases of this campaign to smear and this is a smear on voters. It's an attempt to discourage people from voting, to drive them away from the polls. And there's a variety of ways that voters are discouraged and voters are subject to these smears.
And as I said, you have to see it as all part of the piece. Whether it's the robocalls, that even today, by the way, Republican Senator Susan Collins asked the McCain campaign to take down on the state of Maine or the sleazy legal tactics repudiated today by a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court, or the senior Justice Department officials now engage apparently in colluding for partisan political purposes in violation of department policy at every single one of these levels you see this behavior taking place. And so, I think, now, with the report of these officials who, you point out, knew what they were doing was wrong, told the reporters that what they were doing violated departmental policy. It's time for Attorney General Mukasey to do what other Republicans of good conscience and independents have done which is to repudiate this negativity and start to entrusting government to responsible people, and politics, quite frankly, kept out of it.
OLBERMANN: What would the smoking gun be here, sir?
BAUER: Well, what you have is a newspaper article.
By the way, 24 hours, less than 24 hours after John McCain pondered as your opening showed about vote fraud-threatened the very fabric of our democracy, right there after, almost precisely as you would expect the Republican National Committee and the McCain-Palin plot it, lo and behold, senior department officials admitting they were violating departmental policy, announced that a investigation of fraud was underway. This is an astonishing repeat of the kind of toxic intrusion of politics into the lawful administration of justice that we saw during the U.S. attorney scandal. We are seeing a repeat of that. Now, as I said, Attorney General Mukasey came to clean the Department of Justice out. So, he has a chance to purge this toxin from the system. And the way that he would do that is to take this to a special prosecutor, Dannehy. She would be in a position to investigate the coordination of this campaign, this illegal campaign, this repeatedly negative campaign that subverting the administration of justice. She'd be in a position to collect information about who those senior departmental Justice officials were, and we would begin, hopefully, to have government entrusted to people who would do their responsibility.
OLBERMANN: The general counsel for the Democratic presidential nominee, Bob Bauer, great thanks for explaining this for us tonight.
BAUER: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: As to the political ramifications, I'm joined now by, as promised, the host of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. The headline here is a familiar-sounding Republican possible crime or an unfamiliar-sounding Democratic pushback?
MADDOW: The headline here boldfaced is: Finally, a Democrat goes beyond lamenting this. Finally, a Democrat goes beyond understanding that this is happening. Finally, there is a Democratic nominee who recognized that this was happening early on, said they recognized it was happening and had a plan to stop it. There's nothing unusual about the tactics that are being used here. What is unusual is that we've got, apparently, an aggressive confident, grounded plan to go after it before Election Day. This is a whole new kind of Democrat, apparently.
OLBERMANN: On the other end of this, this is sort of textbook definition of why they coined the term "McSame," right? I mean, McCain is accused of using, gee (ph), it's exactly the same tactics, the suppression tactics that Bush did in 2006, and probably, in 2004.
MADDOW: And good on you for catching this. Some of the officials involved here are the exact same officials involved in the 2006 scandal that claimed the previous attorney general's job, and that have brought us a special prosecutor looking into the U.S. attorney scandal. I mean, to have the same New Mexico officials making the same claims that put people in legal jeopardy for having fired David Iglesias, making those exact same claims now, it ought-it shouldn't be an alarm. It shouldn't be expected. And apparently, to the Obama campaign, it was expected because they knew exactly how to push back on this, what to tie it to, and what their specific legal counterpunch would be. I am impressed by the Obama campaign on this like I haven't been with the Democratic politician in a long time.
OLBERMANN: And there was an actual result in the saga of voter suppression. Today, the Supreme Court throwing out the ruling by the Republican judge in Ohio that had thrown out or thrown, rather, 200,000 new voter registrations in that state into doubt. How important was that Supreme Court ruling, do you think?
