Thursday, October 8, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, October 8, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: Dignity

Guests: Lawrence O'Donnell, Sen. Ron Wyden, Nicole Lamoureaux, Derrick Pitts, Michael Musto


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

Opt in, opt out, opt in, opt out - the public option. The rumored Schumer-Carper compromise that would allow states to opt out of a government-funded alternative to the insurance cartel - this following a Carper compromise that would allow states to opt in. Could an opt-out public option actually be the compromise that shuts everybody up?

Opt in, opt out - it makes no difference though to the insurance companies' street-walkers in the Senate.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: This is the biggest expansion of a government program ever. And then, don't forget, it's partly paid for by creating problems for senior citizens.


OLBERMANN: "Health Care Reform: The Fight Against Death." The plan to hold free health clinics in the five key cities of the Democratic senators key to thwarting a Republican filibuster. Eighteen thousand dollars donated by Countdown viewers before details are arranged. Our donations revealed tonight. Our guest: the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics.

How high the moon? Live from outer space, it's Earth versus moon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We begin bombing in five minutes.


OLBERMANN: We are actually crashing stuff into the moon tomorrow, live on the Internet, to see if there's water there or maybe tow trucks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to whack the moon in a controlled experiment to try to really understand what's in the lunar soil.


OLBERMANN: The chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute, Derrick Pitts, explains it all.

"Worsts": Michele Bachmann spits on every woman who's ever been stalked.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I think it happened with a competing cable network that took an interest in me and it's only grown. And - so now, it's almost like I have personal stalker, only they have TV shows.


OLBERMANN: And Levi Johnston to pose for "Playgirl." Analysis from Michael Musto. I don't think any further explanation is required.

All that and more - now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, it'd work.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

Either the Senate is on its way to what Governor Howard Dean today called the best and perhaps only way to get a public option of some form through the Senate, where Democrats in that body are on their way to possible revolt.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Conservative Democrats seeming to warm quickly today to what's being called the opt-out public plan which allow the individual states to not participate in the national public plan if they decide against it.

Meanwhile, 30 other Democrats are still fighting for a full public option, some taking to the floor of the Senate to demand just that. Presently, we'll be joined by one of those later Democrats, Senator Wyden of Oregon.

But we begin with the latest details, Majority Leader Reid announcing today that the Senate Finance Committee will be voting on Tuesday on its bill that would deliver millions of new paying customers to private insurance companies at government subsidy expense with no public option - at least not now - to control their ability to deny liver transplants and raise premiums at will for anything that you can think of that might be wrong with you.

Some senators are now discussing ways to fix that. Senator Schumer and Carper floating that idea that opt-out public option proposal. An aide for Senator Baucus telling that the chairman of the finance committee, quote, "will look closely at the proposal and could consider supporting it."

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska telling "Politico" he likes the idea of leaving the decision up to the states. But why would an optional public option make any difference with red state Republicans, already saying they are unlikely to vote for a bill that would reduce a deficit by $81 billion over 10 years because it costs too much and because it would hurt the insurance industry - their real constituents.


GRASSLEY: Here's where I come down. It doesn't take into consideration that practically everyone of the 85 percent of the people who have health insurance, it's going to increase their premiums because you see the tax on insurance companies is going to be passed through. It's just natural it would be passed through. And then forget, it's party paid for by creating problems for senior citizens by taking $444 billion out of Medicare.


OLBERMANN: The Republican leader of the Senate, Mr. McConnell, further promising that the Baucus bill, quote, "will never see the light of the day."

Meanwhile, Senator Brown of Ohio and half a dozen other Democrats taking the floor of the Senate tonight to demand the public option, real public option, one that is not seen as the third rail of health care reform.

We're now to be joined by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, member of the finance committee.

Thank you greatly for your time just now, Senator.

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

OLBERMANN: As we just mentioned, some of your Democratic colleagues, tonight, having taken to the floor to demand a real public option in that bill. You and 29 of your colleagues have written to the majority leader today urging him, quote, "to fight for a sustainable health care system that insures Americans the option of public plan in the merged Senate bill."

What's standing in your way? Why has this, in fact, become the third rail of what the majority of Americans want, and an overwhelming majority Democratic lawmakers want to make it happen?

WYDEN: Keith, we are taking on the status quo caucus and it is led by the insurance companies and they don't want the American people to have real choices. Look, I'll be real clear about what I want. I want to make sure that hardworking Americans aren't forced to buy lousy, unaffordable health insurance from monopolies. We shouldn't subsidize the wrong people to do the wrong stuff. We ought to make sure that all Americans have choices - public choices, private choices - so we can turn the tables on the insurance lobby and get a square deal for the public.

