'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, August 27, 2009
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: What's left
Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman, Lawrence O'Donnell, Rep. Maxine Waters, Christian Finnegan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Another Kennedy, another memorial, another weekend of sadness mixed with warm remembrance as the senior senator from Massachusetts travels through his beloved state for a final time.
And momentum builds to give his state and his party an interim successor, perhaps one with a very familiar name to Democrats or one with a very familiar name to the tabloid obsessed.
While, in Ted Kennedy's memory, nonpartisanship and even a cooling of the temperature on the health care debate has been the rule on both sides, there have been moments of utter tastelessness - like this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There's been no real negotiations. That's not the kind of negotiations that I did with Senator Kennedy on a number of issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And there's even worse. Lynn Jenkins is a newly-elected congresswoman from Kansas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LYNN JENKINS (R), KANSAS: The Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The spokeswoman has apologized for the representative's word choice. She says there may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the "great white hope." But since the phrase "great white hope" was coined during the search for a white boxer to take the heavyweight crown back from Jack Johnson in 1910, there really isn't a lot to misunderstand here.
"Worsts": The California congressman and the clown who thinks this was satire. Oh, there's tape of this now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a proud right-wing terrorist.
REP. WALLY HERGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Amen, God bless you. There's a great American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Turns out the guy is also a birther, still Congressman Herger defends him.
Congressman, maybe you should introduce this paranoid to "Congresswoman Great White Hope" over here?
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HERGER: Amen, God bless you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tonight, at the JFK Library in Boston, the crowds having waited for hours to pay there respects to Edward M. Kennedy, the man they sent to the Senate nine times, who served them in that capacity for nearly five decades.
Good evening from New York.
One year ago this month, as he was undergoing a chemotherapy treatment, Senator Kennedy having read in the newspaper about two servicemen from the same small town in Massachusetts who had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively. "We are going down there," he said, to pay a call on the families.
And when his treatment had ended, despite the fact that his treatment had just ended, that's exactly what he did. He hugged everyone, he pet the dogs and recalling his oldest brother Joe, the pilot who had been shot down in World War II. He counseled the families on getting through their grief. "The first year is the hardest," one soldier's mother remembers him saying. "The first birthdays, the first anniversary, the holidays, the pain will never go away," he told then, but it will be easier to bear.
Our fifth story on the Countdown: If only the Kennedys of Hyannis Port had had the senior senator from Massachusetts to pay a call on them.
The day beginning with a private mass for the family, after which an honor guard carried the coffin of Senator Kennedy to the hearse. The casket then traveling 72 miles from the Cape to Boston. The motorcade, 85 members of the Kennedy family in all, winding around city landmarks that had been important to the senator, including the church where his mother had been baptized and the park dedicated in her honor, Faneuil Hall where the city's mayor rang that structure's historic bell 47 times, once for each year that Kennedy served at senator for Massachusetts. The JFK Federal Building where his office has been for decades, and finally, the library dedicated to his brother's presidency.
Some people leaving mementos ahead of Senator Kennedy's arrival at the JFK Library, and one man impulsively taking off the Boston Red Sox cap from his own head, telling a reporter that, quote, "it just seemed appropriate to leave a cap in honor of Teddy's favorite team." The funeral mass will take place Saturday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston, Senator Kennedy to be buried that night at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, near the graves of his brothers.
Senator Kennedy having told friends recently that he was looking forward to a reunion with his seven late siblings, especially his three brother, all of whose lives have been cut short, the first of whom he had lost 65 years ago.
Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, friend of the senator's,
telling "The New York Times," quote, "When he gets there, he can say, 'I
did it, I carried the torch. I carried it all the way.'"
Lots to talk about tonight with our own Andrea Mitchell who is in Boston.
Thanks for being with us. Good evening, Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You bet, my pleasure.
It's an extraordinary moment here at the Kennedy Library.
OLBERMANN: Is it probable, base on how quickly that moment has been reached and how precisely, that the senator had a hand in planning the events we are now seeing unfold?
MITCHELL: Oh, I think so. They had plenty of time, plenty of warning. Up until the last week and days, he was really active. He was reading materials. Then it got really, really bad. And as Vicki Kennedy told Joe Biden, and you can hear, right under the flight path for Logan Airport, as she said to the vice president, "He was ready to go."
The family, though, I have to tell you, this has been so beautifully organized, and the fact that they would come out and walk this line. We saw Caroline Kennedy exchanging, you know, thoughts and thanks and prayers with people along the line, Bobby Kennedy Jr. - all them, down to the littlest grandchild and great nephew and great niece, they are thanking people along this line as thousands have lined up waiting to go in. You don't see a big crowd behind me, because they come up in group. They are sorted up in groups to go inside.