MADDOW: Well, I've got the Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer Bruner joining me in the first half hour of the show coming up right after you. So, I hope to hear directly from her who important this is. I know already that she believes as I know from our pre-interview with her, that she believes that this is a major victory for Ohio voters. I hope to get a more of a sense from her when I talk to her. And I think it's the first television interview she's done since the Supreme Court ruling. I hope to get more of a sense from her whether she thinks there really is a war on in Ohio this year for the sanctity of the vote.
OLBERMANN: If you can't beat them at the polls, you beat them away from the polls. Rachel Maddow, who also, in tonight's edition of her show, will be touching on this set of crazy remarks about anti-American congressmen and senators from a U.S. congresswoman.
All right, Rachel, see you later. Thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: "Joe the unlicensed Plumber" is back. And Barack Obama ruined his life. So, jokes John McCain in his speech at the Al Smith-no? He was serious? McCain brought him up 21 times at the debate, then he blasted Obama for destroying Joe's privacy and then McCain said that people should make it up to Joe by e-mailing him at his house, thereby destroying his privacy again. That's not a gag?
OLBERMANN: Last night, John McCain was apologizing to Joe the Plumber for making his life public. Today, John McCain blamed Barack Obama for making his life public. The most probing interview yet of the Republican candidate, done by a man who once in the cast of a TV series starring Starland Vocal Band. And who got mentioned in one of the presidential candidates' roast at the Annual Al Smith Dinner in New York? The roast will be returned as COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: At the second presidential debate in Nashville, Senator John McCain having declared that he knew how to get Osama bin Laden. Further promising that as president, he would be get bin Laden no matter what. Finally, more than nine days later, more than nine months after he first made such a claim, a follow-up question to Senator McCain on the specifics of that assertion when he was asked if he had, quote, "the advantage of greater information than the current president?" Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: That follow-up question coming after Williams, Gibson, Couric, Schaeffer, Stephanopoulos, Brokaw, from the former weatherman of Channel 13 in Indianapolis. But first, a brief stop in Miami-because what Senator McCain said there today, was in direct conflict of what he last night told that unrepentant weatherman-sorry, David Letterman. This afternoon, the Republican nominee spinning an entirely new fictional tale about the gentleman he calls "Joe the Plumber."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: A response from Senator Obama and his campaign yesterday was to attack Joe-was to attack Joe.
MCCAIN: People are digging-people are digging through his personal life. And he has TV crews camped out in front of his house.
MCCAIN: He didn't ask Senator Obama to come to his house. He wasn't-he wasn't recruited or prompted by our campaign, he just asked a question. And Americans ought to be able to ask Senator Obama tough questions without being smeared and targeted with political attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: One, Senator McCain later added that people should help Joe regain his privacy by e-mailing him, thus re-destroying his privacy. Two, Obama did not go to Joe the Plumber's house. When the Democrat was canvassing on the street in his neighborhood, Joe Wurzelbacher approached Obama. And three, Senator McCain is not only fully responsible for Joe's 15 minutes of fame by having referenced Joe the Plumber 21 times in Wednesday's debate, but he even acknowledged it and apologized for it to Joe last night on the "Late Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LATE SHOW/WORLDWIDE PANTS)
LETTERMAN: Tell us about Joe the Plumber. You invoked Joe the Plumber, a guy from Ohio. What's the deal there?
MCCAIN: Well, I saw him on a clip on television. He said that he had a business-he was a plumber. He worked all his life wanted to buy the business and he didn't want to have his taxes increased if he did sell. And-so, I kind of relate it to him. And Joe the Plumber-Joe, if you're watching, I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator McCain, also, apparently, with no apologies and no regrets about his selection of Governor Palin as his running mate, Mr. Letterman asked him about the thought that went into making that choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LATE SHOW/WORLDWIDE PANTS)
LETTERMAN: I was just wondering if the thoughtfulness of that process included your selection of vice president.
MCCAIN: Oh, sure.
LETTERMAN: I mean, if you are unable to fulfill your office, we get a 9/11 attack, Sarah Palin is the president who leads us through that
MCCAIN: Sure. She has-she's been a governor of a state with 24,000 employees.
