Monday, January 25, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, January 25th, 2010
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Video via MSNBC: Quick Comment (DeMint), Quick Comment (terror expert), Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment (DeMint), Quick Comment (terror expert)
second Quick Comment is missing from transcript

Guests: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Ezra Klein, Margaret Carlson, Robert Moore,

David Corn, Markos Moulitsas


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

No corporate political campaigns without shareholder votes. No corporate political ads without putting their names on them. No corporate political ads if they have government contracts. These, the early ideas, were pushbacks by the administration against the Supreme Court's decision to let the corporation spend all the money they can find to buy our elections.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of every day Americans. And we don't intend to.


OLBERMANN: The corporations' first attempt to defeat the people? Thirty-eight million dollar spent to kill health care reform or $380 million, perhaps?

The White House insists reform is not dead yet.


DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: The president will not walk away from the American people, will not hand them over to the tender mercies of health insurance companies who take advantage.


OLBERMANN: Putting the Democrats back into the democracy; putting top campaigner David Plouffe back into the Obama inner circle.

Haiti - warehouses bulging with food supplies now. The U.N. starts to distribute to the desperate, then incredibly packs it all up and goes home. Why?




OLBERMANN: Saddam Hussein and 9/11: The Bush Pentagon hired a conspiracy theorist to assess al Qaeda who not only insisted there was a link but also that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the Oklahoma City bombing.

"Worsts": FOX does not run the Haitian earthquake telethon so Billo can tell you how great his ratings are.

See if I got this straight. Want to dig up Leonardo da Vinci because if you can find his head you can prove his painting of the Mona Lisa is really a self-portrait. What are you going to do when you exhume his body? Ask him?

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

As we face the first full week of unlimited corporate spending on buying the elections through advertising - thanks to the Supreme Court - breaking news at this hour, the "Associated Press" is reporting that the president will propose a three-year spending freeze on some domestic programs in his State of the Union Address on Wednesday night.

This is couched as a reaction to the political backlash about the budget deficit, it would apply - according to the "A.P." - to a range of about $477 billion in domestic spending, and excluded would be the Pentagon, Homeland Security, veterans programs, and foreign aid - details throughout this news hour as they continue to come in.

Of course, they come in in the context of a presidential push today to respond to that Supreme Court decision by changing some laws which the corporations could then spend money to defeat at the polls or in the courts. reporting that Norm Eisen, a White House ethics lawyer

leading the way on this issue for Obama, met on Friday with staff for

Democrats. Chuck Schumer of the Senate, former and quite effective

chairman of the party's Senate campaign committee and Chris Van Hollen, the

chairman of the party's House campaign committee - who joins us presently

to discuss what legislation could blunt the impact of the court's ruling. This after the two men held a news conference on Thursday in which they discussed new ways and new law to prevent corporations from campaign spending unless shareholders signed off first.

Other measures under discussion "Politico" reporting, requiring companies that pay for campaign ads, anti or pro, to identify themselves clearly in the ads themselves, restricting the ability of big companies to simultaneously run such ads and hold big government contracts and making it tougher for companies and other outside groups to coordinate ad campaigns with the candidates and parties themselves.

The Republican Senator John McCain, who fought his own party fiercely to pass campaign finance reform and whose very own trophy in that fight, the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Law died at the Supreme Court's hands, is now facing a primary challenge from the right and he shrugged his shoulders yesterday. "I don't think there is much that can be done," he said.

In his weekly address Saturday, the president said the White House had already begun working with Congress, quote, "to develop a forceful bipartisan response to this decision." The president is saying the ruling will empower corporations to block regulation with the big banks, preserve tax loopholes that reward companies from moving jobs overseas, and even let foreign oil companies promote candidates whose opposing American energy independence.


OBAMA: This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising, to persuade elected officials to vote their way or to punish those who don't. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations can now get into the act.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now - as promised - Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the Democrat of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.


COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let me start with this breaking news, this proposed three-year spending freeze on domestic - some domestic programs in a ballpark as they say of $477 billion worth of spending. What do you know about that and what is the intent?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I just learned about it as well. We have been working closely with the White House to look for ways to reduce the deficit over a period of time. We've talked to the president about passing what we call statutory pay-go, which means when the Congress enacts new programs, we have to make sure that there are funds to pay for it, or that we make cuts elsewhere. And this is part of the program the president has been looking at to make those kind of reductions.

