'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guests: Howard Fineman, Lawrence O'Donnell, Eugene Robinson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: At 8:00 p.m. Eastern in Virginia, NBC News is declaring the Republican, Mr. McDonnell, the winner in the governor's race there. And in New Jersey, as the polls have just closed, the contest for governor there is too close to call.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The 11th hour in the New York 23rd where the conservatives 86, the moderate Republican.
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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think many in the Republican Party hung out a sign, as you heard people at the White House say this weekend, that moderates need not apply.
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OLBERMANN: With nearly one quarter undecided, the fascinating litmus test of conservative versus not conservative enough versus Democrat plays out in Texas, in Mexico, in Philadelphia, in Cleveland, Phoenix and Orwell. The town of Orwell, New York, population: 1252.
The latest from the Upstate precincts, the Republicans slam dunk in the Virginia governor's race, the too close to guess battle for the governor's mansion in New Jersey.
Lieberman sees the light. "The Hill" reports he reached an understanding with Harry Reid not to filibuster a final vote on reform. But Lieberman's PR man then says: not true, Lieberman understands nothing.
The Republican health plan emerges. It's the creature from the black lagoon. Insurance companies can still turn you down for a pre-existing condition and the government can't help you buy insurance. Great plan! What about the leaches?
"Worsts": Glenn Beck has the nerve to compare health care reform to 9/11. And Congressman Joe Wilson sticks his foot in his mouth again, votes against more money for H1N1 vaccinations, and now blames Obama for not enough H1N1 vaccinations, the difference: Mrs. Wilson now has H1N1.
And was this, from night before last, the smartest play in World Series history?
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ANNOUNCER: Watch Damon realizing nobody is at third and he outruns Feliz.
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OLBERMANN: Or could the smartest play is this moment because of what he suddenly remembered when he stepped out of the batters box, and then did this?
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ANNOUNCER: High, fly ball into right field, she is gone.
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OLBERMANN: All of that and more - now on Countdown.
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ANNOUNCER: The impossible has happened.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
One of the many politicians who used to populate the imaginary world of the great American humorist Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding once gave a speech that consisted of almost nothing but the phrase, "And when you go to the polls on Tuesday next," repeat it over and over again.
Our fifth story on the Countdown: It's Tuesday next. Symbolic, if not critical of your votes for governor in New Jersey and Virginia, and two special elections to fill empty congressional seats in California and Upstate New York. Orwell, New York, will actually have a new congressman.
First, Virginia - polls in the commonwealth having closed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, just more than an hour ago. The governor's race having just been called, the Republican Bob McDonnell projected to be, as expected, the winner over his opponent, the Democrat Creigh Deeds.
Polls in the Garden State having closed at the top of this hour. And the Jersey governor's race too close to call with the Democratic incumbent, Governor Jon Corzine, and Republican challenger Chris Christie neck in neck heading into election day with Corzine closing. Independent Chris Daggett siphoning away votes. That could be a long night there as they also say in the world of cliches.
In Upstate New York, polls remain open until 9:00 Eastern. All eyes on the special election for congressional district 23. The Democrat Bill Owens thought to be thrilling the conservative, Doug Hoffman after Republican Dede Scozzafava was forced out of the race over the weekend by former Governor Sarah Palin and others who, like Hoffman, do not actually live in district 23.
That contest highlighting the deep fishers in the Republican Party were being anything less than rabid right-wing, like third party conservative candidate Hoffman, no longer seems to be enough.
"The New York Daily News" reporting police were called to at least two polling sites in St. Lawrence County today due to overzealous electioneering, or what a former state chairwoman of the Democratic Party, June O'Neill, described less tenderly to that newspaper as "voter intimidation."
One name not on any ballot anywhere tonight, that of President Obama, who won election to the White House one year ago tomorrow night. Republicans are hoping to make the outcome of today's contest some kind of referendum on the new chief executive's leadership.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: I saw a lot of intensity growing in America in 1994 on the eve of that election. But it pales in comparison to what's in American today. I truly do believe there's a political rebellion going on in our country.
GIBBS: I don't believe that local elections in Virginia and New Jersey portend a lot about legislative success or political success in the future. I just don't.
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OLBERMANN: The MSNBC exit polls indicating the president was not a factor in the Virginia race nor in the New Jersey one. Nineteen percent of the voters we surveyed in Virginia telling us they use their vote in part to support President Obama; 22 percent said their vote today expressed opposition to the president. But a majority, 57 percent, indicating that the president did not enter into their decision for governor.