LETTERMAN: Yes, but the state.
MCCAIN: She's I mean, maybe you don't like Alaska.
LETTERMAN: I like Alaska.
MCCAIN: But the point is.
MCCAIN: . it's the biggest state we have.
LETTERMAN: No, I'm a big fan of Alaska.
MCCAIN: And I'm sure they would welcome you there.
LETTERMAN: If I were to run upstairs and wake you up in the middle of the night and say, John, is Sarah Palin really the woman to lead us through the next four, eight years? Through the next 9/11 attack?
MCCAIN: Absolutely, she's inspired Americans. That's the thing we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Perhaps the best exchange of the many coming when Mr. Letterman asked about Governor Palin's frequent claim that Senator Obama has been palling around with terrorists, plural, something to which Senator McCain initially agreed. Letterman unveiling both the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of the attack by then asking the Republican nominee about a different plumber, G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate criminal who had drawn up plans to firebomb Washington's Brooking Institution and had to be stopped from assassinating the columnist Jack Anderson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LATE SHOW/WORLDWIDE PANTS)
LETTERMAN: But you will also admit that we cannot really control who we interact with in our lives, 100 percent.
MCCAIN: Sure. How long.
LETTERMAN: I mean, you have, you have.
MCCAIN: How long we interact with them and how we interact with them.
LETTERMAN: But you have.
MCCAIN: But the point is-the point in this campaign is the economy, and the economy, and the economy.
LETTERMAN: Did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?
MCCAIN: I met him, you know, I mean.
LETTERMAN: Did you attend a fundraiser at his house?
MCCAIN: Gordon Liddy's? I object your honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That and much more to talk about with Clarence Page, nationally syndicated columnist for the "Chicago Tribune," who joins us now.
Thank you again for your time, sir.
CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Thank you, Keith. Glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: Palin, Ayers, Liddy, bin Laden-what does it say about a campaign cycle that that was the most substantive interview of the Republican nominee that we have seen, and also, that we're likely to see before this election?
PAGE: Well, number one, David Letterman takes his role as an evening newscaster seriously. When I say newscaster, I mean late night is an important medium for a lot of people who say they get their news from late night talk. And David gave a persistent interview of the kind that I'm sure you would give if John McCain would come on your program. You know, we talked about G. Gordon Liddy and all. I don't know why that story has not come out more, why there hasn't been more discussion. Obviously, David Letterman's audience was ready for it.
OLBERMANN: I thank you for that compliment, first of all. In the space, though, of a couple of hours here between that show and what was said today, Senator McCain went from apologizing to this Joe Wurzelbacher, for having inconvenience him, to blaming Senator Obama for the media circus and it was, in fact, the lead story on FOX News today. Number one, doesn't that by itself succeed in keeping this poor man whose privacy has been destroyed, Joe Wurzelbacher, in the headlines, rendering an apology like that completely meaningless and hollow? And two, if Joe the Plumber did not seem to work at the debate or the day after, why is the campaign still going with him as a strategy?
PAGE: I don't feel sorry for Joe Wurzelbacher; he's got the time of his life. You look at his, you know, front lawn news conferences. He's talking all about how awful Social Security is and various other super-ultra-libertarian positions that I'm sure make McCain wince. But he's eager to get that blue-collar vote and he sees Joe the Plumber as being an avenue toward that vote. Like he said on the Letterman show, you know, I could relate to Joe the Plumber. That's what he wants to do.
OLBERMANN: And it turns out he's going to relate to, as well, in his weekly radio address. McCain, all though he'd like to get Joe out of the spotlight, would like to keep him in the spotlight simultaneously. Another question here about.
PAGE: I think so.
OLBERMANN: . a different topic, it relates to you newspaper. The "Chicago Tribune" today endorsed the Democrat, endorsed Barack Obama-the first time that it's ever happened-said that Senator McCain failed in his selection of Governor Palin. The "L.A. Times" endorsed a presidential candidate, it was Obama. It's the first time, since 1972, they picked anybody. Also, the first time that that paper, which was a notorious conservative ultra-right-wing paper in the early 1900s, has ever picked a Democrat. Is there significance still on these newspaper endorsements, do you think?
