Thursday, December 10, 2009

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

Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Beschloss, Sen. Ron Wyden, Gerald Posner


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

The war and peace prize: President Obama strikes a humble tone in Oslo.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight.


O'DONNELL: And as a commander-in-chief who just expanded the conflict in Afghanistan, he highlights there are justifiable reasons to wage war.


OBAMA: It will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, the news in President Obama's acceptance speech with Howard Fineman and the significance of the message with presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Pulling the plug on the public option: After the Senate takes steps to negotiate away the public option, Speaker Pelosi signals she's not drawing a line in the sand to keep the public option, either.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Give the president room, give the Senate room. Let us see what it is.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, Senator Ron Wyden on the state of negotiations and his efforts to improve reform.

And Ed Schultz, from day two of the free health care clinic you paid for.

The war of words between Sarah Palin and Al Gore heats up over climate change.

And saving Tiger, Inc. - with daily headlines like this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have never pursued him if he didn't pursue me. I just thought it was time for, you know, his wife to know and for me to let it go.


O'DONNELL: Now that his sponsors know, too, will they let him go?

Gerald Posner takes us inside the efforts to save Tiger's billion dollar image.

All that and more - now on Countdown.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It makes things a lot more complicated.



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

One common reaction to the news back in October that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was that he had landed the prestigious honor so early in his presidency simply because he was not George W. Bush.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: Two months and an escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan later, there is the question of whether the Nobel Committee today handed over the prize to a war time president who all too closely resembles George W. Bush.


O'DONNELL: The president received the Nobel Peace Prize this morning at a ceremony in Oslo one week after he announced that he would be sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. At the outset of his acceptance speech, President Obama addressed whether he was deserving of the prize.


OBAMA: And yet, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning and not the end of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight.

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics.

I cannot argue with those who find these men and women, some known, some obscure to all but those they help, to be far more deserving of this honor than I.


O'DONNELL: The war time president addressed the tension and defended his actions.


OBAMA: But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander-in-chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek - one in which we are joined by 42 other countries, including Norway, in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

We must begin by acknowledging a hard truth. We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations acting individually or in concert will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago. "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem. It merely creates new and more complicated ones."

As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence. I know there's nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King, but as a head of state, sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone.

I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.


O'DONNELL: The commander-in-chief even argued that America's use of force has been a force for good.


OBAMA: Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.


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

Good evening, Howard.


O'DONNELL: Howard, two months ago, it was thought that the president had been awarded this prize, many thought, simply for not being George W. Bush. Many today in Oslo, after the troop increase to Afghanistan, must have felt that this was too uncomfortably close to George W. Bush.

FINEMAN: Well, not just in Oslo but around the world and here in Washington, Lawrence.

I know Karl Rove, who was George W. Bush's right-hand man was crowing by tweet assuming you can crow on Twitter. He was sending out messages saying that a lot of the speech that we just heard excerpts of could have been written by White House speechwriters - White House speechwriters in the Bush White House, especially that long passage about evil in the world.

O'DONNELL: But not the Iraq passage. It seems President Obama.


O'DONNELL: . did try to distance himself from President Bush on Iraq

FINEMAN: Absolutely. No, not just in - not just in that way, Lawrence. I mean, the tone was very un-Bushy and it was very thoughtful, contemplative, appreciative of complexity. It was humble. It was admitting other views. It talked about the importance of diplomacy and the open door to nations even those we distrust and fear.

So, there was a lot of Obama in there and there was a lot of reaching out. But there also was a lot of acceptance of George W. Bush's fundamental post-11 world view about the existence of evil and the existence of just wars, including the war in Afghanistan, according to both now George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

O'DONNELL: Howard, was this the closest thing we've heard yet to an Obama doctrine?

FINEMAN: Yes, and it reminded me of a famous quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer, who said the test of a first-class mind is the ability to hold two completely opposite ideas in your head at the same time and still be able to function.

What Barack Obama is saying here is that force is unfortunately sometimes a force for good in human affairs. But it can't be what we ultimately rely on - of what we ultimately rely on, that we have to strive for a peaceful world while recognizing, as he says, the world as it is. It's a very sort of modern, even post-modern notion, very Barack Obama.

And I think, certainly, very much his own.

O'DONNELL: Howard, let's consider Alfred Nobel's will, which says the Peace Prize should go to, quote, "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

So, looking at that, at Nobel's will, how does President Obama score on that - that three-point score?