OLBERMANN: Senator, the flavor of the month or at least today is this opt-out plan. Is this really the silver bullet or is it another way to make sure there is no actual public option?

WYDEN: I don't see how it puts the consumer in the driver seat. I want all consumers to have what members of Congress have.

You said something very powerful last night, Keith. You made it personal. You talk about your situation with your family. What people who are well-off can have.

Well, members of Congress are well-off. They can have access in Washington, D.C. to more than a dozen good quality policies. They can't discriminate against you. They can't cherry-pick. They have low administrative cost.

I want to make sure that all consumers get a fair shake. In these opt-out ideas at this point, I don't see them turning the tables on the insurance lobby.

OLBERMANN: Senator Grassley, as we heard a clip of it a little bit earlier, today argued on this network that the Baucus bill would hurt the American people because the insurance industry would pass along any tax that might fill or any even lowering the profits it might feel on the way of higher premiums for everybody.

It seems to me that Senator Grassley never runs out of objections. He did, in fact, help to write the Baucus bill.

How would you characterize his work this year on this, and indeed, of the so-called "gang of six" in its entirety?

WYDEN: I think, when you look at their product, and, clearly, they tried really hard - a lot more needs to be done to make sure that you hold the insurance companies accountable. When politicians give speeches about how citizens ought to get the same deal as the members of Congress, they ought to look at this legislation and they'll see that millions of Americans won't get any choices at all, let alone what members of Congress get.

OLBERMANN: All right. So, you, at the last minute, put in an amendment that everybody would get the right to select their own form of plan in an insurance exchange. And accorded to 2:00 in the morning, the chairman, Mr. Baucus, told you that your amendment was out of order because it had been scored - or in non-Senate language, not priced out yet by the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office.

What was your reaction to that?

WYDEN: Keith, it was obviously a disappointing evening. But we're not given up. The fact of the matter is, when you're taking on the insurance lobbies and you're standing up for the American people, there's a whole lot more of us than there are of them.

They are slicing a fat hog. There's no question about it. They are trying to protect their profit.

But if we can do what you started to do last night, which was to educate the public, make a personal, make sure that folks understand that what we're pointing for is the same kind of square deal that members of Congress get, we can win this.

OLBERMANN: Well, thank you for your kind words about that.

It was not your amendment - had it not already been scored by the CBO? Was there some confusion on the chairman's part?

WYDEN: All I'll say about that, Keith, is we offered the amendment that had been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. They said it would produce savings for the American people. They said it wouldn't destabilize the employer-based system.

What it was designed to do was to send a message that if you're going to turn the tables on the insurance lobby, if you're going to put the consumer on the driver's seat, everybody has got to have more choices. The way it works for a member of Congress - and frankly those other federal workers, say, the janitor at the federal bureau, if somebody rips that janitor off in the fall of 2009, come January of 2010, they can get a better deal. You hold the insurers accountable.

OLBERMANN: Senator Wyden, will you voting that finance bill out of committee, do you think?

WYDEN: I'm going to be spending my weekend, Keith, trying to improve it. We've got a number of days to go. If you and others will keep trying to educate the public, what you did last night, was you made it personal, and you showed people what's really at stake. If we can educate people between now and then, we can still get some more changes.

OLBERMANN: All right. Amen. Happy to be of some small help.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and the Senate Finance Committee - a great pleasure. Thanks for your time tonight.

WYDEN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more, let's turn to our own Lawrence O'Donnell, former chief of staff to that Senate Finance Committee, now, contributor to the "Huffington Post," and, of course, here at MSNBC.

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Every other silver lining has a cloud. What is the cloud in opt-out?

O'DONNELL: Well, I agree with Senator Wyden. It's very unclear what version of the public option this would be. It's - it would probably be an extremely watered down version of the public option that then states would have the option to opt out of.

And so, it's bringing something small to the table that seems to be some kind of cover, something that the phrase "public option" can be used to color as they move it through the floor. But it's still - it's so unknown now as exactly what version of the public option they are talking about putting in this thing, in this vehicle. We just don't know what it is.

OLBERMANN: Is there some prospect that even if it's an acceptable little version of a public option that doing it in this way - for want of a better term - sends this down the path towards vulcanizing the nation, at least from an insurance and health point of view?

O'DONNELL: Absolutely. It's terrible public policy to have federal laws with states having the ability to opt out of federal laws. That is just a terrible concept to begin with. It's not something I would ever want to be trying to legislate.

OLBERMANN: At the same time, as we indicated with Senator Wyden, these 30 other Democrats still demanding the full public option and some went to the floor of the Senate tonight to do this, are doing so as we speak. What are their chances of making that happen? It's obviously a great show of support and good to - for the - for the egos and the psyches of everybody who supported this. But what are their chances of actually making it happen?

