Monday, January 18, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, January 18th, 2010
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Video via MSNBC: Quick Comment (Limbaugh), Quick Comment (Brown), Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Quick Comment (Limbaugh), Quick Comment (Brown)

Guests: Lester Holt, Bill Neely, Scott Horton, Markos Moulitsas, Eugene Robinson


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Amid the desperation in Haiti - finally, reports of the victims getting food and water.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.


OLBERMANN: The famous arrive; others depart.

And that which defies statistical chance, which defies belief, which defies description - others were hoping to find cash inside a crushed bank; this man believed, six days later, that inside it he could find his wife.


BILL NEELY, ITV REPORTER: He calls for silence, then for his wife Jeannette. "OK. She's there! She's alive," he says. Then, our first clear sight of her. Dust in her eyes, smiling, wincing - but alive.



OLBERMANN: Haiti, day seven, perhaps - says the lead U.S. general -

200,000 dead. Twenty-two hundred American Marines arriving offshore.

And here, the sliming of Wyclef Jean and his Haitian charity, it mainlines back to the former chief counsel to Senator Grassley of Iowa.

The 2006 deaths of three Gitmo detainees deemed suicide even though it's physically impossible to kill yourself the way they died. Now, guards serving at Gitmo confirm not only deceit and cover-up, they reveal a black site, a Gitmo within a Gitmo. Our exclusive interview with the reporter who breaks this story today, "Harper's" Scott Horton.

The bottom of the barrel: Conflicting polls on the eve of the Brown/Coakley election to replace Ted Kennedy. But nothing is conflicting about this: the Republican just assented to violence against women and violence against politicians with whom he disagrees.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shove a curling iron up her butt.



OLBERMANN: And "Worsts" -


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: And if Republicans win this, a political earthquake 9.9.


OLBERMANN: Is this really the time to call anything a political earthquake? Hannity has thought so - in three of his last four shows.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

It is the seventh night since a massive earthquake left Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a broken city. The long, hot days in between filled with the struggle to find a cup full of water or handful of food. But with as many as 200,000 people killed, and only 70,000 buried thus far, according to the latest estimates, the "Associated Press" and "Reuters" news agencies reporting that many are now seeking out an equally prized commodity: toothpaste. Not so they might clean the teeth of the food they are likely not eating yet, instead, Haitians are smearing the toothpaste under their noses to fend off the horrid smell.

The commander of the American forces in Haiti, Lieutenant General Ken Keen, is saying it is a reasonable assumption that up to 200,000 people may have died in Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake. General Keen adding that the disaster was of epic proportions but it is too early to know the full human cost.

Bodies are still laying in the streets under the hot sun nearly a week after the quake. People dragging some corpses to intersections in the hopes that garbage trucks or aid groups might arrive to take them away for burial in mass graves. Hundreds of young men, meantime, and boys breaking into shops and taking whatever they can find. As we mentioned, toothpaste or sprigs of basil now highly prized to cover up the smell of death.

U.S. officials are saying some 2,200 Marines will be arriving to join 1,700 American troops now on the ground. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announcing that he has asked the Security Council to beef up the peacekeeping contingent by 1,500 policemen and 2,000 more troops.

Soldiers from the American 82nd airborne bringing water by helicopter. When they first arrived on Saturday, they began by carrying water down this hill at what was once a country club but they were mobbed. So, instead the soldiers setting up this system, Haitians waiting patiently in line for hours for the meager supplies.

As always, it is the faces and the voices of the children that say the most as they accept the one bottle of water - no food - that they will receive that day.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. We thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

LT. COL. MIKE FOSTERS, U.S. ARMY, PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI: Hopefully, this will be at least something of a model, or at least lessons we learn as we continue to widen our footprint and to widen the help we're pushing out.




OLBERMANN: Two children among those rescued from the collapsed buildings over the weekend; one little boy telling paramedics who attended to him that he felt no pain and his only injury was a chipped tooth.

Former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea today are arriving at Port-au-Prince to tour the damage. The president who is helping to lead the fundraising effort back in the U.S. commenting on the bottleneck that remains in getting aid to many of the survivors.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: It wasn't like there was anybody in charge, but it wasn't anyone's fault. It's because of the way the earthquake took out people in the Haitian government and their physical structures.


OLBERMANN: And one of the more amazing rescues again captured on videotape, we'll bring you this compelling report in a moment.

First, live to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Lester Holt, the weekend anchor of "NBC Nightly News," who, in fact, interviewed President Clinton from which that one clip was just drawn.

