Friday, July 30, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, July 30th, 2010
video podcast

Guests: Joseph Cammarata, Annie Lowrey, Bob Cavnar, Marissa Guthrie



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

The GOP's great shame. Republicans kill a bill that would give financial assistance to first responders sickened at ground zero. Congressman Anthony Weiner calls them out on the House floor.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It's Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes! It is a shame! A shame!


O'DONNELL: Former police officer, Joseph Cammarata, is one of those heroes that got sick from the 9/11 aftermath. He will join us.

And the "party of no" knows no bounds. Senate Republicans filibuster a jobs package that includes tax cuts. Yes, that's right, the GOP blocks a tax cut bill they helped write.

BP's incoming CEO says it's time to scale back the cleanup effort.

And what about the leak?


BOB DUDLEY, INCOMING BP CEO: We haven't seen oil flow into the Gulf since the 15th of July.


O'DONNELL: That's because the underwater camera is no longer pointed at the leaky wellhead.

With the media moving on, who's keeping BP accountable? Bob Cavnar will join us.

It's the hottest Swedish export since Abba.


O'DONNELL: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the runaway bestseller is set to become the next Hollywood blockbuster. We'll explore the story behind the global phenomenon.

"American Idol" shake-up:




O'DONNELL: Ellen quits. Kara might be fired. Who will replace them?


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm leaving after a year and a half of taking tough questions to be a judge on "American Idol."



O'DONNELL: All that and more - now on Countdown.


RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: Check it out, dawg. Check this out.




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

In the decades since the attacks, the GOP has been fond of saying that 9/11 changed everything.

But in our fifth story: the Republican Party is back to politics as usual, voting against a bill that would have provided aid to the survivors of the September 11th attacks - including the first responders who rushed to the scene and breathed in all manner of toxins in the days, weeks, and months that followed.

Ahead, I will be joined by one of those first responders, former NYPD officer, Joseph Cammarata.

First, the details: The 9/11 health bill would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to those who were sickened by toxins in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Democrats had feared the GOP would exploit the bill by tacking on unnecessary amendments so they introduced the measure on the House's suspension calendar, which meant the bill could not be altered and needed a two-thirds vote to pass.

Last night, right before the vote, Congressman Peter King, who co-sponsored the bill, made it clear that it was most likely that his fellow Republicans would be mostly voting against the bill, ostensibly for procedural reasons.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Everyone knows that this bill will not get the two-thirds majority required under the suspension calendar. Everyone also knows that this bill would pass with a clear majority if the Democrat leadership would allow it to come to the floor under the regular procedures of the House. The reason H.R. 847 is not being brought up under regular order is that the majority party is petrified of having its members face a potential vote on illegal immigration.

You can blame it on the Republicans, and I've been strongly critical of the Republican position on this issue. But the reality is, you couldn't pass this bill if you wanted to. You are in control. You have the power. You have the responsibility.

This bill should be more important than a campaign talking point. You could have passed it at any time during the past 3 ½ years, but you want political cover. Thank God for our country that the first responders of 9/11 didn't look for cover before they did what they had to do and lived up to their oath.

As Mayor Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, said just today about the procedure we are following tonight, quote, "It's an outrage. A majority of people would vote for this bill, but they know full well they will not get two-thirds. They know that. So, this is a way to avoid having to make a tough decision. Our people who worked down at 9/11, whose health has fallen apart did what America wanted them to do. This is an American problem and Congress should stand up.

And I know it's a tough vote for some people, but I don't have a lot of sympathy. They should bring this vote and vote up-or-down on any amendments and vote up-or-down on the bill and go on the record. And that, incidentally, is what the leadership should force."

That was Mayor Bloomberg this afternoon.

They say they want Republican support, yet they never consulted even one Republican before they made the corporate tax increase as to pay for it. They say they want Republican support before they pass this bill, but they never applied that standard when they ran through the stimulus, health care, cap-and-trade, or financial regulatory reform.

No. You only apply it to cops and firefighter and construction workers. What a sad and pathetic double standard. These heroes deserve better then they are receiving here tonight. And no matter what happens on this vote, I will continue to do all I can to pass this bill as soon as possible in the future.


O'DONNELL: These are moments on the House floor that try the patience and pain the souls of honorable members of Congress. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner could take no more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I yield one minute to the distinguished gentleman from New York, Mr. Weiner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is recognized.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Great courage, to wait until all members have already spoken and then stand up and wrap your arms around procedure. We see it in the United States' Senate every single day where members say, "We want amendments, we want debate, we want amendment, but we're still a no." And then we stand up and say, "Oh, if only we had a different process we'd vote yes."

You vote yes if you believe yes. You vote in favor of something if you believe it's the right thing. If you believe it's the wrong thing, you vote no.

We are following a procedure - I will not yield to the gentleman and the gentleman will observe regular order. The gentleman will observe regular order.

The gentleman speaks to you and gets up and yells, thinking he's going to intimidate people into believing he's right. He is wrong! The gentleman is wrong! The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues, rather than doing the right thing!

It's Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes. It is a shame! A shame!

If you believe this is a bad idea, to provide health care, then vote no. But don't give me the cowardly view that, "Oh, if it was a different procedure" - the gentleman will observe regular order and sit down. I will not!

The gentleman will sit! The gentleman is correct in sitting. I will not -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is quite -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. The gentleman will suspend.

WEINER: I will not stand here -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is recognized.

WEINER: - and listen to my colleague say, "Oh, if only I had a different procedure that allows us to stall, stall, stall and then vote no." Instead of standing up and defending your colleagues and voting no on this humane bill, you should urge them to vote yes - something the gentleman has not done!



O'DONNELL: Congressman King turned out to be one of only 10 Republicans to vote yes on the 9/11 health bill last night, which did not get the two-thirds majority it needed, failing by a vote of 255 in favor and 159 against.

As promised, we are joined now by Joseph Cammarata, a New York City police officer at the time of the attacks, whose brother, Michael, was the youngest firefighter killed. Joseph spent nearly two days searching ground zero for his brother, Michael, and other victims. He has recounted his experience in a new book, "Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble."

Thank you for your time tonight, Mr. Cammarata.

What health issues have you faced as a result of your experiences on 9/11 and the days that followed?

JOSEPH CAMMARATA, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Well, my life has been dominated by posttraumatic stress since the attacks, sleeplessness, and recently I have been diagnosed with a sleep-related disease called sleep apnea, which some believe is related to the World Trade Center attacks.

O'DONNELL: And have you had any of the respiratory problems that

others have had as a result of breathing in all of the toxins and dust, and

at that time, mysterious substances that were floating in the air?

CAMMARATA: Thankfully not up until this point, but they are exploring further at this time.

O'DONNELL: And how difficult has it been getting the city or the health insurance companies involved to view these 9/11-related illnesses as conditions that require treatment under their plans, that were - in other words, have there been any difficulty demonstrating the link between working in the 9/11 recovery mission and these illnesses?

CAMMARATA: As far as I'm concerned, with my particular case - no. But there has been tremendous resistance from colleagues I have worked with, first responders, it's a long and daunting task for them to get their story across and get into the ears of the people who make the big decisions. So, yes, they have been receiving tremendous resistance in getting compensated for it.

O'DONNELL: And what information were you first responders given about how to take care of yourselves while working in that area in the aftermath of the buildings' collapse, with everything that was floating in the air down there?

CAMMARATA: The minutes and hours after the attack, it was a free-for-all. Everybody was just trying to save lives. We were given no direction as far as precautions to take for days after the attacks.

O'DONNELL: And it's been known, there's an industrial history in this country, where we have known since the early 1930s - actually, as a result of congressional investigations - how dangerous it is to inhale dust of any kind in the digging of tunnels and construction sites, and certainly in sites like the aftermath of 9/11, where the composition of the buildings had collapsed and produced all sorts of toxins that were floating into the air. We could, on television, actually see that stuff floating in the air.

And yet, most of the first responders that we saw there and most of the people we saw working in the aftermath didn't seem to have any breathing masks on. They didn't seem to have anything that was protecting them from what was in the air down there.

CAMMARATA: For several hours after, the whole entire day, I had been exposed to those toxins. And I can tell you firsthand, as I would breathe in, my lungs felt like they were being attacked by razor blades. It was hot, knifing pain that we were all experiencing in our chest and our lungs.

O'DONNELL: And have any of the people who responded during that period died as a result of these respiratory infections that a lot of them developed?

CAMMARATA: Yes. I've heard many stories of rescue workers, both police, fire, and volunteers and sanitation, Red Cross members that have gotten sick and brought to the point of death in some cases. And it's quite unfortunate that we didn't have the preparedness necessary.

