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updated 1/28/2009 5:28:00 PM ET 2009-01-28T22:28:00

Guest: Thom Hartmann, Steve Clemons, John Dean

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

Still pushing for compromise, the president is letting the Republicans take the alternative minimum tax to the maximum, and pulling out contraception spending from the plan—seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  I don‘t expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people‘s business right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mixed messages from the GOP.  Mitch McConnell tries to sow discord, claiming its Democrats not really supporting the president; John Boehner, having had his way on no contraception, hinting a deal might be near.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  I think we both share a sincere belief that we have to have a plan that works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A plan not a plane. An Obama official to Citigroup after the fiasco, spending $50 million of bailout money on a new corporate jet, quote, “fix it.”

Symbolism untold: Obama gives his first White House interview to the al-Arabiya Network and the message is to the Arab world, the president references his Muslim relatives, says that America is not an enemy to that faith and he calls al Qaeda “nervous.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they have been using against me, before I even took office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know.  I know.

OBAMA:  What that tells me is that the ideas are bankrupt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Super Bowl Sunday, Karl Rove‘s subpoena day Monday, that‘s when the House judiciary subpoena summons him to testify.  He asks the Obama White House to stop it.  What if they won‘t?

Worsts: President Karzai of Afghanistan pleads America must stop the collateral damage, the civilian deaths from its mission.  Billo the clown calls it a grandstand play and says Karzai is ungrateful and insulting us.

And, media day at the Super Bowl: Dancing football players—singing football players .

(INAUDIBLE)

OLBERMANN:  . and overdressed reporters—I hope.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, from Tampa.

After a meeting with the president this afternoon, House minority whip, Eric Cantor, is saying that congressional Republicans intend to take the president at his word to refine the financial plan that House Republicans put forth on Friday to stimulate the economy—what Congressman Cantor referred to as, quote, “our plan.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: It has been remarked before that reality is one fellow Mr. Cantor has never met before, but this is ridiculous.  For what does it profit a president if he should gain the bipartisan world but lose his majority?

The first road game today for President Obama, his first trip to Capitol Hill since the inauguration last week, to pay a visit not to Democrats in Congress, but to Republicans there.  Before he arrived, those Republicans are caucusing in hopes to finding ways to undermine that visit.

Before Obama got there, House Minority Leader Boehner is urging his members to oppose the stimulus plan no matter how the discussion went once the president showed up.  Yet publicly, the GOP tried to give the appearance that they are all ears and any problems with the bill, the fault of Democrats.  Senate Minority Leader McConnell telling the “Today” show this morning that Democrats in Congress are drifting away from Obama‘s preferred stimulus plan.

After his visit with the Republicans in the House, before his visit with their counterparts in the Senate, the president is stepping up to the microphone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum, there are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have and I respect that.  In some cases, they may just not be as familiar with what‘s in the package as I would like.  I don‘t expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people‘s business right now, all right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  After his visit to the Senate, the president not seeming to count on any Republican votes, telling reporters off camera, quote, “We‘re not going to get 100 percent agreement, and we might not even get 50 percent agreement.  But I do think people appreciate me walking them through my thought process.  I hope that I communicated a sincere desire to get good ideas from everybody.”

The president and the Democrats having made concessions to Republicans, today pulling one provision that would have allocated money for family planning programs through Medicaid, that would be the discontinuation of the stimulus contraceptives that had made Mr. Boehner of Ohio blushed.  Adding in the interim, another provision that would extend a big tax cut for middle income and wealthy taxpayers.

But for the Republicans, will it ever be enough?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  I think we both share a sincere belief that we have to have a plan that works, that will revive our economy, create jobs, and help preserve jobs in our country.  But I think our members enjoyed the conversation, I think the president enjoyed the conversation.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, ® HOUSE MINORITY WHIP:  The most encouraging statement I think the president made today was the fact that he had no pride of authorship in this bill.  We take that to mean that tomorrow‘s vote is only the first step in the process, only the beginning, and we intend to take the president at his word and to continue to refine what it is that the House Republicans have put forth on Friday as our plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First, it was tax cuts, then it was more tax cuts, then it was the family planning stuff.  Will it be something else next?  Are Republicans going to keep objecting to something in the stimulus package just because—well, just because they can?

FINEMAN:  Absolutely, that‘s what they were doing today on the Hill; I was talking to some leading Republicans up there, especially on the Senate side a few hours ago.