O'DONNELL: Well, what's interesting to me this time around, Keith, is that it matters. The egos and the psyches of people who support this matter to these senators, and that's something new. The blogosphere and cable news and these shows have been able to put pressure on them to let them know that people are watching. They're doing this because people are watching.

What they need to do is double their number. They need to convince other senators. Thirty will not enough to get this across the Senate floor. They need to get out there and convince other senators. And they need to follow them down the hallway after they see them on the floor and work them in the elevators. They've got to convince other senators.

OLBERMANN: Senator Grassley for a moment. He says he still doesn't plan to vote for this. He's still using scare tactics. He's still invoking insurance industry greed as his baseline for reform. He is talking about - well, the insurance industry is going to be hurt by this and pass on its costs to the consumer, and we're taking away money from the seniors, and all the rest of the scare tactics with which he has filled this summer the way a manure farmer fills his quota.

Why again was he let into the tent in the first place?

O'DONNELL: Well, he has that senior Republican position on the committee. He was the chairman under the Republican rule. I'll tell you, in '94, he was on the committee. He was never a vote we were counting on. We never had a conversation with him about health care reform in '94.

So, I was actually surprised that, knowing him and his history on subject as I do, I was surprised to see him stay in the room as long as he did this year. I was also surprised when he came out of the room that he turned against everything - everything - that had been discussed in that room up until the time he left. That's surprising.

When you lose a senator in negotiations where you'd make 90 percent of the way, they tend not to come back and criticize everything that they've already agreed to. And so, that's - that's been the extra surprising part of it for me.

OLBERMANN: Well, we saw two pictures of the senator just there. We saw him and then on the easel behind him was the other version of him rearing up in all of his glory.

The House, meanwhile, it's even more committed to the public option that those 30 Democrats who wrote to Mr. Reid today. Does the process get stickier if and when the House and Senate bills are merged? Or to use the small R version of reconciled?

O'DONNELL: Much stickier. And the problem will not be the public option. The problem, they're all going to find the political reality on public option one way or another. The irreconcilable problem right now is how do you pay for this?

There is now a majority of Democrats in the House saying, "We refuse the Baucus tax. We will not vote for the Baucus tax on health insurance companies." And this, they agree with Chuck Grassley on, that will be completely passed on to the consumer because there are absolutely no price controls on these health insurance companies. They're going to be hit with a 40 percent tax.

And Grassley is right in reading their greed in the sense that they will simply pass that 40 percent tax directly on to the consumer through reduced benefits or increased premiums.

And so, the nutty thing about this is that you can be sending this massive subsidy regimen into the health insurance industry and there's not a word - not a word, not a thought about price controls in the health insurance industry. They can do whatever they want after this law is passed.

And so, when you get to the pay-for, that's ¼ of Baucus' money comes from a plan that the House absolutely rejects.

Now, the Senate is terribly afraid of taxing income, which is how the House has done it so far. Income is the cleanest thing to tax. It's the most equitable thing to tax. That would be the honest and clean way to go. But Senators are terribly afraid of voting for what the House committee has voted for on taxation.

So, they are completely lost in terms of which way to go on taxation.

OLBERMANN: Yes, sure. Go with the plan that doubles the current problem and institutionalizes it into law.

Lawrence O'Donnell of the "Huffington Post" and MSNBC - great thanks as always.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The direct action I proposed here last night emphasized the need for health care reform to the six Democratic senators key to forestalling the Republican filibustering by making a small dint in that need, conducting free health clinics for all in the biggest cities they represent. Where that stands tonight with the director of National Association of Free Clinics and how I'm going to prime the pump.


OLBERMANN: Where we stand tonight on the prospect of holding free health clinic cities in the five key cities of the states represented by the six senators who are the keys to thwarting Republican filibusters against health care reform. The executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics joins me here.

Later, where crashing stuff into the moon. Clearly, nobody saw the remake of the "Time Machine" where they did that in that, too.

And tonight, I will be defending Rush Limbaugh. (INAUDIBLE)

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Whether they claim the free market will suddenly, after decades now, start providing health care to everyone, or whether they believe the only way to ensure universal health care is for the government to provide universal health care, the goal everyone agrees on is: universal health care.

The current best option under debate is what is called the "public option," the government insurance plan run not for profit but for people because we can, with rates tied to Medicare's rates so taxpayers get the best deal possibly, an alternative to private insurance, not a replacement.

And so, in our fourth story tonight: I called last night and call again tonight for us - all of us - because we can, to get behind the National Association of Free Clinics, which represents 1,200 free clinics around the country and sponsors free health care fairs.

