Monday, March 15, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for
video podcast

Guests: Ezra Klein, Jonathan Turley, Michael Moore, Natoma Canfield


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

"Deem and pass": Speaker Pelosi revealing today that she favors the House's self-executing rule. First, deem the Senate bill passed, and then vote on the reconciliation bill. Ezra Klein on the health care homestretch.

Meanwhile, the president is trying to dot the "I" in the Buckeye State.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you want to know why I'm here in, Ohio? I'm here because of Natoma.


O'DONNELL: The Ohio woman President Obama says is the personification of the need for health care reform. Tonight - our interview with Natoma Canfield.

The next big push: financial reform. Senator Dodd's bill goes public.


SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: There is a broad consensus that we need to reform the financial system. We need to protect consumers. We need to provide more accountable, more transparency in our lending institutions.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, Michael Moore of "Capitalism: A Love Story" on why you have to care about this, and whether Congress is capable of real reform.

Judicial activist: The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas starts her own tea party-type lobbying firm, a firm which can now spend up limited money on political campaigns, thanks to her husband and four others on the Supreme Court. We'll examine the conflict of interest with constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley.

All of that and more - now on Countdown.


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

Over the past months, all of you have joined us in getting to know him and his struggles through his son. He was an architect, baseball fan, devoted husband, proud father, and grandfather. And now, it falls to me to report that on Saturday afternoon, Theodore Olbermann died with his children at his side. His son Keith reading from his father's favorite Thurber short stories.

For months now, as you all know, Keith has been reading and holding vigil at his father's bedside. He has done more than what parents expect of their children in these situations, much more. Indeed, parents hope they never present end-of-life burdens to their children. Keith rose to this challenge and never regarded a minute of it as burdensome.

On this news hour, Keith gave voice to his dad's brave battle, sharing it with all of us, stressing the importance of real health care reform, as well as living wills and end-of-life discussions. Writing on his blog, Keith said, "He was my inspiration and will always remain so. His bravery these last six months cannot be measured. He is as much my hero now as he was when I was 5 years old."

In lieu of flowers, Keith and his family are encouraging donations to the National Association of Free Clinics.

In addition to Keith, Theodore Olbermann is survived by his daughter Jenna, and his two grandchildren. He was 80 years old.

Just as Keith's father came to play his role in the health care debate so too has a cancer patient from Ohio because of the letter that she wrote to the president, urging him to pass health care reform. President Obama today traveled to the hometown of Natoma Canfield, a self-employed cleaning woman and cancer survivor of 11 years, who had written to tell him how last year she'd struggled to keep up with more than $6,000 in health insurance premiums and $2,500 deductible. Drowning under the weight of that individual policy, this year, she dropped her coverage after rates were raised. Only then was she diagnosed with leukemia.

Today, the House Budget Committee took the first step toward a final House vote when it began to mark up the reconciliation bill.

In a roundtable meeting with bloggers, Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to address concerns that Democrats don't have the votes yet by saying, "I have no intention of not passing this bill" - which isn't the same thing as saying she will pass this bill. So, she then tried to fix the statement by adding, "Let me say it in a positive way. I have faith in my members that we will be passing this legislation."

At that rally in Ohio, the president encouraged audience participation when he mentioned that district's congressman, Democrat Dennis Kucinich, the only liberal to vote against health care reform in November, and still planning to vote against it this time.


OBAMA: Your own Congressman, who is tireless on behalf of working people, Dennis Kucinich.



OBAMA: Did you hear that, Dennis? Go and say that again.




O'DONNELL: Connie Anderson, the sister of Natoma Canfield, introduced the president. Ms. Canfield is currently undergoing treatment at the Cleveland Clinic and could not attend. She will join us by telephone later in the hour.

President Obama told the crowd he was in Ohio because of her.


OBAMA: Last month, I got a letter from Connie's sister, Natoma.

She's self-employed. She's trying to make ends meet.

And for years, she's done the responsible thing, just like most of you have. She bought insurance. She didn't have a big employer who provided insurance, so she bought her health insurance through the individual market.