And when I was here at the opening of this great library, and memorial for Jack Kennedy when we had Jackie Kennedy Onassis and John Jr. and Caroline and, of course, Teddy. And now, all but Caroline are gone.
OLBERMANN: Certainly, the sadness is not absent from the family, but there seems to be an intent - as you implied there - to make it a real celebration of the senator's life. Is that also part of his planning for this? Was that - are those his final marching orders to them about what to do in this situation in public?
MITCHELL: I think so, and I think that they so understand him that, you know, Vicki Kennedy, who really is the love of his life, knew that he wanted to be in Hyannis Port. He wanted to be sailing. He wanted to be with his dogs and his children and grandchildren in these final weeks and final days. So, she organized, really, the care and then when the care was clearly not going to change the outcome, the final days that were really more of a hospice situation, frankly.
But he was where he wanted to be when he finally went. But, you know, there will be a lot of sentimental moments - you pointed out the landmarks, and passing Saint Stephens where his mother Rose was baptized and then had the funeral mass. He was so close to his mother and she was such an extraordinary influence on him.
This has been overwhelming in the public celebration of a life, the only Kennedy brother who lived a full life of 77 years, not as long as we would have wanted or they would have wanted, but did not - as David Von Drehle wrote in "Time" magazine today - did not become omnific because of his death, it was really his life that defined him.
But I have to tell you, in talking to some of the nephews and the children and grandchildren, the Kennedy family members that I've known here, siblings, this is very, very painful, for Jean Smith and for Ethel Kennedy - Jean, the last surviving member of that original family. This is a period of mourning. They are grieving deeply.
OLBERMANN: Andrea Mitchell in Boston who has answered all of our questions and anticipated so many more. Great thanks for that, and for this insight into this extraordinary day. Talk to you over the weekend. Thanks.
MITCHELL: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Before Senator Kennedy's death, everyone loathed to raise the prospect of filling the senator's seat after he was gone. Perhaps that's why Senator Kennedy was the one who broke the ice, by raising the question of succession himself. The senator having written that letter to Massachusetts Governor Patrick and state lawmakers, asking to have the state law changed to allow for a quick and temporary replacement upon his death until a special election could be held.
The letter written last month, but revealed just last week, only days before the senator's death. In the wake of his passing, the matter taking on more urgency, of course, if the law is not changed. And it was already changed by Democrats to avoid the prospect of a then-Republican governor getting to pick a successor to John Kerry had Kerry beaten President Bush in 2004. If the law's not changed again, the seat will remain unfilled until January at the earliest.
Governor Patrick addressing the succession this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think that the senator's made a very, a very reasonable request. I support the idea of a special election, which is provided for in our current law, and the senator did as well. Now, having said that, I have to say that our first thoughts today are on the life and the extraordinary achievements of the senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To that subject that Governor Patrick sort of side-stepped there and our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First, the question of when succession will happen. If Democrats control Beacon Hill and Democrats control Washington, does that mean Senator Kennedy's wish is granted to have this succession law changed again and to have an interim senator appointed?
FINEMAN: Well, it's not automatic but I think it's going to happen I think. Talking to friends of mine in Boston and sources in Boston - they're not always the same by the way - my sense of it is that the House speaker in Boston in the state legislature is going to go along with this, and I think the president pro tem of the Senate and Deval Patrick, the governor, is for it.
And what that will mean, Keith, is that there will be a sort of caretaker appointed by the governor, a person who clearly is not going to want to run for the unexpired, full unexpired term in that special election, which will still take place in January. If the idea would be to get a second senator in there as a caretaker and place-holder, and more important, a second voice for Massachusetts and very important to base and even more important than that, a 60th Democratic vote in the Senate.
That's why Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the United States Senate, has been calling for this. I think Patrick and the Democratic leaders are going to be able to get it done.
OLBERMANN: So, that would be the reason that the Republicans might stand down on opposition on the understanding that this would not be a five-month jump-start on the special election for whoever got appointed? Does that.
OLBERMANN: And does that mean, then, it's more likely - or less likely to be the prosecutor from the infamous nanny case, Martha Coakley, and more like to be somebody like former Governor Dukakis?
FINEMAN: Yes, absolutely. It wouldn't be - if it were to be the Attorney General Martha Coakley who clearly wants to run. She was interested in running if John Kerry had won the presidency in 2004. She's very ambitious. That would - that would - that would - that would scotch the deal right there.
