Monday, February 15, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, February 15, 2010
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Special Comment:
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Guests: Ezra Klein, David Corn.

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

Defensive Dick -


RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: And you opposed the administration's actions of doing away with waterboarding?



OLBERMANN: Desperately attacking presidents, is the ex-vice president scrambling because the Obama administration has reportedly arrested an al Qaeda operative headed for Yemen carrying 300 phone numbers, pictures, names and documents? An al Qaeda rolodex.

What do you want, an engraved invitation? Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package that is on the White House's actual invitation to Republicans to show up for the health care reform summit a week from Thursday. Why Ezra Klein believes it signals a compromise between the House and Senate reform bills?

And "OK, OK, we will go," hint the Republicans, but we're already decided we're not going to be happy about it." Our guest, Ezra Klein.

Bye bye. Those who argue the gentleman from Indiana was the wishy-washiest member of the Senate will just have to find a new hero.


SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives. But I do not love Congress.


OLBERMANN: "Worsts": now, they're chiding Obama for revealing Abdulmutallab is talking because we wouldn't want the other terrorists to know somebody we captured is talking -


GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: We also broke up two other post-9/11 aviation plots just two months ago. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stated that his intended target was the Library Tower in Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: And on Presidents Day - of Washington and Founding Fathers and Lincoln and freedom, and a "Special Comment," a question for the tea partiers: Where, at your rallies, are the black people?

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

What could be an intelligence breakthrough in the Persian Gulf - in late January, the arrest of an al Qaeda operative with access to such much information, phone numbers, photos, and documents that might enable U.S. intelligence officials to link al Qaeda's leaders in northwest Pakistan to the terror group's increasingly active outpost in Yemen. Evan Kohlmann, who provides counterterrorism analysis for the U.S. government agencies and for this news hour, saying, quote, "These kinds of grabs are not all that common."

Word of this Obama administration terror success story breaking on the "Newsweek" Web site over the weekend, the same weekend in which an atypically defensive and rattled former Vice President Dick Cheney again attacked President Obama as being supposedly soft on terror. Mr. Cheney, essentially, accused much of the Bush administration of being soft on terror, too. More on that in a moment.

In an interview with ABC News, the former vice president renewing his assault on the current administration's mind-set for its fighting al Qaeda.


CHENEY: It's the mind-set that concerns me, John. I think it's very important to go back and keep in mind the distinction between handling these events as criminal acts, which was the way we did before 9/11, and then looking at 9/11 and saying, "This is not a criminal act," not when you destroy 16 acres of Manhattan, kill 3,000 Americans, blow a big hole in the Pentagon. That's an act of war.

And what the administration was slow to do was to come to that recognition that we are at war, not dealing with criminal acts. And as I say, my response there dealt specifically with the fact the president called it an isolated extremist. It was not.


OLBERMANN: Most recently, contending Mr. Cheney, in how it dealt with the arrest of the Christmas bomber, Abdulmutallab.


CHENEY: The proper way to deal with it would have been to treat him as an enemy combatant. I think that was the right way to go. The thing I learned from watching that process unfold, though, was that the administration really wasn't equipped to deal with the aftermath of an attempted attack against the United States in the sense that they didn't know what to do with the guy.


OLBERMANN: So, was it a mistake, Mr. Vice president, when your administration took the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and within five minutes of getting him off that plane, read him his Miranda rights? Not only then, but four times in the first 48 hours he was held?


CHENEY: Well, first of all, I believe he was not tried. He pled guilty. They never did end up having a trial. Secondly, when this came up, as I recall, it was December of '01, just a couple of months after 9/11, we were not yet operational with the military commissions. We hadn't had all the Supreme Court decisions handed down about what we could and couldn't do with the commission.

KARL: But you still had the option to put him into military custody.

CHENEY: Well, we could have put him into military custody, I don't -

I don't question that. The point is, in this particular case, all of that was never worked out, primarily because he pled guilty.


OLBERMANN: In fact, Richard Reid, arrested at the end of December, 2001, pleaded guilty in 2003. More than a year later, the administration having had more than enough time to pursue whatever route it wished to have chosen - as it did with everything else.

The current White House hitting back against Cheney's lies and hitting back hard, deploying the current vice president, Joe Biden, to do concurrent interviews from Vancouver, where he was leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympics.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me choose my words carefully here. Dick Cheney's a fine fellow. He's entitled to his own opinions. He's not entitled to rewrite history. He's not entitled to his own facts.

