Thursday, September 10, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, September 10, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons

Special Comment:
Wilson's factual failure worse than his incivility
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Lawrence O'Donnell, Rep. Anthony Weiner


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

The three-ring deather-birther-shouter circus comes to the biggest tent of them all.





OLBERMANN: Congressman Wilson, the chief clown of the circus, apologizes but not formally and for the wrong thing.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He apologized quickly and without equivocation, and I'm appreciative of that.


WILSON: I want to tell you this, that it was spontaneous.


OLBERMANN: So as most flatulence. The outburst might have been spontaneous but Wilson being wrong on the facts of Section 246 was not - the enabling of, the celebration of the Republican culture of being wrong at the top of your voice. Tonight - a "Special Comment."

With opposition to reform now reduced to deather-birther-shouters, can the president now get the reform he outlined passed? He meets with Democratic senators on the fringe and with nurses in the trenches.


OBAMA: If there are real concerns about any aspect of my plan, let's address them. If there are real differences, let's resolve them.


OLBERMANN: Congressman Anthony Weiner on if this is enough and what's next.

Sarah Palin mushes further into the wilderness. Obama last night "demonized victims of the war on terror" when he pointed out the Iraq war costs money. Must have been the speech given by the voices inside her head.

Speaking of which.


OBAMA: Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people.

They do it because it's profitable.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: He said tonight that insurance executives are bad people.


OLBERMANN: "Worst Persons" has another landslide winner.

And a "Special Comment": It isn't being a jerk that's the problem. It's being a jerk who's wrong on the facts. We must reclaim this land from the - yes, sir - from the morons!

All that and more - now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from our very temporary accommodations in New York.

The memo having instructed those who were against health care reform to, quote, "rock the boat early in the presentation, to yell out and challenge the statements, to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda, stand up and shout and sit right back down."

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina apparently taking that advice, mixing in his long-standing anger management issues and mistaking a presidential joint address to Congress for a town hall meeting.

Later in this newshour, my "Special Comment" on Congressman Wilson's behavior and the true problems therein.

We begin with the latest details. Mr. Wilson today apologizing, which seemed only reluctantly and only under duress for having shouted at the president of the United States, "You lie."


WILSON: Well, I last night heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate. I did.


OLBERMANN: He has not yet resigned. Having apologized only because somebody else wanted him to do so, no big leap then that Congressman Wilson still believes that President Obama is lying.


WILSON: In particular, on the issue, which I think is very important, of whether the bills cover - would include illegal aliens or not. Indeed, the bills that are before Congress would include illegal aliens. And I think this is wrong. We need to be discussing issues specifically to help the American people. And that would not include illegal aliens.

These are people - I'm for immigration, legal immigration. I've been an immigration attorney. But people who have come to our country and violated laws, we should not be providing full health care services.


OLBERMANN: Now, just as last night, the facts not even close to backing up the bluster. According to the folks at Pulitzer Prize-winning, the health care reform legislation being discussed in the house leaves in place the status quo on illegal immigration - meaning that no benefits specific to illegal immigrants would be provided under the new plan. The White House is reiterating today that undocumented immigrants would not be allowed to buy into the public exchange.

A broader point perhaps and more relevant: the president was not discussing two amendments in one bill, making its way through the House. He was outlining the entire plan as it will look once it reaches his desk.

We rejoin Congressman Wilson with possibly the most relevant sound bite of a long day.


WILSON: It was spontaneous. It was when he stated, as he did, about not covering illegal aliens when I knew he had those two amendments. And I say that respectfully.


OLBERMANN: Frankly, sir, you don't know what that latter word means, respect being something that a colonel in the reserves would have for his commander, let alone his commander-in-chief. Colonel Joe Wilson of the South Carolina National Guard Reserve having breached military protocol on top of everything else. Republican Congressman Wilson apparently at liberty to abandon respectful conduct, his leadership today backing him up by insinuating that the president did, in fact, lie in last night's speech.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Thirdly, he said illegal immigrants wouldn't get benefits. H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on non-citizens participating in and paying for coverage available through the exchange, whether the non-citizens are illegally or illegally present or in the United States temporarily or permanently.


OLBERMANN: This is a health care reform debate. If you want to have an immigration reform debate, wait your turn and tell your side that what you are asking is that every person in this country who seeks medical attention in a hospital in the United States, including native-born Republicans, would have to present proof of birth every time. In other words, you want national identity cards to be checked and rechecked and - faked?

