Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, September 30, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Update on Keith's father's condition

Guest: Arianna Huffington, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Markos Moulitsas, Chris Hayes, Robert Reich


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

One hundred twenty-two more Americans died today because they don't have health insurance. On the way to 44,000 more Americans dying this year because they don't have health insurance.

And Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson gets criticized for saying this.


REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Remember, the Republican plan: Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.


OLBERMANN: Asked for an apology, Grayson this afternoon says, "Stick it."


GRAYSON: I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.


OLBERMANN: Should have riled in the language, otherwise he is 100 percent correct-the Republican plan is: Don't get sick. And Republicans and milquetoast Democrats in the pockets of the insurance agencies might as well be killing people right now. Arianna Huffington on the latest politics; Markos Moulitsas on the Democratic sellouts.

And Senator Jay Rockefeller reveals exclusively on Countdown an amendment he will introduce to make it law that insurance companies have to spend a minimum percentage on actual health care, not profits or advertising or salaries for their henchmen.

Incitement to violence: 10-year veteran "Newsmax" columnist John Perry, "There is a remote although gaining possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the 'Obama Problem.'" Is this still free speech? Or is it now an illegal call for the violent overthrow of a lawfully-elected government?

"Worsts": Their prayer began, "Deliver us, oh, God," but "Lonesome Rhodes" claims they said, "Deliver us, Obama." It continued, "Hear our cry, oh, God," but Lou Dobbs heard, "Hear our cry, Obama." What was that, Sonny?

And phony outrage: The president tries to talk the International Olympic Committee into picking Chicago and thus boosting Chicago's economy - so Boehner says.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: The president is going to go out to Copenhagen when we've got serious issues here at home that need to be debated.


OLBERMANN: Twenty-four hours or less, as opposed to, say, the four days Bush went to the Olympics last year so he could sit there and watch.

All that and more-now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

Quoting Republican Congressman Roy Blunt, the GOP point man on an alternative health care plan from June 17th: "I guarantee you we will provide you with a bill."

Our fifth story on the Countdown: 105 days later, still waiting for the Republican proposal on health care reform. All they have managed to produce so far is manufactured outrage over a suggestion from Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson that doing nothing other than attempt to defeat reform amounts to a little more than a plan to kill people.

The congressman had already thrown the Republicans a new one, saying on the floor of the House last night that the Republicans really do have a plan and it is the height of "Let them eat cake-ism."


GRAYSON: Very simply, it's a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republicans health care plan for America: Don't get sick.

That's right, don't get sick. If you have insurance, don't get sick. If you don't have insurance, don't get sick. If you're sick, don't get sick, just don't get sick. That's what the Republicans have in mind for you, America. That's the Republicans health care plan.

But I think that the Republicans understand that that plan isn't always going to work. It's not a foolproof plan. So, the Republicans have a backup plan in case you do get sick. If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.


OLBERMANN: Republicans calling for an apology from Congressman Grayson, Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, preparing a privilege resolution stating that Mr. Grayson's behavior, quote, "was a breach in decorum and degraded the integrity and proceedings of the House." And that the House, quote, "disapproves of the behavior of Mr. Grayson." The same language the Democrats use in their resolution criticizing Republican Joe Wilson for having shouted "You lie!" to the president during his joint address to Congress earlier this month.

Beyond the childish false equivalency, Republicans are now demanding from Mr. Grayson an apology to Congress-something Mr. Wilson has not yet done. So, this afternoon, Congressman Grayson complied and ripped them another new one.


GRAYSON: Immediately after that speech, several Republicans asked me to apologize. Well, I would like to apologize. I would like to apologize to the dead. And here's why. According to this study, health insurance and mortality in U.S. adults which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. Let's remember that we should care about people even after they're born.

So, I call upon the Democratic members of the House, I call upon the Republican members of the House, I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families.

I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.


OLBERMANN: About Mr. Grayson's reference, caring about people even after they were born, the members of the Senate Finance Committee today rejecting by a vote 13-10 an amendment by Republican Hatch of Utah that would have restricted abortion coverage for anyone getting their health insurance through co-ops or an exchange. Senator Stabenow of Michigan is calling the amendment offensive. Senator Snowe of Maine, the only female Republican on the panel, is voting with the Democrats to defeat the amendment.

Yesterday, the committee twice having rejected amendments that would have created the public option. Senators Rockefeller and Schumer, who proposed those amendments, have vowed to deep trying as health care reform makes it through Congress. Senator Rockefeller to join us presently.

First, let's turn to the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the "Huffington Post," Arianna Huffington.

Arianna, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I think Congressman Grayson should not have used the word "holocaust" because it has a different, distinct and what should be a unique meaning. I think he should correct that as soon as possible. Otherwise, I'm applauding him. What do you think?

HUFFINGTON: I agree with you on both counts. I think the word "holocaust" should not have been used. He doesn't need any hyperbole.

He has facts on his side. He has truth on his side. He's an incredibly effective leader. He has the guts to speak the truth and he should stick to the truth.

I agree with you, as a word "holocaust" is simply a distraction and should not have been used.

But apart from that, you know, Grayson has been a-really, on so many fronts, both the health care front and the financial scandal, he's been demanding accountability towards the feds. He's been demanding that corporate groups held accountable, and we should not allow this to distract us from his true leadership in the Congress.

OLBERMANN: Is this the proverbial emperor's new clothes moments? Is it first crack in the rhetorical dam which the Democrats have not been able to put through until this point?

HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, there's something very powerful when he stands there and says the truth on two counts. First of all, that the Republicans say no health care plan, and secondly, that they have no empathy. That was really what he was saying, that they don't really care. In fact, he made it very clear, and they're making it clear every day, that they would oppose anything. It's not about the specifics, it's about wanting to oppose the reform, wanting a political victory, wanting to undermine the president and the Democratic majority.

OLBERMANN: The alleged parallels to Joe Wilson. Mr. Grayson did not interrupt anybody let alone a president. Mr. Wilson has not apologized to Congress and they want apology to Congress. Mr. Wilson was factually wrong in claiming that the president had been lying about coverage for illegal immigrants.

How many other ways or how many ways in total is that analogy between Grayson and Wilson a false equivalency?

HUFFINGTON: Well, it's a completely false equivalency. I mean, as you said, not only did Joe Wilson do something unprecedented, but he also - he also lied himself in calling the president a liar. And there's no comparison. This is just red herring. And what is sad is that it is distracting us from this very real debate.

OLBERMANN: And yet you wonder, does the debate not about what Grayson said and the terms he used, but that issue, that sort of starkly defining what the Republicans have to offer in this, or in this case don't have to offer-is that not essential to the rest of this debate?

HUFFINGTON: Well, what is essential is to stress the tremendous need that the American people have for some real fundamental health care reform. And the study that Congressman Grayson referred to is a study that just came out and that makes it clear that there is a connection between the lack of health insurance and people dying. In fact, the study, it says that over 44,000 people die every year because of the lack of health care insurance. And that was really the very significant point that he was making.

OLBERMANN: One hundred and twenty-two more every day, and this was a day. So, 122 more today.

Arianna Huffington of "Huffington Post"- as always, thank you, Arianna.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The work-to borrow a phrase-goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die. And two Democratic Senators have, today, come up with new tacks to take on health reform. One of them inside the Senate Finance Committee.

As promised, let's turn to Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, and a member of that finance committee.

Good evening, Senator. Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with your news. Senator Franken introduced something he has titled the Fairness in Health Insurance Act of 2009. You have adapted it into the form of an amendment. Tell me what it is and what's your trying to do.

ROCKEFELLER: It's very simple. I really don't believe at all that this is about politics and process and, you know? I think it's about how people are treated. Do they get health care through their insurance or do they not? Do the insurance companies make so much money that it means they're not giving health care to the people? The answer to that is yes.

So, my amendment will be very simple, along with Franken-Al Franken

and that is that over half of the health care bill in the Senate is spent on subsidies for the insurance companies, over half, $485 billion. So that they can, you know, take in more customers and presumably do more business and make more profits.

I think it's got to be about people and not about profits. And therefore, my amendment-which I may offer tonight because we're still in session-is going to say that 90 percent of all of the money that the insurance companies get from these subsidies, $485 billion in the Senate Finance mark, that they have to spend that on health care and that the secretary of health and human services will monitor that.

They have to spend it on health care. They can't spend it on administrative expenses and salaries. They have to spend it on health care.

Now, don't worry about them. That's, you know, 10 percent they have got left over. That's $49 billion, that's not so bad. But they have been ripping of the American consumers and they have been putting profits before people-and in West Virginia, you just don't do that.

OLBERMANN: But if you can't get a public option at this point, how are you going to get Max Baucus to anger the insurance companies by ever so slightly treating them as if they merited the kind of public oversight that we exert over to, say, the casinos in Vegas?

ROCKEFELLER: I think it's a very hard vote to vote no. I mean, I don't know how he's going to vote, and that's his decision. But if you-if you say they're going to make $49 billion on this, but to take that much money off of almost a half a trillion dollars and give it all to them and let them have it as, you know, 25 million, 30 million, 35 million more people pouring into the health insurance market, as we insure them, I just think that's unfair and unreasonable without their committing to spend 90 percent of that-the House has it 85 percent - 90 percent of that on delivering health care and proving that to secretary of health and human services.

It's a fair amendment. It's simple. It's fair and it's tough.

They're not going to like a lot.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Back to the public option, Senator Harkin said yesterday that the votes are still there in the full Senate to pass it. Do you agree with that assessment?

ROCKEFELLER: I do. I do. I-you know, we had our meeting of all the people that voted for it last night and had a little press conference and people kind of laughed at it. We didn't. I mean, we do feel a sense of momentum. It's the only time in the history of the Senate anybody's ever talked about this. We debated this one public option in my amendment for 4 ½ hours. That's never happened.

So a lot of people now are looking at all the Democrats who did vote for it. And we're not going to get a lot of Republicans votes, but we're accustomed to that. I think we can get this, and I think the president needs to help and I think, you know, everybody needs to pitch in and work harder than they have been. And I look forward to it because it's the only way that people could be really sure being able to afford to get health care in the future-the only way. Otherwise, they're at the mercy of the insurance companies.

OLBERMANN: Without getting too deeply into the weeds of his terminology, Congressman Grayson said that the only Republican plan is don't get sick. Do you think that was an important point for him to make?

ROCKEFELLER: I'm not going to get into that. OK?


ROCKEFELLER: I want-I want to pass my amendment.

OLBERMANN: Good luck with that. Thank you, Senator.


OLBERMANN: Senator Jay Rockefeller, great thanks for revealing the details of that amendment.


OLBERMANN: So, where were the swing Democrats yesterday on the public option vote? Right where they were supposed to be in the pockets of the insurance companies. Markos Moulitsas joins me.

First, briefly, a note about my attendance record here, which has been lately, anyway, pretty spotty. I mentioned a couple of times on the air here that my father is ill. The last few days have been critical to his recovery and I've been fortunate enough to be with him at the expense of not being able to be here. I expect this will happen again. So, I hope you will bear with me and especially with Lawrence O'Donnell and David Shuster, and my team of aces behind the scenes that did such yeomen work when I'm not here.

You know I know that secretly there's a lot about my not being here that they really, really like. I don't want to go into too much detail about dad expect to say that the most recent news was very encouraging, the people working with him, from the specialists to the nurses to the X-ray techs, have been phenomenal. And later on I intend to give them a fuller thanks.

But as to the moment, to protect my father's privacy, I am-with your information-not going to say which hospital he's at. And also, since the folks at that hospital have not seen me dressed as I am right now, I took a picture so that they'd recognize me. Brian, if you'd show that please.

OK, there it is. Dr. Kill Patient. Dr. Kill Patient. And, by the way, if there is such a thing as a conclusive argument that we need health care reform in this country, you're looking at it right there.


OLBERMANN: The logic is circular and childish and transparent. He won't vote for the public option because not enough senators will vote for it, including himself; and enough senators won't vote for it in part because he won't vote for it. Markos Moulitsas joins me to talk "Mad Max" and the Baucus caucus.

Later, hey, Lou Dobbs, they aren't praying, "Deliver us Obama," they're praying, "Deliver us, oh, God." Lou says that gave him chills down his spine. That might be the lumbago, Lou.

"Worsts Persons" tonight here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Having spent large parts of 27 of the last 30 days witnessing our health care system from the front lines, I can confirm that there is madness in the health care debate, and the madness is, that there is any debate at all. I have met no one-from patients to administrators to families-who thinks the current system works, let alone works well; no one who even believes that the incredible financial burdens and fears are not interrupting the actual ability of patients to get better.

