Friday, February 26, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, February 26th, 2010
video podcast

Guests: Rehema Ellis, Kerry Sanders, Frank Pallone, Jonathan Cohn, David Corn, David Weigel


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The road to reconciliation: The White House gives its blessings to congressional leadership to move ahead. Will a final health care bill pass by April? House Dems say Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the votes. As for the Senate -




O'DONNELL: Meanwhile, more obstructionist talk from a one-man filibuster, Senator Jim Bunning. This time, it's about jobs. And the gentleman from Kentucky isn't interested in helping out-of-work Americans.


SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: And I'm going to object every time.


O'DONNELL: As scandal forces New York's accidental governor, David Paterson, to finally throw in the towel, another embattled politician joins the Luv Guv club.




O'DONNELL: Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons is confronted at the Reno airport over whether he went to the governors' conference with his girlfriend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one else came with you on this trip?



O'DONNELL: So, is this a cardboard cutout of your girlfriend with you and the governor of the Appalachian Trail?

Plus, the latest on the deadly attack at SeaWorld. What got into the killer whale that turned on its trainer?


JIM ATCHISON, SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT: He's a very special animal that requires special handling.


O'DONNELL: And Bill O'Reilly says his new colleague Sarah Palin wants to run in 2012, but has a lot to learn.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Sarah Palin needs to go to college - political college, world affairs college, and she is.


O'DONNELL: At FOX News university, to be exact, with Dean Ailes at the helm. We'll have the latest on Palin's independent study with Professor Beck.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: We just don't get it.



O'DONNELL: Good evening from Los Angeles. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

If President Obama had been hoping to reach bipartisan agreement on reform at yesterday's health care summit at Blair House in Washington, it appears he did - but only concerning one point: That Republicans and Democrats seem as deeply entrenched in their respective positions as ever, if not more so.

Senate Republicans have claimed victory in the wake of the summit. At a fundraiser last night, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, quote, "Health care is a winner of enormous magnitude for us."

"Talking Points Memo" reports that the White House has told congressional leaders they can move forward on health care reform with a goal of passing final legislation by April. No word in what order the various bills should be passed.

At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today previewed that President Obama will announce the way forward on health care in the middle of next week.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi today insisted that the question of what happens next with health care is entirely up to the Senate.


PELOSI: A simple majority and that's what we're asking the Senate to act upon. Well, it's up to them. What is the Senate able to do with a simple majority, and then we will act upon that. But I believe we have good prospects for passing legislation in light of the recognition the president gave to the concerns of the House members.


O'DONNELL: Last night, senior advisor David Axelrod said that Republican complaints about the possibility of using reconciliation were hypocritical - adding that what the American people really want on health care is a final vote.


DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: All they want is an up or down vote and they want to move on. Have - let's have a vote, let's finish this debate, let's have an up or down vote, let's not use procedural blocks. Let the vote be held, let the majority rule and let's move on.


O'DONNELL: Republican John McCain claimed that the single worst thing about the summit was President Obama's refusal to take reconciliation off the table.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I brought it up and, basically, his answer was: well, the people want a vote. That was really the most disturbing part of this meeting today. Reconciliation, that's the word, the meaning of it is: reconcile small differences between House and Senate on budgetary matters. Never was it envisioned to affect one-sixth of our gross national product. And that's clearly the path that he signaled that we are on. It would be an outrage to the American people.


O'DONNELL: Lots to talk about with Congressman Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey.

Congressman Pallone, as we mentioned, the White House said today that President Obama would make an announcement next week on the way forward. What do you expect the president to say and how specific do you expect him to be on what the legislative half should be?

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I don't know if he's going to get specific in terms of the process and actually say, let's do reconciliation. I mean, obviously, that's one option. I suspect that it's going to be more substantive about what's going to be included in the bill. And it may be broad outlines or it maybe more specific.

But I really don't know. We haven't been told, obviously, what the president is going to do specifically.

O'DONNELL: Do you believe now that the Democrats are going to go forward in reconciliation on both houses on this?

PALLONE: I don't think that decision has been made. I mean, it's certainly an option. If you do reconciliation, you can do a lot of the things that the president would like to do.

You know, I always talk about three things. One is to try to cover most Americans. The second is to try to control cost. And the third one is to eliminate any discriminatory practices, like buying or having health insurance available because of a preexisting condition.

The discriminatory practices part is a little difficult to do in reconciliation and that may have to be done separately or some parts of that separately. But anything related to money or the budget is certainly could be done in reconciliation.

O'DONNELL: Well, can you - explain to me how you would get wavering Democrats to vote for the Senate bill? Which is what everyone is saying would be necessary, pass the Senate bill first and then pass a reconciliation bill that would correct and repeal change, some of the elements in the Senate bill.

You would be asking them if they - if you ask them to vote for the Senate bill, as it is now, you'd be asking them to vote for the giveaway to Ben Nelson in Nebraska, you'd be asking them to vote for the carve-out on Medicare for Florida, and you'd be asking them to vote on the deal Mary Landrieu's vote in Louisiana, and every one of those Democrats would face opponents in the upcoming election saying that they voted for all of those things and that their defense, their comeback would have to be, "Well, I voted for it before I voted against it."

How do you convince -

PALLONE: Well, Lawrence, I don't -

O'DONNELL: - wavering Democrats that that's a workable proposition?

PALLONE: Well, Lawrence, I don't think that the Democrats are going to see it that way. I mean, I don't want to get into the specifics of the process, but essentially, the Senate bill is there and you're voting on amendments to the Senate bill, and eventually, it's the amended bill that goes to the president. So, I don't think that my colleagues are going to be thinking much about other than what ultimately goes to the president. And so, those provisions would come out.

The problem is that a lot of the things that are not money-related, such as discriminatory practices, those types of things would not be changeable or be able to dealt with effectively perhaps in reconciliation. But I wouldn't worry about, you know, whether it's the Senate bill first or it's get amended. Eventually, what goes to the president would be a bill that the House Democrats would like, and the provisions that you're talking about would be out when they got to the president's desk.

O'DONNELL: But you all would have had to vote on those provisions and vote in favor of those provisions, and you're going to trust your Republican opponents in the fall simply not to mention that vote you made on the way to the final vote?

PALLONE: Lawrence, you know, your opponent will make up whatever they want. In my own experience that, you know, they'll say whatever they want, so it doesn't matter.

I think the bottom line is, what is going to the president. And if you do reconciliation, most of what we're concerned about in terms of setting up the process to cover all Americans through health exchange with subsidies, with the expansion of Medicaid so that something like, you know, 96 percent, 97 percent of Americans would be covered. That would all be in there and you would have the competition with the health exchange to bring costs down so that, you know, you wouldn't see this continual rise every year. We're talking about 20 percent or 30 percent increase in premiums that are being announced.

So, that's what the American people want to see. A bill that, you know, basically puts a stop to those large increases every year, that covers most Americans and that eliminates discriminatory practices - you can't get insurance because of a preexisting health condition, for example.

O'DONNELL: And, Congressman, quickly, before we go, why is Nancy Pelosi suddenly willing to take a backseat to the Senate? She's never done that before. She's never said the Senate has to go first, before.

PALLONE: Well, Speaker Pelosi is the most practical person I know, and she realizes that the Senate is a problem right now. I mean - and so, you know, we're going to try to do whatever we can to get the votes in the Senate and, you know, accommodate them as best we can. But we can't pass the Senate bill the way it is for some of the reasons that you mentioned and others. But I think we can, through reconciliation, make the changes that the House wants so that the House - so we can have a majority in the House and still have a majority in the Senate.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey - many thanks for your time tonight.

PALLONE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: For more on the summit and what happens next, let's turn now to Jonathan Cohn, author of "Sick" and senior editor at "The New Republic," who has been reporting on this health care reform crusade.

Jonathan Cohn, it seemed to me that the summit had prepackaged messages from both sides. The Democrats insisting that they were very, very close to the Republicans, with apparently, the intent to make the Republicans seem unreasonable for being willing to make further compromises to get to the finish line. And then the Republicans saying, come on, let's throw out this junk bill that America has rejected.

Was it really just that message war yesterday and not much else going on?

COHN: Well, you know, actually, I can't to think that if the Republicans have showed up and were actually willing to make some sort of deal, I actually think President Obama might even have grabbed that and said, "Yes, OK, fine, let's cut some sort of deal." But I thought the events yesterday were incredibly clarifying. You know, I think, most Americans, when they - when they hear the Republicans and Democrats have different positions about this, they assume it's just a difference of how you'd achieve the same thing. You know, everybody wants to do something about the insured. Everybody wants to make sure everybody can get health insurance.