And it was important for her to have insurance, because 16 years ago she was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. And even though she had been cancer-free for more than a decade, the insurance companies kept on jacking up her rates, year after year.

So, she increased her out-of-pocket expenses. She raised her deductible. She did everything she could to maintain her health insurance that would be there just in case she got sick, because she figured, I didn't want - she didn't want to be in a position where, if she did get sick, somebody else would have to pick up the tap, that she'd had to go to the emergency room, that the costs would be shifted onto folks through their higher insurance premiums or hospitals charging higher rates.

So, she tried to do the right thing. And she upped her deductible last year to the minimum, the highest possible deductible. But despite that, Natoma's insurance company raised her premiums by more than 25 percent. And over the past year, she paid more than $6,000 in monthly premiums.


OBAMA: She paid more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs, for co-pays and medical care and prescriptions. So all together, this woman paid $10,000 - one year. But because she never hit her deductible, her insurance company only spent $900 on her care. Right? So, the insurance company is making - getting $10,000, paying out $900.

Now, what comes in the mail at the end of last year?



OBAMA: It's a letter telling Natoma that her premiums would go up again by more than 40 percent.


OBAMA: So here's what happens - she just couldn't afford it. She didn't have the money. She realized that if she paid those health insurance premiums that had been jacked up by 40 percent, she couldn't make her mortgage. And despite her desire to keep her coverage, despite her fears that she would get sick and lose the home that her parents built - she finally surrendered, she finally gave up her health insurance. She stopped paying it - she couldn't make ends meet.

So, January was her last month of being insured. Like so many responsible Americans - folks who work hard every day, who try to do the right thing - she was forced to hang her fortunes on chance. Just to take a chance - that's all she could do. She hoped against hope she would stay healthy. She feared terribly that she might not stay healthy.

That was the letter that I read to the insurance companies, including the person responsible for raising her rates. Now, I understand Natoma was pretty surprised when she found out that I had read it to these CEOs. But I thought it was important for them to understand the human dimensions of this problem. Her rates have been hiked more than 40 percent.

This was less than two weeks. Unfortunately, Natoma's worst fears were realized. And just last week, she was working on a nearby farm, walking outside - apparently chasing after a cow -


OBAMA: - when she collapsed. And she was rushed to the hospital.

She was very sick. She needed two blood transfusions. Doctors performed a battery of tests. And on Saturday, Natoma was diagnosed for leukemia.

Now, the reason Natoma is not here today is that she's lying on a hospital bed, suddenly faced with this emergency - suddenly faced with the fight of her life. She expects to face more than a month of aggressive chemotherapy. She is racked with worry not only about her illness, but about the costs of the tests and treatment that she's surely going to need to beat it.

So, you want to know why I'm here, Ohio? I'm here because of Natoma.


OBAMA: I'm here because of the countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges in their lives when the added burden of medical bills they can't pay. I don't think that's right.


OBAMA: Neither do you. That's why we need health insurance right now. Health insurance reform right now.



O'DONNELL: Jake Tapper of ABC News caught up with President Obama with the key question after the rally.


JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS: What would the bill do for Natoma?

OBAMA: Well, what would have happened is that Natoma would have been able to be part of this exchange - this marketplace - that give her a choice of plans just like members of Congress have, but because she'd be a part of a million people who are in the pool, her rates would be lowered.


O'DONNELL: Lots to talk about tonight with Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" and "Newsweek."

Ezra, exactly what would - what else, if anything, would President Obama's health plan do for someone like Natoma?

EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: The biggest thing that it would be preexisting conditions. They talked about this all the time, that she's a perfect example, you know, for an older woman here with a history of cancer.

She goes on the individual market, and looks for a plan, and they say, "My God, you're a terrible risk." So her plans, as I remember from the letter, cost 6,900 bucks. And then every year, they kept raising it because - it wasn't because they wanted her to pay more necessarily, it's because they wanted her out. That would be illegal. They actually -


O'DONNELL: It would not - it would not be illegal to raise her premiums year to year.

KLEIN: It would on account of health status. That's the point.