Yet, in our fourth story, a Democratic-controlled Senate committee could not get the damn public option passed. To recap, eight Democrats supported the Rockefeller amendment which would have created a Medicare-like public option. But all 10 Republicans voted against it, joined by five Democrats-Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

The more moderate version of the public option, then offered by Senator Chuck Schumer also failed with the help of three Democratic senators-Baucus, Conrad and Lincoln. As for Chairman Baucus' apparent obsession with getting something out of his committee that can garner 60 votes, it should be noted that when the GOP was the majority party, he was more than willing to pass crucial legislation with a simple majority when necessary. Since 1989, the Republicans, in fact, passed 13 percent of legislation with fewer than 60 votes. The Democrats passed about 7 percent of its bills without that 60-vote supermajority.

Let's turn to Daily Kos, author of "Taking on the System," Markos Moulitsas.

Good evening, Markos.

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILY KOS: Good evening, Keith. Glad you're back and best of wishes to your father.

OLBERMANN: Many thanks, my friend.

Do you think Blanche Lincoln-just as an example, it could be anyone of them-has ever sat in a hospital waiting room next to people who are splitting their prayers half the recovery of their loved ones and half that they somehow get money to pay the bill?

MOULITSAS: She sure doesn't act that way. I mean, look, I've been looking at polling out of Arkansas these last couple of weeks. And two data items really popped out. One is that Lincoln is truly endangered in coming-probably the most endangered Senate Democrat in 2010. So, she's in a lot of trouble.

Two, the public option is very popular in Arkansas, by a three-to-two margin. So you'd think, if you're sitting on the outside, you think, well, if you have trouble getting elected, do the popular thing and that will help you, right? Well, look, Lincoln votes against the public option and against almost 60 percent of her constituents.

It makes no sense. And, Keith, I don't know how you begin to explain something like that because a lot of Democrats have a really hard time not just doing the right thing, but doing the popular thing, what is the right popular thing. I can't explain it.

OLBERMANN: Well, is that-is Arkansas the state where three-quarters of insurances is handled by one of the main insurers and they essentially dictate who gets what money in politics and what gets what in terms of campaign contributions? Is she was going to be elected by one of the insurance companies as opposed to the citizens of Arkansas?

MOULITSAS: That's probably the only explanation that makes any sense, you know? But at the end of the day, you're running as a Republican, real Republican voters in Arkansas, they're not going to vote for you. They're going to vote for the real ones, right?


MOULITSAS: And if independents and Democrats think that you're not with them, why should they bother voting?

OLBERMANN: What's turn to-to the other part of this equation right now-what is the president's strategy right now, do you know?

MOULITSAS: I don't think anybody knows. There's enough mixed signals coming out of the White House where you can really support any theory. I mean, there's the optimist who'll say that he's going to work behind the scenes, work with the Senate and House in conference committee to insert a robust public option and then fight for it when it comes to both those chambers again. The pessimist will say that Obama really just wants to sign anything that comes out of Congress just so he can declare victory and move on to the next issue.

So, I don't know which side is right. I don't think anybody really knows. And if you ask me, it depends on how I feel that day.

OLBERMANN: Yes. What do you-what do you make of the premise that comes out of some sources sympathetic to the White House's position and says, look, the victory is health care reform, whether it's 10 percent of what should be done or 100 percent of what should be done, that the defeat is leaving the status quo unchanged rather than doing some now, some next year, some the year after that, as often as you can?

MOULITSAS: Yes. I might have some sympathy for that line if sort of the bad case scenario wasn't so absolutely horrid. I mean, right now, we're talking about the compromise position is that there's mandates so people are forced to buy insurance. But they have to buy it from the crappy insurance companies that have created this problem to begin with. And so, to me, there can be nothing worse than telling these young people who really were so hopeful and supportive of Obama that, you know what, you're not going to get the change you wanted, but we're going to make you have to send your hard-earned dollars to these terrible, terrible insurance companies.

OLBERMANN: Make is the phrase there-make you do it.

MOULITSAS: That's a step backwards. Absolutely.

OLBERMANN: If the president isn't the one applying the pressure on Democrats to do the right thing, where is the necessary leverage supposed to come from? I mean, there's just you and me and the people who watch and the people who participate in Daily Kos. We are only so many.

MOULITSAS: Well, there is-there is a lot of grassroots opposition to eliminating the public option. I mean, don't kid yourself. They would have gotten rid of the public option a long time ago, along with single-payer if they'd been given the opportunity to do so. So there's a lot of support for the public option. Not just in grassroots people and for the rest of media but also the labor unions.

But I have to say, the biggest heroes in this whole debate are those 50 to 60 House Democrat progressives who have said they will not vote for any bill without a robust public option. Because of Obama wants any bill to sign just to say he's reformed the system, he cannot do that if those House progressives vote against a bad bill. So, as long as they stay strong-and so far, so good-I think we're in pretty good shape.

OLBERMANN: Well, there's the subplot in the House obviously.

Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos-as always, great thanks.

MOULITSAS: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: To my knowledge, no rational left-wing Web site ever advocated the overthrow of the Bush administration by the United States military. In fact, to my knowledge, no irrational left-wing Web site ever did so. Yet here is "Newsmax" with a picture of Glenn Beck dressed up as Uncle Sam on its print cover and its Web site for claiming it is a news partner of the infamous "Washington Times."

Here is "Newsmax" writing in a kind of mundane, daydreamy way, quote, "Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution to an interim administration that would the serious business of governing and defending the nation." "Newsmax," you imagine that. I imagine a Timothy McVeigh reading that crap.

Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Can you really write an article, even for a right-wing site, suggesting that there might be a military coup and not be guilty of trying to insight a military coup? And why are the Republicans decrying a one-day trip to sell the International Olympic Committee on selecting Chicago and bring that city and that state the nation's jobs when they were happy to see President Bush take a four-day trip to China to sit on his ass and watch the Olympics? That and "Worsts" ahead.

First, time for Countdown's "Top Three Best Persons in the World."

Dateline: New York. Number three: Best embarrassing the state caused by not bothering to check John Cook of the Web site Gawker, writing about the fact that eight editions of Countdown have been hosted by David or Lawrence this month. Concluding update: "Well, we know where he was on Saturday. A tipster sent in the above screengrab from Saturday's Red Sox game at Yankees Stadium as broadcast by FOX, the logo of which is positioned just about on top of Olbermann's head." Adds, we have it on good authority that it is not in fact Keith Olbermann. Our corporate brothers at Dead Spin got the same image from the same tipster earlier this week and didn't use it. We knew that. What we didn't know is that dead spin checked with Olbermann to confirm that it was him and found that it was not. We should have checked too. Although we didn't think to because doesn't that look exactly like Keith Olbermann down to the glasses?

should we look at the screen grab? I guess that's supposed to be me on the right in the middle picture, as opposed to the woman on the far right. That's Sarah Palin, I think. I'm not sure. Maybe it's the blond kid. Maybe I'm the camera.

Number one, none of those people is me. And we confirmed that yesterday for their corporate parents. And they didn't bother to confirm it again. Number two, I was not at the Yankee game on Saturday. Number three, Fox would not show me at a game or anywhere else on this planet, even if I were to light myself on fire while announcing, Rupert was right.

Dateline New York, number two, best revelation of ingrained prejudice, Job Derbyshire of the "National Review," arguing on a radio show against women voting. "Women lean hard to the left. They want someone to nurture. They want someone to help raise their kids. And if men aren't inclined to do it-and in the present days, they're not much-then they would like the state to do it for them. Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I'll say this, if it were to be, I wouldn't lose a minute's sleep."

Derbyshire went on to say that the premise that women leaning hard to the left politically, because of that the country would probably be better off if women did not have the right to vote. He did not bother to mention that since they were extended the vote, women have helped to elect just seven Democratic presidents, but they've elected eight Republicans. How about we repeal moron suffrage?

Dateline New York, number one, best indicator of somebody who has just stopped trying, Bill-O, the not paying attention clown. "Baltimore Sun" TV critic David Zurawick ripped O'Reilly for defending the racist actors who made the rather pathetic Acorn videos as heroes of the First Amendment. Bill responded a little too quickly. "Far left TV critic David Zurawick is angry that the people who exposed Acorn in the under-cover sting are not being punished. I am exhausted by these ideologues masquerading as TV critics. This guy Zurawick should get a political column, because that's what he wants to do, push a left wing ideology."

Bill, if have you ever read anything more than what pops up when you Google your own name, you would notice that Mr. Zurawick regularly tries to cut me and Rachel to ribbons over hear, at least as often as he criticizes you. If you want to hit him for clinging to a defunct TV world in which we all read wire copy to people who have already read it with themselves six hours earlier, I'm with you.

But this isn't a left wing ideologue. Although, I'll also agree with you one thing. You sure sound exhausted, exhausted.


OLBERMANN: On the heels of a survey posted on Facebook asking should Obama be killed, one right wing columnist has floated the idea of a military coup to unseat the president, as if it were not madness, incitement, un-American, disloyal, totalitarian and treasonous.

"There's a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the Obama problem. Don't dismiss it as unrealistic."

Our third story on the Countdown, more inflammatory and increasingly violent rhetoric and treasonous rhetoric from the right. In a column titled "Obama Risks A Domestic Military Intervention," John L. Perry of the website "Newsmax" writes as well: "military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for fundamental change toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option. But Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible."

Perry insisting he is only describing what may be afoot, and not actually advocating a military intervention. But then bullet points reasons why the military would stage such a coup, and proposes this twisted fantasy, "imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution" - yes, by overthrowing it -"through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation"- by destroying the nation -"skilled, military trained nation builders would replace accountability challenged radical left commissars."

After scrubbing the column from its website, "Newsmax" now claims Mr. Perry has no official relationship with "Newsmax," other than as unpaid blogger. Curious, considering Mr. Perry's byline at the bottom of his column, John L. Perry is a regular columnist for

And in case that isn't clear, TPM reports Perry has been a regular columnist for "Newsmax" since 1999.

This as the fallout continues over that poll from Facebook. It continues. The Secret Service is now investigating the threat. And the developer of the online application that was used to create the survey has come forward, telling "Politico" "there is definitely this culture of paranoia and fear, and I think both sides are reacting in extreme ways, people carrying guns to down hall meetings. That's scary. People losing their cool over an Internet poll like this that doesn't calm the situation."

Posting such a poll cools and calms the situation? Another idiot.

Joining me now, the Washington editor for "The Nation," Chris Hayes.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, "THE NATION": Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Please tell me that even the "Newsmax" crowd, with its Ann Coulter e-mail alerts and it's ads for free handguns, millionaire patriots and trains you, even these people have to repudiate the premise of a military overthrow of a United States government.

HAYES: Yes, I think if there's a silver lining in this little story,

it's the fact that they did take it down from the website. Maybe there are

and it was a bloodless coup. One should know that it was a bloodless coup. It was very gentlemanly, what he proposed.

But, no, I think it is a taboo, and rightfully so. This is not the sort of thing that I think should be in the normal course of our political discussions about a path forward, even amongst genuine ideologues. So I think it was actually a good sign they took it down.

OLBERMANN: Well, you're being very generous. "Media Matters" reported that the Republican National Committee provides financial support to "Newsmax" by using their e-mail list serves. When we hear Michael Steele denounce this column or anyone else with supposed authority, somebody driving the car?

HAYES: Well, that's not going to happen. This is actually a game that the right plays really well, which is they're constantly finding some commenter on Daily Kos who says something. Remember that MoveOn-you know, MoveOn has an open contest and someone sends in a video. I think 2,000 videos, and there was some momentary Hitler image that. That became a national news story for a week, in which you had calls from Democrats to denounce Moveon, despite the fact they had no control of the content.

"Newsmax" is fringy and out there. But it's part of the right wing noise machine, in good standing. There's all sorts of big time right wingers who write for it and are associated with it. It's sort of enmeshed, in a business sense, of the RNC. Fair is fair. If that's the way-if that's the standard that's going to be applied, in which you're constantly going to have to denounce the ideologues saying crazy things to your right or the left, then Michael Steele should step up to the plate.

OLBERMANN: Except, by the way, it sounded like they're coming in for you right now. Was there some sort of break in there? Is Burt Lancaster there dressed up in his "Seven Days in May" -

HAYES: The door is barred.