I thought the message I took away from yesterday was that the Republicans really don't think it's worth trying to make sure that we make sure everybody can have health insurance. They don't have an answer to the way that how do you make sure people with preexisting medical conditions, how do you make sure they can get good health care insurance? You know, President Obama asked that question. They never had any answers. You know, they would sidestep it. They would talk about solutions that didn't really solve the problem.

So, I thought it was actually a very clarifying day.

O'DONNELL: And what do you make of Nancy Pelosi's sudden willingness to step back and let the Senate go forward?

COHN: Well, yes, I don't think she's so much, you know, trying to defer to them out of courtesy. Basically, the situation, as you explained earlier, there's two bills that need to be passed. There is the Senate bill which the House has to pass exactly as it is written, and then, there is this reconciliation bill, which is going to have a few little fixes although they're important fixes, stripping out this giveaway to Nebraska, adding a little more money to the subsidies for people who are getting health insurance.

The problem for the House, the problem for Pelosi is that her members don't trust the Senate. They don't believe that the Senate will really pass that reconciliation bill if the House goes first and just passes the Senate bill. So, she wants some sort of ironclad guarantee - and, you know, whether that means the Senate actually has to vote first or there's this idea kicking around that maybe they could get 51 senators to sign the letter promising to take that vote, I don't know.

But what she's doing, she's saying, look, my members will do this, but they want to know the Senate's going to do its part first.

O'DONNELL: Going back to the Republican side of this, Mitch McConnell yesterday in a fundraiser declared this to be a victory for them, the summit worked as a victory for them. In terms of their politics going forward, what should we expect from them? I think it's very clear we shouldn't expect any legislative compromise or legislative initiative from them. But what do they do as the Democrats move toward reconciliation if that's what the Democrats are going to try to do?

COHN: Well, the best possible outcome for the Republicans is to stop the Democrats from passing this bill. Meaning, the Republicans have convinced quite a few Americans this is some horrible government takeover of medicine. It's socialized medicine. They're going to pull the plug on your grandma.

So, if they win, they have the virtue of having convinced Americans that the Democrats wanted this terrible plan, and if the Republicans, thank goodness, stopped it.

On the other hand, if the plan actually passes, not only have the Republicans failed to stop this bill, but, you know, Americans are going to discover that, oh, wait a minute, I like this bill. This bill means that I can get health insurance. It means that I don't eventually have to pay as much of my coverage. I have more choices. It means I'm guaranteed that I won't have to pay too much in out-of-pocket costs.

O'DONNELL: Jonathan Cohn with "The New Republic," also author of "Sick" - thank you very much for your time tonight.

COHN: Sure. Good to be here.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: politics at its worst, at its most mean-

spirited. Your unemployment benefits might be running out and one senator

one - is upset that he's missing a basketball game and he is blocking the extension of benefits.

And "FOX & Friends" with benefits: Bill O'Reilly says Sarah Palin needs some schooling and now, Sarah is going on the road with Glenn Beck. No word if he's going to use his chalk board.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: Senator Jim Bunning takes his anger out on unemployed Americans. Why he is the only senator blocking extension of benefits?

And caught on tape - the governor of Nevada says he didn't go to D.C. with his girlfriend, except the videotape of her with him at the airport suggests something else - as does the picture of the happy couple posing with Governor Mark Sanford.


O'DONNELL: We sure are not going to miss Senator Jim Bunning, the Republican from Kentucky, who will not run for a third term this year and is bitter about it because he says the Republican leaders in the Senate have tried to dry up his fundraising.

But what excuse can be made for a senator so bitter or stubborn or mean-spirited that he decides to be the lone holdout for extending short-term unemployment benefits to the millions unemployed in the worst recession since the Great Depression?

Senator Bunning resisted repeated attempts to pass the bill last night by unanimous consent, which was necessary because so many senators had already left town for the weekend, unaware that Bunning was going to block a bill that everyone else was in favor of. The bill would extend unemployment benefits set to expire on Sunday, but it would also extend health insurance assistance for people who have lost their jobs. But Bunning was not budging, and even mentioned how he was sacrificing because he was missing a college basketball game.


BUNNING: I want to assure the people that have watched this thing go quarter of 12:00 - and I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00 and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year. And - all of these things that we have talked about and all the provisions that have been discussed, the unemployment benefits, all these things, if we have taken the longer version of the - of the job - the job bill, that was a mutually agreed on bipartisan bill. We wouldn't have spent three hours plus, almost 3 ½, telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn't give a damn about the people that are on unemployment.


O'DONNELL: At one point, when Senator Bunning was sitting in the back row of the chamber, he was asked by two Democratic senators to drop his rejection to the bill. Bunning was overheard saying tough blank.

So, the Senate adjourned today and the bill will have to wait until Tuesday when the Senate again has enough members to bypass Bunning. Meantime, some of those benefits will lapse.

Senator Dick Durbin, exasperated, said, quote, "I just don't think that one Senator ought to be able to heap this kind of suffering and misfortune on people who are already struggling in this economy."

And Bunning's stunt drew this response from White House Press

Secretary Robert Gibbs:


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House would call on Senator Bunning to agree to - agree to even vote on his own proposal so that the Senate and the House don't leave town with the health care benefits and the unemployment benefits of those that have lost their jobs, that those - we would not see those expire over this past weekend.


O'DONNELL: Let's bring in the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," also a columnist for "Politics Daily," David Corn.

David, the first part of the story is obviously Senator Bunning. Now, there is always a silliest senator in the body. Bunning has been that man for quite a while now. But no one, even knowing him as they do, no one saw this coming. I mean, in the list of Bunning craziness - is this about the nuttiest thing he's done on the Senate floor?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE: This is the biggest curve ball or knuckleheaded pitch of his career. I mean, he was a hall of famer baseball legend. He had the second number of strikeouts - highest number of strikeouts when he left the game. And he's gone from Hall of Fame to "hall of shame." He was a massive blunder on his part.

But, as you've noted, he doesn't seem to care. He's not running for

re-election. He hasn't seemed to care for years.

He's known in the Senate for not giving a damn about what's going on. He missed the historic vote on health care reform. Last year, he disappeared from the chamber for a week without explaining it.

There's a long history of Bunning bizarro behavior. And this is the culmination. He really hit it over the fences on this move last night.

O'DONNELL: And you would think that maybe unemployment is running around 2 percent in Kentucky, but no, it's up over 10, over the national average rate. Did the Democrats -

CORN: In some counties -

O'DONNELL: And Harry - go ahead.

CORN: I have to say, in some counties, it's even much higher than that in Kentucky.

O'DONNELL: And did the Democrats and Harry Reid maybe miss a chance here to stay on the floor with him and highlight Republican intransigents through this one senator blocking something that 99 senators want?

CORN: Well, I spoke to some Democrats about that. They took several runs at trying to persuade him to be reasonable and he kept saying, no, no, no. They could have tried to invoke cloture and stay, you know, keeping the session.

But they're coming back, they say, on Monday, not just even on Tuesday, to work on a long-term plan to extend benefits for a year and not just for a month, and that this will sort of incorporate what they did.

It seems to me that Bunning did a pretty good job b of drawing attention to himself. I'm not sure how much more there was to gain by the Democrats keeping the Senate in session to make Bunning look even more foolish than he did.

O'DONNELL: Now, even though Republicans know he is their greatest

embarrassment in the Senate and they begged him not to run for reelection -

the party leadership - still, we have Republicans go out there -

CORN: Yes.

O'DONNELL: - and say positive things about him. You had Senator Corker saying that the holdout, the one-man holdout - he said about, "That's something we honor in this body." Well, it's something that they have to live within the body, but most of them do not honor it when 99 want to pass something and one doesn't. I mean, if they kept out -

CORN: Yes.

O'DONNELL: - if they stayed out there with Bunning, wouldn't we get more of these kind of lame statements from Republicans?

CORN: Well, I think what - I think what happened, you heard a tremendous, deafening silence. I mean, this happened last night and we - so, we've had almost a whole day now and where are the Republican leaders denouncing Bunning or criticizing him? They are not there. They've run for cover. Corker did defend him.

And this is - what's stunning is, that they basically don't like Bunning to begin with. He's been at odds with the Senate Republican leadership for very good reason, and here, he pulls this boneheaded move and they still can't come out and say, "We disagree. We want to come back in and work in a bipartisan manner with the Democrats to get this thing done."

So, I think the -

O'DONNELL: David Corn of "Mother Jones" - we're going to wrap it there, David.


O'DONNELL: David Corn of "Mother Jones" - thank you very much for coming in tonight.

