'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Guests: Chris Kofinis, Markos Moulitsas, Dan Savage, Michael Musto, Anthony Weiner
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Live by the tea party, die by the tea party. Democrat Bill Owens hands the GOP a historic loss in Upstate New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP.-ELECT BILL OWENS (D), NEW YORK: It's a sweet, sweet victory for us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Not since the 19th century has a Democrat represented that district.
Sarah Palin and company are pretending nothing went wrong, but does it spell doom for the tea party movement as a political force? And what happens if they continue to push moderate Republicans out of the party?
Howard Fineman on who really lost in Upstate New York; Chris Kofinis on what Republicans can learn from their big gubernatorial wins; and Markos Moulitsas on the lessons that all Democrats should learn from yesterday's results.
As Michele Bachmann prepares to storm the Capitol to protest health care reform, her colleague, Congressman Joe "The Heckler" Wilson opens up a new front in the fight for health care reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We will be introducing an amendment that does require members of Congress to take the government-run option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And Senator Harry Reid calls in to question whether reform can be achieved this year.
The people's veto: Voters in Maine deny gay couples the right to marry. We'll talk with author/activist Dan Savage.
And the speech that never was. John McCain's campaign blocked Sarah Palin from delivering a concession speech on election night, but exactly one year later, Countdown has found never-before-seen footage of the speech she was so determined to give.
All of that and more-now on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
If last night, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the rest of the tea party conservatives were shocked speechless by their defeat in the race for New York's 23rd congressional district, this morning-in our fifth story on the Countdown-they were trying to frame that humiliating defeat as victory. You know, the kind of victory that Governor Palin enjoyed one year ago tonight. The kind of victory that saw a Democrat win that seat in Upstate New York for the first time since the Civil War.
It's official. Democrat Bill Owens, a first-time candidate, narrowly defeated his conservative opponent, Doug Hoffman, in an upset, 49 percent to 45 percent. The Republican, Dede Scozzafava, still on the ticket after dropping out over the weekend, took 6 percent of the vote.
Sarah Palin, one of the right-wing Republicans responsible for forcing Ms. Scozzafava out of the race, defiant after the loss-or at least in denial-trying to claim on her Facebook page that victory has merely been postponed. Quoting her, "The race for New York's 23rd district is not over, just postponed until 2010."
No, no, no, no, Sarah. The election really was yesterday. They really did count the votes last night. You really did lose. Big-time. No kidding. Just like last year.
Other conservatives, meanwhile, are claiming that Hoffman won the race because-and you have to listen carefully-even though Mr. Hoffman actually lost, the moderate Republican, Ms. Scozzafava, didn't win either. The executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which worked to defeat Ms. Scozzafava, telling "The New York Times," quote, "Our number one goal was to make clear that the Republican Party cannot take someone as liberal as Dede Scozzafava and thrust her out on the voters and expect the voters to just accept it."
On his radio ramble today, Rush Limbaugh seemed to accept the loss by blaming every Republican except himself for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Here is-these are my thoughts on New York 23. We cannot forget how this whole thing happened in the first place. There was not a primary. The right message here would indict the way party bosses, Republican Party bosses and these big thinkers, like Newt, screwed the whole thing up from the get-go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Former House majority leader, Dick Armey, so confident of this failed strategy of having conservatives purge moderate Republicans from the party, that he's planning to do a lot more of it by challenging more than a dozen House and Senate moderates in upcoming races. Mr. Armey called the 23rd just the tip of the spear.
Senate Republicans are either embracing the strategy now or giving in. Chairman John Cornyn of the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced today that the committee will not be spending any money in contested primaries. Senator Cornyn telling ABC News, quote, "There's no incentive for us to weigh in. We have to look at our resources."
Meanwhile, most commentary about last night's elections has incorrectly focused almost entirely on the Republican pickups in the Virginia and New Jersey governor races. This morning at a press conference, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele claimed that, quote, "The GOP renaissance has begun."
That is the same Michael Steele who endorsed two candidates in the 23rd, first the Republican, then the conservative-and in the process, ensured the Democrats' historic victory there.