Like last month in Houston, where 1,500 people lined up before 5:00 in the morning to get free health care because they had to. In doing so, we can get us closer to health care for all, but we can also - as I said last night - can support an organization that stages some of these fairs where they can do not just medical good, humanitarian good and but as a side bar, political good for the entire nation, specifically, if these fairs were to occur in states represented by those Democratic senators, like leader Harry Reid, not yet committed to opposing a Republican filibuster of the public option to ensuring that the public option gets an up or down vote, so they can see for themselves, what is at stake, the faces of Americans, their Americans, their constituents who need their help.

Reid in Nevada; Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor in Arkansas, where most people, and four out of five Democrats favor the public option; Max Baucus, the finance chairman, in Montana, where 70 percent voted to expand children's health coverage just last year; Ben Nelson in Nebraska, where Republicans support for his handling of health care is three times higher than his Democratic support; and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, 49th out of the country in health care, according to a study that just came out today.

Towards this end, I will donate $50,000, $10,000 for each of those states I just mentioned, where the National Association of Free Clinics is able to stage one of its fairs. If we succeed in holding these fairs, however, we may still fail in the political goal. These Democrats may block their own party's up or down on the public option that favors -

American public favors rather. If so, we still will have succeeded in our ultimate goal, our higher goal of making health care available to our fellow citizens - if only for a day, because we can.

I'm proud to be joined tonight by the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, Nicole Lamoureaux.

Great thanks for your time tonight, Nicole.


OLBERMANN: First, tell me a little bit about the people who benefit from your work, from the clinics that you represent and from the health fairs that we've been talking about tonight.

LAMOUREAUX: Well, the people who benefit from free clinics every day, I think that's the first and most important thing for us to remember, is that there are 1,200 free clinics that are opened and operational every single day. And our patients, 83 percent of them, are working. They come from working households. They are just like you and I and they have no place else to go.

OLBERMANN: What would - thus, for those people, the people who turn to you now, what was strong robust public option mean?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think what we need to make sure - all of us need to make sure - is that when we talk about a public option or universal health care, what we really mean is access to quality health care. That we are talking about more than just an insurance card, but a place for people to go, get the medical care that they need, find a medical home and get healthy and live good lives. That's what they really need.

OLBERMANN: You are, in a very literal sense of this term, on the front lines of the health care crisis in this country. I would imagine that at least the Democrats, if not the Republicans, in Washington have been picking your brain about who needs help, what can be done, that the best and most economical way of doing it. And yet, there's a voice inside my head that's saying, "You know, maybe not." Which is it?

LAMOUREAUX: I think you should go with your voice that says, "Maybe not." Unfortunately, we keep going to the Hill and we try to talk to Congress, the House, the Senate and the president, and just stand firm to say that we're here. And we would like to help the administration and the Congress to discuss the important issues of the population which, last year was 4 million patients, this year, it will be 8 million patients at free clinics.

We have a very unique delivery model. For every dollar donated to a free clinic, $5 in services are given to patients, and that's being done with little to no to state or federal fund as it is right now. We feel that we have something to give to the conversation and we just hope that someone will come and talk to us sometime soon.

OLBERMANN: Yes, you don't want to talk to the government if you can take $1 and make it into $5. The government plan is to take $5 and make it into $1. That's the essence of the equation.

But, you, now, as I understand, have committed here to stage at least one of these great health care fairs in one of the states we just mentioned. If we can get the resources together to make it happen, what exactly do you need and have you seen any signs of support for these particular ideas so far?

LAMOUREAUX: We have seen ideas of support. Just, let me tell you that we have 407 people donate.


LAMOUREAUX: . worth $34,773 already, from last night to this day. And we are, as a National Association of Free Clinics, committed to putting on one of these health fairs for this very important issue, and as long as we can get some funds. And what we need, we'll need a place to hold this. We need lab support. We need tons and tons of volunteers, doctors, nurses, support staff, in order for us to make sure that the people who are coming get the quality care that they need.

So, we need a lot of help from everyone. And it can be help that any level, whether it's your time, from $5 all the way up, that is what we need in order to make sure that one of these clinics takes place.

OLBERMANN: The big ticket end of this, I would assume is not doctors, nurses, medical equipment, people who are so gracious and generous in these occasions always, but, practical stuff like where you're going to hold it, right? This is about venue mostly, isn't it?

LAMOUREAUX: It is. I think the biggest thing that if we can get under our belt would be the location, then we can really move from there. And if we have the location and someone is willing to donate that space to us, then more of the money that's donated can go to the actual delivery of care.