They were saying, “We put forth new ideas to the president.  We told him we wanted to cut marginal rates for middle income people.  We told him we wanted him to make the money that would flow to the states loans instead of grants.  We told him we want him to figure out some kind of mechanism for federally guaranteeing additional mortgages.”

Whether they‘ll go to the wall on those things, we don‘t know.  But yes, they‘re going to push and they‘re going to push and push.  That‘s what they‘re into right now.

OLBERMANN:  Is there—is there a dividing line at some point for the president?  Is it really worth it at this point even that—does it become only bipartisanship for bipartisanship‘s stake?  I mean, you‘re making concessions and then you make more concessions and the Republicans end up perhaps voting against the whole thing anyway?

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re probably going to vote against a lot of it.

But I think Obama has two objectives here: one of them is to show that he does want to change the tone.  And even the most hard-bitten Republicans that I talked to were impressed both in the House meeting and in the Senate meeting, with the sense of goodwill he conveyed, and his genuine desire to listen to if not follow what they had to say.  And that‘s an important change of tone and change of atmosphere in Washington, especially on the Hill.  That‘s number one.

Number two, Obama is playing with a big deck of cards here.  He‘s got some—the president has some other things he can toss away.  Some of that spending the Republicans are objecting to, that they say is not really—doesn‘t really have a multiplier effect, some of that is going to be gone from the bill by the end.  There will be some additional tax measures in there, but the basic shape of it, in the end, is going to be pretty much what Obama wants.

OLBERMANN:  And you mention the overture of going to Congress‘ turf.  I mean, that‘s basically Kabuki theatre for the rest of us.  Is it that important?  Does it register for the Congress and, “Oh, boy the president came here”?

FINEMAN:  I think it registers somewhat, although you have to be careful in over-interpreting it.  This is a little, you know, you‘re down there for the Super Bowl, just reminds me of when, you know, the two teams tell everybody how much they respect each other, you know, before they go out on the field and knock the snot out of each other.

I mean, that‘s really what‘s happening underneath here, which is Barack Obama has the highest approval ratings of any new president in history.  And that limits further the Republicans‘ freedom to do what they want to do.  And as gentle a way as they can, as indirectly as they can, behind closed doors if they can—they‘re going to try to undercut him any way they can get away with, politically.  That‘s what goes on here.

OLBERMANN:  And the reality of that at the end game is what?  I mean, Senator Specter suggested today he‘s going to vote for the attorney general nominee, Mr. Holder after all.  Is that—can we glean anything about the stimulus package from them?  I mean—is there, to some degree, as Republican talked about not voting for the stimulus package bluffing like the Specter on Holder was?

FINEMAN:  Well, a little bit.  It depends where you‘re talking about, Keith.  In terms of the House of Representatives, the Republicans are down to such a core of red state Republicans, red district Republicans that, I think—virtually—all of the Republicans in the House of Representatives will vote against the bill in the end.

The Senate is a different story, 41 to 42 Republicans there.  Almost all of them were at this meeting today.  I think, in the end, most of them will vote against the package also.  But there are probably will be, I‘m guessing, seven or eight of them may be slightly more, who, in the end, will go with the president.

And don‘t forget, Keith, this is just the beginning, even though we‘re talking about hundred billion dollars here.  There are several other big pieces of legislation, both with big dollar figures and big new regulatory schemes that these people are going to be voting on.  The president‘s percentage of Republican votes, I think, will go down from here.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” measuring the snot-knocking on Capitol Hill—as always, Howard, great thanks.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  And I never give my opinion, Keith, but can I give my opinion here for one second?

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  You know what I‘m going to say.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, let me say I can guess how this is going to turn out. 

Go ahead.

FINEMAN:  Go Steelers.  Go Steelers.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman, he approved that message.  Thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  Bring on John McCain to talk about the Cardinals.

At least one financial negotiation seeming to go as planned for the Obama administration today.  Following a phone call from an unidentified Obama official, Citigroup today is saying it will not be taking delivery of that new corporate jet, the $50 million job partially funded by viewers like you, and announcing that it will be cutting the number of corporate jets in its fleet from five to two.

Meanwhile, the Obama phase of the federal banking bailout beginning this afternoon was word that his Treasury Department today handed out $623 million in TARP money to 23 different banks.

Joining us now: Air America Radio‘s Thom Hartman.

Thom, thanks for your time tonight.

THOM HARTMANN, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In addition to new corporate jets and million dollar office makeovers with $68,000 chairs—were these executives just hoping nobody was going to notice this?  Because so far, in it‘s oversight function, Congress certainly didn‘t seem to notice.

