'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, October 22, 2009
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: See you again (and bonus: Fair and balanced)
Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Jonathan Cohn, Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The White House opts for the option with the opt-out as events move rapidly today on reform. Senators Conrad and Ben Nelson tell "Politico" the president is leaning towards the public option but the one that gives the states the chance to opt-out. Senator Snowe says this could be enough to renege on her support.
And in the House, after Majority Whip Clyburn's announcement here that referring to the option as "Medicare for Everyone" makes sense for explanation and salesmanship, the speaker exclusively tells Andrea Mitchell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: It isn't a question of what it is named. It's a question of what the bill will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Medicare Part E, the public option, we can call it Melvin if that will help. So, one of the top insurance lobbyists then insists no Republican should vote for any reform, calling it, quote, "giving comfort to the enemy."
And in turn, Congressman Anthony Weiner says, 55 Republicans currently have a public option in the House, it's called Medicare. And if they vote against it, they should give up their own coverage. He is our guest.
Afghanistan - somebody woke up Dick Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The White House must stop dithering while American's armed forces are in danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Why are we listening to this blood-lusting, discredited zombie?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the vice president is suggesting the president isn't acting on is what the previous administration didn't act on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "Worsts": The secret off-the-record lunch at the White House we went to on Monday - the one the lunatic fringe right-wing is going nuts over. I will reveal all. Well, frankly, it was just like the dinner the president had at George Will's house in January with the conservative coffee klatch or the lunch with Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, I guess.
And the latest from Lonesome Roads: Obama bailed out Detroit so there'd be an OnStar in every car so Obama can track you wherever you - check, please!
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, TV HOST: That sounds insane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The bad news: the Republicans who some Democrats seem to think is worth 10 Democrats evidently will now not abide a public option as part of health care reform. The good news: the president evidently now will not abide health care reform that does not include a public option.
Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight: The White House now reported by two conservadems as leaning towards a public option included in the final Senate health care bill albeit with a big caveat.
Conservative Democratic senators telling Politico.com that White House and Senate officials in charge of merging the two Senate health care bills are zeroing in on creating a national government health plan that might still allow states to drop out or opt out on an individual basis. The Senate leadership tonight is heading into the Oval Office for a meeting with the president. Senator Conrad of North Dakota is telling the Web site that he has been informed about the direction of the talks but was assured the government plan would not be tied to Medicare rates.
Medicare rates or no, opt in or not, any Senate plan that would deprive the insurance cartel of the status quo, a single new customer or government subsidy in that order viewed as a threat, a top lobbyist working for the insurance industry's largest trade group, the AHIP, urging Republicans in Congress to kill health reform of any kind and stop the Democrats some succeeding on the issue in any way lest they give, quote, "comfort to an enemy who is down."
Quoting lobbyist Steve Champlin from his remarks at the AHIP's annual states issues conference, "There is absolutely no interest, no reason Republicans should ever vote for this thing. They have gone from a party that got killed 11 months ago to a party that is rising today, and they are rising up on the turmoil of health care," said Mr. Champlin. "So when they vote for a health care reform bill, whatever it is, they are giving comfort to the enemy who is down."
How about the 44,000 Americans who die every year because they don't have health insurance? Or the 46 million more alive, despite the best efforts of the insurance cartel, who are not yet insured, what about giving comfort to them?
And by the way, where's your evidence about the Republicans' rising when a fifth of those who called themselves Republicans in August are no longer doing so tonight?
Meanwhile, despite her yes vote to move the Senate finance bill out of committee, Republican Senator Snowe of Maine today telling reporters that she is against a public option, adding she would likely filibuster any bill that had a public option in it.
Conservative Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska telling Politico.com that he is against a national public option, quote, "I still believe a state-based approach is the way in which to go. So, I'm not being shy about making that point."
Other conservadems - Senator Pryor of Arkansas, Senator Landrieu of Louisiana - indicating they would not be inclined to support a Republican filibuster about the public option.
Oddly, Senator Landrieu though still is misrepresenting the public option, saying on National Public Radio this morning that the overwhelming majority of Americans who are for the public option would be against it if the pollsters' questions stated that the government would belly-up running it. Quoting her, "I think if you ask, 'Do you want a public option but it would force the government to go bankrupt,' people would say no."
Well, of course, Senator, if you ask, "Do you want to continue to have senators from Louisiana but it would force the government to go bankrupt," people would also say no to that.