It would have to be somebody like Mike Dukakis, and he's been talked about a lot. There are certain historic justice from a Democratic state to have a former Democratic standard bearer take that job and Mike Dukakis, a policy wonk that he is, is up on all the issues. He would be perfect for the job. So, that's the kind of person that would have be - would have to say, "I'm not in it to run in five months."
OLBERMANN: Other than Ben Smith who was considered to be the place-holder until Ted Kennedy got old enough to run for Jack Kennedy's seat in 1962, that's been a Kennedy seat since 1952. Is there any indication anybody in that family wants it or would pursue it or are they getting out of the way of the heavier hitters among Massachusetts Democrats?
FINEMAN: Well, here everybody's now being silent. Everybody's willing to talk about this interim caretaker thing we were just discussing. Nobody up there that I talked to today wants to talk about the unmentionable, which is who is going to run? Ted Kennedy has not been buried yet. Nobody wants to talk about it.
But here's what I've told off-the-record. Basically, Joe Kennedy II would have first dibs if he wanted to try it. He was a member of the House for about 10 years. He's been involved in energy policy and so forth. If he were to say, "I want to try to do it," it would be very difficult for anybody else, whether it's Martha Coakley or any member of Congress, to get in the way of Joe Kennedy, were to - were to say he had wanted it.
That said, there are lots of other very, very worthy possibilities up there. There are other members of Congress, including Michael Capuano, including Stephen Lynch, and I think, probably the most experienced and probably the most formidable would be Representative Ed Markey who's a big time committee chairman in the House, who's - you know, has statewide name recognition. If he wanted to get it, he would be formidable, but nobody wants to run against a Kennedy if a Kennedy wants to run in Massachusetts.
OLBERMANN: The irony of the delicateness with which people are approaching this, given that it was Senator Kennedy who brought the subject up.
OLBERMANN: . about who's going to replace him, it's just another - a sign of respect and it's completely understandable. But it is.
FINEMAN: He would be enjoying by they way, he would be in it up to his eyeballs in speculation as well.
OLBERMANN: I was going to say, he'd be one of either the sources or the frenzy.
FINEMAN: Yes, exactly.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - as always, great thanks, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Remarkably, one of the most vociferous, factually corner-cutting, anti-reform Astroturf groups has suspended its advertisements about health care at least in part out of respect for Senator Kennedy's passing.
Not that one of his fellow senators managed such a level of respect today, and yet he will in turn get lost in two tsunami-like videotapes where the stupid just keeps watching over you. That California congressman calling the self-described proud right-wing terrorist a great American, turns out all that was on tape. And then there's a Kansas representative who now says her party is - this is a direct quote - "struggling right now to find the great white hope." Why don't you just get a hood?
OLBERMANN: The committee Senators Kennedy and McCain served on, except that 160 Republican amendments that Senator McCain now says none of those amendments to the health care bill were, quote, "significant." He says that now, now that Senator Kennedy is dead.
Then later, video surfaces of a California congressman's moment of truth when the constituent declares himself a proud right-wing terrorist. And more video of the Kansas congresswoman invoking the battle cry of the racists of a century ago who sought to unseat the first black heavyweight boxing champ.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Ted Kennedy was born just eight years after the first radio coverage of a national party nominating presidential convention. That would have been in 1924. He was born in 1932. His death is greeted by a Twitter feed from his family, and we were notified that the senator step son Curran and his new Bobby Shriver had been joined by Brian and Alma Hart in standing vigil at the senator in repose at the library as you see live there from Boston.
There will be many who invoke Senator Kennedy's name particularly when it comes to health care if only they - each and every one of them - were required to displace some intellectual honesty about it.
Our fourth story on the Countdown: Senator John McCain bemoans the lack of real negotiations on health care legislation, unlike the kind of negotiations he says he used to have with Senator Kennedy. The idea that the senator's death might be a catalyst for real compromise on health care suggested by Vice President Joe Biden and Senator McCain was asked about that possibility on the "TODAY" show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Well, it might, but you'd have to changed way that the things have been done. And that is the fact that there's been no real negotiations. There have been a bill before the committee which I sit, the health committee, and it was done by Democrats and no amendments were agreed to have any significance. And so, that's not the kind of negotiations that I did with Senator Kennedy on a number of issues. So, maybe if we change.
ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS: Are you willing to reach across the aisle, Senator? Are you willing to reach across the aisle on this issue as in the past, Senator Kennedy worked with you and former President Bush on education and immigration reform?
MCCAIN: I'm more than willing to. There's been no opportunity to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Point of fact, the Senate Health Committee voted on its health care reform package in July, the package included 160 Republican amendments, 160 of them. But no Republicans on that committee, including McCain, voted for the bill.
So when Mr. McCain says no amendments were agreed to of any significance, his must be the thinking of kind that significant amendments that would effectively gut the bill of any real meaning since he is, for example, clearly against the public optioning which echoing the non-sequitur talking points of Mr. Grassley of Iowa, Senator McCain has said, quote, "would deprive people of choice."
Let's turn now to "Huffington Post" contributor, MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell.
Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We touched on this earlier in the week, but we've got to
revisit it since, I guess, Senator McCain insists on doing so. The
suggestion that because he negotiated with Senator Kennedy in the past on
other issues, he would have been willing and able to do so on health care -
dissect that for us.
O'DONNELL: Well, there is a history here that we went through this before, in 1993 and 1994, and Senator McCain did not negotiate with Senator Kennedy on health care at any point. And the same thing with Orrin Hatch who's making similar sounds these days. Orrin Hatch is a member of the Kennedy committee both during the Clinton crusade in '94 and today, and neither one of them have ever seriously negotiated with Chairman Kennedy on any of these things.
Now, they've certainly done business on other subjects. That's true. But absolutely never on health care reform, never.
And Senator Kennedy, by the way, is not an easy compromiser on health care reform. In 1994, I was in the room when he told the president that he believed the strategy should be a Democrats-only strategy and that we should not be trying to reach out and get Republican votes.
So, the Kennedy strategy as enunciated the last time we went through this is exactly what you've been hearing from a lot of these sharper critics on the left in the Congress this year.
OLBERMANN: And the actions of Republicans thus far in this debate also suggests mirroring that perfectly, that whatever Senator Kennedy might have been willing to compromise on - if there was indeed anything in this bill he would have been - it would never have been enough for those whose purpose is to dilute the bill beyond recognition or having any affect?
O'DONNELL: Absolutely. I mean, the McCain position is essentially
sure, if we got amendments in there to remove all the things that Ted Kennedy wanted, then we would have voted for the final product. I mean, that's really what this is about.
No Republican on that committee has ever voted for a Ted Kennedy health care reform bill. None of them vote voted for it this time. They did get amendments accepted, not - those amendments weren't enough to make any of them vote for it.
OLBERMANN: And another pet peeve of anybody who's been paying attention to this, the bills which get out of committee with plenty of Republican amendments, 160 in this case, but no Republican votes. It would seem a fairly easy equation to determine the Democrats are the suckers in this deal. Was this pointed out to them by Senator Kennedy or was it at such a distance that he chose not to do that?
O'DONNELL: Well, this is where, what Senator McCain is saying is more true than you might imagine. Meaning these 160 amendments are largely technical. They are written by expert Republican health care staff members who are very good at this.
And what they have found are small things that they want to put some technical refinements on. The Democrats look that. Chairman Chris Dodd in this case, looks at that and thinks, you know, that's perfectly reasonable. That actually might make this a little better.
I mean, this subject is so massive. These bills are so massive that getting some cross-references from the professional staff from the committees, both Republican and Democrat, about how to refine small things here and there is very helpful. And so, that's what those amendments were for the most part, and the committee had the wisdom to say, "Yes, that's a perfectly good adjustment, let's do that."
But Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy never once considered compromising any of the central aspects of this bill in order to pick up a single Republican vote on that committee.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell of the "Huffington Post" and MSNBC - as always on this subject in particular, thanks for your insight.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hey, Sister Mary elephant. Uh-oh! We can't say that.
This nun does not need a ruler. Apparently she's a ninja.
And later, I owe Bill O'Reilly an apology and I'll give it to him.
"Worsts Persons" ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment, and a mind like a Michael Steele trap.
First, on this day in 1883, the island of Krakatoa in Indonesia blew up a 200 megaton volcanic explosion, four times boom of the worst nuclear weapon ever detonated. The amount of ash spew into the atmosphere was so great that world temperatures for 1883 dropped by 1.2 degrees. The eruption so changed the landscape that when they made a movie about it in 1969, the movie was called "Krakatoa, East of Java" - even though Krakatoa is actually northwest of Java.
Let's play "Oddball."
Ain't making that up either.