Here's someone who needed his or her health care. And, of course, if you're on the individual market, that is evidence that you're this type of person who uses your health care, that you're sick - and so, then, they raised rates in that group particularly. That's all - that's what happened with Anthem Blue Cross down in California. And that is what would be illegal.

You can raise your rates if your costs are going, you can justify it. You can absolutely do that. What you can't do is say, this group of folks, or this person in particular has a history of cancer, so we're going to raise the rates on her.

O'DONNELL: Well, yes. So, there's - but there's definitely a method for them to raise rates on anyone in any health care plan anywhere in the country after this goes into effect.

KLEIN: But not based on the relevant information here. You can - you can raise rates, but they can't do it based on health status anymore.

And there's - the other side of this, right, which is that one important thing the plan does that people don't know about is risk adjustment. One of the reasons these folks raise rates right now is because it's obviously un-profitable to have sick people in your pool. We're going to need readjustment now where insurance who end up with more sick people than, say, their competitor insures, they all will have to pay into a pool, and the folks who end up with more sick people get more money.

So, it won't actually be as unprofitable to have sick people because you'll get an extra payment for them as well, if you end up with sicker folks than the median insurer. So, that's what other countries like the Netherlands or Switzerland or even Germany do - and it works pretty well.

O'DONNELL: How much pressure does today put on Dennis Kucinich to switch his vote?

KLEIN: You know, only he knows that. I think Dennis Kucinich is, on some level, enjoying being a sort of lone voice of, what, opposition, whatever he would like to be. I think Kucinich is not a guy who is shy in the spotlight. And my sense is: this will harden him, if anything. But we'll see.

O'DONNELL: Now, Nancy Pelosi's claim today that she is - has no intention of not passing this bill. That is not exactly the determined voice we heard coming from Nancy Pelosi in November and throughout last year. There's some kind of change of tone here, isn't there?

KLEIN: You know, I can see exactly how you feel that way reading on paper. I was sitting across from Speaker Pelosi when she said that and it was a determined tone. I walked out of that meeting to some degree shocked by how confident she seemed to be that she would have the votes.

This was not the sort of roundtable you hold if you think that you're about to fail on your attempt to pass this. This was increasing expectations saying, you know, saying things like - talking about what an amazing historical achievement it would be and how they would do it. Pelosi's confidence that her people would be there for her when she needed them was in fact higher than I had expected going in.

O'DONNELL: Now, David Axelrod was saying in the Sunday talk shows that the Republicans want to be remembered as the party that took away tax credits for small business and took away health care reform if they run on repeal it. And if they attempt to repeal it, then David Axelrod is perfectly happy to have that fight.

But what if the Republicans say, we want to take away the tax on your health care plan, we want to take the tax on pharmaceuticals that makes them more expensive, and we want to take away the new tax on your wheelchair. Who's going to win that fight?

KLEIN: Well, you always have that fight, right? Then, what will happen is that - imagine they did take back the Congress, get back into power. So, there are rules, right, PAYGO, that got us somehow balance the budget, they got to somehow pay for what they're going to do.

And they'd have one of three choices - if they want to attack the excise tax specifically, they'd have to somehow find the money somewhere else and if they can do it, more power to them, as long as they're paying for the health care bill. The point is, you can't take away the coverage and that's really, on some level, the key to all of this.

O'DONNELL: Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" and "Newsweek" - thank you very much for your time tonight.

KLEIN: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: The story of Natoma Canfield. She's the reason President Obama went to Ohio today to highlight her fight against the health care insurance industry. We'll talk with Ms. Canfield.

And the tea party intersects with the Supreme Court. The wife of Justice Thomas starts a group that will seem familiar to any tea partier.

Details ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: The tea party meets the Supreme Court, and we're not talking high tea. The wife of Justice Clarence Thomas starts a group activating informed American patriots.

And later, the next big fight on Capitol Hill: reforming the financial industry. Does the new legislation announced today go far enough? Our special guest is Michael Moore - ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: "I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across the country. I have felt call to the front lines with you, my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great."