In New Jersey, even few voters are telling us that their view of the president impacted their vote for governor. Nineteen percent voting to express support for the president; 20 percent voting to register opposition to the White House. Six in 10 voters, 60 percent are telling us that the president was not a factor at all. Some added, "Turner 85, Mitchell 23."
Voters in New Jersey and Virginia less worried about sending a message to the White House as they are about the state of the economy. Thirty-one percent in Jersey naming the economy and jobs as the top issues impacting today's vote for governor. In Virginia, that number, 47 percent.
Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The "A.P." reporting tonight, Virginia turnout light to moderate across the state. It's Mr. McDonnell's state now. If that race and Jersey equal some sort of rebellion as the minority leader used that term, should we not have seen more people at the polls? Is that number not just as relevant as who wins?
FINEMAN: Yes, I think it is. First of all, I think those numbers about the economy and jobs are what we need to remember here. That's number one for everybody across the country being expressed I think in both Virginia and perhaps New Jersey tonight. It wasn't about Obama.
This was a revolution in reverse, or a rebellion reverse in the sense that it was as much about people who didn't turn out in Virginia and maybe as much about people who don't turn out in New Jersey. The Obama supporters didn't show up in anywhere near the numbers they did. The Democrats in 2008, the Democrats didn't show up.
This was a big turn out in percentage terms by the hard core of the Republican conservative base of the party. In the absence of other things happens, they set the tone in Virginia and they're trying to do the same in New Jersey.
OLBERMANN: In Virginia, with the Republican leading pretty much that entire race, the Democrat in this case ran to the middle, if not necessarily to the right. If you are among those who believe that the blue dogs or Senator Snowe should be heeded on health care, shouldn't the loss by Creigh Deeds tonight, the expected loss, the projected loss, frighten you that maybe, you know, running to the middle as a Democrat might not really be a very good idea at all, let alone the safest path?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think that's a fair interpretation, Keith. And I think Creigh Deeds, who is from a rural southern part of Virginia, in the old days, would have been a good Democratic candidate for Virginia. But things have changed. Barack Obama changed the ball game in Virginia. He won that state with a huge turn out of new voters, young voters, African-American voters and so forth with a more progressive agenda.
Deeds ran away from most of the campaign from Obama, and frankly, Obama stayed away from him. That's probably not where the Democrats are going to need to go. Again, if you look at the numbers, our exit poll numbers, this was not a protest vote against Barack Obama. This is a vote saying, "We want the economy addressed. We haven't seen all the deliverables perhaps from Barack Obama and the Democrats."
This is as much, I think, an expression of a tepid response by the Democratic base to what the Democrats have yet to accomplish here in Washington.
OLBERMANN: What does say - those same metrics, what do say about New Jersey where it looks like it's going to be a long night, as if there were any other kind - but what are we learning out of New Jersey and the fact also that it hasn't been anywhere - it's nowhere near close to being called?
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, I think what you're going to - what's going to decide it there is the turnout among those traditional Democratic groups. You got to look in Newark. You have to look at the counties of Hudson and Essex, heavily populated, densely populated traditional areas like an extension of New York City.
Are they going to turn out for Jon Corzine about whom they have very mixed views? You know, he talked about tax reductions, didn't deliver. He's tied to Goldman Sachs. Is he really the kind of Democrat that can win in this new day? In an era, Keith, when independent voters are increasingly the largest and most decisive bloc, each party needs a clear, sharp message to attract those people. You got to have an argument.
Right now, it's the conservative Republicans - for better or worse, you agree or disagree - who have a sharp message. The Democratic message has gotten muted because Barack Obama is in the midst up of a legislative morass up here in Washington. That's why I think those people aren't turning out and that's going to decide who's going to win in New Jersey in the end.
OLBERMANN: Our own Howard Fineman, also, of course, of "Newsweek" magazine - we'll be standing by with this throughout the hour. Great thanks, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now about the Congress. More on New York's 23rd, let's turn to our own Lawrence O'Donnell, a contributor to the "Huffington Post," as well as former senior adviser to the late Senate Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. And unlike some of the people who'd been running that race in the 23rd, he's actually been there.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's start here. The conservative challenges to GOP candidates are expected now in a dozen more key House and Senate races in 2010. "Politico" reported that.
So, no matter what the outcome is of this vote in the 23rd, is it official now - moderates under siege in the GOP?
O'DONNELL: It was official as of August when you saw Chuck Grassley literally under siege at his town hall meeting. I, for one, knowing Grassley, having worked in the finance committee, believe that for most of the year, Grassley was really trying to work himself toward legislating something. When he got out there in Iowa, those people intimidated him and he backed off.