HARTMANN:  I think they live in a different world.  They literally think differently.  They—many of these people are children of multigenerational wealth.  They‘re holding the property of multi generational wealth.  They travel in private jets.  They live in a world apart from us.

And I think that they just didn‘t expect that anybody would really care.  It‘s like, you know, the auto workers, they hold the jobs of working people, but the bankers, you know, they hold—they‘re the masters of the universe.  I just don‘t think they expected this.

OLBERMANN:  And did anybody at Citigroup appear to expect that phone call from somebody, whoever it was in the Obama administration?  And what are we gleaning, what are we inferring from the fact that that phone call was made?

HARTMANN:  Well, I think what it indicates is that the Obama administration, much unlike the Bush administration, is going to pursue this, is going to pursue the interests of most of America, working-class America.  I don‘t think these guys expected this at all.

And, you know, who knows?  Maybe they‘re going to go out and hire Blagojevich‘s PR firm now and you‘ll see them on “The View” tomorrow.

(LAUGHTER)

HARTMANN:  They‘re punting as fast as they can.

OLBERMANN:  But—they may be punting now, but, I mean, this continued largess on Wall Street and in banking and in other corporate bailout recipients.  It‘s so bad that I found myself in complete agreement with Al Michaels, who is a rock web conservative and who observed again today, at one of the Super Bowl functions, that after we get the detainees out of Gitmo, we should keep the place open and fill it up with CEOs.

I mean, how could anybody—how could any group of people be so tone deaf that they could simultaneously infuriate the left and the right in the America of 2009?

HARTMANN:  Well, you know, this is how bad it is.  Warren Buffet, for example, when he helped bail out Goldman Sachs, he put $5 million into Goldman Sachs, got 10 percent return, a 10 percent guarantee dividend on preferred stock he bought.  Hank Paulson goes in and says, “Oh, we‘ll bail you out, too.  We‘re going to help out, too.  We‘ll put in $10 million but we‘ll only take a 5 percent return.”

We got half as much of a return on it.  And, you know, back during the Bush administration times, it was like, nobody really seemed to say anything about that.  Now, I think, people are—people are waking up.  I think this is going to change.

OLBERMANN:  $750 billion in taxpayer dollars and counting, with very little public equity, as you point out, or ownership in the banks certainly in return.  Why didn‘t the government insist on that?  Could it still insist on that going forward?

Are other forms of oversight likely and is there some mechanism going to be developed that does not involved something horrible like a 50 million private jet being printed in the newspapers or broadcast on TV and somebody off-the-record calling up from the administration and saying, “You‘re being very naughty”?  Are we going to, somehow, stream like this process?

HARTMANN:  Well, legally, I think—and this is one of the reasons why senators, Feingold and Sanders and in the House, DeFazio and some of the progressive caucus members, voted against passing along the rest of the money—is that legally, they have got it.  You know, arguably, it‘s just as un-transparent as it was before.  The difference, however, is that we have a different Treasury Department or a different president and a different administration.

So, while the law doesn‘t provide for changes in the way it‘s administered, you know, those things that the people early on that I was mentioning who were opposed to the TARP were saying, should be in there—strong oversight, no more executive jets, those kinds of things, they‘re still not in there.  But the administration still has the ability, administratively, I believe, to make sure that that doesn‘t happen.  I think, though, a much better situation would be to simply do what was done in the U.K. with Northern Rock, which was nationalize the banks, frankly.

OLBERMANN:  Thom Hartmann, of course, of Air America Radio.  His book, “Cracking the Code” is out in paperback.  Great thanks for your time, Thom.

HARTMANN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  An effort of doing another cracking of the code, exactly that today from President Obama to the Arab and Muslim worlds, to us the symbolism was as subtle as a brass band with an amp.  His first White House interview as president is going to the al-Arabiya Network.  But will that symbolism resonate there?  And did calling al Qaeda nervous and bankrupt come across as confidence or as Bushian-style boasting?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The speaker told the Arab and Muslim worlds that America was not their enemy.  He mentioned his time living in a Muslim country.  He acknowledged his Muslim relatives, bold, strange strokes by the speaker.  The president of the United States, will they be perceived thusly there?

Later, Karl Rove subpoenaed, is now asking for help from the Obama administration.  No, I‘m not kidding.