OLBERMANN: Is there a secondary trick here? The real hope of provocation like this-not that some general might be a reincarnation of Burt Lancaster. But just-the character he played, no offense to Burt Lancaster. But just that the more dangerous the fantasy gets, the more the possibility is that the government has to look into it, as in the Facebook thing. Then they can use the response as something to campaign against the Democrats with in the midterms.

HAYES: I don't know. Who knows? It strikes me that it's probably not that thought out. There is-I mean, I was listening to Taylor Branch talk about this book that he just did, in which he talked to the Clintons. It was just a reminder that there really was this period of genuine mass-not mass, but an actual movement of violent sort of insurrection in the country during the Clinton years. It was provoked at a time that was far left intense and sort of under stress, as the moment we find ourselves in right now.

And I tend to be a free speech absolutist about all this. I sort of continue to that. They can publish whatever they want. At the same time, I think it's easy-it's disconcerting how easily we have forgotten that militia moment in American history, and the sort of edging toward that kind of rhetoric that we're seeing now.

OLBERMANN: Yes. If there's another Timothy McVeigh, he will get his idea from something like this, if not from this. Chris Hayes of "The Nation," great thanks, as always. And keep fighting that fight as they come through your door there.

HAYES: Best wishes to your dad, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you very much, sir.

Obama can't go to Copenhagen to lobby the International Olympic Committee to award the 2016 games and the jobs it will produce for Chicago. But Mitt Romney can run for president based on how well he supposedly ran the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

And they're not praying hear our cry Obama. They're praying hear our cry oh, god. And Lou Dobbs is too stupid or too ethically bankrupt to tell the difference. Worsts ahead.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the Democrat from Florida who first correctly said the Republican health care reform plan was don't get sick. And then who today correctly noted that he would like to apologize to the 44,000 Americans who will die this year because the Government still has not gotten them health care. Congressman Alan Grayson is her special guest.


OLBERMANN: Obama tries to pitch the International Olympic Committee on Chicago for the 2016 games, and the Republicans say he has no right to waste a day doing so, when bush wasted four days going to the Olympics in China as a guy just sitting there. Seriously?

That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Arizona Congressman Trent Franks. At the Take Back America Conference over the weekend, the one in which a delusional woman named Wortman (ph) compared Obama to Hitler and none of the Congressman walked out-Congressman Franks not only did not walk out, he demanded to see the president's birth certificate, called his position on abortion, quote, insane, and added, "he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity."

A spokesman for Congressman Franks, with three Ks, said he was only referring to the president's stance on abortion, and meant to say unborn humanity. Regardless, if you are as far from mainstream American as Congressman Franks is, as to feed that raw meat to insane lions, knowing it's not true, and doing it only to gain political advantage, it is you, Congressman, who has no place in any station of government. The sooner you apologize or resign, which every is your choice, the less of an embarrassment you'll be to your party and your family.

Our runner up, Lonesome Roads Beck, claiming that the broadcast towers of radio station KRKO in Everick (ph), Washington were blown up in a bombing. And "when freedom of speech is being squelched, the left usually says that's fascist. But in this case, the left doesn't even call them anything."

There were no bombs. The towers were pulled down using a heavy equipment called an excavator. It was called eco-terrorism. And the reason it was done was that for years residents there have protested that it was a public nuisance. The station also just increased power. And people in Everick Washington say they now can hear it over their phones.

This was eco-terrorism. I don't speak for the left, but I condemn it completely. One last detail Becker had left out: KRKO is an all sports station. It airs "The Dan Patrick Show," "The Tony Bruno Show," Jim Rome, Chris Myers and Vancouver Canucks hockey. Nice work, Beck. This was not somebody protesting content. Well, maybe about Dan. I don't know.

But our winner, Lou Dobbs, now officially part of the right wing echo chamber, after repeating one of the most hilarious mistakes ever made by the likes of Beck, Malkin, the usual suspects. They got a tape of a group of community organizers called the Gamiliel Foundation opening a meeting with a prayer. They're heard saying "hear our cry, oh, god, and deliver us, oh, god," and other prayer type stuff.

But starting with these welcome back jobs at not so Breitbart they decided to lie and say that the Gamiliel Foundation people were saying "hear our cry, Obama, and deliver us, Obama."

They wanted their sheep to believe community organizers were praying to Obama. Well, there certainly are sheep out there, Lou. "A stunning news uncovered by the good folks at Breitbart. Go to to see our full video. We urge you to see it because it exposes, again, very dangerous forces at work in this country supporting our supreme leader. Now, this video shows members of the community organizing group Gamiliel Foundation literally praying to our supreme leader over health care back in December of 2008. You've got to hear this. That is a remarkable-remarkable. You've got to see this. Go to to see the whole tape. It will, I guarantee you, put chills down your back."

I've got chills down my back. I'm cold. I need a god damned blanket and I need to retire. Lou, oh, god-oh god? Now they're praying to the Irish? - Dobbs, today's worst person in-where are my teeth-in the world.


OLBERMANN: In our number one story, the right wing chorus ripping the president for trying to bring the Olympics back to America, it has been joined now by the House minority leader. No Republican seems to remember that the one day this president has devoted to the effort kind of pales in comparison to the four days the last president spent attending the Olympics in China as a freaking fan.

This afternoon, the First Lady joined Oprah Winfrey on the ground in Denmark in advance of Friday's vote. The president will leave for Copenhagen tomorrow night. He'll speak to the IOC the following morning. And right afterwards, he will immediately return.

President Bush, you'll recall, took in the last Olympic Games in China last year, leaving the country fighting two wars, on the brink of economic collapse. He found time, four days of it, to enjoy the Beijing games and spank the volleyball players.

Still, the outrage that our president would spend less than 24 hours trying to bring the Olympics and an economic boon home to the US has been equally laughable and predictable.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: President Obama is heading to Denmark this week to help sway the International Olympic Committee.

Vancouver lost-how much was it? They lost a billion dollars when they had the Olympics. How is the city of Chicago and Illinois, that is broke, going to benefit?


OLBERMANN: The opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics are on February 12th, 2010. They can't have lost or made anything because it hasn't happened yet, Biff. Then there are the official Republican mouthpieces. Michael Steele, in a conference call with reporters yesterday.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: The goal should be creating, you know, not job opportunities seven years from now, but job opportunities today. If the priority is the Olympics in seven years, OK, then tell the nation that's the priority and that's what we should be focused on, because we'll create jobs then, and we won't worry about it between now and 2016.


OLBERMANN: See, you have jobs now building stuff for seven years from now. They don't put up the Olympics facilities over night like a circus tent.

And this morning, House Minority Leader Boehner picked up on the anti-Olympic stupidity.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: He's the president of the United States, not the mayor of Chicago. And the problems we have here at home affect all Americans. And that's where his attention ought to be.


OLBERMANN: Good. You know who's who. I'm joined again by Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Clinton, author of "Super-Capitalism," now out on paperback, and professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, from which venue he joins us.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: You want to briefly explain that complex economic principle that argues against Mr. Steele's belief that the Olympics starting in the Summer of 2016 only means jobs start in the Summer of 2016?

REICH: Well, it's not terribly complicated. What we know from previous Olympics, like 1996 in Atlanta or Salt Lake City-we know that almost immediately after the Olympic decision is made, there are jobs and a lot of jobs, construction and infrastructure and sales and marketing, white collar, blue collar jobs. This is a jobs machine. Starts right away.

OLBERMANN: Sports and economic analysis are always dangerous things to mix, especially when it comes to pro sports. Do you think the games in Chicago would boost the economy or would it cost the US money?

REICH: Undoubtedly, boosting the economy is what we have seen in previous Olympics. In fact, an independent study done by the dean of the business school of Cal State-California State in Sacramento, found about 22.5 billion dollars of net new economic activity in the Chicago area, but also the entire Great Lakes Area, from the Olympics. So that's a big amount of money.

OLBERMANN: The White House press secretary, Mr. Gibbs, was asked about Mr. Steel's comments. And he responded with his own question, who is he rooting for? Was the White House successful in framing this? I mean if Republicans criticize the trip, they're in fact rooting against America?

REICH: Not only rooting against America, Keith, but I think rooting against American workers. We're talking here about jobs at a time when American workers really need jobs. And I'm afraid at least some Republicans may be a little insensitive to that fact.

OLBERMANN: August of last year, the economy was already giving it's gurgles as it approached the drain, if it hadn't already begun to circle it. We had wars in two countries, and yet President Bush spent four days in China, opening ceremonies, and, so to speak, back flapping the athletes. Double standard between that situation and the current one?

REICH: I think there's a little bit of a double standard. I mean, this is a cheap shot by Republicans, Keith. The fact of the matter is I understand that the president is going to spend maybe 18 hours in total. It's not a pleasure trip. And believe it or not, you can get work done on Air Force One. There and back.

OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney made his political career after helping turn around the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City, the Winter games. Are the Republicans actually worried in here that this might be a success story, sort of taking their turf, or at least Romney's turf, away from them?

REICH: I think they have more things to worry about. I mean the just say no party with regard to health care and the environment, they're already seeing their polls dropping. And when their major spokespeople are people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, you know that they're in trouble. It's not just the Olympics.

OLBERMANN: It's a panoply of things. But the Olympic one I like best of all, because it looks they forgot recent history. It has that element to it as well.

Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary, author of "Super Capitalism," as we said, out in paper book now. Great luck with it, and great thanks for your time tonight.

REICH: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 2,344th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

And now, with her special guest, the man who told it like it was, Congressman Alan Grayson, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, September 29, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball

Guests: Ron Wyden, Eric Burns, Shannyn Moore, Christian Finnegan


DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The assault on the public option.


SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: This will be optional. Nobody has to do this. I believe it says $50 billion. That's a lot of money.


SHUSTER: Despite the choice, despite the savings, the Senate Finance Committee votes down two different public option amendments with the help of several Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fine tally is eight ayes, 15 nays.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: The amendment fails.


SHUSTER: Where does the public option go from here? Our guest:

Senator Wyden of Oregon. And the politics of today's vote with Howard Fineman.

Sarah's story.


TINA FEY, ACTRESS (impersonating Sarah Palin): Listen up, everybody.

I'm going rogue right now.


SHUSTER: That's no joke. That's the title of her new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life." The details about the new book and why is the publisher rushing the book to store shelves.

Selective indoctrination? The right-wing noise machine still sounding at alarm.


CHILDREN: Can we make America better? Yes, yes, we can. Yes, yes, we can.


SHUSTER: Kids sing about Obama - it's indoctrination. Kids sing about President Bush - not a problem.

And "The Hammer" is tough as nails. Tom DeLay promises to keep on dancing.


TOM DELAY (R), FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I've worked too hard, and even though my foot hurts, nothing's going to stop me from doing this dance tonight.


SHUSTER: And what's going to stop you from dropping your partner?

All that and more - now on Countdown.


DELAY: We're going to dance until it breaks.




SHUSTER: Good evening from New York. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.

There are five health care bills in Congress - three in the House, two in the Senate - four have made it through committee so far. All of them include a public option that would let Americans choose a government health care plan instead of a plan run by private insurance companies interested in maximizing profits.

Today, in our fifth story on the Countdown: The one committee seen as having the best shot at enacting its vision of health care into law took up the public option and shot it down. The smoking gun was in the hands of Democrats.

The Senate Finance Committee had two versions of the public option to consider today. One of them from West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller - would have cost the drug companies billions of dollars by paying less for drugs. The other, from New York's Chuck Schumer, opened the drug prices up for negotiation among other concessions.

Rockefeller's version was first out of the gate. Republicans, led by ranking member Chuck Grassley, raised a number of options. One, of course, their objection in principle to any program run by the government - which Mr. Grassley tried to explain: does not mean they oppose popular government health care programs like Medicare.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I'd just like to know what you think of Medicare, a government-run program that's far more government-run than what's Senator Rockefeller is proposed. Do you think Medicare is a good program? Because most of the amendments on the other side have been aimed at preserving Medicare, a government-run program.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think that Medicare is part of the social fabric of America, after 40 years, just like Social Security is. And I don't say that because it's perfect. There are a lot of things that need to be changed and a lot of the things in this legislation are changing a lot of things that's wrong with Medicare, and - and to say that I support it is not to say that it's the best system that it can be.

SCHUMER: But it is a government-run plan, is that right?

GRASSLEY: It is a government-run plan.


SHUSTER: Republicans had other arguments in their quiver. Even if a public option by itself was a harmless or even a beneficial program, it could lead to something bad - an argument they originally used when they tried to block Medicare and Medicaid.