OLBERMANN: So, what we need is something in butte or we need a nice arena in New Orleans, or a facility in Vegas that would like to be associated with, you know, being on the right side of this equation. That would be a nice start, correct?

LAMOUREAUX: That would be a wonderful start.

OLBERMANN: All right. Well, we'll see what we can do. We'll keep mentioning this here and stay in touch with you. And I don't want to - I don't want to start sounding like Jerry Lewis on Labor Day. I don't want to verge into his territory. That's his - that's his group. But I'm greatly moved by your work and by the time you've taken to be with us tonight, Nicole.

LAMOUREAUX: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: All the best.

So, the bad news is, we're attacking the moon tomorrow. Live on the Internet. For why? And Levi Johnston is going to take it off for "Playgirl." For why? Because he actually us an answer when he says, "I'm assuming it's where dude poses for women."



OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and the press release of the century from Fixed News: Glenn Beck will be raising fears tonight.

First, on this date 50 years ago, was born the man to portray a fictional talking cat on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and a fictional sports caster on the infamous "Sports Monster Show," also to survive ESPN II and then becoming a real sports caster, Nick Baki (ph). Happy 50th, fellow.

I'm remembering you that the numbers never lie. Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Maldives. And if you thought politics could not sink any lower, the country's cabinet ministers are holding the next meeting at the bottom of the ocean. Attendance mandatory. Late comers will be fed to sharks.

The meeting is intended to highlight the issue of climate change. Ministers are preparing by taking scuba lessons, and will communicate using hand signals, white boards, and water proof pens.

Not to be outdone, the Republican National Committee announced it will continue to hold its meetings inside an echo chamber.

Colorado Springs, Hello, where yet another plastic food container has coaxed a small, unsuspecting woodland creature into its vice-like grip. Will this ever stop?

Our latest victim, that skunk right there. Nosing around a peter butter jar, got its head stuck therein. Thankfully, the local wildlife department was called in. One officer held the skunk down with a stick. The tried to get the jar off its head. The skunk then showed his rescuers gratitude by spraying them.

So tomorrow, we bomb the moon, do we?

Speaking of moons, Levi Johnston is posing for "Playgirl." These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Dateline Little Rock, number three, best deflation of wingnut talking point, Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, talking about Acorn, which the Republicans are trying to convince you is a domestic terrorist group. "I will say that the current head of the organization," he said, "she's done a phenomenal job getting out in front of it. I applaud her. I take her at her word that she wants to work to make sure the bad apples are thrown out. Not a big fan of Acorn for a whole lot of reasons, because of my own feelings with some of their folks over the years, but I do respect the fact that it has a history of working in the community and helping the poor."

My god, what does Fixed News do now?

Dateline Washington, number two, best reminder of a fabulous Bush scandal. Armstrong Williams popped up today on the website "The Hill." "There must be something in the water over at MSNBC studios that causes guests on Keith Olbermann's excuse for a show to temporarily lose a lobe of their brain. Did you all see his segment? Of course not. On its best day, the show averages fewer than 200,000 viewer."

I'd forgotten that Mr. Williams prostituted himself to write surreptitiously write pro-Bush administration columns for money paid by the government without telling any of his readers. And judging by this new piece, I hope he banked the money. Last month, Countdown averaged one million 782 thousand viewers per not, not fewer that 200,000. Last night was two million 478 thousand.

So actually Armstrong is getting closer with his factual errors. Good for you.

And dateline New York, number one, best conflict of interest, Lonesome Roads Beck. Erin Barnhard (ph) of the KC Starch Tweeted this afternoon, "Fox News PR just emailed me to let me know Glenn Beck will be raising fears tonight on his TV show." Give him time. It's not airtime yet. He'll think of something.

The one night that America might be, he says, facing the end of the all mighty dollar. He predicted hyper-inflation. Then he told people to buy gold. And then there was a commercial for Goldline International, which sells you gold. There are two other gold seller, Superior Gold Group and Roslyn Capital, advertising in his show. Beck even appears on the Goldline website.

So this whole Beck thing is just a scam. He's not selling fear. He's selling merchandise.


OLBERMANN: Bombing the moon, you say? To see if we might one day like to live on the moon, you say? Isn't that how we got into Iraq? Our third story on the Countdown, it is exactly what NASA is doing now. The Purposeful Collision set for 7:30 in the morning tomorrow, with the impact streaming live on the Internet.

Last night, the White House once again demonstrated its enthusiasm for science by trying to encourage student astronomy and overall curiosity, like the answer to this question: why the hell are we trying to bomb the moon?

It was only two weeks ago that satellites detected the possibility of large amounts of water on the moon in the form of ice concentrated around its polar regions. Now NASA wants to know just how much water is on or just beneath the lunar surface.