Lots to talk about tonight with our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Howard, we should begin by pointing out, reminding the viewers that there were four big elections last night, two governors, two special elections for the House of Representatives yesterday, one by the Democrats, both of them, one was holding on to a Democratic seat, a moderate Democrat seat in California that could have been won by a Republican, could have been taken. And the other was this historic victory in the 23rd, taking what had been considered a permanent Republican seat.
What are the Republicans thinking today when they look at these congressional wins?
FINEMAN: Well, they're trying to avoid looking at them, because they have serious implications for the party and for its chances. You know, we're in the baseball season, the end of the baseball season, the Republicans ended up hitting a long-the conservatives ended up hitting a long fly ball to the outfield in the New York 23rd, but it was an out, nevertheless. The Democrats picked up the seat, as you said.
And, as you also said, Rush Limbaugh and others are thinking of every excuse they can, Scozzafava remained on the-Scozzafava remained on the ballot. The Republicans screwed it up. You know, this and that and this and that. The fact is that Bill Owens won that race after the conservatives' expectations had gotten way ahead of them.
O'DONNELL: And, Howard, to stay with the baseball analogies here, to stay that we didn't really lose last night, we just postponed it to 2010, if, say, you know, the Yankees were to win the World Series, is the sports press just smarter than the political press? The Phillies would have a real struggle saying, "Well, we didn't lose, we just postponed this to 2010." The sports press is kind of sharper than that, aren't they?
FINEMAN: Yes, I think they are. This was a special election and there will be another election next year. But one of the things we've seen here is that when the-when the conservatives get involved in this way, in high-profile, high-finance, emotional way, it can change the nature of the local election, and not necessarily to their benefit.
They took Doug Hoffman from nowhere. That is true. But they didn't take him over the finish line and that is the significant thing about that race up in the New York 23rd.
We were talking about the governors' race last night, Lawrence, because that was the news we had. But the late news out of New York and indeed out of California, because that is a swing district out there, has to be somewhat reassuring to the Democrats and a little bit of a cautionary tale for the conservatives.
O'DONNELL: Now, Michael Steele just on his own skills has not shown himself to be, so far, a great party chairman. But he seems to have the undoable job of 2009 in American politics. He's trying to hold together a party that is at war with itself. He ended up endorsing two candidates in the 23rd.
He is now saying that Tim Pawlenty is wrong to not agree that Olympia Snowe belongs in the Republican Party. Michael Steele thinks Olympia Snowe does belong in the Republican Party. At least this week, he does.
Going forward, is Michael Steele going to be able to hold on to the notion that Olympia Snowe belongs in this party? Or is Sarah Palin going to control the membership roles, the official roles of the Republican Party now?
FINEMAN: Well, I've been a little skeptical of this Republican "civil war" story. I mean, all major parties have conflicts and fissures within them, but this is a little different, I think. Because the conservatives, the grassroots conservatives, through talk radio, through the Web, the passion of their organizing, really are the energy in the Republican Party today. And they don't give a hoot what the Washington-based establishment says.
The fact that Rush Limbaugh was going out after Newt Gingrich today, I thought, was significant. You have a fight going on again. Lawrence, you remember this-in the old days, Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey were fighting with each other when they were members of the Republican leadership at the House. They've now taken it national.
Dick Armey's a very smart organizer and he is a member of the ground forces here, while Limbaugh and Palin and others are sort of up in the-you know, strafing-bombing and strafing. That's a pretty powerful combination.
O'DONNELL: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek"- as always, many thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: For more on the fallout, let's bring in Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Chris, one of the greatest political strategists of all time, one of the most effective speakers the House has ever seen, Tip O'Neill coined a very simple phrase, "All politics is local."
I don't know any pundit out there today who's smarter about this than
Tip O'Neill, and yet you hear all this talk in the last 24 hours about how
somehow a governor's race in Virginia, where Barack Obama had never really worked with the candidate, is somehow reflective of a failure for the Obama administration, it somehow means that Obama is failing with the public, even though his popularity in Virginia remains above 50 percent.
How did we get to this, where people are assigning to the president losses of governorships?
KOFINIS: Well, I think the Republicans are struggling to find a narrative out of last night's election. I mean, let's be frank about what the facts show. It was not a national referendum on President Obama. President Obama is still popular, both in Virginia and in New Jersey, and across the country, especially given the-considering the enormous number of problems that he's facing.
