Monday, November 30, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, November 30, 2009
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Special Comment:
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Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Shannyn Moore


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

Signed, sealed - only the speech not yet delivered. The orders given by the president for more troops to Afghanistan tied - we learned - to a drawn-down to begin as early as next July. Because without an aggressive push now, the president fears the light at the end of the tunnel would be pushed further away.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You can be assured that the president will talk about the fact that this is not an open-ended commitment.


OLBERMANN: Trusting the president is one thing, but when was the last commitment by our Pentagon not an open-ended commitment? No matter what they said at the time? And why after its endless lies about Iraq and his endless lies about Pat Tillman - why are we trusting General McChrystal and the Pentagon? A "Special Comment."

Afghanistan as the newest Republican excuse to gut health care reform.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Can we trim up the health care bill and other big ticket items to pay for a war that we can't afford to lose?


OLBERMANN: Well, no, actually, but you'll try.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV), MAJORITY LEADER: Health care fairness will come if we dedicate the coming weeks to solutions, not scare tactics.


OLBERMANN: The latest whoppers from Sister Sarah. Her former Alaska legislative aide and her former brother-in-law both say stuff in her book is flat-out made up. And she quotes legendary basketball coach John Wooden about how "our land is everything, our grandfathers paid for it with their lives." Only that wasn't John Wooden, that was Native American and liberal activist, John Wooden Legs, whose grandfather fought Custer at Little Big Horn.

Sarah Palin can't tell the difference between John Wooden and John Wooden Legs.

The Tiger Woods saga: The latest developments and what really happened explained in exactly 28 seconds.

And tonight's "Special Comment" on Afghanistan - now on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

There were in the end, we've learned, four choices: withdrawal immediately or nearly so, a commitment of 10,000 trainers to bring Afghan troops and security forces up to speed, a tightening of the mission with no change in troop levels, and the one President Obama last night informed his government and his military he had chosen - the choice he will report to the nation from West Point at this hour tomorrow night.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: A troop escalation in Afghanistan

what is described within the White House tonight as an aggressive timed push with an exit, troop withdrawals to begin between July of next year and January of 2011. There will be apparently nearly as many caveats as new troops.

Congressional oversight would be intricate and pervasive, budgeting strictly through ordinary congressionally-approved means, and the corporate hand would be kept out of the till, essentially no no-bid military contracting. A "Special Comment" ahead.

The president over the weekend is issuing his order to send more troops to Afghanistan. Senior advisers to Mr. Obama are saying that the president intends to commit roughly 30,000 more troops. The president is calling other world leaders today to inform them of that. The vice president and cabinet secretaries are also making calls.

The secretary-general of NATO, Anders Rasmussen of Denmark, reaching out to member states via his Facebook page, quoting him, "I've traveled and talked with political leaders in the alliance and called on them to follow suit when the U.S. sends more troops to Afghanistan. Solidarity has always been the strength of our alliance."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today is announcing that the U.K. will send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan, equaling 1.6 percent of the increased U.S. presence. President Obama is also meeting in the Oval Office tonight with Defense Secretary Gates and General Petraeus, among others, as well as by telephone with General McChrystal, the top general in Afghanistan.

More than eight years into a conflict that the current commander-in-chief did not start, questions surfacing now about how to pay for this escalation. The Congressman David Obey, chairman of the appropriations committee, proposing, in fact, a war tax, what he is calling the Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010.

Democrats in the Senate are already dismissing the idea as a qualified nonstarter.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We're in the middle of a recession. We're probably not going to be able to increase taxes to pay for it. There should have been, as far as I'm concerned, tax increases long ago on upper bracket folks who did so well during the Bush years. That's where the tax increases should have taken place. But that should have happened some time ago.

But in the middle of this recession, I don't think you're going to be able to successfully or fairly to add a tax burden to middle income people. I don't think middle income America is in a position now where they can pay additional taxes, because the economic stress is so great here.


OLBERMANN: Republicans meanwhile are using the escalation as an excuse to put, what else, health care reform on hold.


SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: The war is terribly important. Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So, I - this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap-and-trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money.


OLBERMANN: Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also a senior strategist to Public Strategies, the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Small picture first. Some of these details - my sense was this administration thinks it will succeed in convincing Afghanistan and the world, underlying Pakistan, that we're serious still about Afghanistan, but we're not moving in.

Is the fact of Pakistan, actually the biggest of the facts in here, and how does bin Laden's supposed presence in Pakistan fit into what the president decided to do?

WOLFFE: Well, you're absolutely right to focus on Pakistan as being a much bigger national security factor for the United States. It's got nuclear weapons. Bin Laden is likely hiding somewhere in its tribal areas. And it is - it has got to be the most important risk that there is beyond the al Qaeda leadership in that region.

The problem is that this surge is not actually really focused on propping up Pakistan. It's not focused on cleaning up those tribal areas. And it's not really got that much to do with the core leadership of al Qaeda. You don't need that many extra troops to hunt them down.

What this is about is something beyond going after al Qaeda - and the challenge for the president is to explain how beating the Taliban in whatever form it's in is going to deal with the al Qaeda leadership.

Remember that people in Pakistan fear that driving out the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan is going to lead to more Taliban militants joining their Pakistani brethren and destabilizing Pakistan. The Pakistanis were very happy with the Taliban there in Kabul.

OLBERMANN: The biggest of the micro-issues perhaps is this - that on-the-ground strategy here which was we understand it, it's counterterrorism measures, it's a city-focused, it's training. ABC reported they're going to go around the Karzai government and fund all this at the regional level largely.

Can all these little components actually make a difference?

WOLFFE: Well, they worked in Iraq, so that's an important model that they're working on. And McChrystal and others and Petraeus, especially, are trying to build on that. Of course, in Iraq what they had was also the support of tribal leaders. So, you had a weak central government but there were tribal leaders who joined in this fight who in many ways started in Iraq. That has got to be the key question that the administration has to be sure of in thinking this strategy is going to work in Afghanistan.

But it looks like it's limited geographically. That a lot of the more rural areas are essentially being written off, because even 30,000 extra troops, American troops, while a huge number and hugely costly in blood and treasure, is not enough to secure a place that has never been secured, especially those rural hilly areas in Afghanistan.

OLBERMANN: And more micro dealing with this country, it seems like it's such an obvious thing. Timelines, a rough start date to end before you actually begin. These guarantees that Congress is involved every step of the way, including in the financing, the idea that no-bid contractors cannot be involved.

Whatever else the announcement brings, those are cultural earthquakes at the Pentagon. Will the Pentagon abide by them?

WOLFFE: Well, I think the Gates Pentagon is very different from the Rumsfeld Pentagon. So, you're looking at a culture that's already changed. These are important political symbols to say this is not like the Bush approach to Iraq.

But it will sound like it. If you talk about timelines, you talk about staying the course and propping up or standing up the Afghan army, it's going to sound very Bush-like. So, there have to be these important symbols to say this time it's different.

But honestly, he cannot set an end date - so trust but verify. But it's still going to sound a lot like Bush.

OLBERMANN: So, that's the big picture. How does he sell it to the country tomorrow night, especially, given that he did not run on any promise to pull out of Afghanistan? He did run on change - and as you point out - it hardly seems like change unless you go into the deep weeds.

WOLFFE: Yes, this is a - this is a very tough political challenge because, of course, the country's change is not just Democrats. People are very mixed opinion here about the war in Afghanistan. He has to say what the exit looks like.

When is Afghanistan safe enough for American troops to withdraw? That is going to be the key challenge. That I know from White House sources is what he's going to be focusing on, just as much as he's talking about the extra numbers.

But in the end, there's going to have to be a certain amount of trust. He campaigned not against all wars, against dumb wars. He has to explain why this is not a dumb war.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of "Renegade," also with Public Strategies - as always, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And for more on the political reaction at home that we can expect, let's turn to our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN: All right. Let's divide the political reaction to this that you would expect into three parts, from the left, from the right, from the nation as a whole.

So, we'll start. The president gives this speech tomorrow night. Withdrawal schedule in place even before the first new troops go, tight congressional oversight, tight oversight of military contractors, other bells and whistles.

And the left responds, how?

ALTER: Well, the left is going to object to it because you still have a lot of Democrats who are just one step shy of pacifism. It really takes a lot to convince them that there's anything that you could call a just war.

And so, he has a pretty high threshold with them in convincing them that this is truly in the national security interest of the United States and he'll do that by saying that if there are safe havens for al Qaeda, even if there's not currently that much al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan, that is a threat to the United States. So, he's going to need to make that case tomorrow night, particularly to his own supporters.

OLBERMANN: And it's not hundreds of thousands of new troops. And no matter how loose it might be, there is going in an expiration date on the side of the milk cartoon.


OLBERMANN: And the right responds, how?

ALTER: Well, they're already starting to trash this, which to me is, you know, truly - it's - it approaches being unconscionable, because they clearly support the goals of this intervention. They supported escalation. He is escalating. And they simply can't ever bring it - can't bring themselves to support this president no matter what he says. And this is the final proof of that.

OLBERMANN: And the country gets the whole package? And we're already, as we've been pointed out, split more evenly on Afghanistan than Republican versus Democrat on this. And we as a nation respond to the whole package, how?

ALTER: We're going to have to see how great a job he does.

You know, Keith, there was a great political scientist, Richard Neustadt, who said that the only real power that a president has is the power to persuade.

We know that Barack Obama is a great speaker. We know he has persuasive powers. This is a test. This is not a popular endeavor. He is going to have to persuade all Americans that it is in our interest in lives and in treasure to pursue this venture.

OLBERMANN: And coming back to the base, the other political wild card I'm wondering about in this, can they get anywhere by selling this, especially to the left, as we're cleaning up, not just George W. Bush's mess as president in Afghanistan and Dick Cheney's mess as vice president in Afghanistan, but you know what, we have to clean up when Dick Cheney cut and ran from Afghanistan in 1991 after he basically...


OLBERMANN: ...created the Taliban while he was secretary of defense.

Does that have any miles to it?

ALTER: Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say he created the Taliban. But what they did was, after supporting the mujahideen, who were fighting the Soviets and drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan, we basically cut and run under Republican leadership. And we left a huge mess inside that country.

So, what we're doing here - you can expect to hear the president say this - is finishing the job. He's going to be very focused on this being the ending of something, not the beginning of something new. So, you will see him as you suggested, put this in the context of cleaning up really close to 20 years of ill-considered American foreign policy.

OLBERMANN: The Cheney-ian stables, I guess.

ALTER: Right.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - great thanks.

Talk to you tomorrow.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Ahead in this newshour: trust the president? OK. But trust the Pentagon? Trust the general at the heart of the Pat Tillman story? Trust an escalation will lead to a de-escalation? Haven't we heard all this before? My "Special Comment" ahead.

And a programming note, we will, of course, bring you complete coverage of the president's speech tomorrow from West Point. I'll be on right beforehand at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Chris, Rachel and I join you right after the speech. Special edition of "Countdown" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Rachel at 10:00 Eastern, Chris at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, Ed at midnight Eastern.

Much sooner than that, John McCain has just stepped into the health care debate. Well, he stepped in a lot more than just that actually. Senator McCain complains about the lack of specifics about supposed cuts to Medicare, then he lists them specifically. And he warns Americans of, quote, "all kind of provisions" that they're either unaware of or many of us have also become unaware of.

So, Mr. McCain, how long has it been since you became unaware of these provisions?


OLBERMANN: While nearly every other Republican had gone crazy over it, John McCain had been largely quiet on health care reform until today. Apparently, as usual, the first thought was the good one. A remarkable performance you'll have to see to believe.

Also, Sarah Palin thinks the former UCLA basketball coaching legend was named John Wooden Legs.

And my "Special Comment" on Afghanistan.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Today, the Senate bill to reform health care in part by creating a public option reached the floor for debate by the full chamber. The question now in tonight's fourth story, is whether that means the public option is making history or is becoming history.

Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the bill to the floor with the public option, but while promising today transparency in the legislative process, the public option's fate depends largely on what transpires behind closed doors.

Reid, reportedly, was to talk health care tonight with the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And Democratic Senator Ben Nelson told "Politico," debate will end, quote, "when there are 60 votes," meaning when Reid has privately persuaded 60 senators to block a Republican filibuster so he, Reid, can bring the bill up for a vote.

Some monkey wrenches in the debate coming from the Urban Institute endorsing a strong public option with a trigger mechanism, which the Firedoglake blog and others see as a fig leaf for killing the option.

And the Congressional Budget Office released new estimates on the bill, predicting minor savings for most people, especially those at big companies, but considerable savings - factoring in subsidies and their improved insurance - for those less well-off buying insurance on their own.

But it was John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, who stole the spotlight today in a heated debate with Arizona Republican John McCain, including a dramatic back-and-forth over the bill's lack of specificity for which he had specifics.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A half a trillion dollars in cuts that are unspecified as to how. Medicare advantage cuts totaling $118 billion. Medicare advisory board that would cost $23 billion. Hospital penalties totaling $7.1 billion. Home health care cuts totaling $42.1 billion. The list goes on and on.