FINEMAN: Well, I guess - I guess you have to look at Alfred Nobel's future tense there - you know, "shall have done."

Barack Obama was picked. He was selected for what his potential is. What Barack Obama was saying today was that sometimes the eradication of evil - and he said al Qaeda was evil - is for the good of all humanity, while simultaneously looking for avenues to achieve peace through negotiations.

I don't know what Alfred Nobel would have thought of al Qaeda. But Obama is making the bet that Alfred Nobel would have understood what he was talking about.

O'DONNELL: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - many thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: From race relations in Philadelphia to America's relationship with the Muslim world in Cairo, to war and peace in Oslo, there is now the question of where President Obama's Oslo speech stands among his other notable addresses.

For more on that and the other historical notes of the day, let's bring in our NBC News presidential historian, Michael Beschloss.

Thanks for your time tonight, Michael.


O'DONNELL: Michael, how does this speech stack up in the body of speeches we already have from President Obama?

BESCHLOSS: Well, it was elegant as always, but the thing with Obama is, you know, you compare him to someone like George H.W. Bush who became president 1989 with a history of at least 20 years in national security, it said a lot of things. Barack Obama is a work in progress.

For example, 2002, that famous speech he made in Chicago against the Iraq war, saying, "I'm not oppose today ad to all wars, just dumb wars." The wars he was in favor of that he mentioned that day was he said the Civil War, World War II, did not mention the war in Afghanistan which we have been conducting for a year.

Then last year, the summer of 2008, when Obama went to Berlin, he went very far in saying that Afghanistan, he said, was a country and a cause that needs our troops to help them rebuild their nation.

Now, I think this speech, you can look at it one way, and that is:

does it give us any suggestion about what Barack Obama might do in Afghanistan?

I would say, if anything, it probably suggests that he's going to wind it down, because the last thing he wanted to do today was to be caught giving a peace speech, sort of exalting in the admiration of pacifists in Oslo - a little bit like Jimmy Carter in 1977, who said America had suffered from our inordinate fear of communism. Two years later, the Soviets went into Afghanistan and Carter was pilloried for that.

O'DONNELL: Michael, a variation on the question I just asked Howard. Will historians look back at this day as the introduction of the Obama doctrine?

BESCHLOSS: I think what they'll look at it as is a confirmation of the fact that Barack Obama recognizes that sometimes to do good, you do have to use force. And you saw that audience on that video at the beginning of the program, Lawrence. They were not exactly thrilled and happy to hear him say that.

But that's very much in his mind. It may be more in his mind today than it was in January, having been president for 11 months.

O'DONNELL: Now, President Obama did point out in his toast at tonight's banquet that the great irony that Alfred Nobel, the man responsible for inventing dynamite, "helped to establish this extraordinary moral force in the world." That's quoting President Obama's toast.

Was the president maybe looking for some cover behind Alfred Nobel there?

BESCHLOSS: I think maybe so but I think more that is, you know, he understands irony in life and when we get to read the Barack Obama memoirs, whether it's in four or eight years, this is a guy - it's very unusual among presidents - he goes through experiences like this watching them with the eye of a writer. You could almost see it today as he went through the ceremony.

So, I think one thing that was going through his mind and that reflected that is how ironic it is that this prize was given by the inventor of dynamite and also that Barack Obama, who seven years ago spoke in Chicago as a near pacifist, has come a very long way.

O'DONNELL: And, Michael, this is not the Nobel pacifism prize, this is the peace prize. It went to President Wilson after.

BESCHLOSS: That's right.

O'DONNELL: . World War I. So, there's - the expectation that you have to be a pacifist to get it has not been historically correct, right?

BESCHLOSS: Absolutely right. And, you know, it's always - the committee suggests what it wants to suggest - gave it to Wilson for his role in ending World War I, not his role in bringing America in in a big way; gave it to George Marshall in 1953 for the Marshall Plan, not necessarily for Marshall's role in winning World War II.

So, you know, it's their choice what message they want to send.

That's the one they wanted to send today.

O'DONNELL: Presidential historian Michael Beschloss - thank you very much for your perspective tonight.

BESCHLOSS: Delighted, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: the political diagnosis for health care reform. As the Senate is on the verge of scrapping it, Speaker Pelosi says she and the other Democrats in the House are all ears waiting to see if this new plan is better than the public option.