CORN: Sure thing, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: another problem for another governor - in the middle of a divorce in which he said he hadn't had sex for 15 years. The governor gets caught lying about where he's been with his new woman friend.

And, snowmageddon hits the northeast again. Nearly two feet of snow in New York City. Elsewhere, hurricane force winds. Details - next on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: In a winter already destined to go down in history, yet another record has fallen today. This time it's New York City. Central Park now with its largest monthly snowfall ever. More than a million people throughout the northeast lost power. As Rehema Ellis reports, the entire region is now begging for mercy.


REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): it's the fourth major snowstorm in a month, and one more storm the region didn't need. Across the New York area, starting early in the morning, people struggled to keep up with the falling snow. In the northern regions, heavy snowfall took out power lines across the northeast, leaving more than a million without electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost power 9:00 last night. No heat, no electricity. We managed to sleep through the night, and this morning woke up. There was still no power.

ELLIS: Travel was treacherous. A 20 mile stretch of I-84 was at a standstill for hours, stranding hundreds of motorists in their cars, some since last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't moved an inch and it's a little over 15 hours now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a weather day like this, you never know what to expect. You always have to be open for anything.

ELLIS: The major airlines were in business, but more than a thousand flights were canceled at New York and New Jersey's three airports.

In Hampton, New Hampshire, firefighters continued at the scene of a blaze that broke out just after midnight. Fueled by winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour, the fire destroyed an entire block. No one was injured.

All this weather comes at a huge cost for cash-strapped towns, even cities with snow removal budgets in the millions.

MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: We've anticipated already spending about 11.5 million dollars. Now with this storm, we'll easily go over 15 million dollars.

ELLIS: Despite the pile-up of Winter woes, some still made the best of it. Back here in New York, more than a million New York City school kids got a head start on the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want a storm that's two weeks long.

ELLIS: For just the fourth time in six years, New York City public schools were closed.

(on camera): While the storm is winding down, people flying in and out of this region tomorrow are advised to check ahead with their airlines. There could still be many delays.



O'DONNELL: Rehema Ellis reporting. >

Ahead on Countdown, when denying you're at the governors conference

with your girlfriend, it's probably not a good idea to take photos of the

two of you there. especially with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. >

And the tragedy at Sea World. Executives there today explaining the show will go on, and what they will do now to protect the trainers from the killer whales.


O'DONNELL: What is it about life in governors' mansions that makes men lose all self control? From Bill Clinton to Eliot Spitzer to Spitzer's unelected successor, David Paterson, to South Carolina's Mark Sanford, and now Nevada's Jim Gibbons?

Tonight's goofy governor update begins in the Empire State. Today, New York Governor David Paterson announced he will not seek election to that office. The "New York Times" had a report that Paterson intervened in a domestic violence situation between one of his top aides and that aide's wife. Paterson read the "New York Times" report and quit. Governor Paterson originally announced he was running last Saturday. His campaign lasted 144 hours.

Then there's Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, soon to be an ex-governor, soon to be an ex-husband. A judge in Charleston today granted wife Jenny Sanford's request for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Governor Sanford's troubles began, you recall, last year when he lied to the media about hiking on the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually in Argentina with his, as he put it, soul mate.

And finally, the other governor in the middle of a divorce, Jim Gibbons of Nevada. Late Monday night, Gibbons had a run-in with the local CBS I-Team at the Reno Airport. Governor Gibbons had been in Washington, DC for the National Governor's Conference.

The I-Team wanted to know why his alleged girlfriend was with him on the return flight. Gibbons said he was alone. He said his alleged girlfriend, Cathin Karrasch (ph), was not in the airport. And he said she was certainly not with him in Washington. The I-Team found Karrasch at the airport ducking into a bathroom, and later actually shot footage of the couple leaving the airport in the same car.

Tuesday, Governor Gibbons apologized for misleading the I-Team, maybe because he realized this photo would eventually leak out. At a dinner for the governors at the White House, that's Gibbons, Karrasch and, of all people, Mark Sanford.

Despite his blatant lying, Governor Gibbons got a seven-point bump in the poll taken after the airport incident. That is the Clinton bump you get for being involved in a sex scandal. Maybe the new voters supporting the governor hadn't yet seen the I-Team's handiwork. And then again, maybe they had.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We met with Governor Jim Gibbons at the Reno Airport Monday night. When we asked about the trip and a possible Reno love interest, he became upset at our questions.

Did you go with anyone today?

GOV. JIM GIBBONS (R), NEVADA: Well, what's it to you? Yeah, I went with security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And anyone else?

GIBBONS: What's it to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karrasch became romantically linked to the governor after he sent her 800 texts messages in the past, this at a time while they were married to other people.

No one else came with you on this trip?

GIBBONS: No one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kathy Karrasch did not accompany you?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's not in this airport right now?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was not on that flight?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite what the governor says, our cameras caught Karrasch going into an airport bathroom. She came out and ran inside when she saw our camera.

When she came out, we asked her about the trip.

Did you attend this conference in any way with the governor?

KATHY KARRASCH, ALLEGED GIRLFRIEND OF GOVERNOR JIM GIBBONS: I did not attend any conference in any way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She walked toward an SUV with tinted windows, the governor's state-owned vehicle.

You say you did not attend the conference with the governor, even though we saw you coming off the plane directly after him?

KARRASCH: You know what? I could have been in Las Vegas having tea with the First Lady.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see him at all in Washington, DC?

KARRASCH: Does it matter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it does to the people of Nevada.

KARRASCH: The people of need to know he is a very honorable, trust worthy man, which is a little less than I can say about you at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you spend time with him this weekend?

KARRASCH: You know what, it really doesn't matter who I spent time with. I spent time with Arnold Schwarzenegger this weekend. Does that matter to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he at the governors conference?

KARRASCH: I don't know. You better ask him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meanwhile, the governor's security officer tried to move our cameras away, and help Karrasch get into the back seat.

You work for the governor's detail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you obstruct a police officer, I can take you to jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then the governor walked out to the vehicle.

Governor, you just told us just ten minutes ago that Kathy Karrasch was not on this flight. Do you want to change your statement?

GIBBONS: She was not with me in Washington, DC. I can't control where she goes or what she does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you just happened to be in Washington, DC with her, and happen to be leaving in the same car with her.

GIBBONS: No. She was not in DC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you with her right now?

GIBBONS: I'm giving her a ride home because she lives near me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You happened to be on the same flight?

GIBBONS: Vegas, yeah. Prove it otherwise, because you know what -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She did say that she met the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, this weekend.

GIBBONS: You know what? She met him someplace. That's fine. I don't -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you also said she wasn't on this flight with you. You lied to me.

GIBBONS: I didn't say -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked you whether she was on the flight with you.

GIBBONS: The flight went into Vegas. She was not on that flight.

She was on the flight coming from Vegas to Reno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either way, Kathy Karrasch landed in the same plane with you. Were you sitting with her on the flight?

GIBBONS: It's a public flight. It's a public airport. It's a public plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, we're literally less than 12 hours away from a special session that is going to decide almost a billion dollars in cuts, and here you are with a woman who is not your wife.

GIBBONS: You're full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You are. You really are. All you're doing is out here late at night trying to make a scene, and there's nothing to that. She flies whenever she flies.


O'DONNELL: Well, someone is certainly full of something.

Coming up, new video just minutes before a killer whale attacked his trainer. What will happen to the whale now that he's killed yet again?

And first came the Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin TV love fest. Now they are asking people to shell out money to see a Beck/Palin stage show.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Among their topics, the Wellpoint rate hikes in California.


O'DONNELL: Two days after trainer Dawn Brancheau's life was taken by a 12,000 pound killer whale, the Shamu Believe Show at Sea World in Orlando is set to return at 11:00 am tomorrow. Sea World's president and CEO Jim Atchison holding a news conference this afternoon in front of an orca-filled backdrop. The headlines, there will be a charitable foundation created in honor of Dawn Brancheau, and a video tribute to her at tomorrow's show.

The massive whale, a male named Tilicum, will continue to work in shows, and resume his husbandry. The whale is a prolific breeder, the only living killer whale grandfather in captivity. Marine biologist Nancy Blake telling the website Discovery News that "Wednesday's tragedy could have been mating behavior."

As to whether Tilicum was regularly isolated from the other whales, causing stress for the animal, Atchison said, quote, "he's never separated."

That claim was undercut when a reporter pointed out the Tilicum was left out of Atchison's fish tank backdrop. Then there was the question of the whale's past.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been three deaths that have been tied to this whale.

JIM ATCHISON, SEA WORLD CEO: Realize, the whale was at another facility before he joined our - what I'm telling you is we've had two incidents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whale has been involved in three deaths. How do you explain the combination of circumstances that all lead back to the same whale, and the judgment call to put people back in the water with this whale?