Lester, thanks for your time. Good evening.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS, PORT-AU-PRINCE: Sure, Keith. Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Is there any measure yet, anybody even have a guess as to what percentage of those in need of relief of any kind have received anything yet, whether it's water or food or medical attention?

HOLT: I haven't heard that particular number, but, Keith, I have to be honest. I heard you recite a lot of numbers in terms of bodies buried and the possible number of dead, I don't believe any of them. And that's not calling anybody a liar.

I just don't think anybody really knows here because of the way this

city is laid out, the way it was before, the conditions that people live

in. Bodies, you know, you don't even see them sometimes because they're

covered in a dust and they match everything around them. I was standing in

not to be too graphic - but, you know, I was standing at a corner the other day watching some rescuers, you know, searching for the living and I looked down and there I see a leg sticking out of the rubble and then I realize, there's an arm.

I mean, you have no - no one has any idea how many people. People know who are missing and their family members know who they - who they can't find anymore, who they presume were in their houses, but I don't think we can really get caught up in a numbers game. Suffice it to say, this is a nightmare. It is a true horror.

OLBERMANN: And yet, within this horror, there is something exemplary. There have been fears, since the first night, of this that the patience would run out from people to whom this rescue effort can't possibly come fast enough, but we know that there are certain parameters that make it a reasonable thing. And yet, no matter what there has been, there have been reports of rubber bullets being used, there have reports of people having to be pulled out of areas that they're - that they're looting or taking things from, and yet, the over all sense from a distance - and I'd like to tell me whether it's correct or not - is that this is still holding together, shockingly well.

HOLT: It is. I wish - as you were asking that question - I wish you could hear it. But in the distance, and I can hear kids chanting and playing games right now. Those kids are living under sheets, under sticks, in a garbage-strewn field because their homes are destroyed. But they're out there playing right now.

I haven't had one negative encounter with a Haitian. I have had one person I think ask me for some water. People don't even - they know that we have provisions. They haven't even asked for anything.

So, at the same time, I'm not in denial. We, obviously, have seen the

pictures of people who are scavenging, taking belongings. I like to think

and based on my experience - that that is still the minority.

I think what I'm seeing here is people who are resolute. They're resilient. They have a spirit, but it is wearing thin.

And, Keith, you and I both covered disasters in other places, including the United States, hurricanes. We've seen the pattern before. There is that horrible shock when it happens. There's the grief over loss.

But then, as people realize that things aren't going to get back to normal, they get angry. And there are scenes. I have recorded them outside Home Depots when they're handing out ice in hurricanes in the gulf coast. Some of this is human nature.

This is horrible what people are living through here. I'm not going to make excuses for lawlessness, but at the same time, when you're living with a constant smell of death around you, when you're thirsty, when your family is missing, when you've not seen anyone from the government in your particular neighborhood. I'll give you an example, if I can. I went to a town today about 15 miles west of Port-au-Prince that no one has visited. Ninety percent of the homes we found: flattened.

People have buried their dead. They've recovered their dead. I saw a man, a father with his neighbors on the collapsed roof literally digging to find his 2-year-old daughter. Before we had gotten there they had recovered his wife.

They're doing this on their own. There are people who are standing up and saying, for whatever reason, help isn't here yet. It may come, may not. We have got to change our circumstances. So, it is happening.

OLBERMANN: Extraordinary and well told by Lester Holt of NBC News, joining us from Port-au-Prince. Thanks for the time, Lester. Appreciate it. Stay safe.

HOLT: You bet. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: The juxtaposition of tragedy and triumph in Haiti continues to overwhelm those of us looking on from whatever distance we stand from the scene. Friday night during this news hour, we were privileged to bring you an extraordinary report from Bill Neely of our affiliated British network, ITV, of the rescue of a man from the wreckage of a luxury hotel. Pulled from the rubble by a French search and rescue team, he had been trapped for 55 hours by a concrete beam that lay across his legs.

His name was Clinton Raab, a Methodist minister who had traveled to Haiti to attend a meeting of aid organizations working to improve medical services in that nation. Reverend Raab had been entering the lobby of the Hotel Montana to join some friends for dinner when the quake struck.

His family having announced over the weekend that the reverend had died as a result of the injuries he suffered. He had been airlifted to a hospital in Florida. His wife Suzanne and his brother Andrew were with him at a hospital when he died.