The Christmas Day bomber was treated the exact way that he suggested that the shoe bomber was treated - absolutely the same way. I don't know where he has been. Where was he the last four years of the last administration?


OLBERMANN: Where, indeed? Were it not for his secret undisclosed location, it now appears that sitting Vice President Cheney could have spent much of his time publicly haranguing fellow Bush administration officials. When confronted yesterday with a Bush-era Justice Department document, which praised civilian courts as an effective weapon against terror, a document proving that many Bush officials endorsed the current Obama approach, Mr. Cheney acknowledging that there was a difference of opinion within the Bush administration.


KARL: They're not doing it all that differently from how you were doing it.

CHENEY: Well, we didn't all agree with that. We had, I can remember, a meeting in the Roosevelt Room in the west wing of the White House, where we had a major shootout over how this was going to be handled, between the Justice Department that advocated that approach and many of the rest of us who wanted to treat it as an intelligence matter, as an act of war with military commissions. We never thoroughly or totally resolved those issues. These are tough questions, no doubt about it.


OLBERMANN: Well, Mr. Cheney knows his major shootouts, no doubt about it - as does his friend, Harry Whittington. The former vice president on the wrong end of the metaphorical bird shot yesterday, went in response to a question about whether the Christmas bomber should be waterboarded, he basically admitted to being a war criminal.


CHENEY: I won some, I lost some. I can't -

KARL: I mean, waterboarding, clearly, what was your -

CHENEY: I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques.

KARL: And you opposed the administration's actions of doing away with waterboarding?



OLBERMANN: And then there is the war of choice, for profit, that Mr. Cheney and the neocons lied their way into. The former vice president and Halliburton's CEO's latest lie that the conflict began with the surge and that the 4,376 American lives we have spent to help line the pockets of Cheney and his cronies has been worth the cost.


CHENEY: If they had had their way, if we'd followed the policies they'd pursued from the outset or advocated from the outset, Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Baghdad today. So, if they're going to take credit for it, fair enough, for what they've done while they're there, but it ought to go with a healthy dose of "Thank you, George Bush," upfront, and a recognition that some of their early recommendations with respect to prosecuting that war were just dead wrong.


OLBERMANN: Let's call on MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O'Donnell, also a contributor to "The Huffington Post," joining us from Los Angeles.

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN: This has been treated over the last 24 hours, largely as:

Cheney again attacks Obama. Wasn't the real headline in there that waterboarding admission? I was a big supporter of waterboarding?

O'DONNELL: It was really quite striking. And it's been underplayed, I think, because of the way he treated it so routinely - and just made it seem like something that's perfectly reasonable, perfectly reasonable position to take, perfectly reasonable admission to make at this point in this story.

But I think one of - the overall impression of the interview so far, if you listen to George Will and the comment across the political spectrum from the most reasonable of those commentators, is that Cheney demonstrated that everything he's criticizing President Obama for is an extension of policy that already existed in the Cheney White House and that these were lost battles within the Cheney White House. That he lost the battle there is and he wants to continue to fight them against the Obama/Biden White House.

OLBERMANN: Citing this idea that he expanded this backwards a little bit to reveal the unfortunately phrased "shootout" in the White House between himself and unnamed others, am I wrong about the tone that - whatever else he lacks, and I would say he lacks a grasp of reality, Mr. Cheney has never lacked certitude. Did this seem a little more defensive to you than the previous explosions on the subject?

O'DONNELL: Well, I think when he's in adult company, outside of FOX News, he actually has to adopt a different style, and I think he knows that. And I think he knows when that panel is going to follow him, as they did on ABC News and analyze everything he has to say, he has to stay a little bit closer to the base. A little bit closer to reality.

And so, I think that's what you were seeing, a little bit of a defensive crouch about what is George Will going to say. And George Will, by the way, had nothing approving to say about the vice president in the discussion afterwards. And so, I think - I think because of that setting, it changes the nature of his rhetoric.

OLBERMANN: How much of that rhetoric was intended to mitigate the recent successes of Obama administration in what the Cheney/Bush White House called the war on terror, particularly, I presume, with his ear to the ground and so many thousands of sources feeding him information. And we've seen some evidence that that continued after he left the White House, that he probably had some idea about this courier on his way to Yemen with the al Qaeda rolodex that they rolled up last month.

O'DONNELL: And even without that, all you have to do is keep an eye on your newspaper for the heavy kill comp (ph) that's going on from the heavy drone program that President Obama has targeted toward al Qaeda.