OLBERMANN: He angrily charged that Congress has never done a major bill this way. You know, the way it's always done.


MCCAIN: There has never been a major reform implemented by the Congress of the United States unless it's bipartisan in measure - in nature. So what has happened? Business as usual.


OLBERMANN: And in a shocking breach of protocol, revealed that during the debate over this bill, Senator McCain has become unaware of some of its provisions.


MCCAIN: I don't believe that the American people want this 2,000-and-some-page monstrosity, which is full - which is full of all kinds of provisions that they are either unaware of or even in the study of this legislation many of us have also become unaware of.


OLBERMANN: With us tonight, a senator who has become more aware of provisions in this bill, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: Was "Politico" right regarding Mr. Nelson's implication that as long as this debate continues, we know that that means that Senator Reid lacks the votes to hold off a Republican filibuster?

WHITEHOUSE: I'm not sure it's quite that exact a correspondence. This is after all the United States Senate. This is a major piece of legislation. There are a great number of people, both for and against it, who want to be heard and, frankly, deserve the chance to be heard as long as they're being productive and participating in a meaningful way.

I think, eventually, the debate will degenerate into tomfoolery. But while it's going on, I think it would be wise for the majority leader to let that play out, even if he has 60 votes in his pocket, so that it's clear to the American public and clear to all the members of the Senate that everybody had a chance to have their say.

That said, I think when Christmas starts to roll around, it will be time to start to move, and I would hope we'd have the 60 votes by then.

OLBERMANN: Has something made the calculus more complex than it seems to an outsider like myself? I mean, any Democrat that votes for the weakest kind of health care reform is going to be attacked by Republicans for doing so. And isn't the price still the same for voting for a weak bill as it is for blocking filibuster of a stronger bill and then voting against it?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think that we are - we have a good bill right now. We certainly had the 60 votes necessary to get it on the floor. We have a process ahead that will allow a lot of the people who've expressed their concerns and skepticism about elements of the bill to get it off their chest, to get their votes, to have it heard, and to try to work out compromises that will suit them. And I think there's room for compromise still in this bill.

So, I remain optimistic that the majority leader is going to be able to work through those concerns to 60 Democratic votes or, if necessary, 59 Democratic votes and maybe one Republican vote.

OLBERMANN: The last time we spoke, you were more optimistic than those of us watching from outside the fishbowl. Do you remain that way? And what can you tell us specifically about why that is the case?

WHITEHOUSE: I - you know, I'm not an expert. I've only been here a couple of years now. But just a sense from my colleagues that this is kind - this is a moment destiny.

And for years, people have tried to get this kind of health care reform to the Senate floor. It was Senator Kennedy's legacy. And I think the sense of his presence is very much still with us.

Enormous amounts of work have gone into the bill, thousands of senator hours, tens of thousands of staff hours. It is a thought-free, good solid piece of legislation. And so, all of that gives a lot of momentum.

Are there still disagreements? Are there still people seeking to find a, you know, trading point or to get a real concern resolved? Yes, I'm sure. But that's what the process is all about. And so, I remain pretty convinced that we're going to be able to get through this.

OLBERMANN: So, what do you think of this "New York Times" report that suggests we're essentially watching Mr. Reid persuade the left that, "A," he really tried, but, "B," the votes are not really there for the public option? Are we watching a play that ends with progressives blinking before conservative Democrats, too?

WHITEHOUSE: It's possible. But I wouldn't go there yet, not by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, the leader put a solid public option proposal in. We believe that we can get a vote for a public option, if it has a trigger mechanism as opposed to an opt-in or an opt-out. That gives him a little bit more leeway to work with.

I think whether you opt-in or opt-out, or call it a trigger - a lot of that is semantics. When the dust settles, there needs to be a significant public option that provide real competition to the insurance industry and gives people who want out from the way they've been treated by the private insurers for years an alternative. And I think if we can do that, a lot of the other details around the corners will seem less relevant.

OLBERMANN: So, ultimately, though, if a public option is x'ed at the bill signing ceremony, it would have an opt-in or opt-out or some other qualifier to it?

WHITEHOUSE: It would seem that is where we are just in terms of the vote count. I think that that's probably the likeliest outcome right now.

OLBERMANN: Senator Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, as usual, more information per word than anybody else we know in the Senate.

Great thanks as always for that and for your time, sir.

WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin can't tell basketball legend John Wooden from Native American legend John Wooden Legs.

A Bush official can't comprehend that 9/11 happened during the Bush administration.

And the fateful intersection of a presidency and somebody else's war. "Special Comment" on Afghanistan - tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: In 1888, Mark Twain famously wrote, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

For Sister Sarah Palin, the difference between the right person you claim to be quoting is the difference between basketball's John Wooden and Native American activist John Wooden Legs. That's next.

But, first, time for Countdown's Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Dateline: Surrey, British Columbia. Number three: Best paranoid freedom of speech suppression. Border guards at the Peace Arch on the U.S./Canada line - last week, they stopped "Democracy Now" host, Amy Goodman, had weapons-carrying agents search her car, held her passport for a time. They were afraid she would say something dangerous in Canada. Seriously.

I mean, in theory, you could stop somebody who is going to advocate violence or the like, but they're fear, as Ms. Goodman recounted it, was that she was going to speak out against the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Seriously. When she said, no, that wasn't what she was going to talk about in Canada, they asked her again six times. You guys may want to rethink your priorities. And if you're that desperate to prevent criticism of some Olympic games, you shouldn't detain a noted commentator and write her scripts for her.

Dateline Palm Beach Garden, number two, best self-contradiction, Orly Tates Limbaugh. Using stolen e-mails and cherry-picking and misunderstanding quotes from him, he has declared global warming to be a hoax. But today, within seconds of each other, he angrily made these two self contradictory remarks. A, "there isn't any data that supports global warming," and B, "anybody that suppressed data said there was man-made global warming was doing us a favor."

Thank you for proving yourself wrong again.

And dateline Windermere, Florida, number one, best drama. Elin Nordegren Woods, wife of the greatest golfer, the insufferable one-time strike breaker and crowd abuser, Tiger Woods. After his car fire hydrant mashy accident, hubby canceled three visits with the Florida highway patrol and a gold news conference and his participation in the next tournament, which just happens to be the Tiger Woods World Challenge. "I thought I should use some golf terminology to explain what I think Mrs. Tiger was doing." She was playing a bad lie.


OLBERMANN: More people have managed to slog through Sarah Palin's memoir. We know that because they're finding still more errors. Our third story in the Countdown, she has misquoted and misattributed and misused the words of a Native American activist, hilariousing mistaking Mr. John Wooden Legs for basketball's Coach John Wooden. She is annoying former friend, who say she's lying about them.

And in non-book news, she quit again, this time something called the Turkey Trot Race. What is it with Palin and turkeys? The quote, first. Chapter three of "Going Rogue" entitled "Drill, Baby, Drill," relays these stirring words attributed to UCLA basketball legend Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden: "our land is everything to us," the wizard of Westwood supposedly said. "I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it with their lives."

But Coach Wooden never said that. As noted by "Huffington Post" Jeffrey Dunn, John Wooden Legs, a Native American activist, one time tribal president of the northern Cheyenne, whose grandfather fought Custer at Little Big Horn, he said something close to it. But the legs quote from an essay includes references to the Cheyenne and ends with "we remember our grandfathers for it with their life."

Dunn notes that the Palin botched quote perfectly matches one from a website called the Quote Garden. So Palin has hastily cut and pasted a quote from a Native American activist to support her Drill Baby, Drill meme, and attributed it to a great basketball coach.

But the former governor's penchant to get even is causing her more trouble still. Her ex-brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten is breaking his silence of more than a year, and is considering legal action over the book. The center of Palin's Troopergate scandal calls Palin's book a, quote, "pack of lies" and Wooten, an Air Force veteran, says, "Sarah Palin is only about Sarah. She doesn't care about the men and women in uniform. It's all about advancing Sarah's career."

Meantime, Palin had announced on Twitter that she would be running the 5K Turkey Trot Charity Race in Washington State on Thanksgiving Day. But about 40 minutes into the run, she quit to avoid crowds at the end of the race.

Let's bring in radio host, "Huffington Post" contributor Shannyn Moore. Shannyn, good evening.


OLBERMANN: That misquote fits hand in glove with Palin's wonderful record about Alaska native issues, and by the fact that she twisted it for her drill, baby, drill chapter. Can you expand on that?

MOORE: I think Jeffrey Dunn did an amazing job on his piece today on Huffington. You know, it was funny, because Coach Wooden said a few things that I think Sarah probably should have listened to, you know, and didn't. I think most notably was, don't confuse, you know, your person-hood with your basketball-man-ship, and don't confuse achievement with activity. She has this huge amount of activity and not a lot of achievement.

It's really egregious here what she actually did do to Native Americans, far worse than any of her misquoting them. When you look at subsistence issues, we had people deciding whether they should have food or heating oil last year, who were starving until she went to western Alaska with Franklin Graham, incidentally, with some cookies she had baked. So then she had to have the courts tell her that she had to do voting assistance for people who speak Yupik here. So the things that she's done not the native Alaskans here have been far worse than her misquoting one.

OLBERMANN: Also, I mean, in basketball terms, she did claim to be a basketball player, and she didn't recognize that that was probably something that John Wooden wouldn't have talked about, about the land and grandfathers and such. Among the -

MOORE: Or quitting.

OLBERMANN: In Alaska. It's not just this officer Wooten, the former brother-in-law, complaining here. The first legislative director that she had, John Bitney, has said, "I'm just pilloried right and left, and turned into the big bad wolf here" - talking about the book - " for stuff I didn't do. It's like I'm this fictional character, that she's decided to make me out to be this incompetent slob."

How did that former, never mind ally, associate, become a target of the governor in this book?

MOORE: She wasn't just a legislative director. She was - he was really responsible for getting her elected, and was a very close ally, part of this inner circle. And for her to come out in her book and sort of have these really paltry accusations against him, about his lunch on his tie or being addicted to blackberry games - you know, he broke his silence on my television show here. And when asked by an audience member if she was sane, he said, is a sociopath sane? And that he'd had enough.

So many people - so many people that during the election held their silence and kept their loyalty to her, you know, have decided now that being an American and standing up to her is more important. And they're coming out of the woodwork here.

OLBERMANN: Don't these complaints perfectly mirror those from the McCain campaign, that she literally made things up? Not nuance, not subtlety, not misquotes, but borderline delusional?

MOORE: Yes, reality deficit disorder? Yes, absolutely. Isn't it ironic that she keeps telling the press to stop making things up, to stand up for the troops, yet she throws great, wonderful veterans, who have had their service to the military and to Alaskans, under the bus in this book continually. John Bitny did mention that he knew exactly what Schmidt was saying when he said he was going bring in a nutritionist. He said she never eats. She's a Red Bull and White Mocha kind of girl, and she doesn't eat. It's made her difficult to work with at times. So not only is he telling his own story, but he's validating that of the McCain camp.

OLBERMANN: And the Turkey Trot Run basically a symbolism for this whole thing. She gets near the finish line, and then quits at the last moment?

MOORE: Yeah, yeah. The whole - the quitter thing. You know, that's really the way a lot of Alaskans see her, is the quitter. Even those people that really supported her at one point, they're left with no governor. So we'll see how this all turns out. But the more she talks, the more people don't like her.

OLBERMANN: Shannyn Moore, talk show host, contributor to the "Huffington Post." My guess at this point, just sort of dawned on me, she'll be brought down and her career will be ended not by her enemies, not by her critics, but by her friends. Great thanks, Shannyn.

MOORE: My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Another president prepares to explain why he believes the Pentagon - when he says more is ultimately less, this time in Afghanistan. I believe the president. I don't believe the Pentagon. Special comment ahead.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, an opinion based on fresh, firsthand information, Dan Rather back from Afghanistan, complete with an opinion that might surprise you. Dan is her special guest.

First, the worsts. The former Bush administration official who was paid with your tax dollars and who believes there were no terrorist attacks in this country during the Bush presidency. Can we get her salary back?


OLBERMANN: The president and Afghanistan, my special comment next.

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

The bronze to Mike Huckabee. Maurice Clemmons is still on the loose after fatally ambushing four police officers in Washington State. Clemmons, obviously, literally one of the worst persons in the world, was first released from prison, from a 95-year sentence, after that sentence was commuted by then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee's spokesman issued a lengthy statement about the tragedy and on the process by which Mr. Clemmons was a free man. Not once did he imply that the governor had the slightest sense of responsibility or even involvement in the commutation. There's no joke here. From a stalwart of the party of the Willie Horton ad, it's just shameful. It's career ending.

The silver to Glenn Beck, using hacked e-mails and cherry picking details from them, when he could not possibly actually understand, not only to falsely claim there is no climate change, but to insist, in the latest Beck paranoid conspiracy of the day, that because of it we're going to be invaded - we're going to start giving away our oil or something. "You think it will be better when Russia takes Alaska, when we have to sell China the Gulf, when we have to sell those reserves? Somebody else comes in and we can't say anything about it? Do you think your environment is going to be better or worse? If you think that America is just this hate-filled place, do you think when the rest of the world is in charge of you, of us" -

Well, at least we know now why Sarah Palin quit as governor. The Russians could see her house from Russia, not the other way around.