From Tampa, Florida, you are watching COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  More than what he said, more than what he‘s done, more than what he‘s promising to do, the symbolism spoke volumes.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: President Obama grants his first official White House sit-down interview not to an American network, but to an Arab one—appearing on al-Arabiya Television, in an effort, obviously, to reach out to Muslims across the world, reiterating his campaign promise to start working on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis immediately, to start drawing down troops in Iraq, to start closing Guantanamo Bay while lawfully dealing with terrorists—and to miss no opportunity to defeat al Qaeda on the battlefield of hearts, minds and ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How concerned are you and—because people sense

that you have a different political discourse.  And I think judging by how

hard this is (ph), and Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden and all these, you know

a chorus.

OBAMA:  Yes, I noticed.  They seem nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They seem very nervous, exactly.  Now, tell me why they should be more nervous?

OBAMA:  Well, you know, I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they have been using against me, before I even took office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know.  I know.

OBAMA:  What that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  President Obama going on to paint America and himself personally as friends to the Muslim world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I have Muslim members of my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sure.

OBAMA:  I have lived in Muslim countries.  My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.  We sometimes make mistakes, we have not been perfect.

But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there‘s no reason why we can‘t restore that.  And that, I think, is going to be an important task.  But ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined now by Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who runs the foreign policy blog, the WashingtonNote.com.

Thank you, again, for your time tonight, sir.

STEVE CLEMONS, PUBLISHER, “THE WASHINGTON NOTE”:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We sit here and see the symbolism, obviously, and there‘s a collective “whoa” quality to this things.  But does the symbolism—is it expected to have the same impact in the Muslim world and the Arab world?

CLEMONS:  Absolutely.  I think it was designed for the Muslim world.  Barack Obama just pulled off one of the most brilliant opening moves as a president and stagecraft I‘ve seen.  I have been a critic of President Obama during the campaign, during some of the things he said about the Middle East.  But now, he‘s president of the United States and he‘s engaged in a kind of, I call it sort of Facebook diplomacy, reaching out to people, their hearts and minds, as you said.  And he‘s making them feel valued.

One of the problems the Muslim world has felt during the Bush years is they felt that their lives, their culture didn‘t matter quite as much as everyone else.  And Obama just checked that box off and said, “You do matter and you do matter to all of America.”  So, I think it was quite important.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  What about the non-Arab world, or the non-Muslim-dominated world?

CLEMONS:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  This the interview, the timing, the contents, says what in Europe, say?

CLEMONS:  Well, I think he—I think Obama is trying to teach others how to approach really incredible complex problems in the world.  There are no quick fixes, no silver bullets to the Israel-Palestine crisis, though it‘s amazing that he spoke so much during this interview about that and thinks it‘s important.  He‘s trying to show that we can‘t approach these things with stacked decks, false choices between one side and another, and that unclenching your fist may be a more important way to reach hearts and minds and to sort of reconnect and create possibilities that just didn‘t exist before.

This is Obama preaching and showing the rest of the world what engagement is going to look like and it‘s going to be beyond the false choice rhetoric that I think we saw from the Bush administration quite often.

OLBERMANN:  The descriptions of al Qaeda, however, “nervous,” “bankrupt” in terms of ideas.

CLEMONS:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  President Bush got slammed for, “bring it on” and “wanted dead or alive” and rightly so.  Where is the difference in here other than in style?  I mean, is not President Obama also, in essence, calling al Qaeda names?

CLEMONS:  Well, if you listen to it carefully, I just—what I found, you know, refreshingly absent was no swagger.  And I also remember that during the talk Barack Obama referred to people‘s health care, people‘s education and asked, “Is that what al Qaeda‘s providing to people?  Is that the horizon of hope that he‘s providing?”

And I think what‘s important to understand, which George Bush never did understand, is that terrorists are actually political actors trying to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of certain public.  And Obama, rather than just trying to just kill terrorists, which is what George Bush was trying to do, is trying to steal their audience.  And that was brilliantly achieved in this discussion without the swagger and trying to go right into the hearts and minds of Muslims all over the world.

OLBERMANN:  Steve Clemons, author of the foreign policy blog, the WashingtonNote.com—great thanks for your insight tonight, sir.  Appreciate it.

CLEMONS:  Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.

But feral turkeys, ain‘t nothing in the handbook saying we have to put up with feral turkeys.  We‘ll explain that.

The segues, occasionally, write themselves.  Billo the clown says the president of the Afghanistan is an ingrate for complaining that we maybe killing his civilians at a ration of one for every Taliban killed.  Billo is, of course, nuts.  Worst Persons is ahead.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment.