Those are the words of Virginia Thomas, who has started her own group, which is now soliciting donations for its planned political activism. Virginia Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

It may well be that no law or ethics rule has been broken by Justice Thomas because of his wife's political activism, but her latest actions have raised the question at least of whether the perception of the Supreme Court's political impartiality has suffered another disturbing hit.

It was at last month's Conservative Political Action Conference that Mrs. Thomas uttered possibly her most provocative words to date. During a panel discussion with tea party leaders, she said, "I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Nebraska, who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you." Thomas added that she had been energized by President Obama's hard left agenda.

In January, Mrs. Thomas created Liberty Central, a conservative nonprofit lobbying group, which plans to issue scorecards for congressional members and be involved in the November election.

And because of the recent Supreme Court case in Citizens United, corporations will be able to give freely to groups like Liberty Central.

If any corporation associated with Virginia Thomas' group should ever have business with the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas should, of course, recuse himself. But the decision to do so will be entirely up to him.

And now, Amy Feather, a director for Liberty Central, has told FOX News that the hope is that Mrs. Thomas will make an appearance at a tea party rally on Capitol Hill tomorrow and Mrs. Thomas may also speak at one of the tea party rallies on Tax Day, April 15th - where I hope someone reminds her that her husband's salary is paid for by American taxpayers.

Meantime, another confirmation battle may be near. Eighty-nine-year-old Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens telling "The New Yorker," "You can say I will retire within the next three years, I'm sure of that." And he said he would decide soon on whether to retire this year.

Let's bring professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, Jonathan Turley.

Good evening, Jonathan.


O'DONNELL: Did you - did you ever think it could come to this, a wife of a Supreme Court justice appearing at an anti-tax rally on Tax Day, the day when the government collects most of the money it uses to pay her husband's salary?

TURLEY: Well, you know, it's, in a word, injudicious. I mean, you were talking about spouses of justices who don't fall directly under the ethics rules. But the fact that this is news is an example of the self-restraint used by most spouses previously.

I mean, this is not much to expect for spouses of justices - there's only nine of them - to try to refrain from direct political involvement, particularly to start a group like this, so far into her husband's tenure. Now, no one says she can't do it, but it comes at - it couldn't come at a worst time. It adds additional political patina to what the court has been doing and the controversies we've had lately.

O'DONNELL: What are the Supreme Court rules on judges recusing themselves?

TURLEY: Well, they're very liberal. I don't know if Justice Thomas would like to be associated with that term, but they're very liberal, to the point that many of us felt in the past, for example, that Justice Scalia should have recused himself when he committed on cases that would be coming before the court. There have been a number of other controversies, particularly involving Justice Scalia. And it's left to these justices themselves.

And the rules are very loose, and frankly, the justices have largely refused to recuse themselves in what some of us considered disturbing circumstances.

O'DONNELL: Is that different from recusal rules for federal judges at other levels of the judiciary?

TURLEY: Well, the difference is that you can appeal a recusal in those cases. There are standing committees.

But, you know, Chief Justice Roberts hasn't exactly done well in terms of minding this line. The fact that he recently chastised the president for the State of the Union and didn't mention once that Justice Alito had broken a long and important tradition of neutrality by nodding "no," and seems to be saying "that's not true" to the president, it was an outrageous act in terms of the traditions of the court. And Roberts doesn't even mention it.

O'DONNELL: Now, Justice Stevens saying he may well retire within this year. Does - is what we're seeing now with Justice Thomas an indicator that maybe President Obama should stick with that Sotomayor model and that David Souter model, basically people who live alone and do not family entanglements that might get them into conflict of interest postures?

TURLEY: Well, we also could raise them hydroponically, but - you know, I think that the best model would be a legal academic living in this area, preferably at a school chartered by George Washington. It would be the best possible model we could for.

O'DONNELL: A young man who could do decades on the court.

TURLEY: Exactly.

O'DONNELL: All right. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University - thank you very much for your time tonight.

TURLEY: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: Michael Moore, the man who brought us "Capitalism: A Love Story," will weigh in on the new rules proposed to rein in the financial industry. Is it a good start? Or is it too little too late?