So, that was - that was step one. It worked in terms of affecting actual governance, which is much more important than affecting, you know, who comes out of these elections nights one way or another. So, it had already started. Now, it's really under way.
OLBERMANN: Now, Florida, I suppose, is the next litmus test. The senatorial race which looked like it was Charlie Crist, the former governor, in kind of walk away from this conservative Mark Rubio. Crist is being cast as the next Scozzafava. I mean, is it - is that conceivable? Is it going to get ugly? Are they trying to force him out?
O'DONNELL: It did not seem conceivable prior to this week. It now does seem conceivable. And, you know, this is a popular governor - former governor. This is someone who Democrats have every right to fear if he ends up as the nominee. You know, I don't know the play book is for beating Charlie Crist in that state. But they are absolutely going to try to keep him off the belt there, absolutely going to try to go with the right-winger.
OLBERMANN: Back to the 23rd, the center of American politics tonight.
O'DONNELL: Finally. They have been very patient waiting to be the center of American politics.
OLBERMANN: Generations have gone through Orwell, New York, waiting when is their - as Orwell, New York, goes, so goes the nation. If Bill Owens pulls out a win, we wouldn't expect it to slow the conservative activists, but would it say something about what their efforts are actually, practically, going to bring them?
O'DONNELL: Yes, it wouldn't slow them down. I think they feel like they got a tremendous win just by driving Scozzafava out of the race. Putting her out was enough for them.
But if he wins, then this shows you immediately what a bad strategy this is - because this is a place where he wasn't supposed to win. There was no calculation by which the Democrat would win - which, by the way, is why the Democrats don't have such a great candidate in that district. They weren't really trying to pull that one out.
And ultimately, it's kind of a meaningless long-term victory because the district is going to be - after the 2010 census - redistricted out of existence. It is surrounded by Democratic districts. It's going to get carved up and it's going to be represented by a Democrat. That territory will eventually be represented by a couple of Democrats.
OLBERMANN: All right. Did you know that there's also another special election for Congress tonight in California 10th?
O'DONNELL: Well, I live in California. So, yes, I heard about this.
OLBERMANN: You heard about this.
OLBERMANN: And we needed to mention this more often. A few facts about this: the Democratic congresswoman there was the centrist who resigned to go work in the Obama State Department. The Democratic candidate is John Garamendi, very well-known in southern California circle certainly. He's not a centrist, to say the least.
He supports the public option, also single payer. He's Medicare for all from the start and he supports an exit strategy in Afghanistan right now.
In the last polling, he was up by 10.
Two questions: if he wins by anywhere near 10, is that not a national story? And why hasn't this race already been a national story if New York 23 has been one?
O'DONNELL: Well, it ran different - they had a primary there. So, he had to go and beat the local state senators. And, by the way, there are fewer state senators in California than there are congressmen. So, a state senator actually represents more territory.
O'DONNELL: The Democrats were sure from the start that they were going to hold this because they had a popular state senator. And then Garamendi came in as a surprise. He basically from lieutenant governor, and should came in and big-footed it. He's won statewide twice in California. So, you kind have a super-overqualified candidate for first time congressional race.
But, yes, he did not adjust, you know, to the particulars of that district the way Tauscher did, the woman who just left that seat. And so, he went in there and just said, "I'm going to run as - basically as a loyalist to Nancy Pelosi," who is nearby in San Francisco. But this is suburban. This is different from San Francisco. And he just went in there and said, "That's the way I'm going to run."
And what has happened - it reminded me actually very much of the way Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to run Upstate, used to run up in the 23rd district, which is, he would go up there as a New York city liberal, be honest about it and he would get their vote not because of agreement but because they just thought this guy has the experience and integrity.
O'DONNELL: And that's the way Garamendi is going to win this.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and "The Huffington Post" - great thanks. We'll see you later on in the evening.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, if the California tenth is a real litmus test and not the New York 23rd, shouldn't Joe Liebermans of the world suddenly see the light? Yes, who the hell am I kidding? He's Joe Lieberman who sinks deeper in the insurance cartel's pocket he'd be fighting for space with gum wrappers and the house keys!
OLBERMANN: After the public option momentum in the Senate, the backlash as that meaningless word "trigger" resurfaces today, and I'm not talking about the horse.
The Republican plan finally bubbles up to the surface, too. It apparently involves giving the insurance industry all of Wyoming in hopes of appeasing them.
Glenn Beck actually compares stopping health care reform to stopping 9/11 as he continues to lead the fight against mental health.
And the top nine smartest plays in World Series history. Why something that happened the day before yesterday is on this list - ahead.