And so, yes, it was aimed at so many things, Keith. Remember, he is, fundamentally, a bookseller at this point. He's got to keep the market ready for his book, which he declared on the show, will be ready a year from now, and he'll want to come back on that same show to sell the book a year from now. He can't let that book become a stale commodity a year from now. So, he's going to continue to keep the flames going, the marketing flames going on that.

And then he does have history he's contending with. He knows what's in the record. He knows what's going to be revealed long-term as more and more documents become unclassified over time. And he knows that he's going to have to be the voice on the record of these news transcripts, defending what you find out about him on the record of his own White House.

OLBERMANN: What's he going to call this book? Because I was thinking, maybe a healthy dose of "Thank you, George Bush," would probably no longer work despite his lip service there about Iraq. He does seem to have separated himself from the - from the second administration, from Bush's second term.

What - is he just - I just have this sense that he's cutting himself a smaller and smaller piece of that corner that he painted himself into quite a while ago.

O'DONNELL: Yes, he is. And he's looking in that corner for the encouragement of the neocons, who never counted George W. Bush among them. They considered George W. Bush their tool.

Cheney was their leader, in effect, and he is trying to maintain the support of that corner of Republicanism. And he is doing at least that with these public comments of his.

OLBERMANN: But what happens, and obviously, the White House was prepared for this and welcomed it, bringing Mr. Biden out for two interviews, but "The Washington Post" polling that was released last week that shows that, essentially, the strongest core issue for Barack Obama is his handling of terrorism, counterterrorism work - 56 percent, way over economy, way over health care.

What has become of the overall mean that Dick Cheney is kind of the - he's actually - his face is in the trademark that goes next to the statement, "Republicans handle terrorism better than Democrats do," and instead of T.M., it says Dick Cheney's face in it?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I think that the theme actually starts back with "tough on communism." It starts back with Joe McCarthy, Republican Senator Joe McCarthy, who tried to demonize Democrats and others as being soft on communism. And exactly the same theme and exactly the same sounds are used to try to demonize Democrats and demonize Barack Obama as being soft on terrorism.

The public isn't buying it. The man delivering this message, Dick Cheney, is one of the least popular politicians alive in America today.

And so, he just isn't getting the headway where he wants it, which is what that independent voter, that swing voter. The hard-core, right-wing Republican is with Dick Cheney, I'm sure, on all of these issues. But that's not a group that can win elections.

OLBERMANN: I think I actually started with tough on anarchists. This is a McKinley dodge, if I can remember correctly. It's at least 120 years old. They just changed the name every few decades.

O'DONNELL: You know your history better than I do, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And it was for a while, then it was anarchists, reds, fascists, obviously,. Then it was Germans, Chinese, Japanese - you fill in the blank and it's always been a group, often within the country.


OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and "The Huffington Post," class is dismissed. We'll gather again on Tuesday. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The health care reform summit is a week from Thursday. There is evidence tonight that the White House is expecting a compromise between the House and Senate versions in time to post online in advance. Ezra Klein on that, his own story.

And a Presidents Day "Special Comment" on the tea parties and racism.


OLBERMANN: We're going to table the latest nightly comments for a "Special Comment" tonight and a plea to the tea partiers to explain their homogeneity. Ezra Klein on the breaking news on an apparent compromise health care reform bill - next.


OLBERMANN: Remember how the election of Scott Brown of Massachusetts killed the health care bills passed by both the House and the Senate? Well, as Dr. Frankenstein said, "It's alive, it's alive."

Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post," who joins us presently, reporting that a thorough read of the invitation of the February 25th health care summit led to a phone call that led to the conclusion that the Democratic health care plan Mr. Obama will bring to that event will be a compromised version of the House and Senate bills.

The newspaper "Roll Call" reporting that the Republicans are, indeed, likely to attend now, though House Republican leader John Boehner already says Democrats should come to the meeting with no plan, which is kind of cheating, because that is already the Republican plan.

The health care news coming on the heels of two reports about White House strategy changes on both message and substance. "The Washington Post" reporting that White House advisers analyzed their first year and concluded they needed to step up their messaging.

This as "The New York times" says that Mr. Obama is preparing to take unilateral action on several fronts, using tools like executive directives and regulatory changes that give presidents broad latitude to act without legislative direction.

The president campaigned both against the overreach of the Bush executive branch and for balance of power with Congress. But White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says that after a lengthy debate and relentless attacks over health care reform, quote, "It was clear that we too often didn't have the ball. Congress had the ball in terms of driving the message. In 2010, the president will constantly be doing high-profile things to be the person driving the narrative." Such as - instead of talking in front of guys in suits, leaving Washington once a week for real people type events.