But our winner, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. That this is not a smart person, not a sensitive person, maybe not a person person has long been pretty clear. But this takes it to a new level.


DANA PERINO, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is one thing I would say about Ft. Hood, which I feel very strongly about, which is - and I don't say this to be political. I think it matters a lot what we call it. And we had a terrorist attack on our country. They want to do all their investigations. I don't know all of their thinking that goes into it. But we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term. I hope they're not looking at this politically. I do think we owe it to the American people to call it what it is.


OLBERMANN: Ft. Hood has to be called a terrorist attack, right now, before any investigations. But either 9/11 wasn't during President Bush's term or it wasn't a terrorist attack. Either way, Dana Perino is an embarrassment, and today's worst person in the - how do you pronounce this, W-O-R-L-D - world.


OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on the president's address to the nation tomorrow night on the future of our military presence in Afghanistan.

Mr. President, it now falls to you to be both former Republican

Senator George Aiken and the man to whom he spoke, Lyndon Johnson. You must declare victory, and get out.

You should survey the dismal array of options in front of you - even the orders given out last night - sort them into the unacceptable, the unsuccessful, and the merely un-palatable, and then put your arm down on the table and wipe the entire assortment of them off your desk - off this nation's desk - and into the proverbial scrap heap of history.

Unless you are utterly convinced - willing to bet American lives on it - that the military understands the clock is running, and that the check is not blank, and the Pentagon will go to sleep when you tell it to, even though the Pentagon is a bunch of perpetually 12-year old boys desperate to stay up as late as possible, by any means necessary - unless you're sure of all that, get out now.

We are, at present, fighting, in no particular order, the Taliban; a series of sleazy political-slash-military adventurers, not the least of whom is this mountebank election-fixer Karzai, and what National Security Advisor Jones estimated in October was around eight dozen al-Qaeda in the neighborhood.

But poll after poll, and anecdote after anecdote, of the reality of public opinion inside Afghanistan is that its residents believe we are fighting Afghanistan. That we, sir, have become an occupying force. Yes, if we leave, Afghanistan certainly will have an occupying force, one way or the other, whether it's from Pakistan, or consisting of foreign fighters who will try to ally themselves with the Taliban.

Can you prevent that? Can you convince the Afghans that you can prevent that? Can you convince Americans that it is the only way to un-do Bush and Cheney policy catastrophes dating back to Cheney's days as Secretary of Defense in the '90s?

If not, Mr. President, that way lies Vietnam. If you liked Iraq, you'll love Afghanistan with 35,000 more troops, complete with the new wrinkle, straight from the minder-binder lingo of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22."

President Obama will be presenting an exit strategy for Afghanistan. The exit strategy that begins by entering still further. Lose to win, sink to swim, escalate to disengage. And even this disconnect of fundamental logic is predicated on the assumption that once the extra troops go in, when the President says "OK, time for adult swim, generals, time to get out of the pool and bring the troops with you," that the Pentagon is just going to say "yeppers."

The Pentagon, often to our eternal relief, but just as often, sadly, to our eternal regret is in the war business. You were right, Mr. President, to slow the process down, once a series of exit strategies had been offered to you by men whose power and in some case livelihoods are predicated on making sure all exit strategies, everywhere, forever, don't really result in any service-man or woman actually exiting.

These men are still in the belly of what President Eisenhower so rightly, so prophetically, christened the Military-Industrial Complex. Now, and later as the civilian gray eminences with "retired" next to their names, formally lobbying the House and Senate, informally lobbying the nation through television and the printed word, to "engage" here, or "serve" there, or "invest" everywhere; they are, in many cases, just glorified hardware salesmen.

It was political and operational brilliance, Sir, to retain Mr. Bush's last Secretary of Defense Mr. Gates. It was transitional and bipartisan insight, sir, to maintain General Stanley McChrystal as a key leader in the field.

And it was a subtle but powerful reminder to the authoritarian minded war-hawks like John McCain, and the blithering idiots like former Governor Palin, of the civilian authority of the Constitution. It was a picture drawn in crayon for ease of digestion by the right, to tell our employees at the Pentagon to take their loaded options and go away and come back with some real ones.

You reminded them, Mr. President, that Mr. Gates works for the people of the United States of America, not the other way around. You reminded them, Mr. President, that General McChrystal is our employee, not our dictator. You've reminded them Mr. President. Now, tonight, remind yourself.

Stanley McChrystal. General McChrystal has doubtless served his country bravely and honorably and at great risk. But to date his lasting legacy will be as the great facilitator of the obscenity that was transmuting the greatest symbol of this nation's true patriotism, of its actual willingness to sacrifice, into a distorted circus fun-house mirror version of such selflessness.

Friendly fire killed Pat Tillman. Mr. McChrystal killed the truth about Pat Tillman. And that willingness to stand truth on its head on behalf of "selling" a war, or the generic idea of America being at war, to turn a dead hero into a meaningless recruiting poster, should ring essentially relevant right now.

From the very center of a part of our nation that could lie to the public, could lie to his mother, about what really happened to Pat Tillman, from the very man who was at the operational center of that plan, comes the entire series of plans to help us supposedly find the way out of Afghanistan? We are supposed to believe General McChrystal isn't lying about Afghanistan?

Didn't he blow his credibility by lying, so obviously and so painfully, about Pat Tillman? Why are we still believing the McChrystals? Their reasons might sound better than the ones they helped George Bush and Dick Cheney fabricate for Iraq. But surely they are just as transparently oblivious of the forest.

Half of them insist we must stay in Afghanistan out of fear of not repeating Iraq, while the other half, believing Bush failed in Iraq by having too few troops, insist we must stay in Afghanistan out of fear of repeating Iraq. And they are suddenly sounding frighteningly similar to what the Soviet generals were telling the Soviet politicos in the 1980s about Afghanistan.

Sure, it's not going well. Sure, we need to get out. We all see that. But first let's make sure it's stabilized and then we get out. The Afghans will be impressed by our commitment and will then take over the cost of policing themselves, even though that cost would be several times their gross national product. Just send in those extra troops, just for awhile. Just 350,000.

I'm sorry, did I say 350,000? I meant 35,000. Must be a coffee stain on the paper.

Mr. President, last fall, you were elected. Not General McChrystal, not Secretary Gates, not another Bushian Drone of a politician. You. On the Change Ticket, on the pitch that all politicians are not created equal.

And upon arrival you were greeted by a Three Mile Island of an economy, so bad that in the most paranoid recesses of the mind one could wonder if the Republicans didn't plan it that way, to leave you in the position of having to prove the ultimate negative, that you staved off worldwide financial collapse, that if you had not done what you so swiftly did, that this "economic cloudy day" would have otherwise been the "biblical flood of finance."

So, much of the change for which you were elected, sir, has thus far been understandably, if begrudgingly, tabled, delayed, made more open-ended. But patience ebbs, Mr. President. And while the first one thousand key decisions of your presidency were already made about the economy, the first public, easy-to-discern, mouse-or-elephant kind of decision becomes public tomorrow night at West Point at eight o'clock.

You know this, Mr. President: we cannot afford this war. Nothing makes less sense to our economy than the cost of supply for 35,000 new troops. Nothing will do more to slow economic recovery. You might as well shoot the revivified auto industry or embrace the John Boehner Health Care Reform and Spray-Tan Reimbursement System.

You know this, Mr. President: we cannot afford this war. Nothing makes less sense to our status in the world than for us to re-up as occupiers of Afghanistan, and for you to look like you were unable to extricate yourself from a military Chinese Finger Puzzle left for you by Bush and Cheney and the rest of Halliburton's hench-men.

And most of all, and those of us who have watched these first nine months trust both your judgment and the fact that you know this, Mr. President: unless you are exactly right, we cannot afford this war. For if all else is even, and everything from the opinion of the generals to the opinion of the public is even, we cannot afford to send these troops back into that quagmire for second tours, or thirds, or fourths, or fifths.

We cannot afford this ethically, sir. The country has, for eight shameful years, forgotten its moral compass and its world purpose. And here is your chance to reassert that there is, in fact, American exceptionalism. We are better. We know when to stop making our troops suffer, in order to make our generals happy.

You, sir, called for change, for the better way, for the safety of our citizens, including those citizens being wasted in war-for-the-sake-of-war, for a reasserting of our moral force. And we listened. And now you must listen. You must listen to yourself.

Good night, and good luck.

And now here's my very dear friend, Rachel Maddow.


Friday, November 27, 2009

No show. Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No show. Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No show. Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, November 24, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons

Guests: Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe, Rep. Alan Grayson


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

The plan to sink Joe Lieberman. Could his vote be replaced by Collins or Snowe? Why don't the Democrats just shoot for reconciliation and only 51 votes?

And why can't Lieberman remember why he's opposed to the public option? He's now given six different answers in six months.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: All we're asking is let the Senate consider these issues one by one. If Joe Lieberman carries the day, so be it. But if he doesn't, he shouldn't stop everyone else from voting on it.


OLBERMANN: Is changing cloture the anti-filibuster protection realistic? Our special guest, the man who proposed it: Congressman Alan Grayson.

The president and Afghanistan. The decision looms with an exit strategy attached.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my intention to finish the job.


OLBERMANN: The intention of the shameless chicken hawk criticizing from a secured, undisclosed location.


DICK CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I worry that, you know, there's a lack of understanding there, what this means from the perspective of the troops.


OLBERMANN: That's Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney, who never talked to the troops except in a photo-op.

Ecstatic religious visions of Sister Sarah. This is more than just some vague policy statement about settlements in the West Bank.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.


OLBERMANN: Now, she's quizzing Billy Graham about Biblical teachings on the Middle East, the fundamentalist apocalyptic prophesy that may be the only foreign policy Sarah Palin thinks she understands.

The first Obama's dinner for the Prime Minister of India. How "The Washington Times" and FOX News reported John Boehner was not invited for partisan reasons. Then it turned he had been invited but declined so he could go home to Ohio to - I don't know, work on his tan.

"Worsts": Beck does it again, calls Mary Landrieu a, quote, "prostitute." Now says of her.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: So, we know you're hooking but you're just not cheap.


OLBERMANN: Where are the denunciations from conservatives women?

Where is the call for Beck to be fired, from Sarah Palin?

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


BECK: I guess shame is dead.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

As the self-declared spoiler of the health care reform bill that will begin debate in the Senate next week, exactly whom does the junior senator from Connecticut represent? The 334,000 people in that state, 10 percent who do not have health insurance tonight? Or Aetna, just one of the health insurance behemoths that have its corporate headquarters in Hartford?

The fifth story on the Countdown: Senator Joe Lieberman declaring that under no circumstances will he vote for a bill that contains a public option and he still caucuses with the Democrats because.

The man the "Time" magazine has this week dubbed "The Senator from Aetna" drawing his line in the sand in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal," telling the newspaper, quote, "I'm going to be stubborn on this," refusing even to accept the trigger compromise proposed by the Republican of Maine, Olympia Snowe. "Once the government creates an insurance or plan," Senator Lieberman adding, "the government or the taxpayers are liable for any deficit that government plan runs, really without limit." Except, of course, for the projection by the Congressional Budget Office that the bill will save the government money, will reduce the federal deficit by $130 billion over its first decade, and by as much as $650 billion over its second decade.

In addition, health reformers of all political stripes, telling Ron Brownstein of the that the bill appears to be the best effort yet to contain costs. Mark McClellan, former Bush administration official, brother to Scott, is saying of this cost-containment attempt in the bill, quote, "It would be good if more could be done, but this the right direction to go." Jonathan Gruber, the leading health economist at MTI, adding, "I'm sort of a known skeptic on this. I can't think of a thing to try that they didn't try. They really make the best effort anyone has ever made. Everything is in here." reporting that President Obama made Brownstein's blog spot with that analysis required reading in the West Wing over the weekend.

In a new survey from the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 79 percent is saying it is important for the president to include health care reform in addressing the nation's economic crisis. Another poll from Public Policy Polling showing that the outcome of the health care debate could weigh heavily on the Democrat's chances at the mid-terms next year.

If Congress does pass a health care reform with a public option in it, the Democrat leads generally 46 to 41 on the 2010 ballot. But if Congress fails to pass any kind of reform, respondents are then split, 40-40, between the generic Democrat and the generic Republican.

An actual Democrat in Congress is wondering aloud here on MSNBC this morning why Senator Lieberman has been elevated to such prominence.


WEINER: Where did this number 60 take on precedence? All we're asking is let the Senate consider these issues one by one. If Joe Lieberman carries the day, so be it. But if he doesn't, he shouldn't stop everyone else from voting on it.


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

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The senator told "The Wall Street Journal" today he's against the public option because it would increase federal deficit, even though it won't.