So, we'll have to look at his proposal, but the idea of making sure that we put the deficit on a downward path - a predictable downward path, is something we're all working to accomplish.

OLBERMANN: Is there any reason for anyone looking at this from the jaundiced political view of - well, America of 2010 - to say that does not have some connection to recent political setbacks for the president?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, only that this has been something the White House had been exploring before Massachusetts. But I think there's no doubt, Keith, that when you look at the unrest in many parts of the American electorate - especially the independent voters - clearly, one of the things they've been most worried about is fiscal deficits, as have all of us.

The point we've all been making is that the most important thing you need to do to get the economy on a sustainable footing is to get people back to work. If you don't have economic growth, you're going to have larger deficits.

So, priority number one has to be jobs and only when you create economic growth will you, all the time, be able to bring down that deficit. But this is an important proposal the president has put on the table and we're looking forward to working with him to reduce that deficit.

OLBERMANN: To our original topic, then, Congressman, and obviously, all of the breaking news is academic if we don't have control of our government anymore. Can you confirm anything about those particular possible pushbacks to the Supreme Court decision that they, in fact, are on the table and are there any other ideas that maybe we don't know about?

VAN HOLLEN: Yes. Those ideas are on the table, and as you said - I mean, this issue, the Supreme Court's decision, goes to virtually every debate we have. Whether it's on energy policy where you have special interests on the big oil side, whether it's on health care policy, you have the big insurance companies, the ideas spelled in that article were essentially requiring shareholders to approve the expenditures, requiring the CEOs to take responsibility, "Hi, I'm chairman of X corporation and I approve this ad"; making sure we don't allow domestic - foreign corporations through U.S. subsidiaries to be spending foreign money to try and influence U.S. elections. Those are among the ideas.

Another one is - AIG, for example. They just took billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Should they be allowed to turn around and advertise against a member of Congress who wants to hold Wall Street accountable or who opposes big bonuses for AIG?

So, we're looking at a number of alternatives but this decision, as you know, is a very radical and far-reaching decision. So, we're looking at every possibility to try and blunt it, and we're working to try and introduce a bill no later than about 10 days from now.

OLBERMANN: Yes, obviously, the far-reaching point is correct. Are you fearful, though, about the short term? How does the president and those of you in Congress who are working with him on this expecting some members of Congress to pass a law that - just short-term, in their own personal interests - prevents them from getting more monetary help essentially in their own election campaigns?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's the question. I hope Senator McCain will

refine his voice on this issue, because he had been a champion of fair

elections, clean elections. So, it's disappointing to hear him saying he -

this may be a dead issue. Especially, the day of the opinion, of course, he said he was disappointed. If he's disappointed, we hope he'll join us in doing something about it very quickly.

OLBERMANN: Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the chair of the House campaign committee - thanks for your help on this story tonight and our breaking news as well.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: As President Obama put it Saturday, the ruling, quote, "would give the health insurance industry even more leverage to fend off reforms that would protect patients," and, of course, they've been so shy in that area so far.

The newspaper "The Hill" reports that last year, according to federal

lobbying disclosure forms, the nation's big health insurance companies and

their trade groups spent just about $38 million only on lobbying expenses -

CIGNA and Aetna ramping up spending from 2008 by 23 percent and 40 percent respectively. And, of course, the total health sector figure in all venues and forms could easily be 10 times that or who knows - maybe even more.

Presidential advisers yesterday said health care reform is not dead. Valerie Jarrett referring to internal discussions, quote, "to see what the climate is, what's the art of the possible," discussing a possible cooling off period. The White House press secretary, Mr. Gibbs, said talks are under way to determine whether and when Democrats can pass reform but it was Obama's former campaign manager, David Plouffe, now returning to the Obama political shop, who wrote in "The Washington Post," simply, quote, "pass a meaningful health insurance reform package without delay."

Let's bring in Ezra Klein, who covers economic and domestic policy for "The Washington Post."

Great thanks for your time, again, tonight, Ezra.


OLBERMANN: Let me start, again, with you with this breaking news, the idea and it mainlines into your area of expertise, the idea that the president is going to try to - at least appear to - work on the budget deficit by freezing an area encompassing $477 billion worth of domestic spending during the State of the Union address night after tomorrow.

Is this - has this been, in fact, in the works for a while? And do we have any idea what he's talking about?

KLEIN: Sure. We have seen leaks for a little bit now. I didn't actually expect him to go here.