And Sarah Palin versus Al Gore. Their exchange over climate change gets hotter.

That and more - ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: Senator Ron Wyden on health care reform, the latest on the negotiations and his efforts to improve the bill.

Ed Schultz live from the free health care clinic in Kansas City - what surprised him most about the need for reform there.

And later, Tiger Woods' relationship with his sponsors - what's going on behind the scenes to make sure there is no breakup on that front? And tonight, Tiger's legal team wins an injunction from U.K. courts to block the publication of any naked pictures of Tiger.

That's next. This is Countdown.


O'DONNELL: It might have been presented quite differently. As the so-called "Gang of 10" reached a potential breakthrough in the health care reform negotiations, there might have been some show of unity combined with a clear articulation of what the new bill looked like.

Instead, in our fourth story on the Countdown: The potential new deal is sent away to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office while many key Democrats in the Senate can't even give a definitive answer on what they think about it - it being the nonpublic option version of health care reform, which might or might not include, among other notable elements, a Medicare buy-in provision for people aged 55 to 64. And it might also mean the official death of the public option.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't offer much pushback today when asked about the tentative Senate deal to drop the public option, the speaker reiterated that the public option was still the House's preference for keeping insurance companies honest, but.


PELOSI: If they have a better way, put it on the table. As soon as we see something in writing from the Senate, we'll be able to make a judgment about that. But our standards are that we have affordability for the middle-class, security for our seniors, closing the doughnut hole and sustaining the solvency of Medicare. Responsibility to our children, so we're not one dime added to the deficit.


O'DONNELL: By the way, the public still supports the public option in the latest poll: 59 percent in favor, only 29 percent opposed.

Meantime, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden who will join me in a moment and Republican Senator Susan Collins today filed three bipartisan amendments to the Senate health care reform bill. One measure is designed to increase an individual employee's choice of health insurance. Another is a variable tax on insurers based on how effectively those insurance companies hold down the costs of premiums.

Certain members of the GOP, meantime, are continuing their boring obsession with the page count of the bill, insisting that 2,074 pages is absurdly long even for such important and complex legislation. Apparently, no one is more bored with that line of attack than Republican Senator Mike Enzi, who has gone completely rogue and decided that the bill is not long enough.


SEN. MIKE ENZI (R), WYOMING: Two thousand and seventy-four pages isn't nearly enough to cover health care for America.


O'DONNELL: Joining me now, as promised, Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and its subcommittee on health care.

Good evening, senator.

SEN. RON WYDEN (R), OREGON: Thank you, Larry. Good to be with you.

O'DONNELL: Senator, we'll get to your bipartisan amendments in a moment, but give us your reading about where things stand as of now in the Senate. What have you heard about the Harry Reid's negotiations on this compromise package that we don't quite know the details of yet?

WYDEN: Larry, Harry Reid wants to make sure we get this right. We know that the lobbyists are everywhere. The fact of the matter is, they have been trying to kill the public option for months and months. They want to hollow it out. The insurance company lobbyists would like to turn the public option - that's what they've been trying to do, into a weak-kneed nothing burger that more than 90 percent of the country wouldn't be able to get.

So, what Harry Reid is doing now is trying to make sure that the policy is sound, we've got the details, we've got the numbers to back it up, because he knows that when he gets that report from the Congressional Budget Office, the lobbyists are going to be doing everything they can to try to kill real reform. We're going to push back.

O'DONNELL: Now, Senator, would you view an expansion of Medicare down to age 55 as something that is substitutable for a public option?

WYDEN: Larry, what I can tell you is a properly put together program that helps folks between 55 and 64 could just be a Godsend.

A lot of those folks come to my town hall meetings. They say they're just hanging by their fingernails, waiting to get Medicare when they're 65. In a lot of instances, they've been hit by these tough economic policies, they face layoffs, they face tremendous discrimination by insurance companies in the marketplace.

And you bet that well-put together program for folks between 55 and 64 could be a real Godsend.

O'DONNELL: Now, Senator, as the bill is being scored by CBO, it seems that health care reform has hit a stall on the Senate floor. You've technically moved off of it onto the appropriations bills and you'll go back apparently to health care reform next week.

Are you worried about losing momentum, waiting for that CBO score, moving off to different legislation, trying to get votes on different legislation in the meantime?