ATCHISON: What I'll say is the events surrounding the other incidents that Tilicum was part of are quite varied. And actually there's information available on those, and we can make that available to you.

Those incidents and the nature of them had really nothing to do with this particular event. Those are separate interactions, separate events that occurred altogether, and really are not relevant to this particular altercation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the same whale.

ATCHISON: Exactly, but very, very different circumstances.


O'DONNELL: Kerry Sanders continues with more on the history that Sea World was hesitant to discuss.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Veteran orca trainer Dawn Brancheau just minutes before her death. A tourist camera recording her playful moments with the killer whale Tilicum. Minutes before the orca attack, the tourist stopped recording. Witnesses say Tilicum swung around and snagged the trainer's long ponytail, pulling her underwater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He grabbed her by the head, and in a very hard thrust she went down. I screamed and she screamed. Then I started yelling to the other trainer, because he wasn't looking. I said, he just took her down. He took her down.

SANDERS: Tilicum has a long history of human aggression. In 1991, in an aquarium in British Columbia, Tilicum and a group of whales killed their trainer. The aquarium closed after that. Tilicum was sold to Sea World. But a former trainer says it was not his understanding the whales would be used in shows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were not to be performance animals. They were just to be displayed, primarily breeding animals.

SANDERS: Sea World disputes this claim, but confirms the orca has sired 13 calves since they bought him. Tilicum also was involved in the 1990 death of a man who, it's believed, jumped into the tank when the park was closed.

With Tilicum's known dangers, should this killer whale, the largest one in captivity, ever have been near humans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lesson is that confinement and isolation and removal from natural habitats drives whales a little crazy.

SANDERS: The trainer Dawn had spent almost half her life with the orcas at Sea World. In 2006, NBC's Peter Alexander was the first non-professional to swim with Sea World's captive killer whales in more than two decades.

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The trainers I was in the water with explained to me that these killer whales were exotic marine animals that had been conditioned to work with humans, but made it very clear they were still killer whales.

SANDERS: Shows like these since the 1960s are credited with raising the awareness of orcas. Because of laws in the US, killer whales can no longer be captured in the wild as they were in the '70s. But that's driven up their value today to more than two million dollars.


O'DONNELL: Kerry Sanders reporting.

And now to political shows. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck taking to the same stage. Is it all a part of the Fox News grand plan to educate Palin?


O'DONNELL: Great news! Thanks to the efforts of a former boxing promoter, you will soon be able to see former half-term Governor Sarah Palin and Fox News Host Glenn Beck together, and apparently not a moment too soon. Because that other Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly, says that Palin needs to go to political college. So perhaps, just perhaps, Mr. Beck can serve as an able tutor.

Mr. O'Reilly first. He was asked whether he agreed with former Governor Jeb Bush's recommendation that Palin add some depth of understanding to her charisma.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Bush is right. The governor is right in a sense that Sarah Palin needs to go to college, political college, world affairs college. And she is. She's hired a bunch of advisers, and they're giving her a whole bunch of tracks to learn, because it is a sophisticated deal.


O'DONNELL: Of course, Governor Palin is now part of Fox News. As a contributor, doesn't Fox News count as political school? With Roger Ailes, O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, what more schooling does she really need?

But if that's not enough, Palin will be appearing with Beck at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in March as part of the "Taking Our Country Back" Tour. A production manager for the event told "Politico" that Palin will be paid, but far less than her 100,000 dollar speaking fee. The event was organized by Tony Holden (ph), who is a former boxing promoter.

But the so-called tour has only two dates. Beck will appear at another rally with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. However, as many as 10 more dates will be added if the first two are a success.

Let's bring in David Weigel, a reporter with "The Washington Independent." David, before we get to the kind of school Sarah Palin might actually need at this point, should we be surprised that people like former Governor Jeb Bush and Bill O'Reilly are willing to say out loud, publicly that she actually needs such a thing? I mean, isn't that kind of a retroactive admission that she was not really ready to be one John McCain heartbeat away from the presidency?

DAVID WEIGEL, "THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT": No, I don't think they mean it that way. I think they mean it in in the Reading Rainbow, you can be anything you want sense. This is something that is said about Palin every six months or so; if she just takes time off and gets schooled on the issues - let's say she wants to be a spokesman for energy, and bones up on that again - then she'll be a powerful force.

She never really does it. She prefers to do these softball interviews instead of actually talk about these things. They mean this as a compliment. If she wants to, she can talk about anything, learn anything.

O'DONNELL: Is she able now to assemble this little school program for herself tuition free? Are Republican advisers in Washington eager to lend their expertise and their time to her for no money?

WEIGEL: Not really. Not in a way that's very - that's certainly not

visible when she goes on Fox and talks about these things. She has a very

she has Fred Malick (ph), who is a Republican fixer around town, associated with a new Think Tank that launched last week, the National Action - American Action Network. I apologize. And she's got a small group of people with Sarah PAC.

But she just lost her spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton. It's actually not possible to reach her for media questions anymore, unless you're really good friends with her on Facebook. You don't - if she is being tutored, it's very secret and it doesn't show up when she does - I listened to her on the radio today and most of the conversation was how silly reporters were for making fun of her hand notes and for not respecting her family enough, and how arrogant Barack Obama was. If there's policy in there, it doesn't really come across.

O'DONNELL: Is there any danger in this rally for her? Glenn Beck clearly is a god of the Tea Party universe. They're going to be there. Tea Parties will be filling up the place. But she now has her strains with the Tea Party movement, doesn't she?

WEIGEL: Not really. I think the only danger would be if this does not sell out. And I think it will. She was able to move tickets about five times as much as these tickets will cost for the Tea Party convention, for one banquet speech. This one has country music at it. And it has Glenn Beck, who is a real, in the trenches Tea Party leader. His 9/12 project is a way a lot of these guys get into the movement.

I think this will be another hit for her, another situation where she can give a speech, get people like us talking about her, and not take any questions.

O'DONNELL: David Weigel of "The Washington Independent," thank you very much for your time tonight.

WEIGEL: Thank you so much.

O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Friday edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening, Rachel.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

No show. Special coverage of healthcare summit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, February 24, 2010
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Worst Persons Hall of Shame

Special Comment:
An American cry for help
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Ezra Klein, Dan Savage.

HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you

be talking about tomorrow?

On the eve of the health care summit: the truth.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Make no mistake about it. Every

single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned

subsidiary of the insurance industry.


OLBERMANN: Congressman Anthony Weiner forced to withdraw his remarks

from the record by the GOP, giving him the opportunity to repeat them in a

slightly different form.

The Republicans - Boehner talks of plans to "crash the party" and

"interrupt the infomercial." And to try to get everybody to dial 1-800-

BRONZER instead, John?

And the insurance companies - double-digit increases, implemented or

pending in 11 states now, served by or enslaved by WellPoint Blue Cross.

And the president on the eve? High hopes. He's got high hopes.



good exchange of ideas at the Blair House with some of the legislative

leaders. And I hope everyone comes with a shared desire to solve this

challenge. Not to score political points.


OLBERMANN: The next fight: the Senate majority leader walks out of

the meeting with Boeing-sized big businesses after they claim they are the

ones who create the jobs at the small businesses.

Newt Gingrich defines socialism as "big government: Government is

smart. You're stupid. Government should decide everything."

So a government that decides everything and lies to you because you're

too stupid to let it go to war in Iraq, that's socialist? Newt Gingrich

just called George Bush a socialist?

The newest political science from a beauty queen. A contestant

seeking to succeed Carrie Prejean says some of her friends are gay, but,

quote, "the Bible is pretty black and white." They're supposed to be put

to death.

And on the eve of the health care reform summit, a "Special Comment":

a message to all those who enter tomorrow, from my father.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

Heading into tomorrow's purportedly bipartisan health care summit,

only one plan is acceptable to the Republicans: scrapping reform and, so

they claim, starting over.

Yet on the floor of the House this afternoon, during a debate over a

planned vote to revoke the insurance cartel's anti-trust exemption, when

Democrat Anthony Weiner of New York declared that the Republican party is a

wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry, an offended Republican

invoked a rule that Mr. Weiner may automatically chastise and officially

chastise for his remarks.

Well, Mr. Weiner consented to withdraw his words and substitute other

words. The same Republican, Dan Lungren of California, objected to that,

too - in effect, obstructing his own effort to chastise the Democrat for

calling out the GOP on its obstructionism.

Congressman's Weiner unacceptable outburst of truth in a moment.