O'DONNELL: Now, you saw that the 9/11 bill last night won a majority, a substantial majority in the House of Representatives, but was still defeated because it needed the procedural two-thirds vote to go forward. What do you think needed to be said on the House floor that wasn't said? What do you think the people who voted against that bill last night need to know?

CAMMARATA: I think what needed to be done was, you needed to get one or two rescue workers from each side to go in and give testimony of what it was like to be down there - how their lives were impacted physically, mentally, and how it's destroyed relationships in their lives as a result.

And I believe that what could have been done differently is, you know, cool heads prevail. We have to - bipartisanship, in this matter, is going to be tremendous, and we just have to be slow and steady and make sure that the proper amount of money is delegated to the proper people and they receive the proper care.

O'DONNELL: Now, Peter King, a Republican congressman from New York, spent a great deal of time defending his fellow Republicans who were going to vote no. He, himself, voted yes.

Do you wish that all of the New York delegation had worked harder to get this passed, and not just vote yes, but actually work harder to collect votes for it and get it passed?

CAMMARATA: Yes. I believe that - I wish that they would have worked harder. I know they're coming up on a summer recess and they wanted to get it done before that - but slow and steady wins the race. We have to get this done, but we have to make it the right way to make sure that everybody in need is, in fact, covered.

O'DONNELL: Joseph Cammarata, thanks for sharing your story with us tonight.

CAMMARATA: Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: The action didn't stop at the house. We head to the Senate for a Republican filibuster for a bill that would have cut taxes - a closer look at the reason why. One hint: it's an election year.

And a Friday frenzy over who stays and who goes on "American Idol."

Not the contestants, this time, it's the judges.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: The story how not even a bill with bipartisan support, a bill that would have cut taxes could make it through the gridlocked Senate.

And why BP thinks it's time to scale back the clean up in the Gulf before it's finished killing the well.


O'DONNELL: Eighty-one percent of the jobs lost in America have been lost from small business. So, yesterday the Senate tried to hold a vote on a bill with broad bipartisan support - a bill Republicans helped to write that would cut taxes and help small businesses and reward them for creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

In our fourth story tonight: you see where this is going, right? The bill would create a $30 billion fund to help small banks lend to small businesses and give entrepreneurs $12 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, much of this paid for by revenues from letting taxpayers convert retirement accounts into Roth accounts and pay the taxes up-front. It had broad bipartisan support.

But according to "The Hill" newspaper, Republicans thought Democrats would use it to campaign on job creation this November. And yesterday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell killed it, at least for now.

The trouble started when Republican Senator Olympia Snowe angrily blasted Democrats for not allowing even a few amendments. So, even though the amendments had nothing to do with the bill, that's exactly what Senate Leader Harry Reid did. He allowed three amendments to please Republicans.

And Republicans - as they so often do in these attempts at compromise

then moved the bar. McConnell said three amendments were not enough.

How many is enough?

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu challenged McConnell to say how many amendments would be enough to allow a vote. McConnell shut of debate rather than give an answer.

All of this, of course, not on the merits of the bill, but simply on whether the Senate could take an up-or-down vote on it - billions of dollars in aid to small businesses hanging in the balance. As one, all 41 Republicans voted no. Senator Snowe, who actually helped write the bill voted no. Senator George Lemieux, who told "Politico," quote, "It sure would be a shame if it didn't get done," voted no.

Let's bring in Annie Lowrey, economy reporter for "The Washington Independent."

Thanks for joining us tonight, Annie.

And I just want to get a quick fact check. How bipartisan was this bill? How bipartisan was it, really, if when it came up to the vote, it couldn't get a single Republican?

ANNIE LOWREY, THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: Well, you know, this was - this bill was actually a priority for Republicans, and it was constructed with bipartisan support. George Lemieux helped on this bill, Olympia Snowe helped on this bill. This is a bill that you could imagine, if it were a Leader McConnell instead of a Leader Reid bringing forward. This is absolutely, you know, just the bread and butter of the Republican Party that wants to help small businesses and, you know, help entrepreneurs.

O'DONNELL: Now, if - if the Republicans thought the Democrats wanted to use this to run against them in November, you know, as their job creation bill, why did Mitch McConnell and his colleagues let it get that far? Why didn't they kill it more quietly, earlier in the game?

LOWREY: Well, I mean, they couldn't actually kill it during its creation. You know, it wasn't possible to do that.

And I would note that this bill is very, very popular. You know, I'm sure if you polled the average Americans, you know, they would - they would be in support of it.

And actually, you know, a lot of major Republican donors and backers are in support of it. The Chamber of Commerce, for instance, has lobbied very, very hard for this bill.

You know, so the Republicans, they couldn't stop it from happening, and now, they just want to stop it from passing because it will be a good bill and it's not a particularly controversial bill at all. So, you know, the game for them is just to slow it down as much as possible and not to give Democrats this victory.

O'DONNELL: Now, it looks like Harry Reid, as many majority leaders before him have found themselves, it looks like he found himself caught in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" moment on the question of allowing amendments.

Where would we be now if he had just not allowed any amendments?

LOWREY: You know, my sense is that probably then he wouldn't be much in a different place. You know what he said throughout this process - and this bill has been held up for about three weeks now - was that he wasn't going to allow amendments that weren't germane to the actual text of the bill. And so, the bill contains, you know, a big fund that will help small banks lend to small businesses. And it contains a number of tax breaks that Republicans are actually in support of.

And so, Mitch McConnell just put up a bunch of amendments having to do with the estate tax, having to do with the Bush tax cuts and, you know, the Republicans just continually sort of move to the goalposts on Democrats.

So, you know, obviously, there is some strategy going on here. And I'm not sure that Harry Reid could have done much to move this any faster.

Again, the substance of the bill is not particularly controversial. And if you talk to Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, they still expect it to pass once the sort of procedural that chicanery is over with.

O'DONNELL: Yes, a lot of big Republican business interest groups, lobbying groups, like this bill and want to the see it passed. It seems to me they will continue to push Republicans to find a way to get it done. And it's - so - and it's your view that the Republicans just want to delay it as long as possible?

LOWREY: Sure. You know, and at this point, they've held it to the very, very end of the session. You know, when both parties come back from the August recess, they're really going to go into campaign mode. They're not going to have a lot of time. As you know, the legislative calendar is very, very crowded and they've managed to delay this again.

You know, Harry Reid changed his vote so he could recall the cloture vote whenever he wants. But, you know, after three weeks of negotiations on this, you know, they're still going to spend a couple days negotiating. And Harry Reid actually said that tempers had flared so high, Republicans are - sorry - Democrats were so angry at Republicans for doing this, and felt like it was such a brazen maneuver that Harry Reid told everybody, basically, to cool off, that the tempers weren't helping anything.

But, you know, they're going to spend - a couple days that they could be doing other things, they're going to spend doing this.

O'DONNELL: Annie Lowrey, many thanks for watching the Senate for us tonight.

LOWREY: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: out of sight, out of mind for BP. The company is calling for a scale back on the clean up because it's becoming harder to find the oil. Bob Cavnar joins us next with his thoughts.

And a little later, Hollywood looks to cash in on the worldwide phenomenon that is "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." What makes these three books so popular? One is nearly sold every second in this country.


O'DONNELL: On the day BP's outgoing CEO complained he had been portrayed as a villain for doing the right thing, the incoming CEO announced a pullback of cleaning efforts.

In our third story: the new guy also appeared to suggest there was no longer any oil flowing into the ocean - a claim that is unverifiable because the feed monitoring the well went black for the past three days.

This morning, in Biloxi, Mississippi, incoming CEO Bob Dudley announced James Lee Witt, former head of FEMA under President Clinton, had been hired to help with BP's Gulf restoration work.

Addressing the ongoing cleanup effort, Dudley said there would be less boom, fewer hazmat suits, but the same commitment.


DUDLEY: Where there's no oil on the beaches, you probably don't need people walking up and down with hazmat suits. So, you'll see that kind of a pullback. But commitment? Absolutely no pullback.


O'DONNELL: Back underwater, the latest effort to further plug the well is being pushed back. The "static kill" procedure was scheduled to start Sunday. It has been moved to Tuesday and now, there are concerns over what's actually coming out of the well.

This morning, Dudley proclaimed BP hasn't seen oil flowing in two weeks.


DUDLEY: We haven't seen oil flow into the Gulf since the 15th of July. And I'd like to say, though, even at that point at which that oil stops flowing, the commitment remains by BP to stay here along the communities of the Gulf Coast, to make good, to restore the Gulf Coast.


O'DONNELL: Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing what's flowing into the ocean, because the live feed of the wellhead that BP had been providing was black for the past three days. This morning, on his teleconference, Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen was asked by the "Daily Kos" why the feed was gone? Allen had no answer. Soon after, however, the feed came back online.