In September, he told reporters he was opposed to it because Americans don't want or support the public option - statistically, in all polls, they do.

In August, he said it's because the country is in a recession, we needed to wait - even though lowering the health care cost would help the economy by the measure of any kind of economists.

In June, he said it was because the private insurance provides plenty of competition already. Obviously, that's not true and the insurance industry knows this, otherwise, they'd be in favor of this bill.

"Washington Monthly" noted he has had a different reason each month since June.

_Is Lieberman just making this up as he goes along?_

FINEMAN: No, he's doing it pretty deliberately, at least in the eyes of other Democrats in that actual Democratic Caucus. If you talk to Joe Lieberman or his staff, and I do, as recently as today, they insist that he favors reform and regulation, federal regulation of the health insurance industry, to prevent abuses like denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions.

But it's the widespread in the Democratic Caucus, in the Democratic cloakroom, that Joe Lieberman's main aim is to kill the bill. And he will say or do whatever is necessary, from his point of view, to do it. That's the widespread view among other Democrats on the Hill.

OLBERMANN: If a Republican from Maine, even a fairly one like Olympia Snowe, votes a trigger compromise that would preserve at least some form of public option, however watered down it is. The question then becomes among the Democrats: Why do they even talk to Lieberman at this point? Who cares if he pretends to caucus with the Democrats if they can possible get Snowe cheap?

FINEMAN: Well, they are asking themselves the same question, Keith. And I talked to some of the Democratic leadership today. And they said, yes, they think that Lieberman is pretty much of a lost cause, as I was just explaining.

He did vote to bring the bill up. You remember Harry Reid said, "I'm not worried about Joe Lieberman in terms of bringing the bill up," that many was very worried about him on final passage.

And they are talking to Snowe and they are talking to Susan Collins, the other senator from Maine. And they are looking at the trigger, and they are hoping that maybe - and they may have to get a Republican vote.

OLBERMANN: What about progressives who do not want even the trigger or any other watered-down public option? Is there - is it - why is this not the route, kill this bill and resolve as much as you can, using budget reconciliation, the 51-vote process?

FINEMAN: Well, that - Keith, that may ultimately be the saving grace at the end. But that's certainly nothing that Harry Reid or the Democratic leadership in the Senate want to talk about now. They don't dare talk about it because it's a thing of last resort. It would be full of all kinds of procedural traps in the long term.

And I think they're also worried about some kind of loss in a big vote, changing the psychology in a way that would then get out of control. I mean, they are trying to make this case about cost savings, the president understands it's the key thing. That's why he sent Ron Brownstein's thing around because that's the key to holding the majority together and trying to get that one Republican vote, maybe two Republican votes.

OLBERMANN: Are they still of the mindset - Mr. Reid and the president, are they still at the mindset that any victory is a substantial victory? Because even if it just moves the ball an inch forward, it does that? And also, that the - since the Republicans are clearly opposed to any kind of reform, defeating them is symbolically almost as important as making real reform?

FINEMAN: Yes, it's both. It's both. And there are all kinds of reform measures in there. As others have said, as you were repeating.

But as far as Joe Lieberman is concerned - I mean, they have noted, for example, as others have, that, you know, when Mitch McConnell was speaking in the close of debate on Saturday, the Republican leader, an opposition to any bill, Joe Lieberman was sitting on the Republican side of the aisle. When Harry Reid and the Democrats were speaking to close the argument on Saturday, Joe Lieberman moved over to the Democratic side of the aisle.

So, they're dealing with a guy that clearly has issues. They are focusing on passing a bill any way they can.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - as always, great thanks and have a great Thanksgiving.

FINEMAN: You, too, Keith. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Another solution to the Democratic problems in the Senate, change the rules of the Senate, require only 55 votes to invoke cloture, the anti-filibuster measure, instead of 60. And as we reported yesterday, the Senate has made a similar change before. Invoking cloture used to require 67 votes, more than two-thirds until the Senate reduced the number to 60 in 1975.

Congressman Alan Grayson, the Democrat of Florida, having started an online petition at in an effort to tell Majority Leader Reid to change those rules. And Congressman Grayson joins us now from Orlando.

Thanks again for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: I know Congress has already in its holiday recess. But do you have a gauge on how your colleagues on Capitol Hill have reacted to your idea?

GRAYSON: Well, it's too early to say. But everybody understands the situation. The House has already passed 100 bills that are waiting action by the Senate and this is becoming a chronic problem because the Republicans are using the filibuster rule to disable government. That's what it comes down to.

In the last Congress, the 110th Congress, they used the filibuster more twice as much as anyone ever had before, Democrat or Republican. And now, they're going to set a new record with 111th Congress. This can't go on because the country has problems that need to be solved.

OLBERMANN: If you were to get 30 seconds to pitch your idea to Majority Leader Reid of the Senate, your best 30 seconds, what would you tell him? What would you focus on?

GRAYSON: I think he'd be pitching it to me. I think he's pretty frustrated at this point, himself. I think we all are.

But what everyone has to recognize is that this has to end somehow.

Americans didn't vote for the status quo last year, they voted for change. And they're not getting it because the Republicans are acting in a very unified fashion to prevent this and to support the status quo. And that's not what America wants or needs.

I think - I think Senator Reid understands that as well as everybody. But you need to also recognize, in the past, when the Republicans wanted to pass something, they ignored the rule. We had tax cuts for the rich passing with 51 votes in 2003. We had CAFTA passing with fewer than 60 votes, the free trade agreement with Central America. We had Medicare Part D passing with fewer than 60 votes.

Every time the Republicans came up against this impediment and the Democrats were serving themselves, they rolled right over it.

OLBERMANN: You heard what Howard Fineman just said about reconciliation and the prospect of doing much of the bill in the Senate that way. Is that a better alternative to changing the cloture rules essentially in the middle of the game?

GRAYSON: If we need to, that's fine. But the important thing is to solve people's problems, to give them the health care that they need, to give them the jobs that they need.

Right now, the Republicans are executing on their game plan which is disabled the government. You know, years ago, they started this when they appointed lobbyists to run the government in the executive branch. And they contracted out everything to their contracting cronies and they cut off the revenue of the government by tax cuts with the rich.

Now, they're following through in that with this cloture rule. It's got to end. We've got a democracy and we need to show that that's what this is.

OLBERMANN: All right. From a purely partisan view, let's say, Mr. Reid, you know, this the best idea I've heard all week, we're going to do this, we know can pass it, we can get it done by next Thursday. What happens if and when the Republicans regain control of the Senate and they have a 55-vote cloture measure? Does that - is that factored into this or are you saying that the log jam is so bad that it should be there, it needs to be changed just on principle never mind on party?

GRAYSON: It doesn't matter. We're not talking Democrat problem or Republican problem. We've got a problem now with democracy.


GRAYSON: And the problem is the House is getting its business done and the Senate simply isn't because you've got 40 determined senators who are bent on stopping it. That's the problem.

Now, if we change the rule, it's going to apply just as well to Democrats as Republicans. And you're going to see the Senate is going to be able to get its business done and you're not going to see 100 bills piled up waiting to be acted on in the Senate.

OLBERMANN: Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida - as always, great thanks for your time and good holiday.

GRAYSON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, kindly.

GRAYSON: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the leading unreported illnesses in the country, speaking of health care, and one of its most insidious effects is that the victim is likely to employ again and again coping mechanisms that have repeatedly failed him in the past, which explains not only why former Vice President "Deferment" Dick Cheney thinks he was speaking for all U.S. troops when he blasted the commander-in-chief about Afghanistan, but also why some people would still think, after Cheney's failures about Afghanistan that he has any credibility on the topic. Next.


OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney warns about delay in Afghanistan. The current delay, not the one he caused for the seven years of U.S. history ending this past January. Oddly, the laughter was not loud enough to peel paint off all the houses in the country.

Later, having already called her a, quote, "prostitute," Beck now calls Senator Mary Landrieu a, quote, "hooker." One hilarious response to this and one sad non-response.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The British failed in Afghanistan, the Soviets failed in Afghanistan. Bush-Cheney leading the greatest military force in history failed in Afghanistan.

But in our fourth story tonight: President Obama says he now has a plan to, quote, "finish the job."

What Dick Cheney now says in a moment - first, multiple reports tonight claiming Mr. Obama will announce next Thursday the deployment of at least or rather next Tuesday, the deployment of at least 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan following what was called last night's final meeting of his war council on this strategy.

The president today confirming no details.


OBAMA: The review that we've gone through has been comprehensive and extremely useful and has brought together my key military advisors but also civilian advisors. I can tell you, as I've said before, that it is in our strategic interest, in our national security interest to make sure that al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively in those areas. I've also indicated that after eight years, some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done.

It is my intention to finish the job. And I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we are doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.


OLBERMANN: Naturally, the military genius who helped whipped up right-wing frenzy over the insanity of taking a few months to hammer out an actual plan - after eight years of war - could not resist lobbing new insults, actually suggesting today that U.S. soldiers have only one opinion about this, and he knows what it is after a radio host teed him up by saying Mr. Obama's decision-making is something he is doing to the troops rather than for.


RADIO HOST: Why is he doing this to the troops that are waiting reinforcements in Afghanistan?

CHENEY: I don't really know, Scott. I worry that, you know, there's a lack of understanding there of what this means from the perspective of the troops. And if you're out there on the line day in and day out, and putting your life at risk on a volunteer basis for the nation, and you see the commander-in-chief unable or appearing to be unable to make a decision about the way forward here that - you know, that raises serious doubts.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Cheney might understand that the U.S. troops do not think as one. If he ever to speak any other than those hand-picked for him at photo-ops. Or if he had not avoided joining them by getting a deferment, I'm sorry, two deferments - three, four - five, five deferments. Mr. Cheney, of course, has more decision-making experience that just about anyone in Afghanistan, making quick decisions that were wrong in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.

And unlike the instantly sure, seldom right Mr. Cheney, the U.S. people are themselves unsure how to proceed. A new CNN poll is finding 50 percent supporting sending 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, 49 percent opposing that.

Let's turn to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also senior strategist at Public Strategies, and the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Thanks for your time tonight, Richard.


OLBERMANN: I'm quite sure some troops are upset about Mr. Obama's, quote, "dithering," unquote. And I am equally sure that some troops are thankful for a president who has produced a comprehensive, multi-pronged deliberative process.

Does not, Mr. Cheney, marginalize himself by turning U.S. troops into this kind of fictionalized, monolithic Dick Cheney supporter?

WOLFFE: Well, I'm sure some troops might have wanted the job to be finished in Tora Bora and al Qaeda's leadership killed at that moment. They might have wanted real armor on their vehicles instead of having to pay for it themselves. They might have wanted an exit strategy in Iraq or the mission defined in Afghanistan.

In any case, this hasn't really ever been about, quote-unquote, "supporting the troops" because Dick Cheney may, for instance, have planned for the day after the invasion of Iraq if he was really interested in that. This is about the politics of posturing about supporting the troops. And that has worked up to a point. But, in the end, this is going to be a decision that actually really does impact real human beings, real brave men and women in the United States military and being deployed for a second, third, fourth time.

It's actually a huge decision. It has to be defined and executed in the correct way. It's no longer - this war isn't about a propaganda battle with the Taliban. It's exactly - the Taliban that people in Afghanistan, the fight is - are fighting a gorilla war, it's not a media war, no matter what Dick Cheney presents it to be.

OLBERMANN: What would Dick Cheney in office have said about somebody like Dick Cheney out of office being so pointedly and God-awfully convinced of his perfection of his criticism being so critical of the commander-in-chief at a time of war?

WOLFFE: Well, they would have clearly played the patriotic card. I mean, you know, one thing that the typical strategy for this kind of parrying would be to say, you don't question the commander-in-chief at a time of war. That undermines the morale of the troops more than anything else, because in the end, even the polls suggest that this isn't about politics. It's not a left or right division. This is about defining what the mission really is.

When President Obama says he's going to get the job finished, what is the job? That's his challenge next week. He's going to be able to define what this thing is.

Sarah Palin can say the job is to support the troops but you can't just support the troops in abstract. They need to have a mission. And defining that mission is just been one of the biggest failures. That's, of course, one of the big lessons of Vietnam - say what the exit strategy is, define the enemy. It's not this open-ended commitment that is somehow going to stand up something in Afghanistan.

OLBERMANN: All right. One question, one specific about how he does this in this speech. From the snapshot of this that I got at the White House last month, I gather the president thinks all the options, all of them are severely flawed, severely limited, that the best one he can find might simply be the least worst one. Is he likely to be that blunt about it? Is he likely to sell his plan to the country that way, saying, "Look, they all stink. This is just the least stinky of them"?