In addition to his wife and brother, Reverend Raab is survived by eight children. He was 60 years old.

But again, it is tragedy juxtaposed with triumph. There have been about 70 people extricated by the international search and rescue teams in the days since the nightmare began. We preceded Bill Neely's report about Clinton Raab by saying it was one of the most extraordinary pieces of television journalism you would ever see.

Tonight, Neely and fate have exceeded themselves with this story of Jeannette.


NEELY (voice-over): In the ruins of Haiti, the signs aren't good. It's day sixth. The diggers tear at the rubble making survival beneath unlikely. The scavengers at the bank search for money, not the living.

One man looks on. Raji still believes his wife, a bank worker, just might be alive. He rushes in every time ground is cleared. This time, someone hears a noise. He calls for silence then for his wife, Jeannette.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. She's there! She's alive.

NEELY: OK. "She's there. She's alive," he says. They scrape away stones to expose a small hole and allow the first light to reach the woman in six days. Her husband overwhelmed.

I can hear Jeannette talking. I put a microphone in and asked her if she's injured.

"Yes," she says. "My fingers are broken."


NEELY: She tells me she needs water. It would be a great pleasure.

"I'm thirsty and I can't see," she says. Then a message for her husband.


NEELY: "Even if I die, I love you so much. Don't forget it."

The risk of her dying remains. Not her husband nor anyone here has the equipment to get her out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to take a look?

NEELY: Suddenly, help arrives: firefighters from Los Angeles. They push a tiny camera into the hole and Jeannette is revealed. Her head is moving.


UNIDENTIFIED RESCUER: We'll get you something to drink first.

NEELY: They get her water and then begin cutting into the cables and beams around her. The light is fading. Hope is not.

Then, our first clear sight of her. Dust in her eyes, smiling, wincing, but alive.


TERRY DEJOURNETT, L.A. FIRE DEPARTMENT: It's amazing. She's in incredible shape for the time period she's been in there.

NEELY (on camera): Are you confident you'll get her out?

DEJOURNETT: Oh, yes. I am very confident.

NEELY (voice-over): There is just one major worry now: an aftershock.

UNIDENTIFIED RESCUER: We may not have a lot of time. Once it goes, it goes.


NEELY: On a camera, they've seen Jeannette's hand pinned under a beam. Free it and she's free. A rescuer reaches her hand. She is in pain.

UNIDENTIFIED RESCUER: Hang in there, Jeannette.

UNIDENTIFIED RESCUER: All right, Jeannette. We're almost there.

NEELY: But within three hours of first hearing her voice, she emerges.


NEELY: Her first words, "Thank you, God." And then an astonishing moment - the words of her song, "Don't be afraid of death." She told me she always thought she'd survive, but she wondered why this had happened to her.

(on camera): Did you think you would live? Did you think you would live?


NEELY: Well, this has been an absolutely remarkable rescue, the most remarkable thing of all is the life that's bursting from this woman's lungs.

But, obviously, six days after this earthquake, the chances of finding anyone else alive in this rubble are now very slim.

Jeannette Sanfor (ph) is alive and for her husband, it's a miracle.

But her survival is the exception in a city of death.

She drove away as if nothing had happened to see for herself the horror that had been hidden from her.

Bill Neely for NBC News in Port-au-Prince.


OLBERMANN: Whatever you do, however that affected you, do not donate to the White House Haiti Fund because one conservative commentator has decided anything handled by the White House has a 28 percent overhead. His rage against the current president now so out-of-control that he has failed to notice that one of the men who put his name on the Haiti Fund is George W. Bush.

A "Quick Comment" and the so-called Gitmo suicides of 2006 - an extraordinary confirmation tonight that the three detainees could not have taken their own lives.

An exclusive report - next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: "Harper's" magazine's remarkable Gitmo story, suicides that were not suicides, the nonexistent secret black site that was all too real.

First, we continue on the subject of Haiti for the first of tonight's "Quick Comments."

We are watching a conservative commentator adamantly, insistently, proudly, and daily committing slow professional suicide over the charitable response to the Haitian earthquake. "What about the administrative costs of donating through White for crying out loud?" he asked. "Do you know that one of the reasons the welfare budget is as high as it is, is that for every dollar that was budgeted for welfare or food stamps, AFDC, whatever it is, 28 cents of it was spent on administering it. So, 72 cents out of every dollar got there."

Rush Limbaugh has already insisted the president's actions have been motivated by racial politics. He has previously insulted service personnel risking their lives there by claiming the U.S. military in Haiti is now meals on wheels. He has already said, quote, "We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax."