The previously scheduled Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or L-CROSS, is approaching the Moon's south pole ate 2,600 miles an hour. One part of the space craft will hurl itself into the lunar surface, creating plumes of debris, lunar dirt that is expected reach six miles high. Like the Birds' song.

The remaining part of the space craft will then take readings from the debris to check for the existence of water. And then it will quickly relay that data back to Earth before the rest of L-CROSS also plows into the Moon. A two-fer.

Meantime, back here on Earth, the White House celebrated the 400th observation of Galileo's first telescopic observation of Jupiter and its moons by hosting a star party on the South Lawn. A hundred fifty middle school students, joined by astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride, and by a president who wants to encourage study in the wonder of science.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All you need is a passion for science. From the moment humans first walked on this Earth, we've been endlessly fascinated by the stars. We need to you study, do well in school, explore everything, from the infinite reaches of space to the microscopic smallness of the atom. We need you to think bigger and to dig deeper and to reach higher.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn to the Franklin Institute's chief astronomer, Derrick Pitts. Good evening, Derrick.


OLBERMANN: So you were at the White House Star Party last night?

What was that like?

PITTS: Yes, I was there and it was wonderful. The sky looked great and my telescope worked really well. And the president did a great job of making the kids feel right at home. He had a good time himself with his family, going around to look through telescopes and participate in programs in portable planetarium domes.

OLBERMANN: You got to bring your own telescope?

PITTS: Yes. I actually brought my own telescope. I sent it down last week. It was my telescope that the president first looked through, right after he gave his speech, and the last one that he looked through on his way back in for the night.

OLBERMANN: Nice telescope.

PITTS: Yes, indeed.

OLBERMANN: All right, let's get to this thing tomorrow on the Moon. Why has this issue of water on it come up again? It is so long after the Apollo moon landings and all the other hints. I mean, I remember reading about this in 1997. There was something that suggested that it might be the case.

What is tomorrow's event designed to do and to give us the best evidence yet?

PITTS: It's designed to give us a really good look at the soil, so we can figure out whether or not, in these permanently shadowed craters, there is enough water that we might be able to collect it for use when we actually establish bases on the moon. It's important for us to figure this out because water is probably the most expensive commodity one can launch into space. If you're launching water that weighs so much, unfortunately, it costs in fuel. If we can get it from the Moon, then that drops the cost of launching space craft.

OLBERMANN: I'm just bothered by the idea of just colliding stuff into the Moon for even a good cause. I mean, it's Lunar demolition derby. What if we break the Moon? Wasn't that the centerpiece of the remake of the time machine? They broke the Moon into little pieces and suddenly, we all had to live underground, where the Moralocs (ph) are?

PITTS: Well, think of it this way. Jupiter has, what is it, 62, 64 Moons. Why should we only have one? Why don't we make a few more? Now, in this case, this impact is akin to what happens on the Moon four times a month. We don't even know about that. So, during the course of the year, 48 times through course of a year, the Moon gets hit by something from space at least this size.

So we're not really in a class to do anything to it. But it allows us to do some really good science.

OLBERMANN: They said that in "The Time Machine" too. The next thing you know, Christian Bale is looking up at the sky, and this big crack is appearing because they're using atomic shovels or something to build - I don't know - ranch houses on the Moon.

PITTS: If you're worried, I have an insurance policy I will be glad to sell you.

OLBERMANN: The other part about this and last night - tie these two things together, this White House's commitment to actually doing stuff about science, are we saying that now? Was that the under-headline to what went on last night?

PITTS: Yes, I think what we saw last night is the president's commitment to this idea that we really need to do everything we can to raise the aptitude of American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, because he can what the future is going to look like if we don't start to bump our commitment to this for education.

Using astronomy, as he did last night, to encourage kids to pursue education curricula, and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He knows what he means. He knows that astronomy is a good hook, because all of the kids last night had a great time looking through telescopes seeing Jupiter. It was a great night last night.

OLBERMANN: Did anybody get to see Saturn. My understanding is there's a new ring around it. Did we miss that? Is it dirty? Has it gotten engaged? How is there a new ring around Saturn?

PITTS: There is a new ring around Saturn. It's actually been there for quite some time. And it's just that we haven't been able to actually observe it from the Earth. But a new telescope in orbit called Spitzer Space Telescope looks on the infrared, so it could see heat signature of the absolutely billions of very, very tiny particles that are part of this ring.

OLBERMANN: The Spitzer Space Telescope found a new ring? There's so many political jokes in that, which is - there's that one. You could go the direction of this is part of the Moon that broke off and formed a ring around Saturn.