In terms of both, you know, New Jersey, Virginia, as well as the special election, what dominated those races really were local and statewide issues-whether it was the economy, jobs, health care, taxes, transportation. Those, I think, were the key factors. That's what it was a referendum on.
It was also, I think, a referendum on those campaigns. In Virginia, to be frank about it, you know, Bob McDonnell ran a very smart, disciplined campaign. Even though he's very conservative, he pretended to be a centrist. And then in New Jersey-I mean, I think, Governor Corzine did as well a job as you could expect considering the enormous economic challenges he has faced.
But then you also saw in the special election, in the 23rd district, you know, Hoffman was a candidate who completely ignored the bread and butter local issues, if you will. And that's why Owens is now the representative from that district.
So, the notion of this being a national referendum just does not-does not compute with the reality.
O'DONNELL: Chris, you've had to run campaigns against very tough Republican nominees. If this "purge the party" thing continues, do you expect to get lucky enough in future campaigns that you're trying to strategize for the Democrat that you end up running in a moderate district or a moderate state against one of these right-wing, Palin-style nominees. Is that just the gift that will keep on giving for you guys, to run Democratic campaigns?
KOFINIS: Well, it's surely going to help, you know, going into the midterms and then even looking forward to 2012. I mean, here's the part that I think is somewhat interesting. The Republicans are suffering from this electoral delusion. They completely ignore in fact that the reality that they won, for example, in New Jersey and Virginia, because they ran candidates that were centrists, actually, more conservative, but nonetheless, you know, and that's why they were able to appeal to independents.
But they still are struggling with this civil war within the various factions of their party. And because of that, you're going to see right-wing elements, whether it's in Florida, in that Charlie Crist state-
Charlie Crist Senate race, or in other places, like California, where the right-wing is going to push these candidates to the right and that's going to give an opening to the Democrats-the Democratic candidate. And that's going to be, I think, a significant advantage in what is going to be a very competitive environment come 2010.
O'DONNELL: And just quickly, I mean, the Republicans knocking Charlie Crist out of that nomination in Florida would almost be a necessary first step for the Democrats to win that state. He is a popular former governor of that state, who can-who clearly has shown his reach statewide.
KOFINIS: He is a-he is a popular candidate, but here, I think-you know, but his numbers actually have been falling. And I think this is where the real lesson, I think, of last night's election is this anti-incumbent kind of feeling, and the independents and how they kind of roared back.
Now, in terms of the Democrats, this was an anti-Democratic move.
This was really appealing to the core messages that voters are focused on:
economy, jobs. If Democrats focused on that, they're going to be in a good position to win in 2010.
O'DONNELL: Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist-thanks for your time tonight.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: The lessons in last night's wins and losses for the Democrats. Are there hidden keys to victory for 2010?
And later, new insights into the level of distrust between the Sarah
Palin camp and the John McCain camp. On election night, the McCain folks
literally left Palin in the dark, out of fear that she might speak. But
tonight, we have video of the speech she wanted to give. A world exclusive
ahead on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: A mixed night for Democrats last night, a historic win and some big losses. What's the takeaway for Dems as they prepare for the crucial midterm elections?
And the fight for health care reform: Congressman Joe "You lie" Wilson dares Democrats to fully embrace the public option.
That's next. This is Countdown.
O'DONNELL: One way looking at the Democratic loss of two governorships is fairly straight forward. That in low turnout elections, it is all about the base, as in whose base is more energized? And yesterday, Democratic turnout collapsed.
So, in our fourth story on the Countdown: Losses in Virginia and New Jersey were the result.
What are the lessons for the Democrats and why did their base stay home?
In Virginia, the Democrat ran away from President Obama and lost in a landslide. A very unpopular incumbent governor in New Jersey did much better by keeping the president at his side. Does anyone really think the Democratic base can be activated by a move to the center?
Two congressional seats were open in yesterday's special election-both winnable by Republicans. One held by Republicans since the Civil War. Both were won by Democrats.
In New York's 23rd district, the surprise Democratic winner, Bill Owens, endorsed Obama's health care reform, including a public option-as did the Democratic victor in California's 10th district. There, John Garamendi won handedly, despite replacing the more centrist Democrat who resigned to serve in President Obama's State Department.