Meanwhile in the House, Speaker Pelosi saying yes to the public option, even if, as she tells our own Andrea Mitchell, exclusively, she will not be calling it "Medicare for Everyone" or Medicare Part E.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ANDREA MITCHELL EXCLUSIVE)
PELOSI: Everyone has their little catchphrases. Public option does not reign as the great choice of words but it does have an appeal with the American people. And that's why over 60 percent of them support having the true competitor to the insurance industry. They know full well that there needs to be something to keep the insurance companies honest and to have true competition, whatever you call it.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Are you going to end up calling it Medicare - "Medicare for Everyone"?
PELOSI: No, I don't think so. But it isn't a question what it is named. It's a question what the bill will do.
_MITCHELL: And it will have a public option?_
PELOSI: It will have a public option. And we would - I've always had the votes for the public option, it's just a question what form it will take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You can watch Andrea Mitchell's full interview with Speaker Pelosi tomorrow on "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" at 1:00 p.m. Eastern here on MSNBC.
Let's turn again to Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Democrat of New York - thanks again for your time tonight, sir.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me back.
OLBERMANN: The White House is now said to be leaning toward putting the public option into the merged Senate bill, albeit with that caveat. Do you have advice for them as a proponent of this for so long about how to get conservative Democrats to support it in the Senate?
WEINER: Well, listen, to some degree, this isn't a matter of who it's branded, but there is this conversation that's taking on a lot of resonance about whether or not you want to let states opt out. So long as they do, it may be two or three or four years after the program is up and running. We have to first let it get some oxygen.
I am concerned about the idea that some people in some states will be luckier than others in terms of having a governor that doesn't want to take away their services on an ideological basis. But I think, now, what's going on is, here in Washington, we're hearing what's going on in the population. People do understand the public choice, the public option. They do want the choice and the competition.
Notwithstanding what the senator from Louisiana said, the American people understand this full well. They're the ones putting the pressure on it to have it included.
OLBERMANN: You have always pushed for the full deal here, single-payer, the real health care reform. In that light, understanding the public option is not literally "Medicare for Everybody," it's not literally Medicare Part E, could you abide calling it that as a - essentially as slogan to make it more palatable to the blue dogs or the voters who had their summers confused for them by the opponents of reform?
WEINER: Well, months ago, I might have been the first person to say that people should look at public option as being like a little sliver of a program like Medicare for people who don't have insurance.
And look, we do have this notion, that we understand what simple and what works. Medicare is popular. It's got a funding problem but it's popular and it works. The problem that we have now is the health care industry has pushed back as hard as they can against the idea of competition and they're not succeeding.
What I have said to the blue dogs and the conservatives is very simple, if you believe in this notion of economy having choice and competition, you've got to have the public option to at least give us a sliver of that competition.
OLBERMANN: Your study about the public option in action, in Congress, in the form of Medicare - how many representatives are getting it and how many of those who are getting it are, in fact, against the kind of public option they already have?
WEINER: Well, we have 151 members of the House and Senate, of which 55 are Republicans who say they're opposed to a public option. So, there it is. You've got people who have a public option for themselves in the form of Medicare but don't want it for people who are 64 or 54 or 34 to be able to get it.
This is, in part, the schizophrenia that we have in this town right now. We have people thumping their chest about how they're opposed to government-run health care, and yet, they would not imagine not accepting Medicare and not wanting it for their constituents. This is part of the appeal of branding this as kind of like "Medicare for Everyone" else, that's really what we should do. But we're not going to do that. We're just going to say a sliver more people are going to get a program that's going to look a lot like Medicare.
OLBERMANN: If the final bill that emerges from conference has a provision that allows states to opt out after, as you say, giving the thing a few years of oxygen in all 50 states, will there be enough Democratic votes in the House to support that measure?
WEINER: I believe there will be, but that's a very important caveat that you put in there. It has to be that the - we can't make it like it was with the stimulus package, that you have governors trying to credential themselves as national candidates by turning back stimulus money and saying to their constituents we're not going to take this service.
Remember, the public option won't cost the states anything. So, it's going to be - you know, so long as we let it get up and running, I'm convinced that's going to take hold and it's going to drive down prices. And I believe will have the votes for it and I even think we're going to have the votes for it in the Senate if we do it that way. But we can't get ahead of ourselves. The insurance industry is working every single day to try to kill any thought of this.
OLBERMANN: Yes. A couple of important caveats attached to there from Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York - and again, as always, our great pleasure. Great thanks.