First, interesting people born on the various January 27th: Mozart, Lewis Carroll, Donna Reed, Karen Velez, Samuel Gompers, Chief Justice John Roberts, Mimi Rogers, and Ross Bagdasarian who was David Seville in “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”  Others: NBC football broadcasters, Chris Collinworth and Keith—something.  Both of them turn 50 today and now collected 100.

Let‘s play Oddball, Sonnie.

To Anchorage, Alaska, and the latest iteration of the classic car smashes into store video.  A couple of fun twists in this one.  It‘s Alaska, so the car had gone out of control after hitting a snow bank, which probably needs a bailout by now.  But here the best part, the driver was trying to escape police who were chasing her for suspected drunk driving.  The establishment she zoomed into was a coffee shop.  Coffee, madam, usually ameliorates drunkenness only when taken internally.

In Rockport, Massachusetts, the postal workers do just fine with the rain, snow and sleet, but the turkeys—they‘re going to need a bigger pouch (ph).  The turkeys are so aggressive there, singling out mail carriers, actually biting one of them, that the local post office has decided to suspend parts of the route there.  Mail carriers wandering into enemy turf are advised to use umbrellas to assert their dominance over the turkeys.  I‘m not going to tell you how.  If that display does not work, of course, the mail carriers are being told that, as an absolute last resort, if they‘re actually in fear of their lives, they‘re authorized to terrify the turkeys by showing them another display, what happens to turkey who threaten federal employees and don‘t get that precious gubernatorial pardon. 

Check out his segue.  Happy birthday, Keith.  Welcome back to small town Wasilla, Alaska, Hello, home of the brand new Sarah Political Action Committee.  Wait a minute, those aren‘t small town Alaska values.  What does that say?  Arlington, Virginia, hello?  That‘s right, Alaska governor, U.S. non vice president Sarah Palin has decided to fight for government reform the old fashioned way, with a political action committee.  The PAC website says it was founded to support Sarah Palin‘s plans for a better America. 

Why does she hate the current America?  It‘s chaired by Sarah Palin.  There‘s a picture of Sarah Palin.  It‘s even named after Sarah Palin.  And therefore, of course, it claims, quote, not authorized by any candidate.  You got a problem with that?  You betcha. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This time Karl Rove is taking his subpoena seriously enough to ask for help getting out of it, help from the Obama administration.  And the ritual played out in this place, this morning and afternoon Super Bowl Media Day, where the players may be new, but the questions are as old as cliches themselves.  Special report ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Number three, best Thomas Edison impression, Trevor Leahy, the hockey goalie at Pingrey (ph) School in South Hamilton, New Hampshire.  It dawned on him last year, what if he took those big pads that goalies wear from the knee down, and you made them not bright orange or bright blue, but a faint black on white design that looks exactly the same as the netting that the goalie protects.  The net pads arrived in November.  Young Mr. Leahy has two shutouts since that time. 

Number two, best comeback, the late Tommy Farrer, star player for Bishop Aukland Soccer team in England from 1945 to 1953.  He was memorialized in the team‘s score card this season.  They held a moment of silence before a game.  The club chairman called his widow to express his condolences.  That‘s when Mrs. Farrer said “Tommy‘s not dead.  He‘s just gone down to the shops to buy a newspaper.”  Mr. Farrer says he‘s very touched, but he‘s also very much alive. 

Number one, we‘ll just read this obituary exactly as it appeared in the “LA Times” on January 18th: “Kay Nathan, 73, of Palm Springs, California, beloved husband of Robin Montgomery Kay, passed away at his home in Palm Springs on January 8th due to cardiac arrest.  He left this Earth waiting for his wife of 35 years to prepare dinner as he watched Keith Olbermann on MSNBC with his favorite dog Elizabeth in his arms.”  Our sincere condolences to Robin Kay and her late husband‘s family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A subpoena for Karl Rove to testify to the House Judiciary Committee has been forwarded to the Obama Administration.  Meaning, in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, that the new president‘s counsel will have a say as to whether Mr. Rove is cloaked by so called executive privilege, vestigial executive privilege in this case.  As we mentioned in last night‘s news hour, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, once again having subpoenaed Rove, the former White House senior adviser, to testify on February 2nd, Monday. 