Today, when Grassley was challenged on how the public option would lead to a single-payer health care system, Mr. Grassley said the public option would lure so many people to it, private insurance would collapse. Although the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated only 8 million people would join the public option in the next six years, Grassley had memorized other statistics to justify his slippery slope argument, including one from the conservative Heritage Foundation and one from - well, we'll explain in a moment.


SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Now, you just made a statement that it will lead to a single-payer.


GRASSLEY: Well, you know, there are health economists around here, and I can only quote two, but I imagine there's dozens you can quote. And the only reason I can quote two is because they're the only ones that I want to keep in my head to give people answers. But one is, Heritage says that 83 million people are going to be forced out of their plan, employer plans into public option, and Lewin Group says 120 million people.


SHUSTER: The Lewin Group is owned by United Healthcare, which has spent millions of dollars opposing a public option.

Senator John Kerry pointed out that Rockefeller's public option had provisions built in that prevented it from going down a slippery slope to a single-payer plan and in doing so identified what he thinks is the real reason for Republican opposition.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Senator Hatch and others were talking about this is the first step to single-payer. Well, if people are paying the premiums that are charged to cover the costs and it's not allowed to have a federal subsidy, and there's no bailout allowed, and after the first two years, the prices are set according to the private market negotiation - what are we scared of? That Americans might like a competitive plan that is in fact paying for itself and providing good service? If that suddenly sort of becomes something that Americans like more and go to? More power to them. That's precisely the choice that they ought to get.


SHUSTER: Republicans admitted it. They oppose it because it might get popular. Constituents might actually like it.


SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Why we think all of this is a slippery slope toward government-run - complete government-run health care, complete government takeover of our health care system, is that a lot of the things that we do around here, we put into place - and supposedly safeguards are put into place, but when we see the effects and people like government programs, they then defend those government programs and they make them want to compete and want to survive that much more.

You know, as Ronald Reagan said, that the best way to eternal life is to become, you know, a government program. You know, so if this - this thing is said, well, you know, if it doesn't survive on its own, it will go away. Does anybody here really believe that this Congress would let this government program go away once it has constituency?


SHUSTER: In the end, though, it was Democratic Chairman Max Baucus leading four Democratic defectors against Rockefeller's public option and two against Schumer's more moderate version. Baucus explaining in essence, it does not matter that Americans support it.


BAUCUS: My job is to put together a bill that would become law. In the Senate, that means my job is to put together a bill that gets 60 votes. Now, I can count, and no one has been able to show me how they can count up to 60 votes with a public option in the bill. And thus, I'm constrained to vote against the amendment.


SHUSTER: Chairman Baucus apparently unaware or not concerned that Senator Tom Harkin now sees a public option within striking distance for 50 votes in the Senate.

Senator Rockefeller rejecting the appearance given by both Mr. Baucus and President Obama that passing a bill outranks passing a good bill.


ROCKEFELLER: I don't - I don't buy it when somebody says, "I want to have a health care bill, I don't care what's in it. I just want to have a health care bill so I can sign it." I'm not referring to the president necessarily, but I don't like that philosophy.

We're here for serious purpose, for people who know our stuff. We

spent thousands of hours preparing for these hearings that continue to go

on. But most of all, I have to tell you that I'm absolutely astounded that

my Republican colleagues are as satisfied as they are with the $483 billion

· $483 billion of new subsidies - the chairman would disagree with that but I don't - being given to insurance companies on top of everything they're already getting.


SHUSTER: With us tonight from the finance committee is Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

And good evening, Senator.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thanks for having me.

SHUSTER: Of course. Ten Democrats on your committee voted for a public option today. Is that a better or worse position than the public option held yesterday?

WYDEN: My sense is that this fight is far from over, and, in fact, I'm going to keep pushing for choice, both private choices and public choices, because that's how you get insurance company accountability. Of course, we would have rather won today, but the fact of the matter is, Americans learned today that this system is walled off from competition and choice. I'll be offering a proposal that gives all Americans choices, like members of Congress have. Through competition, we can hold the insurance companies accountable. This fight is far from over.

SHUSTER: As far as Chairman Baucus, a Democrat, can you explain why he, Chairman Baucus, who unveiled a reform blueprint a year ago that had a public option, has been drifting away ever since, culminating with his vote against the public option twice today? Even though he said he still supports the public option - I mean, how can he claim to have any credibility? Who are his real constituents? Are they the three Republican moderates he's hoping to attract?

WYDEN: I'll take him at his word, but I think we've got an opportunity to round up the votes on the floor of the United States Senate. And I want to make sure that all Americans can have choices. For example, under the public option approaches that had been taken in previous bills, more than 85 percent of the country wouldn't be able to choose a public option. Let's make sure these choices are available to all Americans. That's what my proposal, the "Free Choice" proposal, would to do tomorrow.

SHUSTER: Senator Rockefeller, who saw his public option amendment defeated today, said that the underlying Baucus bill - that's the basis for all these amendments - is now shaping up as almost a half a trillion dollar giveaway to the insurance companies. Rockefeller doesn't sound like a sure bet therefore to help pass reform without a public option. Does Chairman Baucus have 60 Democratic votes without a public option? Does he have your vote without any sort of public option?

WYDEN: I'm certainly not going to support legislation that doesn't let consumers hold insurers accountable. If you got somebody, for example, at a midsize company and their insurer is abusing them, just ripping them off, giving them crummy, overpriced service thee way these bills are written now, the consumer couldn't go get anything else. That's not right.

Members of Congress in the Washington, D.C. area, if their insurer rips them off in the fall of 2009, come January of 2010, they have more than a dozen, good quality, affordable choices. When the insurance companies can't discriminate against them, low administrative cost, I think a lot of us on the Senate Finance Committee are going to insist on the opportunity for consumers that real accountability over the insurance industry.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that your proposal, which I imagine that you're going to introduce tomorrow, depending on the timing. What sort of support does it have among the Republican Caucus right now and do you fear that some of the Democrats will say, "Wait a second, we don't want to go with Wyden's proposal because that will perhaps mean that there won't be any sort of public amendment that might introduced on the Senate floor"?

WYDEN: I think it's attractive to both sides. For example, I think, Republicans ought to look at our proposal and say choice in competition - that's what the Republicans are all about. That's the free enterprise system. That's how you make markets work.

For Democrats, what I've said, and I voted for both of the proposals today, is, let's make sure that all of Americans have choice. I remember the summer and all of the rallies, I'd see folks carrying those public option signs and I'd have to tell them more than 85 percent of you won't get to choose the public option and folks were practically falling out of the bleachers. They want everybody to have choice.

So, I think we have arguments for both sides of the aisle, and I think once all Americans have choice and are in a position to hold the insurance companies accountable, that is genuine transformation of the American health system.

SHUSTER: Bottom line - what does the Baucus bill have to be changed to in order to make sure it holds all the Democrats and still, I suppose, leaves open the option of a couple of Republicans joining in?

WYDEN: What I think colleagues are looking for is, first and foremost, affordability. You know, under this legislation, Americans are going to be required to buy health coverage. If it's crummy coverage and you don't have choice and you're forced to buy it, you're not going to see people very happy about that. So, I think affordability and making sure that consumers have choice so they can hold these insurance industry accountable - those are going to be the key issues.

And I think choice and affordability are two sides of the same coin. If your policy isn't affordable for you and your family, you ought to be able to get something else, particularly the kind of coverage members of Congress have.

SHUSTER: Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon, in the midst of a fascinating markup hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. And, Senator, thanks as always for coming on. We appreciate it.

WYDEN: Thanks for having me.

SHUSTER: You're welcome.

Coming up: What do today's votes in the public option tell us about what's ahead in the health care fight? Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" joins us next.

And later, more FOX News follies - school kids sing about President Obama so, of course, they're being indoctrinated. But when the songs are about President Bush, there's nothing to worry about there.

And Sarah Palin's new book, it's coming out faster than anyone thought. Why is that? And what does it say about Palin's priorities?

Still ahead tonight on Countdown.


SHUSTER: Coming up: The political battle over health care reform. Where will Democrats go from here after a handful of their own party blocked the public option for getting out of the Senate Finance Committee today? Howard Fineman joins us.

And later: Political second act. Sarah Palin's new book and Tom DeLay's dancing career. That's next.

This is Countdown.


SHUSTER: Senator Schumer's mantra about the public option for health care reform has been this: that the fight was toughest in the finance committee, though it would get easier on the Senate floor and would be easier still when the Senate and the House get together to reconcile their proposals.

And in our fourth story tonight: Schumer's claim that the more Congress talks about the public option, the better its chances get because supporters can bat down the lies about it and its support then grows.

A new poll from the Kaiser Foundation finds support for health care reform overall is rebounding from the pounding it took this summer, but will that be enough?

Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also political columnist and senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek."

Howard, great to see you.


SHUSTER: Was today a sign of hope or dead-end for the public option?

FINEMAN: Well, it was sort of a barely alive, semi dead-end. It ain't over, because there are at least four major steps in this process: the final vote in the finance committee; a vote on the Senate floor out of the combined bills from finance and the health committee in the Senate; then if it goes to conference, which it then would, with the Senate and the House, and an agreement there if there is one; and then final votes in the House and Senate. Those are all opportunities for supporters of the public option to keep trying. It ain't over until it's over.

SHUSTER: Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, wants Republican support for the Baucus bill, which is the baseline for the amendment action in the finance committee. Max Baucus also wants Republican support, enough to vote against things, he said, he supports.


SHUSTER: First, why are Democrats like Nelson and Baucus more concerned about the other party than the members of their own that they might lose? And second, why all of this concern for a Republican Party that would happily steamroll the Democrats?

FINEMAN: Yes. Well, let me take the second question first, David. I think that people like Max Baucus and Ben Nelson don't really understand the Republican Party of today. It's a thoroughly grassroots-based conservative party that's been back on its heels, thinks it found its identity, and protest over the summer, and is not going to support this measure in any way, shape or form institutionally. Maybe a senator or two are considering it. But even they are doubtful.

So that's the first part. I don't think they understand what they're dealing with.

The Republicans are in a rejectionist mood. That's number one. Number two, I think in conservative states, in red states, take Nebraska, for example, somebody like Ben Nelson, if he's going to vote for something, would love to have Republicans on it as well so he can say they joined with me to try to protect himself.

SHUSTER: To what extent was today a performance, to let members have a forum before the real work happens between the House and the Senate?

FINEMAN: Well, that would be too cynical to say it was just that. I think it's partly that. But the whole objective here is to get something voted out of the committee, get it voted on by the Senate, get it sent to the conference committee.

You said there's, you know, nothing - this is a fascinating markup. Well, if people are into this process - and by the way, David, the polls show that the American public is following this pretty closely. They know that there's going to be a conference committee and these other votes down the road.

So, yes, it was some showing up, but it's just to get the thing out of the garage. There's - imagine them trying to push this vehicle that sort of won't quite start. They're trying to push it out of the garage and get it started - get it started.

SHUSTER: Well, as far as the two people who were driving this car, Max Baucus and President Obama, Max Baucus - do you envision a scenario whereby at the end he will vote for a public option despite the votes that he cast today in his own committee? And secondly, is President Obama happy about the action today?

FINEMAN: Well, I think in Baucus' case, it depends on what the final bill is, David. And we're a long way away from that. So who knows what Baucus will do? It's impossible to predict and people have gone broke trying to predict Max Baucus.

In the case of Barack Obama, he wants something he can call historic and he will call virtually anything he gets that. Just look at the way he's handled this whole process. He's let Congress do the whole thing. He's drawn no lines in the sand. He's gone off and done a million other things. He's letting Congress chew itself up and spit itself out in this process.

If he can get something where he can say that tens of millions of more Americans are covered - even at taxpayer expense - and if he can say we put some kind of federal regulation on the health insurance industry, he'll call that historic, even though the health insurance industry and big pharma and all of the other parts of the medical and health care industry have really come up really well in this process getting taxpayer money to pay for new customers for them.

SHUSTER: The White House has been signaling that it will not fight for the public option. There are the rumblings that perhaps, now, maybe the Democrats might get the 50 votes for the public option. To the normal process, they would 60 to pass an overall bill. How does that complicate things as far as Democrats? Do they go the 50 route or the 60?