WYDEN: Certainly, the lobbyists and the obstructionists are going to do everything they can to try to hold this up. But Senator Reid is going to be relentless in pushing this forward. We do have other matters that are critical. The second we get that Congressional Budget Office score, we're going to have all the members of the caucus have a chance to review it, get into the details. These are critical issues.

We also face the question, for example, about making sure you have hardball insurance reforms because - let's say somebody is 52 years old. Those folks could be hit very hard as well in the days ahead. We want to make sure there's real reform for them. We don't want to just say we're going to keep the present system of discriminatory insurance practices and call it reform.

O'DONNELL: Senator, you're not afraid of showing - letting the lobbyists see your bipartisan amendments. Tell us what you and Susan Collins have come up with.

WYDEN: Susan Collins and I are going to try in a bipartisan way to make sure that there are some tools to hold these premiums down for working families. For a single mom, those folks between Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine, just are facing some very significant rate hikes.

Now, we've taken some steps in this bill that the budget office says are going to hold their premiums down, we ought to be doing more. The best way to do it, to hold insurance companies accountable, is to offer more choice and more competition.

That's what Susan Collins and I are doing. We're saying, for example, that employers who are in the exchange - that's the market place - if the employer voluntarily wants to offer more choices to their worker, they could do it and that'll hold premiums down.

O'DONNELL: Senator, 14 shopping days until Christmas. A couple of those days on the Senate floor will be used for appropriations and the debt ceiling. No way to get this done before Christmas Eve, right?

WYDEN: I don't buy that. Senator Reid has said that he is going to keep us at this just until we get the public interest done. Americans are hurting right now. We've got to get this addressed and hold down health care costs.

O'DONNELL: Senator Ron Wyden, the optimist from Oregon, we appreciate your time tonight, sir.

WYDEN: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: The final day of free health clinic in Kansas City, Missouri. Ed Schultz joins us with his reaction to the good work done there, and how it has affected his opinion on the need for reform and the public option.

And later, the empire that is Tiger Woods. Investigative journalist Gerald Posner takes us inside the efforts to keep Tiger's sponsors solidly in his corner.

And Tiger's lawyers work to block publication of naked photos or videos of the golf great.


O'DONNELL: In our third story on the Countdown, back to reality, already in progress. Day two of the free health clinic in Kansas City, where people who actually need health care are getting it today. The event is still happening at this moment. So many people have turned out that some of them will not be seen today.

Nearly 2,300 people have come through the clinic over two days for free medical and dental care. Of the people still waiting in line, about 50 will be referred to the regular Kansas City Free Clinic, and will be given priority there. Forty percent Of today's 2,200 patients have not seen a doctor since 2003; 33 percent don't usually go to a doctor at all;

27 percent rely on emergency rooms for care; 83 percent Of these people have jobs. And that statistic, the number of people who have jobs but do not have health insurance, has been consistent from one of these free health clinics to the next.

Sixteen hundred volunteers are working at this event in Kansas City;

25,000 Of you have donated nearly two million to the National Association of Free Clinics since Countdown began talking about it.

Let's bring the host of "The Ed Show," Ed Schultz, who has been at the free health clinic today. Good evening, Ed.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Lawrence. Good to be with you. It's been a phenomenal day to see all of this unfold.

O'DONNELL: Ed, tell us about it. This is your first time at one of these clinics. It's one thing to cover them from this distance, as I do. It's another thing to be on the ground, to be with 2,200 people coming through a facility like that in a day, in desperate need of health care.

SCHULTZ: You know, Lawrence, I have done town hall meetings for the last two years all over the country with my radio show. But I've never seen anything like this. This is amazing. The volunteer effort is the best in America, what we've seen here today.

We've seen health care providers come from around the region to help out, 55 doctors, some 600 medical personnel helping these folks out. It really is amazing.

And the stories that the people are telling about what this means to them; these are folks that work two jobs. These are folks that work at a job that don't have health care benefits, or they can't afford the premiums and so they go without.

I met a lady today. She hadn't seen a doctor in 11 years. I met a college graduate who came here to get a physical, so she could qualify on an application to get a job to do substitute teaching in the state of Nebraska, which I found to be very ironic, with all the political winds blowing right now.

It's just been amazing to see all of this. People come here. They get diagnoses. They get prescriptions and the follow-up. This has been one of the most phenomenal things I've ever seen.