We begin meanwhile in China, where for two years, Zhang Tingting has lived the life of a Buddhist nun, which makes keeping her day job, kung fu master, a bit difficult. Zhang says her hair gives her special powers like the ability to cut paper in half. But in order to be officially recognized by her fellow nuns, Zhang needs to shave her head. So before bidding her three-foot braid good-bye, Zhang decides one last trick, to pull eight cars with her hair.
The cars were attached to the base of her braid with a connecting rope and Zhang managed to yank all of them about 100 feet. The ceremony has held later to officially shave her head - I don't know if they just didn't wait for it to pull off like that. Samson could not be reached for comment, and no barbers were injured during the procedure.
To London, where the nights have been a little lonely for the female gorilla population at the zoo. They've been without a male companion since December. So, they slipped the zookeeper a fiber and had him bring back some gorilla porn. Actually, the pinup that the ladies were seizing up is their future male companion who currently resides at a zoo in France. Olalala, a French gorilla.
Zoo officials say the photos meant to whet the appetite of the ladies and get them acquainted with their new mate before he arrives. It would love at first sight. Evidently not. More like love at first bite because all three of the lady apes greeted the paramours' picture by chewing on it. And while the eldest of the bunch is not quite warming up to the idea of having a man around the habitat, zookeepers are confident she'll find his accent irresistible.
So, the rookie congresswoman from Kansas says the Republicans are looking for a, quote, "great white hope," and she can name three of them. Watch out Representative Bachmann, you got competition.
And our favorite car wreck governors both making news. This one insisting he will not resign even if he's deputy from the same party is now demanding it.
These stories ahead.
But, first, time for Countdown's "Top Three Best Persons in the World."
Dateline: New York. Number three: Best rationalization, "The Wall Street Journal." Columnist Mark Penn, that Mark Penn, wrote about camping companies. Then his P.R. firm started to try to drum up business from the companies Penn had just written about. Despite a conflict of interest bordering a bunko game, Rupert Murdoch is not firing Penn because quoting the spokesman, "We're pretty sure that it's going to stop."
Dateline: Washington. Number two: Best Steele trap, Steve Inskeep of NPR. Republican Chair Michael Steele said he wasn't completely anti-regulation. "There are issues in the insurance market," he said, "that we can regulate a little bit better." Boing!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE INSKEEP, NPR: Wait a minute. Wait, wait. You would trust the government to look into that?
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIR: No. I'm talking about the - talking about - citizens of -
INSKEEP: - about something that should be looked into.
STEELE: I'm talking about - well who regulates the insurance market?
INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.
STEELE: Wait a minute. Hold on. You know, you're doing a wonderful dance here, trying to be cute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There. Runs rings around you, logically.
Number one, best taste, the anti-reform astroturf group Conservatives For Patients Rights, run by an ex-hospital honcho, has suspended its publicity carpet bombing. Quote, "with the sad news of Senator Kennedy's passing, Conservatives for Patients' Rights is immediately suspending our ad campaign for health care reform out of respect to the Kennedy family, as well as the senators, colleagues and supporters to whom we extend our condolences."
Yes. They save the money they can probably spend better later. Even if it is just expedient good taste, at least it's good taste.
OLBERMANN: Few are the elected Republicans left who do not self-identify as birthers or deathers or TP-ers or Beckers. Beckers, people like Sarah Palin, who endorsed a TV comedian who calls the president a racist. But now there's a new category, still very small, Freudian slippers.
Our third story in the Countdown, the phrase was coined when prejudice against black people was still the law of the land, in 1909, in 1910, when whites here and in many other countries sought somebody, anybody, to take back the heavyweight boxing title from the African-American Jack Johnson.
The phrase was the great white hope. A 1969 play and movie based on Johnson's life was even titled that. There is no ambiguity whatsoever about what the great white hope meant. The man the bigots of 1910 finally found, retired champ James J. Jefferies, even said I'm going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.
Funny that a Congresswoman should suddenly use the phrase seven months into the term of the first African-American president and then play dumb afterwards. Freudian slip?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP LYNN JENKINS (R), KANSAS: We're struggling right now to find the great white hope. And I suggest to any of you that are concerned about that, that are Republicans, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington. And of course the ones I'm most familiar with are on the House side. And we've got a bright young star in Eric Cantor, our whip, and his deputy whip, Kevin McCarthy from California. He's a bright young man. Paul Ryan spent some time in Kansas with Senator Brownback.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins from Hiawatha, Kansas, talking about the next leaders of her party, Cantor, McCarthy, Ryan, Brownback, Jeffries, Victor Mclaughlin - those last three fought Johnson, sorry.