And in a paranoid delusion, he has already discouraged Americans from donating to the Red Cross via the White House Web site, having concluded that the White House will keep both the e-mail addresses of donors and some of the money.

But all of this evidently was just prelude. The commentator is now saying, do not donate to the Haiti Fund that bears George W. Bush's name along with Bill Clinton's, because of the administrative costs of domestic welfare programs.

It is one thing to antagonize half the nation when one injects into the subject of charity hatred against one of the political parties. But what are you gaining? Whose interests could you possibly be serving when you come out wholeheartedly and defiantly, again and again, against human charity?


OLBERMANN: We told you last month about a devastating report refuting Pentagon claims that three Guantanamo Bay detainees killed themselves there in 2006. Tonight, four Gitmo soldiers have come forward, revealing in a "Harper's" magazine exclusive what really happened that night and how the cover-up is now being maintained by the Obama administration.

The Pentagon first claimed the men had hanged themselves to attack the U.S. in a bit of asymmetrical warfare. Based on a Seton Hall Law School analysis of the redacted report, Navy investigators NCIS, apparently concluded that the detainees somehow obtained enough cloth to make mannequins of themselves in their beds, to block surveillance cameras, to then braid makeshift nooses tied eight feet high on the wall, to shove more cloth down their own throats beyond the point of gagging, tie their hands together, then climb up on their sinks - at least one with his feet bound as well - get their heads through the nooses, tighten them, and drop to their deaths - simultaneously, in separate, nonadjacent cells.

After our newscast reporting that story interviewing Scott Horton of "Harper's" magazine, one of the viewers that night contacted Mr. Horton. The viewer was Joe Hickman, former Gitmo sergeant of the Army National Guard's 629th Military Intelligence Battalion who was stationed at tower 1 that night and noticed a Navy paddywagon taking a prisoner from Camp 1 and then take a left, which led only to the super secret Guantanamo site known only as "Camp No."

Camp no's existence was unknown until today. The Obama administration has not acknowledged its existence. After the van retrieved a second prisoner, Hickman went to a checkpoint where he visually confirmed, after the van got a third prisoner, that Camp No was the destination.

The Obama administration's official story still today is that the guards took all three to the clinic from their cells in Camp 1 after finding the first at 12:39 in the morning.

But Hickman had been back in tower 1 by 11:30 at night and saw the paddywagon unload something at the clinic directly from Camp No. A guard at tower 4 also with a clear line of sight corroborated to Horton Hickman's claim that no one was brought from Camp 1 to the clinic.

The next morning, "Harper's" reports, Colonel Bumgarner told Gitmo guards the detainees choked on rags but not to dispute the official story of hanging. Today, Bumgarner denied nothing specific, quote, "This blatant misrepresentation of the truth infuriates me. I don't know who Sergeant Hickman is, but he is only trying to be a spotlight ranger. He knows nothing about what transpired in Camp 1, or our medical facility. I do. I was there."

Except that on June 17th of that year, in a sworn statement to NCIS, Bumgarner had written, quote, "On the night of 09JUN06, I was not in the camp."

After President Obama's inauguration, Sergeant Hickman told his story to the new Justice Department. In April, the FBI asked one of Hickman's guards whether he would I.D. the site if they took him to Gitmo. But they never did.

The Department of Justice did nothing more about this until October 29th, two days after Hickman started talking to Congress secretly. When they suggested the investigation was done, Hickman asked them about witnesses still not interviewed. Within four days, the FBI asked, quote, "a few questions" of one witness and two others and closed the investigation.

With us now in his first TV interview since breaking this story is "Harper's" magazine contributing editor, Scott Horton, also an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and long-time human rights activist.

The story is on news stands February 15th. It's online now at Harper'

Welcome back.

SCOTT HORTON, HARPER'S MAGAZINE: Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN: All right. Sergeant Hickman approached you after our last interview here. Why? What does he think happened? What does he want now?

HORTON: Well, he watched Countdown and he saw our description and summation of the Seton Hall report and he wanted to add pieces that were missing from the puzzle. And, in fact, he added quite a few. I spent most of the last month dealing with him and his colleagues piecing things together.

And I have to say, their accounts add up perfectly. I see no problem with them. And they contradict decisively the official narrative that the joint task force in Gitmo put out, as well as the Bush administration.