Also ahead, President Obama highlighted the health care struggles of Natoma Canfield now battling leukemia without insurance, because her insurance providers priced her out of affordable coverage. Ms. Canfield joins us - ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Ahead on Countdown: Will too-big-to-fail for the nation's banks never be an excuse again? Senator Chris Dodd unveils new regulations to rein in the financial industry, but critics say the new legislation doesn't do nearly enough. Michael Moore is here to discuss that.

Also, the woman behind President Obama's heart-breaking health care story in Ohio. We'll speak with Natoma Canfield from the hospital as she battles against her diagnosis of leukemia.


O'DONNELL: If you think the health care battle is a big deal because it affects 17 percent of the economy, welcome to the financial battle, which affects 100 percent of the economy. After failing for months to reach a bipartisan consensus with Republicans, Democratic Banking Committee Chairman Senator Chris Dodd today unveiled a bill intended to protect us from future outbreaks of Wall Street madness.

Despite not winning a single Republican supporter for his new package of Wall Street regulations, Senator Dodd said he's still including Republican ideas, among them the Financial Consumer Protection Agency that President Obama and the House of Representatives wanted as its own separate agency would instead be part of the Federal Reserve, which critics argue is putting a small agency that protects consumers from banks inside a larger agency that protects banks.

On Friday, 18 veterans of the Fed's Consumer Advisory Council, including three current members, sent Dodd a letter calling the idea imprudent. What Dodd said his bill will do is make sure that taxpayers are not funding future bailouts based on the rationale that a failed bank is too big to fail.


SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: First, the legislation will end too big to fail bailouts. Never again should the American taxpayer be asked to write a check because of an implicit guarantee that the federal government will bail out a company when it collapses would threatened stability of the economy as a whole. Companies simply shouldn't be that big or that complex. It isn't safe for our nation. And we will discourage that through the new capital requirements and other strong supervisory protections.


O'DONNELL: While the White House threw its support behind the Dodd bill, despite its differences with the president's proposals, Republicans complained that Dodd is not giving them enough time to process the bill because he wants to start committee work next Monday and hold the vote on it four days later. Democrats have the votes to get the bill out of committee. To pass the full senate, Dodd will need at least one Republican to clear the 60-vote threshold that avoids a filibuster.

Joining us now is documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, whose latest film "Capitalism, A Love Story," came out on DVD and Blu-Ray last week.

Michael, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate you being here.

MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me here. And sorry, a sad night for Keith.

O'DONNELL: It is a difficult night here. The Dodd bill came out today. There's been a lot of talk about it, ramping up to this. You've been following this closely. What we know about it now, how would you assess the Dodd bill?

MOORE: I think it's a very weak bill. I think that what Senator Dodd just said there isn't really true. That doesn't mean there will never be another too big to fail again. It doesn't have at the center core the so-called Volcker rule, Paul Volcker, where basically you have a limit on what these banks can do, what they can have, what they can trade. This really doesn't cover any of that.

Plus, the so-called Consumer Protection Agency that's in it is going to be housed at the Fed.


MOORE: You'll know where to find it, where to go.

O'DONNELL: The Fed will have -

MOORE: - one of the board members will be someone from the Fed. Come on. What part of this doesn't Dodd and some of the Democrats - what don't they get?

The American people want this fixed. We lost billions of dollars. They brought down the economy of this country. And he said today, we don't want to punish Wall Street. Yes, we do. Yes, that's exactly what we need to do. If we don't do it, they won't do anything to change.

Unless there's a stick that says, look, if you steal money from the American people, if you lose the pension money of the workers of this country, you're going to have a price to pay for this. Instead, what we did was we wrote them more checks and said, here, thanks for stealing the money, take some more. That's absolutely the wrong message to send to a thief.

O'DONNELL: The notion - the principle, if we can call it a principle, of too big to fail was never written into US law anywhere. That was just the collective judgment of the wise men in Washington as these failures started to crop up on Wall Street. And they just looked at it and said, that one's too big to fail, that one isn't.