A spokeswoman said, quote, "the Congresswoman wanted to apologize for her word choice, and to emphasize she had no intention of expressing herself in an offensive manner. There may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the great white hope. What she meant by it is they have a bright future. They're bright lights with the party."
The Congresswoman herself said, "I was unaware of any negative connotation. In I offended anybody, obviously, I apologize."
The old conditional apology. It's your fault if you're offended that an active politician in 2009 should use the most demeaning of racist phrases, vintage 1909.
Joining me now, from California's 35th district, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Congresswoman, thanks again for your time tonight.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Welcome, welcome. Delighted to be back.
OLBERMANN: Let me start at the end rather than the beginning. Let's say this Congresswoman really didn't know what that phrase meant, really had never heard of Jack Johnson. What kind of apology would you think would be appropriate here? Is one of these if I offended anybody ones, is that good enough now?
WATERS: Well, she has attempted to take back her words and to apologize. And like you said, it was probably a Freudian slip. But you know, one of the things we can't do is we can't let them distract from what we are all about, and what we're trying to accomplish.
We are trying to keep the focus on comprehensive universal health care reform. And they're going all over the place. They're desperate. They don't have leadership. They don't really know what to do. And so I think we're going to continue to see a lot of crazy things happening, like all of the outrage that is being demonstrated at these town hall meetings, like the kind of statements that Congresswoman Jenkins made.
And let them define themselves. Let them reveal who they are. The American public needs to see that.
OLBERMANN: The context of the town halls is - is really critical to this, I think, because obviously -
OLBERMANN: The providence of this phrase, and it's not just that and it's not just that we're seven months into the term of the first African-American president, but also these town halls have not just been witches' kitchens of racist sentiment, but this attempt to thinly veil them in basically excuses that permit racist thoughts to be expressed and acted upon, as if there were not going to be any consequences. Shouldn't there be some consequence to this Congresswoman, other than being - being exposed as somebody who either doesn't care that she sounds racist or doesn't know what this very famous phrase really actually means?
WATERS: Well, let me just say this. As you know, the president and the White House are very, very careful not to let arguments and disagreements disintegrate into racist confrontation. And so what we are going to do is, we are going to attempt to allow her to defend her remarks in any way that she wants to. But the truth will come out.
They will define themselves. They can't help it. And I think what we should do is sit back and watch them, so that the American people can see what we're really up against. And I think the president would like it that way. He would not like to engage them in the discussion about their racist remarks. That's not the way he handles things.
OLBERMANN: Do you think politically we're going backwards on this issue? Because there's so many things in the last seven months that have made me, as a white guy, ashamed, absolutely ashamed of what I've seen. Are we going backwards or forwards now?
WATERS: Well, I'm concerned. I'm concerned about some of what I see and some of what I hear. And I hope that they don't trigger a response from people who want to, you know, get at them and show them that they can't get away with that kind of discussion, that kind of talk. So I'm concerned. I'm very much concerned about it.
OLBERMANN: It's nice to hear you counseling calm and let them talk their way out of this if they can. A lot of us, I don't think, are as calm as you are. Representative Maxine Waters of California, it's always a pleasure. Thanks for your time and coming in.
WATERS: You're so welcome. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: You wonder if Sarah Palin is relieved she wasn't named one of the great white Republican popes or secretly jealous? Whichever, she's bailed out of another dinner thrown by people who actually like her.
And of all the crazy ass things Lonesome Roads have ever said, this may be craziest assist. MSNBC is involved in taking over the government somehow. Hey, I'm beginning to think I'm underpaid.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, fresh from her sick bed, he special guest, Democratic Congressman Anthony Wiener on how the GOP is strangling itself in its twisted rhetoric against health care reform.
OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin stands up yet another group of people who believed in her. Believed. That's next. First time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze goes to Bill-O the clown; "Tuesday night on MSNBC, someone said that people who watch Fox News are paranoid and racists. That should tell you everything you need to know about the entire NBC situation. Pinhead does not even begin to cover it."
That would have been me. I said that. That quoted exactly, "since Fixed News has now migrated completely over to serving propaganda to tin foil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids and racists, it is not a news organization."
Mr. O'Reilly is upset and he has a right to be upset. Tinfoil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids and racists, I'd like to apologize. I left out loons. Fox Noise is only in the business now of serving propaganda to tin foil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids, racists and loons. Oh, and pinheads. People who watch Fox News thinking there is news in it are tin foil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids, racists, loons and pinheads.