And good luck achieving bipartisanship tomorrow, Mr. President.

New details emerging about what it took to get Republicans to the

table and about the table itself. At tomorrow's summit showdown at Blair

House, across the street from the White House, "Politico" reporting that

the opposition's first demand was that the president not use a podium,

quote, "We don't want anymore of that Professor Obama lecturing to us

stuff," an anonymous staffer telling the Web site.

You will recall that the last people to argue with a president of the

United States over the shape of a negotiating table were the North


The official White House schedule of event is showing that indeed

participants will be seated at tables at a hollow square setup.

The president is happy they're coming.


OBAMA: And tomorrow, I look forward to a good exchange of ideas at

the Blair House with some of the legislative leaders. And I hope everyone

comes with a shared desire to solve this challenge, not to score political



OLBERMANN: Minority Whip Boehner telling members of his own

conference that he's going to crash the meeting to which he was invited.

An aide familiar with his remarks telling "The Hill" newspaper that Mr.

Boehner said, quote, "We shouldn't let the White House have a six-hour

taxpayer-funded infomercial on Obamacare," as he calls it. "We need to

show up. We need to crash the party."

Invited but not crashing, the Democrat Jay Rockefeller of the Senate

today is clarifying his opposition to passing the public option by

reconciliation, saying in a statement, in effect, that there is no use in

trying. Senator Levin is disagreeing, still trying to becoming the 24th

Democrat and the sixth chairman to sign the letter calling for the public

option by reconciliation.

Meanwhile in the House, lawmakers demanding an explanation from

WellPoint about its plans to institute huge rate hikes, and not merely in

California, proposed 39 percent rate increase there, but at least in 10

other states where it has subsidiaries. Chairman Waxman of the House

Energy and Commerce Committee revealing that his investigators had found

internal WellPoint documents which proved the company was raising premiums

merely to pad its profits to a target of 7 percent.

Yesterday at a hearing, in California, a company executive having

testified that the company had no interest in anything other than slimmer

profits of 2 percent to 5 percent, you know, nothing at all, next to

nothing - only $2 billion to $4 billion. WellPoint's CEO Angela Braly

arguing that her company's profit margins are modest compared to other

sectors of the economy - you know, like Europe.

As we mentioned, it was against that backdrop today that the House

also began debate on whether to revoke the insurance cartel's anti-trust

exemption, McCarran-Ferguson.

When Republicans essentially tried to scuttle that bill with a motion

to recommit, Democrat Anthony Weiner decided he had heard enough.


WEINER: You know, you got to love these Republicans. I mean, you

guys have chutzpah. You - the Republican Party is a wholly-owned

subsidiary of the insurance industry. That's the fact.

They say that - well, this isn't going to do enough, but when we

propose an alternative to provide competition, they're against it. They

say that, well, we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and

they'll do the job. But when we did that in our national health care bill,

they said, we're against it. They said they want to have competition, and

when we proposed requiring competition, the Republicans are against it.

They are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. That's

the fact. And now, they stand up and say that -

REP. DAN LUNGREN (R), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker, I ask

the gentleman's words be taken down.

WEINER: You really don't want to go here, Mr. Lungren.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. Gentleman from New

York will please take a seat. The clerk will report the words. The

gentleman seeking unanimous consent to withdraw his words?

WEINER: I request unanimous consent to substitute other words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would involve a withdraw, does gentleman

withdraw -

WEINER: I request unanimous consent to withdraw my words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there an objection to the request?

Objection sorted. Gentleman from New York is recognized.

WEINER: Make to mistake about it - every single Republican I have

ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance

industry. That is why Americans -

LUNGREN: Mr. Speaker, I ask the gentleman's words be taken down once


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will suspend. The gentleman from Oregon has two

minutes and 50 seconds remaining.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A minute and a half, go for it.

WEINER: I thank you very much.

Look, the point is very simple. There are inequities in the present

way we distribute insurance, the way we distribute health care. There are

winners and there are losers. The winners are the insurance industry.

And our efforts to reel in the insurance profits, not just because

they shouldn't make profits, they're doing what they supposed to. But what

they're doing is driving up taxes, they're driving our economy into the

ground, and we need competition and choice to deal with that. That's what

this legislation does and the motion to recommit undermines it.

And I've heard a couple of times today - well, we have an effort for

bipartisanship here. No, there is not bipartisanship on this fundamental

issue. And that is the people who sit on this side at the risk of

offending anyone generally support the idea of standing up for the American

people in their daily battles against high insurance. And the people,

generally speaking, who sit on this side of the chamber, and specifically

speaking as well in a lot of cases, simply won't permit that to happen and

haven't for a generation.

Well, that's going to end now. That is going end to because we are

going to have competition. We are going to make sure that there are

regulations, and we are going to make sure that the American people aren't

gouged. That's what the American people stand for.

And time and time again, people say, well, I don't really mind this

bill, I just want to weaken it to the point it's meaningless. And then I

heard my good friend from Texas say, well, this doesn't do anything.

But every single time we've tried to do something, like a tiny sliver

of competition called the public option, said, no, we can't withstand

competition, we can't have that.

Enough of the phoniness. We are going to solve this problem, because

for years, our Republican friends have been unable to and unwilling to.

Deal with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the gentleman for those remarks.


OLBERMANN: The House tonight voting to repeal the insurance cartel's

anti-trust exemption by a vote of 406 to 19.

Time now to call in Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" and

"Newsweek," who blogs on economic and domestic policy, including,

especially, health care.

Good evening, Ezra.


OLBERMANN: It's funny. There aren't 406 Democrats in the House.

That must have been bipartisan. Is there any chance McCarran-Ferguson

finally meets its timely death in a bipartisan way in the Senate?

KLEIN: I think it's going to go through. I think you saw Reid's jobs

bill the other day, too. The Democrats are getting good at doing something

the Republicans didn't expect them to do, modulating their ambitions and

creating small bite-sized bills that nobody can afford to be against. They

can try to kill them procedurally so you can't detect their fingerprints on

the death, but they can't vote against them.

OLBERMANN: Here are the day's highlights as near as I can - I can

ascertain them.

One, despite the 406 yay votes, the GOP tried to kill the vote, as you

said, procedurally, on the anti-trust - killing the anti-trust exemption.

Then, two, a Republican obstructed his own effort to chastise a

Democrat for calling the GOP out on obstructionism.

And three, the GOP says that heading into tomorrow's summit, scrapping

the current health care reform plan that was passed in different forms by

both houses is the only acceptable means of bipartisan reform.

And four, the House minority leader claims he is crashing the summit

to which he was invited.

Five, at that summit, the public option will not even be there on the

table, and it's a table, not a podium, because this is like trying to

resolve the Vietnam War again.

Six, the senator who wrote the public option legislation says the

Democrats should try to stop - should stop trying to pass the public


Explain to me, if you can, Ezra, why are they holding this summit


KLEIN: They're holding the summit because two or three weeks ago,

they needed something to do two or three weeks from then.

I mean, the summit has done one thing that's been very important,

Keith. It has given everybody something to focus on. Do the Republicans

come? Does Barack Obama present a bill, while Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi

have been working to get their ducks in line, working to talk about

compromises, working to figure out who goes first, how does reconciliation


And beneath all of this, you're hearing in "Politico" today the story

where very moderate Democrats, the Landrieus and Lincolns of the world were

saying, yes, I think maybe we need to do reconciliation. And over in the

House, you're getting to see it takes shape, you know, what sort of

compromise you would need.

So, the process is moving forward and the summit was a pretty good job

at getting the press to look over there for a little while.

OLBERMANN: How about reconciliation? Senator Rockefeller has claimed

that there's no use in trying for the public option on that. Was not the

start of this debate, as it was scaled-down from single-payer before it was

even introduced, was there not some phrase that went something like

whatever happened to the idea of not letting the perfect be the enemy of

the good?

KLEIN: Sure. I think - I'll give Senator Rockefeller credit on

this, though. When I've talked to offices they're saying, yes, we're

signing this, but we don't want to do this. And Rockefeller came out and

he was at least up-front with liberals, right? He at least said, look, I'm

with you on this, I don't think we get it done and I'm not going to try.

And I think that there are a lot of offices right there that are doing

something a bit cowardly and saying, yes, sure, it's easier for us to say

we'll sign the letter than it is for us to say we won't, but we're not

going to do it and we're just going to give you another crushing


So, frankly, I prefer Senator Rockefeller's up-front approach to the

in-name only support you're getting from some offices right now.

OLBERMANN: And cowardice, oddly enough, takes us to Ben Nelson, who

criticized the part of the president's health care plan that calls for a

federal panel to monitor rate hikes. And he told "The Wall Street

Journal," "I don't think there's a need for the federal government to step

in on this."