WEINER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: For more on the politics of this, let's turn to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The White House and Senate leadership are now leaning towards a public option with this opt-out and then they let us know this. There might be a suspicion among some people watching right now - trial balloon?
FINEMAN: I wouldn't use the ballooning metaphor.
FINEMAN: I would use skiing.
FINEMAN: This is kind of like slalom skiing here. I mean, they slalom to the right to get the thing through the Senate Finance Committee without the public option of any kind, in part to get Olympic Snowe's vote. Now, they're tacking back in the other direction, leaning in the other direction, as they head towards the larger problem of getting something through both the House and the Senate. And that's what's going on here and I think we're going to continue to see maybe narrower and narrower slaloms back-and-forth as we continue.
OLBERMANN: Yes. We'll go skiing because trial balloon also invokes that crazy family from Colorado and we want to skip them for the time being.
OLBERMANN: How did - how exactly, though - and maybe this does invoke the family of scientist from Colorado.
OLBERMANN: How did the public option come back from the other side here or were reports of its demise greatly exaggerated?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think they were exaggerated because if you listen carefully to what Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett and everybody else were always saying, they were saying that they weren't taking it off the table. This was the president's preferred method to try to hold down costs and extend care. They weren't going to let everything go by the boards because of it. That was their preferred method.
So, they've always been careful never to take it off the table. And now, it's back.
OLBERMANN: The speaker in that interview with Andrea Mitchell that she will run in its entirety and exclusively tomorrow afternoon, she says she doesn't think she's going to call the House bill "Medicare for Everyone." Majority whip, Mr. Clyburn, said the opposite yesterday.
Do we - how do we file this? It was fun while it lasted or are they going to use it sort of as a side tool to try to round up those blue dogs?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think they're - I think the reason they're shying away from it is one that you mentioned a little earlier, which is that the health insurance industry and other providers, the so-called stakeholders, as they're called, I think of them as stake eaters, they run away from anything that has the label "Medicare" on it because if you look what's happened to growth of Medicare costs, even though Medicare has its problems, its growth rate, in terms of spending, is on a much lower plain than the growth of spending in the private sector.
The government has power to negotiate. The government has power to
set rules. That wording is scary to any stakeholder in town and that's why
· that's why Nancy Pelosi and the others want to stay away from it.
OLBERMANN: Last word in terms of math here. The votes are not yet in, in the Senate to prevent, avoid - depending on which term you like - the filibuster. What needs to happen to get them there and to what degree is that number tied into the opt-out provision? Is that enough to secure the 60 votes?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think, in listening to Congressman Weiner, you see where the negotiations are going to go and where they are.
Senator Nelson told me yesterday, said, "I'm against a robust upfront public option," which means that Senator Nelson is for a weak back-loaded public option or at least he might accept that. That's sort of what the opt-out thing is.
And what the negotiations are going to be about it seems is a trigger to allow the opt-out, and how many years, what the time length is. So, if those are the only two issues about the public option, that means that there's going to be some kind of opt-out trigger-enhanced public option that will probably be able to pass muster with enough Democrats. And if it does, even if Olympia Snowe who they tried so hard to get suddenly goes off the reservation, they probably won't need her.
OLBERMANN: But is Weiner's point going to be address there, that's not opt-out immediately, that's an opt-out after it starts?
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, after it starts and then negotiate. Is it - is it two years, four years, two and a half years? I mean, we're just talking about length of time there. That's something they can negotiate about. That's not conceptual.
FINEMAN: That's just - that's just arithmetic.
OLBERMANN: But the insurance lobby is going for two hours.
OLBERMANN: Maybe two hours and 10 minutes tops.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - we'll be flying in his beautiful balloon. Many thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, it isn't "Medicare for Everyone." But what are the differences? What are the caveats between the two things?
And another question tonight, what was that pack of evil journalists and columnists doing inside the White House on Monday? Why were they darkening the president's door? And what evil plots were hatched there in? Only Tucker Carlson's shadow knows.
Boy, was it wrong? I'll tell you what I can tell and what I can't tell you about this, with this most vital piece of information first - my God was the dessert good!
OLBERMANN: The difference between "Medicare for Everyone" and the public option and actual literal Medicare for everyone. The difference between a literal Afghanistan policy and a Dick Cheneying-around-in-Afghanistan policy.
What really happen inside the White House on Monday, and more importantly, what didn't.