WOLFFE: I think he has to be slightly more optimistic than that, that he does have to frame this as a longstanding effort that has struggled, because of wasted opportunities in the past. Whether it was going after the al Qaeda leadership, whether it was the political failures in Afghanistan of President Karzai and the failure - let's face it - to reinvest in the reconstruction in Afghanistan, he's got to talk about missed opportunities precisely because he needs to say what the opportunity is now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, also author of "Renegade" and with Public Strategies - as always, our great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: One of the less frequently spoken reasons behind the rights unjustifiably smog certitude about what to do in Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran or Israel is back in the news tonight because of something "Sister Sarah Palin" mentioned seemingly in passing in an interview with a reporter last week just before she took over the fixed news primetime line up. It is symbolized by the fact that to expand her knowledge of the foreign policy implications of the settlements in the West Bank, Ms. Palin has turned to the Reverend Billy Graham. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment. And Lou Dobbs says he's running for president. Well, maybe running is a bit optimistic.

First, on this date in 1972, a passenger onboard a Northwest Orient Flight from Portland to Seattle stood up, showed up the attendant a briefcase filled with wires and red sticks, a bomb he claimed. He demanded $200,000 in cash and some parachutes. When the plane landed in Seattle, he released the passengers in exchange for the money and chutes, then, ordered the pilots to take off, again.

Supposedly, money stuffed in his pockets and parachute firmly attached to his back, he jumped out of the plane over southwest Washington State. But the Air Force jets which were trailing the plane never saw anybody bail out from it. The man who himself called Dan Cooper vanished. Eight years later, about 3 percent of the money was found by campers.

Let's play "Oddball."

A slightly different crime; we begin with dash cam footage of the arrest in Twinsberg (ph), Ohio, lovely place. John Ford pulled over on suspicion of bank robbery. Placed on the hood of the cruiser so police could frisk him for questions. An officer pulled the suspect's wallet out of his pocket. A white piece of paper appeared and - yoink - they completely missed it at the time, but after watching the tape, police now believe that piece of paper Mr. Ford ate was the hold-up note he used in the robbery. Ford remains in custody. Police say they still have enough evidence to convict him, but a station rookie is being kept on duty just in case.

To a Formula One racetrack in Valencia, Spain, where Ferrari's CEO, Luca de Mantezolo (ph), is taking a couple of drivers far spin around the track in the new Ferrari California. It's the first front engine Ferrari with a V-8, first Ferrari with a seven-speed duel - and it's also the first Ferrari to suck on gravel. We're not sure why Seniore de Mantezolo pulled off into the gravel pit, which is designed to stop cars before they smack into the grand stand. The boys in the back got out to push, to no avail. All three men were forced to do a walk of shame, back to an ordinary 1979 Chevy.

Finally to Brazil, where you're going to have to give me a little leeway with the pronouns here, because things got ugly at the Miss Gay Brazil beauty pageant. After shocking the field with an improbable victory, your 2009 Miss Gay Brazil, Ava de Moas (ph), was doing the press rounds when her wig and her tiara got teared off by a runner up.

Right here. The shocked winner lost her hair and her crown. The villain has yet to be positively identified. Officials believe she may have been wearing some sort of disguise. Back here at home, Carrie Prejean has denounced opposite pageants and Donald Trump's hair was too upset to comment.

Sister Sarah Palin turns to a troublesome source for foreign policy advice, Billy Graham. Why a seemingly casual remark about Israel actually serves as warning; she may be one of those end of days, Apocalypse anti-Christ believers.

These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Dateline, New Jersey, number three, best self-delusion, Lou Dobbs is running for president. Talking to the esteemed journalist, Fred "mail it in" Thompson, who asked, "have you ever thought of perhaps running for president," Dobbs replied, "I'm talking - yes is the answer. And I'm going to be talking some more with some folks who want me to listen to them in the next few weeks. I do know this: I'm going to have the best advice. I may make a terrible decision, but I'm going to have great advice."

Lou, at the end, you were having trouble getting more viewers than Jane Velez-Mitchell. How in the hell are you going to get enough votes to become president? Maybe president of Lou.

Dateline Baton Rouge, number two, best comeuppance, Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, veteran of the DC Madam prostitution scandal. the Louisiana Democratic party responded to the unconscionable use of the word prostitute to describe Senator Mary Landrieu, a word used by Beck and Limbaugh, has now called upon one of the state's leading politicians to denounce the remark about prostitutes, Senator Vitter. Senator Vitter has thus far been silent, but his expertise in the area of prostitutes would be most helpful in undoing some of the harm inflicted on his senatorial colleague.

And dateline St. Louis, number one, best celebrity romance news, Carrie Prejean, disgraced ex-Ms California, First Amendment misunderstander, and producer of amateur auto porn, is, according to, in love with backup St. Louis Rams quarterback Kyle Boller. Her brother confirms that they are dating. In her book Prejean writes in dedication to Kyle. To steal the post of commentator Carson from the sports site Dead Spin, "Rams coaches say Boller has been watching a lot of film lately."


OLBERMANN: Unemployed Alaska blogger Sarah Palin likes to talk about her faith without talking about her faith. For the record, our third story is neither ridiculing nor disputing her religious beliefs. It is purely an attempt to discern exactly what those beliefs constitute, so that the voters of 2012 know exactly what they're getting.

There's nothing to suggest that Palin's religious beliefs are anything but utterly mainstream, American mainstream, anyway. But in the last two weeks, she has revealed pieces of the puzzle of her religious doctrines, that suggest she shares the belief of her church, the Assemblies of God, that in the end times, the Rapture, Jesus lifts true believers up with him as non-believers suffer through the Apocalypse.

She's also implying now that her interpretation of Biblical prophesy drives core elements of her policy, as the conservative "Washington Times" claimed last September, as the nation got its first inklings that Palin shared the Evangelical belief in the end times.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some things about the natural resources, about the state. There are some things that god wants to tap into to be a refuge for the lower 48. I believe Alaska is one of the refuge states in the last days.


OLBERMANN: But the last days, according to Evangelical beliefs, cannot happen until Israel is fully restored, the temple on the Mount rebuilt and Jews return from around the world. Here's what Palin's church believes, quote, "when the modern nation of Israel was founded in 1948 and Jews began returning from all around the world, Bible scholars knew that god was at work and that we were very likely living in the last days. Ezekiel Chapter 37, Verse 71, thus sayeth the lord, God, behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen. Wither they be gone and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land."

But does Palin, herself, believe in this prophesy of Jews returning to Israel, followed by Armageddon, the destruction of Israel, and the death of Jews and other non-believers, that this will happen soon? There was no evidence of that, until last week. Keep in mind, when asked about her own ambitions, Palin said she cannot make predictions.


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I am not one to predict what will happen in a few years.


OLBERMANN: But when asked about Israel, where Reuters reported immigration is down to fewer than 20,000 Jews a year, Palin last week suddenly decided she can make predictions without identifying the source of her prediction.


PALIN: I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.


OLBERMANN: More and more people will flock to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead, just as Ezekiel prophesied. And explaining why Israel gets a special place in her foreign policy, telling Shimon Peres, falsely, that the only flag in her office was Israel's. After Thomas Ice at the Pre-Tribulation Research Center at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University told the "Atlantic," quote, "what Sarah Palin probably believes is that this is the first re-gathering, a condition for the second re-gathering, the re-gathering in belief when the Jewish nation is converted. Then there will be the battle of Armageddon.

Who else believes that? Billy Graham, leading prophet of the Rapture, whose website, after President Obama's election, declared 2009 a year to focus on the end times.


REV. BILLY GRAHAM, EVANGELICAL PREACHER: We who live, who survive, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the lord in the air.


OLBERMANN: In 1970, Billy Graham's Worldwide Pictures released a documentary explaining Israel's essential role in Rapture prophesy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lord god says, my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise, again, and return to the land of Israel.


OLBERMANN: British pop star Cliff Richard even sings a song about it.


OLBERMANN: I prefer it when he opens with Congratulations. Sarah Palin met Billy Graham this Saturday, also spending time with son Franklin Graham, who has called Islam an evil religion. And if Sister Sarah had not yet made it clear that her views on Israel are shaped by Apocalyptic prophesy, Franklin gave reporters this tidbit about Palin's meeting with Billy Graham; quoting the "Charlotte Observer," "she quizzed him on the president's he's known and wanted his take on what the Bible says about Israel, Iran and Iraq."

So if Mrs. Palin truly wants to discuss her faith, we invite her to clarify what her faith says about Israel, its role in the Rapture, and the ultimate fate of Israel and the Jews who choose to keep their faith.

Write first, ask questions later; the phony partisanship storms stirred up by the right over the Obama State Dinner tonight turned out to be nothing bigger than John Boehner wanting to go home early for Thanksgiving.

Worsts, Bill-O claims an ambush by his stalker producer has forced Bill Moyers to retire from PBS, two years later.

And at the top of the hour on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" Eliot Spitzer on the face off between the Obama administration and the Wall Street barons who want their money, anyway, bailout and bailout repayment be dammed.


OLBERMANN: Coincidence? No meat at the first State Dinner of the Obama presidency; the guest of honor is a vegetarian. And no meat to a claim from the right that the president excluded key Republicans, one of whom was, in fact, invited, but decided to go home, instead.

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

The bronze to the fired Hewlett Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, who is now running for the Senate from California as a Republican. Ms. Fiorina on the bank bailout on Fox Noise, October 14th, 2008, quote, "the bank bailout was, unfortunately, necessary, because credit is tight for hard working Americans and small businesses."

Eight days later, she credited the bailout with unlocking credit. Now that the bailout has worked, she addressed a breakfast held by the conservative "American Spectator," and according to that publication, quote, "Fiorina said she was opposed to bailouts and President Obama's economic stimulus package."

Ma'am, you're embarrassing yourself, and you explain again why Hewlett-Packard dumped you.

The runner up, Bill-O, really earning that epithet clown on this one. Bill Moyers has announced that at the age of 75, after 38 years in television news, he will be retiring from his weekly program on PBS. "No, I think we, Jesse Waters, drove him out of PBS. I think Jesse Waters is responsible for Bill Moyers leaving. Now, Bill Moyers is hammering Bush and Cheney. They wanted them impeached, this and that, and, you know, taking shots at the 'Factor.' So we sent Jesse out to talk with him."

In the ambush interview from O'Reilly's stalker producer, Moyers mopped the floor with the kid. He invited Waters to come on the show because O'Reilly didn't have the courage to do so, he said. A year later, O'Reilly sent his other flunkie, Porter Berry, to try to side swipe Moyers, and no one has seen Barry since.

And these interviews from two and three years ago, that's what Bill-O thinks drove Moyers out of PBS. Bill also thinks he has his own police force and that he schedules the tides. Notice, O'Reilly never does these ambush interviews himself because, well - here kitty, kitty, kitty.

But our winner, a two-fer from Lonesome Rhodes Beck. As a fairly recent survivor of an emergency appendectomy, I think I can say this - I don't think what they took out of him was his appendix. Predicting a collapse of the American economy, he advised, "I like to the call the three G system for this; it's god, gold and guns. Now, personally, you might take God and put him as an umbrella over the whole thing. Then you've got your gun and your gold down here, too."

Once again, Beck's dirty little secret is that American society means as much to him as faith means to a televangelist. It's a scam. It's a cash cow. He's in it for the money. He keeps trying to sell people gold, largely because his a disproportionate number of his advertisers sell people gold.

Here's a fact Beck never mentions: the gold sellers will buy gold back from you at about 60 or 70 percent of the going wholesale price they charge you. In other words, if you guy buy gold and the price doesn't go up 30 or 40 percent, you will never make your money back, let alone a profit.

Part two, Beck called Mary Landrieu a prostitute again, did it on the radio, using the word itself. Then on television, "so we know you're hooking, but you're just not cheap." At the end of the same attack, of verbal diarrhea, Beck concluded, "I guess shame is dead. Shame died."

What would you know about shame? And where are the conservative feminists? A women politician is called a prostitute and you're OK with that. It's OK if I call Sarah Palin that? The hell it is. Lonesome Rhodes Beck, traveling gold salesman, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The menu for tonight's state dinner is meat-less. The guest of honor is a vegetarian. But while the prime minister of India and others enjoys green curry prawns and coconut basmati, the right wing will be feasting on sour grapes. Our number one story, the right's made up hysterics over the guest list.

Short time ago, the president and First Lady greeting the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and his wife. Tonight's festivities will require something bigger than the traditional the state dining room to accommodate a guest list of over 300. They have been moved inside this heated tent, you see, on the South Lawn.

The right accused the president of keeping the GOP out of the big tent. A "Washington Times," in an article titled "Top Republican Law Makers Not Attending State Dinner," reported that the Obama White House had snubbed GOP leaders. It wrote, "House Minority Leader John A. Boehner won't be there. He's on Thanksgiving break at home in Ohio. His deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, also didn't get an invitation."

Once again, facts ruining a perfectly good story. There you see the secretary of state. As reported by "Politico" a few days ago, Boehner was invited, but declined to attend so he could go home to Ohio. Also invited, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He too will be in his home district and will not attend.

Drudge running the story with the headline, "Not invited, Republican lawmakers," next to a link about all the Hollywood a-listers attending the dinner and the headlines "Celebrity Curry."

Never one to be left out of a fabricated controversy, the Fixed News website also linked the article. The "Washington Times" later updated its post to represent actual facts.