PITTS: We'll let that one go.

OLBERMANN: There's Derrick Pitts of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, who is shaking his head in wonder as to why he comes on and listens to me do this stuff to him every time.

PITTS: After the skunks, yes.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

All right, there's more Moons here. Sarah Palin's ex-future son in low staying in the news, but not staying in his clothes.

And Michele Bachmann insults every stalking victim in history by claiming that she's been stalked by MSNBC. That's not what the word means.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, how a different cable network is deliberately cooking the nooks on poll numbers to make it look like a majority of Americans is against health care, when it is, in fact, in favor of it. Oh, guess which one.


OLBERMANN: The good news, Levi Johnston now has a stronger resume than his ex-future mother in law. The bad news, his latest job is nude model. That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst person in the world.

The bronze tonight to critics of Rush Limbaugh. You heard me, critics of Rush Limbaugh, the ones who are bristling at news that he and hockey executive Dave Checkitz (ph) might by the NFL's St. Louis Rams, suggested he should not be permitted to because he made racist comments about Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb that resulted in Limbaugh's firing by ESPN in 2003. There are now going to be character tests for sports owners? There will only be three of them left.

Unless they beat the Vikings Sunday, as of next Thursday, it will have been a full year since the Rams won a game. My, god, if Limbaugh wants to buy them, far be it for me to tell him he's flushing his money down a rat hole.

Our runner up tonight, Senator John McCain. This happened on the Fox out of Business Network, so it is the proverbial tree falling in the forest with nobody around thing. But one of the hosts, referencing 9/11, said to McCain, "we're talking about why there would be no second attack, and they said they thought President Obama was the second attack."

And McCain laughed. Country first. He never did say which country.

But our winner, Michele Bachmann. Bill-O, dimly aware of the world around him, asks her, "now you are a pretty interesting politician, congresswoman. You are second to Sarah Palin in far left angst. You know, Sarah Palin leads the league, no doubt. But they're after you now. We hear it all the time, Michele Bachmann, she's this, she's that. How did you get into that wheel house?"

Oh, I don't know maybe the slash our wrists quote or the Pelosi will bludgeon them to death quote, or the Carbon Dioxide quote, or the armed and dangerous quote, or the gangster government quote, or the rise up quote, or the Obama may have anti-American views, or her warning that if you filled out the census, you might wind up in an internment camp quote.

No, she says that's not it. "You know, it's an interesting phenomenon. I think it happened with a competing cable network that took an interest in me and it's only grown. Now it's almost like I have personal stalkers, only they have TV shows."

Seriously? I had a stalker. I had to go to court. She was small fries on the all time list of stalkers. I give you a real idea if the congresswoman apologized to women and even those men whose lives have been blighted and ruined and, in some cases, ended by the terror and the threat that stalkers create. Not in even the mildest of senses of journalists whose aggressiveness might verge colloquially into stalking is she anywhere close to being such a victim.

Michele "Stalkers, there's something else I don't know squat about" Bachmann, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: All right. Let's just get this one out of the way. It turns out pistachios aren't the only nuts Levi Johnston is selling. Ha, ha, ha.

Number one story, Sarah Palin's ex-future son in law will pose for "Playgirl."

In an effort to become the most famous male model since Zoolander, Levi Johnston has already booked his next gig, centerfold in "Playgirl," an idea that Johnston has been toying with for some time. On his last photo shoot for "Vanity Fair," Johnston said of "Playgirl," I'm assuming it's where a dude poses for a women.

Never assume, to paraphrase Felix Unger, because when you do, you make an ass. I know. Yes, it was deliberate.

No matter. TMZ catching Johnston getting in shape for his up-coming spread. The AP reporting Levi works out three days a week, six - three hours a day, six nights a week at a gym in Anchorage. He's on a strict low carb, high-protein diet. He's getting tips from a local body builder, a former Mr. Alaska competitor.

Johnston's lawyer says there's no written contract with "Playgirl" as of yet, but it's pretty much a foregone conclusion. Just hold off on that for a second, sir.

Speaking of forgone conclusions in the world of politics, Tom Delay has quit "Dancing With the Stars," with stress fractures in each foot. America watched gratuitous closeups of Mr. Delay's gyrating back side for the last time this week, we hope. After bowing out, the former Republican majority leader, currently under indictment, was wheeled out on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Kimmel cut to the chase.


JIMMY KIMMEL, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Do you think this will inspire other indicted politicians to dance?

TOM DELAY, FMR. MAJORITY LEADER: Hey, if it keeps you out of jail.

KIMMEL: If, god forbid, you wind up in jail, it's not going to be a good thing for the inmates to see on reruns.