Senator Graham of South Carolina taking a page out of the Karl Rove playbook by today accusing the president - the president of having behaved in an undignified manner last night, criticizing the tone of his speech, not the crazy tone of a member of his own state's congressional delegation but the tone of the president.

Boss Limbaugh, meanwhile, apparently upset that he was not consulted before the apology.


LIMBAUGH: I'm going to tell you something. One of the things that's really irritated me all morning and last night was listening to Republicans, even after Wilson has apologized - and I wish he had not - but he's apologized, and even after he's apologized, members of his own party are all over television denigrating him - yes was bad decorum.

Folks, can I tell you what's happening here? This is not - this speech last night and this administration is not your average presidential administration. This is not a garden party. This is not a lecture at Harvard or in any other university. We are in the process - we are in the midst of an administration that is trying to totally tear down the institutions and traditions that have made this country great.

He is lying - President Obama is - from the moment he opens his mouth until he ends the speech.


OLBERMANN: Elsewhere on your insane radio dial, Sean Hannity assuring his guest, Congressman Wilson, that he was right and the Democrats have treated President Bush with just as much disrespect.


HANNITY: So, at the end of the day, you're right and the president was wrong.

The left is going to mobilize against you - and I say this because they have called the president every name in the book.

And they never apologized, by the way, Congressman. Do you think there's a double standard here?

WILSON: Oh, quite a double standard.


OLBERMAN: Yes. Yes, there is. Elected Democrats never shouted lies at President Bush during any of his speeches. If they'd done that, Bush never would have finished his first speech.

Meantime, the denouement to all this - overnight, Mr. Wilson's very safe house seat in the high-rent tourist area of South Carolina shifted to "in play." Congressman Wilson's challenger in next year's midterm election, Rob Miller, today raising more than half a million dollars and counting. That was some shout.

The president, meantime, always eager to find common ground, today accepting Congressman Wilson's apology.


OBAMA: I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation, and I'm appreciative of that.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Lawrence O'Donnell, contributor to "The Huffington Post," former chief of staff on the Senate Finance Committee.

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN: With everything that Congressman Wilson said today, that minority leader Boehner said today, Limbaugh, Hannity - did the Republicans take what was already an untenable position for them and manage somehow to succeed in making it worse?

O'DONNELL: Well, they've become very good at that. And following campaign manager Limbaugh is to follow him off the cliff. He has advised the Republicans into a series of losses here, 2006 congressional campaign, the presidential campaign this time around, congressional campaigns this time around. He is not the guy to listen to.

You know, I didn't listen to Rush today, Keith, but here in Washington, I did listen to some African-American talk radio. There's another phenomenon out there, which is, in black America, they are noticing that the very first president in the television age to be heckled, the first president to suffer a heckling in that situation is the first black president. That has not gone unnoticed. There is a very particular offense being taken in the African-American community tonight.

OLBERMANN: And, by the way, thus the first congressman to heckle a president during the speech happens to be a member of the radicalized group the Sons of Confederate Veterans. So, if there is any implication there, in fact, there are two implications there.

But back to this - the meaning of this incident going forward. When

the Dixie Chicks criticized President Bush on stage at a concert in London,

the right tried to blacklist them. The Iraqi journalist who threw the shoe

at the last president of the United States wound up probably appropriately

· at least temporarily if not in terms of length - in jail.

Am I wrong in thinking that if a Democrat in Congress had, indeed, yelled "You lie" at President Bush - and Lord knows there was opportunity to do that - the outcry here would have been almost indescribable?

O'DONNELL: And I don't think we'd hear from the congressman again. They'd get him shipped off to Guantanamo overnight. I mean, yes, Keith, the reaction - I mean, Sean Hannity - it's just unimaginable to me what the reaction would be because the truth of the matter is guys like Hannity do not believe in the First Amendment. They believe that the First Amendment applies to them and that there are things you must not and cannot say to Republican presidents.

So, yes, it would be just hysterical reaction on their part, absolutely.

OLBERMANN: And this was obviously the childish action during that speech that got the most attention last night. But was it actually the worst?

There's now photographic evidence that the Congressman Shimkus of Illinois, who is the "God will stop global warming, don't worry" guy, walked out on the speech. He didn't even have a Democratic opponent for 2010. Did he just buy himself one?