FINEMAN: Oh. That - yet to be seen. But what's probably going to happen, David - and this is maybe still six weeks or two months down the road - is that there will be a final bill coming out of the conference, then the Senate will have to vote on that. They'll need to get 60 votes to shut off - to allow debate to proceed, you know, cloture. And then after that, they won't need 60. They'll only need 50 or 51.

They got a half a chance of getting that, depending on the wording of public option. It will be a test public option. It will in a few states. It will - it will be written like the final peace settlement in Palestine.

SHUSTER: OK. Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - Howard, thanks as always. We appreciate it.

FINEMAN: Thank you, David.

SHUSTER: We all know where Sarah "Death Panel" Palin stands on health care reform, thanks to her Facebook page. And pretty soon, we'll know where she stands on just about everything else, thanks to her new memoir's "Going Rogue." The book is on the publishing fast track, leading some observers to wonder - was Levi Johnston right? Did Palin resign her office to cash in quick on her fame?

And here's another way to capture the spotlight, an "Oddball" splash down - next on Countdown.


SHUSTER: On this day 20 years ago, actor Zsa Zsa Gabor was found guilty of battery for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer. The tabloid scandal jolted Ms. Gabor's career in the early '90s. However, the spotlight would soon fade, only to return in 2007 when her ninth husband, Prince Frederick von Anhalt claimed he fathered Anna Nicole Smith's daughter. Later that year, the prince wound naked and handcuffed to his Rolls-Royce after being robbed by three women who may or may not have been prostitutes. Google the picture.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin on the Internet with video last week of the World Peace Day celebration in Kabul, Afghanistan. In the YouTube video, we see a panel of dignitaries on stage set to commemorate the day by releasing doves into the air. Only one of the doves is sleeping, so to speak. The older gentleman on the right doesn't seem to realize his dove has expired. Still he runs through with the drill and the dove never woke up.

Peace Day celebrations in Kabul were still considered a success. That they even happened is a wonder in itself. Next year, just don't hold the birds so tight.

Over to Japanese television, where "Professor Splash" is giving a lesson on stunt high-diving and class is in session. Daren "Professor Splash" Taylor holds the world record for jumping into a kiddie pool from platform 10.7 meters up. That's over 30 feet to you and me. This jump that will break that record. The kiddie pool is just 12 inches of water to break his fall. This time, Taylor leapt from 10.83 meters in the air. As you can see, the professor walked away a little soggy but completely unharmed and somewhere Thornton Melon is smiling.

Finally, to a stunt gone wrong. Last night marked Conan O'Brien's return after Friday's accident on the set of "The Tonight Show." In a bit with "Desperate Housewives" actress Teri Hatcher, O'Brien was supposed to race across the finish line on the studio floor. Instead, the host lost his footing, fell backwards and - ouch - banged his head. Well, O'Brien was eventually forced to leave on a stretcher with a conclusion.

In his return last night, O'Brien thanked the staff and the medical professionals who treated him and joke with Andy Richter about the dirty picture that the paramedics took (INAUDIBLE). You can Google that after Prince von Anhalt.

The latest hypocrisy from the right is enough to cause a concussion. Singing school kids have been indoctrinated by President Obama. But when they sang about President Bush, that's not a problem.

And "Going Rogue," Sarah Palin's memoirs are coming out faster than anybody anticipated. Was the book more important than being governor? How is that question going to impact her political future? Ahead on Countdown.


SHUSTER: America, your children are at risk. Schools are using them as pawns for the Obama administration, forcing them to sing songs about studying and helping people. Naturally, the only people who are doing anything about it are the folks at Fox News.

Our third story on the Countdown, more grift for the mill, as the right gins up another bogus claim that the Obama administration is indoctrinating your kids.

The fake controversy started a few weeks ago, when video surfaced of kids at a New Jersey elementary school singing a song about President Obama. The video was taken back in February, as part of Black History Month celebration.


CROWD: Barack Hussein Obama, he said we must all lend a hand to make the country strong again.


SHUSTER: And while the performance is seven months old, the phony outrage is brand-new.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Kids singing a song about Barack Obama.

We can't sing Christmas carols in this country.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: In fact, some say this is like what the Chinese did with Chairman Mao.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you don't want to rhyme, that's all you say.


SHUSTER: Never mind the fact that the song's lyrics were sent home with the students in advance. And as the school superintendent noted, there were no concerns or complaints to during or after the program. Meanwhile, to make sure the manufacturing hysteria continues through the week, another video has surfaced, posted on the right wing website Hot Air.

This time, it shows students in North Carolina performing at a program for parents.


CROWD: Education is the path.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I make America better?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I make America better?

CROWD: Can we make America better? Yes. Yes, we can. Yes. Yes, we can.


SHUSTER: That video is also from February, with the school giving this response: "the segment on President Obama's was less than one minute in length out of a 26-minute program which featured famous Americans of all colors and creeds. As the first African-American to be elected president of the United States, it was entirely appropriate to feature President Obama in the program, along with other famous American leaders."

Now, naturally, the folks at Cluster Fox would like you to believe that this type of indoctrination could only occur during a Democratic administration.


O'REILLY: This caused outrage across the country because it's indoctrination. Nowhere have we found any songs for President Bush, for example.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Here's the evidence that this is indoctrination. If it was George Bush, you'd be having a fit.


You just can't imagine it in a million years.

O'REILLY: It would never happen. It didn't happen.


SHUSTER: Too bad there's videotape of kids from the Gulf Coast serenading then First Lady Laura Bush, while praising then President George W. Bush for his response to Hurricane Katrina. They sang "Katrina could not stop us. Our hopes will never fade. Congress, Bush and FEMA, people across our land, together have come to rebuild us. And we join them, hand in hand."

Joining us now is the president of, Eric Burns. Good evening, Eric.


SHUSTER: So explain to me, why is indoctrination when kids sing about President Obama, but it's patriotism when kids sing about President Bush and FEMA?

BURNS: Well, David, it's not indoctrination to anybody except Karl Rove, Josh Bolton, Roger Ailes, the rest of the Bush administration in exile over at Fox News, because they're trying to push a political agenda. And they're trying to destroy this administration. And they'll use any means necessary to do it.

And to just give you a little example of this, James O'Keefe, who is the author of one of the suspect Acorn videos that there have been a lot of questions surrounding, told Chris Wallace recently on Fox News that he was employing tactics that would, quote, destroy his political enemies. That's what this is about. There's nothing abnormal about folks talking and children learning about their president, and learning about their democracy through talking about the president. I did it when I was a kid.

SHUSTER: The videos that were posted did not blur the children's faces. Both schools have pointed out that the parents were not angered by the performances, but were angered over their children's privacy being violated. Where is the right's outrage over that?

BURNS: That's a great question, especially for a movement that typically pays a lot of lip service for caring about local control, about families, and about kids. And as I understand it, it wasn't just the Youtube videos where their faces weren't blurred. The initial Fox broadcasts of these videos, their faces weren't blurred either.

The question I have, did Fox go out and get waivers from each and every one of these parents to broadcast their children's image on national television? And if they did, they ought to produce those. Frankly, it's illegal if they didn't.

SHUSTER: As far as teaching our kids about the president, is there something wrong with teaching our kids to respect the president, to sing in praise of the office of presidency, the office of the first African-American president?

BURNS: Absolutely not. As I said, I went to Catholic school in Texas. I was taught about the president. We learned to respect the presidency of the United States, to be a patriotic American. My parents were taught the same thing. This is a very normal and appropriate way to educate young children about our democracy.

It's important and it's - it just goes to show you to what lengths the folks at Fox News will go to derail the political discussion in this country, and what deplorable tactics they will do in exploiting our nation's children. I think it's really disgusting.

SHUSTER: Is that the general theme here with the right wing media, I mean, undermine the president by manufacturing controversies? Because many of the actual Obama policies are favored by the majority of Americans?

BURNS: Absolutely. We've seen it day after day. You know, Glenn Beck is the smearer in chief over at Fox News. And we see new charts documenting some new vast conspiracy theory every day, new attacks. And it's a constant barrage.

And I will tell you, this right wing noise machine has been ginned up. It's never been more ferocious. And their goal is simple, as Rush Limbaugh has stated at the beginning of the year, they want Obama to fail. Roger Ailes said that this is the Alamo for conservatives, and that Fox is the voice of the opposition.

So this is no longer a news organization. This is a political organization. And their aim is to destroy a progressive policy agenda. They'd rather win at the ballot box than see any sort of real debate on health care. It's a real shame.

SHUSTER: Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America. Eric, thanks as always. We appreciate you coming in.

BURNS: Thank you, David.

SHUSTER: Did Sarah Palin quit the governorship so she could start cashing in on her political celebrity? She spent the entire month of August working on her book. Now the publisher has pushed up the release. "Going Rogue" hits bookstore shelves in about six weeks.

And don't rush your Tango. It could lead to less than graceful endings. Will it be hammer time for the Hammer on "Dancing With the Stars?"

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, more on the Republican assault against Acorn. Why is the right so intent on destroying that group?


SHUSTER: On May 12th, then-Governor Sarah Palin announced her book deal. Two and a half months later, she left office. And a few days after that, she and her family moved to San Diego for a month, so that Palin could crash the book with her collaborator.

So in our number two story on the Countdown, as Palin's publisher announces that her book will be out months ahead of schedule, there is no doubt about how that happened, or exactly where the former governor places her priorities.

A little more than two months after resigning as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has reportedly completed work on her memoir. Her publisher, Harper Collins, which signed a multi-million dollar deal with Palin, has now moved up the publication date to November 17th, way ahead of the original schedule of Spring 2010.

The first printing, 1.5 million copies, well - that will equal the number of the late Senator Ted Kennedy's book. Palin's memoir will be 400 pages, and the title "Going Rogue: An American Life," which playfully refers to complaints from the McCain campaign during the presidential campaign that Governor Palin had publicly and irresponsibly deviated from the campaign's message.

Palin's collaborator, Lynn Vincent, is an editor of an evangelical magazine. So maybe Palin's book will be inspirational.

In any event, an extensive survey by "Politico" finds that the GOP base still loves Palin, but many leaders doubt she would be a credible presidential candidate.

Let's call in talk radio host and "Huffington Post" contributor Shannyn Moore. Good evening.


SHUSTER: We don't have advance excerpts of Palin's book yet. But the title, some thoughts on that, as well as the release date?

MOORE: Well, I think it's pretty ironic that she used that as her new title, "Going Rogue." You know, a lot of people are talking about that McCain camp had used that in - in describing how she was, you know, going all mavericky on them. Also, Tina Fey brilliantly did the I'm going all rogue.

But in Alaska, it actually has a different sort of connotation. Sarah Palin actually used that term two times to basically destroy two careers of two different men here. One was former Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. She called him a rogue commissioner for trying to secure more money for - for sexual assault victims in Alaska, which we have the highest number of, per capita.

The other one was her ex-brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, who she said was a rogue cop. She basically destroyed two lives here. Mr. Wooten is not allowed to be on the street anymore as a cop. He's at a desk job because the troopers couldn't keep him safe.

So for her to use the word rogue on herself, as though it's cute and adorable, it really isn't. She's used it to destroy people here. And I don't think Alaskans will forget that. As far as the timing goes, I think she's trying to beat a couple other books to the punch.

SHUSTER: We alluded to this already, but is there really any doubt remaining about Palin's prime motive for abandoning her elected office after only two and a half years? She saw more money on the other side?

MOORE: Well, I'm sure she's seeing lots more money on the other side. And for what people see as Alaska, we're not that many people, not even 700,000 people to be the governor over. We do have trillions of dollars worth of resources here, and managing that, and the social ills that happen here, and the climate change that's happening here, you know, it's hard work, as George Bush said about being president. And it was too hard of work for Sarah Palin.

SHUSTER: And a typical quote from the "Politico" piece that we mentioned. The former New Hampshire Republican party chairman said that Palin attracts huge crowds and is great for fund-raising, but, he added, there is the Palin paradox. Quoting, "how can you quit without finishing your first term, and then ask us to entrust the presidency to you?"

MOORE: Yes, like the rogue means the quitter. You know, I look at this, and certainly, you know, she's - she's had this ghost written by an Evangelical writer. I don't know if they plan on her base just adding this to the new testament as one of the additional books, or how they're perceiving this. The base is very small. And, you know, she can - she can raise money for them. But at what cost?

SHUSTER: And as far as the presidential campaign, would it be hard for Palin to resist speaking to big crowds, even as with the presidential campaign, she is not paid to do so?

MOORE: You know, I think thousands of people showing up and chanting, you know, Sarah Palin's name, even if she's not getting paid for that, I think for her, that's priceless.