And Lonesome Roads' latest revelation, the government is really OnStar to spy on you. Is he eating mushrooms that grow down by the side of that road again?
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Whether or not House Speaker Pelosi does or does not officially start calling the public option Medicare Part E, "E" for everyone, that toothpaste is out of the tube which means - in our fourth story tonight - we ought to define what Medicare Part E actually means and does not mean. For one thing, it would not be available to literally everyone. In most likely scenarios emerging, it would not be available to most people.
According to Senator Ron Wyden, more than 200 million Americans would not qualify as the public option would be limited to very small companies and those individual who cannot afford or get private insurance. Medicare Part E for everyone then would really be for everyone who cannot get it otherwise.
The advantage, of course, of calling it Medicare Part E is to inoculate it against the bogus claims made against government-run insurance by analogizing it to something familiar already in existence which neither that a public by any other name would pass Congress, or even that it would work if it were passed.
So, let's bring in Jonathan Cohn, the author of "Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis and the People Who Pay the Price," also senior editor at "The New Republic."
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: It's good to be here. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: So, answer that question for us. If we pass a public option whether it's called Medicare Part E or Melvin or whatever we're going to cal it, will we succeed in expanding health care to everyone and controlling costs?
COHN: Well, it will help. The idea here is to create a public option into which at least some people can enroll and you create that option. Millions of people would be able to take advantage of it. So, for those people, undoubtedly, it will make health insurance more affordable. And you'll see more people getting health insurance.
And that's really a big reason why the public option has come back to life. You know, we all thought it was dead a few weeks ago. But Congress is (INAUDIBLE). They're looking at trade-offs. They're saying, you know, they want this program to do more. They don't want to put more money on the table - and lo and behold, the public option works.
And so, now, all of a sudden, you know, chances of some kind of public option getting into the bill, they look pretty good.
OLBERMANN: Here's a question for you. This is obviously much on Mr. Wyden's mind. It's one of his issues about this whole threshold thing. If people who have private insurance cannot then get the public option, how are they in competition and why should private insurers wind up lowering their rates at all?
COHN: Well, you know, it's a really good question. You know, remember, the way this system would work, if this bill passes as more-or-less as it looks right now is, people who get insurance from their large employers, not much are going to change for them, they'll still get insurance that way. And it is - as you said - for everybody else, small businesses, people buying insurance on their own, that's where the public option would be available.
Now, the public option would be competing with private insurers for that business. So, in that sense, you know, there would be some competition. And I think that's a good thing and you will see some good effects from that.
But I - there's no question in my mind that - I think Ron Wyden is right about this - that if you make - you open this up and you let anybody enroll in the public option, you get a whole lot more competition. And, frankly, I don't know about you, but I think a lot of people who have insurance from their employers might like to know that they have this option out there. If they don't like what their employers have chosen for them, hey, let's try this Medicare Part E or whatever they're calling it, because, you know, it might be a better option.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Kucinich talked about Medicare Part E in 2004. It really would have covered everybody, the whole country. Is it still an affordable option? Is it a viable prospect?
COHN: You know, look - I mean, if I could, you know, wipe the slate clean, if I were king for a day, I've always said, I would love to create what's basically a single-payer system in this country where you'd have "Medicare for Everybody" literally, capital "E." And I think that's more or less what Dennis Kucinich has always talked about.
And there's a lot of reasons to think a system like that would work really well. The reality is, the political reality is, that's not on the table right now. We are quite far along in this particular process. I think the public option - for those of us who like to think government can run a health insurance system well - the public option is a pretty good way to at least make progress towards that goal.
And, you know, look, maybe 10, 20 years from now, we can come back and try to do a real Medicare Part E for everyone. But for now, at least getting people the option of a public insurance system, I think, is a real accomplishment.
OLBERMANN: We just talked about the health insurance lobbyists who called Democrats the enemy and urged Republicans to vote against any kind of health care reform, surely for their own political benefit. What could ever make the insurance companies get so honest about this?
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes.
COHN: They are scared to death right now. You know, they had a really bad couple of weeks now. They were at the table. They were talking to the members of Congress. They were talking to the president. There was a negotiations going on.
And, you know, they wanted more. They were not happy with the way the bills were evolving. So, they put out these bogus studies. I think they thought that they would be able to steer the debate in their direction.
Quite the opposite has happened. There was an incredibly hostile reaction on Capitol Hill, even from people who had been their friends. And they're now in a situation where they could end up the big losers.