Then again, some sadness that this is the United States of America and people have to come to a free clinic to get health care, and in some cases their first health care visit in years.

The dental aspect of it was very important. A lady came in today with several young children. One girl was eight years old; she had never been to the dentist before. She needed some work done. She was in pain.

I talked to some of the doctors, and they kept telling me that it was the same story. People can't afford their prescriptions. People can't deal with the premiums. They worked two jobs. They work a job where, you know, the employer only pays them for like 35 hours a week, so they're not considered full-time and they don't qualify for the benefits.

These are hard working Americans, who just need some attention and want to see some change. And if we do pass health care in this country, I would venture to say what I've read in the House bill will cover these people. They'll get some subsidies, but they're still going to have to dig into their own pocket and get some insurance.

We still have a long way to go, Lawrence. But it was very heart warming to see this volunteer effort and see these people helped.

O'DONNELL: As you know, the committees of jurisdiction in the House and the Senate hear about these people in expert testimony, in their hearings that are about the statistics about a lot of the underlying information that we know about these people, as a large demographic group. But what would they learn if they actually went to one of these clinics that they cannot learn in a hearing room in Congress?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think they would be emotionally affected. I don't think that you can have, you know, blood in your veins and not be affected by the people. All you have to do - they're sitting there. Just go up and talk to them. They're very friendly. Where are you from? How are you doing? Where do you work? What's your situation?

People are willing to talk. I'll tell you who was really talking, Lawrence, were the health care providers. I didn't walk past a doctor today without them stopping and recognizing that MSNBC was here and they wanted to talk about, let me tell you about this story. Let me tell you about that story. I mean, it was really phenomenal.

I think that if a coalition of senators were to actually come to a free clinic, instead of doing some town hall where people are screaming at them about taxes or anything else - if they were to come to something like this, I think they would really see who they could help in this country. We have to pass, and it has to have a public option.

O'DONNELL: Ed Schultz, host of "The Ed Show" on MSNBC, thanks very much for your time tonight.

SCHULTZ: Thank you, Lawrence. Good to be with you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, will the polar ice caps melt even faster as they get caught in the middle of a heated fight between Sarah Palin and Al Gore? The war of words over climate change, round two.

And the latest round of Tiger Woods' headlines. His marriage might be hitting tough times, but is his relationship with his sponsors still going strong? We'll go behind the scenes in the efforts to keep Tiger's billion dollar image machine still churning.


O'DONNELL: She's invented death panels, endorsed birthers; now the new jewel in Sarah Palin's ultra conservative crown, warning us of climate junk science. Our number two story on the Countdown, as Palin ramping up the rhetoric against a former vice president, she contradicts a former governor - Sarah Palin. First came her "Washington Post" op-ed on climate-gate, hanging anti-climate change rhetoric on a slew of hacked e-mails. Then came Al Gore's rebuttal.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: It's not a question of debate. It's like gravity. It exists.


O'DONNELL: Ms. Palin backed away from the idea of actually debating Gore, choosing instead to fire up the old Facebook account, and send a figurative reply all to him. "Perhaps he's right. Climate change is like gravity, a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before and will exist long after any governmental attempts to affect it. However, he is wrong in calling me a denier. I have never denied the existence of climate change. I just don't think we can primarily blame man's activities for the Earth's cyclical weather changes. Vice President Gore, the climate-gate scandal exists. You might even say that it's sort of like gravity. You simply can't deny it."

Another thing that Palin simply can't deny, her own record. As governor, she launched a State Office on Climate Change, which she cited in her op-ed, but called for legislation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce Alaska's carbon footprint. In a 2008 "New York Times" op-ed, Palin used decidedly less partisan rhetoric when opposing the Endangered Species Act. "What is justified is worldwide concern over the proven effects of climate change. Americans should become involved by offering suggestions for constructive action to their state governments."

As for blogger Palin's denial that climate change is brought on by man, candidate Palin told Katie Couric something different.


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: There are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, but kind of doesn't matter at this point as we debate what caused it. The point is, it's real. We need to do something about it.


O'DONNELL: It's real. Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst and the national affairs columnist for "Newsweek," Jonathan Alter. Good evening.


O'DONNELL: So we have discovered yet another issue in which she has flip flopped. This is kind of a Mitt Romney type thing, where he flip flopped when he was governor to when he was a presidential candidate on issues like abortion and gay rights. If she's going to be a candidate, isn't she going to have to come to terms with her own record on climate change?

