Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Quick Comment (Clinton and Palin), Quick Comment (McCain and Brennan), Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment (Clinton and Palin), Quick Comment (McCain and Brennan)
The toss: Wonk food

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe, Wendell Potter, John Dean, Jeffrey Lewis


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

Secretly stimulated by the stimulus. "The Wall Street Journal" obtains letters from Republican lawmakers privately asking for stimulus funds they were publicly poll-axing. Senator Shelby called it "the socialist way," wanted $15 million. Congresswoman Schmidt warned of Chinese interest, wanted money. Representative Paul Ryan, the author of the shadow budget, demanded stim cash to fund 1,000 jobs. And all of this reported by Rupert Murdoch's newspaper.

Goodbye and good riddance.


SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: If I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months.


OLBERMANN: Maybe he's leaving professional politics to become a Republican.

Obama and the insurance cartel agreeing on the urgency of health care reform?


BRAD FLUEGEL, WELLPOINT VICE PRESIDENT: We can talk what we want about health insurance premiums going up, but the reality is that underlying medical costs are going up at this rate.


OLBERMANN: That man is the vice president of WellPoint insurance.

Well, he is at the moment.

Is this actually a confession to a war crime?


RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I was a big supporter of waterboarding.


OLBERMANN: John Dean on what could be Dick Cheney's costliest quote.

And more news making Cheney look moronic, the U.S. captures the second most wanted guy in the Taliban.

"Worsts": the guidance from Lonesome Roads Beck as to what to do with him?


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: We've just captured the second most wanted in al Qaeda. Shoot him in the head!


OLBERMANN: Taliban, not al Qaeda, Taliban. Thanks for playing.

And the pinpoint timing of Hillary Clinton.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the prospect of Sarah Palin one day becoming president maybe terrify you?


OLBERMANN: What she said next was pitch perfect.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: That's an excellent question.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

We have all seen the photos and wave metaphorical angry fists at the hypocrisy. Republican lawmakers posing with the checks funneling money to their own districts provided by the very stimulus bill they voted against, they been decrying ever since as socialism, as the selling out of our grandchildren, as Armageddon.

Now, on the eve of the first anniversary of President Obama's Recovery Act, the stimulus, the appearance in the right-wing press of letters in which many of those self same Republican lawmakers actively lobby for the money, writing to Obama cabinet members to argue the merits of various pet projects - some might call them "pork" - in their home states.

More than a dozen Republican lawmakers supporting the stim in new letters obtained by "The Wall Street Journal" through the Freedom of Information Act, supporting it by actively requesting stimulus money from the Obama administration agencies.

Senator Bennett of Utah not even having waited for the stimulus to pass before he sent seven identical letters to the Environmental Protection Agency recommending various infrastructure projects in his own state. He then went to the floor of the Senate and voted against that stimulus bill. After he tried to defeat it, the senator sent one more funding request letter to the EPA.

A spokesperson for Senator Bennett saying he was just making sure his state receive part of the spending once it had been agreed upon, a claim that might carry some weight if seven of his eight letters to the EPA had not preceded his vote.

Senator Richard Shelby held indefinite hold on Obama administration appointments, having called the proposed stimulus, "the socialist way," when it was being debated. But after its passage, that did not stop the senior senator from Alabama from signing on to a letter on which the entire delegation from his state asked for Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell for $15 million to control and eradicate something called cogongrass in his state. The state of Alabama ultimately is getting a grant of more than $6 million to do that.

Meanwhile in the House, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, sending a letter to the Labor Department last October to lobby for stimulus money on behalf of local organizations that do job training. A month later, this past November, the congresswoman issuing a statement in which she said, quote, "It is time to recall the stimulus funds that have not been spent before the Chinese start charging us interest."

Ms. Schmidt's projects not receiving any awards in the funding decisions released by the Obama administration in January.

Also denied in the process, the Congressman Paul Ryan, the author of the "Let's do away with Medicare and privatize Social Security GOP shadow budget," their expert. Mr. Ryan, who has called the stim a wasteful spending spree that misses the mark on all counts, writing a letter to Energy Secretary Solis in October to support green job placement in the state of Illinois.

Green jobs - the very thing that the president was today proposing in Maryland. Hundreds of them, in fact, that would result, he says, from the building of a nuclear power plant in Georgia.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a plant that will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs - well-paying permanent jobs - in the years to come.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to our own Gene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist to "The Washington Post."

