'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 28, 2009
Guest: Howard Dean, Nicole Lamoureaux, Jonathan Landay, Dave Neiwert, Clarence Page
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The health care crisis for Americans: The clear and present need for reform as thousands stand in line in Texas for the chance to see a doctor. The health care crisis for some Democrats: Progressives go after Senator Baucus for not backing the public option.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BING PERRINE, BILLINGS, MONTANA: Senator Baucus, I have to ask: whose side are you on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And other groups are now telling blue-dog Democrats: if you won't help achieve reform then we'll find a different Democrat who will.
President Obama's growing foreign policy problems: Days after Iran's secret nuclear facility is revealed, they start test-firing missiles.
In Afghanistan, as the commander-in-chief faces criticism for still working on the strategy, the commander on the ground hints just how badly the war was run under President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MARTIN, CBS REPORTER: It sounds like you're trying to deprogram eight years of bad habits.
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: Exactly.
There's an awful lot of bad habits we've got to deprogram.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Bill Clinton's conspiracy theory: The former president claims the vast right-wing conspiracy that led to his impeachment still exists today with one major difference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: It's not as strong as it was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: But hasn't the right-wing machine not only survived but thrived and expanded exponentially since Bill Clinton left office?
Big, tough Gadhafi: "Saturday Night Live's" take on the Libyan leaders rambling, incoherent address to the U.N. His excuse, according to the "SNL" writers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On top of this mind-bending jetlag, I've also been having problems with my giant pants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And the Olympic sales pitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Surely, it's within the purview of the president to root for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: President Obama enters the fight to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago with two wars, the economic crisis and the health care debate. Why in the world is he tackling this, too?
All that and more - now on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell in for Keith Olbermann.
Tomorrow, the single most controversial real element of health care reform goes on the line as the Senate Finance Committee finally debates whether to give Americans an affordable, reliable alternative to profit-driven health insurance.
And in our number five story tonight: Now, it is the left firing warning shots to Democrats, "If you don't stand up for the public option, you'll have to stand up to us."
Last week, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said he will bring the public option up for debate and vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
In the meantime, several developments. Among them, a health care fair held by TV's Dr. Mehmet Oz, offering checkups and care to those who need it. Almost 1,800 turned up. "A record," Oz said. And not surprising, since it was held in Texas, where a higher percentage of people lack health insurance than in any other state.
But if the record-setting plight of their constituents fails to move Texas Republicans, several liberal groups are hoping home-state pressure will move Democrats to support a public option. Foremost among them, Max Baucus of Montana, the finance chairman, who did not include a public option in his version of the bill - which is why Senator Rockefeller has to fight for it tomorrow.
Two progressive groups will launch a new ad in Montana and in D.C., hitting Baucus from the left for failing to back a public option.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRINE: My name is Bing Perrine. I live here in Billings, Montana, with my beautiful wife and baby boy. Last June, I collapsed because of congenital heart problems. I need open-heart surgery but have no insurance and no company will insure me.
My friends and family have been a blessing, with hearts as big as a Montana sky, they've helped with bake sales and benefits. But my wife and I still owe over $100,000 in medical bills. None of this debt would have piled up if I'd had the option of buying into a health insurance plan. Private insurance companies need competition. They profit by denying care to people like me.
Senator Baucus, when you take millions of dollars from health and insurance interests that oppose reform - and opposing giving families like mine the choice of a public option - I have to ask: whose side are you on?
ANNOUNCER: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are responsible for the contents of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper, meanwhile, getting even tougher pushback for not backing a public option as a political action committee led by progressive leaders from Daily Kos and Firedoglake are now recruiting candidates to challenge Cooper in next year's primaries. Robert Pear in "The New York Times" today reports that the final Senate bill, the version Majority Leader Harry Reid will cobble together from the health committee bill and the finance committee bill, will not include a public option, according to unnamed senior Democratic Senate aides.
Responding to the story, a spokesman for Senator Reid said any such decision would prejudice tomorrow's outcome for the public option.