The state of Nevada has already approved a 12.8 percent rate hike for

WellPoint. Ten other states are going to get theirs. How can Ben Nelson

be taken seriously?

KLEIN: Ben Nelson gets taken seriously because he is - was the 60th

and now is the 59th vote. And he's going to be - he's going to be around

as long as the math works out that much in his favor.

OLBERMANN: OK. I think he's Stimpy? Yes.

Connected to this, the job bills passed the Senate this morning. Big

business then had this meeting with Senate Democrats, tried to sell them on

the emphasis on small business misses the role - their conclusion was it

misses the role that big business has to play. The Boeing CEO apparently

argued that when big business does well, small business does well, creates

the jobs, the big businesses do, in the small businesses.

His argument got him a chewing out from the majority leader, Mr. Reid,

who then got up and left. That sounds an awful lot like trickle-down

economics. Was what they actually tried to sell Senate Democrats on?

KLEIN: I think they may have given it a shot. Look, I mean, what are

these meeting incentives for these constituency groups if not for them to

raise their hand and say, look, you've got to give me mine, too. But I

think that, you know, Senator Reid has figured something out here, right?

Democrats have figured out a bit more populism and a bit about how to pass

a jobs bill and, you know, maybe big business will be in for it down the


But for now, what they have got is they got Republicans voting for

their initiatives on this. And big business would like to get in on the

game. But, for the moment, what's going to pass is what's good politics.

That jobs bill was very small, but when's the last time we were talking

about Democrats getting 70 votes on a piece of legislation?

OLBERMANN: And is that what happened there? Were there any of the

minority party who sort of voted - dare I use the word - conscience on


KLEIN: What you have there were eight - or four Republicans, I

believe - so 62 people voted for cloture on the bill, so voted to break

the filibuster. Ben Nelson voted to keep the filibuster going on the jobs

bill, incidentally. And then, when the actual bill came forward, you had

eight Republicans, some more Republicans come out for the bill.

So what you had here was a moment where you really saw clearly, there

was a difference between procedural votes and how you vote on a bill, which

Republicans have been saying over and over and over again, on health care,

is not true, that procedural votes and final votes are indistinguishable.

They're not. And this is one of the reason why Democrats tomorrow are

going to push very hard on reconciliation, because at this point you just

need a 51-vote process to get rid of these shenanigans.

OLBERMANN: They finally figured that out, after only a year since the

inauguration. Ezra Klein of the "Washington Post," thank you. Ezra, have

a good night.

We'll have complete coverage of the Blair House Summit on a special

two hour edition of Countdown tomorrow night, replaying and analyzing

extensive portions of the dialogue, or the monologues. Chris Matthews will

be here for certain. I hope to join him. I'll explain that later on.

President's question time begins tomorrow night at 9:00 pm Eastern

after hockey.

If anything is to get done tomorrow, our political leaders, all of

them, will have to spend five hours doing the equivalent of holding their

breath. They'll have to think about other people, not their careers, not

their posturing, and they damned well better. And why you need to summon

your own life panel - life panel. Two messages from the hospital bed of

my father in tonight's Special Comment.


OLBERMANN: The party that claims to stand for a balanced budget

produces the most debt in the modern political era. But that contradiction

is somehow not enough. So former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defines

socialism, aiming at President Obama, but landing squarely on his

predecessor; George W. Bush was a socialist?

Professor Gingrich recently explained that President Obama is, indeed,

a socialist, quote, "in the tradition of the French socialists or the

Italian socialists or the German socialists." Without tackling the

multiple distortions necessary to make that statement true, Gingrich

offered a simpler measure of Obama socialist.


NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: I think he represents a strain of

left-wing, big government - government is smart, you're stupid.

Government should decide everything, you're not capable of it. But if

you're asking the question, does he think the overwhelming dominance should

be government? And does he think government is smarter than the rest of

us? The answer is yes.


OLBERMANN: This from a man named Newt. Where to begin? The sneering

"we know better than you" attitude of the Bush/Cheney administration does

tend to leap to mind. But it was, of course, so much more than attitude,

such as President Bush's signature achievement, his so-called preemptive

war in Iraq, which was famously described by Chief of Staff Andrew Card as

akin to rolling out a new product. And when that war could not be sold

with marketing alone, the lying was kicked up a notch or two, you know,

because government is smart, you're stupid, government should decide

everything, you're not capable of it.

And when shock and awe did not usher in a speedy conquest, American

casualties escalated under the shockingly arrogant reign of Defense

Secretary Rumsfeld, who of all of President Bush's men may have most

epitomized this part of it: government is smart; you're stupid.

Of course, the same administration brought us torture and warrantless

wiretapping, so that even Constitution-shredding maneuvers were predicated

on the notion that a particular cluster of government men knew better.

Ah, but lets harken back to the golden years when an administrations

sold arms to Iran in direct contravention of stated US policy, and when

that president's subordinates came up with the genius idea to use the

secret money from those arms sales and funnel it to the Nicaraguan Contra

rebels, despite legal prohibitions. After all, it is a patriotic act when

our own government breaks the law, because government is smart, you're

stupid, Newt.

And by the way, why don't conservatives pay more attention to the

words of the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower? "We must guard

against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or

unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the

disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Government is smart, you're stupid.

We could devote an hour to wasteful military contracts throughout the

years, but when the current Pentagon is struggling against pork barrel kind

of Congressmen to cancel further protection of C-17 transport planes, which

it already has, in surplus, and needs no more of, that pretty much says it


To be fair, Mr. Gingrich cited other items in calling Mr. Obama a

socialist, like the bank bailout, which was President Bush's act, and the

automotive bailout, which President Bush was pushing as his term expired,

and this health care reform thing of Obama's. But in the modern era, the

greatest redistribution of income, supposedly the specialty of socialists,

was in fact produced by President Reagan, redistribution from the lower and

middle classes to the upper class.

And the recent bank bailout, of course, began under President Bush.

And the biggest new entitlement since the hey-day of Social Security and

Medicare was the Medicare Prescription Drug Program from the Bush

administration, under-funded, therefore deficit financed.

But through Mr. Gingrich's eyes, it is President Obama who believes

that government is smart, you're stupid. And, of course, he believes in

the unsaid Gingrichian corollary: Gingrich is smart, you're too stupid to

notice that his definition of socialism defines George Bush.

Big changes to the segment formerly known as "Worst Persons in the

World" next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The new beauty queen who says, "gay people will be visited

with death ordained by god." And my Special Comment about health care

reform and my father.

That's next, first, we are tonight changing the title of one of more

popular segments. The premise is the same, but since some of the people

did not get that the title was ironic, ladies and gentlemen, here are

tonight's inductee and the two runners up for the Countdown Hall of Shame.

The bronze to the website Media-ite. Can't figure out why I called

them gullible last night. They offer a few conspiracy theories about it,

never recognizing that to simply take a look at a Tea Party video and pair

it, without questioning or even checking its claim that it "highlights the

remarkable lack of diversity on MSNBC's lineup. Judge not, lest yeah be

judged." Ain't journalism. There is not remarkable lack of diversity on

MSNBC's lineup. There are at least 23 minority newscasters, hosts, part

time hosts, paid contributors and correspondents from NBC on MSNBC's

lineup. Perhaps the reason that Media-ite took a Tea Party's word for it

is that this is the same site of a fired MSNBC employee, and in his attempt

to implant his bitterness towards this place, to plug or weave it into his

website, he has wigged out. He would like us to sweep his failure under

the rug, as if it were a bald-faced lie, or there will be hell to pay.

Our runner up, Lonesome Roads Beck. Critics are not happy with his

speech to CPAC last weekend, right-wing critics. Bill Bennett says Beck is

projecting his own past drug problems on to the political scene, quote,

"taken to our politics a cosmologizing of his own deficiencies. This is

not a baseless criticism. They are his own deficiencies that he keeps

publicly redounding to and analogizing to. It is wrong and he is wrong."

Rush Limbaugh, "I would not have said that the only people who can

stop Obama should be excoriated for being just as bad."

Mark Levin told him to "stop dividing conservatives," and added, "I

have no idea what philosophy Glenn Beck is promoting. Neither does he.

It's incoherent."

And now Glenn is learning the problem with a movement predicated on

purity tests and purging the infidels: sooner or later, you become impure

and get purged.