The primary subject, Mr. Rove‘s role in the political firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.  Rove had refused to testify, refused even to show up the first time around, claiming executive privilege backed by then President Bush.  Rove‘s own lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said, quote, “we will do our best to work it out with the new president.”  And Luskin says he has forwarded the subpoena to the Obama White House, according to TPM.com.  Luskin is asking the Obama administration to give an opinion on whether former President Bush retains his ability to assert privilege.  But Luskin added that if the Obama administration denies the claim of executive privileged for Mr. Rove, a negotiation between Rove, Bush and the Obama White House would ensue. 

The issue might then go to court.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that the office of White House Counsel is studying these issues and will offer a recommendation.  Let‘s call in FindLaw.com columnist, author of “Worse Than Watergate,” and “Broken Government,” John Dean.  John, good evening. 

JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  The first part here, how do you expect the Obama administration will respond to a sort of plea for help from Karl Rove? 

DEAN:  I thought it was an interesting ploy by his lawyer to chuck it over to the White House.  They really don‘t have to give him anything, but it sounds like they‘re going to give him something.  And I think what they‘ll do is be very generic.  They‘ll say yes, indeed, former presidents do have some limited privilege.  As far as we know, that privilege really only extends to the president himself.  It has never gone to a staff person. 

In fact, Bill Clinton‘s aides testified after he left office.  So I think it will be rather generic and not a lot of help for Rove.  They‘re going to make him make their own decision what they‘re going to do.  

OLBERMANN:  And what would his next step be?  Where could he take that limited piece of information and use it possibly to his own advantage? 

DEAN:  Well, I think what Bush will have to do is make a call.  Is he indeed going to say, yes, I‘m going try to prevent people from getting into my administration through my former aides?  And if he does, that will test that privilege.  It happens to be in court already.  He lost in court once.  He lost at the lower court level.  It‘s in the court of appeals right now, with Harriet Myers and Josh Bolten.  Briefs are due February 18th, I think it is.  The Obama administration will be filing the briefs now and they may give more signals at that time about how to handle this issue. 

OLBERMANN:  If either the Obama White House does not issue any position on this, or it issues that very tentative one that you described, and it winds up in a court somewhere and there‘s no finding by then, what happens on Monday?  And what happens if Rove chooses not to show up before there‘s any kind of court material for him to work with? 

DEAN:  Well, you know, it‘s going to come down to the short strokes at some point.  And what we have got to hope, Keith, is that the Obama administration departs from the position of Republican presidents who refuse to enforce contempt of Congress during their tenure.  And it‘s always—for decades, it‘s been the law that if you didn‘t testify, you would go in front of a Grand Jury and you better have a very good reason why you‘re not going in front of Congress when you‘re subpoenaed.  And I think that‘s where—we have got to get back to that.  And this is Obama‘s chance to indeed get back to the law. 

OLBERMANN:  John, you mentioned Josh Bolten.  You mentioned Harriet Myers.  Could there be a domino effect here too?  As Rove‘s subpoena goes this time, so do past or future ones on Bolten and Myers? 

DEAN:  Yes, indeed, the way they handle Rove and—as well, you could say, the way as Bolten and Myers go, so will go Rove.  These things happen to all be kind of coming to head in a confluence right now.  So the issue is going to get sorted out, I‘d say, in February.  We‘ll know.  And indeed, I think some people are going to have to appear in front of Congress.

OLBERMANN:  And what is useful, if anything, in this?  What do we need to watch in terms of trying to understand the likely response of the Obama White House and counsel and the Department of Justice towards the prospect of further prosecutions and further subpoenas of former Bush administration staffers and cabinet members? 

DEAN:  Well, indeed, if the Obama administration makes it clear that they don‘t think that the executive privilege extends beyond a former past president in very unique standards with very high—unique situations with very high standards, that is going to throw the signal.  And that, indeed, could start a very clear pattern, where countless investigations where Congress wants to find out what happened to try to repair some of the breaks that occurred during the Bush administration, and start repairing that broken government that I am one who certainly has talked at some length about. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, John, if some court somewhere decides that Bush does have some retroactive or vestigial rights to claim executive privilege, how far back would this go?  Could Clinton claim, if anything ever came up from his administration, now that he has executive privilege dating to 2000?  Could somebody related to FDR make similar claims about the ‘30s? 

DEAN:  This was the issue that came up in the executive order that Obama issued right after coming into office, where former presidents had the right to exert executive privilege over their papers.  It really goes back all the way to way to Truman, who was the first president who tried to use and literally picking something out of thin air, he created this privilege, not knowing if it would work or not.  He bluffed the House Un-American Activities Committee successfully.  So we don‘t know what will happen in the future with this. 