O'DONNELL: Well, he's in about as safe a district as it gets. He's in southern Illinois, one of two congressional districts that voted against President Obama in Illinois. His district went for McCain but with 54 percent of the vote. He wins - his last election, he won at about 64 percent versus 33 percent for the Democrats.

So, he's got to lose 30 points in this exchange, and I don't think that's very likely for just walking out. And if he does risk the wrath of his voters for that, I think he probably has time to make up a good excuse about how urgently he needed to get to that men's room before anyone else.

OLBERMANN: Right. He forgot his sign.

Last question about Congressman Wilson - did we reach a low-water mark - or high-water mark in terms of the stupid out here? Because - I'm just wondering if there is such a place, and if that wasn't it, and I'm advised that Bill O'Reilly just referred to the Lewin Group and the Lewin Group study that the conservatives are so fond of talking about in regards to health care. He referred to it as an independent research group owned by United Health, which might actually be stupider than what Wilson said last night.

O'DONNELL: I'm going to stick with Wilson.


O'DONNELL: . for this news cycle, Keith.

I spoke to a lawyer in South Carolina today, who went to law school with Wilson, and "idiot" was the most generous word he could come up with in a string of words to describe his experience with Wilson. He maintained to me that no one in Wilson's district has any right to be surprised by this. You could see this coming a long way off.

OLBERMANN: Are the Democrats going to try to keep it alive, censure, or let this thing go after getting such milk out of it in one day?

O'DONNELL: I think they've enjoyed what they've gotten. And I - they don't really have their hearts in pushing this very far. And so, actually, I think the Republicans, as we know, would never let it go, but the Democrats are probably done with it by tomorrow.

OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and "The Huffington Post" - as always, thanks for your time.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The president clearly move reform far ahead of where it stood, perhaps even in June or July, despite the distraction provided by Congressman Wilson's outburst. And the real point about that outburst, of course, is that, had some Democratic legislators stood up and shouted "liar" at President Bush before the Iraq war, they might have been run out of the country on a rail, but at least they would be right.

If you're going to throw the last remnant of political decency under the oncoming B.S. train, at least have the facts on your side. And therein lies the hidden real importance of Congressman Wilson - he was wrong. And not only last night but back when he self-identified as a deather and when he insisted that Strom Thurmond's love child, black love child, should have kept her identity to herself even after the senator's family had acknowledged his paternity.

Nothing has ever changed in this country without first somebody opening his mouth but not only if he opens it to put his foot in it. The Republican culture of glorying in being wrong.

"Special Comment" ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The president offers the landscape of health care reform, support for his plans skyrockets, back to 2/3. So, the Republican offer of return compromise? Well, maybe they'll stop trying to shout the president down and they certainly won't call him the N-word. Probably. Congressman Anthony Weiner next on where this goes from here, the reform that is.

And tonight, "Special Comment." It's neither how nor where Congressman Wilson blurted out his nonsense last night; it's that it is nonsense. And an entire political party is now delegating itself to promulgating stupidity.


OLBERMANN: In the same speech during which he rejected the lies of the right about health care, Mr. Obama also gave ground to the right on health care. And the question today is: did he move enough to get the right to move to him at all?

Our fourth story tonight: Democrats called the speech a game-changer.

New polling says it was a game-changer for millions of Americans.

Republicans, however, are still playing the previous game.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, who corrals Republican votes in that chamber and sends texts during presidential addresses - I am sitting on my butt - was asked whether he, like the president, could make concessions in his party's positions on health care. As you will see, his response entailed turning into the big concession he wants Democrats to make.


ROBIN ROBERTS, TV ANCHOR: The president did show some support for what you just talked about, John McCain - Senator John McCain. He did show support for that plan and he did make some concessions. You talk about the guarantees, but are you willing to some compromises of your own now to go back to the table?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), HOUSE WHIP: Well, you know, Robin, I think it's very important that we dismiss this notion of a government option. I think, if we listen to the American people right now, the fear surrounds this notion that somehow the government will replace the health care system that we know in this country.


OLBERMANN: Republican refusal to budge markedly out of step with the country, new polling suggesting today, not only does the majority of this nation continue to support both Mr. Obama on health care generally and on the public option specifically, but a stunning number of Americans who watched the speech last night - after a month of Republican sound and fury about health care - changed their minds; perhaps in part explaining why Senate Majority Leader Reid today called the speech a game-changer, predicting or at least hoping for a passage of a Senate bill before Thanksgiving.