Gene, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Republican lawmakers debating against the stimulus bill while drafting and, if not prematurely, sending letters in which they request its socialist Chinese money and then voting against it and then posing with the oversized checks in their districts. All the while still decrying the evils of this process a year after it was signed.

Is this the perfect ecosystem of hypocrisy self-sustaining, self-perpetuating?

ROBINSON: It may - it may retire some trophy, I think, you know? That's the spawn of Satan. Give me some, by the way. It's almost like as if this were a piece of performance art, you know, a piece written by the late Andy Kaufman in which he had to do all these ridiculous transgressive things with a straight face. And they actually tried to do this with a straight face.

There's no way you can hold these two positions, that the stimulus is unmitigated evil, and, by the way, I would really love to have my share of it.

OLBERMANN: Well, there was a way until we found out about Senator Bennet's first seven letters, which is - if it's passed, sure, why shouldn't their states get something for it? As long as they don't, you know, claim that they got it passed when they voted against it. But even that devil's argument question is out to window, thanks to Bennett now.

ROBINSON: Yes, it really - it is really stunning. And it is - I think - I must applaud "The Wall Street Journal" for coming up with these letters, because they're really quite amazing.

OLBERMANN: Well, and also, where they came out. The spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the people who tried to get Republicans re-elected to Congress saying on the anniversary of the stimulus act, the quote was, "If the Democrats' answer is to highlight the worthy projects within what has become - regarded as a wasteful and bloated trillion-dollar failure, then they're truly grasping at straws."

They're missing either of the real points here, what's been highlighted is lobbying and opposing the same thing at the same time, and the highlighting was not done by Democrats but by a newspaper that's co-owned with FOX News.

ROBINSON: Well, what they're doing is trying to change the subject. And they're trying to blow smoke because they don't want to deal. I mean, if you were in the position of that Republican campaign chairman, in that position, you wouldn't want to have to deal with the fact they were lobbying for something that they have voted against and trying to get money that they - that they said never should have been appropriated.

So, sure, it's smoke. But I think they understand the implications of what's going on. They still don't want to deal with it.

OLBERMANN: They don't - it's not blowing smoke now. Blowing smoke is complimenting it. It's asking for $15 million with which to blow smoke and then saying you're not going to take any - you're not going to take a dime of that money to blow smoke. And then, Boehner said something, it's almost extraordinary - more extraordinary than that. He said, today, fewer than one in 10 Americans believe that the trillion-dollar stimulus has created jobs.

There's the essence of this, that if you lie long enough, you change the metric from "how jobs have been created, how many collapses have been forestalled" to "Well, you know, according to our marketing survey, our marketing survey says that 72 percent of Republicans believe the sky is turquoise."

ROBINSON: Exactly. You know, two points there, Keith. Number one, you said a - you said a key word here: lying. This is lying.


ROBINSON: I mean, and let's just make no bones about that. It's not just - you're right, it's not just blowing smoke. It's flat-out lying. I smell the odor of mendacity here.

And second, you know, Boehner's point is totally a matter of public relations. Of course, stim never really had a shot. It came so close after the financial bailout. I think a lot of people confused the two. It's never been a popular measure.

And it's always been difficult for the administration to really explain to the public and easy for the Republicans to demonize.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Coming out now and say it added between two and three percentage points to real GDP growth is a little late at this ballgame to win the message war.

ROBINSON: And part of the administration's message, Keith, is that the recession would have been much, much worse had the stimulus bill had not been passed. Well, we saved x millions jobs. That's a valid point for the administration to make, but it's not the sexy headline point. It's harder to get across.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it's proving the proverbial negative.

Gene Robinson of MSNBC and "The Washington Post" - as always, great thanks, sir.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And then there is the senator now seeming to treat word of his retirement as his own kind of personal jobs bill. Conservative Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana, surprising many with his decision not to run for re-election - a decision for which he received overwhelmingly favorable media about he no longer had the stomach for politics, by his frustration with the process that appears gridlock and dysfunction, if not broken outright, by his desire to contribute to society in other ways.

Asked about how that desire might manifest itself, this morning, Senator Bayh leaving his fellow Democrats with a lovely parting gift.


BAYH: I'm going to - what we call in Indiana in basketball - I'm going to play until the final second ticks off the clock. And then think about what's next. But, you know, if I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than the Congress has created in the last six months.


OLBERMANN: A senior House Democratic aide telling "Politico," "It is hard to stomach lectures from Senator Bayh on jobs. For most Americans, if they were as unproductive in their jobs as Bayh has been in his, they wouldn't have the luxury of quitting, they would be fired."