OLBERMANN:  And the attorney for Truman at that time said recently he regrets that like nothing else in his live.  John Dean, author of “Broken Government” and “Worse Than Watergate,” as always, John, great thanks. 

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Super Bowl Media Day, a kind of eternal struggle between the cliched question and the cliched answer.  It completes its 43 year.  But the Lingerie Bowl, are they not going to play the Lingerie Bowl?  What the hell kind of world are we living in? 

Worst persons, Bernard Goldberg calls the media irresponsible.  And to prove his point, he fabricates quotes from an interview between Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, Still Bushed. 

Number three, torture-gate.  We told you last week about the UN torture investigator calling for the prosecutions of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.  Manfred Nowak says that international treaties obliged the US to prosecute any of its own war criminals.  Now Mr. Nowak has gone a step further; without saying it will, Nowak says the UN has enough evidence to prosecute Rumsfeld.  Nowak saying with the advice of Navy legal counsel Alberto Mora (ph) against ordering torture means that Rumsfeld knew what he was doing and did it anyway.  So don‘t plan any trips overseas, Mr.  Secretary. 

Number two, history-gate.  A week ago tonight, non-President Bush was in Midland, Texas, repeating his claims that history‘s judgment of him will take time.  He even said that we can‘t judge now because it takes people time to remember, you know, the way you remember 1988 much better than you do last year.  When does history actually arrive?  It‘s getting here.  William Dellrimple (ph), renowned historian, writing in the “New York Review of Books,” quote, “eight years of neo-con foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for the American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, and, with over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all.” 

This in his review of “Dissent Into Chaos, the United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.”  A glowing review.  History took less than a week to deliberate.  Now we await word from Dallas that Mr. Bush is waiting the verdict of the historians who will later review the stuff these historians are writing about him now. 

Number one, bail out-gate.  According to the Associate Press, banks have laid off more than 100,000 workers in the last two years.  But the banks that got bailed out for torpedoing our economy, 87 percent of the top executives who ran us into the ditch are still running things, because the Bush bailout let them.  Wells Fargo, in fact, brags about “an unchanging vision, values and time tested business model,” the same vision and business model that required 25 billion dollars in corporate welfare. 

And the 13 percent who are no longer at the top of the corporate ladder, the A.P. says they often left because they were tired or died.  Of course, just because they might be dead, that does not necessarily mean they are not still eligible to apply for more bail out money.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is the Ground Hogs Day of sports.  Go to media day at the Super Bowl and you very quickly forget if it‘s 2009 or still 1987.  But it is entertaining.  Special report Next.  First time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to comedian Rush Limbaugh, today saying the worst thing he could think of about the stimulus plan, “4.19 billion dollars is going to Acorn. Obama‘s community organizers.  Now, will somebody explain to me what, in the name of Sam Hill, 4.19 billion to a voter fraud organization has to do with stimulus.” 

Well, nothing because you have it completely wrong.  The stimulus plan includes 4.19 billion for neighborhood stabilization activities related to emergency assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes, as authorized under Division B, Title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.  The funds aren‘t going to ACORN.  They‘ll go out via competitive bids.  Rush Limbaugh can bid for the money, if he wants to.  But he left that part out because either, A, the concept was too complicated for him to understand, or B, he wanted to scare people with that bugaboo name ACORN and he was crooked enough to leave out the part about the competitive bidding. 

Runner up, Bill-O the clown.  Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, pleading with the U.S. to curtail civilian casualties during air strikes there.  A US raid that killed 15 Taliban fighters may have killed 16 Afghan fighters.  Secretary of Defense Gates agrees with President Karzai.  We just said, “I believe the civilian casualties are doing us enormous harm in Afghanistan.  We have got to do better in terms of avoiding casualties.” 

Bill O thinks Karzai and Gates are both full of it.  The quote, “U.S.  and NATO forces in Afghanistan are risking their lives to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban and al Qaeda.  But President Karzai does not seem to get that.  Karzai is making a political grandstand play and it‘s insulting.”  Incredibly, O‘Reilly did not demand that the dead Afghans civilians all rise from the grave to thank us for killing them.  Bill, you‘re a sick man. 

But the winner, Bernard Goldberg, former journalist.  He has written a book in which he claims the media, quote, jumped the shark, and betrayed all of us this past year.  Also says, MSNBC, quote, “Cannot ever again be taken seriously as a news organization.”  An odd conclusion for a man who doctored a transcript to falsely accuse Tom Brokaw of bias in that book. 