Now, what Boehner and McConnell are missing out on at this hour. The guests seated in tables of ten, awaiting the toast from the president. They will dine on China from the Eisenhower, Clinton and Bush the younger administrations, the purple floral centerpieces. The apple green linens are intended to pay homage to the Indian peacock.

Which brings me to the Grand Poobah of crying foul, Orly Taitz Limbaugh today complaining the Obama administration has single-handedly ruined turkey day. "Has any president ever tried to hijack Thanksgiving with a state dinner two days before Thanksgiving? I'm surprised he didn't do it on Wednesday night or Thursday night."

No mention of any of the days controversies, as the president gave a toast earlier - later, rather.

For the record, 49 seconds of research finds that President Johnson had a state dinner for the president of West Germany five days before Christmas in 1965. Even though President Bush only held six state dinners in his eight year, one of them for the Japanese prime minister was scheduled just five days before the Fourth of July in 2006.

Joining us now, columnist for, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, also the co-author of "Listen Up, Mr. President." Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.CO"M: Looks like those folks' Thanksgiving hasn't been hijacked. They're having a good time.

OLBERMANN: Is there nothing left? Is there nothing apolitical left, not even state dinners, the ultimate pomp over meaning?

CRAWFORD: Maybe not the only thing left is politicizing a state funeral, Keith, I guess. This is part of a plan that the political parties do quite often. It's intense in this round of trying to delegitimize the president of the other party. They have been doing it in so many different ways. Attacking something as benign as a state dinner is one way to do it, I suppose.

OLBERMANN: If you are going to politicize something like this and open it up, it not more appropriate to ask why the minority leader of the House could not stick around an extra few hours to represent this country to an honored guest like the prime minister of India?

CRAWFORD: I'm sure if it was reversed, that's what we would hear from them. They couldn't stick around to do this? Again, I think it's part of a plan to just delegitimize this president, not even giving this platform, go and suck it up and pretend to get along.

OLBERMANN: The vice president on the left there. The guest list was a closely regarded secret. Obviously, we knew the vice president would be there. It was released early this evening. Anybody watching could see the arrivals. Do we predict the meme tomorrow from the right about all the Hollywood stars there, or is the one advantage of having this thing scheduled where it is that nobody from the right is going to be at work tomorrow, and none of this gets played tomorrow?

CRAWFORD: Right. Well, I think they are going to make this effort to

· the Hollywood president, the celebrities that are there, make a big deal out of that. Past presidents have had celebrities at all these kinds events. That's nothing new. Of course, that's an old call 1-800 for golden oldies from the '90s, with Bill Clinton, attacking him for being so close to Hollywood. Never seemed to hurt him. I think it sort of helps the president in a way.

OLBERMANN: What is the significance? I guess this is largely answered by the historic nature of this, in other words the historic continuum. It's been 60 years of dinners that have involved leaders from India. But is there additional significance to the president selecting India as the country that gets the honor of his first state dinner?

CRAWFORD: There's been some concern in State Department circles and diplomatic community that India was feeling left out, with all the attention paid to Pakistan, which obviously they don't get along with too well, and other surrounding countries. Plus, India is a huge democracy, one of the biggest in the world. Sometimes I think some of those countries feel like we pay so much attention to the bad guys that we overlook the good guys.

OLBERMANN: And don't say, because the right will come after you - don't say they are the biggest democracy, even though they are. The attention to detail for everything at this dinner, from the menu to the tables, to the dress that Mrs. Obama has. The First Lady is going to be in an outfit designed by an Indian born American designer. Does pulling off an impressive welcoming diplomatic dinner lead to headway? Does this have some - no pun intended - meat to the bones?

CRAWFORD: I don't know of any, unless maybe China with Nixon, when you open up relations with a new country or something, and the pomp and circumstance is new to them, and it gives them respect. I think this lays a foundation, but there's nothing to replace the hard work behind the scenes to actually get deals made. Dinners are nice, look good and help make presidents look very presidential . There's the music right there, "Hail to the Chief." That's one purpose of it.

OLBERMANN: As the president and prime minister enter, followed by Mrs. Singh and Mrs. Obama, we'll thank Craig Crawford of Have a happy thanksgiving and rush over and pick me up a doggy-bag from this thing, I would appreciate it.

CRAWFORD: They'll have plenty of leftovers for Thanksgiving, it looks like.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,399th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Now to discuss the brewing bonus battle on Wall Street with Eliot Spitzer, ladies and gentlemen, sitting in for Rachel Maddow is former Governor Howard Dean.

Governor, good evening.


Monday, November 23, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, November 23, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Worst Persons

Guests: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Arianna Huffington, Nicole Lamoureaux, Chris Kofinis, Richard Wolffe


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


SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: The motion is agreed to.


OLBERMANN: Now what? Are the Democrats and health care reform in the Senate in "deep trouble," as Howard Dean says? Or are there rabbits to be pulled from a hat full of senators, some Republicans, some Democrats still wavering?


SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written.


OLBERMANN: Behold, Senator Lincoln, what you want to preserve in your home state. The free health clinic in Little Rock, 1,001 patients seen, plus, their family members; two of them had had heart attacks and did not even know; 69 percent of them either get no regular medical care or only go to E.R.s; 24 percent had not seen a physician in more than five years; 9 percent, in more than 10 years.

Some, Senator-some are Arkansans, on your watch. No idea.


REAN JAFFEY, PATIENT AT FREE CLINIC: I can't even remember, years. And just if I get really, really sick, I think I'm about to die, I go to the emergency room. And, otherwise, I just have to rough it.


OLBERMANN: The conservative loyalty oath: Republican National Committee members being asked to adhere to and distribute a 10-point purity checklist to make sure they are right-wing enough, sufficiently Reagan-like. But it turns out Ronald Reagan would have failed the test. Ronald Reagan was a Democrat?

"Worsts": Beck and Limbaugh both call Senator Mary Landrieu a, quote, "prostitute."

And "Saturday Night Live" blows up the divine sister Sarah, done so subtly that her supporters think it was pro-Palin satire directed instead against the first name you will see here.





OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary-now on Countdown.





OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

If the original idea had been to give all Americans the same health insurance that members of Congress get, the bill about to be debated in the Senate instead proposing to do the opposite. Elected lawmakers would reportedly be given the same choices for their health care coverage that ordinary Americans would get under whatever public exchange is set up in the final legislation.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Does that mean ordinary like Americans, members of Senate, would be left with no health insurance should they drop the public option from the bill or fail to pass a health reform bill of any kind? Could we get "Medicare for all" passed unanimously?

Saturday night's procedural vote in the Senate, 60-39, paving the way for debate to begin on a 10-year $849 billion measure. Not a single Republican voted for the bill to be debated. Not one. Not even Senator Snowe.

"The New York Times" is reporting the White House and Senate Democratic leaders are still courting Senators Snowe and Collins. Conservative Democrats, however, remain the most likely suspects for killing the bill altogether.


LINCOLN: Let me be perfectly clear. I am opposed to a new government-administered health care plan as part of comprehensive health care insurance reform and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: My vote today to move forward on this important debate should in no way be construed by the supporters of this current framework as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I mean, we could negotiate a public option of some sort that I might look at.


NELSON: But I don't want a big government, Washington-run operation that would undermine the 200 - the insurance-private insurance that 200 million Americans now have.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I don't think anybody thinks this bill will pass.


LIEBERMAN: . as it is.

GREGORY: It's got a public option. You said you would not vote for it as a matter of conscience. That you would even filibuster it if that stays in, still the case?

LIEBERMAN: That's right. If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor.


OLBERMANN: Senator Lincoln, meanwhile, has tonight, for the first time, addressed what she would like to see in the bill. We'll get to that in just a moment.

But here comes the hard part: keeping those four conservatives happy without watering the bill down so much that the Democratic Party's progressive base will no longer support it either. Democratic sources are saying the leadership started feeling out the caucus for two possible compromises, one alternative, that trigger offered by Senator Snowe. Under her proposal, a nonprofit public plan would kick in or be triggered in a specific state only if private insurance failed to offer affordable coverage by a certain date.

The other alternative offered by Democrat Carper of Delaware, calling his plan "The Hammer." It would work like Snowe's trigger option but would also allow states to opt-in to a plan; Mr. Carper is admitting the details are still fuzzy.

Neither plan would seem to win the support of independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who said in a statement, quote, "I strongly suspected there are a number of senators, including myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public option."

Governor Howard Dean, Dr. Dean, also of Vermont, former chair of the DNC, today is saying he sees virtually no path to passing strong legislation. The governor telling the "Huffington Post" that the Senate Democratic leadership is, quote, "in deep trouble," warning that if the party allowed four conservative senators to further water-down the bill or defeat it altogether, it could lead to primary challenges or to a drop in support from the party's base.

Quoting him, "If you have members refusing to vote for Reid on procedural issues, you will have a revolt in the party. What is the point of having a 60-vote margin? This is going to be death for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Why would anyone donate to them if they are supporting candidates who defeat the Democratic agenda?"

Why indeed.

One Democrat in the House is now looking to make procedural votes a little easier in the Senate, Congressman Alan Grayson starting an online petition to get Majority Leader Reid to change the rules of the Senate to require only 55 votes to invoke cloture instead of the current 60. That sounds unprecedented or unlikely. Invoking cloture used to require 67 votes. The Senate reduced the number to 60 in 1975.

Time to call, once again, in, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who co-wrote the public option that is in the health care bill.

Senator, thanks again for your time tonight.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you, Keith. Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Is it as blunt as this: don't tamper further with the public option or you lose-if you don't tamper further with the public option, you lose the four conservative Democrats; and if you do tamper further with the public option, you lose Sanders and Burris and maybe others?

WHITEHOUSE: I think there's a little bit more room to maneuver than that. I think, first of all, once everyone has got a chance to say their say on the Senate floor, to call for their votes, to make their arguments, when the dust is settled, they're in a slightly different position than at the very beginning. And I think if people go through that whole process and then want to take their ball and go home, that's a very different thing than having never been heard.

I also think that there's some room around the details of the public option between opt-in and opt-out and trigger. I, for one, am not particularly concerned about the names. I would like to see the public option as available as possible. And there may be room for a compromise, for instance, with Senator Snowe about a trigger that actually does better in terms of reach for the public option.

So, I'm supporting the Leader Reid's bill. I think it's a good one. I think we should stick with it. But I don't think that it's beyond the pale to think about ways that we can implement the public option in alternative ways.

OLBERMANN: Based on something you just said and something that Senator Ben Nelson said in a clip we played earlier, and something now that Senator Lincoln has spoken at a jobs event in Arkansas, I'm wondering-is there some measure of this in which people want to be able to say, "I spoke my piece," and then supported an only slightly watered-down bill?

Because what Senator Lincoln has said tonight-and I know I'm catching you cold on this, but here's a summary from the speech. When asked what she'd like to see in the bill, she would protect Medicare and Medicaid, also look at their inefficiencies, cut out extra spending. Small businesses should be represented in the final legislation. She also wants the Senate to look hard at what a public option would bring for future taxpayers. On the underlying bill, she said, should also include strong insurance reforms that would address customer rating based on gender or location as well as preexisting conditions.

She says, in essence, here, she wants these positions raised, not necessarily the bill altered to match her position exactly.

Is there some undercurrent of that in some of the tepid support for this bill?

WHITEHOUSE: Yes. And I also think that all of the points that she's raised are very easy to negotiate and discuss. There's nothing that's highly controversial. They're all very logical kernels for somebody to have, and particularly on the public option. If what she's really focused in on is its effect on future taxpayers, well, the Senate HELP bill solves that, because it requires each public option state-by-state to stay solvent and to have no recourse back to taxpayers.

So, you know, I think as we talk through this, we may find that there's more room than it presently seems.

OLBERMANN: Then, can you address Governor Dean's pessimism, which is heretofore not been expressed and was seemingly expressed pretty profoundly today? He's sort of viewing this-I think to summarize what he said-a kind of lose/lose situation at the moment.

WHITEHOUSE: I think this may be one of those moments when it's more discouraging from the outside looking in than it looks when you're there in the middle of the discussions, when you've seen all the senators in caucus together.

When you've heard from President Clinton and others coming in and reminding us how important this is to get through, and when you see that, you know, elements like the public option remain extremely popular with the American public-I just feel a lot more confident than Howard Dean does. And I think it may be because I have a slightly different perspective and I'm a little bit more-getting the inside view.

OLBERMANN: One of the few advantages being in the belly of the beast right at the particular moment, I hope you're entirely correct.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island-thanks for the encouragement. Thanks for your time and happy Thanksgiving.

WHITEHOUSE: Happy Thanksgiving, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on the politics of this, let's turn to Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the

Good evening, Arianna.


OLBERMANN: Well, address what Senator Whitehouse just said, behind the scenes, this looks much more optimistic than it does on face value.

HUFFINGTON: Well, I'm glad he feels that way. But, remember, Keith, that's how they have been feeling on Senator Max Baucus' committee for many long wasted weeks when they were negotiating with the Republicans, including Senator Chuck Grassley, when he wasn't busy passing around Glenn Beck books and telling us that they were going to pull the plug on grandma.