You got to keep your eye on two different balls here. Number one,

they are going to propose specific cuts, that is to say some programs will

go up - think education here, maybe community health centers - and others

will go down. So, it isn't an across-the-board freeze. It's going to be -

some things go down and some things go up, and the net result is that there's no increase.

Now, number two, the most people I've spoken to about this - they expect those specific tax cuts should look OK. What happens is then they get to Congress and then somebody says, you know, we can't do without a dollar less in agricultural spending, agricultural subsidies. And so, they need to restore that cut. And so, they take that money out of, say, an increase in education.

So, you may see a budget come out that looks pretty good, but because what people really hear there is "freeze" rather than looking at exactly what composes the freeze, the question is: what Congress does with it when they get it.

OLBERMANN: So, the political reaction to this, I would assume, would be those people who have been upset with the - with the supposed run away spending in a time of financial crisis would react favorably to the word "freeze" without thinking it through too far, and people who would say, "Well, why are you freezing domestic spending, why not freeze the Pentagon" - might be displeased by it because they haven't thought through it the way you just described it.

KLEIN: Well, and I think I would be even more pessimistic than you there. I doubt that anybody who thinks this administration is engaged in run-away spending is going to give them too much credit on this, particularly as Democrats are going to have to also go forward simultaneously with a jobs bill that they're actually meeting as a caucus to discuss tomorrow, and that bill will include more spending.

So, it's a - it's going to be a little bit of a tricky - of a tricky tight rope for the White House to walk here. And, you know, I mean, again, I worry very much about what happens when, you know, these budget cuts hit Congress, because a lot of the programs that you would say are unnecessary, the reason they're there is because they have powerful constituencies, and a lot of the ones you wouldn't want to get cut, they don't.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's move back to health care. The Supreme Court ruling, does it change the political dynamic of the health care fight? I mean, does it simply increase Democratic terror that, you know, you're the next Martha Coakley? Or - and are we, in fact, seeing perhaps the echoes of this in this proposal from the president regarding freezing of domestic spending?

KLEIN: You know, I don't think so. I think if we had spoken a week ago and I'd said, you know, do you think McCain/Feingold is doing a good job keeping corporations out of the game? You would have said no.

The fact of the matter is, what corporations could do until now is say, you know, why don't you ask Senator Evan Bayh why he's so - why he's in favor of killing puppies? What they couldn't do is vote against him because he's in favor of killing puppies. Now, they can say that.

But my sense is that, actually, it won't have a very large material impact on the way elections are conducted. Right now, frankly, they can spend so much money in such, pretty much unregulated ways that they can buy what they want.

Do you know how much it actually costs a winning congressman to win his campaign in 2008? Eight million dollars.


KLEIN: To a corporation, that's nothing. And if they can't say "vote against him," they can certainly run an ad implying that his policies are all wrong for his district.

So, they've got plenty of power as it is. The hope is it gets things like Durbin's Fair Elections Act back into - back into the national discussion.

OLBERMANN: Is there a chance that certainly inadvertently, the Supreme Court just gave the insurance companies the proverbial enough rope and how might that play out?

KLEIN: You know what? I think you could see there is exactly something like Durbin coming back. I think what is almost useful about this ruling, I am perversely optimistic about it is that it is so deeply objectionable, even if it doesn't change that much. It articulates so clearly something that has become deeply sick in our politics, that it may actually excite people to begin looking at this, begin getting very serious about doing something that might actually work to fix it.

And that's up to the Democrats to do.

OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein of "The Washington post" - great thanks both as usual on the health care topic and on this breaking news about the domestic freezing the president will propose on Wednesday. Thanks, Ezra.

KLEIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: So, what does a debate like health care reform look like in a post-apocalyptic world of the Supreme Court "anything goes" decision on corporate advertising? How about this question? What does the debate look like when you consider the court also opened the door to foreign corporations to meddle in our elections - to which Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina says, "I didn't know that."

A "Quick Comment" - next.


OLBERMANN: And now, tonight's first "Quick Comment."

And we rejoin America asleep at the switch as its electoral system is overturned by the Supreme Court.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina was asked about the nightmare within this nightmare, the fact that the court OK'd not just corporations to "Bigfoot" election advertising. It OK'd foreign corporations to "Bigfoot" election advertising. "I don't believe that," DeMint actually said. "Right now, foreigners cannot give to the political process. I haven't read all the details of the court's decision."