OK. But will it be in the final Senate version? Reid's spokesman says, quote, "We don't know."
Let's bring in Dr. Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and chairman of the Democratic Party, author of "Howard Dean's Prescription For Real Health Care Reform."
Thanks for joining us tonight, Doctor.
HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIR: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Governor Dean, is there any reason to think the public option really has a shot this week in the Senate? You have.
O'DONNELL: . unnamed Senate sources saying it will not be in the final bill, and then the best Senator Reid spokesman can come up with is "I don't know" to question of whether it will be in the final bill. What's your - what's your guess here?
DEAN: Well, look, this is a bill that George Bush would love. It's a massive redistribution of government taxpayers' money to the insurance industry, exactly the same thing that was going on in the banking industry and other industries on Wall Street. It is a bad bill, this finance committee bill. It doesn't insure people, and it spends an awful lot of money and it gives it away to the insurance companies.
So, I do think ultimately the bill will have a public option in it because I don't think the Democratic Party is going to stand for this.
O'DONNELL: What is - what's your theory about how you get it? If Jay Rockefeller doesn't succeed tomorrow, if they go - and if they then go to the Senate floor without it, do you think it gets amended into the bill on the Senate floor? How will they - how will they get it?
DEAN: Well, first of all, there's no reason to go to the floor without it. You've already had one committee that's acted on this - Chris Dodd's committee - that has done the right thing and put in a public option. So, there's no reason you shouldn't have it in the public bill. There will be a vote, and we think that there are 51 or 52 senators, Democratic senators, who will vote for some sort of public option. That is really essential.
If you don't have a public option, you are wasting nearly $1 trillion of government money and giving it to the health insurance industry. I think that is a terrible mistake. I know very well that is not what President Obama planned on when he was campaigning. And we have just got to get the 51 votes in the Senate in order to get this done, and I think we will.
O'DONNELL: Now, put on your hat as former chairman of the DNC. How do you feel about seeing Democrats attack Democrats politically over this and some people trying to get primary challenges against congressmen like Jim Cooper in Tennessee? Is that something you would advise against as ultimately self-destructive, or is this a way to get what some might think of as stronger Democrats in those seats?
DEAN: Well, look, here's the problem. The problem is, we have a very big majority. But if you don't use your majority, you lose your majority. And that's exactly what's happening right now in Democratic Party. There is no reason - 65 percent of the people, Lawrence, 65 percent of the American people in a CBS poll that was put out a couple of days ago want a public option. A public option is simply allowing people to sign up for Medicare if they're under 65. That's a very good public option.
And there's no reason - you know, I don't understand why these senators aren't voting for what 65 percent of their constituents want. That is what I don't understand. And of course people are going to be upset if they ask you to do something, they're paying your salary and you're voting with the people who give you huge campaign contributions. Of course, people are going to get upset about that.
So, as former DNC chair, I hate to see this happen to the Democratic party, but I would just ask the senators, "Look, we've been through a tough time together, we've worked really hard together to get you a majority, please use your majority for the people of this country, not for the insurance industry."
O'DONNELL: No one has better sources on this than Robert Pear of "The New York Times." And he's also reporting today that Harry Reid intends to defer to President Obama on the tough calls about what should go in into the Senate bill that he brings out onto the Senate floor.
So, isn't the White House where all this energy should be focused right now? I mean, Jim Cooper in the House, you could pass a bill with or without him. He doesn't matter, compared to what Rahm Emanuel and President Obama are deciding in the White House should be in that Senate bill in order to get to final passage.
So, again, isn't that where the attention should be now?
DEAN: The attention - every Democrat's going to sink or swim
together on this. If we don't - we pass a bill that just is a big
giveaway to the insurance industry, which is what the Senate's working on
right now, every Democrat will suffer, from President Obama right down to -
even Democrats who vote for the right thing will suffer. We're all in this together in the Democratic Party, and we've got to do the right thing here.