Joining us once again tonight is former oil executive Bob Cavnar, who now writes about the industry at He is also the author of "Disaster on the Horizon" due out in October. Bob, why do you think the video feed was turned off for three days? Is there something or was there something that BP didn't want us to see?

BOB CAVNAR, OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY EXPERT: Well, I think that's clearly the case, Lawrence. It was reported to me by the Gulf watchers on "Daily Kos" that the leaks were getting worse. And when I watched the feeds, when they showed the wellhead, you could see that some of the leaks around the cap, the connector between the two blowout preventers, was actually getting worse.

And then about three days ago, the feeds just went black. In fact, several other feeds also went black during that same period of time. So I think it was clear that they didn't want us to see what was going on around the wellhead.

O'DONNELL: So just to clarify what's actually - what actually happened here is the giant gushing spill has been reduced to a leak, something that is still constantly leaking oil?

CAVNAR: That's exactly right. This stack started leaking almost immediately after they shut the well in, as pressure built up on it. And we've been watching those leaks over the last couple of weeks, as they've talked about the - there being no more oil flowing into the Gulf. And you've seen the media attention kind of fall off and BP talking about scaling back their efforts here.

It's clear they want to get this behind them. And the less they show, I think the more people kind of lose interest. And I've been really focused and others have been focused on making sure that that gets exposed. And as a matter of fact, as you said, when Admiral Allen had them bring the feeds back up, they spent the afternoon with ROVs cleaning oil off of that wellhead with a chemical wand, with one of their ROVs.

O'DONNELL: So what does the current leak level indicate for what the plan is going forward in actually plugging this well?

CAVNAR: Well, you know, Lawrence, once of the things they're going forward with is this static kill, that I'm very concerned about, because I'm concerned about the condition of the wellhead itself. In order to start this static kill, they're going to have to put pressure on those very connections that are leaking right now. And I just think it's an unwise operation, especially since the relief well itself is so close to killing the well from down below.

I just don't understand why they're taking this risk of damaging the wellhead, or the tubulars right below the wellhead, any further than what they already are.

O'DONNELL: Now, BP's position seems to be, if I'm hearing it correctly, that there's no leaking at all; there's nothing to see here. At a technical hearing this afternoon, a BP executive went even further saying that there's definitely - definitely no oil has flowed out of that wellhead since July 15th. Is that true?

CAVNAR: It's not true. The wellhead is leaking. Now, obviously, it's not leaking like it was. But it does show some integrity problems with the wellhead itself. Now, if - will the wellhead fail during a top kill or static kill procedure? We don't know that, but it just sure seems like an unnecessary risk to take. Plus, there is oil going into the Gulf, so I would think they would want to get that relief well finished as quickly as possible.

O'DONNELL: And with the new CEO now, and now James Lee Witt signing on, does this change in personnel, adding personnel, like James Lee Witt, indicate that there's some kind of progress here that you think is going to get us to a better place?

CAVNAR: You know, I'm getting the opposite message, frankly. With this hiring of Witt and announcing him today, it really seems that BP is trying to put themselves at arm's length from the public attention. And by putting someone in between the public and BP, they're trying to accomplish that. I think the messaging will get much tighter with Witt and the communication will probably be much tighter than what it's been. But it will probably be less informative, and it's already been pretty sparse from this point - at least up until this point.

O'DONNELL: Bob Cavnar, thanks again for clarifying once again what's really happening at that well.

CAVNAR: Great talking to you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, four months after the West Virginia mining disaster, there's a new investigation into whether anything criminal caused it.

And three crime novels set in Sweden are the biggest thing to hit bookstores and Hollywood since that Harry Potter kid. The story behind "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."


O'DONNELL: It's been nearly four months since 29 miners died in the worst mining disaster in this country in 40 years. And now some miners are telling the FBI that something criminal may have been going on. Detectors meant to protect workers from explosive methane gas may have been disabled intentionally. Here's NBC's Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was February 13th, two months before 29 miners died at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, when something happened at the mine that scared Ricky Lee Campbell, what authorities say could have been criminal tampering with a methane gas detector in a mine where explosive gas has emerged as a major concern.

RICKY LEE CAMPBELL, FORMER UPPER BIG BRANCH MINER: In February, I witnessed an electrician bypassing a methane detector on the machines.

COSTELL (on camera): The machines that cut coal?

CAMPBELL: Yes, sir.

COSTELLO: Why would they do that?

CAMPBELL: So we can continue to run coal.

COSTELLO (voice-over): What's not clear is whether the gas monitor was detecting methane or instead malfunctioning and shutting down the machinery. But Campbell says he's told the FBI that a supervisor ordered the electrician to disable it.

CAMPBELL: He didn't want to do it, but - he knew the danger. But when somebody above you is telling you what to do, you're going to do what they say.

COSTELLO: The mine operator, Massey Energy, says it was an isolated incident, but tells NBC News, "the methane monitor was bypassed in order to move the miner, the machine, from the area that did not have roof support to a safer area for repair." Not so, says Campbell.

CAMPBELL: We kept using it.

COSTELLO (on camera): You kept cutting coal?

CAMPBELL: Yes, sir.

COSTELLO: Without the methane detector?

CAMPBELL: Yes, sir.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Federal investigators say they've heard the allegations, and, quote, "if true, such actions would clearly violate the law and would jeopardize the lives and safety of the miners." The question, was there a general disregard for safety before the explosion? NPR reporter Howard Berkes has heard from multiple witnesses that disabling the monitors was common. He broke the story.

HOWARD BERKES, NPR CORRESPONDENT: People are extremely concerned about being identified as snitches. One miner said to me that the rule is, what goes on underground stays underground.

COSTELLO: That miners' code of silence runs deep in much of West Virginia, where mining, quite literally, puts food on the table. Few jobs are as lucrative or as dangerous.

The man in charge of West Virginia's independent investigation says some miners have admitted they're afraid to talk.

DAVITT MCATEER, WV SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: They have expressed some concerns about intimidation and about conditions at the mine. And we've taken note of that.

COSTELLO (on camera): You were in the mine the day of the explosion?


COSTELLO (voice-over): Stanley Stewart worked for Massey Energy, but says he often felt too intimidated to voice safety concerns.

STEWART: I felt like if you complained too much, if you rocked the boat too much, you'd probably disappear.

COSTELLO (on camera): They would just fire you?

STEWART: Uh, either fire you or possibly harass you.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Massey Energy tells NBC News that Stewart's and Campbell's claims are without merit, and it, quote, "strongly forbids any improper conduct relating to any and all safety devices."

DON BLANKENSHIP, MASSEY ENERGY CEO: We don't condone it. We discharge people for safety violations routinely.

COSTELLO: After raising safety concerns at another company mine in April, Ricky Lee Campbell was fired by Massey for allegedly unsafe behavior. He's since been hired by another mine operator and has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against Massey. His lawyer says he's now telling his story to a federal grand jury.

Tom Costello, NBC News, Charleston, West Virginia.


O'DONNELL: We have long had the technology to prevent these kinds of so-called mining disasters. They are not accidents, I have held from the start, these things amount to industrial homicide. The criminal investigation is more than warranted.

We want to again offer a brief reminder tonight about two upcoming health clinics made possible by generous donations from you, our Countdown viewers. On August 4th in Washington, D.C., you can register to be seen by going to, or to donate your services and time, medical or otherwise.

The other clinic that we are still raising money for is a two-day clinic in New Orleans coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, taking place on August 31st and September 1st. As always, we appreciate all the efforts, time and money that you have provided to give health care to those in need. Once again, that's

Coming up, Sweden's already made movies of its runaway best sellers, but Hollywood loves a remake. The plans to turn "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" into an American blockbuster.

And can a change behind the judges' table turn "American Idol" back into a blockbuster?

And at the top of the hour on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm joins Chris Hayes to talk about the president's stop in Michigan today and why the auto bailout was the right call.


O'DONNELL: Three books by a Swedish writer about a female hacker and a liberal journalist; you wouldn't think they'd create a frenzy the likes of which Hollywood hasn't seen since that boy wizard thing. But if the stars align, the American film version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" could become a blockbuster. And fans are finding the story behind the Millennium trilogy as intriguing as the books themselves.

In our number two story, NBC News's Stephanie Gosk goes to the source of the frenzy, Stockholm.


STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sweden has no problem attracting tourists. Beautiful islands, beautiful people. Abba literally playing in the streets.

But this summer, tourists are flocking here for something else:

Millennium Series madness. "Dragon Tattoo" book tours in Stockholm are sold out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First page, second page, and it just, quick, quick, quick.