Well, hop to it, Sparky. If some Middle Eastern potentate doesn't like Jim DeMint, you're looking at him being able to pour, say, $20 million into the campaign against you, or $50 million or $1 billion, and the voters right now would never know.

Maybe worse even than DeMint's passivity, we can now see which button heads really think they're going to benefit from this slow-motion corporate coup. There is a group called the National Center for Public Policy Research, which barely missed indictment in the Abramoff scandal. It's led by a former tobacco lobbyist and it released a laugh-out-loud funny statement about how the court's ruling, quote, "gives people more freedom of speech."

But best of all it tried to tie my criticism of this decision to the fact that the chairman of G.E. is on a presidential advisory panel and so, that makes what I said into a liberal plot, see? But G.E. is the point. But one of the points, there's no reason to assume it would be the first to try to purchase, say, the entire United States Senate. Halliburton might beat it to the punch, IBM, Wal-Mart, the Venezuelan owned Citgo. I don't know.

But the point is, how much do you think it would cost for one corporation to buy the Senate? Would an average of $12 million a seat do it? One-point-two billion dollars over the six years of a complete Senate recycle? Two hundred million a year?

If the media trade magazines I read are correct, the estimated profit for MSNBC is $200 million a year. So Rachel and Chris Matthews and I can buy the Senate.

I don't want a damn corporate bought Senate even if I got to pick them. And I sure as hell don't know why Jim DeMint and the National Center for Public Policy Research do.


OLBERMANN: With the midterm elections about nine months off, but feeling more like nine minutes away, President Obama has brought back into his inner circle his former campaign manager, David Plouffe. It is unclear at this hour if Mr. Plouffe had anything to do with the breaking news we've been reporting to you that the president will, in his State of the Union address - according to the "Associated Press" - on Wednesday night propose domestic spending freezes in areas amounting to $477 billion of the budget, though the actual freezes might be about $10 billion or $15 billion. This will not include such areas as the Pentagon or Homeland Security or Veterans Affairs.

In any event Democratic cheer over Plouffe's return surely tempered by the latest bit of bad news, politically speaking, that even Vice President Biden's old Senate seat is fertile ground for the GOP. The vice president's own son has decided he will not run for it.

Mr. Plouffe, first, who will - at the president's request - oversee House, Senate and governor's races in the midterms. He is also expected to sharpen the president's message. And Plouffe's return may reassure panic-prone Democrats today a new cause for panic. Bo Biden announced he will not seek election to the Delaware Senate seat long held by his father.

Mr. Biden, newly returned from the tour of duty in Iraq, wants to resume his work as the attorney general of Delaware. That makes the Republican contender for that seat, former Governor Mike Castle a sudden favorite. The caretaker senator in Biden's old Senate, Ted Kaufman, has restated his intention not to run - which only underscores another occurring problem, how Democrats did a fairly poor job of filling vacant seats after Mr. Obama's election, in Delaware, in Illinois, in Colorado, and in New York.

Meantime, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is getting clobbered by two possible Republican opponents - according to the latest polling there.

And so-called centrist Democrats, like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, are facing down the midterms by moving to the right. Senator Lincoln saying she will line up with Republicans to block new proposed greenhouse gas rules from the EPA. Senator Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska - familiar names from the health care debacle - are also siding with the polluters.

Let's turn now to the "Bloomberg News" political columnist and the Washington editor of "The Week" magazine, Margaret Carlson.

Margaret, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with the - with this news about the proposed freeze. Are not - would you not expect Republicans to hear the state of the address, and if not, if none of them do a Joe Wilson and stand up and scream, you know, "Freeze, hell, we want cuts," aren't they going to be saying that from the moment the president leaves the podium on Wednesday night?

CARLSON: Yes. Well, not until hell freezes over will Republicans be happy.

There's - Obama can make these gestures - you know, not a gesture but actually promise to do, make spending freezes, but nothing he's done has placated Republicans who decided long ago to be united. There is nothing that could have united Republicans, but, you know, they sat down and they said, "All right. Hey, fellas. Let's just oppose everything. And that way we can stay together." None of their differences come out, whereas the Democrats' differences do come out because they're actually trying to make policy.

So, you know, the spending that went out of control under Bush, they make no apologies for, and now want to hamstring this president by saying, "Oh, we can't spend anything." And they won't be happy unless this president cuts everything but weapons and possibly air traffic control.

OLBERMANN: That's right. That was the Republican mantra: we cut air traffic control under Mr. Reagan.