Before the speech, 53 percent of those who watched supported Mr. Obama's plan to reform health care. After the speech, 67 percent of those who watched, two-thirds, supported Mr. Obama's plan to reform health care. An even more seismic shift occurred among those who had opposed Mr. Obama's health care before watching the speech. That number fell from 36 percent to 29 percent, meaning the speech led one-out-of-five opponents to drop their opposition.

And Republican members of Congress were exempt from this shift among real Americans, may have something to do with the fact they get money from insurance and big pharma, while real Americans, of course, send money to insurance and big pharma, and their health care is more perilous.

Mr. Obama emphasized today, telling nurses at the White House, that the numbers have gotten worse in less than 24 hours since his speech last night.


OBAMA: Over the last 12 months, it's estimated that the ranks of the uninsured have swelled by nearly 6 million people. That's 17,000 men and women every single day. And we know that during this period of time, the number of adults who get their coverage at the workplace has dropped by 8 million people.


OLBERMANN: With us now, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, member of energy and commerce committee.

And great thanks for your time and your patience with our logistics tonight, sir.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thanks. Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: If this was a game-changer, what should we expect from the game that we would not have expected at this time yesterday?

WEINER: Well, we spent a lot of time over the month of August explaining to the American people why we needed to do anything. A lot of Americans said, "You know what, I got health care, I think everything's fine, why do we have to tamper with this?"

The president gave the kind of speech that only presidents can give, laying out why this is a chronic problem that needs to be addressed by all Americans. But I think he also did something else that makes things a little more complicated. He referred - as your previous guest had mentioned - to his plan, and I think that there still needs to be more meat put on the bones of that plan.

But more and more Americans, after watching the president last night, are saying, "OK, we have a problem that we need to solve, let's get to it." That frankly has been a real weakness on the Republican side of the aisle. They're not even conceding there's anything that needs to be fixed. That's why they haven't offered many ideas of their own.

OLBERMANN: Where are you about the amount of meat on these bones, given your strong public support, consistent public support for the public option?

WEINER: Well, the speech is kind of a Rorschach test for members of Congress. You know, I heard him say that he though - his argument in favor to the public option is pretty profound. He said we needed competition, he said we needed some choice, and we needed some way to drive down insurance prices - only by having a public option do you do that.

You know, I've compromised here. I believe in a single-payer plan as you know. I think we should have Medicare for all Americans. It's simple and it worked.

But if we're not going to have that, we need some government option that allows people, if they're being mistreated by their insurance company or the insurance company charges too much to go to. If the president walks away from that, and I think he's going to walk away from enough votes to pass this bill.

There are still some questions that need to be answered, but I think now we're on a path - at least the American people understand, that all the shouting of August notwithstanding, we do have to address this problem.

OLBERMANN: Congressional Republicans, as evidence by Mr. Cantor and others, who spoke today, have not budged on this in any respect. Few of them applauded at key moments. Few of them from the Senate did, to their great credit, I think. But in that respect, with their reaction, would you still consider the speech ultimately successful?

WEINER: Well, I don't think we're going to win over many Republicans members of the House or Senate. I think they're almost a lost cause. Republican members of the population as a whole, I think, are much more fertile ground for us getting support for this.

I think most Americans, even the most ardent congressional district in the country, realize they're paying too much for health insurance, too many of their neighbors don't have it, and realize that we're going to be bankrupt if we don't solve this problem. I think, if we're waiting for Eric Cantor to come around to be helpful on this, we're going to be waiting for a very, very long time.

OLBERMANN: I was wondering last night as I heard that speech, the key thing that people who were not hugely involved politically would have taken away was, the idea that it would now be illegal to deny insurance based on pre-existing conditions. This seem - would seem, I would think, to the average person - who may or may not know what party President Obama belongs to - to be something akin to manna from heaven.

WEINER: Yes. Well, no, there's no doubt about it. And frankly, let's remember, for all the criticisms of a government-run health plan, we never heard of the term pre-existing condition when it was just Medicare and Medicaid.

That's exactly right. We do need to help reform insurance. You know, I hear these surveys of people who like their insurance companies. Most like their insurance companies until they actually have to get in touch with their insurance companies and get care from them.