And so, they are, frankly, I think, more-or-less in a war mode right now. And basically, they're coming out with everything they've got, because I think they've made the calculation - at this point, they really could lose big if this thing passes.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Cohn, the author of "Sick," also with "The New Republic" on what is pretty much a good night for health care reform - thank you, kindly, sir.
COHN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: The reverse of this has materially changed something but keep the name the same. That was especially the Bush administration. For instance, when it went into Afghanistan in 2001 to root out the Taliban for having supported bin Laden, the Bush administration called that the "war on terror."
The next year, when they gave up on Afghanistan and instead went into Iraq for no good reason at all, when Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, they continued to call it the "war on terror." And the guy behind that decision, easily one of the five worst foreign policy calls in American history, former Vice President Dick Cheney is now criticizing the current administration's efforts to mop up his almost criminal malfeasance in Afghanistan.
_I'm surprised you can spell Afghanistan, Dick!_
OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment. First, I got something here in the rundown called seagull newscast. I can't wait.
Let's play "Oddball."
It's another episode of behind the news. From last night's Channel 9 evening news out of Melbourne in Australia, anchor Peter - hello - anchor Peter Hitchner does not realize the studio is being cased by giant seagull. The background behind the newsman is a live shot across the Yarra River looking at Melbourne.
The crew said the bird started pecking at the station's camera just before the broadcast began. That's Hitchner, not Hitchcock, who's reading a story about a 27-year-old cold murder case when the bird just happened to stroll past. Police looking for a stool pigeon instead got this big seagull. The bird refused to sing in regard of that old, cold case.
We did agree to drop the dime on this seagull from "Oddball" past, seen here pitching a bag of Doritos.
To the Temple of Hera of ancient, Olympian Greece, where actresses in pagan gowns gathered today to light the torch for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games beginning in February only here on the networks of NBC. And they lit this puppy the hard way, using a concave mirror, the high priestess waited until the rays of the sun beam strong enough to cause a spark and the sun had not cooperated, there was a guy off camera with a Bic lighter. The torch is now doing an eight day tour of Greece. After which it will make its way to Canada, carried across the Atlantic Ocean in the mouth of the Cragen (ph).
It's not enough that Dick Cheney took this country's eye off Afghanistan nearly eight years ago; now, he's trying to undermine a president who is actually trying to do something about Afghanistan.
And inside an inside the White House lunch about which the far right has gone completely silly.
But first, time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Dateline New York, number number, best responsible comment from a guy I bash now, John Stossel, now Fox News. He says he won't vote Republican if "conservative means stop all immigration and some other things that conservatives say. If it means the Lou Dobbs kind of rants about immigrants wrecking America, I don't subscribe to that. I think immigrants, by and large, do good things for America."
I don't think Mr. Stossel cares what I think. But I think he deserves applause for that.
Dateline, Ft. Lauderdale, number two, best insurance company horror, Christina Turner. She was slipped a knock-out drug by two men. She awoke beaten up by the side of the road. She believed she was sexually assaulted by them. Doctors told her she should take anti-AIDS medicine for a month just to be sure.
When it came time to get new insurance, she was denied because the use of the HIV medication was classified as a preexisting condition. Just to turn the knife a little further, Ms. Turner used to be an underwriter for a health insurance company.
And dateline Washington, Number on, best rationalization of greed; oil man T. Boone Pickens says American oil companies deserve Iraq's oil. He testified to Congress that the oil fields are being opened, quote, "to other companies all over the world. We're entitled to it. Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and 1.5 trillion dollars."
See, what that is is a really good argument that the 65,000 injured and their families of the 5,000 dead, that they deserve the oil, and not you, T. Boone.
OLBERMANN: One month before last year's presidential election, and eight months after warnings from within its own administration that the situation in Afghanistan was headed downhill, the Bush administration launched a new review of Afghanistan policy. Yet now, with a long list of Afghanistan war malfeasance under its belt, that government's loudest refugee, Dick Cheney, attacks President Obama again. In our third story on the Countdown, he accuses the president of dithering on Afghanistan.
The latest salvo from the vice president who turned dithering into an art form, last night at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, which gave Cheney an award, along with his former chief of staff, the convicted felon, Scooter Libby. Mr. Cheney criticized Obama's national security policies, but seemed to marshal his greatest umbrage over his biggest failure, Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: Having announced his Afghanistan strategy in March, President Obama seems now afraid to make a decision and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete the mission.