So if Congress wants to say too big to fail won't happen again, because we're not writing it into law, it was never written into law. What's to prevent it from happening again?

MOORE: Here's the bottom line: there were no bank disasters, not one, between World War II and the 1980s. As soon as Ronald Reagan went in there and the Republicans and Reagan took away the regulations, starting chipping away at them, we had the Savings and loans crisis at the end of the '80s; we had the hedge fund meltdown in the late '90s; and now we've had the crash of '08.

When Dodd says, this isn't to say there won't be other disasters - that wasn't his word - but other problems in the future, he's admitting that this could very well happen again on some level. And that this doesn't really - I agree with Paul Krugman, what he said in the "New York Times" a couple weeks ago, that it might be better not to pass this bill than to pass a bill that gives all of us a sense it's OK now; we're all safe.

To create that kind of delusion may do more harm and may not do what we need to do, which is prevent the next crash from occurring, which is going to occur, because they're back to dealing with derivatives and credit default swaps, and all the crazy gambling they were doing before. They're still doing it, and giving themselves huge bonuses with our tax dollars.

This is - you know what I was thinking earlier today? Senator Dodd, I mean, he's not running for reelection. He could go out repairing his legacy, and go out in blazing colors on the side of the people, you know, if he would actually produce something. The White House has said they're going to try to strengthen the bill. I hope that happens, but it will only happen if people make their voices heard.

O'DONNELL: Here's Dodd's problem. I will speak to you as a Senate institutionalist, having worked there myself, back when Richard Shelby was a Democrat. That's how long ago it was. Richard Shelby, who is now the leading Republican on the Banking Committee, said today we agree with Chris Dodd on about 80 percent of this stuff.

MOORE: Ding, ding, ding, ding!

O'DONNELL: Which in the old days used to be where the compromise existed. Now what it sounds like to me is, Chris, we only agree with you on 80 percent. Once we agree on 100 percent, we will give you maybe two or three Republican votes.

MOORE: Once you turn it into a Republican bill.

O'DONNELL: But Dodd has that 60-vote problem. To get anything to pass, he has to get over the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, which is why he's been trying to negotiate with Republicans. How can he get there from where he's standing now?

MOORE: That's the way you look at it as an insider.

O'DONNELL: That's the hack speaking.

MOORE: No, no. Now citizens -

O'DONNELL: Citizens.

MOORE: What the citizens have to do is - people of Maine and Connecticut, these are the three - these are the three votes - these people need to do what's right for the American people. And so there needs to be huge citizen pressure on the two senators in Maine, the rogue senator in Connecticut. And that's how we're going to have that -

But, again, we're back playing their ballgame by their rules, talking about 60 votes. It's 50, 50 plus the vice president of the United States is 51. We only need 50. That's all we need. I'm sure they have that. If they want to filibuster, let them filibuster. Call their bluff. Make them stand there for 24 days, reading from the phone book or doing whatever, standing up to support the banks and Wall Street, the people that stole the money from the American people. I want to see that, please. Let them filibuster for 24 days.

O'DONNELL: Sadly -

MOORE: They won't get through 24 hours before the switchboards will light up and the American people will say that's the end of that.

O'DONNELL: The modern version of filibuster is to simply offer an endless stream of amendments.

MOORE: Let them do that. Let them keep doing that then. Let's see

how many days they get away with that. This is where Clinton really -

where things turned after Newt took over, the Republicans took over in '94

when Clinton finally stood up, when they tried to shut down the federal government, and Clinton called their bluff and said, OK, we'll shut it down. That's what you want to do? Let's see what the American people think when the Social Security checks don't show up on the 3rd of the month.

That's what he did. The American people got behind Clinton. The Republicans, their year-long party was over.

O'DONNELL: Michael Moore, stand by if you can. We're going to switch topics to health care when we come back, something you know a lot about. We'll get your take on the state of reform right now.

And we'll talk with Natoma Canfield. She was too sick to introduce President Obama today. But it was her battle with rising premiums that brought the president to Ohio in the first place.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she'll talk with former Congressman J.D. Hayworth on his efforts to unseat Senator John McCain.