Let's bring in, as promised, the creator of "Daily Kos" and author of "Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era," Markos Moulitsas.
Good evening, Markos.
MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILYKOS.COM: Good evening, Lawrence.
Marcos, give us your take. What should the Democrats learn from last night's results?
MOULITSAS: I think that the lesson is very obvious, is, if you run as a Democrat and embrace a Democratic agenda, I think Democratic voters will respond. Democrats want their party to succeed. They want their president to succeed.
They're not interested in Democrats, like Creigh Deeds, who come out attacking the president, saying they would opt-out of a public plan if he was governor, saying he opposed cap-and-trade. They don't want any of that. You give them that-they're not going to turn out.
O'DONNELL: And what about New Jersey? What are the lessons there? We saw Jon Corzine run very close to President Obama. It's very tricky, I think, to try to line up the issues, because state issues are very different from the federal issues that they're facing.
But-and given that Corzine had such a high negative in his own state, you know, his numbers in the end were actually fairly impressive.
MOULITSAS: They were. I mean, this guy had an approval rating of about 30 percent. I mean, it's pretty bleak and pretty much virtually impossible to survive that. But what's really kind of incredible about that race is that early on in the campaign, Corzine was trailing 15 to 20 points and the more he worked to nationalize the race, the more he worked to bring Obama in and align himself with a national party, the better he did.
And at the end of the day, while the Democratic performance was down in New Jersey, it was nowhere near as bad as what we saw in Virginia.
O'DONNELL: Now, there's a lot of talk about how in the New Jersey's governor race, the Republican won on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs. What should the Republicans be saying about jobs that they don't seem to be getting through to the voter on?
MOULITSAS: What should the Republican be saying?
O'DONNELL: I'm sorry. What should the Democrats be saying about jobs? I mean, clearly the voter can hear the Democrats on health care. They can hear the Democrats on environmental policy. They can hear the Democrats on all sorts of things, but trying to fit the jobs message into the Democratic menu of messages on other things seems to have become kind of difficult, hasn't it?
MOULITSAS: You know, it should be so difficult, because at the end of the day, a lot of these issues that we're talking about are very much related to the strength of our economy.
Health care, huge draw on our national resources. People feel that they can't move to better jobs, they can't quit existing jobs because they're afraid of losing their health care. It impedes mobility. It really affects the economy in very negative ways. You work to fix that problem-I think you create a much stronger job base.
The same with cap-and-trade, energy independence-these are jobs right now that could be created in this country in search for a green economy, a green energy policy. Instead, we're importing foreign oil.
So, there's ways we can, I think, talk about these issues in a way that embraced the jobs message. Because at the end of the day, everything we're doing, everything we're fighting for as Democrats is looking towards a stronger, more independent, and more prosperous nation.
O'DONNELL: Markos, you know there's a lot of talk in liberal circles now about challenging, finding primary challengers in next year's Senate races and in House races to take on people who do not completely support Barack Obama's health care policy, especially on the public option.
How is that different from the Palin-led ideological purging that they're trying to run against, say, Governor Crist in Florida and other Republicans who they don't think are conservative enough?
MOULITSAS: It's very different. And here's the key point, is that what we're doing is we're looking for Democrats that are representing their constituents.
And we're not deciding on our own. We're not making this up, pulling it out of you know where. We're basically polling these districts. We're finding districts where the Democrats are out of touch on the public option, and in some places like Arkansas, that's a case. And other places like Nebraska, not so much. I think Ben Nelson in Nebraska is not going to get a primary. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas might.
O'DONNELL: Markos Moulitsas of the "Daily Kos," thanks for joining us tonight.
MOULITSAS: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: Voters in Maine following the footsteps of California and vote to block gays from marrying. We'll get reaction from author Dan Savage.
And later, an election night exclusive. It was just one year ago Sarah Palin was barred from speaking at the McCain concession gathering. But we have tape that shows the speech she desperately hoped to give.
O'DONNELL: In the cities and college towns of Maine last night, young people and other voters turned out to support the right of gay people to get married. To each other, that is. But in rural Maine, more voters opposed gay marriage.