Vice President Biden's dual appearances yesterday, cited this own example of pushback against attacks like those of Dick Cheney over the interrogation of the alleged Christmas Day would-be bomber.

On the substance, "The Times" reports the administration is going solo on several domestic policy fronts. Quoting White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, "We are reviewing a list of presidential executive orders and directives to get the job done."

Time to bring in Ezra Klein, who gets the job done on economic and domestic policy for "The Washington Post."

Ezra, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So, about this compromise, this is essentially a deduction and any deduction as to what's in the compromise, if it is, indeed one.

KLEIN: Well, it wasn't much of a deduction. It was just sort of written that way in an e-mail to me. So, I figure it's solid information.

What we need to, I think, remember here is that there was a compromise that existed pretty much before Scott Brown was elected. House and Senate negotiators had been meeting in a room. There was a very long, like an eight-hour meeting, that Barack Obama attended most of along with Pelosi, Reid, and others, and they had pretty much built up the bill that they were going to bring to the two chambers and pass.

My sense is that pretty much something looking very much like that is going to get dusted off and brought to the summit that's coming up in a couple of weeks, which is why you hear Republicans demanding that Democrats offer a pledge that they will not reach a deal on their own before the summit.

OLBERMANN: But, does - does it matter, in fact, what's in there, or how close that is to that pre-Brown compromise or, indeed, whether or not the president is resurrecting the whole topic of health care reform to begin with if he lacks the votes to pass it or has to water it down irredeemably in order to pass it?

KLEIN: Well, I don't think they know if they have the votes to pass it yet. I think everybody is playing a bit of high-stakes poker. Everybody is hoping that when the summit ends, on the Republican side, they're hoping there won't be the votes. And the White House is hoping that they will have given Democrats the courage or at least enough of a pivot to do the things that frankly most Democrats already know is in their political self-interest and pass the bill.

I think there's a real dawning sense, if it's not already dawned, that for these folks to go into November with nothing to show for it is just going to be a catastrophe. And they don't know how to get from being afraid of voting for the bill and to knowing they need to vote for it, to voting for it. But the hope is the summit will give them the excuse to do so.

OLBERMANN: Should progressives be glad about this new White House communications offensive, or should they be disheartened that the White House seems to think its problem is essentially one of image rather than, essentially, one of substance?

KLEIN: Well, I think that part of the issue here is - the image one is the main one the White House can try to fix. I think that progressives should not take their eye off the ball here. The power lies, as it always has, in the Congress and the Senate.

We do have this problem of having a very presidential-focused politics. We talk about Obama all the time on this show. We write about him all the time in the newspaper.

But at the end of the day, it's these folks over behind me, in Capitol Hill, who have pretty much all the power. And every time the president walks into - walks into these issues, they become more, not less polarized. There isn't a message he can offer that's going to make Republicans want to hand him an accomplishment. And which is why, I think you see a real new recognition on the part of many Democratic senators and hopefully, some Republicans, that if anybody's ever going to govern this country again, the filibuster is going to have to be substantially ratcheted back.

OLBERMANN: To - I guess this includes something about that point.

The quote from Mr. Pfeiffer, that the Congress had had the ball too often. Weren't Congressman Weiner and others screaming for the White House to take the lead, particularly on health care reform, is it - is it possible that despite the power that is, in fact, contained, as you point out, in the building behind you, that maybe as veterans of it, Mr. Obama and Mr. Emanuel might be a little too respectful of what goes on there? How is it not letting Congress have the ball again if it's a congressional bill they're going to debate rather than a White House one?

KLEIN: You know, Congress has the ball. The question is how well you can run fake.

You know, I spoke to a lot of those offices, including some of the ones you just mentioned, and I would always include in my questions around that time, "Well, be very specific. What do you want Barack Obama to do?" And they would get very vague.

That isn't to say that the president has done a very good job selling this bill. They clearly retreated. And, you know, whether or not there is a better way to do it, they got associated with the inside game here.

But at the end of the day, it is up to congressional Democrats to pass this legislation. And when they don't, it is on them. And I do think that there's an element of political dodge, when what they say is, "Well, the White House didn't lead sufficiently." We don't have a system built for us only to be able to solve problems when the White House is strategically perfect. Our presidents are going to fail us and our legislature is going to have to do its job.

OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" - great thanks and good luck to that legislature you described. We haven't seen them for a while. Thank you.

KLEIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: David Corn on saying bye to Evan. And a Presidents Day "Special Comment": questions to the tea partiers asked sincerely and with sympathy.


OLBERMANN: Evan Bayh lives up to his name.

First, five years ago today, YouTube was launched. Thirty seconds later, the first video was removed for copyright infringement. We kid because we care, because without the video from YouTube, we'd be showing you cartoons here every night.

Let's play "Oddball."

To Galaxidi, Greece - and this is not some fraternity hazing scheme gone mad, it is the yearly flour war. Rival teams in this coastal town fire flour bombs at each other, brought to you by the Kings Biscuit Flour Hour. Thirty-three hundred multicolored pound of the stuff, it's a celebration of clean Monday, the first day of orthodox lent in Greece.

The flour war is supposedly originated in 1981, when residents defied their Ottoman rulers by celebrating a forbidden carnival. There's no explanation for the wigs.

To Las Vegas, Nevada - perfect place for breaking a world record for physical human contact with multiple partners. But, thankfully, this feat remains safely clothed.

Jeff Ondash setting an - Ondash, as in on dasher, on prancer -

Ondash is setting a new world record for giving and getting the most hugs in a 24-hour period. He began Friday night outside the Paris Hotel and Casino. And by Saturday night, he had performed 7,777 hugs. That beats the previous world record by 5,000.

However, it does come nowhere near to the number of Vegas marriages. Mr. Ondash was raising money for the American Heart Association. His record could easily be challenged by my niece Eve.

From hugs to kissing it good-bye, did Evan Bayh just leave the Democrats in the lurch, or did his timing just bury the Republicans? Indiana may or may not want him, but he won't go back there. Next.


OLBERMANN: Taking most everyone, including his fellow Democrats, by surprise, Senator Evan Bayh announced today he will not seek re-election. That brings the avalanche of Democratic retirements in the Senate to three, creating the next surprise: even in a tough year for the majority party, retirements are still greater among Republicans.

And the third surprise; Bayh's timing might actually limit the choices for the GOP in that race. The Indiana senator saying today he will not seek a third term. Former two term governor cited his disillusionment with Congress.


SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: For some time, I've had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress, too much narrow ideology, and not enough practical problem solving.

Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation, our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who endorsed the idea, actually co-sponsored the legislation, instead voted no for short-term political reasons.

I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives. But I do not love Congress.


OLBERMANN: Those seven members to which Senator Bayh alluded there all Republicans. The senator reportedly talked to President Obama this morning about his decision, but did not call the majority leader, Harry Reid, until after the news had broken this morning of an impending announcement.

There's no indication Bayh was running scared. Recent polls had him well ahead, 20 points in some cases, of his likely Republican challenger. Indiana Democrats who wish to replace Bayh have until tomorrow to collect 4,500 signatures to get on a primary ballot.

However, if no Democrats make that tight deadline, the state party's central committee picks the Democratic nominee, and it has until June to do so, bypassing a primary altogether.

But GOP candidates are expected to meet tomorrow's deadline petition -

petition deadline, rather, meaning that their choices could be locked in within 24 hours. This according to analysis by Daily Kos.

As for the retirement scoreboard and the 2010 midterm election, three Senate Democrats having announced retirement, Bayh, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. The GOP has announced five Senate retirements. Adding the open seats of former Senators Obama and Biden, whose replacements are not running, that brings to five the number of open Senate seats from the Dems and six for the GOP.

In the house, there will be 13 open seats now held by Democrats, but 18 now held by Republicans.

Meantime, the far right challenger to Republican Senator John McCain has made it official. Former Congressman and current radio talk show host and one-time sports caster J.D. Hayworth announcing today he will challenge McCain in the Republican primary. Quoting Hayworth, "what I am hearing from people is that they want a consistent conservative. When it comes to the US Senate, he's just been there too long. You have to ask, what he's done in the last decade in Arizona?"

Let's turn to the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine, columnist for, David Corn. David, good evening.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": Happy Presidents' Day, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And to you, sir. Let's start with Senator Bayh. One unnamed source said that he hates the Senate and he hates the left bloggers. Is this a man who a long time made a bad career choice? Or did somebody just give him the gift of the Internet? Or what happened here?

CORN: You have to wonder what he's been doing the last six months or six years. Did he just wake up and realize that the Senate's not working that well and that liberal bloggers - oh, my god - don't like him that much? I never thought that Evan Bayh would be made of weaker stuff than, say, Joe Lieberman, who seems to function rather well with those realities.