OLBERMANN: After Senator Joe Lieberman said doing nothing is better than a public option, Senator Mary Landrieu has said, doing nothing is not an option. Unless, of course, that option involves a public option.
Our fourth story on the Countdown: The president's moderate problem as some Senate centrists hint at bringing back the "trigger" option, and Mr. Lieberman dithers.
"TPM" reporting that some Senate moderates have been collaborating informally to stay in the health care reform debate, one possibility reviving Senator Olympia Snowe's trigger option. Senator Landrieu of Louisiana telling "TPM," "I wouldn't count it out."
Landrieu remains skeptical about Majority Leader Harry Reid's proposal which includes the public option but would allow states to opt-out. She is not ready to commit to an up-or-down vote. "While we may not yet completely agree on all the specific details, one thing we can all agree on is doing nothing is not an option."
Also hinting a trigger revival which would only allow public option to kick in after private insurance has failed to meet certain conditions:
Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. He tells "TPM" there's a possibility that triggers could make a comeback.
And as for the time line of the Reid proposal or any intervention by Roy Rogers, Vice President Biden hinted at reform by Thanksgiving. The president wants it before year's end. Harry Reid is making no time line guarantees.
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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV), MAJORITY LEADER: First of all, we're not going to be bound by any time lines. They want the Democrats to do this the right way, not the fast way.
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OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, the publication, "The Hill" reported that Reid and Senator Lieberman had reached a private understanding and Lieberman will not block a final vote on health care reform as he'd previously threatened. The Democratic leadership denies it. So does Lieberman spokesman, "If you believe this story is true, you will also believe that I am replacing A-Rod in game six of the series."
Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of "The Washington Post," Eugene Robinson.
Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, Lieberman is still threatening to filibuster to a Senate health care bill if it contains a public option, correct?
ROBINSON: I guess so. What time is it? It just seems to go back and forth. First of all, I think it really would be a mistake for that guy to replace A-Rod in the sixth game of the series. I would - I would talk to Joe Dougherty about that.
But, you know, Lieberman is playing this game of putting himself in the center as the pivotal figure on this. And he is the senator from Aetna. So, I'm not sure you're ever going to get a straight answer out of him until it comes time to vote. And we'll see if this lifelong - almost lifelong Democrat actually will vote against the Democrats on a cloture motion, on a procedural vote, and not even on several legislation which, I think, would be pretty outrageous.
OLBERMANN: As a season ticket-holder for the New York Yankees since 1972, I'd rather see Senator Lieberman staff and Senator Lieberman in the Yankee lineup than in the Senate. But that's a - that's just my sense of self-sacrifice on behalf of the public.
Trigger - trigger is stuffed in a museum somewhere. Hasn't it already been established that both the horse and the option do not constitute reform?
ROBINSON: We talk about trigger, what about butter milk? We don't ever talk about butter milk (INAUDIBLE). The trigger option is not reform as I understand it, in that I believe to have real reform, you need to have some sort of public option. And it's all about inertia, you know?
If you have opt-out or even opt-in, you at least create the public plan, create the public option and it requires inertia. It becomes a fact and it becomes difficult to get rid of. If you don't create it, then the status quo acquires the inertia and it becomes very difficult to create any sort of public option down the road. So, I think this is a - this is an important argument.
OLBERMANN: What happened to the inertia of the public option in the last week in the Senate? That was all deflated by Lieberman's statement?
ROBINSON: I don't think anything really dies in this argument. It certainly hasn't yet. We've had all these ups and downs. There will be a public option, there will not be a public option. I always believed that, in the end, there will be something - either something called a public option that's not really a public option, or something that is a public option that they find a way not to call it a public option, that would be finesse in some way.
And I hope it's the latter. I hope they find a way to give us an actual public plan and, you know, call it trigger, call it butter bill, call it whatever. But, put it in place so that it's there and so it can - it can begin to give us some real reform.
OLBERMANN: You can call it Gene Autry's pants for anybody who cares the mincing of words.
But, one thing out of this week, Mary Landrieu came out and said, doing nothing is not an option. Did she maybe unknowingly back herself into a corner because she could get hit over the head with that quote a thousand times if she voted to filibuster any bill now, couldn't she?
ROBINSON: Oh, I think she absolutely - she absolutely could. And she must have known what she was saying when she said it. But that's fairly definitive. That's a pretty Sherman-like statement, that we have to do something.
I hope, and maybe I'm just being optimistic, I would have hoped that moderate Democrats would come around to the point of view that their continued holding of office is dependent on the Democrats getting something done. And doing nothing really isn't an option. They're the ones who are going to be jeopardy next time around.
OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of "The Washington Post," also of MSNBC when we are lucky enough to have him - great thanks, Gene.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Republican health care bill is now taking shape. If you like "The scarlet Letter" and the Salem witch trials, and the guys who founded Bedlam Hospital, while Boehner bill is not nearly as progressive as any of those things, but, you know, he's trying.
OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment and the genius idea in California, how to really protect the sanctity of straight marriages.
First, 40 years ago today, President Nixon went on television and asked what he called the silent majority to join him in solidarity for his policies and the continuation of the war in Vietnam, which is why when Senator Lindsey Graham asked people at his town hall how many current senators were Republicans, most of the people seemed to shock to find out that the answer was only 40 percent.
Let's play "Oddball."
OLBERMANN: It's boxing night in Hong Kong - among bankers and hedge fund managers. Yes, it's hedge fund fight night courtesy of the folks who helped to bring down the global economy. And down goes Citigroup.
Actually, no knockouts here. These guys save their fiercest punches for the unsuspecting average Joe at home, not each other. Saving grace to this particular spectacle, it goes for charity. Hundred and thirty thousand dollars raised, $129,000 which they'll keep as bonuses.
To London, in the grand opening of - wait for it.
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ANNOUNCER: Two, one.
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OLBERMANN: That was London's mayor, Chris Matthews-look-alike, Boris Johnson, getting it on, banging a gong, along with all those unidentified costume characters, what could be this grand opening for - a grand theater opening. No, for far more pedestrian, literally, the unveiling of a brand new diagonal crosswalk. One of London's busiest intersections, Oxford Circus; the mayor saying the new cross walk, quote, has got the X-Factor.
You get it? It used to be on TV there. The gong was an homage to Japan, from whom the diagonal crossing was copied. All part of London's attempt to improve its transportation ahead of the 2012 games. As you can see, it's working like a charm. Excuse me. Pardon me. Excuse me. Pardon me.
The Republican health plan is finally coming into focus. Blood letting, leaches and exorcism. I'm kidding. They'd never support anything with that many choices in it.
That's next, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Dateline also Hong Kong, number three, best grieving widow, Lau Siu-Wah, charged with stealing a membership to a gym there. It was his late wife's. So he dressed up as her and worked out pretending he was her. He probably did not help his case that he showed up to court in women's clothing, wearing red nail polish.
Dateline New York, number two, best hedged bet; the infamous John Fund of the "Wall Street Journal" went on Fox yesterday, said there was voter fraud in the New Jersey governor's race. Hispanics in the city of Camden, New Jersey being told, we have a new way to vote, la nueva forma de votar (ph), just fill out these papers. He apparently made it up based on an article earlier in the day about the la nueva forma de votar scam being used in the local elections in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1993. The pay off here is the article from which he stole the story and changed the location, he wrote it himself.
Dateline Sacramento, number one, best comeuppance, Prop-8 backers there. They are now dealing with the ruling - the decision of California Secretary of State Debra Boen (ph) to permit a man named John Marcott (ph) to begin trying to collect 700,000 signatures to get his defense of marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot there next March. Mr. Marcott's follow up to Prop 8's protection of traditional marriage is a bill that would protect those marriages even more and save the state millions in courts and judges, because it would make divorce illegal.
OLBERMANN: House Republicans have finally released their health care plan. It must be said, it achieves the impossible, not in providing affordable health care for all, mind you. Rather, in our third story tonight, in actually succeeding in making the Democrats' bill look great. House Republican Leader Boehner said yesterday, quote, "our substitute aims at driving down cost. If you drive down costs, you expand access."
Boehner's bill ends insurance company caps on lifetime and annual spending for individual patients. Insurance companies could not cancel policies except in case of fraud or deception. Those, of course, the same excuses they currently use to cut sick people.
And that's pretty much it for the Republican plan, to tame those bestial insurance companies. Everything else benefits them. Incentives for you to use a health savings account, so you have more money with which to pay for more insurance. It lets small companies buy group policies, which, of course, will push out companies with sick or old employees. The Senate Help Committee saying today it's investigating price gouging on those policies when members get sick.
The Boehner bill protects medical and insurance companies preventing juries from awarding you too much money for malpractice. It will cap those malpractice costs, costs which the Congressional Budget Office just found out contribute to the rising cost of care to the tune of merely one-half of one percent.
Best of all, Boehner lets all insurance companies sell policies anywhere in the country. Meaning they could move to the stupidest state and rip you off anywhere else while they are there, because, as the bill says, quote, it is not subject to all of the insurance laws and regulations of the state where you live.
To Boehner, this is a benefit to you, somehow.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.