Goldberg claims Charles Rose asked Brokaw, “what do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?”  And Brokaw then answered, “there‘s a lot about him we don‘t know.”  He presented the quotes that way as if those sentences had occurred consecutively.  They did not. 

Goldberg, in one of the worst thing anybody claiming to be a reporter can do, dismembered the actual interview to make the quotes fit his bias.  In point of fact, Rose asked Brokaw a long question about Obama, including what do you see there.  Brokaw‘s lengthy response included this sentence:

“sure, he has hit some speed bumps and there are conservative commentators who say there is a lot about him we don‘t know.” 

Much later in that interview, Rose asked Brokaw about heroes, the heroes of John McCain and, quote, “what do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?”  Brokaw answered “Thurgood Marshall.”  Goldberg fraudulently, dishonestly, corruptly took part of one question from Rose and part of Brokaw‘s answer to a different question and married them together.  It is journalistic malpractice and it is the kind of thing that explains why Bernard Goldberg was fired by CBS News.  He is the equivalent of a doctor who has had his license revoked. 

I would return that phrase he jumped the shark to apply to Mr.

Goldberg, but that would imply he made it to the other side in one piece. 

Bernard Goldberg of Fixed News, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sunday‘s Super Bowl will be the 43rd ever, the 23rd I‘ve reported on from a studio or the game itself.  It will be my 15th for a national TV or radio network, my fourth in person, and the third time I‘ve hosted part of the pre-game show.  And still, in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, I have yet to encounter a single news development at the annual media day at which the payers sit around little platforms while questions are shouted up at them by milling throngs of everybody I used to work with at some other station or network. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What‘s the craziest thing you have seen out here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I struggled through some interviews in Spanish just a second ago. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, media day at the Super Bowl, the consummate non-event event, where only an incredible gaffe by one of the players can save a yawning America from a week of cliched sound bites, because barring this, there is no news here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have 32 teams.  They start out with the same goal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re a good football team and they‘re good football players. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to be a game Sunday and it‘s going to determine who the winner of the Lombardi Trophy is. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whatever that means beyond that, it means. 

OLBERMANN:  So, with no major player gaffes reported, we now move to part two of trying to make a story here, the annual attempt to fabricate news as it were.  And that is done the same way annually, the annual question of can team A stop suddenly unstoppable player B?  Player B is back in this sort of direction.  How can Pittsburgh stop the suddenly unstoppable Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona? 

There is a twist this year.  Fitzgerald is the son of an actual sports writer, a football writer, no less.  He has thus been prepared for our devious inquiries since the womb. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you gotten used to media questions over the course of your life? 

LARRY FITZGERALD, ARIZONA CARDINALS:  They never asked me questions.  I wasn‘t doing anything good on the field then.  But I used to see him give interviews to other professional athletes.  I saw the good ones and I saw the bad ones.  I was taking notes secretly.  

OLBERMANN:  If there‘s still no news, you do the inevitable story of repetitive goofiness of media day.  I turned 50 years old today.  The first time I ever did the inevitable story of inevitable goofiness at an inevitable media day, I was 27 years old.  It‘s the same damned story. 

(SPANISH)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I love Arizona because of the dry weather.  It‘s so good for my skin. 

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Have you seen the guy in drag. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m the fairy god mother for the Cardinals today. 

And they‘re going to lose and I just want to cheer them up. 

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, media day means this: this is the last time the players are obligated to talk to us.  Thus, in the next few days, until the game, they develop a false sense of security.  They feel like nobody is watching them anymore.  This means that the odds are just at this moment going to about six to five that one of them before the game will either disappear or be arrested. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My advice first is always to embrace it and enjoy it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here we go Steelers.  We‘re in the Super Bowl. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s no way to avoid it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here we go Steelers.  Now it‘s time to roll. 

OLBERMANN:  Same damned thing every year.  I mean, seriously, same damn thing every year. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  However there is this development tonight.  The annual Lingerie Bowl, a self explanatory event, if ever there was one, also scheduled for Sunday here in Tampa has been canceled.  The clothing optional resort at which it was to be played objected when organizers demanded that the live crowd remain clothing mandatory.  You got it, the Lingerie Bowl has been canceled because of too much clothing. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,089th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  Up next on MSNBC, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” with Governor Rod Blagojevich.  From Tampa and the site of Super Bowl 43, but not the site of Lingerie Bowl Five, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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