OLBERMANN: Sergeant Hickman gave us an exclusive statement tonight that responds to the statement from Colonel Bumgarner. Let me read that.

"I am disappointed by today's statement from Army Colonel Michael Bumgarner because I know what I witnessed at Guantanamo Bay. I look forward to testifying under oath before Congress at the appropriate venue. I stand by my story."

Can you support that?

HORTON: Yes, I - in fact, I was puzzled by Colonel Bumgarner's statement because, in fact, I know from talking to all of these soldiers, including Sergeant Hickman, that they all like Colonel Bumgarner. In fact, I would say their statements even reflected a great degree of affection towards him and disappointment that he wound up being dismissed. So, there's no animosity there.

Moreover, I looked very closely at all of the official narrative that Colonel Bumgarner presented and there is no conflict between Sergeant Hickman's narrative and Colonel Bumgarner's narrative. In fact, Colonel Bumgarner makes clear he was not there at the camp all the way up until 12:45 in the morning. And the critical events that form the basis of this narration occurred between 7:00 and roughly midnight.

OLBERMANN: So, who - who killed these men? Do you know?

HORTON: We don't know. And I think one thing we should all be cautious about is rushing to any conclusions about how they died - because previously the prior investigation was over before it began. It was: they hung themselves in their cells and it was suicide. That was a decision that was being - that was the conclusion that was being forced from the top.

That's clearly not a correct conclusion. I think now we know where they died.

But one of the big questions is: who is the landlord at that facility?


HORTON: Who was running it? It really seemed to have been off the map for the Guantanamo command. Many of the soldiers speculated that this was a CIA facility. Other information we see suggests maybe the JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command.


HORTON: But frankly, I don't think this is something that was being run by the prison guards and the Gitmo command.

OLBERMANN: So, as I referred to it earlier, it's a Gitmo inside a Gitmo.

HORTON: That's correct.

OLBERMANN: The Justice Department pushed back - as I understand it -

against you naming names about their people, but not about the specifics.

And if they're covering this up, then, why are they doing so? Are they doing so unwillingly? And for whom are they doing it?

HORTON: Well, that's an interesting question. In fact, we made some pretty harsh accusations about the Justice Department's role in the cover-up, including the positions or things that have been done by the FBI in the first days after these events where they appeared to be attempting to intimidate people, prevent them from talking about what was going on.

We talked about the Justice Department filing what appeared to be false statements with federal court. No questions raised by the Justice Department about any of that. In fact, what they came to us with was their severe complaint that certain Justice Department lawyers were identified by name as having appeared in certain interviews.

And they don't deny that the interviews occurred. They don't deny that what was said in the interviews was said. They just don't want these individual lawyers identified by name. They want them to be anonymous lawyers and FBI agents.

OLBERMANN: Well, that's a clear and convincing response that would indicate to you that your reporting is somehow flawed in some superior way. I hate to laugh on this subject but that's such an extraordinary response.

There seems to be nothing to do but laugh in a sad way.

HORTON: It's disappointing, because I think, in this entire matter, really, one of the - one of the central failures really seems to be by the Department of Justice, which is not behaving like a law enforcement agency, finding the facts of criminal activity. In fact, the Department of Justice appears to be acting like a criminal defense law firm that realizes it's closely connected to people who are involved with some very serious heavy-lifting crimes and it wants to cover them up.

That's not what we expect of our Justice Department.

OLBERMANN: One would hope not.

Attorney Scott Horton, also of "Harper's" magazine - the magazine is out on February 15th and the story is already online, and it's an extraordinary, it's a document - great thanks for it and for your time again, Scott.

HORTON: Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN: An ugly turn to the campaign to succeed Ted Kennedy. A Republican supporter suggests that raping the Democratic candidate is OK. The Republican candidate replies, "We can do this." Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Tomorrow, voters in Massachusetts will decide who will fill the seat of Senator Ted Kennedy. And at this late hour, news out of the Republican campaign reminiscent of the McCain/Palin rallies of 2008. Senator John Kerry is asking candidate Scott Brown to get his supporters, quote, under control. It is now apparently a dead heat, with some of the polling putting the Republican ahead. The latest Research 2000/Daily Kos poll shows Democratic State Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican State Senator Scott Brown tied at 48.

The Coakley in a frantic get out the vote drive, with President Obama risking some of his political capital, appearing by Coakley's side in Boston.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where we don't want to go right now is backwards to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place, when we've just started to make progress cleaning it up.