CARLSON: No. If it's unionized.

OLBERMANN: That's right. I'm sorry.

CARLSON: They do like their planes to fly.

OLBERMANN: As a hobby, they want hobby air traffic control.

Is Mr. Plouffe likely to have come in as one of the architects of this idea or is he likely to be sitting here, going, "What in the hell are you doing?" You cannot - you cannot placate - as you pointed out - you cannot appease, you can't negotiate with people who will say no to whatever you say to them, including, "Hello," "What time is it," or, you know, employees must wash hands?

CARLSON: Yes. How dare you?


CARLSON: We wouldn't think of doing that now that you bring it up.

Well, David Plouffe, who wrote "Audacity to Win" - a very good book -

is now going to have to be the audacity to deal with Republican recalcitrants. A fresh set of eyes and ears on this - you know, legislative problems that Obama has, is all for the good.

However, you know, there is - you know, these gestures or these movements to bring Republicans over seems to me now, the one thing we know, is they're not going to work. Everything that's tried to be done, you end up with a horrible bill because it's all watered down but they still won't vote for it.

So, what's the point? Why not try to - you know, the president said after the Coakley loss, "Well, we're not going to jam health care through." Well, why not?

OLBERMANN: And the president has told ABC News, and this is apropos again of this breaking stuff tonight about what he's going to do on Wednesday night, that he'd rather be a really good one-term president as oppose to being a mediocre two-term president. But - has he spent, including tonight, is there any indication that he has spent his first year behaving like the leader who lives by that mantra, because it seems like every step taken has been one backwards in hopes of compromising with people who respond with a two-handed shove to your chest?

CARLSON: Well, he should hope that he doesn't get that - that mantra doesn't occur.


CARLSON: But it is going to take, I think - you know, the president is not a good populist. When he comes out and says, "I'm going to fight for you," it doesn't seem like him. He's too cool for that. But I think he's now - whatever is inside him, I think that is the fighter, will come out because he's just been pushed to the wall.

OLBERMANN: How does he do that, though, while there is obviously panic among people who believe that there is going to be a - could be a 54 or 47-seat loss in the House? This is 1966, times 1994, plus - I don't know, the Chicago fire all mixed into one.

CARLSON: Well, you know, the panic is a little over done.


CARLSON: And that it's independents that you have to worry about. I don't think this bodes so well for Republicans. It just so happens that people that look like incumbents, that look like they're the establishment, that look like they're with the banks, that look like they're against the people, happen to have been Democrats. So, they're moving over here.

But, you know, these independents are - you can't control where they're going to go and Republicans certainly don't have them. So, let them think they do. I think it's going to be a very interesting, but it's not going to be an anti-Democrat. It's going to be an anti-incumbent, anti-establishment election.

OLBERMANN: Simple solution. All Democratic incumbents run under different names. No extra charge for that. Plouffe can take that to the bank with them.

And - Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" and "The Week" magazine - as always, thank you, Margaret.

CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We have seen the most amazing of human triumphs amid the wreckage of Haiti, cameras happening upon rescues against all odds of victims trapped in the debris for as much as 10 days. Tonight, cameras capturing Haiti's newest crisis, aid delivered to the starving, the thirsty, and then taken back from them - all of it captured in another indescribable piece of television journalism from Port-au-Prince. Next.


OLBERMANN: The news from Haiti has gone from grim to grim and infuriating. Nearly two weeks after the earthquake, warehouses of food in Port-Au-Prince now filled and incredibly, as Robert Moore of our affiliated British partner ITV, reports being deliberately kept filled.


ROBERT MOORE, ITV NEWS (voice-over): ITV News was given access to the Work World Food Program. Their warehouses have supplies, but there is a striking lack of urgency. A UN band was practicing nearby when you might think all hands would be devoted to the aid effort.

When the convoy arrived at a camp, the need was obvious. The crowd thirsty, hungry, and increasingly angry, as they were asked to complete written forms when many here are illiterate. Eventually, a few sacks of rice were unloaded. Then inexperienced UN troops decided there might be a crush and, incredibly, ordered the food to be reloaded and taken away.

The fight was on for the small amount left behind. The prize, a bottle of cooking oil. The UN team left, frustrated themselves, and later promised to us it would improve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With any operation of this size there are always teething problems at the beginning. Remembering, of course, that the entire humanitarian system here took such a hit from the earthquake. But we are ramping up the operation day by day by day.