GOSK: Swedish author Stieg Larsson's dark and violent crime series has turned into a phenomenon; 40 million copies of the books have been printed worldwide. Last week in the U.S., one was sold nearly every second. The Swedish movies based on the series vaulted an unknown actress to fame. Now it's Hollywood's turn.

Daniel Craig will play muckraking journalist Michael Blomquist. Lisbeth Salander, the dragon tattooed computer hacking vigilante, has yet to be cast.

MIKE FLEMMING, DEADLINE.COM: It is the single biggest make star opportunity for a young actress in perhaps as long as I can remember.

GOSK: For fans like Linda Harding from California, Salander is the series.

LINDA HARDING, FAN: She's strong. She's smart. And yet, if you looked at her, you wouldn't, of course, think that.

GOSK: Adding to the intrigue of the novels is the author himself. In 2004, he died suddenly, just before the books were published.

(on camera): When Larsson died, he was making just 30,000 dollars a year. He had always dreamt of buying a cottage on an island. If he were alive today, he would probably just buy the island.

(voice-over): The crime writer drew inspiration from his own world, from the bucolic Swedish countryside to Stockholm. Like most Swede's, his characters drink a ton of coffee, sometimes at the same shop the author did. And in that neighborhood, we discovered almost everyone has a tattoo. Anna has five.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was actually quite painful.

GOSK: Plot lines were ripped straight from the author's day job at a left-wing pro-democracy magazine. Michael Ekman worked with him for ten years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you read the book, it's not hard to understand that he's a believer in democracy and feminism.

GOSK: It's a political message wrapped within three thrilling page turners. And if rumors in Sweden are true, there could be more. Larsson may have written a fourth.

Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, Stockholm.


O'DONNELL: Coming up, "American idol" turned on its head. It's now the judges who are apparently wondering if they've been voted off, or not.


O'DONNELL: Dim the lights, I've voted myself off "American Idol." With those instantly immortal words in the form of a Tweet, Ellen Degeneres announced that she would be leaving "American Idol" after just one season. And in our number one story, if other sources are correct, Judge Cara Dioguardi has been fired. Jennifer Lopez has been hired. And to replace the judge of judges, Simon Cowell, Steven Tyler?

In addition to her Tweet, Ellen released a statement explaining that her role on the show was not a good fit, that she wasn't comfortable criticizing contestants. And on his radio show, Ryan Seacrest repeatedly said that Ellen was, indeed, leaving for those reasons, that it was her decision to leave. He added that, quote, "it's not like she needs the work," words that could easily be said about Mr. Seacrest himself, of course.

Meantime, TMZ is reporting that Jennifer Lopez, who also doesn't need the work, will be joining judge Randy Jackson, who just might need the work, that Cara Dioguardi is out also, and that Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler will fill the spot left by the one and only Simon Cowell. Even though the apparently too nice Harry Connick Jr. had reportedly been in the running for the Simon job.

"American Idol" will also reportedly return to a three-judge format next year, after two seasons of a four-judge panel, which most "Idol" devotees found wildly annoying. There are also reports of Nigel Lythgoe returning as executive producer.

The frenzy and faux frenzy about who would be the next judge on "American Idol" even reached into the daily business of the White House.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This would be a great opportunity to announce that I am leaving after a year and a half of taking tough questions to be a judge on "American Idol".


WILLIE GEIST, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You know, we long suspected you, but couldn't get it confirmed. We appreciate you announcing it here.

GIBBS: I do hope that no discernible music talent is not held against me.


O'DONNELL: Let's bring in the programming editor for "Broadcasting and Cable," Marissa Guthrie. Good evening, Melissa.

Let's start with Ellen. Now, she's leaving the show. She's saying that she voted herself off. Is there anymore too it? Is it just what she says, that she didn't like it and she's done with it?

MARISSA GUTHRIE, "BROADCASTING AND CABLE": Well, I believe that Ellen doesn't like to be mean to poor, aspiring singers. But I also think it's clear that that panel last season had zero chemistry. And I think she saw the writing on the wall there.

O'DONNELL: And what about Simon Cowell? The irreplaceable Simon Cowell? I mean, he's the guy who even if you never watched the show, you know about Simon; you know his attitude; you know what he's like. They couldn't get a carbon copy, obviously. But Steven Tyler? That's - that's a surprise, to put it mildly.

GUTHRIE: I'd like to think that Jennifer Lopez is replacing Simon Cowell. But in all seriousness, yes, Steven Tyler is a bit of a dark horse. I mean, he's an aging Boston rocker. He does know his music. I mean, I can totally see J.Lo and Randy Jackson clicking. I get that chemistry. But I'm not quite sure what Steven Tyler has in common with them, personality wise.

Then again, I don't think the chemistry can be any worse than it was last season. And like I said, he knows his music. So maybe he will - we'll have to see how they actually develop, the three of them together. But this is a wholesale makeover of this show.

O'DONNELL: And Harry Connick Jr., just too nice for the Simon role?

GUTHRIE: Too nice. Maybe, you know, they didn't like the Louisiana accent. I think, you know, there's all sorts of different reasons for, you know, why someone would want to be on it or not be on it. I mean, I think that the centerpiece of this makeover is Jennifer Lopez. And they needed to fit the pieces around her. And she's the diva at the table. So I'm curious to see who actually does end up taking on the Simon Cowell role here.

O'DONNELL: And why would Jennifer Lopez do this? She is a huge star.

GUTHRIE: Well, she's - yeah, she's a big star. She's not as big a star as she was. She's kind of been like sort of a little bit eclipsed by Lady Gaga and Beyonce. And so I think it would be good exposure for her. And I think she can actually add something. She knows music. She knows performance. And I think, again, her career's lagging. Her film career, not much going on there. And she needs something to put her back in the headlines.

O'DONNELL: Now, in the grand tradition of every "American Idol" segment ever done on Countdown, there is the question of why should we care about any of this? Why should we care about this show, especially when the ratings are on the curve downward?

GUTHRIE: Well, the White House is paying attention. I think we should care, Lawrence, because your kids care. So we have to care. But, yes, it's on a downslide. It's down nine percent year to year. It's been declining for the last several years. But, you know, what, it is still the number one television show on. And it's still a huge hit.

O'DONNELL: The truth is here at Countdown, something close to a majority of the staff actually does care. Marissa Guthrie, many thanks for joining us tonight.

GUTHRIE: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: That's going to be it for this California week of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. You can catch my new MSNBC show, "The Last Word," debuting Monday, September 27th at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, July 29th, 2010
video podcast

Guests: Eric Deggans, Alex Wagner

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

Sherrod strikes back.


REPORTER: There have been reports you are considering a lawsuit.

Have you decided whether you're going to pursue you that action?



O'DONNELL: The former USDA official forced to resign after Andrew Breitbart will portrayed her as a racist will sue the man who started it all. But is that a good idea?


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Well, that is simply unacceptable, and Ms.

Sherrod must resign immediately.


O'DONNELL: And FOX News, who called for and applauded the firing of Shirley Sherrod, now admits they dropped the ball. Sherrod says she thinks she knows why.


SHERROD: They were not interested in the truth. I don't think they're interested in the truth now.


O'DONNELL: Redo economics. Republicans who voted for the Bush tax cuts also voted to end them in 2011. Yet somehow today, they're rebranding their tax cut expiration a "Democratic tax hike."

Catastrophic incompetence: The burial fiasco at Arlington National Cemetery, potentially thousands of misidentified gravesites of America's war dead.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: It's not complicated. It's called keeping track of who you bury where.


O'DONNELL: And not since George W. Bush went on the "Dr. Phil" show had a sitting president gone on a daytime talk show.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that word "saved" is what's troubling people -

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, no - well, it makes a difference, though, if your job was one of the ones that's saved. So, I mean, - and let me -



O'DONNELL: The president's view on jobs, Afghanistan and the important questions of our time.


JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": Do you know that Lindsay Lohan is in jail?



O'DONNELL: All that and more - now on Countdown.


OBAMA: I don't know who Snooki is.

BEHAR: You don't?




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

Here in San Diego today, Shirley Sherrod said that everything she has gone through will be worth it if it encourages more meaningful conversations about race in this country. But as a result of her recent experiences, she added that she personally will never have a conversation with FOX News.

Our fifth story: Ms. Sherrod also suggested that President Obama was in need of a history lesson on the south, and she offered to give him one herself on a tour through rural Georgia.

The former USDA employee, who lost her job over a manipulated videotape, joined a panel discussion at the National Association of Blank Journalists Convention and revealed that she has not yet decided whether to accept a different position with the Agriculture Department.

Two things Sherrod does sound determined to do: sue Andrew Breitbart and never appear on FOX News.


SHERROD: I will not give FOX an interview, period. You know, because they had their chance to get the truth out. And they were not interested in the truth. And I don't think they're interested in the truth now.