But, you know, the Republicans have to realize they're going to get left by the side of the road here. Some of the concerns we, Democrats, have is, look, we're in charge of governing the House and the Senate, and now, the White House. We've got to have initiatives that work. If we're going to be waiting for that cooling saucer of democracy, the United States Senate, to act, we're going to be waiting a very long time.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of things and acting and influences - ultimately, did it help last night, the progressives in any event, who would prefer to go purely Democratic on this bill and sort of drop the pretense that you're going to get a huge Republican crossover on this? Did it help to have a Republican making a fool of himself and of the process the way Congressman Wilson did last night?

WEINER: Well, having a Republican member of Congress making a fool of himself is not an uncommon occurrence in the House of Representatives.


WEINER: But in all seriousness, I think, it is - it is a distraction. But it shows something else. All of the shouting and yelling that went on during the month of August actually seemed to get into the Republican body politic, and that's problematic. We should stop the shouting, but we should start solving problems. Republicans aren't good at that either.

OLBERMANN: You're exactly right on your observation about it getting into the body politic.

Representative Anthony Weiner of New York - again, great thanks.

WEINER: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: It never stops. Sarah Palin now attacks the president for, quote, demonizing the victims of 9/11 by last night mentioning the price of the war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, among the other "Worsts Persons" - two racists and one constitutional illiterate with one stone. Lou Dobbs defends Glenn Beck on First Amendment grounds.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: "Worst Persons": It turns out Lou Dobbs does not under the First Amendment, and Sean Hannity does not understand the English language.

First, from the party that has done everything to 9/11 but turned it into a sitcom comes Sarah Palin's claim that last night, the president demonized the victims of terror.

And a "Special Comment": The real transgression of Congressman "Wrong Way" Wilson. Not so much the instability as lionization of stupidity.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Last night, while President Obama made new policy, former Governor Sarah Palin made a brand-new pretzel. In our third story on the Countdown, Palin was reacting to a comment the president made about the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, through her particular pretzel of logic, she actually claimed he was demonizing the victims of 9/11.

Palin, of death panel infamy, again used her Facebook page as war room. Quoting, "finally President Obama delivered an offhand applause line tonight about the cost of the war on terror. As we approach the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, in honor of those who have died that day and those who have died since in the war on terror, in order to secure our freedoms, we need to remember their sacrifices and not demonize them as having had too high a price tag."

What the president actually said was this, "add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost about 900 billion dollars over ten years, less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration."

First of all, complaints about the cost of wars began years before this president took office. Those complaints have emanated from both parties, and have never been intended to impugn the troops, much less the victims of the 9/11 attacks. And 9/11 had, as has been proved repeatedly in small words, suitable for people like Mrs. Palin, nothing to do with the war in Iraq.

Mrs. Palin has not only managed to connect those unconnectable dots, she also used 9/11 to attack the president.

Let's turn now to the Washington editor of "The Nation," Chris Hayes.

Chris, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN: It's hard to ask a serious question about this kind of logic, because it is so incredibly off.

HAYES: It is.

OLBERMANN: Is this just another dog whistle? Is this just another, you know, dart thrown against the wall in the attempt to delegitimize the president?

HAYES: Well, yes. I mean, it is. But it's also sort of part of - it's real bedrock kind of right-wing rhetoric. They've been saying this for 40, 50 years. I mean, the notion is anytime anyone tries to question the size of the American national security state, the amount of wars we're involved in, the amount of bases we have overseas, the expenditures related thereto, then they are impugning the troops, and I guess in this case, in a particularly creative flourish, impugning the victims of 9/11. And that's something that the right wing has been basically trying to argue for four decades.

OLBERMANN: When - there are presumably at least a few Republicans left who might want to use actually policy points to differ with the president, to argue against his proposals. Does a Palin do a disservice to herself and to those Republicans when she goes this far out on the logical limb?

HAYES: Well, yes. I mean, yes in the sense of she does a disservice to the - you know, the state of vibrant opposition that can actually substantively contribute to the American process of self-governance. But I don't think in the political short term she does, because, again, the audience for all this is a relatively small and very ideologically extreme portion of the populace that's going to be, you know, basically voting in the Iowa caucuses in 2012. And that is a sort of sample of public opinion. It's just incredibly different from the American people as a whole.

I think everything - if you kind of refract it through that lens, it may make perfectly fine short-term political sense to do this kind of grandstanding.

OLBERMANN: And yet here is Senator McCain, who got a shout out, basically, a surprise last night from the president last night in that speech, and full credit for one of the ideas the president adopted for his reform, and his vice presidential candidate, Ms. Palin, now complaining that the president disproved the death panel crap. Limbaugh now applauding Palin, saying you call us out, we're going to hit back twice as hard. We touched on this previously tonight. But isn't that part of the dynamic here, to be as loud as possible, and truth and accuracy are really irrelevant to the equation?