So he seems to have been dwelling upon this for a long time, but it's not as if anything has changed dramatically within the Senate in the last six months, or even the last year or two.

OLBERMANN: Maybe there is a laser beam at hand that the left-wing bloggers do not understand. If only it could be focussed in some way, we could just clear out the entire Senate and most of the House too.

CORN: Use that power for good.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, well, all right. The quick, conventional thinking on this is that unless Bayh gave somebody in the Democratic party a heads up and nobody knows about this, he really didn't do anything to help his parity retain the seat. Or, in fact, was his timing, relative to those petition deadlines, whether intended or not, a big favor?

CORN: Well, he raised millions of dollars, as if he were going to run again. Then he cut short that process. And it's true that the Democratic Central Committee of the state has until June to decide. But, I mean, it seems to me that he should be getting a John Edwards memorial t-shirt that reads, "it's all about me." This is the decision that he could have made months ago. More time would have helped, basically, anyone on the Democratic side, anybody who the DSCC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, might have wanted to recruit for this position. Leaving a short amount of time is usually not a good thing for prospective candidates who need to raise big bucks to get things going.

OLBERMANN: Let's move to Arizona in a moment here, but I want that big picture first. We've been hearing a drum beat of dire warnings about the midterm elections, relative particularly to Democratic incumbents. With what about that do you agree? And what make its particularly volatile and unpredictable? And why when these stories get covered do all the Democratic openings get mentioned and the Republican ones not?

CORN: Well, I think it's a wild card year. I don't think it's an ideological shift on the part of the public. But I think if you have ten, or in some estimation, 17 percent unemployment for nearly a year, voters are going to be ticked off. They look at Washington and they see Tarp, the jobs bill, and, of course, health care reform. And whatever side they may think they're on, it still looks to them like a holy mess.

So they're disappointed, discouraged. They're mad. They want to - a lot of them, I think, want to lash out. There are more elected officials with Ds after their names than Rs. So any incumbent has to be running a little scared if you have a volatile public that has sort of lost faith with the government. Earlier on in the show, you showed a quote from Dan Pfeifer, the communications director at the White House, who said Barack Obama has to regain control of the narrative.

Right now, I don't think there's any one in charge on the Republican or the Democratic side who has control of the narrative on health care reform or any of these other issues, jobs. Certainly not on Harry Reid and it's certainly not the Republican leaders in congress. So, that said, everybody sort of has cross-hairs on their back. And I think that all politicians are going to be running scared for the next, what is it, nine months.

OLBERMANN: Is the guy in charge of the narrative actually J.D.

Hayworth, for God's sake?

CORN: He's creating a pretty good narrative of his own, or inheriting one down in Arizona. Part of the volatility is you have a lot of restlessness on the right. This doesn't, I think, reflect the whole population, but there are concerns out there who believe the Republican party is practically useless. And you know, their number one target for this is going to be John McCain. The guy who gave them Sarah Palin, their biggest conservative prize of years is now the person who conservatives are gunning for. Talk about gratitude.

OLBERMANN: Right. What have you done for me lately? David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones," thank you kindly, sir.

CORN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A special comment on Presidents' Day; a question for the Tea Party: where are all of your minority members.

Worst persons visited by one of the all time greats; Dan Quayle coming out of retirement for a classic malaprop cluster.

And when Rachel Maddow joins you at the top of the hour, she introduces an Illinois congressman to the concept of shock and awe crap. Is Representative Schock thought she gave him a hard time on "Meet the Press," wait until he sees her show tonight.


OLBERMANN: A special comment on Presidents' Day, on Washington and Lincoln and racism and Tea Parties. That's next.

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

The bronze to former Vice President Dan Quayle, back from obscurity to give us one of those "how many things are wrong in this picture" quotes in which he defends the filibuster. He opposes a reconciliation bill on health care because, quote, "what you have done, effectively, is to take away the filibuster in the United States Senate. So therefore you have 51 votes in the House and 51 votes in the Senate. That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind."

Fifty one votes in the House. Also know that Founding Fathers did not have 51 votes in mind for the Senate or the House, because the original Senate only had 26 senators and the original House only had 65 congressman. Most importantly, the last time the Republicans controlled the Senate, they used reconciliation to pass major, nation-changing bills with only 51 votes at least four times. Where were you then, Dan, growing potatoes with an E.