MOORE: Back at camp, people watched in utter disbelief as the precious food was driven away, back to the warehouse where the journey began.

Robert Moore, ITV News, in Port-Au-Prince.


OLBERMANN: To leaven that scene slightly, the story of Jeannette Sanfort (ph) - you'll remember seeing her husband, Roger, insistent that he heard her voice from the rubble of the bank at which she worked. He was right. She had been pinned there, her hand crushed for six days. Rescued, she came out singing. Today, she is smiling. Unlikely to have use of her hand again. Otherwise -

When it comes to passing legislation to try to slow down mankind's contribution to climate change, what's the first thing the Democrats should do? Of course, negotiate the contents of that legislation with the Republicans, because that worked so wonderfully well with health care. David Corn next.


OLBERMANN: So the lesson taken by the Democrats from the health care reform debacle was compromise with the Republicans. They'll always vote for the ultimate good of the nation? And in the breaking news of this hour, the Associated Press reporting that in the State of the Union Wednesday night, the president will throw another hunk of raw meat towards the right, and propose freezing spending at 2010 limits in non-military, non-security areas, for the next three years, and may try to couch it in terms of fostering job growth.

More on the freeze and whether or not that makes any sense with David Corn in a moment. But with current cap and trade legislation stalled in the Senate, "The Boston Globe" is reporting that Senator John Kerry is working on a compromise bill, alongside Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and Senator Joe Lieberman, the, quote, independent from Connecticut.

The bill would contain Democratic provisions, such as limiting carbon emissions, but also include a series of demands from Republicans, like developing nuclear power, subsidizing coal mining, and drilling offshore. The trio has been in talks at the White House, as well as cap and trade opponent the US Chamber of Commerce. The senators are also trying to win the support of their soon to be colleague Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts, also known as ruler of the universe.

But just like the position on universal health care he once had, Mr. Brown was for climate change legislation before he was against it. The senator-elect tried to distance himself from his own 2008 Massachusetts State Senate vote to cap emissions while campaigning for his current job, claiming the regional program did not work and questioning climate science.

In an e-mail to "The Globe" an optimistic Mr. Kerry wrote, "unlike health care, we start out with a bipartisan issue where a progressive senator from Massachusetts and conservative from South Carolina have already struck an alliance. We never had that on health care. Lindsay Graham and I even had a great meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce to get them engaged. What's that tell you?"

Well, I'm not going to answer that question. Time now to call in the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine, David Corn. Welcome to the program, sir. Thank you for your time.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Before we get to Mr. Kerry and this negotiation, freezing some domestic spending, that will create jobs and not stall the economic recovery. How does that work if the president is really going for this on Wednesday night?

CORN: Boy, we really are going to have to see those details on Wednesday night. I mean, I agree with you. Right - that's not what you typically do in a recession. We had many economists saying that the stimulus that was passed last year might not have been big enough. And now Obama, while he is trying to be a populist and go after the banks, seems to be taking this conservative tack in terms of, you know, fiscal policy.

So there are a lot of different balls in the air. This could become a very confusing picture for voters, particularly those tricky independent voters who don't have deep roots in either party, or maybe even deep views on many of these issues.

OLBERMANN: So to the original topic here, wow, a bargain with the Republicans about climate change legislation - and I'm assuming they want to do that because bargaining with them over health care reform went so very, very well?

CORN: Yeah, well, remember they spent months - months with the group of six, the gang of six, trying to get a few moderate Republicans aboard. And at the end, it really fell apart. Now, we see it with the Scott Brown election, that it used to be that maybe if you got one or two Republicans, you could still get to that magic number of 60, because you're going to lose a couple of Democrats. But that seems more and more unlikely, which means they're going to have to try and figure out how to win these fights perhaps with plus 50, not 60 votes.

So I think the White House is going to have to figure out how to grab Congress by their short little amendments at some point and just really take control. And, you know, moving towards populism, not necessarily on climate change, but on financial reform, even on health care, could really put Obama back in the driver's seat. But he really is pretty far from that seat at this point in time.

OLBERMANN: And what is the White House's role in this as - particularly as it relates to climate change? Is the president going to leave this to the Senate to work out the details again, because again, just like with health care reform, when he stood back, that went so very, very well?

CORN: Well, you know, Keith, I don't know if you know this, I spent two weeks covering the Copenhagen climate summit. And one of my big takeaways from talking to the scientists there was there is not a lot of time. We may hit an inflection point where doing anything won't make a difference.