They are just interested in whatever message Breitbart and those who work with him, those from - I don't know whether it's the Tea Party or who it is - but that's the only message they're interested in getting out. And I think they were not interested, period, in helping me, to get the truth out there. And they would have twisted it. They won't have that opportunity from me.


O'DONNELL: No comment yet today from an uncharacteristically quiet Andrew Breitbart.

But FOX News Channel's senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, has admitted it was a mistake to run the Sherrod story before all the facts were in. "There was a breakdown in the system," Mr. Clemente told, "and it is being addressed."

Back in San Diego, Ms. Sherrod also addressed comments in which she said that younger African-Americans need to brush up on the civil rights struggles that their ancestors faced. She even said the president was among those in need of a history lesson.


SHERROD: Those of us who were in the civil rights struggle from 50 years or more ago were hurt in many, many, many ways. We tried, I think, too much to shield that hurt and pain from younger people. So, many of them don't know their history. And I really think we have to do a better job of helping those individuals who will get these positions in the media, in our educational institutions and the presidency. We have to make sure they understand the history so that they can do a better job in the positions that they have to help move all of us forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I have to ask, were you referring to President Obama when you made that comment?

SHERROD: Well, yes.



O'DONNELL: Meanwhile, at the Urban League in Washington this morning, President Obama said it was time for all Americans to learn from the controversy in which he said Ms. Sherrod was an innocent victim.


OBAMA: She deserves better than what happened last week.


OBAMA: When a bogus controversy, based on selective and deceiving excerpts of a speech led her - led to her forced resignation. Now, many are to blame for the reaction and overreaction that followed these comments, including my own administration.

What I said to Shirley was that the full story she was trying to tell

a story about overcoming our own biases and recognizing ourselves and folks who on the surface seem different is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America.


OBAMA: It's exactly what we need to hear because we've all got our biases. And rather than jump to conclusions and point fingers, and play some of the games that are played on cable TV, we should all look inward and try to examine what's in our own hearts.


O'DONNELL: In a moment, more on Sherrod, Obama, Breitbart and race in this country with our own Eugene Robinson.

But, first, let's turn to "St. Petersburg Times' media critic, Eric Deggans, who participated in today's panel discussion with Shirley Sherrod here in San Diego.

Eric, when Shirley Sherrod was giving that long answer about how younger people in this country, especially younger African-Americans needed history lessons on the civil rights movement, about their own heritage, we were all starting to form the question - we in the audience there and in the hall - were all starting to form the question in our head that you asked. You asked Shirley whether she was including the president in that, and she said that she was.

Did her answer surprise you?

ERIC DEGGANS, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: I guess a little, because she seemed to be hedging. And I had a feeling that she was going to dance around it. But, you know, you learn after you talk to Shirley for any length of time that she is - she has done dancing around anything. And when I asked her a direct question, she gave me a direct answer and I appreciated that.

O'DONNELL: Yes, that was my experience with her last week. I was on a panel with her on "MORNING JOE" on this network. And it was very clear that she was past the point of trying to protect people in this story.

It doesn't seem in what we heard from the president that he's completely past that point. He referred to her firing as a forced resignation and saying these videotapes forced it. Well, the videotapes didn't actually force anything. This was a decision made by his administration.

Do you sense that the president is trying to play both sides of the firing - sort of admitting to some sort of responsibility but then pretending the forces that happened in the firing were coming from somewhere else?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, it's that old "mistakes were made" -


DEGGANS: - you know, response that we often see from politicians.

Who made the mistake? Well, often, that doesn't get specified.

I think the administration is trying to limit the damage. There's been some, I think, effort to protect her superior. You know, people have sort of asked for her to come forward and talk about whether she made the decision, whether Vilsack made the decision, you know, why it was handled the way it was. There was a question at the San Diego forum about her superior.

So, maybe there - you know, I think what they're trying to do is just sort of admit that they made a mistake and try to move on without giving the story anymore legs than they need to. We'll see if that works. If Mrs. Sherrod does file this lawsuit, as she's talking about, we could be talking about the story for a while.

O'DONNELL: Now, I may be oversensitive to presidential references to cable news. But in the speech today, the president seemed to blame all of cable TV news as a whole for this failure and the failure to have the larger conversation about race. On "The View," he seemed to say the entire episode here was the media's fault. But what Shirley Sherrod said on that panel discussion today was much simpler. She did not blame the media. She blamed FOX News.

Who's right about that?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, I do think it's more complex that just blaming FOX News. I do think that there is a network of Web sites and radio shows and TV outlets that take the sort of pseudo-news that surfaces on blogs and blows it up into a controversy that the mainstream media gets pulled in to covering.

And I think what happened here is that when mainstream media outlets started to look at this story, when the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" and CNN and even your own Rachel Maddow started to look at this, people saw that there was more to the story than they were being told. And the story started to change.

FOX News is saying that they didn't really start to report on the story until Mrs. Sherrod had already been forced to resign. But Bill O'Reilly did say what he said about her and "FOX & Friends" in the morning did also have some harsh words for her. It really wasn't until the middle of the next day that FOX News started to pivot on the story, just live everybody else.

O'DONNELL: Now, one of the things that got a lot of the attention on what she said today was that she wants to - plans to sue Andrew Breitbart. I have to tell you that among the hundreds of people in the audience, a lot of us didn't catch that. Some of us were standing out in the hall afterward saying, what's this about suing Breitbart, they were hearing news reports out of - not realizing that she'd actually said it within that fast-moving panel discussion.

Did that feel to you like a determined litigant who's pretty much walking up the steps of the courthouse? Or was that more - "maybe I will/maybe I won't" thinking about suing Andrew Breitbart?

DEGGANS: No, no, she was very definitive about it. And later in conversations during a press conference, she said that she has an acquaintance who's an attorney. And she's going to be consulting that person to help her pick someone who's experienced at this and can really help her file a lawsuit. She seems very determined.

You know, she feels her good name has been besmirched and she seems willing to go to court to get whatever back she feels that she's been cost.

O'DONNELL: Eric Deggans of the "St. Petersburg Times" - thanks for joining us tonight on this day when you helped create our top story here in San Diego.

DEGGANS: Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Eric.

As promised, let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also an associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."

Gene, both Shirley Sherrod and President Obama want conversations about race - but do you think they want the same conversation?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's one of the issues, Lawrence. I think we all say, or any of us say we want a conversation about race. I think we may be talking about as many different conversations about race as there are people who want to have this conversation, because people have different points of view, different life experiences. And there are different nuances there.

I thought, one of the very interesting things she said was: we should know the history. We should know - we should know African-American history, which is, after all, American history. It's a huge component of American history.

It's not taught enough in the schools. It's not paid enough attention to. And, frankly, the nation doesn't know it. Even fairly recent history doesn't know it as well as we should.

O'DONNELL: Gene, I have to tell you. In the audience today and during the panel discussion here at the National Association of Black Journalists, there was a lot of agreement in that room when Shirley Sherrod said she thought that President Obama needed a lesson on race relations in the South, the historic context on that subject.

What could Barack Obama learn on a tour through rural Georgia with Shirley Sherrod?

ROBINSON: Interesting question, Lawrence. Obviously, President Obama, as a student of history, as someone who has taken the time to learn the history I've talked about, obviously, he knows it. He knows the actors. He knows the events. He knows what happened before, during and after the civil rights movement.

To - you know, I can tell you, as someone who grew up in South Carolina at the tail end of Jim Crow, knowing it and living it are two different things. And spending time in the South amid that sort of texture, hearing some of the stories from people who were there firsthand is a valuable experience. Again, he doesn't - it's not that he's ignorant of the history. But I think it was - if you have it under your fingernails, you know it better.

O'DONNELL: For Shirley Sherrod, Gene, it seems race cannot be discussed without historical context - and in her own personal history, painful historical context. For Andrew Breitbart, it seems that no context, historical or otherwise, is necessary to discuss race in America.

So, how can there be a conversation between Shirley's position and Andrew's position on this subject?

ROBINSON: Well, I think you have to define what you mean about conversation. It has to be an extremely broad definition of the term conversation.

This, it turns out, is - at least to our point in history, this is the way we have our conversation about race. Something happens. It is construed and misconstrued by people in different ways. We yell at each other or past each other about race for several days and then we kind of drop it.

But, in the meantime, some knowledge and some understanding kind of filters out and maybe slowly we ratchet forward. This thing doesn't go in a straight line. But I'm not of the opinion that the back-and-forth that we do, however rancorous it sometimes is, is totally worthless, I think sometimes it's worthwhile.

O'DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, many thanks for your time tonight.