ALTER: You know, I don't think that her supporters will care if she flip flopped or was a hypocrite or whatever. Her bigger problem, if she wants to be a candidate, is that she's on the wrong side of history. She's on the wrong side of science. She's on the wrong side of politics here. There's a very, very small number of people who are mouthing what she is these days.

The majority are where she was during the 2008 campaign. If she actually wanted to have a chance at being president, she should take a more moderate view. For her to call for boycotting Copenhagen in "The Washington Post," for the world not trying to get together and do something about climate change, is just almost pathetically irresponsible.

O'DONNELL: But this seems to be a new step, Jonathan, trying to write something that is publishable by "The Washington Post," as opposed to something posted on Facebook. She is trying to take a serious position or get a serious hearing in a possible campaign policy issue, isn't she?

ALTER: Yeah, she is. And she is a former vice presidential

candidate, and, you know, deserves to have that forum if she wants to use

it. But I was just really struck by not just the fact that she had changed

positions, but that she is actually now saying that because of this scandal

· and it was a kind of a scandalous thing - but that somehow that discredits the hundreds of other scientists who have been working on that, that that discredits all the progress that the world has made on beginning to confront this issue, because she wants to flog this scandal to score some political points. It's really beneath even her.

O'DONNELL: But not beneath "The Washington Post" to publish it, which, I think, indicates that she's got some political advisors around her now, doesn't it, that know how to position her to get these kinds of articles taken seriously by a newspaper like "The Washington Post"?

ALTER: First of all, it was fine that "The Washington Post" published it. That's why they call it op-ed. It's not supposed to be articles that you necessarily agree with. And she certainly has the standing to have an article published on the op-ed page of "The Washington Post."

But you're right that the article felt like it had been massaged by political handlers. But they seem to have been, you know, James Inhofe's handlers, because it's got - even though she claims it's not climate change denial, everything about the column reeks of climate change denial. And I think it's - it's just important. I'd love to see her debate Al Gore or have some sort of a confrontation with him. And maybe if she doesn't want to do that, maybe some people could send out those chickens that they used to send out, debates people dressed as a chicken if she refuses to debate Gore.

If she's going to take this position now, she should be forced to defend it herself, not by having some hack put together a column in "The Washington Post."

O'DONNELL: I think we're going to be waiting a long time for the Palin/Gore debate. Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, thanks for joining us tonight.

ALTER: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: There is no denying Tiger Woods is in a whole lot of trouble with his wife Elin, but is he more worried about his sponsorship deals?

And a new worry surfaces tonight: naked photos or videos. Tiger's lawyers are taking action to make sure, if they exist, they do not see the light of day.


O'DONNELL: At the top of the Countdown tonight, is Tiger Woods about to hit bottom with his sponsors? As Tiger tries to stay out of the spotlight and weather this storm in his private life, his business handlers are waging an all out effort to keep Tiger, Inc. from taking a serious permanent hit. That and court action taken tonight to block the publication of naked photos of Tiger.


O'DONNELL: Two constants have existed in the two weeks since the world's greatest golfer's dangerous liaison came to light. Each day, more women or more details have been revealed. And the stable of advertisers who pay Tiger Woods more than 100 million dollars a year have remained by the golfer's side. Yet in our number one story, the women keep talking; the advertisers may start walking. And in British courts, Tiger Woods has blocked publication of nude pictures that he does not admit exist.

Back in America, 24-year-old Los Angeles cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs has shared what may be a fresh batch of Tiger Woods text messages with "US Weekly." According to Grubbs, she and Woods saw each other for more than two years. And quoting from the text messages, Tiger explained the source of her attraction to him.

Tiger: "sorry, baby. I just can't sleep. It's just a problem I have."

Jaimee: "well, I appreciate you not wanting to wake me up. But if you couldn't sleep, I would have rather sat up and talked to you more, find out why I keep falling more and more for you" - winky smile.

Tiger: "because I'm Blasian" - smiley face.

In a separate message, Woods got right to the point.

Tiger: "I will wear you out soon."

Jaime: "How soon? I got a new piercing."

We got to see the new piercing on the tabloid show "Extra." Grubbs described being crushed when she found out she wasn't the only girl on the side.