O'DONNELL: Step me through a scenario in which a bill comes to the Senate floor that for the final vote on it is a bill that you oppose, it has no public option, no real cost controls, no ability to really subsidize insurance at the level it would need to be subsidized to make it affordable, and you - and you end up recommending a vote against that. Let's say the vote against that carries on the Senate floor. Do you then expect that this whole thing could be picked up and started over again and maybe passed next year?
DEAN: No. What I would do if that were to happen is, I would hope that people would strip out the money from the bill, because it's stupid to give $60 billion of taxpayers' money to the insurance industry every year, and pass the insurance reform. There is good insurance reform in this bill, and all the five committees that have - the finance committee and the health committee, the three committees in the House.
This is stuff we did 15 years ago when I was governor of Vermont, guaranteed, issued, and community-ready. It won't insure a lot more people, but it will stop the insurance companies from kicking people off their roles as they do now. So, there is some good stuff in this bill. It's just not worth spending all that taxpayer money on.
O'DONNELL: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean - great thanks for your time tonight.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on.
O'DONNELL: And joining us now is Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, which sponsored the Texas fair we told you about. Thanks for joining us.
NICOLE LAMOUREAUX, NATL. ASSN. OF FREE CLINICS: Thank you for having me.
O'DONNELL: And so, who shows up at a fair like yours, before 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday, trying to get free health care in Texas?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think, first and foremost, we have to say that the Lone Star Association of Charitable Clinics and the Houston Charitable Clinics showed up and 700 volunteers showed up first.
And then second, the people who showed up there are working Americans, people who have jobs but have no health care option. We saw teachers. We saw a former WNBA player. These are people who are coming to these free clinics.
O'DONNELL: Now, one of the things people wonder about in the health care reform legislation is how much pent-up demand is there for people who currently are uninsured and actually need to get a physician's attention? And what is your experience that these clinics show us?
LAMOUREAUX: Sure. I think what these clinics are showing you and what free clinics around the United States are showing you is that our numbers have continued to grow. In 2008, we saw 4 million people. In 2009, we are going to see 8 million people. And we do this with little to no state or federal support. And the demand is just continuing to grow and grow.
O'DONNELL: Now, we've seen these clinics in other parts of the country - Los Angeles and Tennessee, for example. One of the clinics that you ran in Tennessee actually provoked an insider in the health insurance business to just say, "I can't take this anymore," and he became a whistleblower. These clinics do seem to show us exactly what the need is out there.
How do you connect what's going on in these clinics to what's going on in Washington? And how do you - how do you make that connect in the moment when senators are casting votes?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think the first thing we need to make sure that the senators understand is that free clinics are different than federally qualified health centers. Federally qualified health centers that have received money in the stimulus package and the health reform bill, and free clinics, we haven't received any funds at all. We mobilize thousands of volunteers to service the nation's uninsured.
So, I think that's a very big difference. We do have a delivery model that works, and we would love to help Congress and the president in this discussion. So, we just continue to go out there and explain to them who we are and what we do and the patients that we're servicing every day.
O'DONNELL: And how do you choose your locations? I mean, for example, was Texas chosen because it has the highest percentage of uninsured in the country?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, of course. I think that when this event came up and it was great that we had a partner with Dr. Oz, Texas being the number-one state for uninsurance and Harris County having one in three being uninsured, it seemed like a natural location for us to go.
O'DONNELL: And - so, where do you go from here? Is there - do you have another one of these scheduled at this point?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think what Texas showed us is what free clinics do every day. That's just an enormous scale of the patients that free clinics see every day and how we can move patients along. So, right now what we're doing is concentrating on the efforts that free clinics have been doing since the 1960s.
O'DONNELL: And if the single-payer system were to go into effect, this would really put you out of business on free clinics, as people have free access around the country. Is that the day you're looking forward to?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think as long as the public option actually takes care of our patients, really what we need to make sure is that any plan that goes into place gives people access to care - and that's complete access to care. So, at this point in time, we're just going to continue servicing the patients who need the service and working with Congress and see what we can do in the future.