Our runner up, so are many of the hosts, like Lonesome Roads Beck here, with a two-fer. About the advertiser protest after he called the president a racist, with a deep-seated hatred of white people - they are now up to 46 advertisers that bailed out. Quote, "they can take my job and they can take my wealth. But that's OK. Even if the powers to be right now succeed in making me poor, drum me out and I'm just a worthless loser, which I'm just about that much above right now - I will only be stronger for it."
Hey, Glenn, you know there's great wisdom in that old tasteless joke. Just remember, when you put yourself up there, you can never drive in the last nail yourself.
Part two, "if you watch MSNBC, I contend that you will see the future, because they are lying the groundwork for a horrible event that will - what they're laying the ground for - anything from the right there - some awful event. And I fear this government. This administration has so much framework already prepared that they will seize power overnight before anybody even gives it a second thought."
Look, this administration has a comfortable majority in both houses and it still hasn't even been able to show the ability to seize health care. So when you say stuff like that, you don't just sound crazy, you sound really poorly informed and crazy. By the way, that horrible, awful event from the right, by the way, that has already happened. It's called "The Glenn Beck Show."
But our winner, once again, Congressman Wally Herger of the second district of California, still defending his actions and those of that guy at his town hall, Bert Staid (ph). Conveniently, videotape has finally surfaced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been known to say things fishy. I have been known to even attend ReddingTeaParty.com protests. And I want to say that I'm a proud right wing terrorist.
I didn't come prepared with a lot of notes tonight. I left them actually at home when I was looking for - while I was looking for my birth certificate.
REP. WALLY HERGER R), INDIANA: Amen, god bless you. There's a great American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, now we know Mr. Staid is a birther, too, and a tea partying. Congressman Herger not only still thinks he should not have been gently asked not to throw the term right wing terrorist around, he's blaming, who else, the Obama administration. Herger's office has issued yet another statement, nobody's name attached to it this time. "Mr. Bert Staid," it says, "is a taxpayer and veteran, who, like so many others, is rightfully fed up with being called un-American, or extremist, or a political terrorist by liberals in Washington for simply exercising his first amendment rights. Mr. Staid served his country and therefore, he is a great American. The congressman doesn't at all regret commending him for standing up, exercising his free speech rights, and expressing his strong concerns with the direction liberals in Washington are taking our country."
Except, no liberal called him un-American. That was a lie. It was a misquoting of the speaker of the House. It was designed to give people like Staid an excuse too get out his don't tread on me paranoia. And no liberal called him an extremist or a political terrorist. That was a report from the Department of Homeland Security, a report that was commissioned while George Bush was still president, noting evidence that the ring wing militias might attempt indoctrinate veterans just back from Afghanistan or Iraq.
Mr. Staid clearly is not just back from Afghanistan or Iraq. Mr. Staid can be excused for not knowing any of this or choosing not to know any of it. He's been spoon fed this crap from the right for seven months at least. But if Congressman Herger doesn't know this or is choosing not to know it, he is violating his Constitutional responsibilities. He is fomenting violence. If he will not speak out in favor of law and order in this country, he should resign his seat. Wally Herger, Congressman, California Second, Today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Mark Sanford has run out of new catch phrases to introduce. No more hiking the old Appalachian trail. Now he's falling back on the oldie but baddie about being rail-roaded. You know that invitation you sent Sarah Palin to come and speak at your event? Must have got lost on the dogsled chain.
Number one story, one Republican trying to stay in office, seemingly despite everyone. Another trying to stay relevant, apparently in spite of herself. First up, unemployed Alaska blogger Sarah Palin weighing in on the Color of Change's call for advertisers to boycott Glenn Beck. Beck's latest attacks on the group's co-founder, White House adviser Van Jones -
46 different advertisers now - "Fox News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week, walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and outlining who is actually running the White House. Monday night, he asked us to invite one friend to watch. I invite all my friends to watch."
That's one. Right? It's Martians. Martians is actually running the White House!
Meanwhile, after promoting Palin as the star speaker for weeks, organizers of an Alaska Family Council event were left scrambling at the last minute after they learned the former governor would be a no-show. Palin spokeswoman claiming this is the first we have ever heard of a speech.
This as the saga of Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who did not resign as a governor, continues. His lieutenant governor warning him in a letter, resign now or the legislature will impeach you later.
Sanford fired back with his own letter. "To escape the glare of television cameras and reporters in the midst of a media frenzy would not be far from some form of heaven on Earth. But my dad taught me a long time ago that two wrongs don't make a right."