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OLBERMANN: Look, he looks healthy. The GOP bill has more, improving preventive medicine. Boehner would let your boss pay you for your healthy lifestyle. If you're too high risk or have a preexisting condition, like a permanent tan, that makes insurance too expensive, Boehner would give states money to create high risk insurance pools, which is such a great idea 34 states already do it. Even then, 34 states only manage to cover a total of 200,000 people.
Why? According to the publication "Roll Call," they are often much more expensive than regular insurance. Think Progress reports that the Tax Policy Center estimates that to fund these pools so they actually would cover the people who need them, that would cost a trillion dollars over the next ten years.
People will need those pools. Why? because under the Boehner bill, insurance companies would still be allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, including in some states preexisting conditions like having had a Cesarean section or having been sexually abused.
The Boehner bill, just as costly as the Democratic plan, but without all that bothersome health stuff.
John Boehner may never make anybody's list of the nine smartest anything, but John Damon just did after his genius Sunday night. The nine smartest plays in the history of baseball's World Series.
Worsts, sorry, if you invoke 9/11, literally invoke 9/11 in arguing against health care reform, I think you should go to hell.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the latest from Jersey, Virginia, the New York 23rd, even the California 10th, and will voters in Maine make theirs the first state to uphold sake sex marriage?
OLBERMANN: In the last two days, we have just seen one of the nine smartest plays in the history of baseball's World Series. Where does Johnny Damon's double steal rate? And who else made this one of a kind list? That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze shared tonight by Governor Tim Pawlenty and Congressman Wrong Way Wilson of South Carolina, different guys, same hypocrisy. Pawlenty defining a Republican, "you can't get endorsed by Acorn. You can't support the stimulus bill. You can't be for bank bail outs." George W. Bush's bank bail outs, sir, supported by Governor Tim Pawlenty, all 700 billion of it. I guess, governor, you're not a Republican.
Congressman Wilson on the slow accumulation of H1N1 Vaccine in this country: "the current administration is solely responsible. They can't blame this on any prior administration. This is the responsibility of the current administration. They put the lives of Americans at risk."
In June, Wilson voted against the supplementary appropriations bill, which contained special funding for more H1N1 Vaccine. By the way, the Congressman's wife now has H1N1. I think this is in the Bible somewhere.
The runner-up, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, and the GOP House leadership, clarifying Congresswoman Foxx's lunatic statement yesterday that health care reform was greater than any threat to this country posed by any terrorist anywhere. Congresswoman Rodgers disagrees. "I would say it's the difference between an internal versus an external attack. Yes, this is rocking our foundation."
Judging by your willingness to exploit terrorism for politics, congresswoman, and your status as one of those crazy birthers, I would say your foundation was rocked quite awhile ago.
Speaking of which, our winner, Lonesome Roads Beck, on health care reform: "ten years ago, I could have shouted every single day about Osama bin Laden and his wacky, crazy threats to kill Americans in New York. And nobody would have been willing to stand in line for two hours while some security officer made grandma take her shoes off. No one would have done it. But don't you see, while the government is still not willing to do these things, today America is different. America has changed. Washington, we're not going to let you get away with it anymore. The 9/12ers are willing to stand in line and take our shoes off before the plane actually hits the tower."
Beck, shark, jump. You and the 9/12ers have the nerve to exploit 9/11 for your lousy TV ratings? You cannot make light of 9/11, nor bandy about as if your petty political grievances are comparable to it, and still be an actual patriotic American.
In short, Glenn, 9/12ers, if you're invoking 9/11 to oppose health care reform, go to hell.
OLBERMANN: Even the most cerebral of sports are usually associated not with thought but with rather with muscle. But something has happened in the 2009 baseball World Series has underscored anew how much and how awe inspiring intelligent play can be. In our number one story on the Countdown, on this off-day in that series, I wanted to try to put what Johnny Damon of the New York Yankees did on Sunday night in historical context, among the nine smartest plays in World Series history.
My thanks to the gracious people at MLB Network and MLB productions, who were just putting out a remarkable set of 20 DVDs, 50 hours, of all the annual official World Series films since 1943. Most of the video here is from that collection, which you can order off the MLB.com website and you should.
So remembering that a baseball cap can also be a thinking cap, here are, in ascending order, the nine smartest plays in World Series history.
OLBERMANN: Ninth on our list, Jackie Robinson's iconic steal of home in the eighth inning in the first game of the 1955 World Series. This was a statement play in a time when a statement was a new idea. After all but taunting pitcher Whitey Ford and catcher Yogi Berra of the Yankees, Jackie Robinson seized the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robinson dashes to the plate. It's close. Umpire Summins calls him safe.