PAGE: Well, let's be kind to our Republican heritage there, Keith, because we were the paper of Abraham Lincoln. And the "Tribune" was founded on two principles: free trade and abolition. And I still believe in that as a member of the "Tribune" editorial. But, yes, this is a historic occasion. The paper has been a Republican paper. I have never endorsed a Democrat including Adlai Stevenson, former governor of Illinois and his two runs against Dwight Eisenhower. But this is an occasion here where Barack Obama and John McCain, his choice of Sarah Palin, I think, really had a lot to do with that decision.
OLBERMANN: And as a matter of fairness, the "Chicago Sun-Times" has just endorsed Obama as well, who just throw that (INAUDIBLE) but the sense it deserves there.
Clarence Page, Pulitzer.
PAGE: This is a trend.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is.
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of the "Chicago Tribune"-as ever, sir, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
PAGE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Belgium, this is how you kill time in Belgium. I now pronounce you man and-wife. And the Secret Service keeping reporters from covering Governor Palin from talking to people at her rallies? Worst Persons is ahead. But first, the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of the Republican presidential nominee, McCain in the Membrane. The online trading market in Entrade has conducted an internal investigation in buying prices for the presidential race. It finds that over the last several weeks, one guy has pumped hundreds of thousands of bucks into its prediction market. He's lost a lot of money already. Entrade concludes he apparently does not care if he loses all of it. This would be akin to a gambler at a race track who keeps betting on a horse just to lower the odds and make them (ph) less of a long shot because he likes the way the horse looks. Or as a professor to University of Pennsylvania who studies this stuff says, it's obviously someone who wants good news for McCain. Wait a minute, somebody is trying to fix the Entrade market for McCain? Currently, the Entrade market predicts an 83.8 percent chance of Obama being elected and predicts that the chance of McCain being elected is 16.8 percent. My God, what are his odds without somebody trying to fix the market for him?
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment and the 9.5 million dollar parking ticket. First, it was on this date in 1947 that Michael McKean was born. From "Laverne and Shirley" to "This is Spinal Tap" to "Saturday Night Live" to "Dream On" to "Hopeless Pictures," one of our greatest actors and a descendant of Thomas McKean, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was the one who put the smiley face next to his name. Happy birthday Michael McKean. Let's play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We begin at the home of Ellen Pierce at Tempe, Arizona where somebody has been lifting her Obama for president signs, four of them to be specific. So Miss Pierce decided to try and catch the thief. This is footage from surveillance cameras she had installed. This past Saturday afternoon, looky, looky, we nabbed a crooky. A woman parked her white SUV outside the house, got out, pulled the sign out of the ground, tossed it in the truck. Down the street at a neighbor's house a few minutes later, same problem, same surveillance technology and it looks like the same perp nicking another sign. Catherine Harris? No, it couldn't be. To the Lindbergh Province of Belgium. Another one of these fancy European stunt weddings. Sandra Enf (ph) and Dravoon Kippers (ph) rented out an air field, a few platforms, a bunch of cranes and held their wedding ceremony 150 feet in the air, complete with guests, the piano, the preacher. After the pair tied the knot, they immediately bungy jumped off the platform. Mazel Tov. Thankfully, they tied the knot real good. The pair then dangled in midair for about an hour and a half as their guests began cocktail hour. Yes, they're up there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Comedy as the baseball bat of politics. John McCain got his swings in at me last night at the Al Smith dinner. Tonight, it's my turn and tomorrow it's SNL's turn versus Governor Palin. And this startling quote: "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or are they anti-America. A U.S. Congresswoman actually said that tonight. It will be among the topics on tonight's edition of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" at the top of the hour. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world. Number three, best weird fact, baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, now National League champions, heading to the World Series for only the fourth time since the 1950. The four years they have been National League champions, 1980, '83, '93 and now 2004 happen to be the only four years I have ever gone to Philadelphia to see them play there. Number two, best typo, the parking enforcement department of Glencoe, Illinois. Barbara and Lee Mitchell got a ticket for parking their car in downtown Glencoe for more than the permitted two hours. They were charged 9,501,571 dollars. The ticket itself reminds the Mitchells that if they don't want a hearing, they should pay promptly but not in cash. How did the fine turn out to be that strange number? 9501071, it's their license plate number. Number on, best use for disco. The American Heart Association has previewed a paper to be released 11 days hence in which it will be clinically proven that the most successful use of CPR as a lifesaver is if you can hit a rhythm of 100 compressions per minute, three times more likely to save a life that way. So you should try to think of something that would allow you to give 100, 101, 102 or 103 compressions or beats per minute; 103 beats per minute is, as they point, the exact rhythm of the Bee Gees consummate disco hit "Staying Alive."