SHUSTER: And as far as - as far as Levi Johnston, there was the big spread in "Vanity Fair," his I mean really critical comments about Sarah Palin. People in Alaska, who do they believe in all of this? Do they believe Levi Johnston's version of Sarah Palin as being lazy and not interested in essentially raising her family? Or do they believe Palin, as she fights back, as we expect her to do so in this book?

MOORE: I don't know that they believe either one of them. I think they believe their own eyes and their own ears. And they have watched Sarah Palin. And they saw her stand up and say that she was going to quit for the good of Alaskans. And the next thing you know, she's being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a speech, and making millions off of a book deal.

So I think Alaskans don't really need Levi Johnston to tell them what to believe. They just can see what she's doing themselves.

SHUSTER: Shannyn Moore, talk radio host and contributor to "Huffington Post." Shannyn, great thanks as always. We appreciate it.

MOORE: Thanks, David.

SHUSTER: From "Going Rogue" to gone dancing. Tom Delay almost dropped his partner last night. Will he get dropped from the show? Comedian Christian Finnegan up next on Countdown.


SHUSTER: It may be that if you are a former House Majority Leader indicted for violation of campaign finance laws and money laundering, then making it to two week of "Dancing With the Stars" suddenly becomes the highlight of your career. In our number one story on the Countdown, Tom Delay is making news a second week in a row, since he almost dropped his dance partner.

But for a political second act, it could be worse. Much drama unfolded last night, as the former House Majority Leader complained of excruciating foot pain. But Delay's pre-stress fracture had been previously reported. So the notion that DeLay's injury came from rehearsing the Tango can be attributed to clever editing.

Here's some highlights.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, don't get whiplash.

TOM DELAY, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing's going to stop me from doing this dance tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If your foot breaks, you're going to have to just crawl to the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's go to our judges.


SHUSTER: DeLay and partner Cheryl Burke (ph) received 18 points from the judges out of a possible 30, better than last week's score. And in fairness, there have been worse non-dancers on the show, at least in past season. One critic may have put it best when he called DeLay's performance, quote, alarmingly un-terrible.

And let's not forget the political second act of Sarah Palin, whose completion of her memoir probably means that she has now read at least one book in her life, her own? Or has she?

Let's bring in comedian Christian Finnegan. Good evening, Christian.


SHUSTER: If DeLay had actually dropped his dance partner there, is it absolutely clear that would be worse in terms of getting call-in votes? Might it have helped him in we want to see more train wrecks kind of way?

FINNEGAN: I wish he had dropped her. He is really ruining it for us by showing this modicum of proficiency. Look, Tommy, nobody booked you on this show to see you actually dance well. We wanted to laugh at you. So stop trying to skate by with these sort of classy dances like the Tango.

Next week, I want to see him out there popping and locking, maybe doing the Worm.

SHUSTER: What's with the foot pain? You almost feel sorry for him, but then somewhat mad at yourself for feeling sorry for him.

FINNEGAN: Yes, I've had a stress fracture. And I wouldn't wish that kind of pain. I have never thought, I wish Tom Delay would get a stress fracture. Now punch to the face or maybe a knee to the groin, you know, then maybe it would be a little harder.

SHUSTER: A few critics have noted that when he's not grimacing in pain, Mr. Delay giggles quite a bit. What's up with that?

FINNEGAN: Yes, at times, he kind of reminds me of that giggling Nazi guy that burns his hand at the beginning of "Raiders of The Lost Ark." It just tells me that if dancing doesn't work out, he has a serious future as a Bond villain. All he needs is a long-haired cat and an underwater fortress.

FINNEGAN: How would I know that, David? I can't watch "Dancing With the Stars." I don't know if you noticed, but I'm not the manliest guy in the world. When your sexuality is as precarious as mine, you can't risk watching "Dancing With the Stars." Just to watch that two-minute clip of Tom Delay, I had to have my wife do topless jumping jacks next to me.

SHUSTER: Easy segue. At the rate that she's going, Sarah Palin will be on "Dancing With the Stars" next season, right?

FINNEGAN: Do not tease ABC like that, David. Sarah Palin is the stuff of reality show fantasy. Do you have any idea what all of the liberals in Hollywood would do to book Sarah Palin on their show? They would vote for Sarah Palin. I know that sounds extreme, but I think it's true.

SHUSTER: As for Palin's memoir, what other great figures might you compare her to in predicting the heft of this new tome?

FINNEGAN: Well, I know where you're going here. But it is a very hefty book. I mean, it's over 400 pages, as far as I know. Of course, that does include 60 pages of photographs, 45 pages of footnotes, 13 Sudoku puzzles, a word search, and over 200 reprinted family circus cartoons.

In fact, they were so determined to make her book longer than George W. Bush's, the last two chapters are written entirely in read us form.

SHUSTER: Do you predict any bombshells or at least some more digs at Levi Johnston.

FINNEGAN: There's nothing Sarah Palin can do to Levi Johnston that adult life won't take care of itself. As far as bombshells go, my source do tell me that Sarah Palin will reveal that this entire time, she's just been a character portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, and we all fell for it.

FINNEGAN: I mean, she's not going to go to book stores and do readings, because it's entirely possible that anyone who would want to buy a Sarah Palin book wouldn't know how to locate a book store. So what she's going to do is just sell the books from the back of a truck at like Nascar rallies and Rascal Scooter dealerships.

SHUSTER: So we can't expect to see her on this show or any other show on MSNBC, talking about what actually might be in her book?

FINNEGAN: No, probably not.

SHUSTER: Comedian Christian Finnegan. Christian, great, as always.

Thank so much. We appreciate it.

FINNEGAN: Thank you, sir.

SHUSTER: Sarah Palin, coming to a book store near you. Amazing.

That will do it for this Tuesday edition of Countdown. I'm David Shuster, in for Keith Olbermann. You can usually see me weekdays on MSNBC, alongside my colleague Tamryn Hall. The show is called "The Big Picture." Tune in from 3:00 to 5:00 Eastern every day here on MSNBC.

In the meantime, our MSNBC coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening, Rachel.


Monday, September 28, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 28, 2009
video podcast

Guest: Howard Dean, Nicole Lamoureaux, Jonathan Landay, Dave Neiwert, Clarence Page


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The health care crisis for Americans: The clear and present need for reform as thousands stand in line in Texas for the chance to see a doctor. The health care crisis for some Democrats: Progressives go after Senator Baucus for not backing the public option.


BING PERRINE, BILLINGS, MONTANA: Senator Baucus, I have to ask: whose side are you on?


O'DONNELL: And other groups are now telling blue-dog Democrats: if you won't help achieve reform then we'll find a different Democrat who will.

President Obama's growing foreign policy problems: Days after Iran's secret nuclear facility is revealed, they start test-firing missiles.

In Afghanistan, as the commander-in-chief faces criticism for still working on the strategy, the commander on the ground hints just how badly the war was run under President Bush.


DAVID MARTIN, CBS REPORTER: It sounds like you're trying to deprogram eight years of bad habits.


There's an awful lot of bad habits we've got to deprogram.


O'DONNELL: Bill Clinton's conspiracy theory: The former president claims the vast right-wing conspiracy that led to his impeachment still exists today with one major difference.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: It's not as strong as it was.


O'DONNELL: But hasn't the right-wing machine not only survived but thrived and expanded exponentially since Bill Clinton left office?

Big, tough Gadhafi: "Saturday Night Live's" take on the Libyan leaders rambling, incoherent address to the U.N. His excuse, according to the "SNL" writers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On top of this mind-bending jetlag, I've also been having problems with my giant pants.


O'DONNELL: And the Olympic sales pitch.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Surely, it's within the purview of the president to root for America.


O'DONNELL: President Obama enters the fight to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago with two wars, the economic crisis and the health care debate. Why in the world is he tackling this, too?

All that and more - now on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell in for Keith Olbermann.

Tomorrow, the single most controversial real element of health care reform goes on the line as the Senate Finance Committee finally debates whether to give Americans an affordable, reliable alternative to profit-driven health insurance.

And in our number five story tonight: Now, it is the left firing warning shots to Democrats, "If you don't stand up for the public option, you'll have to stand up to us."

Last week, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said he will bring the public option up for debate and vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

In the meantime, several developments. Among them, a health care fair held by TV's Dr. Mehmet Oz, offering checkups and care to those who need it. Almost 1,800 turned up. "A record," Oz said. And not surprising, since it was held in Texas, where a higher percentage of people lack health insurance than in any other state.

But if the record-setting plight of their constituents fails to move Texas Republicans, several liberal groups are hoping home-state pressure will move Democrats to support a public option. Foremost among them, Max Baucus of Montana, the finance chairman, who did not include a public option in his version of the bill - which is why Senator Rockefeller has to fight for it tomorrow.

Two progressive groups will launch a new ad in Montana and in D.C., hitting Baucus from the left for failing to back a public option.


PERRINE: My name is Bing Perrine. I live here in Billings, Montana, with my beautiful wife and baby boy. Last June, I collapsed because of congenital heart problems. I need open-heart surgery but have no insurance and no company will insure me.

My friends and family have been a blessing, with hearts as big as a Montana sky, they've helped with bake sales and benefits. But my wife and I still owe over $100,000 in medical bills. None of this debt would have piled up if I'd had the option of buying into a health insurance plan. Private insurance companies need competition. They profit by denying care to people like me.

Senator Baucus, when you take millions of dollars from health and insurance interests that oppose reform - and opposing giving families like mine the choice of a public option - I have to ask: whose side are you on?

ANNOUNCER: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are responsible for the contents of this advertising.


O'DONNELL: Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper, meanwhile, getting even tougher pushback for not backing a public option as a political action committee led by progressive leaders from Daily Kos and Firedoglake are now recruiting candidates to challenge Cooper in next year's primaries. Robert Pear in "The New York Times" today reports that the final Senate bill, the version Majority Leader Harry Reid will cobble together from the health committee bill and the finance committee bill, will not include a public option, according to unnamed senior Democratic Senate aides.

Responding to the story, a spokesman for Senator Reid said any such decision would prejudice tomorrow's outcome for the public option.

OK. But will it be in the final Senate version? Reid's spokesman says, quote, "We don't know."

Let's bring in Dr. Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and chairman of the Democratic Party, author of "Howard Dean's Prescription For Real Health Care Reform."

Thanks for joining us tonight, Doctor.

HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIR: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Governor Dean, is there any reason to think the public option really has a shot this week in the Senate? You have.

DEAN. Yes.

O'DONNELL: . unnamed Senate sources saying it will not be in the final bill, and then the best Senator Reid spokesman can come up with is "I don't know" to question of whether it will be in the final bill. What's your - what's your guess here?

DEAN: Well, look, this is a bill that George Bush would love. It's a massive redistribution of government taxpayers' money to the insurance industry, exactly the same thing that was going on in the banking industry and other industries on Wall Street. It is a bad bill, this finance committee bill. It doesn't insure people, and it spends an awful lot of money and it gives it away to the insurance companies.

So, I do think ultimately the bill will have a public option in it because I don't think the Democratic Party is going to stand for this.

O'DONNELL: What is - what's your theory about how you get it? If Jay Rockefeller doesn't succeed tomorrow, if they go - and if they then go to the Senate floor without it, do you think it gets amended into the bill on the Senate floor? How will they - how will they get it?

DEAN: Well, first of all, there's no reason to go to the floor without it. You've already had one committee that's acted on this - Chris Dodd's committee - that has done the right thing and put in a public option. So, there's no reason you shouldn't have it in the public bill. There will be a vote, and we think that there are 51 or 52 senators, Democratic senators, who will vote for some sort of public option. That is really essential.

If you don't have a public option, you are wasting nearly $1 trillion of government money and giving it to the health insurance industry. I think that is a terrible mistake. I know very well that is not what President Obama planned on when he was campaigning. And we have just got to get the 51 votes in the Senate in order to get this done, and I think we will.

O'DONNELL: Now, put on your hat as former chairman of the DNC. How do you feel about seeing Democrats attack Democrats politically over this and some people trying to get primary challenges against congressmen like Jim Cooper in Tennessee? Is that something you would advise against as ultimately self-destructive, or is this a way to get what some might think of as stronger Democrats in those seats?

DEAN: Well, look, here's the problem. The problem is, we have a very big majority. But if you don't use your majority, you lose your majority. And that's exactly what's happening right now in Democratic Party. There is no reason - 65 percent of the people, Lawrence, 65 percent of the American people in a CBS poll that was put out a couple of days ago want a public option. A public option is simply allowing people to sign up for Medicare if they're under 65. That's a very good public option.