ROBINSON: Great to be here, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: election year language spin as only Congress can do it. The tax cuts set to expire this year - an expiration Republicans voted for now labeled a "Democratic tax hike."

And the level of dysfunction at Arlington National Cemetery exposed today on Capitol Hill. The men who were in charge faced a Senate panel today. But the senators say they got only excuses.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: the Republicans must have been told there would be no math - their incomprehensible plan to somehow cut the deficit without touching the thing that created it, the Bush tax cuts.

And, the failure at the top at Arlington National Cemetery in the 21st century - how did they lose track of so many of the fallen? The men who were supposed to have the answers failed to give any.


O'DONNELL: Last night, we told you about the Democratic plan to accuse Republicans of running on a Bush platform.

In our fourth story: Today, we learn that Republicans will defend themselves against this claim by running on a Bush platform - specifically, House Republican leaders have a campaign plan for the summer.

The plan symbolically makes the point that Republicans are looking forward from Bush by featuring four even older dead Republicans and for some reason, three foreigners. But front and center is the plan to call next year's expiration of Bush's tax cuts a Democratic tax increase.

In fact, President Obama wants to extend those cuts for the middle class, just not for the richest 2 percent. Republicans meanwhile, proposed killing the stimulus, which increase on the middle class.

But why are Bush's tax cuts expiring? As Congressman Mike Pence himself admits in talking points for Republicans, quote, "Democrats are poised to allow the largest tax increase in American history." Allow? Yes, even Pence admits Democrats did not create this.

Who did? Republicans. Bush ran on tax cuts, saying that's what you do with a surplus. He still pushed tax cuts in the recession, saying, that's what you do with a deficit. But he lacked enough support to beat a filibuster.

Even John McCain then said, "I cannot in, good conscience, support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle class Americans who need tax relief."

So, Republicans used - right - reconciliation, which allows a simple majority vote. But it does not allow you to increase the deficit beyond 10 years. That's exactly what these cuts did and would do. And that's why, legally, they had to expire now.

In other words, Republicans created this coming tax hike of historic proportions. And, now, they want to stop it by increasing the deficit to historic proportions.

Let's bring in MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein, also staff writer for "The Washington Post" and a columnist at "Newsweek." Ezra, I hope some people out in the audience understood that, as well as you.

But what is the fair way to label the expiration of tax cuts? Voted into law by Republicans, the Republicans wrote the expiration date into law but a Democratic Congress plans to take no action to extend those tax cuts on the richer taxpayers. So, whose tax increase is that? Is that a Republican tax increase or is that a Democratic tax increase?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It's a neat trick the Republicans have here. They - as you say, through a sort of a procedural move here, they had to allow the tax cuts to expire at the end of 10 years. And there are two reasons for that. One is what you said. You can't increase the deficit outside of 10 years using reconciliation.

But the other is it made the long-term budget look better. If you would have eternal tax cuts going on, essentially, Republicans would have increased the deficit by many, many, many, many trillions of dollars. But as long as it expired after 10 years, when CBO does its calculation, CBO has to say, well, these are gone after 10 years so they're not that big.

But - so, now, we're dealing with something where at one hand Republicans are saying Democrats want to increase the deficit. They've done too much on the deficit. On the other, they're saying, "And we want these tax cuts to go on," which is more than - if you don't let any of them go, more than $4 trillion on the deficit.

So, it's sort of a neat thing they get to do. On the one hand, they hammer Democrats on the deficit. And on the other hand, they advocate the popular deficit-oriented things that they like to do.

O'DONNELL: Now, Ezra, you've written about this issue as a litmus test. What do you mean a litmus test?

KLEIN: It's a litmus test on whether you're serious about cutting the deficit. Cutting the deficit requires making hard choices. And as a part of the graph that I think you guys are about to put up, Republicans attacked unemployment insurance as too much of a deficit increasers, about $30 billion to do unemployment insurance. As you can see there, moving the tax cuts is huge compared to unemployment insurance - more than 3 trillion, even if you let the tax cuts for the rich expire.

So, when you're talking about the deficit, when you're saying this is what concerns you, what really shows whether or not you're serious about it isn't whether or not you can the use the debt as a talking point. It's whether or not you're willing to make the hard decisions, which include raising taxes or cutting popular programs that would reduce the debt.

And in many cases, many Republicans are not. Jon Kyl said we shouldn't offset the tax cuts. And Mitch McConnell in a bit of magical thinking here said, you know what, tax cuts pay for themselves, so we actually don't even need to worry about it one way or the other. That isn't a serious way of looking at the debt and as such, it makes other criticisms on the subject non-credible.

O'DONNELL: Ezra, I know I've officially lost control of the show here in San Diego when you know what graphics are going to come up on the screen and I don't. But that's a good graphic. I'm glad we used that.

Now, politically, does this technical argument really matter in the end politically? The Republicans' position is: we want tax cuts. And the Democrats' position is: well, we want some of the tax cuts but we want a tax increase on the highest earners.

I mean, in the end: it's Republicans for more tax cuts than Democrats.

And isn't that always the politically popular position?

KLEIN: Right. Tax cuts tend to be more politically popular. Deficits tend to be a pretty abstract concern in American politics. People don't like them particularly when the economy is bad, even though that's when you need them.

But when you actually put deficits up against particular things, Medicare, tax cuts, unemployment insurance, people tend to worry about the deficits second. The Tea Party said they prefer tax cuts. You rarely see anybody embrace spending cuts.

Paul Ryan is a Republican who has sort of given serious specifics on what spending he would cut in order to have the tax cuts. But he's gotten no pickup on it.

So, at the end of the day, we're going to increase the deficit by a lot in order to extend these. And the likeliest outcome is that we either extend them without the tax cuts for the rich or extend all of them for two years. Either way the deficit is going to go up and the tax cuts are probably going to win out and Bush will win in the end.

O'DONNELL: Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" - thanks for guiding us through this one and keep those good graphics coming.

KLEIN: Happy to do it.


Coming up: As we wait to find out what happens next to the Arizona immigration law, a closer look at border security. How much is enough?

And Obama's view: the message sent to voters with a stop on this couch.


O'DONNELL: We want to again offer a brief reminder tonight about two upcoming health clinics made possible by generous donations from you, our Countdown viewers. On August 4th in Washington, D.C., you can register to be seen by going to, or to donate your services and time, medical or otherwise. The other clinic that we are still raising money for is a two-day clinic in New Orleans coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, taking place on August 31st and September 1st. As always, we appreciate all the efforts, time and money that you have provided to give health care to those in need. Once again, that's

Coming up, a grilling from a Senate panel but no real answers. The men who resigned over the scandal at Arlington National Cemetery cannot say why they failed to do their jobs.

And the reason Arizona says it needs that immigration law. We'll take a closer look at border security right now.

And a stop at "The View" for the president. His reason? He wanted to do a show his wife actually watches.


O'DONNELL: It is supposed to be our nation's most sacred shrine, a hallowed place for our war dead. Yet, in our third story, today we learned the magnitude of the mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery, an institution plagued by years of shoddy record-keeping and what Senator Claire McCaskill called "catastrophic incompetence." Now a congressional investigation puts the number of misidentified graves in the thousands.

The cemetery's former superintendent, John Metzler, along with his deputy, Thurman Higginbothan, appearing before a congressional subcommittee. Both men were forced to retire after Army investigators discovered hundreds of graves were mismarked.

The Army Inspector General's Office finding Metzler failed to ensure proper burials and failed to respond after the unmarked graves were discovered. Investigations by and "The Washington Post" discovering more record-keeping errors, missing headstones, unidentified urns found in a dirt landfill. The mistakes affecting the final resting places of Supreme Court justices as well as freed slaves.

Even as millions of dollars were spent to computerize burial records, cemetery officials relied on index cards and hand-drawn maps for record-keeping.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: We've got cell phones. We've got iPhones. We've got this and that. And you guys are still dealing in cards. I find that just - I just can't get my head around that.

JOHN METZLER, FMR. ARLINGTON OFFICIAL: As frustrated as you are with this, sir, you can only imagine our frustration at the cemetery. Arlington Cemetery was funded and is funded to this day as a separate government agency.

BROWN: Yes, but you've been given between seven million and 10 million dollars to upgrade the IT and the technology.

METZLER: Sir, not all of that money went to upgrading IT. We're maintaining fiber optics in the cemetery. We're maintaining our workstations, our computer stations. We have IT staff on board to assist the staff when they have their issues. Printers, fax machines, all that rolls into that.

BROWN: Yeah, but with all due respect, sir, the top priority should be identifying and accurately categorizing in modern times and not using three by five cards for the people who are the national heroes of this country. We should get - that priority should have been given to the fallen who were buried there.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Mr. Higginbothan, when did you first realize that there were mismarked graves, unmarked graves, improperly marked graves at Arlington National Cemetery?