O'DONNELL: Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, thanks for your time tonight.
LAMOUREAUX: Thank you very much.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: The wrong message at the wrong time. Iran test-fires its most sophisticated missiles ever on the eve of international talks on its nuclear program. What is President Obama's next move?
And remember the vast right-wing conspiracy? President Clinton says it still exists but it's just not so vast anymore. Has the former president turned on the TV or listened to the radio lately or even ever been online?
That and more - ahead on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: President Obama's foreign policy problems. Iran test-fires missiles in the middle of concerns over its secret nuclear sites. Meantime, the president is gathering his entire national security team to figure out the way forward in Afghanistan.
All of that and a last-minute presidential trip to Copenhagen to win the Olympics for Chicago. That's next.
This is Countdown.
O'DONNELL: With a domestic agenda that would be more than enough for any leader, President Obama now faces an expanding set of foreign policy problems that may well end up defining his presidency.
In our fourth story on the Countdown: Disagreement within the administration over the war in Afghanistan and the new urgency over what to do about Iran.
Over the past two days, Iran successfully test-fired medium-range missiles which can reach up to 1,200 miles. That's far enough to reach Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe. A Revolutionary Guard commander said, quote, "Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran." This just days after the U.S. and its allies disclosed the existence of another uranium enrichment plant in Iran.
A Geneva meeting between Iran and the six major powers, including the U.S., is set for this Thursday. And the Obama administration is working to assemble a new package of far stricter sanctions unless Iran agrees to immediate inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Simultaneously, the Obama administration faces an undeniably tough choice on how to proceed in Afghanistan. Tomorrow, the president will meet in the White House Situation Room to discuss Afghanistan with General David Petraeus, General Stanley McChrystal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
General McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, advocates another increase in troop levels for Afghanistan. But General McChrystal has also been frank about how the strategy in Afghanistan must be significantly different than that of the past eight years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCHRYSTAL: I think that in some areas, the breadth of violence, the geographic spread of violence, places to the north and to the west, are a little more than I would have gathered.
What I'm really telling people is: the greatest risk we can accept is to lose the support of the people here. If the people are against us, we cannot be successful. If the people view us as occupiers and the enemy, we can't be successful and our casualties will go up dramatically.
I'm confident that I will have an absolute chance to provide my assessment and to make my recommendations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was among those President Obama consulted over the weekend as he considers Afghanistan's strategy. The president also reached out to his former rival, Senator John McCain, for what was described as a brief chat. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly supports a reduced but more focused U.S. presence in the region.
The political components of President Obama's decision is complicated, as well, since recent public opinion polls do not support a troop increase in Afghanistan with many Republicans eager to portray the president as weak on national security issues.
Let's bring in the senior national security and intelligence correspondent from "McClatchy" newspapers, Jonathan Landay.
Thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN LANDAY, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: My pleasure.
O'DONNELL: What do the Iranian missile tests add to the tension of Thursday's meeting in Geneva?
LANDAY: Well, let's put it in context. The fact is that these missile tests took place as part of a regular military exercise, so they were probably scheduled anyway. The fact is that they went ahead and they went ahead several days before these very crucial talks in Geneva, they went ahead several days after the disclosure that Iran is, in fact, building and has been building a second uranium enrichment plant.
So, certainly they don't - they don't do anything in terms of raising the prospect of any kind of agreement being reached this week in Geneva.
O'DONNELL: Now, this is not a top-level meeting in Geneva. It's foreign ministers and, in our case, undersecretary of state. Hillary Clinton says that the U.S. position in that meeting will be to simply say, "Prove it," when Iran repeats its insistence that its nuclear program is only for energy and not for weapons.
How will Iran respond to that challenge?
LANDAY: Well, we've seen that question put to Iran for years now, and we've seen Iran respond by saying, "Well, you know, everything that we're doing is legal," and they're very likely to do that again. The fact is that the facility that's being constructed - at least according to U.S. intelligence officials - does not have equipment - the centrifuges in place, those are the machines that enrich uranium.