OLBERMANN: Today, Coakley and Brown attending a breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Coakley spoke at the event, as did Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino, and Martin Luther King III, and both men urged the crowd to continue President Obama's agenda. Mr. Brown accusing Ms. Coakley of politicizing Dr. King's message, then complained to reporters, "I didn't realize this was a rally for Martha."

Something else Mr. Brown didn't realize, stuff you say on camera doesn't go away after you say it. Video resurfacing of Mr. Brown commenting on then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, defending her unwed pregnant teenage daughter, while accusing Mr. Obama of being born out of wedlock.


SCOTT BROWN (R), CANDIDATE FOR US SENATE: Quite frankly, Barack's mom had him when she was, what, 18 years old?


BROWN: I don't know about that.


OLBERMANN: Brown is not apologizing for that comment. Instead, he is blaming it on Martha Coakley. Something more disturbing coming out of the Brown campaign, a call to violence against women and other politicians. At one of his rallies, a Brown supporter making a crude reference to Coakley, alluding to a sexual abuse case her office prosecuted.




OLBERMANN: Brown's camp claims the candidate "did not hear the comment. The "we can do it" or "we can do this" statement was in response to the growing energy of the crowd." Even though Mr. Brown appears to respond directly to the person making the comment and there was no noise otherwise heard.

The state's senior senator issuing a statement this afternoon, asking Mr. Brown to speak up and get his tea party supporters under control. "What we've seen in the past few days is way over the line and reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin's 2008 campaign rallies. This is not how democracy works, said John Kerry in Massachusetts.

Joining me now, Markos Moulitsas, creator of Daily Kos, as well as author of "Taking on The System, Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era."

Good evening.


OLBERMANN: This has been trending away from Coakley and towards Brown pretty steadily for many days. Is there any indication that that might reverse for tomorrow, election day?

MOULITSAS: It's looking pretty bleak right now for the Democrats. Absolutely it's trending away from them. Our poll had it 48/48. That's probably the most optimistic numbers out of any pollster coming out today. so it does look bleak. I mean, the only thing that might turn things around is that the Democrats have a well established machine in Massachusetts, with labor unions and so on. If they can - if Coakley wins, it's going to be because of that turnout machine. Because right now things are looking pretty bleak.

OLBERMANN: How did it get so bleak? Was it assumption that the machine was going to handle everything and momentum would handle everything and the Kennedy name and the memorial to Ted Kennedy would handle everything?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, I think all of that. Coakley won her primary and then she apparently declared mission accomplished and took a nap. And as we've seen in recent years, you really can't take anything for granted in politics. You have to work hard at it. Ted Kennedy never took his voters for granted. He worked hard, even though he was an icon in the state, and was going to win big. He never took those voters for granted. I think the voters responded to that. Coakley did. And of course now she is suffering the effects of that.

OLBERMANN: The coarseness of her opponent, Mr. Brown, and the coarseness of the race that he has run - has that just not been sufficiently covered by the media locally or nationally, or has it not been exploited by the Democrats? How did that part of this equation get lost?

MOULITSAS: Well, the Republicans did a really good job of running under the radar by not seeming like this was a competitive race. There was no reason for the media to cover this. And so he could go around appealing to this tea party conservatives by doing what they do best, which is run on a - basically a regressive agenda.

So he was able to do that under the radar. Now it's a week before the election. The Democrats wake up. They start running hard. They start running negative. And it looks a little desperate when you do that last minute.

OLBERMANN: Brown's surge was the only story that Fox News covered last week that was not about Sarah Palin. It has been presented as an auger about everything from the Republicans taking the Senate back to the outcome of 2012, everything except disproving climate change. And they probably just didn't feel like they need to do that. Assuming it is a Republican win or a close Democratic win, what, in fact, is the meaning and the context?

MOULITSAS: I think the meaning is that you can't take anything for granted. The voters are angry. They want sort of populist anger from their candidates. And Brown, the Republican, is offering that. Now, of course, it's fake populism. He want the banks and Wall Street to keep all their money. He doesn't want them to pay back the taxpayers. If you pretend your a populist, and your opponent lets you get away with it, you are going to look pretty good on election day.

OLBERMANN: He is certainly angry enough. Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, as always, great thanks.

MOULITSAS: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: There is also the context of how the junior senator from Massachusetts, whoever that may be, will vote on health care. Next.

An extraordinary claim tonight; the shoe bomber was not sent here by al Qaeda. The claim comes from one of the stalwarts of the Bush administration.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, another kind of donation to Haiti. Why now is the time, she says, to forgive that country's debt.