Our runner-up, Joshua Vazquez, arrested in California's wonderful City of Commerce on Friday. He's an alleged scratchitti (ph) artist, you know, a tagger who etches glass rather than sprays paint. He came upon a beautiful smoked glass door in the Aquatic Center and couldn't resist, so he began to scratch it up. It was then that Mr. Vasquez learned that the glass might have been dark on his side of the door, but it wasn't on the other side, where his alleged vandalism was clearly seen by people inside taking a training class. They were 100 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, who had just gotten to the topic of having backup while conducting pursuits on foot. One of the deputies, followed by 39 backup officers, promptly burst through the door and arrested Mr. Vazquez.

But our winner, Dick Morris of Fixed News. Kind of like the Vazquez story, he has spun out a new mind-bending criticism of Obama counter-terror policy. And as usual, when you want the dumb, you ask Dick. "It is the president's efforts to crow about how effective he is in fighting terrorism that are helping al Qaeda. What kind of policy is it to announce to the world that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit this past Christmas, is talking to investigators and giving them much valuable information. It provides al Qaeda with a timely warning that we are on to their plans and that Abdulmutallab has explained to us we know what they have up their sleeves. In counter-terrorism, knowing your enemies' plans is key to thwarting them. If al Qaeda knows that we are prepared, they will obviously change their plans."

That would be why the FBI boasted about capturing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. That would be why John Ashcroft boasted, by satellite from Russia, about the arrest of Jose Padilla. That would be why Bush boasted about the attack he interrupted in LA. That's why his administration gave out every single detail of every terrorist wannabe they could locate, so they could crow about how effective Bush was in fighting terrorism and they could help al Qaeda? So they could provide al Qaeda with a timely warning?

Now, that's a startling charge to make against the Bush administration, Dick. You're basically accusing President Bush of treason. Wow. Dick "George W. Bush Helped al Qaeda" Morris, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Finally, tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on this Presidents' Day, celebrating George Washington and the founding fathers he represents, and Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation he represents.

And I think having now been one for 51 years, I am permitted to say I believe prejudice and discrimination still sit defeated, dormant, or virulent, somewhere in the soul of each white man in this country. Sixty three years after Jackie Robinson and 56 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and 46 after the Civil Rights Act, and a year and a half after the presidential election, this is not a popular thing to say.

This is also not a thing that should be true, even as a vestige of our sad past on this topic. But it is. Discrimination is still all around us in so many ways, openly redirected towards immigrants who are doing nothing more than following the path that brought my recent ancestors here and probably yours too.

Or focused on gays, predicated on a mumbo jumbo of Biblical misinterpretations.

Or leaching out still against black people in things like the Tea Party movement. I think the progress we have made in the last 60 years in this country has been measurable and good, but I think discrimination has been tamed, perhaps, not eradicated.

For our society still emphasizes our differences as much as our similarities. We may be 63 years from Jackie Robinson, but we are not 63 days from man going on national radio and telling us the president of the United States was elected only because of the color of his skin.

Discrimination, I have always thought, is a perversion of one of the most necessary instincts of survival. As a child, put your hand on a red-hot stove and you'll quickly learn to discriminate against red-hot stoves. But at that age, if you're also told you need to beware of, say, black people, you will spend your life having to fight against wiring created in your brain for no reason other than to reflect someone else's prejudice.

And it need not even be that related to trauma.

The other night in the hospital, my father was talking about seeing Satchel Paige pitch. At Yankee Stadium this was. The time was about 1941, and the team was the New York Black Yankees, and my father shook his head in amazement as he told met his. "It never occurred to me," he said - "it never occurred to anybody I know that he couldn't play for the other Yankees," my dad said. We just assumed he didn't want to, that none of them wanted to.

These thoughts still linger in our lives, still actively passed to some of us by people who are not like my father, who never questioned their own upbringing or parents or school or world. That older, brutal prejudice with impunity world, which reappears somewhere every day, like Brigadoon - sometimes with virulence, like in Don Imus' infamous remarks, sometimes with utter, arrogant tone deafness, as in John Mayer's "Playboy" interview, sometimes with a kind of poorly informed benign phrase, like Harry Reid's comment about dialect, sometimes with the one-headedness of surprise that no one is screaming, "MF-er, I want more iced tea at a Harlem restaurant."