Our number three story tonight: One step backward in Maine, but two steps forward in Walla Walla and Kalamazoo.
By a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent, the people of Maine voted to overturn a law passed earlier this year, but not yet in effect, legalizing gay marriage. Celebrating their restriction of other people's freedoms last night, Marc Mutty, a leader of the anti-gay marriage campaign insisted hate had nothing to do with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC MUTTY, STAND FOR MARRIAGE MAINE: Let's be clear. What the people of Maine had to say was that marriage matters. And it is between a man and a woman.
MUTTY: And this has never been about hating anyone, hating gays, or anything-anything to that nature, whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Mr. Mutty, on loan to the campaign from his job as public affairs director for the Portland diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
Washington, last night, however, became the first state in which voters directly chose to recognize gay equality, passing the so-called "Everything But Marriage" referendum, endorsing the new law giving domestic partners legal rights equivalent to those of spouses.
In Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters overwhelmingly chose to extend housing and job discrimination laws to include gay, lesbian, and transgendered citizens.
Let's bring in "Savage Love" columnist, Dan Savage, also the author of "The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family."
Thanks for your time tonight, Dan.
DAN SAVAGE, SAVAGE LOVE: Thanks for having me.
O'DONNELL: Dan, we just heard that Mr. Mutty say that hate had nothing to do with what happened in Maine last night. Is that the way it feels to you?
SAVAGE: No, it's not true. It definitely had everything to do with hate. The Yes On One Campaign trafficked in vicious anti-gay stereotypes throughout the entire campaign. Their whole campaign was premised upon the notion that allowing same-sex couples to legally marry meant teaching gay sex to children in schools, at some sort of mandatory anal sex assemblies for third graders.
It was offensive and it was vicious and, unfortunately, it was effective. Not as effective as I think they would have liked it to have been, though. The margin was about the same as it was in California, which is really kind of remarkable when you consider how much more rural and Catholic Maine is compared to California.
O'DONNELL: And where was President Obama and the Democratic National Committee in this fight?
SAVAGE: AWOL. President Obama's a fierce advocate of gay rights the same way I'm a ladies' man. He isn't, and I'm not. The Democratic National Committee sent out e-mail blasts to Mainers on their e-mail lists in the days leading up to this election that did not mention Question One, that did not encourage people to vote no on Question One. Barack Obama issued no statement about Question One or about the vote in Kalamazoo or about the vote in Washington State.
We're very disappointed, gay and lesbian community, right now with Barack Obama. He could have really made a difference in Maine, and perhaps a decisive difference in Maine, if he was willing to engage in the kind of fierce advocacy that he promised the gay community. He said he would use the bully pulpit of the White House to defend our rights, and he hasn't, and the DNC hasn't. And I'm not writing a check in a couple of years when they come asking again.
O'DONNELL: Do you consider it a win in Washington to get the everything but marriage kind of statute passed?
SAVAGE: Absolutely. It's important to note, though, that the Washington domestic partnership law that was defended-protected at the ballot box by Washington State voters doesn't include any of the 1,000 plus federal rights of marriage, just all the rights that the state controls, which are some significant rights. And the anti-gay marriage haters campaigned in Maine in part by saying that they weren't against domestic partnership; they just wanted to protect marriage.
And yet here in Washington State, the very same people, using the very same tactics, if we approve this, gays and lesbian-gay sex will be taught in the schools, and gay marriage will be taught in the schools. In Washington State, they're arguing against domestic partnerships. At the same time, in Maine, they're arguing against marriage, the exact same hateful rhetoric.
O'DONNELL: Dan, the conventional wisdom is that for the Democratic candidate for president to come out in favor of gay marriage would be just crippling politically. Let's just stipulate for a moment, or not-first of all, when you get to it, do you think that that is true? And secondly, if it is true, is there something that you would want from Barack Obama, given that he was not in favor of gay marriage in the presidential campaign? Is there something that you would want from him now that fits within the positions he held during the campaign?