And there's no reason - you know, I don't understand why these senators aren't voting for what 65 percent of their constituents want. That is what I don't understand. And of course people are going to be upset if they ask you to do something, they're paying your salary and you're voting with the people who give you huge campaign contributions. Of course, people are going to get upset about that.

So, as former DNC chair, I hate to see this happen to the Democratic party, but I would just ask the senators, "Look, we've been through a tough time together, we've worked really hard together to get you a majority, please use your majority for the people of this country, not for the insurance industry."

O'DONNELL: No one has better sources on this than Robert Pear of "The New York Times." And he's also reporting today that Harry Reid intends to defer to President Obama on the tough calls about what should go in into the Senate bill that he brings out onto the Senate floor.

So, isn't the White House where all this energy should be focused right now? I mean, Jim Cooper in the House, you could pass a bill with or without him. He doesn't matter, compared to what Rahm Emanuel and President Obama are deciding in the White House should be in that Senate bill in order to get to final passage.

So, again, isn't that where the attention should be now?

DEAN: The attention - every Democrat's going to sink or swim

together on this. If we don't - we pass a bill that just is a big

giveaway to the insurance industry, which is what the Senate's working on

right now, every Democrat will suffer, from President Obama right down to -

even Democrats who vote for the right thing will suffer. We're all in this together in the Democratic Party, and we've got to do the right thing here.

O'DONNELL: Step me through a scenario in which a bill comes to the Senate floor that for the final vote on it is a bill that you oppose, it has no public option, no real cost controls, no ability to really subsidize insurance at the level it would need to be subsidized to make it affordable, and you - and you end up recommending a vote against that. Let's say the vote against that carries on the Senate floor. Do you then expect that this whole thing could be picked up and started over again and maybe passed next year?

DEAN: No. What I would do if that were to happen is, I would hope that people would strip out the money from the bill, because it's stupid to give $60 billion of taxpayers' money to the insurance industry every year, and pass the insurance reform. There is good insurance reform in this bill, and all the five committees that have - the finance committee and the health committee, the three committees in the House.

This is stuff we did 15 years ago when I was governor of Vermont, guaranteed, issued, and community-ready. It won't insure a lot more people, but it will stop the insurance companies from kicking people off their roles as they do now. So, there is some good stuff in this bill. It's just not worth spending all that taxpayer money on.

O'DONNELL: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean - great thanks for your time tonight.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

O'DONNELL: And joining us now is Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, which sponsored the Texas fair we told you about. Thanks for joining us.


O'DONNELL: And so, who shows up at a fair like yours, before 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday, trying to get free health care in Texas?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think, first and foremost, we have to say that the Lone Star Association of Charitable Clinics and the Houston Charitable Clinics showed up and 700 volunteers showed up first.

And then second, the people who showed up there are working Americans, people who have jobs but have no health care option. We saw teachers. We saw a former WNBA player. These are people who are coming to these free clinics.

O'DONNELL: Now, one of the things people wonder about in the health care reform legislation is how much pent-up demand is there for people who currently are uninsured and actually need to get a physician's attention? And what is your experience that these clinics show us?

LAMOUREAUX: Sure. I think what these clinics are showing you and what free clinics around the United States are showing you is that our numbers have continued to grow. In 2008, we saw 4 million people. In 2009, we are going to see 8 million people. And we do this with little to no state or federal support. And the demand is just continuing to grow and grow.

O'DONNELL: Now, we've seen these clinics in other parts of the country - Los Angeles and Tennessee, for example. One of the clinics that you ran in Tennessee actually provoked an insider in the health insurance business to just say, "I can't take this anymore," and he became a whistleblower. These clinics do seem to show us exactly what the need is out there.

How do you connect what's going on in these clinics to what's going on in Washington? And how do you - how do you make that connect in the moment when senators are casting votes?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think the first thing we need to make sure that the senators understand is that free clinics are different than federally qualified health centers. Federally qualified health centers that have received money in the stimulus package and the health reform bill, and free clinics, we haven't received any funds at all. We mobilize thousands of volunteers to service the nation's uninsured.

So, I think that's a very big difference. We do have a delivery model that works, and we would love to help Congress and the president in this discussion. So, we just continue to go out there and explain to them who we are and what we do and the patients that we're servicing every day.

O'DONNELL: And how do you choose your locations? I mean, for example, was Texas chosen because it has the highest percentage of uninsured in the country?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, of course. I think that when this event came up and it was great that we had a partner with Dr. Oz, Texas being the number-one state for uninsurance and Harris County having one in three being uninsured, it seemed like a natural location for us to go.

O'DONNELL: And - so, where do you go from here? Is there - do you have another one of these scheduled at this point?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think what Texas showed us is what free clinics do every day. That's just an enormous scale of the patients that free clinics see every day and how we can move patients along. So, right now what we're doing is concentrating on the efforts that free clinics have been doing since the 1960s.

O'DONNELL: And if the single-payer system were to go into effect, this would really put you out of business on free clinics, as people have free access around the country. Is that the day you're looking forward to?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think as long as the public option actually takes care of our patients, really what we need to make sure is that any plan that goes into place gives people access to care - and that's complete access to care. So, at this point in time, we're just going to continue servicing the patients who need the service and working with Congress and see what we can do in the future.

O'DONNELL: Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, thanks for your time tonight.

LAMOUREAUX: Thank you very much.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: The wrong message at the wrong time. Iran test-fires its most sophisticated missiles ever on the eve of international talks on its nuclear program. What is President Obama's next move?

And remember the vast right-wing conspiracy? President Clinton says it still exists but it's just not so vast anymore. Has the former president turned on the TV or listened to the radio lately or even ever been online?

That and more - ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: President Obama's foreign policy problems. Iran test-fires missiles in the middle of concerns over its secret nuclear sites. Meantime, the president is gathering his entire national security team to figure out the way forward in Afghanistan.

All of that and a last-minute presidential trip to Copenhagen to win the Olympics for Chicago. That's next.

This is Countdown.


O'DONNELL: With a domestic agenda that would be more than enough for any leader, President Obama now faces an expanding set of foreign policy problems that may well end up defining his presidency.

In our fourth story on the Countdown: Disagreement within the administration over the war in Afghanistan and the new urgency over what to do about Iran.

Over the past two days, Iran successfully test-fired medium-range missiles which can reach up to 1,200 miles. That's far enough to reach Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe. A Revolutionary Guard commander said, quote, "Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran." This just days after the U.S. and its allies disclosed the existence of another uranium enrichment plant in Iran.

A Geneva meeting between Iran and the six major powers, including the U.S., is set for this Thursday. And the Obama administration is working to assemble a new package of far stricter sanctions unless Iran agrees to immediate inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Simultaneously, the Obama administration faces an undeniably tough choice on how to proceed in Afghanistan. Tomorrow, the president will meet in the White House Situation Room to discuss Afghanistan with General David Petraeus, General Stanley McChrystal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

General McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, advocates another increase in troop levels for Afghanistan. But General McChrystal has also been frank about how the strategy in Afghanistan must be significantly different than that of the past eight years.


MCCHRYSTAL: I think that in some areas, the breadth of violence, the geographic spread of violence, places to the north and to the west, are a little more than I would have gathered.

What I'm really telling people is: the greatest risk we can accept is to lose the support of the people here. If the people are against us, we cannot be successful. If the people view us as occupiers and the enemy, we can't be successful and our casualties will go up dramatically.

I'm confident that I will have an absolute chance to provide my assessment and to make my recommendations.


O'DONNELL: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was among those President Obama consulted over the weekend as he considers Afghanistan's strategy. The president also reached out to his former rival, Senator John McCain, for what was described as a brief chat. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly supports a reduced but more focused U.S. presence in the region.

The political components of President Obama's decision is complicated, as well, since recent public opinion polls do not support a troop increase in Afghanistan with many Republicans eager to portray the president as weak on national security issues.

Let's bring in the senior national security and intelligence correspondent from "McClatchy" newspapers, Jonathan Landay.

Thanks for your time tonight.


O'DONNELL: What do the Iranian missile tests add to the tension of Thursday's meeting in Geneva?

LANDAY: Well, let's put it in context. The fact is that these missile tests took place as part of a regular military exercise, so they were probably scheduled anyway. The fact is that they went ahead and they went ahead several days before these very crucial talks in Geneva, they went ahead several days after the disclosure that Iran is, in fact, building and has been building a second uranium enrichment plant.

So, certainly they don't - they don't do anything in terms of raising the prospect of any kind of agreement being reached this week in Geneva.

O'DONNELL: Now, this is not a top-level meeting in Geneva. It's foreign ministers and, in our case, undersecretary of state. Hillary Clinton says that the U.S. position in that meeting will be to simply say, "Prove it," when Iran repeats its insistence that its nuclear program is only for energy and not for weapons.

How will Iran respond to that challenge?

LANDAY: Well, we've seen that question put to Iran for years now, and we've seen Iran respond by saying, "Well, you know, everything that we're doing is legal," and they're very likely to do that again. The fact is that the facility that's being constructed - at least according to U.S. intelligence officials - does not have equipment - the centrifuges in place, those are the machines that enrich uranium.

And, therefore, the question is: what would U.N. inspectors be able to see and adduce once Iran let them in, when Iran lets them in. That's the question. Iran has said it would let U.N. inspectors in, but when that is going to take place is the question going to be put to the Iranians this week in Geneva.

The other question, of course, is: will the Iranians be able to count on China and Russia to help them forestall any new sanctions that the United States, Britain, and France want to put on Iran?

O'DONNELL: Now, you've just returned from Afghanistan. Do you think that the situation on the ground points to an obvious choice for the president on troop levels now?

LANDAY: Not at all. In fact, it's a very confused situation on the ground. It's one that I don't think anybody really has a firm grip on. I mean, when I went - and I've been going to this country for quite many - a few many years - I was unaware that the fact, until I went up there, that the Taliban has now made in - has now infiltrated up into several northern provinces of Afghanistan. And, therefore, the situation does not lend itself to an easy answer.

If you want to put more troops - if they decide they want to put more troops in, the fact is that there are downsides to that. This current situation cannot be sustained, and, in fact, if the Taliban is not stopped, the dimension of crisis that will take place in that region will be quite huge. And, therefore, it's not an easy thing for the president to decide.

O'DONNELL: Now, words like "commitment" and "leadership" come up a lot whenever there's an analysis of how the president should make his next move in Afghanistan. But there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the notion that leadership and commitment can only be expressed by increasing troop levels.

How should the president deal with that if, for example, he chooses a different course, something other than a troop increase?

LANDAY: We'll have to wait and see. But the fact is, those who are advocating increased troop levels are, for the most part, people who supported the invasion of Iraq. And it's because of the invasion of Iraq that there haven't been enough troops in Afghanistan to deal with the situation there, to have dealt with the situation when it was manageable four or five years ago. Now these very same advocates are now saying we need to put more troops in Afghanistan.

Well, the fact is there are still 130,000 American troops in Iraq. The question is: where would - where are these extra troops going to come from? If you have more troops, that means more targets, which means more violence, which means more civilian deaths, which means more opposition to the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan. And, therefore, it's not an easy prospect just to sit and advocate.

O'DONNELL: And finally, if he does go for more troop - troop

increase in Afghanistan, how can President Obama explain that to a country

to his country to get a majority support for that, which currently is not there?

LANDAY: It's going to be very difficult. And the fact is that a lot of people believe that the answer is not - is not a military answer. The fact is that there's a lack of governance in Afghanistan. There's a lack of justice that the people of Afghanistan don't enjoy, and that the members of that government are very powerful people, warlords in that country, are able to get a level of justice that other people don't have. And that may be a way of dealing with the situation other than just pumping more military force into that country.

O'DONNELL: Jonathan Landay of "McClatchy" newspapers, thanks for joining us.

LANDAY: My pleasure.

O'DONNELL: If all of those waiting foreign policy issues weren't enough for President Obama, over the weekend, he decided to throw himself into the 2016 Olympics bid for Chicago. We'll talk about the politics of the Olympics and the instant right-wing attack on the president for trying to win the Olympics for the USA.

Also ahead, no news story could adequately convey the other absurdity of Moammar Gadhafi's trip to New York last week. That's why we have "Saturday Night Live."