And, therefore, the question is: what would U.N. inspectors be able to see and adduce once Iran let them in, when Iran lets them in. That's the question. Iran has said it would let U.N. inspectors in, but when that is going to take place is the question going to be put to the Iranians this week in Geneva.
The other question, of course, is: will the Iranians be able to count on China and Russia to help them forestall any new sanctions that the United States, Britain, and France want to put on Iran?
O'DONNELL: Now, you've just returned from Afghanistan. Do you think that the situation on the ground points to an obvious choice for the president on troop levels now?
LANDAY: Not at all. In fact, it's a very confused situation on the ground. It's one that I don't think anybody really has a firm grip on. I mean, when I went - and I've been going to this country for quite many - a few many years - I was unaware that the fact, until I went up there, that the Taliban has now made in - has now infiltrated up into several northern provinces of Afghanistan. And, therefore, the situation does not lend itself to an easy answer.
If you want to put more troops - if they decide they want to put more troops in, the fact is that there are downsides to that. This current situation cannot be sustained, and, in fact, if the Taliban is not stopped, the dimension of crisis that will take place in that region will be quite huge. And, therefore, it's not an easy thing for the president to decide.
O'DONNELL: Now, words like "commitment" and "leadership" come up a lot whenever there's an analysis of how the president should make his next move in Afghanistan. But there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the notion that leadership and commitment can only be expressed by increasing troop levels.
How should the president deal with that if, for example, he chooses a different course, something other than a troop increase?
LANDAY: We'll have to wait and see. But the fact is, those who are advocating increased troop levels are, for the most part, people who supported the invasion of Iraq. And it's because of the invasion of Iraq that there haven't been enough troops in Afghanistan to deal with the situation there, to have dealt with the situation when it was manageable four or five years ago. Now these very same advocates are now saying we need to put more troops in Afghanistan.
Well, the fact is there are still 130,000 American troops in Iraq. The question is: where would - where are these extra troops going to come from? If you have more troops, that means more targets, which means more violence, which means more civilian deaths, which means more opposition to the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan. And, therefore, it's not an easy prospect just to sit and advocate.
O'DONNELL: And finally, if he does go for more troop - troop
increase in Afghanistan, how can President Obama explain that to a country
to his country to get a majority support for that, which currently is not there?
LANDAY: It's going to be very difficult. And the fact is that a lot of people believe that the answer is not - is not a military answer. The fact is that there's a lack of governance in Afghanistan. There's a lack of justice that the people of Afghanistan don't enjoy, and that the members of that government are very powerful people, warlords in that country, are able to get a level of justice that other people don't have. And that may be a way of dealing with the situation other than just pumping more military force into that country.
O'DONNELL: Jonathan Landay of "McClatchy" newspapers, thanks for joining us.
LANDAY: My pleasure.
O'DONNELL: If all of those waiting foreign policy issues weren't enough for President Obama, over the weekend, he decided to throw himself into the 2016 Olympics bid for Chicago. We'll talk about the politics of the Olympics and the instant right-wing attack on the president for trying to win the Olympics for the USA.
Also ahead, no news story could adequately convey the other absurdity of Moammar Gadhafi's trip to New York last week. That's why we have "Saturday Night Live."
O'DONNELL: Former President Bill Clinton says the right wing is weaker now than it was when he was president. How do you explain the birthers, the deathers and the tea partiers, not to mention Glenn Beck? Our third story on the Countdown, The 42nd president invokes the vast right-wing conspiracy, except, according to Mr. Clinton, it's not so vast anymore.
Former President Bill Clinton, speaking on "Meet the Press," defending President Obama and sounding off against right-wing attacks. All well and good, except Mr. Clinton claims conservative ire is just as toxic as it was in the '90s, it's just not as strong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS": Your wife famously talked about the vast right-wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?
BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was. I mean, they're saying things about him. You know, it's like when they accused me of murder and all that stuff they did.