HAYES: yes, absolutely. I mean, look, at this point, it is destroy

this bill, specifically. Destroy health reform, specifically. Destroy the

president broadly politically by any means necessary. I mean, I think that

· you know, I actually witnessed - very interestingly, when the original kind of murmurs of death panel came up, there were some conservatives who were like, oh, that's a little too far. Next thing you know, Chuck Grassley is repeating it at town halls, because it embedded itself in people's consciousness and then thought, hey, this weapon is lying around, I might as well use it. Right?

So, yes, I don't think that the rhetorical posture that the right has adopted toward health care reform or the president has anything to do with the substance of the charges they're making. And there are substantive charges one could make. That's what's so crazy. You can attack the actual bills that you're presented from a conservative perspective. There's perfectly legitimate conservative attacks to be made. They're just not actually being made.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but that takes work. Chris Hayes of "The Nation," as always, great thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That Mrs. Palin is at the forefront of this culture of superstition, assumption and wrong-headedness does not mean the field is hers alone. A special comment tonight on the real problem with Congressman Heckle and Jeckle.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a look at the right-wing wing nut groups supporting Representative Wilson. That's a good idea.

First, in the worst, you may think you know how much Fox Noise twists the news, but you have never seen it done as starkly as Sean Hannity did it last night.


OLBERMANN: The outrage of Congressman Joe Wilson; right sound, right volume, wrong reason. Incivility? He's a Republican town haller. It's the wrongness that matters. A special comment next. But first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst person in the world.

The bronze to Lou Dobbs at CNN, whose craziness seems to be impacted by the phases of the moon. Now defending Glenn Beck's description of the president as racist, with a deep-seated hatred of white people, defending Beck's campaign against Van Jones, because Van Jones four years ago founded the organization whose protest has now stripped 62 advertisers from Beck's show. "I didn't hear Howard Dean get excited about that. Trampling all over the First Amendment, trying to coerce sponsors of Glenn Beck, just because he had the guts to say what he meant. You know, there's a shortage of that. That ought to be encouraged."

Never mind the inanity of defending Beck's right to say something outrageous, even psychotic, rather than defending the public's right to protest an irresponsible broadcaster. Jesus, Lou, how long have you lived in this country? You still don't know that there is no first Amendment Right protecting you against backlash by viewers, or sponsors, or anybody, except backlash from the government? I promise we'll get Lou up to speed on broadcasting and how it has nothing to do with the First Amendment, and soon. He's only been doing this 39 years.

The runners-up, the host of Cluster Fox and Friends. Right into the Republican talking points this morning in defense of Congressman Shout out. And wow, are those talking points thin on the ground. Brian Kilmeade, "didn't Pelosi, the speaker, call CIA a bunch of liars?" Steve Ducey, "But when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the CIA liars and Congress called President Bush a liar, was there outrage there?"

Yes! Plenty. Most of it by you charlatans. You left out Dixie Chicks. You buffoons started a blacklist of a musical group for being critical of the president while they were in London. Wilson interrupted this president in his audition as a real man of genius. Somebody had done that to Bush, you meat puppets would have called for human sacrifice.

But our winner, Sean Hannity. This one defies belief, as Hannity apparently defies medication.


OBAMA: Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by over-charging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people. They do it because it's profitable.


OLBERMANN: "Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people. They do it because it's profitable." So, Hannity's response? I hope you're sitting down.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: When he said tonight that insurance executives are bad people, it took me back, because it was so harsh and I think unfair, but it's part of their polling.


OLBERMANN: Took me aback. Aback is the word, Sean. Obama says insurance executives aren't bad people. Hannity says he said tonight that insurance executives are bad people. If you ever need a Fox News bald-faced lie for argument or debate, use this one, Wednesday, September 9th, 2009.


OBAMA: Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people.

They do it because it's profitable.

HANNITY: He said tonight that insurance executives are bad people.


OLBERMANN: Sean Hannity, today's worst people in the world. Or as he might say tomorrow, Keith Olbermann called me the best person in the universe!


OLBERMANN: And finally, as promised, a Special Comment about the shout of "You Lie" during the presidential address to the joint session of Congress last night on the matter of health care reform.