OLBERMANN: Only a cynic would argue if Martha Coakley loses in Massachusetts tomorrow night, and the Democrats lose the 60-vote super majority in the Senate as a result, that health care reform will be the better for it, that the Democrats have done so poorly with the super majority that anything else couldn't turn out worse.

Then again, if it happens, the Democrats might have no choice but to turn to reconciliation to pass a bill. It would be a better bill. First Read on outlining four options for Democrats should Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley, all of which have caveats.

One, hurry up and vote while Ted Kennedy's replacement, Senator Paul Kirk, is still in office, before the special election results are certified.

Number two, Democrats could revisit their attempts to woo the Republican senator of Maine Olympia Snowe, who once upon a time voted with Democrats on health care reform in the Senate Finance Committee.

Three, the House could adopt the Senate's version of health care legislation and thwart a Senate filibuster, but probably rankle a whole bunch of House progressives in the process.

And four, that ever present budget reconciliation process.

Let's turn now to Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of "The Washington Post". Gene, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Republicans are already saying Paul Kirk must stop voting when the polls close tomorrow night. I'm sure in the event of whatever the result, the Democrats would disagree. In the event it's close tomorrow night, should we expect recount, lawsuit, delay, stretch from either direction?

ROBINSON: You might get it from either side. I mean, Paul Kirk is the senator, as far as I understand it, until a new senator is certified. And now, there is a question as to how long the Democrats might take with that process in the event that Coakley were to lose. But absolutely no reason that Paul Kirk would not vote, as long as he is the US Senator from Massachusetts.

I assume he would. And so there might be some sort of fight over that and over the certification.

OLBERMANN: Talking to reporters today, the speaker of the House said, "certainly the dynamic would change depending what happens in Massachusetts, but it doesn't mean we won't have a health care bill. There is no back to the drawing board. Let's remove all doubt. We will have health care one way or the other.


Is the house ready to work on the Senate bill that passed on Christmas Eve? Are they in position to act on this immediately?

ROBINSON: Well, that would be the - what I would call the bird in the hand approach. Some people don't think it's a bird at all. I think it's kind of a bird. But, in any event, the one thing, if the House wanted to, it could just flat out pass the Senate bill. And you'd have a health care bill that the president could sign.

Now, as you mentioned, that would not go over well with a lot of progressives in the House. There would be a lot of angst and sturm and drung over such a proposal. I assume they're talking about it in the House, because that is clean and quick.

Other than that, you're not going to get Olympia Snowe's vote. And I don't think you're going to get anything complicated through the House in the next two weeks. So the other alternative would be the reconciliation process. And frankly, I just don't think the Democrats want to continue talking about health care for another X months.

OLBERMANN: The argument that was made against reconciliation, as I understood it, the only one I ever heard that made any sense whatsoever, was you do not want to go back into committees, you do not want to hawk it off all the committee chairmen or chairwomen in both houses. And yet, the bar for passage in the Senate would suddenly drop dramatically, and you could conceivably pass a more liberal bill.

You mentioned they don't want to be talking about it. But at least there would be results at the end of the day, as opposed to this fiasco.

ROBINSON: Well, it is conceivable that you could get a better bill if you could keep together a House majority, in addition to a Senate majority that, again, would want to go through the - how long would it take? At least a couple months, you would think.

Look, if Coakley does lose, a hundred percent of the House has to stand in November. And a lot of those folks, progressive, conservative, Blue Dog, whatever, are going to be a bit more nervous than they would have been, than they would be if she wins. So that is a factor, and you got to take it into consideration in terms of what is actually possible.

OLBERMANN: Senate Minority Leader McConnell yesterday called the election in Massachusetts a referendum on health care reform, and I assume that means that if Coakley wins, he turns around and supports it?

ROBINSON: Yeah. When we see, you know, pigs flying around dive bombing the Capitol, that'll happen. I really don't expect him to keep to his word on that.

OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of "The Washington Post," as always, great thanks. We'll keep our fingers crossed on Mr. McConnell just in case.

ROBINSON: Good to talk to you.

OLBERMANN: Polls close in Massachusetts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Our coverage begins on a special edition of Countdown at that hour. Rachel at 9:00. A second live edition of Countdown at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Rachel live again at 11:00. Chris live from Boston at midnight, and on into the early morning as necessary, here on MSNBC.