In his own statement yesterday, trying to explain why he was quitting, the senator having cited the failure of the Baucus-Grassley version of the jobs bill as one of the reasons he no longer likes Congress enough to work there. The finance committee having bloated the bill to $80 billion to include massive tax cuts for the rich.

Let's turn to our own Richard Wolffe, the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Instead of asking what was Senator Bayh thinking, based on his statement yesterday about Baucus-Grassley, is it pretty clear that Senator Bayh seems to have been thinking tax cuts for the rich?

WOLFFE: Well, I'm not sure it is pretty easy to get your arms around what he was thinking here. I mean, trashing the Democrats, trashing the jobs bill, even a bloated one, it's a very curious position, because he's just handing free ammunition to the other side. It seems to be downgrading the Recovery Act. And a lot of money is still being spent from that Recovery Act.

I don't know that this is a point of principle here. If you believe the politics are broken, and you are a conservative Democrat, or if you want to call them a centrist Democrat, then the job in hand is to actually forge a coalition, is to bring liberal Republicans over, to find the middle ground, to expand it. Not walk away from it.

He is in Bill Bradley's position, and you can blame it on one bill or another, but in the end, he's not been true to who he says he is - which is a middle-of-the-road Democrat in his mind.

OLBERMANN: Is - do we think we have the tipping point for him, a better clue about that? Was it - was it, in fact, his perception that it was too much partisanship? Or was it the actual act of Harry Reid cutting off that job bill that drove him over the edge? Or was it inevitable because there's some sense on the way out, but it looks like he's over his head in this job?

WOLFFE: Well, you know, he can't suddenly wake up and decide he's Groucho Marx and that this is a club that would have him as a member and he doesn't like that any more. You know, he's been that for a long time. And if you look at where he's come from, and you talk to people who know him - clearly, as someone who had been a governor, the idea of getting things done, of having an executive position has made the rest of the legislative process of being a senator less attractive to him.

And again, other people in Washington certainly think that his brushes with becoming a veep and therefore having a crack to the presidency. That also changed his mentality. But, you know, again, in the end, being a senator wasn't a new job for him, this wasn't a new thing.

If he wanted to take a leadership position in building the center, he could have done it. He could have done it on the health care. He could have done it on these economic issues.

And, by the way, part of the new job policy is to give private businesses an incentive to hire people. So, he could have done what he said he wanted to do in that interview, which help businesses hire. But a leadership role is not the two words people attach to Evan Bayh's name in the Senate right now.

OLBERMANN: There's $13 million remaining in this campaign war chest, for the campaign that won't happen. A spokesman says he hasn't made a decision about what he's going to do with it yet.

Did the job comment, this taking off on the Democrats on the way out, suggest the kind of thing that a would-be candidate might say if he were perhaps positioning himself for a run against - oh, an incumbent president in primaries in 2012, perhaps?

WOLFFE: Well, perhaps. I mean, he's been, I think, fairly clear about not having a presidential ambition, but you're right, there's a lot of money there. I think he will find it hard to build any support in the party now, given how little time he has given the party to find an alternative candidate. He's really left them in the lurch in a critical year. And, you know, you want to say every senator is critical at a time when Democrats are likely to lose seats. But this was an unnecessary problem for the party as a whole.

OLBERMANN: Our own Richard Wolffe, author of "Renegade" - as always, great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: If politics makes strange bed fellows, the ones made by health care reform suddenly seem like the nightmares of Rick Santorum come true: the White House and WellPoint insurance agreeing on one urgent reason for reform.

And a kind of special guest, nightly comment here: Hillary Clinton with one of the most economical, devastating political putdowns in recent American history - next.


OLBERMANN: And now, tonight's first "Quick Comment" and a guest commenter, although it would be inaccurate to suggest she knows about this. I do wonder though if the secretary of state, who remains one of the smartest and fastest people I've ever met, was thinking about the impact of ridicule as a force for political change in that split-second when she decided to say that which I'm about to play for you. She is sharp enough to have calibrated exactly when someone else on the political scene had completely spent their own credibility.

This is from Mrs. Clinton's town hall today in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a Democrat and I assume a relatively liberal person, does the prospect of Sarah Palin one day becoming president maybe terrify you? And if so, would you consider immigrating to Canada or possibly even Russia in the events of this happening?


CLINTON: Well, the short answer is no. I will not be immigrating. I will be visiting as often as I can.


OLBERMANN: That may have been offhanded and mild, but do not dismiss its impact as such. Consider that Richard Nixon did not resign merely because he'd become a threat to the democracy, he resigned after he became a threat and a joke.