O'DONNELL: She was supposed to introduce the president at a rally in Strongsville, Ohio today. Instead, Natoma Canfield watched her sister do that job from her hospital bed. You heard President Obama tell her story earlier. She survived cancer 11 years ago, only to have her insurance rates and premiums raised.

No longer able to afford coverage, she wrote to the president, expressing the urgent need for health care reform. She has since been diagnosed with leukemia. After sharing her story, President Obama told the Ohio crowd, "I'm here because of Natoma."

Natoma Canfield now joins us by phone. Natoma, good evening. I'm glad you could join us.


O'DONNELL: First, how are you feeling today?

CANFIELD: I'm feeling a lot better now.

O'DONNELL: Does it help when the president comes to your state and to your town, taking up your cause? Of all the visitors you could have figuratively, that must have been pretty important.

CANFIELD: Oh, it's just amazing.

O'DONNELL: When you sent your letter to the president, knowing, as I'm sure you do, that he gets thousands and thousands of letters a day, what was your biggest hope of what would happen to that letter?

CANFIELD: Really just that I would be accounted for somewhere in statistics.

O'DONNELL: And how are you - how are you handling the payments - the costs you're incurring now in these treatments when you don't have any insurance?

CANFIELD: Well, it's - believe me, it's beyond terrifying. I try not to think about it right now, but it is terrifying.

O'DONNELL: When Dennis Kucinich, who is the local congressman in that district, has said on this show that he is going to vote against this health care bill, again because it does not do enough, what would you day to Dennis Kucinich, knowing what you know about the president's plan that they're hoping to vote on by the end of this week?

CANFIELD: It just seems to me that everything needs a start.

O'DONNELL: Is it - does it sound like the kind of plan that you think could reasonably be built on, as people develop more expertise in what the weaknesses are out there in the system?

CANFIELD: Yes, I do.

O'DONNELL: What is your hope at this stage for your diagnosis? Do you mind - and if you do, please don't do it.

CANFIELD: I don't mind a bit.

O'DONNELL: - where you think you're going medically now?

CANFIELD: Medically, I hope to be fighting leukemia. They tell me I have a good shot at it. It takes an awful long time. I'll be here in the Cleveland Clinic Leukemia Ward at least for 28 days. And then after that for about a year and a half almost every day I'll be coming up here.

O'DONNELL: Natoma Canfield, I just want to wish you the best of luck with your treatment. And I want to thank you for showing us and the country the power of words, the power of words written on a piece of paper and sent to the president of the United States.

CANFIELD: Well, thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you very much.

We're going to be back with Michael Moore on Natoma Canfield and health care reform, right after this.


O'DONNELL: Back with us again tonight, after watching our segment just now with Natoma Canfield, is documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, whose most recent movie "Capitalism, A Love Story" just came out on DVD, and whose previous works including "Sicko," his look at our health care system.

First, Michael, you have much more experience than I do in talking to people like Natoma Canfield in situations that they're facing in the health care system. You did it in "Sicko." Do you ever get used to hearing those stories?

MOORE: No, and in fact I hear them every day. I get dozens of e-mails every day, ever since "Sicko" came out. It is - it - no, and I feel - here we are in this week of this bill being passed - and I think it will be passed - that so many people - you were talking to Natoma there about her leukemia, she doesn't have health insurance.

O'DONNELL: She tries not to think about the bills.

MOORE: Yeah. Right.

O'DONNELL: I bring up the bills to her. And the understandable answer is I try not to think about it.

MOORE: Yes. Well, these bills have wrecked so many families. It's the number one cause of bankruptcies in this country. It's the number one cause, medical bills, of foreclosures in this country. And with this bill, the so-called reform bill, if it passes, she would not - if she had been in this predicament six months from now, she still wouldn't be able to get coverage, because the insurance companies are still going to be able to deny preexisting conditions for the next four years.