The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger.
Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Since it is a fact that Afghanistan's previous top commander, General David McKiernan, had submitted a request for more troops to then President Bush, a request that went denied, the White House hit back today through its Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a curious comment given - I think it's pretty safe to say the vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan. Even more curious, given the fact that an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House, including the vice president's, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March.
What Vice President Cheney calls dithering, President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public.
I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the Obama administration had to start its Afghanistan policy from scratch, according to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a point which reportedly infuriated certain former Bush officials, including Mr. Cheney. With other failures, like former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in attendance, Mr. Cheney said that the Bush administration had given the Obama transition team its Afghanistan review, and agreed with the Obama teams request to keep it quiet.
But after the Bush administration screwed up the effort in Afghanistan, perhaps Obama's team thought it best to perform its own assessment. After all, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified in December of 2007, quote, "in Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must. Our main focus militarily, in the region and in the world right now, is rightly and firmly in Iraq."
A year later, the Draft National Intelligence Estimates, still under President Bush, had confirmed what many experts already knew, except the idiots inside the White House. Afghanistan was in a downward spiral. "The NIA's conclusions represent a harsh verdict on decision making in the Bush administration."
And this post script, the breathless coverage of Cheney's newest critique was covered before he gave that speech by Fox News, which had received an exclusive advance transcript of the Cheney speech. That's what happens for outlets that are media arms of the GOP.
Let's bring "Washington Post" associate editor, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. Gene, I haven't seen you in forever. How are you?
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's great to be here, Keith. It has been a long time since you and I were both on the broadcast at the same time.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, we could spend an hour cataloging the warnings about Afghanistan during the latter years of the Bush administration. Former Secretary of State Rice, Defense Secretary Gates warned about it in February of last year, 2008.
On the Obama side of the ledger, the president approved a troop increase in March. He's considering another. With that kind of pile of evidence running against him, what was Mr. Cheney trying to achieve? Do you have any idea?
ROBINSON: I thought about it, Keith. Maybe he was just trying to make us all realize how much we missed him. It makes absolutely no sense. This is the man who is perhaps most responsible for our having abandoned the Afghanistan mission, turned to the utterly irrelevant and unnecessary Iraq mission, and allowed Afghanistan to slide into the perilous state that the Obama administration now finds it.
The idea that he could criticize anyone on Afghanistan strategy, and then suggest that, oh, well, the Obama team should have just taken the Bush administration wisdom about the place - well, they didn't have much wisdom about the place. Anyone with half a brain would have done their own assessment, since the Bush team, frankly, screwed it up.
OLBERMANN: It seems to me that if it were open, psychotherapists would bid high money for the rights to analyze Mr. Cheney in public on these issues he himself screwed up so much. Maybe we should have asked this larger question first. Why is anybody still listening to this man on this or any related field?
ROBINSON: It's a good question. He's a former vice president. He is
· he says incendiary and often crazy things. I think it's like a moth to a flame. We tend to be drawn to people with fancy titles and pedigree, who say outrageous things. So we pay attention to Dick Cheney, even though, if you think about what he's saying for five minutes, you wonder why is this worth coverage? Why is this news? And why should we trust his credibility on this issue or on many issues at all?
OLBERMANN: Of course, this was detailed - this speech was detailed on Fox last night before he gave it. Having received a precious exclusive copy, they ran with it. What is the point of that? Firing up a decreasingly sized base?
ROBINSON: Well, I guess. First of all, you find an outlet that will air your views breathlessly and repeatedly, and take them seriously. I guess the idea is to continue to fire up the base. I think the far right base is pretty fired up already. The problem is, it's, in absolute terms, pretty small.
I don't think you win the hearts and minds of independents and even moderate Republicans with this sort of attack, especially one that doesn't make any sort of literal sense.
OLBERMANN: Just from the political point, the idea is then to fire up every last troglodyte, in hopes of putting a dent in the Democrats in some midterm vote somewhere next year? Get one House seat back?
ROBINSON: You get - maybe you get a few House seats back. I don't know how many you get from this sort of attack. Maybe it makes - maybe if you're Dick Cheney, it makes you feel good. Maybe it makes you feel as if you still have support, and you were right along, and there are cheering legions who agree with you.
But there I go. I'm doing that sort of pop psychoanalysis of the guy, which is what this whole situation invites. It really is a bizarre thing for a former vice president to be doing.