THURMAN HIGGINBOTHAN, FMR. ARLINGTON OFFICIAL: Well, ma'am, having been a cemetery representative back during the Vietnam War, doing funerals, it was always - I can't pinpoint a date and time. But it was always to me conceptual that anything done by hand for 140-plus years, there has to be some errors somewhere.

MCCASKILL: I'm not asking about conceptual and I'm not asking for an isolated error. I'm asking you what year - let me just ask the question this way: the documentation that we have developed for this hearing would indicate that you had personal knowledge of unmarked graves or mismarked graves in 2003. Would you disagree with that?

HIGGINBOTHAN: I'm not sure of the date. But if it's in the report, that was probably what was looked at. I'm not sure.

MCCASKILL: Mr. Metzler, you testified earlier when I was asking you, that five years ago, you were aware of urns with cremated remains in them that had been found in the fill area of the cemetery.

METZLER: That's correct.

MCCASKILL: So at that moment, you knew that someone's remains had been dug up and dumped somewhere in the cemetery without the people knowing they were digging up remains, and not realizing they were dumping a family member's remains in another part of the fill area of the cemetery. It was unmarked. It was just in with the dirt, correct?

METZLER: That's my understanding, yeah.

MCCASKILL: OK. We are here today because people who worked for you had had enough, and they blew the whistle. Somebody wrote an article about it and finally the Army woke up and realized nobody was paying attention at Arlington. They went in and they looked and they found in three sections several hundred graves. How many sections are at Arlington?

METZLER: Seventy sections.

MCCASKILL: Right, so we've done three out of 70?

METZLER: That's correct.

MCCASKILL: And there's no indication we don't have the same problem in the other 67, none. So really what happened here is you all just decided if you didn't talk about it - and do you honestly believe, Mr. Metzler, if you would have come to Congress and said, we have a crisis; we immediately need resources and manpower so we can check this cemetery, because we're afraid that we've lost bodies of our heroes, that we've lost the bodies of our fallen heroes - we've got cremated remains that we don't even know who they belong to turning up in the fill.

Did you ever write that up? Did that ever go up the chain of the command? Did the chief of staff of the Army ever see a document from you that we've got a problem; we've found cremated remains that we don't know where they belong? Did that ever occur, Mr. Metzler?

METZLER: No. We annotated the records. We buried the remains as unknowns in the cemetery. We did not - I did not send a memo up to the chief of staff of the Army.

MCCASKILL: This is - with all due respect, this is not about a lack of resources. This is not about that you have a complicated job. You have a very important job. I agree that it is stressful and you have a lot of burials and there's a lot of protocol. But this is not complicated. It's called keeping track of who you bury where. That is not a complicated task.

And the notion that you would come in here and act like you didn't know about it until a month ago is offensive. You did know about it and you did nothing. And you knew about it, Mr. Higginbothan and you did nothing. That's why we're here. Now somebody's going to come along and clean up this mess and families have been hurt for no good reason.

If you would have sounded the alarm the minute you realized you had this kind of problem, I think we would be in a much better position now than we are today.


O'DONNELL: Senate outrage in hearings is usually manufactured. It's usually fake. I have never seen more justifiable and more genuine outrage in a hearing than what Senator Claire McCaskill just exhibited. She earned her Senate paycheck today.

Coming up, Arizona asks the appeals court to make it fast. While Arizona waits to find out what the court has to say, we head to the border for a closer look at security. What's working and what isn't.

And "The View" from here. The president makes an unprecedented stop on a daytime talk show. He answered all their questions. We wish he would answer one more. Why?


O'DONNELL: Yesterday's ruling that gutted the Arizona Papers Please Law didn't do much to deter protests already planned for today. In our number two story, several arrests were made all over the Arizona capital. Outside Phoenix at the Maricopa County Jail, at least 32 protesters were detained by police. In Yuma, police are investigating vandalism at the office of Congressman Raul Grijalva. A bullet was allegedly fired through one of the office windows Wednesday night and was discovered this morning. Grijalva has been a critic of SB-1070. But after last night's ruling, he backed off his call for an Arizona boycott.

Meanwhile, the appeal of yesterday's ruling finally materialized. The state is asking the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to expedite their case and hold a hearing in September. The whole crux of Arizona's argument for SB-1070 is that the federal government is failing to do its job securing the border with Mexico.

Tonight, we get a close up look at that border in Nogales, Arizona from George Lewis. George?

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, one of the big questions in the immigration debate is how much border security is enough. The U.S. has 20,000 border patrol agents. That's twice as many as we had nine years ago. They are a big presence here on the streets of Nogales, Arizona. And soon they'll be joined by the National Guard.


LEWIS (voice-over): It's all in a day's work for Agent Rudy Garcia. Helping his fellow border patrol agents round up people trying to cross illegally from Nogales, Mexico into Nogales, Arizona. The heavy presence of border patrol agents here has kept the streets of Nogales safe, in spite of a raging drug war on the Mexican side of the border.

RUDY GARCIA, U.S. BORDER PATROL: There have been 130 on the Mexican side. We have not had a homicide here in three years.

LEWIS: But out in the Arizona desert, there is a different statistic. In July, authorities in Tucson recovered the bodies of 57 illegal immigrants who died in the heat. So far this year, the death toll this year is 152. In the last ten years, human rights groups say 1,900 people have died trying to cross the border, most of their bodies winding up in unmarked pauper's graves like these. Rancher John Ladd says the government needs to do more to secure the border in rural areas.

JOHN LADD, RANCHER: We've been inundated and invaded. And I'm tired of it. Nothing's been done.

LEWIS: But the Obama administration says it is doing plenty.

JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The facts are that there are more border patrol in Arizona than there have ever been. The facts are that illegal immigration has gone dramatically downward.

LEWIS: Soon, these border patrol agents will be joined by National Guard troops. This as the Obama administration tries to persuade Congress to move forward on immigration reform.


LEWIS: Contrary to earlier reports, the Guard won't be deploying on Sunday. We're told there will be a period of preparations that will last several weeks before that happens. Lawrence, back to you.

O'DONNELL: George Lewis, thank you.

Coming up, the president spends time on the couch with the ladies of "The View" and continues to deny any awareness of TV's biggest star. Sorry, Snooki.


O'DONNELL: Apparently President Barack Obama hopes that you took a little time today to enjoy "The View," because there he was, the first time a sitting president has ever visited a daytime talk show. Although then President Bush was on "Dr. Phil" he did not go to the set of "Dr. Phil." So "The View" can indeed claim bragging rights here.

In our number one story, the highlights, as well as the inevitable question, why? The show was taped yesterday, touching on all the obvious subjects. And it gave the president a chance to do what all presidents do, criticize the media.


OBAMA: The things that the media may focus on are not necessarily the things I focus on. I have to sign letters to parents of children who have been killed in Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is is that the media culture right now loves conflict. And if there's a story about cooperation between the two parties, that story doesn't make the news. What makes the news is somebody who says something as outlandish or outrageous as possible.


O'DONNELL: On the Shirley Sherrod controversy, the president broadened the blame.


OBAMA: A 24/7 media cycle that's always looking for controversy, and oftentimes doesn't get to the facts first, generated a phony controversy. A lot of people overreacted, including people in my administration.

And part of the lesson that I want everybody to draw is let's not assume the worst of other people.


O'DONNELL: At various times throughout the show, the president highlighted his administration's accomplishments and he stressed an improved economy, even while acknowledging persistent unemployment.


OBAMA: Well, actually, Elisabeth, what's happened is that we've gained private sector jobs for the last five months. So we were losing jobs when I was sworn in, as I said, 750,000 jobs per month. You're absolutely right that it's not enough. And if you don't have a job right now, the only answer that you want to hear is, I'm hired.

So the frustration that people have is entirely justified.


O'DONNELL: The president also submitted to a lightning round on pop culture, including the question about whether Snooki should run for mayor of Wasilla.


OBAMA: I've got to admit I don't know who Snooki is.


O'DONNELL: And on the event that is creating angst among many Clinton supporters, the wedding of Chelsea Clinton, the president was gracious.


OBAMA: You know, I was not invited because I think that Hillary and Bill properly want to keep this as a thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be husband.


O'DONNELL: Regular "View" fans were left wondering if there was any significance to the fact that all of the co-hosts were dressed in black and/or white. Hmm. Let's bring in the White House correspondent for "Politics Daily," Alex Wagner.

Good evening, Alex. Let's go to the big question. Why, oh, why, did the president of the United States do "The View?"