JAIMIE GRUBBS, HAD AFFAIR WITH TIGER WOODS: To know that this whole time, you know, two and a half years that I thought I could have been the only woman, and the only reason why, you know, we didn't hang out as much would be that he was busy. And to go back and think that his reasons for being busy may have been another woman is really hard.


O'DONNELL: Very busy indeed. As to possible nude photos of Tiger Woods, reports the golfer's British attorneys are not admitting they exist. They are just blocking their publication, in case they exist. According to the court order, British press is not allowed to publish, quote, "any photographs, footage, or images taken or obtained of the claimant," which is Tiger, "naked or any naked parts of the claimant's body or of him involved in any sexual activity."

Gerald Posner is the chief investigative reporter for "The Daily Beast." His article today is titled "Chaos At Tiger, Inc."

Gerald Posner, welcome and thanks for joining us tonight.

GERALD POSNER, "THE DAILY BEAST": Thanks. So good to be with you. You know, this just keeps getting worse for Tiger. As you were saying, you showed the video in which you have one of these girls saying, by the way, I thought I was the only woman. Well, what about his wife? She thought he was busy. Yeah, he had a wife and he had a family and he had been marketed as sort of not only as the best golfer that ever lived, but having this pristine personal life as well.

And now that that has been dented and crumbling, the question is, you know, can the sponsors, the corporate sponsors stick with him? Will they continue to pay him 100 million a year? He's going to take a hit on this. There is no question.

O'DONNELL: We'll go to that. Of the hundred million which - how much of the hundred million is losable? I mean, is a certain amount locked in?

POSNER: No. Here's what's losable: 20 million dollars cut four years out of a five-year deal left with Gatorade. They're cutting it because sales were down by a third. They're now using this, all his personal travails, as a reason under the morals clause to go ahead and say, by the way, we're not going to pay you an early termination fee.

Gillette, which has flat sales with its Fusion line - he is part of their Champions ad - is going to go back to him in 2010. His agent is worried about this. They want to renegotiate. They signed this five-year deal worth up to 20 million dollars. They said what we signed in 2007, you're not the same Tiger Woods. We want to have a different pay-out schedule.

Then, of course, Accenture, the software consulting firm, they're locked in to him another three and a half years. They have their ads all over airports, when you walk along. They've got their model with him. They're looking for an exit.

The only ones really sticking with him through thick and thin is Nike.

And that's because without Tiger, they have no golf apparel sales at all.

So they depend on him. They're intertwined so heavily.

O'DONNELL: Gerald, the count seems to be - public count seems to be around a dozen now. Is that the problem? Certainly, he is not the first athlete or celebrity who we've discovered does not practice sexual exclusivity with his wife. But is it this number? Is it that he's - the number on his dance card is just too high?

POSNER: Yeah. I think, Lawrence, you're absolutely right. First of all, the number is too high. In part, the sport gave that feeling. Golf had this cleaner image than the NBA and football and basketball. We somehow thought that groupies didn't affect it, but they do. And I think the number is not only high, but he has failed to get ahead of this story.

I talked to media and crisis consulting people and they said what has happened down there in his compound in Florida - he is surrounded by lawyers and by the business people and his agent. They don't know how he should approach it. What he needs to do is get out in front of it by knowing the truth, admitting to it, saying he has a problem, then seeking help. Once we knock somebody off the pedestal in this country we love to help put them back on, if they're human, and they're at fault, and they admit it.

Then he has to do the rehabilitation tour. Not with guys like you and Keith and Chris Matthews, but with the Oprahs and Larry Kings of the world, and hope that he can still be a pitchman, but a different type of pitchman in two years.

O'DONNELL: Gerald, the naked pictures front; he's gone to British courts because they have much stricter privacy laws. But what do we think is breaking on this naked pictures front?

POSNER: Well, look, I talked just a couple hours ago to one of the executives at a current sponsor who was fretting before about the fact that Tiger had already broken the rule that all celebrities have when they have groupies or they have affairs, which is never give out your own telephone number, your own cell phone number. Don't exchange text messages. All of the things that are now evidence that TMZ and "Extra" and the tabloids, "The National Enquirer," "News of The World," pay money for, that we're hearing about.

This is direct evidence he got sloppy and arrogant. I think that's what he's done. The nude pictures would be stunning. It's putting people on the edge of the wall. They want to jump off if they're sponsors.

O'DONNELL: Gerald Posner of "The Daily Beast," thanks for your time.

POSNER: Thanks, Lawrence.

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