And ask yourself, whatever happened to a former presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial candidate after Joe Biden summed him up as a known, a verb, and 9/11. What's his name again?


OLBERMANN: The health care debate having gone on so long, so bitterly, so polarizingly, I suppose what has happened now was inevitable, seemingly physically impossible. The most recent, the most cogent argument for reform coming now from the designated mouthpiece of the company that is the most recent example of health care highway robbery - a health insurance company that plans to raise its premiums by 39 percent.

You will recall that Anthem Blue Shield of California announced that very rate increase even though its parent company WellPoint made over $2,700,000,000 in profit in the last quarter alone. That under pressure, Anthem Blue Shield delayed its rate hike for two months, while the California Department of Insurance reviewed the plan.

And the president of WellPoint trying to defend the premium increase was chastised by FOX, for reenergizing proponents of reform. But when that WellPoint Vice President Brad Fluegel pushed back, he managed to make the argument for reform and reform now.


FLUEGEL: Hospital costs in California are going up over 10 percent a

year. Pharmaceutical costs are going up over 13 percent a year in

California, when you combine that with the fact that because of the economy

which is particularly adverse in California, with very high unemployment rates - what's happening is people who are younger and healthier are making the decision to spend their money elsewhere if they are - if they lose their job or having some other kinds of issues and deciding not to continue to buy insurance. That leaves the insurance pool in California with older and sicker, more expensive individuals.

And so, the combination of very significant cost increases in California, combined by the fact that younger and healthier individuals are dropping insurance, that's what's driving these increases.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn again to the former head of public relations for CIGNA, currently the senior fellow on health care for the Center for Media and Democracy, Wendell Potter.

Good evening, Wendell.


OLBERMANN: So, this gentleman - we're assuming he's still on that job, even though he had this rare burst of honesty there - he seems to have made an argument for reform that could have come from the president or congressional Democrats. There's got to be a hidden sting in there somewhere, what is it?

POTTER: Well, you're exactly right. He's making a compelling case that the Democrats were right all along for comprehensive reform. The sting or the caveat is that they need reform to sustain their business models, and they also want to make sure that we're all penalized sufficiently, to make sure that we're forced to buy their products.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Fluegel later offered a very specific point about this. He said insurance companies can't afford to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions, until that pool of the people covered expands to everybody. And, obviously, as you just suggest, the insurance cartel would love to see, only insurance companies are getting all that new business.

But the core principle, if you strip that one, obviously, essential disagreement from it, everybody agrees on the core principle, the system as it is now is on its way to utter collapse, isn't it?

POTTER: It is. It will be a few years before it collapses if we don't have reform. And in those - in the meantime, many, many families will be ruined because of financial hardships if they have any kind of an illness.

One thing the companies aren't saying that is a factor here, that they're getting rid of a lot of their customers. They're purging small businesses, which is creating a large number of people who don't have insurance and are having to seek insurance in the individual markets. So, they're creating this problem that they're saying exists in California and elsewhere.

OLBERMANN: In doing that, and in making this sort of inadvertent argument for reform, did he also make the case - whether he meant to or not - for the comprehensive form of reform as opposed to piecemeal because big pharma and the medical device manufacturers and the hospitals and all the rest are linked so intricately an in such a way that only comprehensive reform could do anything about it?

POTTER: Absolutely. One of the most compelling cases I think we've heard anyone make and surprisingly from the insurance industry is this bill has to hang together. You really can't take an incremental approach or piecemeal approach to it. It has to be very comprehensive.

OLBERMANN: We're going to assume that whatever happens, it is, in fact, going to be at best piecemeal - at best, something that we start with, and then perhaps they can improve it if political winds don't utterly change by November. So, in the short term, we can assume that huge increase at Anthem Blue Shield in California is going to happen, and that won't be the last of them? And, in fact, that will be fairly commonplace?

POTTER: It will be very commonplace. It's commonplace right now. If you look at other states, you'll see exactly the same thing. In Maine, they had Anthem, which is a WellPoint company, also was raising or trying to raise rates much, much higher than the insurance commissioner felt was appropriate. In Nebraska, the Blue Cross plan is increasing its rates over 30 percent in the individual market.

So, it's happening all over the country right now, not just WellPoint, and it will happen for many years to come.

OLBERMANN: Presuming we get some sort of bulldorize (ph) version of reform out of this upcoming session next Thursday at the White House between the Senate and the congressional bills, what do we do then about reforming, if it - the actual governmental reform is insufficient, have you given thought to what has to happen to sort of survive the insurance industry?