We are not quite done with Massachusetts yet. Worsts, where since the nightmare began in Haiti the vote has been analogized three times to an earthquake. And a quick comment about Scott Brown and the bottom of the political barrel, next.


OLBERMANN: Worsts next. And in the week of ,Haiti can you really call anything a political earthquake three times? Staying on the subject of the special Massachusetts senatorial election though, here is the second of tonight's quick comments.

Lost in the angst about Obama and Coakley is the little recognized real headline of this vote. You have heard Scott Brown speculating, talking out of his bare bottom, about whether or not the president of the United States was born out of wedlock. You've heard Scott Brown respond to the shout from his supporter that they should stick a curling iron into Ms. Coakley's rectum with the answer: "we can do this."

You may not have heard Scott Brown support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, or describing two women having a child as being, quote, "just not normal."

You may not have heard Scott Brown associating himself with the Tea Party movement, perhaps the saddest collection of people who don't want to admit why they really hate since the racists of the south in the '60s insisted they were really just concerned about states' rights.

You may not have heard Scott Brown voting against funding paid leaves of absence for Massachusetts Red Cross workers, who had gone to New York to help after 9/11.

In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, Tea Bagging supporter of violence against women, and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as an unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.


OLBERMANN: Latest updates from Haiti next. But first tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Karen Hughes, the latest former Bush administration official to contract I-forget-itis, or is it something worse? Politicizing terror, she bashes Obama for making Abdulmutallab a criminal defendant, not a military one, after his attempt on Detroit over Christmas. And John Podesta notes, "that is exactly what the Bush administration did with Mr. Reid, the shoe bomber, who was - in very similar circumstances, was traveling to the United States."

Ms. Hughes replied and disagreed; "the circumstances weren't similar. He was not sent here by al Qaeda to engage in an act of war against our country. It was not a similar situation."

Oddly, the Bush administration indictment against Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, specified his training at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, training in the use of weapons of mass destruction against the agencies of the United States. And when he was sentenced, Richard Reid announced his, quote, "allegiance to Osama bin Laden."

Of course, Ms. Hughes, if you know more about Richard Reid and al Qaeda, maybe if you know they weren't in fact connected after all, please tell us so. And tell us why, if you're not just a sleazy liar, this little detail has been withheld from the American public by your administration for seven years.

Our runner-up, Dean Serby (ph), described by "The Washington Post" in an article on Saturday as the national managing director of Alliant Group, a tax services company. In the article, Mr. Serby slimed the Haitian relief fund established by rapper Wyclef Jean. It is unclear if Mr. Serby was merely responding to tax documents posted on the website Smoking Gun, or if he helped get them out there, or helped publicize them once they were out there. But, in any event, he went into full slime mode. "It seems clear," he told the Post, "that a significant amount of the moneys that this charity raises go for costs other than providing benefits to Haitians in need. It brings real caution for donors that want to help in Haiti that they might want to take a harder look at this organization, but also consider the significant number of charities that have been doing good work in Haiti that don't have these question marks."

Except it turns out there aren't question marks. Wyclef Jean's charity indeed paid Wyclef Jean to perform at a charity concert, and it rented recording studios, in essence, from itself, but for far less than he normally gets for a performance or for that studio. The former head of the IRS unit overseeing nonprofits says this is not only legal, it is routine. And moreover, while it would seem that Mr. Jean and other board members got a total of 381,000 dollars in payments from the charity, the services they provided were worth much more than that and Jean, himself, had donated a million dollars to his own charity.

And a punch line about Jean's self-satisfied critic Dean Serby. "The Washington Post" somehow left this little nugget out: until 2008, Mr. Serby was senior counsel to the infamous Senator Charles "grandma killer" Grassley of Iowa.

But our winner tonight, Sean Hannity. These are three clips about the Massachusetts senate race. The first is from last Tuesday, hours after the Haiti earthquake. The second is from last Thursday, two days after the Haiti earthquake. And the third is from last Friday, three days after the Haiti earthquake.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But what's amazing about - this would be a political earthquake.

What a political earthquake that would be.

If the republicans win this, a political earthquake 9.9.


OLBERMANN: Three tasteless uses of the word earthquake since the Haitian earthquake, including an imaginary reading from the Richter Scale. Mr. Hannity have you ever checked? Is your head, by any chance, made out of cheese? Sean Hannity, today's worst person in the world.

The news continues to come from the actual horrors of the actual real-life earthquake. And now to continue our coverage of day seven in Haiti, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.