But it's not really good for the Republicans of the country, what's going on now. I mean, they may be hurting President Obama. They can take his numbers down. They can run his opposition up. But fundamentally, he and his team have a positive agenda for America. Their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail. And that's not a prescription for a good America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the right wing has not only survived, it has thrived and expanded. Case in point, the story of two black students in Illinois beating up a white student on a school bus. The "Drudge Report" trumpeted the story on its front page, "white student beaten on school bus, crowd cheers." Rush Limbaugh ran with that and said the incident was part of Obama's America. And then Fox News echoed the Drudge/Limbaugh talking points throughout the day.
And who can forget the mythical debt panels. After GOP fear-monger Betsy McCoy floated the concept of fake euthanasia, Sarah Palin warned of government death panels on Facebook. Senator Chuck Grassley fed into the fear, raising the specter of pulling the plug on grandma. With Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity providing a constant echo on death panels.
Mr. Clinton, we have some 21st century news for you here. The vast right-wing propaganda machine is not shrinking; it is growing.
Joining me now is managing editor for "Crooks and Liars" and author of "Eliminationists, How the Right-Wing Hate Radicalized the American Right." Dave Neiwert, good evening, sir. Thanks for joining us.
DAVE NEIWERT, "CROOKS AND LIARS": Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Now, for half the Clinton presidency, Fox News, which supplies most of these talking points and keeps them running all day, did not even exist. How can President Clinton really try to claim that the right-wing propaganda machine has somehow gotten weaker when it's expanded exponentially?
NEIWERT: Well, I think that maybe he is maybe thinking of the actual power that the American right holds in the country right now. I mean, obviously they're pretty much out of power right now. And from '94 on, that wasn't the case for him.
However, I think that what is really striking and actually a really useful comparison/contrast sort of thing is to look at what was happening to him and compare it to Obama at this early stage in his presidency. You know, the complete sort of wing nuttery that's coming out of the right right now, you know, the belief in things that are proven to be untrue, and all kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories.
This was something that didn't really start happening to Clinton until about '94 or '95. And it didn't - certainly didn't happen on a massive basis until like '98 or '99. And we're seeing this already in the first year of Obama's presidency. And it's happening on a much larger scale than it happened to Clinton.
So I think that is kind of an inept comparison, or at least an inept claim on his part.
O'DONNELL: Now, you could argue that Bill Clinton gave his attackers some openings by having to admit to certain sex scandals and having so many rumors about other things like that. Barack Obama has given them no such opening in any way. And is that why they revert to things like imagining death panels and just pulling things out of thin air?
NEIWERT: Yes. They pretty much have to. I mean, it's obvious that
they're going to try to sort of oppose him any way they can, and undermine
him and attack him any way they can. But, yes, I mean, we started hearing
right away that he was planning to take away our guns, which was, you know,
one of the big things that they brought up about Clinton. It was part of -
a large part of what fueled the militia movement and the sort of paranoia black helicopter crowd that we saw so much of in the '90s.
And a lot of what I sort of explain in my book is that a lot of the sort of hateful talk that we're seeing now had its origins in that movement. And the important thing to understand is that in the '90s, people saying this stuff were, you know, marginal figures like John Troktman (ph) of the militia of Montana and Beau Wrights (ph). Those kinds of figures were the ones spreading these conspiracy theories. And they were doing it to small crowds of people.
Now we have Glenn Beck repeating stuff that I swear I heard Linda Thompson say back in the 1990s. And he's doing it to an audience of millions.
O'DONNELL: And when President Clinton started on the national stage, Rush Limbaugh was not anything like the national phenomenon he became during the Clinton years. Now Barack Obama has Rush Limbaugh to deal with on a daily basis, as well as Glenn Beck.
O'DONNELL: I mean, right there you've got double the burden that Bill Clinton ever faced, don't you?
NEIWERT: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, Limbaugh's audience wasn't anything the size in '93, '94 that it is now. So, yes, it's significantly greater sort of - we call it - in the blogosphere, we call it the Wurlitzer, the right-wing Wurlitzer. And this refers to sort of the orchestrated talking point machine that the right wing has put up.