OLBERMANN: The Al Smith dinner, an especially curious stop for the presidential candidates on this 80th anniversary the year Smith, a real maverick, lost the presidency by 357 electoral votes after a smear campaign who portrayed him as a religious radical who would sell the nation out to a frightening foreign power in a distant land. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, from the papist of 1928 to the memorial dinner of 2008. You could have knocked me over with a feather about whose name came up in the comedic speeches. A day after facing off in debate format, the rivals unrelenting in roast format, taking shots at each other and a few swipes at themselves. It was good stuff, most of it very funny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: My opponents have been subjecting Joe to their vicious attack machine. His veracity has been questioned by Barack Obama's running mate, Joe, the six term senator. He claims that this honest, hard working, small business man could not possibly have enough income to face a tax increase under the Obama plan. What they don't know-what they don't know is that Joe the plumber recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses. There are signs of hope. There are signs of hope. Even in the most unexpected places, even in this room, full of proud Manhattan Democrats. I can't-I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me. I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary.
OBAMA: I was originally told we'd be able to move this outdoors to Yankee Stadium. And can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek columns that I requested? Americans have a big choice to make, and if anybody feels like they don't know me by now, let me try to give you some answers. Who is Barack Obama? Contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el to save the Planet Earth. If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome. But I know Senator McCain agrees that some of the rumors out there are getting a bit crazy. I mean, Rupert the other day, Fox News actually accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock. At least we've moved past the days when the main criticism coming from the McCain campaign was that I'm some kind of celebrity. I have to admit that that really hurt. I got so angry about it, I punched a paparazzi in the face on my way out of Spago's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Again, good material, well delivered by all. There seemed to be, though, only one moment during which the spirit of roast everybody for the hell of it took a back seat to other emotions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: It's going to be a long, long night at MSNBC if I manage to pull this thing off. For starters, I understand that Keith Olbermann has ordered up his very own mission accomplished banner. And they can hang that in whatever padded room has been reserved for him. Seriously, Chris, if they need any decorating advice on that banner, ask Keith to call me so I can tell him right where to put it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator McCain, Senator Sheky (ph) McCain, everybody. We have some more time if you'd like to make a joke about Chelsea Clinton. But, seriously, senator, I kid this man. I'm delighted to see he still watches me every night on "Sports Center." But I've got to tell you, it will be a long night for MSNBC if you pull this off. It will be a long night for America, four years long, huh, huh? Senator, I love ya. He thinks I'm going to be in a padded room. Well, you know, why not. He also thinks he's going to be in an Oval Office. Well, you've been great and I wanted to close out our time together with one last killer piece of material, but I couldn't think of a bigger joke than Sarah Palin. Good night, everybody. Tip the veal. Enjoy your waitresses. His invisible friend Joe the plumber. "Saturday Night Live" eviscerates John McCain and warms up for Sarah Palin maybe. And worst persons, the latest evidence of a looming Obama dictatorship; so says a veteran lunatic fringer who does not recognize this flag and assumes Obama has simply made up his own for Obama-land or the United States of Obama or Obama-ism.
OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin playing Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live?" What, Tina Fey wasn't available? That's ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world. The bronze tonight to Bob Grant of WABC radio in New York, the man who inspired Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and others to sell their soul. I'm sorry, go into right wing radio. "Did you notice," the old carnival barker said the other day, "Obama is not content with just having several American flags. He has the O Flag. He had the flag painted over, and the O for Obama. These things are symptomatic of a person who would like to a be a potentate, a dictator. I really see this in this man." OK, this is what bob is talking about. That's the state flag of Ohio, Bob, in use since 1902. The O is for Ohio. Was Bob Grant great on the radio? When I was a kid! Our runner-up, Governor Palin's Secret Service detail. In a "Washington Post" online chat, a reporter noted a broadening of its mission. Dana Millbank writes, "in cooperation with the Palin campaign, they've started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd." The agents and Palin's campaign, quote, "prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it's unfounded because reporters can't get close enough to identify the person." The Secret Service denies this. But I also understand her Secret Service detail keeps pushing away anybody at these events who tries to approach the governor with an idea. But our winner, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. On Fixed News yesterday, he let out a loo-loo that might rival his famous man on dog line; talking about the voters of his native town of Butler, Pennsylvania: "These people are not racist. What they are people who look at someone who is as liberal as Barack Obama, who has been condescending to them and calling them clinging to their guns and their religion, who won't wear the American flag pin." Rick, A couple of quick images for you. Obama flag pin. Debate Number three, McCain won't wear the American flag pin. Debate two, Obama flag pin, McCain won't wear the American flag pin. Debate number one, Obama flag pin, McCain won't wear the American flag pin. We're beginning to see a pattern emerge here, huh, Rick? In sum-wait a minute, look at this, too. Rick Santorum won't wear the American flag pin. I'd like to conclude this nonsense about the least relevant issue of this campaign, flag pins, by quoting the Smother Brothers version of the old lament the Streets of Laredo: "as I walked out on the streets of Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day, I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen, wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay. I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy. I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy, too. We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys. If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy, too." Rick stick to man on dog Santorum, today's worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: So close. In our post-debate COUNTDOWN Wednesday night, I referred to Joe the plumber as Senator John McCain's invisible friend. It turns out Joe the plumber is McCain his imaginary friend. Simon is his invisible friend, at least according to a devastating portrayal by "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update Thursday. In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, just in time to turn the whole ship around, Governor Sarah Palin will reportedly be appearing on SNL regular tomorrow night.
That's not confirmed by "Saturday Night Live," but Governor Palin discussed it in another radio interview today, saying, quote, "I just want to be there to show Americans that we will rise above the political shots we take because we're in the serious business for serious challenges that are facing the good American people right now. That's why we're campaigning hard. That's why we're working hard." OK. Asked if she would be playing Tina Fey, who has so remarkably played her, Governor Palin said, quote, "I should. That's a good idea. Oh, I don't know what they've lined up. I haven't seen a script, not at all. They haven't even hinted at what the script is going to be." In other words, Governor Palin no different than the scripts handed to you by the McCain campaign. Meantime, SNL took its shot at the final debate last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So your friend, Joe the plumber, has a magical plunger?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would your friend, Joe, be, by any chance, an imaginary friend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, Joe the plumber lives in a cigar box under my bed with our friend Simon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Joe the plumber would be very tiny then?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe stands about three and a half inches tall, except when he's upset. Then he can become as big as a house. He's my best friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's turn to a new topic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could I just add that Simon is invisible? Senator, why don't you say it to his face. He's right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe, if I in any way implied that you do not exist, I sincerely apologize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe the plumber tells me he accepts your apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And who can forget the woman at the McCain town hall who asked McCain about Obama being an Arab.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't trust him, Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why can't you trust Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I read about him. He's-he's an Arab.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do know he's 50 percent Egyptian. Yes, he's going to change the White House to a pyramid.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No, he's not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I like that pyramid idea. Let's turn to Emily Heil, who writes the Heard on the Hill column for "Roll Call." Emily, good evening.