OLBERMANN: Put your bid in a sealed envelope at the receptionist's desk. She'll be happy to take care of it for you.
ROBINSON: I'll pay some money for that.
OLBERMANN: Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the "Washington Post" and also with MSNBC. Thank you, Gene.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If you like Sarah Palin, buy the new book "Going Rogue."
If you don't, buy the new book, out the same day, "Going Rouge."
In worsts, Lindsey Graham says we all need to use all the coal that God made for us. Senator, what about all the other naturally produced stuff, like some of your major herbal plants?
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, me? Did anybody clear this with me? We will react to the conservative over-reaction to our off the record lunch with you know who.
OLBERMANN: The Beck theory that the government is using On Star to track your whereabouts. This close to claiming they implanted microchips in his head.
That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Boss Limbaugh. I'll just read this: "Obama is out there saying that Fox News is talk radio. I'm living rent-free in this guy's head. Fox News is talk radio. If that's true, MSNBC is pornography. And Obama likes MSNBC. CNN is child porn."
Wow, his imagery gets more and more disturbing every day.
The runner-up, Tucker Carlson, world sophistry champion. "The two most senior members of the White House staff attempt to bully a news outlet into silence and hardly anyone in the press says a word. Meanwhile, the same White House that had just finished lecturing working journalists on the superiority of straight news coverage hosted a secret, off the record briefing for Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. The two, along with several other liberal commentators, spent more than two hours with Obama. Why is the press corps giving the White House a pass for behavior it never would have tolerated from other administrations? Conservatives believe it's simple bias."
I'm a little tired of the sanctimonious, amnesic crap from people like Tucker Carlson. The previous White House planted questions in its own news conference, secretly paid conservative columnists, staged massage briefing sessions for radio hosts, sent out a list of questions they hoped I would use to discredit Joe Wilson, publicly attacked NBC, publicly attacked MSNBC, by the admission of the press secretary, just the other day, cut MSNBC out of access to administration officials, and its party leadership tried to blackmail NBC News into removing me from election coverage by threatening to boycott a presidential debate.
This White House finally called out a group of amoral political operatives posing as journalists. That was it. They didn't deny them credentials. They didn't try to silence them. They didn't take them off the air. They didn't try to take them off the air. They called them what they are, the media propaganda wing of the Republican party.
And I'm a little tired of the false equivalency here. You go ask this White House if they're happy that I'm insisting on the public option when they're not. You go ask this White House if they're happy that I'm pushing for torture prosecutions and they're trying to soft pedal them.
I don't know if the paranoids of this world, like Michelle Malkin, think Obama handed me my instructions, or she thinks I handed him his. But when I support what this president is doing, it's because I think he is right. The operative word is think.
I'm not, Rachel Maddow is not, Glenn freaking Beck or Michelle freaking Malkin, a knee jerk jukebox of party doctrine, screeching at every reform, mocking every expression of sympathy, repeating anything the nit-wits, which they serve as doctrine slaves, try to palm off on the sheep they hope will lead them back to power.
I will tell you exactly what happened on Monday at the White House Monday; an off the record conversation about all the issues of the day, just like, I imagine, the one the president had with those four conservative columnists at George Will's house in January. Also, we had the best damn peach cobbler I ever had in my life.
Our winner, Senator Lindsey Graham. He says today he can support legislation to try to stop climate change, but at a price there. "There will be no climate change with my vote unless you have offshore oil drilling. I won't vote for any climate change bill that doesn't allow a dramatic increase in nuclear power. I'm not going to vote for any climate change bill that doesn't allow us to use our coal deposits. We need to use the coal God has given us."
Senator, you do realize that the we need to use what God has given us argument can be applied to any natural substance on Earth, you know, like Marijuana? Senator Lindsey "I did not say we need to use the Marijuana that God has given us" Graham, today's worst person in - I forgot.
OLBERMANN: Finally, reverse Cliff Notes for the ex-governor of Alaska's upcoming memoir. And also in our number one story on the Countdown, Lonesome Roads Beck thinks On Star will let the government track you at all time. And the Russians are Fluorinating the water.
But first, just 26 more pre-ordering days until "Going Rogue, An American Life" bewilders bookshelves. And now a companion book, "Going Rouge, An American Nightmare." Editors of "The Nation" will release a collection of essays about the mavericky moose huntress the same day as Palin's 400 page word salad hits book stores.
Nice cover art.