DELAY: Probably not.


OLBERMANN: Joining me now, columnist for the "Village Voice," and author of the upcoming book "Fork on the left, Knife in the Back," Michael Musto. Good evening, Michael.


OLBERMANN: I'm going to go way out an a limb here. I've never heard anybody say this. I don't know that it's true. It is just a suspicion. I hesitate to say it.

MUSTO: Say it.

OLBERMANN: Is it remotely possible - don't laugh, I know this is really bizarre - is it remotely possible that "Playgirl" is not actually published for the entertainment of women?

MUSTO: I knew you were going to go there. I actually wrote that once, Keith. The editor was so pissed, she practically came to my house and took away my Liza box set. They don't want to hear that. It's a moot point at this point. It's not for anybody at this point. It is only Internet. It's the perfect magazine for Levi, because it's online only, and it's a the lot of pictures.

OLBERMANN: What do we think they're going - is there a motif they're going with, after that Burt Reynolds Cosmo bear skin rug stuff that started all this as a cliche of cliches from 1972?

MUSTO: I think there will be some moose-like body parts, as well as a hint of musk ox and a soup son of cockatoo. But no beaver. I get an advance peak at it. So did Bristol.

OLBERMANN: God. What's going on with this guy? First there was a commercial for pistachios that referenced protection. Then "Playgirl." Again, I hesitate to ask this. What is the next - in that sequence of career events, what is the career path?

MUSTO: From nuts to showing his nuts. A plantation? I don't know, a mental home. I have no idea. I like Levi. He's the one who blew the whistle on Palin family values. I want him to succeed. I think he'd be great in a John Waters movie or on "The Big Bang Theory."

OLBERMANN: Yes, well, I'm sure you'll get additional evidence for that when "Playgirl" comes out, one way or the other.

MUSTO: I'm not paying for that.

OLBERMANN: You go online, right?


OLBERMANN: No, I wouldn't. No. Shifting gears to Mr. Delay, mercifully. He has done dancing. How does he avoid prison now if he's not dancing?

MUSTO: Dancing is a good way to avoid prison. Just ask Larry Craig. Remember, he was tapping, and it distracted them from the glory hole he was drilling. Tom Delay, if I could just keep going.

OLBERMANN: That's a political term. It means when you're seeking reelection. I'm trying to cover for you, but I think I'm going to fail utterly on that.

MUSTO: I'm not blushing. Tom Delay really should give himself up to authorities at this point. The jig, as it were, is up. By the way, I don't know why nobody has said this, but Hammer, don't hurt yourself.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Tom was on "Dancing With the Stars." Honestly, jail's a step up, isn't it?

MUSTO: No, because in jail, you're probably on a reality show anyway.

OLBERMANN: What do you do? What is the next - is there another politician feeding into another reality show? Or is there a reality show to be based on a politician in our future?

MUSTO: I think Blago could be on what's that hair show.

OLBERMANN: Sheer Genius?

MUSTO: You actually watch that. You know the title.

OLBERMANN: No, it's written here on my sheet. It's right there, Sheer Genius.

OLBERMANN: Donald Trump could be the judge, saying, your hair is fired. I would also like to see Jim McGreevey in Bottom Chef, or Al Sharpton in the Amazing Race Cart.

OLBERMANN: Almost - the comforting part about that last one - I can't do anything about that first one. The last one, almost anybody could appear on the Amazing Race Cart.

MUSTO: O.J., Johnny Cochran.

OLBERMANN: The Real House Wives of Glenn Beck. "The Real Housewives of DC" next year is coming out. Circulating rumors about who is going to be in the cast. Who would you - we know about this show. It's basically people don't realize what the idiots they are, complaining about each other being idiots. Who is on your dream team of D.C housewives?

MUSTO: I'd he like to see Anne Heche in the Real Housewives of AC/DC. But for the DC one, Jill Biden, Joe Biden's wife. No one has ever heard of her. Give her some exposure already. And, of course, Hillary Clinton. She could flip the table and see that Monica is still under there.

OLBERMANN: Do we really get - finally, from Bravo, our sister network, the Real Housewives of Wasilla?

MUSTO: No, because they are already working, unfortunately, on CSI Wasilla, about people who look out their backdoor and see Russia. They can watch the Cold War develop.

OLBERMANN: Isn't that "The Mentalist?" The one and only Michael Musto. I beat you once at least. Great thanks for your time, Michael. And we apologize, as always.

That's Countdown for this the 2,352nd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

And now to discuss cooking the books, Fixed News, fixing the polls on public opinion about health care reform, and to restore the dignity of the network for the next hour, ladies and gentleman, here is Rachel Maddow.