But it's still there. I'm not black, so I can't say for sure, but my guess is the reverse feeling still exists too. The same doubt and nagging distrust, only with the arrow pointing the opposite way. And I guess it's still there too among Hispanics and Asians and every other self-identifying group, because this country since the Civil War has not only become ever increasingly great, not merely for dismantling the formalized racism of our first 200 years on this continent, but because we have been dismantling a million years of not fully trusting the guys in the next cave because they are somehow different.

This all still lingers about us, all of us, whether we see it or not. And since it's no longer fashionable, indeed no longer acceptable, it oozes out around the edges and those who speak it don't even realize that as good as their intention might be, as improved as their attitudes might be from where they used to be or where their parents or grandparents used to be, or where America used to be, it's still racism.

Thus it has become fashionable, sometimes psychologically necessary that when some of us express it, we have to put it in code or dress it up or provide a rationalization to ourselves for it. That this has nothing to do with race or prejudice, the man's a socialist, and he's bent on destroying the country and he was only elected by people who can't speak English. Or was it he was only elected by guilty whites?

The rationalizations of the racist are too many and too contradictory for the rest of us to keep them straight. The whole of the anger at government movement is predicated on this. Times are tough. The future is confusing. The threat from those who would dismantle our way of life is real, as if we weren't, to some extent, doing it for them now.

And the president is black, but you can't come out and say that's why you're scared. Say that and in all but the lifeless fringes of our society, you are an outcast. So this is where the euphemisms come in. Your taxes haven't gone up. The budget deficit is from the last administration's adventurous war. Grandma is much more likely to be death paneled by your insurance company. And a socialist president would be the one who tried to buy as many voters as possible with stupid tax cuts.

But facts don't matter when you're looking for an excuse to say you hate this president. But not because he's black. Anything you can say out loud without your family and friends bursting into laughter at you will do.

And this is where those Tea Parties come in. I know I've taken a lot of heat for emphasizing a particular phrase, which originated at a rally a year ago this month, originated with a Tea Partier. And I know phrases like Tea Klux Clan are incendiary, and I know I use them in part because I'm angry.

But at so late a date we still have to bat back that racial uneasiness which has to envelope us all. And I know if I could only listen to Lincoln on this on all days about the better angels of our nature, I would know what we're seeing at the Tea Parties is, at its base, people that are afraid, terribly, painfully, crippling, blindingly afraid.

But let me ask all of you who attend these things how many black faces do you see at these events? How many Hispanics, Asians, gays? Where are these people? Surely there must be blacks who think they're being bled by taxation? Surely there must be Hispanics who think the government should have let the auto industry fail. Surely there must be people of all colors and creeds who believe in cultural literacy tests and speaking English.

Where are they? Where are they? Do you suppose they agree with you, but they've just chosen to attend their own separate meetings, that they're not at your Tea Party because they have a Tea Party of their own to go to? Are you thinking like my father did about Satchel Paige and the Black Yankees, that they want this.

My father had an excuse for that. He was 12 years old. It was 1941. Are you at the Tea Party 12 years old? For you, is it 1941? You're scared and you're in a world that has changed in a million ways. The most obvious one is something unforeseeable a decade ago, a black president.

Yet you are also in a world inherited, installed by generations that knew only fear and brutality and prejudice and difference and suspicion. The generations have gone, but the suspicion lingers on.

Not all of our heritage is honorable. Not all the decisions of the founding fathers were noble. Not very many of the founding fathers were evolved enough to believe that black people were actually people. The founding fathers thought they were and fought hard to make sure they would always remain slaves.

Fear is a terrible thing. So is prejudice. So is racism. And progress towards the removal of any evil produces an inevitable backlash. The Civil War was not followed by desegregation, but by Jim Crow and the Klan. The Civil War rights legislation of the '60s was not followed by peace, but by George Wallace and anti-busing overt racism.

Why should the election of a black president be without a backlash? But recognize what this backlash is and maybe you can free yourself of this movement, built of inherited fears and of echoes of 1963 or 1873.

Look at who is leading you and why, and look past the blustery self-justifications and see the fear, this unspoken, inchoate, unnecessary fear of those who are different.

If you believe there is merit to your political argument, fine. But ask yourself when you next go to a Tea Party rally or watch one on television or listen to a politician or a commentator praise these things or merely treat them as if it was just a coincidence that they are virtually segregated, ask yourself, where are the black faces? Who am I marching with? What are we afraid of?

And if it really is only a president's policy and not his skin, ask yourself one final question. Why are you surrounded by the largest crowd you will ever again see in your life that consists of nothing but people who look exactly like you. Good night and good luck.

And now here is my very dear friend, Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.