SAVAGE: Barack Obama said he was for-instead of full legal marriage equality, he was for federal civil unions that granted same-sex couples all the same rights, responsibilities, privileges of marriage. If he was moving on that, a la what gays and lesbians have in the United Kingdom, where they don't have legal marriage, but they have civil partnerships, civil pacts that bring all the same benefits-if at the same time that these initiatives are being run all over the country, and our rights were under assault in the way that no other minority groups' rights have been under assault at the ballot box-
Barack Obama wasn't taking a position on Question One, but was pushing for legislation at the federal level that would supersede all these arguments, and supersede all these state initiatives, that would grant at the federal level all the rights, responsibilities and protections of legal marriage, which is what he said he backed, that would mollify the gay community. But he isn't doing squat.
O'DONNELL: Dan Savage, author of "The Commitment, Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family." Thanks for your time tonight, Dan.
SAVAGE: Thank you for having me.
O'DONNELL: Still ahead, Senator Harry Reid says the Senate might not get a health care bill to the president until next year. The dangers in the political delay game.
And later, a Countdown world exclusive. Yesterday, the concession speech Sarah Palin had hoped to deliver was revealed. Tonight, we have the video.
O'DONNELL: The phrase was, "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." To American colonials, it meant, you don't have enough ammo to blast away indiscriminately. Tonight, in our number two story, the Republican party has adopted that language to fight health care reform.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann calling for her faithful to come to the Capitol Building in D.C. tomorrow to confront members of Congress face to face. In Bachmann's phrasing, "to look at the whites of their eyes." She is actually urging vigilante mobs to overrun the U.S. Capitol and-you know what, she says it better than I can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I'm asking people to come to Washington, D.C. by the car load. And next Thursday at noon, I'll be at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol. I'd love to have every one of your viewers join me, so that we can go up and down through the halls, find members of Congress, look at the whites of their eyes-
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: They'll be hiding!
BACHMANN: - and say don't take away my health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Republican Leader John Boehner quickly jumped on board the idea of Tea Party groupies, with too much time on their hands, telling confused members of Congress not to take away their health care, which, of course, they are not doing. Boehner's spokesman vigorously endorsed the idea. Quote, "every American has the right to visit the Capitol and speak to members of Congress."
Quite the battle cry there. And then there is Congressman Joe The Heckler Wilson. Mr. Wilson unveiled his own contribution to the health care crusade. His amendment would force members of Congress to enroll in the public option, a proposal that must have emerged from rigorous research and data analysis.
I mean, it's not like a Congressman would introduce an amendment just because it occurred to him in, I don't know, during a luncheon at Enchilada's Mexican Restaurant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I was at a luncheon at Enchilada's Mexican Restaurant in Hilton Head Island. I want to give credit to the people who were there. These were largely senior citizens concerned about the Pelosi takeover bill. And over and over again they would come up that if this government run plan, public option, was so good, why don't members of Congress take the plan?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Congressman Wilson, listen up. I know legislating isn't really your thing, and it takes a while to get the hang of it, and you've only been there for, what, nine years or so? A few things you've got to know. First, members of Congress already have health insurance, which is paid for almost entirely by the taxpayer.
Second, the public option is for people who don't have employer-provided health insurance.
Third, it's your staff's job to talk you out of introducing idiotic amendments. Try talking to them once in a while. If they let this happen again, someone's got to be fired. And we know it can't be you. So give your staff fair warning.
Joining us now from Washington, D.C. is Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: I want to get you on the latest development in the Senate. It seems that Harry Reid has said things here and there in the last 48 hours that indicate they may not be able to finish health care reform this year, which would move it over into an election year. Now, I think many of us believed that in 1994, one of the big reasons health care went down in flames was that we tried to do it during an election year. Is this as bad as it sounds?
WEINER: Well, I don't know. It's a very difficult situation in the Senate. They don't have the same control over the floor we do in the House. They can offer hundreds and hundreds of amendments. I hope it gets done quickly. We in the House are probably going to try to finish this weekend with our version of the bill.
Senator Reid has a very difficult job. And so long as he gets it right, I think we should be prepared to wait a little bit longer. But we can't allow delay to be the enemy of this project. And frankly, the Republicans have said they're going to try to delay it as much as they can. We can't let them do that.