OLBERMANN: Address these comments that I just quoted from Senator Lincoln here. Is it possible that what she's looking for is something she can take back to Arkansas and say, "I did this myself here, I guaranteed something"? Is it just-is she looking for something, some small island to stand on and nothing more than that?

HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, Keith, she was so unequivocal on Saturday on the floor of the Senate when she said, "I cannot vote for something that is basically a government-run health care program." That's what she called it. And that includes the public option.

So, I don't know how she retreats from that. I certainly hope she's willing to retreat from that. But I think it's very unlikely. I think it's really important for Democrats to be really clear and unambiguous about what they will accept, what they will not accept, and to stop trying to believe that they can move people along, because so far they have been incredibly unsuccessful.

OLBERMANN: There's one point that was made-and I believe it was made by a poster at Daily Kos today-and I thought it was a very intriguing point. That this entire argument from the Republican side, that this idea of health care, or any kind of health care reform, the passage of any kind of health care reform, will doom the Democrats and the Republicans will have something to run on next year and 2012 is, in fact, a total red herring; that if the Republicans thought that any health care reform was going to sink the Democrats, they'd let the Democrats pass something. That their goal is entirely nothing and, therefore, the Democrats should be happy with anything.

What do you think of that?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I don't think the Democrats should be happy with anything, because look at the education reform. Remember, No Child Left Behind? It turned out to be a complete disaster. So, what happens now? If the Democrats accept anything and, especially, if they accept it to be prolonged until 2014, which is a point that Governor Dean made to Sam Stein in the "Huffington Post" today, then that would be really problematic, Keith, because what that means is that basically Republicans are going to notice, as will everybody in the country, that nothing much has changed and they're going to attack this as another government takeover that has not worked.

So, the only way that Democrats can win-if they really demand real reform. And they can do it, Keith, simply by asking Senator Reid to go for reconciliation, which basically means to go for a simple majority. They have a simple majority. They already have 51 senators who have committed to vote for a bill that includes a public option.

Without a public option, there is no real cost containment. There is no real competition for the health care industry.

So, why go for something that will not be real reform?

OLBERMANN: But given that conciliation is still budget conciliation or budget reconciliation, in point of fact, and essentially, all you can pass with 51 votes is what relates directly to spending, budgeting, is that final product going to be just as watered down, just in different ways than a bill that has been stretched out to get 60 votes?

HUFFINGTON: No, I don't think so, because it will include this essential element of competition for the health care industry. Without that element, Keith, really, there is no real reform because there's absolutely no guarantee that the industry will behave any differently than it's behaved so far.

OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington of the "Huffington Post" which has the great interview with a not so happy Dr. Dean today-thank you, Arianna.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Once again, nothing speaks to the urgent need of health care reform in this country right now than offering a taste of it to some of our neighbors almost literally starving for its lack. Neither of two of the patients at the free health clinic you paid for in Little Rock on Saturday knew what was wrong with them. You, each was told as gently as possible, as ambulances were readied to take them to the hospital. You have had a heart attack.


OLBERMANN: Your free health care clinics moved on to Little Rock, home of one of the Democratic Senators quietly supporting reform and another loudly, holding out. Had the latter attended the event, she could not in all human conscience hold out any further.

We'll take you and her there and be joined by Nicole Lamoureaux of the National Association of Free Clinics.

Later: "SNL" blows up Sarah Palin. The GOP establishes a litmus test to make sure its members are sufficiently Reaganesque, only Reagan would have failed the test.

And the tea partiers laugh at the story of a woman and her unborn child killed by lack of insurance.

All ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: If any United States senators or congressmen had not seen a doctor for 10 years or more because the current system made that literally impossible, health care reform would have been done 11 years ago. If any of those lawmakers had chronic conditions that became untreatable because there was no affordable health insurance option for them, the problem would be solved an hour after the diagnosis.

In our fourth story on the Countdown: Again, the urgency made obvious as the free health fair in Little Rock, Arkansas, treated more than 1,000 people in one day. This was the second free clinic paid for in large part by you, the Countdown viewers.

Volunteer workers at Saturday's clinic finding that 69 percent of the patients either do not go anywhere for medical care, or are forced to rely on emergency rooms, like Rean Jaffey.


JAFFEY: A month or so ago, I had landed in the emergency room with a bladder and kidney infection. And so, they said I needed follow-up care. And I was not able to get it. And so, I came today to (INAUDIBLE). I work part-time in Home Depot. But I'm a single mom with three kids and I'm not able to afford the insurance. I have other priorities, staying on our feet, and can't do it.


OLBERMANN: The last time Ms. Jaffey had seen a doctor?


JAFFEY: I can't even remember, years. And just if I get really, really sick, where I think I'm about to die, I go to the emergency room. And otherwise, I just have to rough it.


OLBERMANN: Her gratitude for that clinic evident, but she was hardly alone. Nine percent of Saturday's patients had not been examined in more than 10 years; another 24 percent had not been to a doctor more than five years. Seven patients were sent immediately to the hospital. Two of them had had heart attacks and did not even know it.


DR. KIM GARNER, VOLUNTEER AT HEALTH CLINIC: She had some concerns that we could not handle in this one-day clinic and felt like it need more emergent evaluation. I feel like she's going to get good care and get good evaluation. I think provided she gets that access, that she'll do well.


OLBERMANN: The access that a patient needs is precisely part of this problem.


GARNER: The health care system is, in my opinion, broken. When people don't have insurance, much of that is absorbed by the hospital, but makes all health care costs rise for every-you know, all the other payers. Our system is not designed to manage and treat long term chronic medical problems.


OLBERMANN: Chronic medical problems like diabetes. Twenty-one people newly diagnosed just with that on Saturday. And another problem not commonly raised but all too common, college graduates in limbo.


JANEY CAREY, SON HAS NO HEALTH INSURANCE: He's a typical graduate from college who has not been able to find work yet and he doesn't have health care insurance and the health care insurance is so expensive. So, he's one of those that are uninsured right now.


OLBERMANN: But the ultimate irony-one woman who, like 83 percent of those who use free clinics, is employed but cannot afford health insurance. She asked that she'd not be identified for fear of losing her job. Her employer does not provide affordable health benefits. She works for a health insurance company.

Let's turn again to the executive director of National Association of Free Clinics, Nicole Lamoureaux.

Good evening, Nicole. Congratulations.


OLBERMANN: Arkansas senator, Blanche Lincoln, was commenting on Saturday's event and said something that was very telling. I'm not sure which it was telling. Let me quote her first. "This one day clinic is a blessing. But it is not a sustainable way to deliver health care for the thousands of uninsured and under-insured Arkansas."

Has the senator gotten the point or missed it?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, so many times, as you and I have discussed, we've never claimed that these one-day health clinics were a sustainable answer. But one of the things that I do think the senator missed is that every single day in Arkansas, there are free clinics in community health centers and a safety net that is providing quality health care to the uninsured. But when 1,000 people have to show up at a convention center because they do not have access to health care, that is something that needs to be acknowledged.

OLBERMANN: Yes. She just proved the reason why she should vote yes for the thorough health reform that is imaginable, because of her point that it is not sustainable for this to be the only safety net.

To that point, we've now done two of these with you, assisting you, one in Little Rock and one earlier in New Orleans. Has anything surprised you? Is there any new information you can glean anecdotally about our nation's health care system based on these two events?

LAMOUREAUX: I think the things that surprised me the most were these. We stopped three suicides. People who are thinking of taking their own life, that the only thing that stopped them was coming to a one-day health clinic, the people who had newly diagnosed diabetes and their blood sugar was over 500 , and the two heart attacks that you spoke about. Those are walking time bombs that could be very easily addressed if people had access to quality health care.

The other thing that's surprised was the gratitude of the patients as well as the volunteers that came those days.

OLBERMANN: I don't want to go too deeply into the-into the politics or the details of the Senate bill that is now being debated. But is there anything in it that will help your organization, particularly reach more people? Is there anything that will backstop free clinics and make them stronger and more vibrant and less ultimately necessary, but still a component?

LAMOUREAUX: No. Quite frankly, there is nothing in the Senate bill -

there was nothing in the House bill. And in the Senate bill, we would like to be named as an essential provider. It will only help strengthen the current medical community as well as help the 8 million patients that we're seeing right now.

OLBERMANN: Two-day event in Kansas City as the graphic shows on the 9th and 10th. Tell me about what do you expect in Kansas City.

LAMOUREAUX: The 9th and the 10th at Bartle Hall in Kansas City. As we spoke about before, this is America's heartland. And we are excited because this event will be bigger than what we have done before. On top of the medical exams and labs that we'll be having, we will also be doing mental health screenings and dental care as well.

So, we are encouraging patients as well as volunteers to go to to get more information. And we are truly encouraging volunteers, because as Rich Stockwell talked about, by coming to these events, it will forever change your life.

OLBERMANN: Nicole Lamoureaux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics-again, great thank for your time, for your efforts.

Nicole is one of the people who can truly sleep soundly as this debate rages around us. She has done her part.

Thank you, Nicole.

LAMOUREAUX: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That the Republican Party is betting its very existence on being able to go to the nation next year and in 2012 and say, "We kept health care unchanged" is not an ideological statement but a neutral fact, and it's underscored again tonight by the revelation of a conservative loyalty oath. Ten things members of the GOP national committee must do or become enemies of the ghost of Ronald Reagan.

Number two is, support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style. Number nine: opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion.

There's only one problem, of course, with that big Reagan litmus test for true conservatives, eight out of 10 required, Reagan would have failed the Reagan litmus test-ahead.


OLBERMANN: The secret Republican loyalty oath to make them more conservative, more Reaganesque. Nobody noticed, Reagan would have failed, would miss at least six out of 10. That's next.

Time first for Countdown's Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Dateline: Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Number three: Best business decision. Phil Wolf, owner of Wolf Automotive, just off I-70 there in Wheat Ridge. He's put up a new billboard above his place. That's the president in a turban with the legend "president or jihad," and "wake up, America, remember Ft. Hood." It demands that the president produce his birth certificate again. Mr. Wolf of Wolf Automotive, your friendly neighborhood seller of Jeeps, hatred, paranoia and racism, said, "I wanted to bring a little more attention to this. To me, it just wasn't getting addressed." Several death threats later - and for the record, not even somebody as hateful as this guy deserves a single death threat-he has gotten the attention he hoped for and he's shocked anybody thinks he's a racist because he once voted for Alan Keyes.

Dateline Washington, number two, best evidence you skipped logic

class, Star Parker, columnist at, linking possible increase of

or approval of same-sex marriage in Washington to the increased spread of HIV. She writes, "the DC City Council, perhaps on the theory that serving up another glass is a way to help a drunk, is scheduled to vote on December one to legalize same sex marriage in America's capital city."

Ms. Parker is thus either operating on the assumption that unmarried gay men do not have sex or that the marriage would increase promiscuity among gay men. Ms. Parker is not very bright.

Dateline New York, number one, best pouring cement on top of the grave you dug for your career, Lou Dobbs On CNN on 2005, he erroneously reported that there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the US in a three-year span attributed to undocumented immigrants. In fact, there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the entire country attributed to everybody in a 30-year span. Mr. Dobbs was confronted about this during an interview with the Telemundo interview. Maria Seleste (ph) asked, "but even after that, that was proven wrong, what you had said, you stood behind your reporting, insisting that it was accurate. Why was that? "

Mr. Dobbs' response, "no, no. Let's be very clear. For one, I did not stand behind that reporting. In fact, we corrected that reporting." He lied. Maybe the fourth time they corrected it. But in 2007, Dobbs had been confronted about the same sloppy prejudiced crap and he defended the lie to "60 Minutes." Lesley Stahl said, "now we went to try and check that number, 7,000. We can't. Just so you know" - Dobbs interrupted, "I can tell you this: if we reported it, it's a fact."

Stahl, "how can you guarantee that to me?" Dobbs: "Because I'm the managing editor and that's the way we do things in this business. We don't make up numbers, Lesley. Do we?"

Except Lou. Lou made up numbers. How can a guy destroy his own career and two weeks later still be re-destroying it?


OLBERMANN: After Republican tea baggers undercut and sabotaged

moderate Republican Congressional candidate Dede Scozzafava in New York,

some members of the Republican National Committee have come up with a plan

to make their party bigger, kick more people out. In our third story

tonight, they're doing it in the name of Ronald Reagan, except that the

plan they have chosen would have resulted in them kicking out Ronald Reagan

A proposed RNC resolution says President Reagan considered his friends those he agreed with 80 percent of the time. So it would deny funding to any Republican candidate who did not agree with 80 percent of ten Republican principles.

One, smaller government, reducing taxes and the deficit.

Two, oppose health care reform.

Three, oppose cap and trade.

Four, oppose card check.

Five, oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Six, support military recommendations like troop surges.

Seven, contain Iran and North Korea.