And so much of this is just, like I say, provably false stuff, everything from him, you know, talking about taking our guns away, to the birthers, to the death panels, as you say. It's - it has an unhinging effect on the audience, particularly when people, you know, start to believe this stuff. And it has really a toxic effect on the national discourse as a result.
O'DONNELL: David Neiwert, managing editor of CrooksAndLiars.com, thanks for joining us.
NEIWERT: My pleasure.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, a presidential first. Barack Obama will intervene directly in the international fight to host the 2016 Olympics. Can his worldwide popularity bring home a big get for his adopted hometown of Chicago?
First, Gadhafi gets shot down trying to pitch his tent in New York.
And then "Saturday Night Live" takes its shot at Gadhafi.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias lost his job for not going after Acorn. He talks to Rachel about who is behind the attacks on Acorn now.
O'DONNELL: While the United Nations was treated last week to the arresting visual image of Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, the nation was captured by repeated aerial shots of his tent, the one which he never actually managed to occupy. So, in our number-two story on the Countdown, "Saturday Night Live" has, of course, stepped in to provide the necessary epilogue. A brand-new speech by the Libyan dictator explaining why his first speech went on for 136 minutes, and how difficult it is to be a man without a tent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I'm here today to apologize for my speech on Wednesday. It was just so long and so rambling, and it didn't make any sense.
I watched a tape of it, and I was, like, who is that guy? But allow me to explain. As I mentioned in my speech Wednesday, I am suffering from extreme jet lag. Just to explain the scope of this jet lag, my home in Libya is six hours ahead of New York.
Six. Can you imagine this? From 9:00 a.m. here, it is 3:00 p.m. there. It is 1:00 p.m. here; it is 7:00 p.m. there. I could go on, but I believe you get the picture - 4:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.
No man who is six hours away from where his natural body clock is telling him he is can be held to account for his words or actions. When it is lunch time here, I want dinner. This is no way to live.
On top of this mind-bending jet lag, I have also been having problems with my giant tent. You do not know when I travel I have a large tent that I like to bring with me. For this, I am scorned as some kind of weirdo. Despite my high diplomatic station, my tent and I were turned away by Central Park, Westchester County, and, worst of all, Inglewood, New Jersey.
Imagine me, the world's longest-serving leader, agreeing to stay in Inglewood, New Jersey, as a last resort, only to be told that Inglewood, New Jersey, did not want me. Inglewood, New Jersey.
Let's just say I will not be flying home to brag about that, both because it is embarrassing and also because, with the time difference, anyone I call home to in Libya will be sound asleep.
Try to wrap your head around that. So I was dealing with both jet lag and a tent situation. Making matters worse, the computer with my speech crashed. So I had to write one at the last minute on loose leaf paper. And that made me look crazy.
This was crushing. If I had written my speech on the plane ride here instead of watching the in-flight movie "Taken" staring Liam Neeson. Everyone - and I mean everyone on the plane was watching "Taken." Imagine trying to write a speech while out of the corner of your eye the great Liam Neeson is running through Paris trying to recover his daughter, stopping everyone who gets in his way with both his intellect and his strength.
This was no fun for me. But I made the sacrifice and wrote my speech.
Then, boom, computer crash.
(END VIDEO CLIP
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the presidential sales job. President Obama decides at the last minute to go to Copenhagen to help make the final push for Chicago's Olympic bid. Will he have the golden touch with the International Olympics Committee?
O'DONNELL: Chicago has tried and failed to get the Olympic games before. Back in 1904, Chicago was actually named the host of the Olympics. But St. Louis, already hosting the World's Fair that year, pleaded to have the games moved there. Organizers agreed, and St. Louis essentially stole the Olympics from Chicago.
In our number one story, for the games in 2016, Chicago is up against Madrid, Rio, and Tokyo. And the Windy City's favorite son isn't taking any chances. The White House announced this morning that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen for the International Olympic Committee's final vote on the 2016 host city.