The 43rd president of the United States lied the nation into the war, lied 4,343 of his fellow citizens to death in that war, lied about upholding the constitution, and lied about weapons of mass destruction.

He lied about how he reacted to al-Qaida before 9/11 and he lied about how he reacted to al-Qaida after 9/11. He lied about getting Bin Laden, and he lied about not getting Bin Laden.

He lied about nation-building in Iraq, lied about the appearance of new buildings in the nation of Iraq, and lied about embassy buildings in nations like Iraq. He lied about trailers with mobile weapons labs in them, and he lied about trailers with Cuban prostitutes in them.

He and his administration lied - by the counting of one non-profit group - 532 times about links between al-Qaida and Iraq. Only 28 of those were by that President, but he made up for that by lying 231 times about WMD.

And yet not once did an elected Democratic official shout out during one of George W. Bush's speeches and call him a "liar." Even when the president was George W. Bush, even when he was assailed from sidelines like mine, even when the lies came down so thick the nation needed a hat he was still the President and if he didn't earn any respect, the office he held demanded respect.

More over, that President and his Congressional tools like Congressman Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson of South Carolina insisted not just unquestioned respect for the office; they wanted unanimous lock-step compliance with the man.

And when the blasphemy of mere respectful criticism somehow came anyway - say by, or built on that by, the real Joe Wilson - Lord help he who might have made the slightest factual error in that criticism.

Congressman Wilson and his masters and the flying monkeys of right-wing media would pursue the erroneous critic to the ends of their careers, firing hot accusations of moral or intellectual confusion and incompetence at the unbelievers.

And that is the line Congressman Wilson crossed last night when he shouted "you lie" at this President of the United States. Not the respect line. The stupid line. Hey, Mr. Wilson!

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill," you hurriedly said last night as a nation caved in on you, and your own party's leadership coerced you into saying something.

"While I disagree with the President's statements, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility." For the lack of civility, Congressman? Is that what you think this is about?

Of course your comments were inappropriate and regrettable - you are a Republican trying to de-legitimize the elected president of the United States - that's all you do, and that's all you've got.

Of course you let your emotions get the best of you. At a figure of $435,296 in campaign donations from the Health Sector, of course your emotions would take over when your gravy train was threatened. It isn't about "inappropriate and regrettable," Sir!

Your comments were inappropriate and regrettable and wrong! You got up in front of the world, embarrassed your district, embarrassed your state, embarrassed your party, embarrassed your nation, shouted at the President like he was a referee at a ballgame and you were a drunk in the stands, and you were wrong.

House Bill 3200 specifically says, Sir, in language made precise and binding - in section 246 - under the heading, quote: "No federal payment for undocumented aliens."

Look, Congressman! All capital letters! For the benefit of the

factually-challenged! "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal

payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

You got it wrong! There is no ambiguity, Sir. There is no

disagreement! The bill says those here illegally will not be covered; yet

whether through stupidity or a willful attempt to mislead the gullible, you decided to spend whatever credibility remained to you, on a position in which you are utterly, inarguably, and - in a manner obvious to newborns and the more sophisticated of farm animals - wrong!

You apologize for your lack of civility? When are you going to apologize for your lack of being right? Wrong-Way Wilson. Whatever it is, it's congenital. Wrong-Way Wilson just wrote an op-ed, on August 27th for the Columbia, South Carolina newspaper "The State," about the non-existent death panels that he and Mrs. Palin saw in their dreams - or something:

"Those who have stood up and shown up to have their voices heard have already made a difference in this debate." Perhaps henceforth Mr. Wilson should soft-pedal the "have their voices heard" part.

"...citizens have discovered and brought to light numerous aspects of the health care overhaul (H.R. 3200) that are deeply troubling. These include the end of life counseling program, which has been correctly highlighted by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a program which could lead to seniors being encouraged to seek less care in order to protect the government's bottom line."

Perhaps henceforth Mr. Wilson should soft-pedal the Palin Paranoia, since he caught enough of it that last night, he made himself look like an uninformed eight-year old screaming at an adult.

"Americans... want and deserve this honest debate." Perhaps henceforth Mr. Wilson should remember that the word "honest" is as important as the word "debate." The latter without the former is better known as Political Tourette's Syndrome.

The evidence that Wrong-Way Wilson and reality are strangers goes back much further than last night. When Congressman Rob Filner said the U-S had helped Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons, Wilson went nuts. Worse, he accused Filner of a quote "hatred of America," and insisted "you shouldn't say that" and "you should retract it" and "you know it is not true."