The book's similarities have already prompted Fixed News to issue a warning - warning - warning to its viewers. As "Entertainment Weekly" puts it, "might some hockey mom loving conservatives be confused enough to pick up the wrong book? You bet ya."
Speaking of confused, Mr. Beck moving from nuts funny to nuts paranoid. The Obama administration wants to spy on you using On Star. See, On Star tracking security device for your car is fantastic technology if you trust the people whose hands are controlling the technology. But On Star's client is GM. GM got the bailout money. Therefore, Barack Obama must be monitoring your flat tire inquiries from the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It's great technology in the right hands. Do you want the government to be able to know where you are in your car all the time? Also be able to have a microphone in your car? They have that. All you have to do is turn it on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now - Brian, close your key. Time now to call in comedian Christian Finnegan. His new CD and DVD "Oh Contraire" is available in stores and on iTunes. Good evening, Christian.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN: Keith, it's been too, too long.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it has. Also, by the way, those medical alert bracelets, they're really secret tracking devices. And the GPS voice doesn't just talk. She also listens.
FINNEGAN: OK, Keith. I understand you think it's all paranoia. I'll just say this, before the election of Barack Obama, the voice on my GPS system had a lovely British accent. Now, some Kenyan dude.
OLBERMANN: All right. Do you have it in your heart to break this to Glenn Beck, that if you use some seven-year-old with Google Earth can follow him in realtime most of the day, without any assistance from the government, using On Star or anything else?
FINNEGAN: Yes, I mean all the Orwellian hand ringing does seem a little quaint in the age of like cell phone pings and website cookies. IF you really want to see Big Brother, just look in the mirror. Sure, we all want to live our lives privately and without undue scrutiny. But not quite as much as we want turn by turn directions to the nearest Hooters.
OLBERMANN: Possibly in Bob Dylan's voice, if they go through with that idea. And also there's NSA spying that still hasn't been stopped. Let's look over at the Palin and anti-Palin books here. Sort of matter and anti-matter. "Going Rouge," the similarities between that and "Going Rogue," are they going a confuse people? Is there going to be a Bookers Movement that comes out of this, you know, angry Palin supporters storming the Walden books to complain about this?
FINNEGAN: I want to repeat myself, but I do want to reiterate that many of the Palin fans won't be able to locate a bookstore. I can understand their confusion. After all, not one word in either book was written by Sarah Palin.
And they are going to be in different parts of the store. Think about it, "The Nation's" book will be in the non-fiction section. And Sarah Palin's book will be in the humor section, next to the Garfield anthology.
OLBERMANN: So we've got "Going Rouge," "Going Rogue." Is it a trilogy? Is the third thing going be Levi Johnson "Going Vogue?"
FINNEGAN: Keith, what are you doing? Keith, right now, there is a poor junior editor at Random House just going about his business, some kid who has devoted his entire life to the written word, and because of what you just did, a year from now, he's going to sitting across a lunch table saying, "I don't know, Levi, maybe you could delve a little bit into why - cross bows are so awesome. And by the way, we're going to have to trim that section about how big Bristol's boobs got when she was pregnant. Less is more."
OLBERMANN: The thing about this with the book launch, with the Palin book, is that Oprah Winfrey is going to interview her. And if it's a Palin in Chicago thing, would you have one of the studio audience give aways? You get a moose and you get a moose and you get a moose.
FINNEGAN: Imagine their horror when they go out to claim their prize and all the moose have been shot dead, and Sarah Palin is hovering in a helicopter, cackling.
OLBERMANN: This is the oddest thing, because apparently the next book interview for Oprah Winfrey is Orly Taitz, the birther queen. Is this equal time on the "Oprah Winfrey Show?" She is going for the old Tom Snyder tomorrow moonhat crowd.
FINNEGAN: The whole Palin thing, what a slap in the face to Maury Povich. That story has all the Povich hallmarks. You're talking teen pregnancy. You're talking inter-generational squabbles, Crystal Meth. He's robbed of his crowning achievement, just so Oprah can get some ratings cover for her next 14 interviews with Maya Angelo. It's not fair.
OLBERMANN: And the staff and management of Countdown, some of which are related by marriage to Mr. Povich, appreciate that last defense of him. Comedian Christian Finnegan, great thanks. And my executive producer thanks you as well. Good night.
FINNEGAN: Enjoy your Rocktober.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. That's Countdown for this the 2,366th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss the secret meeting of the trilateral commission in a dining room at the White House on Monday, with a very special guest - not that special - ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.