POTTER: There is no way to survive it, I don't think, short of real comprehensive reform, because the insurance companies can do what they do because there is no adequate regulation. But like we said earlier, their business models are not ultimately sustainable. They'll keep, however, increasing premiums, increasing deductibles and reducing benefits until Congress, at some point, does enact comprehensive reform.

OLBERMANN: Wendell Potter, the former insurance executive from CIGNA, now, of course, with the Center for Media and Democracy - as always, it is chilling, but informative, and we thank you for it.

POTTER: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: So, Dick Cheney made an admission about his role in waterboarding, but was it also a confession? Could he be guilty of a war crime? I mean, officially guilty.


OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney admitted to breaking our laws, and international laws about waterboarding. But did he really confess anything? John Dean - next.

First, a gratuitous plug of the week with the disclaimer that I'm an unpaid consultant for them, the ceremonial opening of the first pack of Topps baseball cards with a special nostalgic twist.

Here's the first pack. First of all, I always want to know who is in the first pack of cards. And the first player depicted is Michael Brantley (ph) of the Cleveland Indians. It's going to be a tough year in the stock market. And then that's who? Rios of the White Sox? They're not going to win. That's the president's team.

Tommy Hanson, Jose Valverde. Oh, the Yankees hero. That's enough of that.

Here's the vintage twist. One in every six of those packs contains a redemption coupon good for a vintage card as old as, say, a 1952 Mickey Mantle. They're calling it a million card giveaway. My cut in the deal, they've given me an unopened pack from the first year I collected them, 1967. They have ordered me to take these cards out of this 43-year-old pack.

I can see through the back here, through the wrapper. I was pretty well trained at this when I was eight years old. I'm pretty sure this first card is Jose Santiago of the Red Sox. That would make this a sixth series pack, put out June or July. There are eight Hall-of-Famers in that series that include Jim Palmer, Willie McCovey.

Watch, I'll probably get a Fred Talbott (ph) card. Let's find out.

First let's see if that prediction is correct. Is this Jose Santiago? Is Jose Santiago your card? It's Jose Santiago. All right, pitched the first game the World Series. There's Bill Mazeroski, Pirates Hall of Famer. Our director Bryan has just wet himself.

There's Ralph Houk (ph), the manager of the Yankees at the time, staring - here's Twins rookie - sorry, I did it wrong. Rich Reece (ph), Bill Whitney (ph). What we got here? Bobby Whine (ph) from the Bronx. And then a little - the little extra, the fold open - now, look at this. This makes it worthwhile. The fold-open poster is of Hank Aaron. That's a nice way to start the year.

While I try the 43-year-old gum, let's play Oddball.

Cards are good. We begin in Nubrea (ph), Italy and it's either the annual battle of the oranges or really inefficient way to make juice. In this ritual, towns folk practice the Medieval art of squandering produce, proving the old adage one man's stress reliever is another man's recommended dose of Vitamin C. When asked if they tire of this centuries old tradition, they responded aren't you glad we aren't throwing watermelons.

To Betaburi (ph), Thailand with a tough lesson for the under-12 set.

Kids, time to bringing home the bacon. It is the sport of piglet catching. As the name suggests, there isn't much strategy involved and this has nothing to do with Winnie the Pooh. Run around in the mud, see what you can grab. It's all part of the town's post-harvest festival. If a kid catches a piglet, it's given as a gift to the local school, and then, in one year, the piglets will figure it all out and suddenly they will be chasing the kids.

Former vice president's admission about waterboarding; are there any legal ramifications? We'll ask John Dean.

And nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants, you say, from a Democratic president?


OLBERMANN: While former Vice President Dick Cheney was on national television admitting to war crimes, and raising the question I will ask John Dean about in a moment, is that the same to confessing to war crimes, while he was justifying them as necessary for the US battle against terrorism, it turns out the Obama administration was racking up victories in that battle to rival or exceed anything the Bush/Cheney administration achieved in seven years after invading Afghanistan: captured the highest ranking Afghanistan Taliban leader ever second only to Mullah Omar.

Mullah Baradar not only in control of the Taliban's money pipeline, but the Afghanistan Taliban's military commander. The last job description especially pertinent, as Baradar was picked up in a joint operation with Pakistan, after years of Bush and Cheney failures to win their help. This happened early last week, reported today.