EMILY HEIL, "ROLL CALL": Glad to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Governor Palin on SNL, is the risk-to-reward scale here favorable for her or not?
HEIL: It is risky proposition for her. SNL has been absolutely mercilessly lampooning her the last few weeks. There's no sense they wouldn't do that if she were there, that they'd pull any punches if she were on the set. So she really has to roll with it, to really be part of the joke instead of just the victim of it. The problem is I'm a little bit skeptical. She hasn't, as yet, shown that she's got this great capacity for self deprecation, not in the same way that Senator Obama or McCain did in some of those clips you saw from the Al Smith dinner. They made some jokes at their own expense that cut kind of close to the bone. We haven't seen that yet from Sarah Palin.
OLBERMANN: Working on self awareness first, then self deprecation. No matter what happens tomorrow night, is there actually any dialing back from this perception that has built up in the populous for many different reasons that the governor has become-never mind Tina Fey-has become a parody of herself.
HEIL: Well, no, because the problem for Sarah Palin here is that there's just so much to be made of her, as far as these comedic writers go. She's comedic gold. She's a "Saturday Night Live" writer's dream come true. There's so much about her that can be parodied. She's from Alaska. We all love to make fun of Alaska. There are those crazy Youtube pageant clips, the kooky kids' names. There's just a lot there. There's also the fact that she was such a new comer on the national stage that a lot of people got to know Sarah Palin as Tina Fey or Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin before they got to know Sarah Palin. So I even have this weird experience sometimes where I'm listening to a Sarah Palin speech and I think it's Sarah Palin doing an impersonation of Tina Fey. Weird.
OLBERMANN: Don't forget the sports caster tapes. That may be a particular interest of mine, but they're out there as well.
HEIL: Indeed. Big hair.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And the flute. About Senator McCain and these little friends; SNL has made fun of every major politician since it went on the air in '75. It transformed-Chevy Chase single-handedly transformed President Ford from an all-American football player into the klutz in chief. It was Al Gore and the lockbox, countless others. That last night was John McCain as delusional. Is it within bounds and does it have an impact?
HEIL: I absolutely think it's in bounds. I'll always come down on the side of the satirist and the humorists who do this for a living. They make over the top jokes. If you take them seriously, of course they're going to be offensive. That's not the point. As whether it's effective or not, yes it does have an impact sometimes, but only to the extent that it jibes with something we know or think we know or could believe about a candidate. "Saturday Night Live" a couple of years back really skewered Bill Clinton as this Big Mac chomping, skirt chasing joke. But it worked because we were willing to go there and believe that. If they made a joke about McCain, it would be something maybe we could believe in the alternative world-universe of comedy writing would be true.
OLBERMANN: Again about Governor Palin. She said in that radio interview today, and I quote it again, "dog gone it, there aren't enough hours in the day to really be able to express all aspects of who a candidate is and where they want to lead this great country." In the big picture, does "Saturday Night Live" provide a shorthand in explaining that to this great country, dog gone it?
HEIL: You know, you betcha, Keith. I think it does, in a weird and really obviously incomplete way, give us a sense of who some of these candidates are. "Saturday Night Live" goes really directly at candidates' weaknesses and they do a really good job of exposing that in a way that no journalist or even opinion writer could. That's pretty much because they have the luxury of just making stuff up. But that stuff that they make up can be really revealing. So I think we do learn something in that made-up stuff. That's what really relevant satire does. And I think "Saturday Night Live" is feeling very relevant all of a sudden.
OLBERMANN: We'll see about what, if anything, Sarah Palin does tomorrow. My money is on it like that Hillary Clinton walk-on, where the two of them are standing next to each other and it's kind of a back and forth and that's the end of it. I don't think she's taking studio questions from the audience.
HEIL: Perhaps not.
OLBERMANN: Emily Heil of "Roll Call," many thanks for you time, have a good weekend.
HEIL: You betcha.
OLBERMANN: You betcha. That's COUNTDOWN for this 1,997th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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