O'DONNELL: Congressman, let's consider Joe Wilson's amendment for a second. He probably won't be able to bring it up in the House, but someone is sure to throw that in the hopper in the Senate, where they have unlimited power to offer amendments. What's the right Democratic play on that? Use that as an opportunity to point out that no one is forced to join the public option? It is actually just an option. Or just call the Republicans on it, and say, OK, we in the Congress will all join the public option?
WEINER: Well, it's interesting he got this idea at Enchiladas or whatever it is, because he seems to be one taco shy of a combo himself. But the fact of the matter is that Congressman Wilson is demonstrating a weird schizophrenia about this. Is he saying that not enough people are getting access to the public option? He wants to extend it to all six million federal employees? I'm open to that idea. I think that all Americans, like Senator Wyden are saying, should have access to the exchange to be able to get the public option.
Or is he saying that he's goat the public option and, therefore, when he turns 65, he's not going to accept Medicare. This is part of the schizophrenia that's going on in the Republican party.
But just so your viewers understand, you made the point in the introduction; no one is going to be forced to take the public option. In fact, most people who get their insurance from their employer, like you and I do, won't be able to even ask for the public option. But if he wants to broaden it, I'd heartily support that. But that means he's supporting the Democratic plan.
O'DONNELL: Now, Congressman-your colleague, Congresswoman Bachmann wants the halls of the Capitol to be filled tomorrow with her wide-eyed vigilante mobs to confront you, look into the whites of your eyes, and tell you not to take their health care away. Now I know you have a tougher time with crowds on the streets in Brooklyn than you will with these people. But what do they expect to accomplish by something like this? This just sounds like they're trying to create chaos in the building.
WEINER: I don't know. But as we say in the schoolyards of Brooklyn, bring it on, chicky. If you want to come talk about this and debate this, you know, I've had 15 town hall meetings in my district. I've come on your show a bunch of times. I don't mind having a discussion about this.
But what I'm asking supporters of the public option to do is go to CountdownToHealthCare.com. And I've told Michele Bachmann that I will get five people signing up saying they want the public option for every one person that comes and says, no, we don't like competition, we don't like lower prices, we don't want the public option.
That's CountDownToHealthCare.com. And I bet you my group will beat her mob any day of the week.
O'DONNELL: What are you suggesting to your Democratic colleagues on how to handle these mobs in the hallway tomorrow?
WEINER: Well, frankly, you know, most of us have real work to be doing. I know Congresswoman Bachmann is not in that group. But I would encourage people, if they want to blow off a little steam, they can go out and engage the folks. I-in all kidding aside-I encourage citizens to come to the United States Capitol. We don't shield ourselves. They'll be able to sit on the steps of the Capitol and see everyone coming up. And I'll be glad to debate them as long as they want.
O'DONNELL: The brave Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, many thanks tonight.
WEINER: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, a piece of political history is unearthed. We all know the galactic battle to keep Sarah Palin from speaking at the concession rally exactly one year ago. In a Countdown exclusive, we have obtained video footage of the speech Palin wanted to deliver.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Matthew Hoh, the foreign service officer who quit his job to protest the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, in his first prime-time interview.
O'DONNELL: Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, FDR's First Inaugural Address, JFK's Inaugural, Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Obama's Convention Speeches in 2004 and 2008, the great American political speeches. But one year ago, America was deprived of perhaps another entry in the archives of great political speeches: Sarah Palin's election night address to a nation.
Our number one story, Countdown has unearthed never-before-seen footage of the former vice presidential candidate going rogue and delivering the speech the McCain campaign did not want you to see. In a new book called "Sarah From Alaska," two reporters covering the McCain campaign reveal election night turmoil between McCain's aides and team Palin.
Even though vice presidential candidates never speak on election night, Palin had two speeches prepared, and wanted to deliver the one that was appropriate to the outcome. When McCain aides nixed that idea, Governor Palin tried to create some confusion so she could deliver her speech anyway.
Long after Senator McCain addressed the crowd, "Palin went back out on stage to take pictures with her family. And McCain's staff was so terrified that she would give a speech after all, they turned the lights out on her."
Now, that's all the book will reveal. But Countdown has learned that Palin actually toughed it out and found a way to deliver her concession speech. Here now, the video that captured that extraordinary moment.
MUSTO: I wish Barack Obama well as the 44th president of the United States. If he governors America with the skill and grace we have often seen in him, and the greatness of which he is capable, we're going to be just fine.