Just before the US military, along with NATO and Afghan troops, launched the biggest offensive against the Taliban since the invasion, still underway. According to multiple reports, Baradar, who is being interrogated not just by Pakistan, but also by the CIA, and presumably in accord with the current interrogation policy, is talking.

All of that the largest US offensive since the invasion, unprecedented Pakistani cooperation, interrogating the highest ranking Taliban ever captured still unfolding as former Vice President Cheney repeatedly still slams the president for his conduct of the war against al Qaeda.

In one exchange with both political and legal ramifications, Mr.

Cheney not only says he opposed the end of water boarding, and it was Mr. Bush, not Mr. Obama who ended it, but also advances his vague past admission of approving so-called enhanced interrogations. This time comes right out and confirms years of reports that yes, the vice president approved the commission of the war crime known as waterboarding.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you more often win or lose those battles, especially as you got to the second term?

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I suppose it depends on which battle you talk about. I won some. I lost some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ending waterboarding -

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

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



OLBERMANN: With us tonight, a past witness to executive branch malfeasance, Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, now columnist at FindLaw.com, and author of, among many other books, "Blind Ambition." John, great thanks for your time tonight.

JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I have this correct, don't I, that Dick Cheney just admitted to a war crime?

DEAN: Well, he admitted to torture, which once was a war crime. I'm not quite sure, after the Bush administration lawyers got finished with it, that it was. At least he doesn't seem to believe it is. But by normal beliefs, it is a war crime.

OLBERMANN: I presume legally there's no way that constitutes - an interview with Jonathan Karl (ph) does not constitute a confession per se or legal document of any kind. But should Mr. Cheney now be worried that he might have triggered investigations either here or contributed to the ones going on overseas?

DEAN: Well, it certainly is an admission against interests. And these are admissible in many proceedings. I think what he should be worried about is what's happening abroad. A couple hours ago, knowing we're going to be talking about this tonight, I send an e-mail to my friend Philippe Sands (ph), who is an international lawyer based in London, who is really responsible for Spain initiating its inquiry into the so-called Bush six. It doesn't include Cheney, but it includes his former chief of staff and counsel, David Addington.

What Cheney is doing - and Philippe made very clear to me that they are still on-going and those investigations are very active. They have not dropped them. He is pouring some gasoline on the fire, if you will. He's just making it worse for them.

OLBERMANN: We had heard from London not two weeks ago that the Iraq Commission there, the inquiry by Lord Chilcott (ph) was looking to talk to Bush executives and Bush officials and maybe even American soldiers. So they amped that process up by what he said here. Sticking to our own country, what if the attorney general now hears this and goes, I don't have any choice? Politically we have to let the chips fall where they may. The man has come out and said I was a great supporter of waterboarding. And, yes, I lost the battle to stop waterboarding, which means he was the one who advocated for its continuance.

Can Rahm Emanuel or the president of the United States stop him? Would Holder need to step down in protest if he couldn't get what he wanted in the way of prosecution?

DEAN: Well, from your lips to the president and attorney general's minds. There doesn't seem to be any disposition there to do it. If, however, there were that disposition, the only way, let's say, Holder could be stopped would be either persuaded by the president himself, or Emanuel, or the president would have to fire him, and it would be to end sort of the league of the Saturday night massacre, where you stop a prosecution with extreme action. And that's not likely to happen. I think Holder wouldn't go that far. So nothing is happening there, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Is there some strategy that you can discern behind what Mr. Cheney is doing? Is there some sense that he's banking on the president not to fulfill his international obligation to prosecute here, as Jonathan Turley always points out to us? Is he saying, I'm going to put out as much as I can, and if somehow it does come to pass somebody wants to prosecute at some point, this president is going to have to wind up immunizing that vice president?

DEAN: Well, it looks like what Cheney is doing is kind of a two-fold strategy. One is political. The other may be historical. Political, I say that he's, in a sense, laying it out that if Obama doesn't use these techniques and there's another terrorist attack, he's got an I told you so that won't stop, which is going to be politically advantageous, and lord knows and we should all hope that doesn't happen, given the consequences of the kind of politics we might follow after another attack.

The other is historical. He's trying to decriminalize it, say I believed in this before. I believe in it now. I believed in it at the end of the administration. I'm still pushing it. It's solid policy. It's wise. And that sort of historically softens it for him, because it's very outside the possibility of him ever being prosecuted for this. His aides might. Spain might do something. But the vice president himself not likely. I think he's playing that game and probably pushing it primarily for political purposes.