And I don't know how long you can live with leukemia, but this bill, as good as many of the things are in this bill - you know, young people can stay on the insurance until 26, that's a great thing. It's a death sentence for literally tens of thousands, who are going to get sick or have been sick, because of their preexisting condition. It is only going to be for children for the first four years, the preexisting condition clause.

O'DONNELL: And all the bills, from the start, willfully, decisively left out 15 to 20 million people, just permanently out. No attempt to cover them.

MOORE: No attempt to cover them.

O'DONNELL: There are some Natomas that will be left in that group.

MOORE: Tens of thousands more of them will be in that group, who will die as a result. Their only crime for dying - their only crime that they will have committed is that they were a citizen in the United States of America. If they were a few hundred miles north of us here, they wouldn't die. Pure and simple, that's the only difference, they hold an American passport instead of Canadian.

I think, you know, what she said is true, you want to get whatever - if I drove up an old AMC Pacer here tonight and said, here, Larry, I'm giving you a free car, I don't think you would say get that out of here. You would say, well, Mike, that's nice. Maybe you have a 16-year-old to give it to.

That's what this bill is. It's the AMC Pacer. And it runs, but it really doesn't take care of the main problem, which is the profit motive will still dictate everything. The insurance companies will still be in charge. Even if you have insurance with them - this is really what I covered in this film - it was really about the people who have insurance who, once they have it, then can't get the bill paid. They run you around. They're going to look for loop hopes.

You know what this bill says if they deny you coverage? Let's say they deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. The fine is 100 dollars a day per individual that you've denied. Just think about that. The insurance company is going, so, for a year, that would be 36,500 dollars, but the operation is going to cost 100,000. You know what? I think we'll take the fine.

O'DONNELL: The only eloquent voice I have heard in opposition, in actual political voting opposition to this bill, is from Dennis Kucinich, where the president went to his district today to try to change his mind. Dennis Kucinich's criticism coming from the left, point by point knocking down Democratic talking points.

What would you say to Congressman Kucinich and the vote he faces at this point?

MOORE: Thank you. Thank you for - one out of 435 is standing up for the 300 million. How truly sad is that?

O'DONNELL: When the vote comes, if he's the decisive vote, would you tell him to go practical in the end?

MOORE: No, I would not. No, if I were a member of Congress, I think what I would do is I would say I might vote for it if President Obama, you'll stand in front of the cameras and tell the American people that this doesn't really cover preexisting conditions for the next four years and the insurance companies are still going to be able to make outrageous profits, and they are going to be able to deny people care once they have insurance. Tell the people the truth of these things, and then we'll vote for those things that are great about the bill.

But I think - listen, I think having this discussion here on the day after Keith's dad passed away - and Keith has been so eloquent about this issue. He said on this air he's going to commit an act of civil disobedience. He will not participate in this so-called universal health care, which it isn't.

O'DONNELL: The individual mandate ordering people - and President Obama said during the campaign they don't need to be ordered to purchase insurance, they need to be helped to get insurance.

MOORE: I just want to say I know we only have a few seconds left here. Thank you for telling people to be sure - and the family said in lieu of flowers, to write a check to the National Association of Free Clinics. I heard that backstage. And I happened to have my check book with me. So I'd like to write the first check and encourage everybody out there who's watching to please write your check and send it to National Association of Free Clinics. Is that correct?

O'DONNELL: Exactly. Exactly.

MOORE: So go to my website, I'll have an address on there. Thank God for his mom and his dad, they obviously did something right. We are fortunate to have somebody out there like him fighting that battle.

O'DONNELL: He's been heroic on every front, in his work and in what he had to do after work every night. Michael, this is a moving moment. I feel like Jerry Lewis. I wish there were many more coming in. This is an amazing and hugely generous start. And I know how profoundly Keith will want to thank you for this.

MOORE: Well, no, I just - everybody watching, please give to this organization. It's really important. Do it in honor of Theodore Olbermann.

O'DONNELL: Michael Moore, whose documentary, "Capitalism, A Love Story," is out on DVD now. Thank you for the time. That's what the prompter says. I want to thank you for this contribution. This is really a very special thing to have you here tonight.

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