O'DONNELL: Former President Bill Clinton says the right wing is weaker now than it was when he was president. How do you explain the birthers, the deathers and the tea partiers, not to mention Glenn Beck? Our third story on the Countdown, The 42nd president invokes the vast right-wing conspiracy, except, according to Mr. Clinton, it's not so vast anymore.

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking on "Meet the Press," defending President Obama and sounding off against right-wing attacks. All well and good, except Mr. Clinton claims conservative ire is just as toxic as it was in the '90s, it's just not as strong.


DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS": Your wife famously talked about the vast right-wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was. I mean, they're saying things about him. You know, it's like when they accused me of murder and all that stuff they did.

But it's not really good for the Republicans of the country, what's going on now. I mean, they may be hurting President Obama. They can take his numbers down. They can run his opposition up. But fundamentally, he and his team have a positive agenda for America. Their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail. And that's not a prescription for a good America.


O'DONNELL: Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the right wing has not only survived, it has thrived and expanded. Case in point, the story of two black students in Illinois beating up a white student on a school bus. The "Drudge Report" trumpeted the story on its front page, "white student beaten on school bus, crowd cheers." Rush Limbaugh ran with that and said the incident was part of Obama's America. And then Fox News echoed the Drudge/Limbaugh talking points throughout the day.

And who can forget the mythical debt panels. After GOP fear-monger Betsy McCoy floated the concept of fake euthanasia, Sarah Palin warned of government death panels on Facebook. Senator Chuck Grassley fed into the fear, raising the specter of pulling the plug on grandma. With Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity providing a constant echo on death panels.

Mr. Clinton, we have some 21st century news for you here. The vast right-wing propaganda machine is not shrinking; it is growing.

Joining me now is managing editor for "Crooks and Liars" and author of "Eliminationists, How the Right-Wing Hate Radicalized the American Right." Dave Neiwert, good evening, sir. Thanks for joining us.

DAVE NEIWERT, "CROOKS AND LIARS": Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Now, for half the Clinton presidency, Fox News, which supplies most of these talking points and keeps them running all day, did not even exist. How can President Clinton really try to claim that the right-wing propaganda machine has somehow gotten weaker when it's expanded exponentially?

NEIWERT: Well, I think that maybe he is maybe thinking of the actual power that the American right holds in the country right now. I mean, obviously they're pretty much out of power right now. And from '94 on, that wasn't the case for him.

However, I think that what is really striking and actually a really useful comparison/contrast sort of thing is to look at what was happening to him and compare it to Obama at this early stage in his presidency. You know, the complete sort of wing nuttery that's coming out of the right right now, you know, the belief in things that are proven to be untrue, and all kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories.

This was something that didn't really start happening to Clinton until about '94 or '95. And it didn't - certainly didn't happen on a massive basis until like '98 or '99. And we're seeing this already in the first year of Obama's presidency. And it's happening on a much larger scale than it happened to Clinton.

So I think that is kind of an inept comparison, or at least an inept claim on his part.

O'DONNELL: Now, you could argue that Bill Clinton gave his attackers some openings by having to admit to certain sex scandals and having so many rumors about other things like that. Barack Obama has given them no such opening in any way. And is that why they revert to things like imagining death panels and just pulling things out of thin air?

NEIWERT: Yes. They pretty much have to. I mean, it's obvious that

they're going to try to sort of oppose him any way they can, and undermine

him and attack him any way they can. But, yes, I mean, we started hearing

right away that he was planning to take away our guns, which was, you know,

one of the big things that they brought up about Clinton. It was part of -

a large part of what fueled the militia movement and the sort of paranoia black helicopter crowd that we saw so much of in the '90s.

And a lot of what I sort of explain in my book is that a lot of the sort of hateful talk that we're seeing now had its origins in that movement. And the important thing to understand is that in the '90s, people saying this stuff were, you know, marginal figures like John Troktman (ph) of the militia of Montana and Beau Wrights (ph). Those kinds of figures were the ones spreading these conspiracy theories. And they were doing it to small crowds of people.

Now we have Glenn Beck repeating stuff that I swear I heard Linda Thompson say back in the 1990s. And he's doing it to an audience of millions.

O'DONNELL: And when President Clinton started on the national stage, Rush Limbaugh was not anything like the national phenomenon he became during the Clinton years. Now Barack Obama has Rush Limbaugh to deal with on a daily basis, as well as Glenn Beck.


O'DONNELL: I mean, right there you've got double the burden that Bill Clinton ever faced, don't you?

NEIWERT: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, Limbaugh's audience wasn't anything the size in '93, '94 that it is now. So, yes, it's significantly greater sort of - we call it - in the blogosphere, we call it the Wurlitzer, the right-wing Wurlitzer. And this refers to sort of the orchestrated talking point machine that the right wing has put up.

And so much of this is just, like I say, provably false stuff, everything from him, you know, talking about taking our guns away, to the birthers, to the death panels, as you say. It's - it has an unhinging effect on the audience, particularly when people, you know, start to believe this stuff. And it has really a toxic effect on the national discourse as a result.

O'DONNELL: David Neiwert, managing editor of, thanks for joining us.

NEIWERT: My pleasure.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, a presidential first. Barack Obama will intervene directly in the international fight to host the 2016 Olympics. Can his worldwide popularity bring home a big get for his adopted hometown of Chicago?

First, Gadhafi gets shot down trying to pitch his tent in New York.

And then "Saturday Night Live" takes its shot at Gadhafi.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias lost his job for not going after Acorn. He talks to Rachel about who is behind the attacks on Acorn now.


O'DONNELL: While the United Nations was treated last week to the arresting visual image of Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, the nation was captured by repeated aerial shots of his tent, the one which he never actually managed to occupy. So, in our number-two story on the Countdown, "Saturday Night Live" has, of course, stepped in to provide the necessary epilogue. A brand-new speech by the Libyan dictator explaining why his first speech went on for 136 minutes, and how difficult it is to be a man without a tent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I'm here today to apologize for my speech on Wednesday. It was just so long and so rambling, and it didn't make any sense.

I watched a tape of it, and I was, like, who is that guy? But allow me to explain. As I mentioned in my speech Wednesday, I am suffering from extreme jet lag. Just to explain the scope of this jet lag, my home in Libya is six hours ahead of New York.

Six. Can you imagine this? From 9:00 a.m. here, it is 3:00 p.m. there. It is 1:00 p.m. here; it is 7:00 p.m. there. I could go on, but I believe you get the picture - 4:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.

No man who is six hours away from where his natural body clock is telling him he is can be held to account for his words or actions. When it is lunch time here, I want dinner. This is no way to live.

On top of this mind-bending jet lag, I have also been having problems with my giant tent. You do not know when I travel I have a large tent that I like to bring with me. For this, I am scorned as some kind of weirdo. Despite my high diplomatic station, my tent and I were turned away by Central Park, Westchester County, and, worst of all, Inglewood, New Jersey.

Imagine me, the world's longest-serving leader, agreeing to stay in Inglewood, New Jersey, as a last resort, only to be told that Inglewood, New Jersey, did not want me. Inglewood, New Jersey.

Let's just say I will not be flying home to brag about that, both because it is embarrassing and also because, with the time difference, anyone I call home to in Libya will be sound asleep.

Try to wrap your head around that. So I was dealing with both jet lag and a tent situation. Making matters worse, the computer with my speech crashed. So I had to write one at the last minute on loose leaf paper. And that made me look crazy.

This was crushing. If I had written my speech on the plane ride here instead of watching the in-flight movie "Taken" staring Liam Neeson. Everyone - and I mean everyone on the plane was watching "Taken." Imagine trying to write a speech while out of the corner of your eye the great Liam Neeson is running through Paris trying to recover his daughter, stopping everyone who gets in his way with both his intellect and his strength.

This was no fun for me. But I made the sacrifice and wrote my speech.

Then, boom, computer crash.


O'DONNELL: Coming up, the presidential sales job. President Obama decides at the last minute to go to Copenhagen to help make the final push for Chicago's Olympic bid. Will he have the golden touch with the International Olympics Committee?


O'DONNELL: Chicago has tried and failed to get the Olympic games before. Back in 1904, Chicago was actually named the host of the Olympics. But St. Louis, already hosting the World's Fair that year, pleaded to have the games moved there. Organizers agreed, and St. Louis essentially stole the Olympics from Chicago.

In our number one story, for the games in 2016, Chicago is up against Madrid, Rio, and Tokyo. And the Windy City's favorite son isn't taking any chances. The White House announced this morning that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen for the International Olympic Committee's final vote on the 2016 host city.

The president was set to skip the trip because of the on-going health care debate, but changed his mind this weekend. According to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today, President Obama believes that health care, quote, is in a better place.

President Obama will leave Thursday evening. He will join the First Lady, Oprah Winfrey, and others as part of Chicago's final presentation to voters Friday morning, and then return home. The trip is unprecedented for an American president.

However, Brazil and Spain are sending their leaders to Copenhagen, and Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin helped secure Olympic games for their countries in 2012 and 2014.

Still, there are those who sense something rotten in the state of Denmark, like Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center, who managed to weave narcissism and wife beating into his criticism of the president's decision.


BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: This is evidence that this man just cannot stay away from the klieg lights. In a way, it's a bit of a slap, certainly not intended - but it is a bit of a slap at Michelle Obama.


O'DONNELL: Joining me now is "Chicago Tribune" editorial board member and Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, Clarence Page. Thanks for joining us, Clarence.

CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Thank you for having me.

O'DONNELL: Now, there is more serious criticism out there than the crazy Bozell stuff about President Obama leaving Thursday night. He will be back Friday. You know, there are people saying doesn't he have enough to do already as president. Do you think, Clarence, that there's any chance that when we look back on health care reform in 2009, we'll be saying, gee, the president shouldn't have gone to Copenhagen?

PAGE: I think there's very little chance of that, Lawrence. I'm happy to hear Brent Bozell is so concerned about Michelle Obama's feelings. But, in fact, the trip is, like you say, about 24 hours. Obama's going to sleep on Air Force One. He is supposed to spend all of five hours on the ground, I suspect for the sake of a five-minute photo-op with the other competing world leaders who are going to be there. That's really what this is all about.

O'DONNELL: Clarence, why do I get the feeling that this thing is wired ahead of time? There's something about Chicago politicians - something about Chicago politicians being involved? You know, Tony Blair started this by going to Singapore in 2005 to make his meeting.

PAGE: Right.

O'DONNELL: Vladimir Putin went to Guatemala City to make his pleading. I just can't imagine Vladimir Putin going to make that trip without knowing ahead of time that if he showed up, he was going to get it. Isn't that what we're looking at here? Is that -

PAGE: Yes. I find it hard to imagine that President Obama would be making this trip without being pretty sure he's gotten some inside word that, hey, you know, the IOC, the Olympic Committee, is just right on the fence here. And if you show up in person, you can seal the deal.

You know, other world leaders are going to be there. And Michelle Obama, as charming and effective as she is, what kind of a photo-op would that be with the other, you know, chief executives and we've got the First Lady there? It's hard to present the Flotus when everybody's looking for the Potus. That's kind of what you've got here.

The Olympic Committee is a fickle bunch. They like to be - kind of like TV talk show hosts, present company excepted, of course, Lawrence. But those who don't show up as guests can wind up being targets of commentary. And that's the way the Olympic Committee tends to operate.

So, I think Obama, on behalf of his country and his hometown, is pretty smart to make this trip.

O'DONNELL: Well, if all the Chicago politicians involved here do not have this thing wired, and if the president somehow loses, if he's flying home having lost to the president of Brazil, how is that going to look this weekend? There is a risk in that. That could look pretty ridiculous.

PAGE: Lawrence, remember Richard Nixon's statement about the presidential race. There are no silver medals in this race. There are no silver medals when you're going after the Olympics. You either get it or you don't. And I think if President Obama didn't get the gold here, he would suffer the agony of defeat from his critics back here and his international standing.

One can only imagine, you know, what kind of beating that might take as far as his image is concerned. He's had a pretty good ride on the international scene, but things are getting down to crunch time now. The Iran negotiations are starting Thursday, the same time he goes to Copenhagen. There are reports that Vladimir Putin, you just mentioned -

Russia is a sensitive matter.

The whole world right now is a very sensitive matter for this president. But the Olympics are part of international affairs, as well.

O'DONNELL: Clarence Page, syndicated columnist for the "Chicago Tribune," thanks very much for your time tonight.

PAGE: Thank you. Appreciate it.

O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Monday edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC coverage now continues with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening, Rachel.