It would be a happier night if elections were a test of valor and merit alone. But that is not for us to question now. I told my husband Todd to look at the upside. Now, at least, he can clear his schedule and get ready for championship title number five in the Iron Dog Snow Machine Race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining me now for analysis of this incredible discovery, columnist for the "Village Voice" and author of the book "Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back," Michael Musto. Thanks for joining us tonight, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, "THE VILLAGE VOICE": Hi, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: This is word for word what she said. We've read the printed transcript of the speech now. And you've been able to read the entire speech. Those are just excerpts. Do you think America was really robbed of a potentially great American political speech?
MUSTO: I do. In that clip, she really was never lovelier. There's a hint of razor stubble, especially with the flashlight in her face. But she's real sexy to me. And unfortunately, not enough of a golly gosh kind of thing. I always count on Sarah Palin to be like a walking Hallmark card, who sugar coats her hideousness a little bit more.
O'DONNELL: You know, and I find in campaigns the concession speech, the loser's speech, is frequently the most poignant speech of the campaign, frequently the best speech of the campaign for that candidate. It touches the heart. It pulls at the heart strings. She had elements of that in the speech, didn't she?
MUSTO: Well, the loser's speech is the only one she would have even been allowed to make. She couldn't even make a loser's speech, because they were like, let's turn out the lights on this lady. But a victory speech is something Sarah Palin is not going to make, except maybe on "Top Chef" or something, where she'll probably end up.
O'DONNELL: And she managed to get acknowledgements to her family.
MUSTO: Oh, she mentioned Todd, I think, more times in that 40 seconds than she did in the last 20 years. Too much with the first dude thing, honey, though I think he's going to be the ex-dude, according to the gossip I've been reading.
O'DONNELL: Now we do have the more impossible speech. Countdown has also unearthed footage of the ex-governor rehearsing a possible victory speech. Here now, a few excerpts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUSTO: It's been just 68 days since that afternoon in Dayton, Ohio, when Senator McCain introduced me as his running mate. He is truly the maverick. He took a chance on me. Along the way in this campaign, it was Todd, as always, who helped with the children, gave me advice, and kept me strong.
There are a lot of men in this world who could learn a few things from Todd Palin. And I am so lucky that he is still my guy. And I said to my husband, Todd, that it's not a step down when he's no longer Alaska's first dude. He will now be the first guy ever to become the second dude.
Had it gone the other way tonight, we would not have returned in sorrow to the great state of Alaska. We would have carried with us memories that are forever and joyful, experiences that do not depend on victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Yes. A lot of first-time usages in that speech for a vice presidential or presidential candidate. First dude, I don't believe, appears in any of the speeches that I've referenced.
MUSTO: I haven't heard the word dude since Scooby Doo.
O'DONNELL: And maverick, I noticed maverick appears in the victory speech, not in the concession speech.
MUSTO: Yes, well she says McCain is the maverick, I guess, for not turning out the lights. He was considering it, not because he cared about her speech, but really he was trying to conserve other Republicans' bill, because they had almost gone bankrupt from her wardrobe, those blouses and cute clip ons.
O'DONNELL: McCain made an awful lot of mistakes in this campaign.
MUSTO: Just one, choosing her.
O'DONNELL: Was this his final mistake, though? Shouldn't he have let these speeches go? Well, the concession speech was the only one he was going to be able to let go.
MUSTO: No, these speeches are so rotten. They rival I think Red Button's Oscar speech. The mistake was choosing her in the first place, so that she could possibly give a speech, whether she was supposed to or not.
O'DONNELL: Would she have to have resigned the Alaska governorship even faster if she had given that concession speech?
MUSTO: She would be on that money grubbing lecture circuit even faster, and colliding with Levi Strauss? What is his name, Levi Stubbs? Levi Johnston, that's it. I just can't remember these D-List names anymore. But they would surely collide somewhere between Carrie Prejean's breasts. Or on the "Hollywood Squares."
O'DONNELL: Michael Musto, thank you for your dispassionate analysis of Sarah Palin's speech making tonight. Michael Musto of the "Village Voice," many thanks.
MUSTO: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: That will do it for this Wednesday edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END