But the enshrinee tonight, someone called Ann Warren (ph) of a website

called "Post Chronicle," Who writes, "Keith Olbermann has decided to take

the easy way out of facing those he denigrates, and bagged out of a Dallas

Tea Party invitation to come and meet them. Like the school bully hiding

behind his mama's skirt when it's time to face the principal. In fact, in

his comments, he tries to evoke sympathy for himself by using his

hospitalized father as an excuse to avoid travel. He's been in intensive

care apparently for six months, as Olbermann claims he hasn't been able to

leave NYC but once in all this time."

Ms. Warren, like Anne Coulter, you just invoked my recently deceased

mother and called my father's illness the easy way out and an excuse.

Who's the bully? But thank you for letting America know why your ilk

opposing health care reform. Check that space where your heart is supposed

to be, just there. The rest of us can see right through you to the other

side. Ann Warren, welcome to the Countdown Hall of Shame.


OLBERMANN: A Miss California USA hopeful aspires to inherit the tiara

once worn by one of her favorites, dethroned beauty queen Carrie Prejean.

But while the former Ms. California's narrow world view stopped at her

support for opposite marriage, the current Miss Beverly Hills cites divine

law as reasons for gays not to marry and as a reason for them to die,

although she does seem to think God takes care of that rather than people.

The city that she claims to represent has renounced her. Miss Beverly

Hills, Lauren Ashley, telling's blog, "Pop Tarts, "the Bible

says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, if

man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have

committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their

blood shall be upon them. The Bible is pretty black and white."

Ms. Ashley is elaborating on God's supposed position: "if he says that

having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon

you, that's a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about


Ms. Ashley's prophesy angering, among others, the mayor of Beverly

Hills: "We are dismayed by any potential association with the city of

Beverly Hills, which has a long history of tolerance and respect. The city

maintains it does not sponsor a beauty pageant and has no association with

Miss California USA."

While TMZ reports that pageant officials say, "contestants are allowed

to choose which areas they represent, and as long as they add the letters

USA to the end of the title, it doesn't have to be approved by the city."

Adding insult to injury, a city spokesperson says Ms. Ashley is not even

from Beverly Hills. She's from Pasadena. Geographical differences aside,

Ms. Ashley is not backing down.


LAUREN ASHLEY, MISS BEVERLY HILLS: It's nothing against people that

are gay. I have friends that are gay. And I just - I just personally,

from my beliefs - I'm a Christian and it's in the Bible. So -


OLBERMANN: Joining me now, the author of "The Commitment: Love, Sex,

Marriage, and My Family," columnist Dan Savage. Dan, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So some of her friends are gay, but they deserve death

because they're gay. Do we think Miss Ashley fully comprehends what she's

saying or the slight danger that her friends appear to be in?

SAVAGE: No, I don't think she fully comprehends what she's saying.

And I would like to see her gay friends produced for the cameras to give a

quote, too. I don't think she understands that even though there are very

hateful things in the Bible about gay people, there are very hateful things

in the Bible about a lot of people. But by promoting those passages that

call for the deaths of gay people, she encourages people who might commit

violent acts against gay people to feel justified.

So she is putting her friends, who may visit West Hollywood, who are

gay, in very real danger of being gay bashed when she injects this into the

public discourse.

OLBERMANN: I think that's a very good point. Speaking of injections,

we'll explain why she's sitting there with a doctor holding some sort of

cattle prod in a moment. But also from Leviticus is this, "love thy

neighbor as thyself." When is someone going to come out and cherry pick

the Bible, and pull that one out, as opposed to this, maybe pull out the

explanation of how the elders of the town are supposed to stone some male

relative of her, maybe, because he shaves.

SAVAGE: There's so much in the Bible who, quote, unquote, take it

literally choose to overlook and pretend it's not there. The Bible

justifies genocide. The Bible justifies slavery. The Bible calls on

parents to murder their disobedient children. All these literalists who

say, "hey, it's in the Bible, what can I do, I have to take it seriously,"

pretend that those verses aren't also in there.

If the verses that apply to me and my life and the way my life works

and the person that I am are going to be bandied about and enforced, I

would like to see the provision from Deuteronomy that calls for the deaths

of women who are not virgins on their wedding nights to also be enforced.

And if that's not going to be enforced - I don't actually want to see it

enforced - then maybe you could drop the anti-gay murderous crap from the

Bible, too.

OLBERMANN: Oddly enough, a Fox News blog reports that Miss Ashley

parties with Paris Hilton. So Paris would presumably be out the window.

But she also appears in that series of videos that we saw for this website

calling "Buying Beauty TV," in which she discusses - this is Ms. Ashley -

discusses liposuction, lip implants, breast augmentation, with that plastic

surgeon there, the guy holding the stick. Carrie Prejean got herself into

trouble by casting the first stone. And I guess, in response, she kind of

broadened where she was - where she had originally been. But - I'm not

agreeing for a moment with what she did, but there was a sort of - sort of

an understanding why she escalated it. This girl comes pre-escalated. Not

only - she seems to be topping Carrie Prejean.

SAVAGE: She does. And you know, as we found out about Carrie

Prejean, as that unfolded, she was a very randy girl, a randier girl than a

figurehead for the religious right has a right to be. And if we're going

to bandy about Bible verses, Timothy one, "women should adorn themselves in

respectable apparel with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair

and golden pearls or costly attire."

And really, breast implants and lip implants are the braided hair and

gold and pearls of our era. And if she believes that I should have to live

and die by the prescriptions in the Old Testament, I believe that she

should have to obey the prescriptions in the New Testament. She's a

cafeteria Biblical literalist, apparently. She should be called on it. If

she believes that Leviticus applies to me, I believe Timothy applies to

her. She should be stoned, and then I can be put to death, as soon as

she's stoned.

OLBERMANN: Boy, it's going to clear out the whole country in a hurry.

Is there anything in there about cell phone photos? Never mind. Dan

Savage, columnist of "Savage Love," a great thanks, as always.

SAVAGE: Thank you, Keith. >

OLBERMANN: When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, did you know

reconciliation is actually the dreaded nuclear option? It ain't. It

ain't. But the Republicans are telling their supporters it is. Her

special guest, Senator Barbara Boxer, says it isn't.

And on the eve of the health care summit, a special comment and a

message to all of the participants from my father.


OLBERMANN: We're running a little late tonight, all of us at MSNBC,

because of that epic curling overtime. Rachel will be with you for the

full hour starting in about 15 minutes.

It is impossible to imagine just how much hot air will be expended at

tomorrow's health care reform summit at Blair House in Washington. If only

the politicians could do something useful with it, like give it to those

struggling to breathe in our hospitals at this hour.

They can't. But they can give relief to those struggling to pay in

our hospitals at this hour.

Special Comment, next.


OLBERMANN: Finally, tonight, a "Special Comment" about health care

reform and tomorrow's summit at Blair House. If I prove to have trouble

getting through this, I apologize in advance.

Last Friday night, my father asked me to kill him. We were just shy

of six months since he was hospitalized and it was the end of a long day at

the end of a longer week. Not to get too clinical or too grotesque on you,

but he'd had his colon remove at the end of September and that went so well

that it was no more complicated than an appendectomy.

But what followed was a series of infections, like storms in the

monsoon season, one arriving, blossoming, inundating him, my dad shaking it

off and cheerfully bouncing back, and then within days, another one coming

to flatten him once again. Pneumonia, three or four times, I've lost

count. Kidney failure, liver failure - the liver failure got better,

remarkably enough. Dialysis, feeding tubes, drainage taps, drainage tubes,

breathing tubes.

He couldn't talk through that. Then he got strong enough and they

could put a cap on a breathing tube and one day, he scared the crap out of

a friend of his who didn't know, who came in and gave him the customary,

"How you doing, Ted" - only to jump out of his shoes when my father

suddenly and gleefully answered him a strong, full voice, "Surprisingly


Sometimes, dad swelled up and looked like he was puffy as a prize

fighter who had a really bad night and sometimes, he'd get dialysis that

was so effective or an antibiotic so specific that he would look like he

did 25 years ago.

Three weeks ago, they have found extraordinary. A nurse noticed what

seemed like a minor infection just below the surface of his skin, a kind of

super pimple, if you will. It was actually the front edge of a series of

abscesses which would be drained and would produce all told about six

liters of infected stuff.

Six liters - you know how much that is? You know what that looks

like? You don't want to know.

But you do want to know it's been found because it means the man

hasn't been weak all this time, he's been incredibly, inhumanly strong.

The abscesses were like swimming pools for these infections. The strongest

one would emerge, then my dad, with the help of the antibiotics, would kill

it off. Then the antibiotics would be discontinued and the next infection

would pop out and challenge him. As he pointed out - you know, just like

the organized crime families.