So time is of the essence. But it is an issue because the threat is in the distant future, or maybe the near future, but not right upon us, that a lot of people out there, a lot of voters who are busy just trying to get by, maybe busy trying to find jobs, don't really focus on.

It's a tailor-made issue for strong leadership from the top. And that means not giving it to a hundred other people to sort of work out their deals, but trying to come in and corral. And if it involves working with, you know, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, fine. But I really think the White House should be driving this, not leaving it to the senate's own devices.

OLBERMANN: Lastly and briefly, did you get the memo? Did I miss something last week? Was there a coalition government formed and they didn't tell us?

CORN: Yeah. Scott Brown became prime minister. I guess you missed that story.

OLBERMANN: I did. David Corn of "Mother Jones" magazine, great thanks and good to have you here.

CORN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This gets worse and worse. The Bush Pentagon hired a so-called expert who claimed that Iraq was behind not just 9/11 but also the Oklahoma City Bombing.

How sick do you have to be not only to not run the Haitian telethon, but to instead spend that time talking about how great your ratings are?

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she begins her countdown to the president's State of the Union Address with the breaking news that we've been reporting. A State of the Union which will sound surprisingly like the last president's last State of the Union Address.


OLBERMANN: Dubious Democrat Blanche Lincoln Tweets that we should stand by for a big campaign announcement in Arkansas. Is she getting out? Markos Moulitsas next.

But first, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze the Lonesome Roads Beck. Sometimes he is tough to follow, but not today. This morning on TV, he described the progressive method of operation as, quote, "if you can't win the argument, you have to shout them down. You have to call them racist. You have to call them names." This afternoon on radio he described progressives as, quote, "on a mission to keep it right. They're on a mission to make sure Nazis are right and Stalin just needs to be understood in context. Mao. What, no, Mao is China. It's OK."

Progressive call Becky names, bad progressives. Becky called progressives pro Nazi, pro Mao, calls the president racist, that's OK. Becky be nuts.

The runner-up, the lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Andre Bauer, who is trying to succeed John Sanford there. He says if a kid gets a free lunch or even a reduced priced lunch at a South Carolina school, his or her parents should have to, quote, "pass drug tests or attend parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings." Wait, it gets better.


LT GOV ANDRE BAUER, SOUTH CAROLINA: My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why?

Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply, they will reproduce. Especially one that don't think too much further than that.


OLBERMANN: Too bad your grandmother bred. Can we get this Sanford to run again? I mean, a lying swinger is better than a guy who says the poor shouldn't reproduce and then compares them to stray animals.

But our winner, Bill-O the clown. About 60 networks carried the Haitian Earthquake telethon Thursday night. CNN did, we did. CNBC didn't. CNN Headline didn't. Fixed News didn't. At least, most of them did not, in lieu of the telethon, instead run a pathetic program whose lead story was about how great the program was and how great its coverage of Haiti had been.

Bill-O did. "Fox News had almost six times as many viewers as MSNBC primetime, five times the audience of CNN. That's not a victory. Now, most of the liberal media ignore that story, and will not tell you how dominant Fox News has become. That's why many newspapers are failing. They simply don't tell you the truth. But writing in "The Miami Herald," TV critic Glenn Garvin did tell the truth."

He then proceeded to read a quote from Glenn Garvin, for years the hands down winner in any poll of newspaper TV writers or of TV people as the TV critic the most in Fox's pocket, the farthest down the lunatic fringe rabbit hole. Here we read Glenn Garvin in hopes of seeing something shrill and reactionary to reaffirm that we're on the money.

Instead of two hours to help Haiti, Fox gives us Bill-O. Instead of here is the phone number to help Haiti, Bill-O gives himself == patting himself on the back and this comic relief Garvin smooching his hiney. Then the coup de grace, "to be fair, CNN has covered the Haiti story very well. There's no question about it. And I applaud the CNN correspondents who have done such a good job. But our Fox News correspondents are just as good."

Then why don't you put them on, instead of stroking yourself in front of the American public? Just once. Just an hour off from your desperate attempt to bring validation and meaning into your purposeless little life, by reading out the ratings again. Bill, this is a new emotion for me. I don't know how else to say this: I am now embarrassed for you. Bill "I Have Big Ratings; That Makes My Whole Life Worthwhile" O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Breaking Tweets at this hour. Let's see if we can put three separate pieces of information together; 29 Minutes ago, the senator from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln, Tweeted, "stay tuned for an important campaign announcement tomorrow morning." Shortly thereafter, CNN asked in another Tweet, "oh, oh, another major Democratic retirement," and re-Tweeted what Lincoln had Tweeted. Now, Mark Ambider has Tweeted that it is to be a fund-raising announcement, in terms of how much Senator Lincoln has raised to this point.