Eight, support Defense of Marriage Act.

Nine, oppose health care rationing and federal funds for abortion.

Ten, oppose gun control.

Sponsor Jim Bop (ph) told the RNC this would free the party, quote, "future party splitters," such as former Senator Lincoln Chafee, no longer a Republican. Senator Arlen Specter, no longer a Republican. And Scozzafava herself.

Who else would fail the Reagan litmus test? Number one, Reagan expanded the government taxes and the deficit. Number five, he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. Number six, he ignored the military recommendation to pull out of Beirut. Number seven, he sold weapons to Iran Number eight, he opposed California's anti-gay prop six, and hosted the first openly gay sleepover at the White House. Number ten, he signed a gun control law in California and supported the Brady Bill after he and his press secretary were shot. President Reagan, four out of 10.

Welcome back to the Democratic party, sir.

With us tonight is democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Thanks for your time tonight, Chris.


OLBERMANN: Stuff like this, measuring your standing in a political party versus its past greats, that probably goes back to Andrew Jackson and the early Democrats. Isn't the first rule of it, though, pretty obvious, fix your tests? Stack it so the guy you're comparing everybody else to would have gotten 100 percent, not 40 percent?

KOFINIS: It is kind of ironic that Ronald Reagan would fail the apparent Ronald Reagan test. But this is kind of a statement of where the Republican party is today, that they're even discussing these kind of purity tests. It is a party that is completely out of touch with mainstream America When you see these type of purity tests, it just reinforces it.

They seem to be kind of trapped in this model of trying to find new innovative ways to self-destruct. Maybe put it another way, they're subscribing to thunder dome politics. Two Republicans go in, one conservative out of touch Republican comes out. It is not a recipe for electoral success. I do not understand why they seem to keep choosing to go down this path, at least-or even discuss going down this path.

OLBERMANN: Is there a better way, can you think, off the top of your head, to make the party more open or more successful or just larger?

KOFINIS: Yeah. Don't do purity tests. I mean, it's really simple. A purity test, especially one that is this out of whack with reality, even for the Republican party, let alone for Ronald Reagan, is kind of the equivalent of a chastity belt. We know how that works.

It just doesn't make any sense. You end up alienating the very voters you're trying to attract because you set up this kind of artificial criteria about who you decide is qualified to be part of the Republican party.

It is Orwellian that the Republican party would even be discussing this. But given where they are right now in the country, even with the various troubles that the country faces, they still have not been able to capitalize. I would argue the reason is they continue to find ways to alienate themselves with the very voters they're trying to attract.

OLBERMANN: Plus, you build up a false reality. These are the same folks that proposed this proposed the resolution that would have the RNC members refer to the Democratic party as the Democrat-Socialist party and Michael Steele had to talk them down from that one. Have they gotten more powerful in projecting their own vision of the world over the majority vision of the world?

KOFINIS: I think they've gotten more vocal. I mean, they seem to be the ones that are only-the ones that are shouting in the Republican party, and that seems to scare the Republican party, including folks like Michael Steele And they just freeze. I mean, the reality is the leadership of the Republican party sees these elements, these birthers, these tea-partiers-they see them as the grassroots of the Republican party. And because they've been vocal and active and ginned up by Glenn beck, Sarah Palin and others, they're unwilling to stand up to them.

The problem is now they're a prisoner to them. Until they realize you cannot appeal to moderates if you're simply trying to appease the most radical, out of touch elements of your party, they're going to continue to deep this rabbit hole deeper and deeper. So Michael Steele, I think, is probably in a tough position, but it is a tough position that he has made for himself and the party has made for themselves, because they're unwilling to stand up to people who clearly don't understand politics.

OLBERMANN: And counting. They don't understand counting. You have to have more votes than the other guy. Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, veteran counter, who is tonight welcoming Ronald Reagan back into the democratic fold. Great thanks, Chris.

KOFINIS: Welcome to Ronald Reagan Thanks, Keith

OLBERMANN: The willful self delusion is so powerful that some on the far right think Saturday night was complimenting sister Sarah What they saw wasn't a Palin presidency followed by an apocalypse. They saw was an apocalypse followed by a Palin presidency. They're in favor of that.

It's official, also, there are no conservative feminists. Beck and Limbaugh each call Mary Landrieu a, quote, prostitute, and no right wing woman complains, let alone demands they be fired.

And at the top of the hour on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," the state ethics report is back on Governor Mark "Hiking the Old Appalachian Trail" Sanford. And it's found only 37 violations; 37, well played, sir.


OLBERMANN: Sister Sarah goes to Fort Bragg for a book signing that she turns into a political fund raiser at a military base. Plus the trailer for SNL's Palin 2012 movie. That's next. First time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Lonesome Roads Beck, who announced on Saturday that he's starting either a political movement to sell a book or he's starting a book to sell a political movement. It will take 100 years and it will be based on Mao Tse-Tung's plans for China, or something. With incoherent mystical visions, it's hard to tell. To reporters from "Time Magazine" and "Politico" and the "New York Times" and everybody else in the main stream treating this seriously, what are you doing? We have another free health clinic on Saturday. More than 1,000 people in Little Rock were assisted and paid for fully by viewers of this show. Instead of wondering about the implications of that, you're covering a guy from the university of I don't remember, who has announced some sort of amorphous plan, which he has creatively entitled "The Plan."

The runners-up, Beck and Orly Taitz Limbaugh. Gretchen Carlson has just complained that if you're a conservative woman, you get more attacks than if you have a liberal point of view. Well, Beck and Limbaugh have evened that out in a hurry, each speaking of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and each called her a whore.

Beck, "we're with a high class prostitute. That's what we're with."

Limbaugh, "that may be - folks, that may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution and she's bragging about it, Mary Landrieu."

He's an expert. The next time I say something about Michele Malkin being a bag of mashed up meat with lip stick on it and I'm called sexist by conservatives because I use the word lipstick, even though every week on the football show I use the exact same phrase about men, only I don't say lipstick, and lipstick was the one word punchline to a joke by Sarah Palin, just remember, Beck and Limbaugh happily called a sitting US woman senator a, quote, prostitute, and not a single conservative woman has as much as disagreed with them. Ms. Carlson, where is your umbrage now, you fraud?

But our winner, Katherina Roiterich (ph) of Mt. Greenwood in Chicago, organizer of what is described as a tea party splinter group, as if they all weren't splinter groups, Chicago Tea Party Patriots. Nine days ago, a couple, Dan and Mitch Huff, spoke out in favor of health care reform at the town hall of Congressman Dan Lipinski. They told how their daughter-in-law and her unborn child did not have insurance. So she did not get prenatal care and her pneumonia turned into double pneumonia and then septic shock. The baby died in the womb. The daughter-in-law, Jenny, died two weeks later. She left a husband and two-year-old daughter. And her in-laws told this story as an example of the current health care system at its worst.

And the tea party slobs not only interrupted them and made fun of them and rolled their eyes, but this woman, Katherina Roiterich, sent out an e-mail calling the Huffs Obama operatives who had fabricated the story of the deaths and, quote, "go from event to event and cry the same story."

After a local newspaper reporter verified the Huff's account, Ms. Roiterich defended herself by saying the protesters were frustrated by all these isolated tragedies that get in the way of discussion of the bill. Ma'am, that's what health care is. It's a series of isolated tragedies. Isolated until they happen to you, or until you, Ms. Roiterich, become a human being again, rather than a manipulated tool of big business and fear mongering and shapeless, hopeless greed and selfishness. Because if any of the world's major religions are right, ma'am, you and for what you and the other people did to the Huffs, you're going to hell. Katherina Roiterich of Chicago Tea Party Patriots, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The man who was effectively John McCain's campaign manager served it up like the proverbial softball. Steve Schmidt said months ago, if she were the Republican nominee, 2012 would be a, quote, "catastrophic election." Our number one story, Sister Sarah is denied permission to make a speech on a US Army base, but does manage to solicit political contributions while signing books there. "Saturday Night Live" decided to illustrate the motion picture possibilities of Mr. Schmidt's remark: Sarah-pocalypse now.

The "Going Rogue" tour bus rolling into Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Army regulations banning any politician from using politicians for political platforms. But a Fort Bragg spokesman says Palin falls into a gray area because she's, quote, not a political figure per se.

So instead the military offered her a compromise, no speeches, no posing for pictures, no personalized messages in books. But as the Associated Press reports, that did not stop the Palin camp from encouraging donations to her political action committee. Allowing Palin's father, Chuck Heath (ph), to call President Obama's handling of the military, quote, "scary. People used to be afraid of us and respect us. They're not afraid of us and don't respect us anymore."

I guess he's in touch with Kim Jong-il. The scary extending beyond the fort Bragg stop to the Mayan calendar's warning of Armageddon and the Hollywood CGI spectacle chronicling of civilization end. "SNL" pitched perfect.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening from Capitol Hill. What a day this has been. The nation has a new president.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 2012.

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: As for my running mate-it was an honor to stand beside a true American hero.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm sorry. I'm just a guy who cares an awful lot about my country.


PALIN: Thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere.


OLBERMANN: See, but that's not how I imagine it. In my imagination, it's really bad. Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, author of "Renegade, the Making of a President," senior strategist at Public Strategies, Richard Wolffe.

Good to see you in the flesh.

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, "RENEGADE": Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Stipulating that I recognized that I was zinged in there, in out loud fashion, and/or complimented at the same time, there's some on the right that interpreted this as a compliment to Sarah Palin. How exactly? Do you know.

WOLFFE: God bless them. They are testing to the extreme the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The real disaster movie for the Republicans is if she runs, let's face it, because either she's the nominee and most of the American people say that she would actually be a disaster and can't see her as president, or she runs, she fails to get it, you have all of these disappointed grassroots people who then have to cheer for Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney That would be a horror movie.

OLBERMANN: One of the interpretations I read was that you see this and it's obviously she's been elected or she's been inaugurated, and then there's an apocalypse. They decided to look at it the other way. It's like, oh, there's an apocalypse and Sarah Palin saves the country, after the apocalypse, which is apparently OK with people on the far, far, far, far, far, far right.

WOLFFE: That's one big tea party, that's what that was.

OLBERMANN: A Biblical prophecy fulfillment.

WOLFFE: Exactly, which is why she said all of those Jews will be going to Israel.

OLBERMANN: Flocking.

WOLFFE: In the days and months.

OLBERMANN: Months, weeks, days to come, in that order, or whichever order it was. The event at Fort Bragg today, she-obviously, she's waved military flags like she invented the gun-the Gatling gun. Why not follow the rules? Because clearly they bent them to do some politicizing there when they were told not to.

WOLFFE: You and your pesky rules. Don't you know that only dead fish

go with the flow? There is a new set of rules for Sarah Palin I mean, she

did quit being governor of Alaska for a reason. I'm not quite sure what

the reason was. But, in any case, the bigger issue here I think politically

because she does have political advisers-is wrapping yourself in the flag. It's easy. It's a simple talking point. It's trite but it works for many people.

Problem is, it didn't work for George Bush in 2006. It didn't work for John McCain, a decorated war hero, in 2008. Why would it work for someone who hasn't served in the military, running against the commander in chief in 2012?

OLBERMANN: As we saw on the "Newsweek" cover, she looks good in red. That's my explanation for it. On a serious note, Frank rich wrote this in "the New York Times": "Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid." What kind of attention is actually appropriate in the situation.

WOLFFE: As much as possible. If she is a serious politician-and clearly there are thousands of people who are treating her as a serious politician - then the press needs to do its job. Hold her to the same standard as any other candidate. Scrutinize all her statements. Compare them, contrast them with what she said before. Fact check them against reality. That's the kind of scrutiny she's inviting now. We'll see if she's up to it.

OLBERMANN: Then the problem becomes what if her supporters don't believe in reality? This is a big question to ask as a news show concludes. But take 45 seconds and answer it. Who is her parallel in American history? Do we know yet? Is she Barry Goldwater? Is she Huey Long? Who is she?

WOLFFE: I think she is Ross Perot without the charts and the ears and maybe the billions. She'll have millions after this book. But she is trying to tap in-look at what she put in her seminal text, which is the Facebook entry. It's about deficits. It's about the military. It is a conscious avocation of everything that happens so successfully and wonderfully for Ross Perot, not once but twice.

OLBERMANN: Millions, she got it up front, right? Because she's not going to get millions if they're selling this book at Newsmax for 4.97. You and I as authors understand, get it up front, right?

WOLFFE: We would hope bob Barnett did his job that way. Look, she is turning out the crowds. This book is selling. Let's hope people are reading it.

OLBERMANN: It's 4. 97. If we sold books for 4. 97, they'd be stacked up here and people would be taking them as they went home.

WOLFFE: We'll try that next time.

OLBERMANN: All right. Good idea. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of "Renegade" and also with Public Strategies. Good to see you, sir.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,398th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Now with more on the challenges to health care and Blanche Lincoln and the baker's three dozen ethics charges against Governor Mark Sanford, ladies and gentlemen, sitting in for Rachel Maddow, here is Lawrence O'Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.