Then last week they found another abscess of sorts in the chest. So

they need to put drains in there, too. This was Friday morning. His

surgical team came in to see him. He did his nonverbal caricature of their

chief. They all laughed like hell. They numbed him up, snip, snip, plug,

plug, and this infection starts draining and they leave him alone for a


Then in the afternoon, they changed a few of the plugs, the I.V.s

attached to and the respiratory therapist had been in checking the

ventilator and his tubes because there was a leak somewhere. And to

improve his dialysis, they changed his dialysis port. And then in the

evening, they needed a CAT Scan of his chest to make sure those drains were

in the right place and they had to change a dressing on some bad skin. And

every hour, of course, the nurse had to come in and draw blood to check how

well he was getting oxygen.

And then at night, it was time for dialysis using the new dialysis

port. And that's when I showed up after this show. My father was a little

annoyed, the way he often gets in there - annoyed about all the activity.

That day, it was like being Sisyphus with that boulder. Only at the top of

the hill, when he loses the boulder, it doesn't just roll back downhill, it

rolls over him first.

He's brave about pain, provided you warn him in advance and provided

the sheer volume of the activity during the day doesn't terrify him. As in

terrorism, it is not just when terror happens, it's terror that it might


So, he's annoyed, but in a good mood Friday night, and as I usually

do, I sit down to read to him, Thurber. I've been reading a lot of James

Thurber short stories lately and he's insisted I should do it on the show

and see about that.

But a few pages in, the X-ray technician shows up. They have to take

one more picture of him to see if those new drains in his chest are

working, and I have to leave his room for, at most, three minutes.

And I come back in, and my father is thrashing his head back and

forth. You can't hear him, he can't speak at the moment, but you back a

lip reader in those circumstances. And this one word he keeps repeating is

not tough to discern, "help." He's mouthing the word "help" over and over

and over again.

And I get his attention and he is in full panic. Maybe the X-ray tech

hurt his back or touched my dad's new chest drains or likely, he had

nothing very much at all, but it was just too much for my father. "Stop

this," he mouths. "Stop, stop, stop."

And I say to him, "I know for a fact they're not doing anything more

to you tonight." And he looks at me and he starts thrashing his head

again, "Help, help, help." I get his attention once more. I asked him,

"Do you want me to stop all of this?" And he looks at me and mouths,

"Yes." And I asked him, "Do you understand what happens then?" And he

looks at me and again mouths, "Yes."

And I ask him, "Do you realize you are not terminally ill right now?

If we do stop all this, it might not be quick." And he mouths, "Stop

this." And I say, trying to joke him out of it or through it, and trust

me, gallows humor is your best defense in this situation, "What, you want

me to smother you with a pillow?" And he mouths, "Yes, kill me."

I told my dad that, obviously, I would not do that. But I would go

and talk to the doctors. When I came back, I told him they would really be

put out by this, because he wasn't sick enough and all the indications were

he could still fight off what remained of those infections. And he went

back to thrashing his head and mouthing "help" because clearly I was not

giving him the sense of relief, relief from the paradoxical truth that

people desperately trying to save your life sometimes manage only or also

to torture you.

Of course, I actually was trying to get him that sense of relief.

When I went to see the surgical intensive care unit resident, I told him my

dad had hit his wall, he couldn't take any other work, that it was now

terrifying torture, that he needed it to stop. But I said, look, I'm his

health proxy, we had conversations about end-of-life care. We've had them

in here, when he was home and well, I am not operating in the dark here. I

said, I think he really wants the one word he keeps mouthing, he wants

help. Is there any medical reason not to, I don't know, give him some

sedation, some sort of mental vacation from being the patient?

The resident thought that was a damned good idea and said it would

also help his breathing, which the respiratory therapist had noticed wasn't

quite right that night. So when I came in and gave my father the song and

dance about how put out the doctors were, really, I was just stalling. I

started to read to him again and he was still thrashing his head from side

to side in utter frustration and then he started calm down and enjoy the

story. And as he began to close his eyes and rest, the nurse slipped in

and injected a sedative into one of his I.V.s.

And as I left the hospital that night, the full impact of these last

six months washed over me. What I had done - conferring about the

resident in ICU, the conversation about my father's panicky, not in

complete control of his faculties demand that all treatment now stop, about

the options and the consequences and the compromise, the sedation, the help

for a brave man who just needed a break.

That conversation, that one, was what these ghouls who are walking

into Blair House tomorrow morning decided to call death panels. Your right

to have that conversation with a doctor, not the government, but a doctor,

and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options

are when dad says "kill me" - or what your options are when dad is in a

coma and can't tell you a damn thing. Or what your options are when

everybody is healthy and happy and coherent and you're just planning ahead.

Your right to have the guidance and the reassurance of a professional

who can lay that all out for you - that's a, quote, "death panel,"

unquote. That, right now, is the legacy of the protests of these sub-

humans who get paid by the insurance companies, who say these things for

their own political gain, or like that one fiend, for money. For money!

Betsy McCaughey told people that this conversation about life and

death and relief and release, and also about - no, keep treating them no

matter what happens, until the nation runs out of medicine. She told

people that's a death panel! And she did that for money!

It's a life panel - a life panel. It can save the pain of the

patient and the family. It is the difference between you guessing what

happens next and you being informed about what probably will. And that's

the difference between you sleeping at night or second-guessing and third-

guessing and 30th guessing yourself.

And it can also be the place where your family says, we want you to

keep him alive no matter what. We believe in miracles. And the doctor

says, yes. Nobody gets to say no except the patient or the family. It's a

life panel - and damn those who call it otherwise to hell.

And that brings up the other point of all this. They've rolled my

father under every piece of machinery in there except an atom splitter.

They pumped him full of every drug and remedy and he's got Medicare and

some supplemental insurance and my out-of-pocket medical bills over the

last six months have been greater than my dad's have.

And why in the hell should that not be true of everybody in every

hospital in every sick room in every clinic in this country? What is this

country for if not to take care of its people? Because whatever I've been

through these last six months and whatever my dad's been through, not once

were our fears or our decisions amplified by the further horror of

wondering, how the hell would we pay for this?

About families having these conversations tonight about kids or about

uninsured adults or what about the guy out there whose father is 50 and

he's mouthing the word "help" and the guy knows what his father doesn't

know, that the insurance company has just declared the illness the father

has is a pre-existing condition and he has no more insurance, and when that

son goes out to talk to that doctor about what to do next, even if there is

a chance of recovery, that son can't afford to pay for it.

That is the goddamned death panel, Sarah Palin.

Since Friday night, my father has been comfortable. He's been

breathing well, and there have been no sign of stress or discomfort. He

has also not awakened. His white blood cell count, the indicator of

infection, is now at about four or five times normal. Doubtlessly, in

removing that much infection from him, some of it got loose into his

bloodstream or it came in from another source.

He's not being sedated anymore, but he only has the strength to fight

off the infections or wake up, not both. We're hoping he does the first

and then the latter. We are prepared for the probability that he will do


His team and I had another life discussion, life panel discussion, not

six hours ago. And thank God I had those conversations with my father.

Thank God I got his instructions about when to use my judgment and when to

stick exclusively with his and when, if he's capable of recovery, to let

them use everything they have, and when to make sure they're not just

keeping him alive with no hope, when to listen to the instruction "help"

first and then the one about "stop" later.

So, considering that if he does not recover, you will not see me here

for a while, I have some requests. First of you, please, have this

conversation with your loved ones. Don't wait. Do it now.

It's tough. It acknowledges death. And it also narrows the gray area

you or they will face from infinity to about a foot wide. It is my

greatest comfort right now and I want it to be yours.

And to the politicians who go into Blair House tomorrow for that

summit, I have some requests as well. Leave your egos at the door. I

want, I demand, that you give everybody in this country a chance at the

care my father has gotten. And I demand that you enact this most generous

and most kind aspect of the reform proposed, the right to bill the damned

insurance company for the conversation about what to do when the time

comes, the life panel.

And I want all of you to think of somebody lying in a hospital bed

tonight who needed that care and needed that conversation and imagine that

is your father or mother or son or daughter or wife or husband or partner -

and if you cannot do that, if you cannot put aside the meaninglessness of

your political careers for this, my request to you then is that you not

come back out of that meeting, for you would not be worthy of being with

the real people of this country who suffer, and who suffer again because

you have acted on behalf of the corporations and not the people. If you

cannot do this, go into that room and stay there, and we will get new ones

to replace your worthless roles in the life of our country.

My father cannot speak for himself. He appointed me to do so for him.

I haven't the slightest doubt he wants me to say this tonight, right now.

He mouthed these words to me and I will now give them such voice as I have,

to you, going into that summit tomorrow: help, help, help, help.

Good night and good luck.