To try to straighten all this out, and see if it does add up or these are separate pieces of information, we're joined by the founder and publisher of "The Daily Kos," Markos Moulitsas. Markos, thanks for your time on such short notice.


OLBERMANN: What do we think? Is Blanche Lincoln gone here? Or any of these stories that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wanted her to retire connected with this? Or are we just putting together different puzzle pieces from different jigsaws?

MOULITSAS: I think it's telling that there are so many people talking about whether Blanche Lincoln is going to run for re-election or not, because everybody can look at the data. They can see that, according to the polling, she is dead. She will not survive a general election campaign this fall. She is a guaranteed loss for the Democrats, if she stays in the race, and if she is the nominee this fall.

So the DNCC may come to that conclusion. I haven't heard anything that says they have come to that conclusion. Although I do know they're polling the race, trying to figure that out for themselves. There is going to be a primary challenge. I think, if I had to guess right now, I would say that Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will run against Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary. I think, if that were the case, Halter would win, and we'd actually have a chance to hold that race in the fall - hold that seat in the fall.

OLBERMANN: Senator Lincoln had denied - her office had denied that there had been any pressure from the DSCC, but obviously that is what you would expect. You want the incumbent senator to be able to make that announcement by themselves. Is there a prospect this could actually get worse from a Democratic point of view? Is there not some interest in that street by Mike Ross, the bluest of the Blue Dogs from Arkansas?

MOULITSAS: Yeah. I mean, Mike Ross is a congressman. He's definitely one of the worst in the House. And if Lincoln were to retire, I assume that Ross would go for the seat. Again, I think Bill Halter gets in the race. Halter is very much a populist candidate. He is outside of the Arkansas establishment. He did not make any friends when he ran for governor and lieutenant governor last time around.

But he's a kind of outsider that you want sort of picking these party establishment Democrats in the butt, because clearly they're not getting stuff done. The kind of people they're putting up are the kind of people that lost the race in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley. So I think we need some outside, fresh blood in the party, and Halter would provide that in a way that Mike Ross would not.

OLBERMANN: Let's deal, in that context, with the other breaking news of this hour, that Associated Press report that there are going to be domestic spending freezes proposed by the president in non-Homeland Security, non-military, non-Veterans Affairs areas when he gives the State of the Union night after tomorrow.

Can you do any of the math here? Supposedly this is going to be framed as kick-starting jobs and not risking what - whatever recovery there has been to this point? I'm not following.

MOULITSAS: It didn't help President Hoover, and it sure didn't help FDR when he tried the same thing in '37, 1937. It's a loser. No, I'm hearing that some people are saying that, well, this spending freeze wouldn't just exempt national security spending, but would also have exempt things like health care and stimulus.

So we have - there are two real options I guess. One, it's either just sort of empty rhetoric that's designed to appeal to I'm not sure who, maybe the Tea Baggers. I'm not sure. Or it's just a really bad policy decision. Neither of them, I think, acquit the administration very well. And I wish this concept would never have come up, because, really, we're going to rise and fall as Democrats in November by whether people have jobs or not. That should be the focus. And a spending freeze does nothing to create jobs.

OLBERMANN: Is Scott Brown being positioned the way the first President Bush talked about the Iraqi Republican Guards, that he's 80 foot tall and shoots bullets out his back side?

MOULITSAS: You got to admit it was pretty impressive how Scott Brown in the special election in Massachusetts became both Senate Majority Leader and President of the United States. I've never seen something like that. But I like to say that only Democrats would consider themselves in the minority with 59 seats in the Senate, and only Republicans would consider themselves the majority with 41. It's a sad state of affairs.

OLBERMANN: Entitlement and the lack of experience respectively

Markos Moulitsas of "Daily Kos," again, great thanks for coming in on the breaking news.

MOULITSAS: Any time. Thanks so much.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,461st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.

One other late bit of news. Bill O'Reilly's lead story tonight was again Bill O'Reilly. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Now to discuss more on the president's State of the Union and that breaking possible Blanche Lincoln news out of Arkansas, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.