OLBERMANN: You can always depend on him first, and everybody else last. John Dean, the author of "Blind Ambition," among many other books. As always, great thanks, John.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Another head-scratcher from this White House. Nuclear power plants, you say? Three Mile Island, I say.

The nightly comment. You think David Letterman did a job on John McCain in 2008. Wait until you see the job being done on John McCain in 2010 by John McCain.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she ripped apart his climate change denial bull. So naturally Lonesome Roads Beck calls her a dishonest purveyor of propaganda. Tonight - well, tonight Mr. Beck should ask for butter because he's toast.


OLBERMANN: Now, the second of tonight's quick comments; and how have the mighty fallen. It could be worse for John McCain. Horace Greeley (ph) was the Democratic nominee for president in 1872. He lost and he died 24 days later. Actually, McCain might be having a harder time of it than that, vilified by the very same fringe voters without whom he would have lost by double digits, primaried by a washed up ex-sportscaster, ex-talk show host, ex-congressman, who right now seems likely to beat him, and now selling out to the death-eater crowd of Dick Cheney and Pete King and Hoekstra and all the rest, but with timing worse than any of them.

Over the weekend, we learned a virtual walking al Qaeda Rolodex had been grabbed on his way to Yemen. Yesterday, McCain said terrorism adviser John Brennan has lost any utility he could have for the president of the United States because Brennan dared to answer his opportunistic, torture first, worry about intel later critics.

Today, Brennan's streak as part of the most productive two months of counter-terror success perhaps in this nation's history continued with the capture revealed of the Taliban's number two.

Who, Senator McCain, has lost any utility he could have?


OLBERMANN: To correct an earlier editing mistake, we inadvertently identified the insurer in California that's increasing its rates by 39 percent as Anthem Blue Shield. It is correctly Anthem Blue Cross, not to be confused with Blue Shield of California, which is a not for profit health plan. My apologies to Blue Shield of California for our error.

Oh good, A Democratic president wants to build the first nuclear power plant in 30 years because it's a safer alternative to coal and gas. Is it safer than Three Mile Island or Chernobyl? That's next.

First, tonight's worst person in the world.

The bronze to Tom Robblueski (ph). In one of the great mixed messages of our time, Mr. Robblueski advises that he represents an unnamed group of business owners that paid for this in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The funny thing about this sign is that Robblueski says the small businessmen, who he has been instructed not to identify, only want to express that they believe that Washington's politics are bad for small business. "The billboard," he says, "is not meant to allege any impeachable offense has been committed. It's simply an expression of frustration by my client that politics in Washington should change to better support small businesses."

So you put up a billboard that says something you don't mean, and the small businesses are paying a thousand bucks a month they don't have, and your small businessmen are so proud of their viewpoint that their identities they don't reveal. So it's graffiti?

The runner-up, Representative Steve King of Iowa, pulling back in front in the weekly craziest congressmen derby. He Tweets that last week a raccoon tried to get into his House, so he chased out into, quote, a midday mid-blizzard and shot it with a semi-automatic rifle called a Desert Eagle. King says he was protecting his grand daughters. His quote, "that's just what has to happen when you live out here in the country. I can't have a crazy coon."

But our winner, Lonesome Roads Beck. His advice today on what to do with the Taliban's number two, Mullah Baradar, captured by US and Pakistani intelligence? "We've just captured the second most wanted guy in al Qaeda. Shoot him in the head."

Taliban, not al Qaeda. Different groups. Like you wouldn't want me calling you "New York Post" when you're Fox News.

First thing out of my mind, "shoot him in the head." Yes, that's not the first thing out of your mind. Don't you want to interrogate him, Becky was asked. "If I were in charge, we'd be interrogating him. We'd interrogate and interrogate him, and then we'd shoot him in the head. Shoot him in the head before we release him into, what, primary schools in New York City? What are we going to do with this guy?

Since it's worked with a lot of other people whose plans would destroy America, give him a show on Fox News.

Glenn "he's every man at the bar, if every man has just escaped from a mental health facility" Beck, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: I'm advised now that Congressman King of Iowa shot that raccoon with a semi-automatic handgun, not a semi-automatic rifle. Well, that's all right, then.

In his State of the Union Address last month, President Obama promised a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. Key words: safe and clean. Third word possible? This morning in Maryland, the president announced the first funding towards that goal, eight billion dollars in federal loan guarantees for the first US nuclear plant in nearly 30 years. The plan is to build two reactors near Waynesboro, Georgia.