OLBERMANN: The Dodgers would lose the game, but, for the first time ever, win the series.
The eighth play on the list is another moment of base running exuberance. In a regular season game in 1946, Ennis Country Slaughter (ph), on first base, had been given the run and hit sign by his St. Louis Cardinals manager, Eddie Dire (ph). Slaughter took off. The batter swung and laced one into the outfield. As Slaughter approached third base, with home in his sites, he was held up by his third base coach, Mike Gonzales. Slaughter complained to his manager. Dire said fine, if it happens again, and you think you can make it, run on your own; I'll back you up.
It happened again, and in the bottom of the eighth inning of the tied up seventh game of the 1946 series. Manager Dire again flashed the run and hit sign. Slaughter again broke from first. And hitter Harry the Hat Walker lined Bob Klinger's (ph) pitch over shortstop for what looked to everybody like a long single.
Everybody but Slaughter. He never slowed down. When Boston's shortstop Johnny Peske turned clockwise to take the relay throw from center fielder Leon Colbersom (ph), instead of counter-clockwise, and, thus oddly twisted, could get little on his throw to the plate, Slaughter scored. The cardinals led, and an inning later were the world champs.
The Red Sox should have seen it coming. Slaughter ran everywhere on the field. He said he had learned to do so on in the minors, when, as a 20-year-old, he had walked back from the outfield, only to hear his manager say hey, kid, if you're tired, I'll get you some help. That manager was Eddie Dire, the same man who, a decade later, would encourage Slaughter to run any and all red lights.
The particulars of the seventh smartest play in series history are lost in the shrouds of time. It was game two of the 1907 fall classic between Ty Cobb's Tigers and the Cubs. In the first inning, Chicago lead off man Jimmy Sleigle (ph) walked, then broke for second. Catcher Brent Paine's (ph) throw was wild. Sleigle made it to third. Detroit third baseman Bill Coughlin knew the Tigers were in trouble.
There are two ways to do what Coughlin did next. We don't know which he used. Later, third baseman like Matt Williams were known to ask runners to just step off base for a moment so he could clean the dirt off of it. Others, with nonchalance or down right misdirection, would convince the runner that they no longer had the ball.
Which Coughlin did, we don't know. The Spaulding Baseball Guide for 1908 simply described as Coughlin working that ancient and decrepit trick of the hidden ball, got Sleigle as he stepped off the third sack. What the sleeping Sleigle cost was shown in the next minute, when Chance singled over second.
Bill Coughlin snagged Sleigle with what is believed to be the only hidden ball trick in the history of the series.
Sixth among the smartest plays is another we will not likely see again. The New York Mets led the Baltimore Orioles three games to one as they played the fifth game of the 1969 world series. But the favored Birds led that game three zip going into the bottom of the sixth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cleon Jones is the lead off batter.
OLBERMANN: Then Dave McNally bounced a breaking patch at the feet of Cleon Jones of the Mets. Jones claimed he had been hit by it, but umpire Lou Damiro (ph) disagreed, disagreed until Mets' skipper Gil Hodges came out of the dugout to show Damiro the baseball and the smudge of shoe polish from where it had supposedly hit Jones on the foot. Damiro changed his mind. Jones was awarded first, and the Mets produced five unanswered runs to win the game and the series.
But there were questions, most of them voiced in Baltimore, about the provenance of that baseball. Was it really the one McNally had just thrown. A nearly identical play in 1957 with Milwaukee's Nippy Jones had helped to decide that series. And years later, an unnamed Met said that ever since it had always been considered good planning to have a baseball in your dugout with shoe polish on it, just in case.
Today, of course, players' shoes don't get shined.
Hall of Fame pitcher, Hall of Fame batter, Hall of Fame manager, all involved in the fifth smartest play, but only two of them were smart during it. Reds One, A's nothing, one out, top of the eight, runners on second and third, third game of the '72 series. Oakland reliever Rollie Fingers struggles to a three and two count on Cincinnati's legendary Johnny Bench.
With great theatrics and evidence reluctance, the A's battery and manager Dick Williams agree to go ahead and throw the next pitch deliberately wide for an intentional walk, which is when Oakland Catcher Jean Tennis (ph) jumped back behind the play to catch the third strike that slid right past a forever embarrassed Johnny Bench.
As if to rub it in, the A's then watched Tony Perez intentionally, for real.