The president was set to skip the trip because of the on-going health care debate, but changed his mind this weekend. According to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today, President Obama believes that health care, quote, is in a better place.
President Obama will leave Thursday evening. He will join the First Lady, Oprah Winfrey, and others as part of Chicago's final presentation to voters Friday morning, and then return home. The trip is unprecedented for an American president.
However, Brazil and Spain are sending their leaders to Copenhagen, and Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin helped secure Olympic games for their countries in 2012 and 2014.
Still, there are those who sense something rotten in the state of Denmark, like Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center, who managed to weave narcissism and wife beating into his criticism of the president's decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: This is evidence that this man just cannot stay away from the klieg lights. In a way, it's a bit of a slap, certainly not intended - but it is a bit of a slap at Michelle Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining me now is "Chicago Tribune" editorial board member and Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, Clarence Page. Thanks for joining us, Clarence.
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Thank you for having me.
O'DONNELL: Now, there is more serious criticism out there than the crazy Bozell stuff about President Obama leaving Thursday night. He will be back Friday. You know, there are people saying doesn't he have enough to do already as president. Do you think, Clarence, that there's any chance that when we look back on health care reform in 2009, we'll be saying, gee, the president shouldn't have gone to Copenhagen?
PAGE: I think there's very little chance of that, Lawrence. I'm happy to hear Brent Bozell is so concerned about Michelle Obama's feelings. But, in fact, the trip is, like you say, about 24 hours. Obama's going to sleep on Air Force One. He is supposed to spend all of five hours on the ground, I suspect for the sake of a five-minute photo-op with the other competing world leaders who are going to be there. That's really what this is all about.
O'DONNELL: Clarence, why do I get the feeling that this thing is wired ahead of time? There's something about Chicago politicians - something about Chicago politicians being involved? You know, Tony Blair started this by going to Singapore in 2005 to make his meeting.
O'DONNELL: Vladimir Putin went to Guatemala City to make his pleading. I just can't imagine Vladimir Putin going to make that trip without knowing ahead of time that if he showed up, he was going to get it. Isn't that what we're looking at here? Is that -
PAGE: Yes. I find it hard to imagine that President Obama would be making this trip without being pretty sure he's gotten some inside word that, hey, you know, the IOC, the Olympic Committee, is just right on the fence here. And if you show up in person, you can seal the deal.
You know, other world leaders are going to be there. And Michelle Obama, as charming and effective as she is, what kind of a photo-op would that be with the other, you know, chief executives and we've got the First Lady there? It's hard to present the Flotus when everybody's looking for the Potus. That's kind of what you've got here.
The Olympic Committee is a fickle bunch. They like to be - kind of like TV talk show hosts, present company excepted, of course, Lawrence. But those who don't show up as guests can wind up being targets of commentary. And that's the way the Olympic Committee tends to operate.
So, I think Obama, on behalf of his country and his hometown, is pretty smart to make this trip.
O'DONNELL: Well, if all the Chicago politicians involved here do not have this thing wired, and if the president somehow loses, if he's flying home having lost to the president of Brazil, how is that going to look this weekend? There is a risk in that. That could look pretty ridiculous.
PAGE: Lawrence, remember Richard Nixon's statement about the presidential race. There are no silver medals in this race. There are no silver medals when you're going after the Olympics. You either get it or you don't. And I think if President Obama didn't get the gold here, he would suffer the agony of defeat from his critics back here and his international standing.
One can only imagine, you know, what kind of beating that might take as far as his image is concerned. He's had a pretty good ride on the international scene, but things are getting down to crunch time now. The Iran negotiations are starting Thursday, the same time he goes to Copenhagen. There are reports that Vladimir Putin, you just mentioned -
Russia is a sensitive matter.
The whole world right now is a very sensitive matter for this president. But the Olympics are part of international affairs, as well.
O'DONNELL: Clarence Page, syndicated columnist for the "Chicago Tribune," thanks very much for your time tonight.
PAGE: Thank you. Appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Monday edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC coverage now continues with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END