Thirty years. What happened about 30 years ago? Oh, Three Mile Island. March 28, 1979, nearly 31 years ago now, a partial meltdown at the Pennsylvania plant released 43,000 Curies (ph) of Krypton radiation into the air - I don't really know what that measures and it scares the crap out of me - and put any plans for new nuclear plants in this country on hold. Krypton.

Seven years later, explosions at the Chernobyl power plant outside of Kiev in the Ukraine released 400 times more radioactivity than was released at Hiroshima. The exposure caused alarming rates of disease, death among hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.

But if that's not bad enough PR, there's also the 21 years of "The Simpsons." Homer Simpson, of course, takes home uranium from the Springfield nuclear plant in his coat every night, sometimes twice a night. And the fish in the polluted pond outside the plant have extra eyes.

Back to the president. Mr. Obama is not the first president to propose expanding production of clean nuclear energy, although the last one to do so might have whiffed because no one knew what he was trying to say.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the field of nuclear energy. Nuclear waste. Nuclear power. Nuclear power plants. Nuclear tests. Nuclear weapons. Nuclear activities. Nuclear aspirations.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the Nuclear Strategy and Non-Proliferation Initiative for the New American Foundation. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: Thirty years after - 31 years nearly after Three Mile, have safety measures improved enough for the people of Burke County, Georgia to rest easy, for the rest of us, for that matter?

LEWIS: You know, I'm sure you're familiar with Murphy's Law. The reality is Murphy can run nuclear power plants, too. You know, sure, they are probably a little bit safer. But they're never going to be completely safe. So that gets to this big question of is it really so great for the environment that it's worth doing.

OLBERMANN: The analogy they use now is that these new plants and ones that have been used - built in France and built in China have the - the equivalent of campfires in the forest. Only with each camp fire, there is a plastic bag above the camp fire full of water and the moment that the fire gets out of hand, the bag bursts and water flows down on top of it, no more fire, no more risk. Are you buying any of that?

LEWIS: It's what they would say, right? It's exactly what they said before Three Mile Island. I have no doubt in my mind that the engineers worked very hard to make a lot of improvements to the design, in particular simplifying the systems. But at the end of the day that risk is still not going to be zero, and then you have all of these other issues, particularly with the nuclear waste.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. About the waste, the Obama administration doesn't want to store the spent fuel in Yucca Mountain in Nevada, meaning there is still no place for spent fuel.

LEWIS: I can't hear.

OLBERMANN: We've lost contact. How about - it's been interfered with, obviously, with the nuclear power plants. Mr. Lewis can't hear. Can you hear me now?

LEWIS: I can't hear.

OLBERMANN: So we're going to have to end the interview with Jeffrey Lewis, the director of Nuclear Strategy and Non-Proliferation Initiative for the New American Foundation because it's been that kind of show, hasn't it?

However, I do have an ace in the hole. Let's go back to the baseball cards. As you see - I showed you already 00 this is the part of the Turn Back the Clock thing, where they do extra cards from vintage cards. This is a replica of something from the real old days. 2007 - 2007 card in the packs. Here's a lovely Dennis Eckersley combination with Mariano Rivera.

Do you think the nuclear power people interrupted that interview? Or did we not get that interview on the air because we didn't have sufficient nuclear power between here and Washington? Could that be it?

We could resume the interview with Mr. Lewis for the remaining 30 seconds. About storage, that issue about Yucca Mountain in Nevada; is that not a bad sign that the Obama administration does not want to store the spent fuel anywhere, and we don't really know what we're doing with the current spent fuel?

LEWIS: Oh, absolutely. What you missed was this is the second big announcement they made. You know what the first one they made in the budget was? Eleven million dollars for nuclear waste litigation. That's how many lawsuits they have to deal with.

OLBERMANN: So you're opposed - do you think nuclear power would decrease the number of burned-out interviews like this one, where the ear phone goes dead?

LEWIS: Man, I'm telling you that is Murphy's Law in action.

OLBERMANN: You are the one - you are the one who invoked it.

Jeffrey Lewis, great thanks for you time.

LEWIS: Sure.

OLBERMANN: In two doses. OK. That's "Countdown" for this the 2,483rd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. One more thing about the - no. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and have better luck than we did.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, a rare treat, if any of the - works. Unlike me, Rachel Maddow does not usually respond to the Glenn Becks of this world. She locks herself in her office at about 8:00 am every day and reads policy analysis and statistical reductions (ph) about prisons, and then we go buy and we sprinkle wonk food in over the top of the transom like that. Tonight, however, something very different, and we hope Glenn Beck is paying attention for once. Rachel, good evening.