It was true. It had been confirmed by the Commerce Department in 1994. Wrong-Way Wilson was wrong. A year later, when it was asserted that Sen. Strom Thurmond from Wrong-Way's home state had fathered a daughter with a black woman, Mr. Wilson called the assertion a quote "smear on the image" of Sen. Thurmond.

This was after Sen. Thurmond's family had acknowledged not just paternity, but the fact that the Senator had maintained a secret relationship with his daughter, and provided her money, for decades. After this was admitted, Congressman Wilson considered references to it a "smear" and said Thurmond's daughter should have kept it to herself.

Coincidence, of course, Wrong-Way, that it would be you who would consider the confirmed, acknowledged bi-racial child of Strom Thurmond as a "smear." And then it would again be you who - in the middle of a festival of blind racial rage dressed up as a health care debate - would shout out, "you lie" at a bi-racial President of the United States as he addressed Congress.

And just a coincidence that you're a member of a radicalized, insurrection-glorifying group, accused of harboring white supremacists, called "Sons Of Confederate Veterans."

Back to this incident. You have swallowed some of the Kool-Aid you mix up for those damn fools who believe you, Congressman. You sounded as pathetic as one of those poor souls, stampeded by corporate funding from the insurance and health care industries, who shout out nonsense at those demonstrations of willful stupidity that have been mislabeled "Town Halls" these places where a citizen's life is reduced to acting out that ridiculous maxim, if you're going to be wrong, be wrong at the top of your voice.

But Congressman - you're not supposed to be a Town Hall panicker, you're not supposed to be a Rube defending the efficacy of the Snake Oil, you are a Congressman - and still you were wrong at the top of your voice! Town Halls, Death Panels, Oligarhys, a multi-racial president who is accused of hating half his own ancestry, neuroses about communist artwork, the idea that fascism and socialism aren't mutually exclusive, grass-roots protests bought and paid for by lobbyists and corporations, scared seniors terrified enough to turn to insurance companies for protection against reformers who want to increase their coverage and cut their rates, birchers, birthers, deathers, the voices in Michele Bachmann's head, the Republican rebuttal to the President of the United States given by a guy who thought he could become "Lord Boustany" by paying a couple of English con men.

And now to top off this pile of stupidity: Congressman Wrong-Way Wilson, who - when a President publicly, and ostentatiously, gave credit for part of his health care reform proposal to the very Republican he swamped in the election last year - Wrong-Way Wilson followed that bi-partisan gesture, by shouting "you lie" as soon as he heard the truth.

It is this week, evident that the greatest threat to the nation is not terrorism nor the economy nor H1N1 nor even bad health care. It is rank, willful stupidity. When did we come to extol stupidity ahead of information, and rely on voo-doo, superstition, and prejudice ahead of education?

How many Republicans believe in Death Panels and Brownies and Elves? When did we start to listen to elect the impregnably dense? I was almost too fearful of using the word "impregnably" because of the prospect that Governor Palin would go after me the way she went after Letterman.

The time has come to rise up and take this country back, to again make it safe. for people who actually completed the seventh grade. The crime of Wrong-Way Wilson was not reflected in his emotions, nor his disagreement, nor his inappropriate conduct, nor in his incivility. It was in his prideful wrong-ness.

There are many vague portions of this bill, but section 246 says it plain: "No federal payment for undocumented aliens." I defend Congressman Wilson's right to incivility. A little incivility six years ago might have stopped the Iraq war. He can shout anything he wants, at anybody he wants, in any circumstances he wants.

Providing that he is willing to suffer the consequences of his actions, I am willing to suffer him.

This nation can survive a president being disrespected by some nickel-dime congressman from Beaufort; the shame falls onto the shouter and not the one shouted at.

But this nation cannot survive the continued acceptance, the continued endorsement, the continued encouragement, the continued institutionalization... of stupidity.

I think if Mr. Lincoln were alive he might re-cast his most famous imagery in the light of the truest of our present crises: A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half smart, and half stupid.

Section 246 is written expressly: there will be no health care funding for those who are here illegally; that there will be no mechanism created to establish such funding. I fear Section 247 will have to be written expressly: so that there will be a mechanism created to establish stupid panels.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, to detail the desperate defense of Congressman Wilson, Colonel Wilson of the South Carolina National Guard, by the way - so he was calling the commanding officer a liar - ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.