Nor, in his case, do 37 wrongs make a right. So naturally, Sanford escaped the glare of the TV cameras by holding a news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not going to be railroaded out of this office by political opponents or folks that were never friends of mine in the first place.
For future governors, just because folks might be frenzied up or frightened and other things in the general assembly, does mean it is the right time to fold the tent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Governor, they're all political enemies now. Joining me now, comedian Christian Finnegan. Good evening, Christian.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN: Huzzah, good sir.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. Governor Sanford brought us sparking - remember that from e-mails - he inspired hiking the old Appalachian trail. Is he out of new phrases? Railroaded and fold the tent? He's got every old bromide in here except employees must wash hands.
FINNEGAN: That and the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. I have actually done a bit of research, Keith. The current poet Laureate of South Carolina is woman named Marjorie Heath Wentworth (ph). I'm sure Laureate Wentworth is doing a bang up job. It seems like the right move here is for her to step aside and let Governor Sanford move in. See, that way, he could actually build a state for all of his inter-continental booty calls, and it would be totally appropriate. He is just working on material.
OLBERMANN: Excellent. This letter writing campaign between Sanford and the lieutenant governor - again, the idea of correspondence has been - - you have to give Governor Sanford this credit; Correspondence has been reborn thanks to this man. But there is something wrong with e-mail these days? He couldn't rely on the - oh, I forgot. Sorry.
FINNEGAN: Yes. Governor Sanford is strictly quill and parchment these days. He has to be careful, because last year he actually stuffed the wrong letter into the wrong envelope. And a week later, he had the state comptroller in his office being, governor, what did you mean you ache for me?
OLBERMANN: Shhh! If he had kept his quill just on the parchment, none of this would have happened.
FINNEGAN: I see.
OLBERMANN: That was a pun. I'm an amateur here, but I'm doing the best I can in the company of professionals. The governor held another press conference today, just to make sure we all heard him about not being in the public glare. Should he ask our friend Governor Palin how to use the Facebook thing, so that the rest of us can just go about our day and check in on him when we feel like it, rather than when he feels like it?
FINNEGAN: Yes, he gets caught for using e-mail for the wrong reasons, and yet can't seem to understand that this is what a CC list is for. It's not like he and the lieutenant governor are actually corresponding to each other. They're like the two guys in the bar who are talking loud so the table of girls next to them can hear them. Like, I don't think I need to resign. Well, you need to resign.
Keep it going, dude, they're looking at him. I'm guess I'm going to go get in my BMW and go home now. It just feels very awkward and uncomfortable. You know, CC list.
OLBERMANN: Over to Alaska. This is the fourth time in recent months that Governor Palin was scheduled to appear somewhere, but didn't - backed out or just didn't show up, or there was some miscommunication. If she winds up running for president, isn't somebody going to have to step in and say, you know, you can't skip the debate tonight just because "The Mentalist" is on CBS and you want to watch that?
FINNEGAN: I'm defending Governor Palin in this one. This particular event took place in Alaska. Listen, Alaska, I don't mean to be cruel. Sarah Palin dumped you. It's time to move on. OK? I defend her in this. I'm sure you've been in this situation. You're in a relationship, and it's run its course. You just want to end it. So you say, let's just be friends. And then the other person, just purely out of desperation and spite, is like, well, then if we're friends, you should come and speak at my event next week, since we're friends and all.
Sarah Palin is like, OK. Then, a week later, she's like, what am I doing? I don't need to do this. Just move on. Listen, when Sarah Palin said she wanted to be friends, she just wants it not to be weird when you bump into each other. Like, oh, Alaska. Do you know Iowa? Iowa, Alaska.
OLBERMANN: And yet here she goes inviting all friends to watch Glenn Beck. Is that the way to earn browny points so that she can get her own show over that? If that's the case, is she going to send out a Facebook message, saying, don't watch his show, watch mine.
FINNEGAN: I want to know who the people are who are avid Sarah Palin Facebook readers but aren't aware of Glenn Beck. It seems like there's a bit of a cross over. I agree with what you said about the death panels and that you don't read any newspaper, but that guy is crazy.
OLBERMANN: Or who? I never heard of him. Comedian Christian Finnegan, as always, great thanks.
OLBERMANN: Bye. That's Countdown for this 2,310th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now, to talk about how the GOP is slowly tying itself up with its twisted rhetoric against health care reform, ladies and gentlemen, a warm welcome back to what's left of Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: OK. See you later!
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END