Another all time great was central to the fourth smartest play in series history. You tend to think brawn, not brain, with Mickey Mantle. But in the seventh game of the epic 1960 series, he was, for a moment, the smartest man in America. Mantle had just singled home a run that cut Pittsburgh's lead over the Yankees to nine to eight. With one out and Gil MacDougle (ph) as the tying run at third, Yogi Berra grounded to Pirate first baseman Rocky Nelson, who quickly stepped on the bag to retire Berra for the second out.
Mantle, now in no-man's land, about to be tagged out himself for the final out of the game, faked his way around Nelson, back safely to first base, and took enough time doing so that MacDougle could score the tying run.
Mantle's quick thinking and base running alacrity would have been one of the game's all-time greatest plays if only minutes later -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there she goes -
OLBERMANN: The nine to nine tie he had created hat not been erased by Bill Mazeroski's unforgettable series winning home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth. The Mantle example, the gut and not the cerebellum is usually associated with the third smartest play in series history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And look who is coming up.
OLBERMANN: It's Kirk Gibson's epic homer to win the opening game of the 1998 classic. Gibson, aching, knees swollen, limping, somehow creeps to the batter's box, and then takes a 3-2 pitch from another Hall of Fame Oakland reliever, Dennis Eckersley, and turns it into the most improbable of game-winning homers.
OLBERMANN: But the back story is even better. When the count reached three and two, Gibson says he stepped out of the batter's box and could hear the briefing on Eckersley given by the Dodgers' scout Mel Didier (ph), in his distinctive Mississippi accent before the series began.
"On a three two count against a left-handed power hitter, you can be absolutely certain that Eckersley will throw a backdoor slider. He always does it." And as Gibson once joked, I was a left-handed power hitter. So Gibson's home run was not just mind of matter, it was also mind. And it was also Mel Didier.
The second smartest play in series history came in the seventh game of the Braves and Twins remorseless battle of 1991. Scoreless into the eighth inning. Veteran Lonnie Smith led off the top of the frame with a single. Just like Slaughter in 1946, he then got the signal to run with the pitch. Just like Harry Walker in 1946, his teammate, Terry Pendleton, connected safely.
But something was amiss at second base. Minnesota shortstop Greg Gagne and second basemen Chuck Knoblauch were either starting a double play, or they had decided they were the Harlem Globetrotters playing pantomime ball. Smith, at least momentarily startled, hesitated just long enough. He could not score from first, as Slaughter had. He would later claim the Twins' infielders had not fooled him at all with their phantom double play, and he was just waiting to make sure the ball was not caught.
But he never scored a run. Nor did his Braves. The game and the series ended one to nothing Minnesota, in the tenth inning, on a pinch hit single by Gene Larkin, from appropriately enough for this subject, Columbia University.
All-Stars and cup of coffee guys, fielders and hitters and base runners and pitchers and even even a scout, and stretching over a span of 102 years of series history, and yet the smartest play is from this past Sunday. Johnny Damon not only worked his way back from down zero and two to a line single on the ninth pitch of the at-bat against Brad Lidge, but he quickly gauged the once in a lifetime opportunity with which the Phillies had seemingly presented him.
Few teams employ a defensive shift towards the left side or the right when there is a runner on base. That's largely because if there is a play to be made at second or third, the fielders who would normally handle the ball are elsewhere. With Mark Teixeira up, the Phillies had nonetheless shifted their infield right. So Damon realized, if he tried to steal, the throw and the tag would probably be the responsibility of the third base man, Pedro Feliz. Even if Feliz didn't botch the job, his meager experience in the middle infield slightly increased the odds in Damon's favor.
But the real question was, what would happen immediately afterwards if Damon stole successfully. Where would Feliz go and who would cover third base?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No chance for Feliz. And now headed to third base as he got around Feliz.
OLBERMANN: Damon chose a pop-up slide so he could keep on running. Feliz took the throw cleanly, but did not stop his own momentum, and continued to run slightly towards the center of the diamond. And nobody covered third base. All Damon needed was daylight between himself and Feliz and Feliz would have no chance of outrunning him to third and nobody to throw to at third.
All of that went through Johnny Damon's mind in a matter of seconds. Thereafter, in a matter of minutes, the New York Yankees had turned a tie game, with them down to their last strike of the ninth inning, into a three-run rally that put them within one win of the world's championship. All thanks to the smartest play in the history of the World Series.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,378th day since the previous president declared mission accomplish in Iraq. Lawrence O'Donnell and I will be back with the latest on the votes in New York 23rd, Virginia and New Jersey at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. Until then, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now with the latest on tonight's votes, and Maine's bid to become the first state to vote to uphold same sex marriage, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Keith. That was fascinating about the World Series stuff. I'm very glad you did that. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. You're welcome.
MADDOW: It is election night, of course, in America.
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