ALEX WAGNER, "POLITICS DAILY": This was slow pitch softball, Lawrence. If it was not a home run, it was a solid base hit. You know, this is part of the annual team Obama mainstream media pilgrimage. This is not the first time the president was on "The View." It's actually the third time. The last time of note that he was on, he was running for president.

If you look back at that appearance in 2008, what's really noticeable is that he's talking about three main things. He's talking about draw dawn of troops in Iraq. He's talking about health care. And he's talking about race issues. It was in the wake of the Jeremiah Wright scandal.

Two years later, what's he talking about? He's talking about the war in Afghanistan. He's talking about the health care bill. And he's talking about race issues in the wake of the Shirley Sherrod affair. These are the great themes of his presidency. Going on "The View" gives him the sort of opportunity to talk directly to America about them.

O'DONNELL: Now, the president lied - I mean, joked about the reason that he chose "The View," saying that he was looking for a show that his wife actually watched. Now, isn't this the old political tradition of just pretending the wife is some sort of, you know, not fully loaded intellectually - character. Here's a Harvard law school graduate. Michelle Obama, at 11:00 a.m. in Washington is not watching "The View."

There's no reason for anyone to believe that. Is there?

WAGNER: No, I think that's him trying to appeal to the soft side, the ladies who love to love Michelle. Michelle is either working on child obesity or harvesting organic yams at 11:00 in the morning, or otherwise leading the country. She has better things to be doing than sitting around watching television.

That said, I think this is, you know, Obama's appeal to middle class working women, women who are stay at home moms, and, you know, the female audience that wants to see the commander in chief with his sleeves rolled up talking about being a dad and giving sort of a more personal side of being the president of the United States.

O'DONNELL: Now, he - just to clear up any questions the audience might have from our open. He did acknowledge that he was aware that Lindsay Lohan was in jail. But then he told that big lie about not knowing who Snooki is. Come on. Come on. What was the - what was the right answer? That was a tough question, I got to say, because it's tricky for the president. He wants to give people the impression he's dealing with very serious, weighty matters. And Snooki is - doesn't fit into that category.

So did he get that answer right with the false claim - obviously false claim that he does not know who Snooki is?

WAGNER: Yes. Snooki leak. There's that tanning bed tax that they John Boehner and Snooki both asking him to repeal. I think that the Snooki thing was - whenever Obama breaks out into a smile, I think he wins - his popularity goes up at least a few points. That was definitely - he's talking about the very serious side of being the commander in chief, which is writing notes to the mothers and fathers of the children who have been killed fighting in Afghanistan. And, you know, he can't exactly go and segue and say, also, I watch "Jersey Shore" every day.

O'DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "Politics Daily," thanks for helping us get Snooki into Countdown tonight.

WAGNER: You're welcome.

O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this San Diego edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. You can catch my new MSNBC show at 10:00 p.m. week nights this Fall. And now to discuss the new Republican scare tactic, Chris Hayes, in for Rachel Maddow tonight. Good evening, Chris.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
video podcast

Guests: Clarence Dupnik, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Hugh Kaufman, Rep. Elijah

Cummings, Greg Sargent

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

Arizona's "papers, please" law is gutted. A day before S.B. 1070 goes into effect, a federal judge says it is illegal to require Arizona residents detained by police to prove their citizenship.

The governor disagrees.


GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: It's a little bump in the road, I believe.


O'DONNELL: And Congressman Grijalva lifts his call for an Arizona boycott.


REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: I've called for economic sanctions.

With this ruling, I feel that that is off the table now.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, the decision, the appeal, and the fallout with Pima County sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

Deepwater Horizon, day 100: The oil has stopped flowing, the dispersants remain.


HUGH KAUFMAN, EPA: The sole purpose in the Gulf for dispersants is to keep a cover-up going for BP.


O'DONNELL: Tonight, senior policy analyst Hugh Kaufman of the EPA blows the whistle on the EPA for allowing BP to poison the Gulf and the workers who are trying to clean it up.

One and the same: The DNC unites the fringe ideas of Tea Party candidates to the fringe ideas of mainstream Republicans in a new campaign ad. Before the GOP can issue a new "Contract for America," Democrats do it for them with a Republican Tea Party contract on America.

New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, continues to tie the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" to the Empire State.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Eleven-billion-dollar deficit, I've got to take Snooki and "The Situation" also? Come on.


O'DONNELL: And the legend of Sarah Palin.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies.


O'DONNELL: Greg Sargent of "The Washington Post" with empirical data showing why an endorsement from the mama grizzly isn't worth what the pundits think it is.

All that and more - now on Countdown.


PALIN: Missed me yet?




O'DONNELL: Good evening. From San Diego, I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

Only hours from now, the state of Arizona had been planning to - among other things - force immigrants to carry their papers with them at all times, require police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop, and allow officers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without obtaining warrants.

Our fifth story - that's no longer going to happen, now that a federal judge has put most of Arizona's immigration law on hold. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik joins us in a moment.

But we begin with the latest details. The Arizona law will still take effect at midnight, at least what's left of it, but U.S. district judge, Susan Bolton, today blocked the state from enacting the most controversial sections until the courts can sort out what's legal and what's not. Judge Bolton, who was appointed by President Clinton on the recommendation of Republican Senator Jon Kyl, argued that checking the status of every person arrested not only "burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted," but she also found that the verification requirement will divert resources from the federal government's other responsibilities and priorities.

In Mexico City, word of the ruling was greeted with cheers from about 100 protesters who had gathered in front of the U.S. embassy. One protester worried about what might happen to his granddaughter in Arizona if her parents were ever stopped, told the "Associated Press," "I knew the judge would say that part of the law was just not right."

The Mexican government, meanwhile, called the decision a step in the right direction.

Back in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the law in April and is now running for re-election, called today's setback, merely temporary.


BREWER: Obviously, it's a little bump in the road, I believe, and that, you know, until I get my whole arms around it, we don't really exactly know where we're going to go. We knew, regardless of what happened today, of course, that one side or the other side was going to appeal.


O'DONNELL: On the other side of the issue, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who called for a boycott on his state here on Countdown back in April, said on this network this afternoon that the boycott should be lifted.


GRIJALVA: I've called for economic sanctions, no conventions and no conferences coming to Arizona. With this ruling, I feel that that is off the table now and I say that so all sides have something off the table, so that the idea of the boycott does not become the reason we don't deal with comprehensive reform.


O'DONNELL: As promised, we are joined now by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who has served as the sheriff of Pima County, Arizona, for over 30 years.

Sheriff, the last time you joined us on Countdown back in April, you pointed out that even before this law was passed, officers in your state had the authority - already had the authority - to stop and detain people who they believe are illegal immigrants and turn them over to the Border Patrol. As of midnight tonight, with what's left of this law, what changes for your deputy sheriffs when we get to 12:01 a.m.?

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Nothing is going to change. As a matter of fact, for the last couple of months, scores of lawyers have been poring over this piece of legislation and just a few days ago told us that even if the law was implemented, that we don't have to enforce it if we enforce the federal law. The state law doesn't give officers anymore authority than the federal law.

And we have been enforcing the federal law in greater volume than any other law enforcement agency in this state, without having the subject the local system to being overwhelmed, throwing them into a crisis, and sending the taxpayers a huge bill and then turning them over to the Border Patrol or ICE. You know, what sense did that make? You have to wonder, what motivated this law?

O'DONNELL: Judge Susan Bolton said the law would require police officers to do many more checks, and not only increasing your burden, but very specifically - adding to the burden and budget priorities of the federal government. Was she right about that?

DUPNIK: She's absolutely right about that.

O'DONNELL: And is that one of the grounds on which she struck this? That the state of Arizona cannot impose burdens on the federal government and reorder their budget priorities and their enforcement priorities?

DUPNIK: I think so. I think the primary issue here was the United States Constitution. And I think President Obama or any other president of the country has a responsibility to protect the U.S. Constitution. If he hadn't stepped in and this hadn't happened, we would have had 50 immigration policies in this country, probably before the year is out.

O'DONNELL: Is there anything that you would suggest be written into Arizona law in this territory?

DUPNIK: Not at all. The feds have a perfectly good law. The problem is, is that there's not enough resources allocated to the problem to implement it the way it ought to be implemented.

You know, we hear politicians, especially in Arizona, saying that Arizona had to implement this new tough law - which isn't tough at all, it was mirroring the federal law - because the U.S. government wasn't doing enough about border security. First of all, this law has nothing to do with border security at all. So that's nonsense.

The second part of this is that the United States government does more today than they did last year, the year before, or any year in the past. The fact of the matter is, border security is a very, very serious problem and I don't think that we're ever going to have the border secured to anybody's satisfaction.

I think the first debate needs to be done, what constitutes border security? Because we're not going to get there, we're not going to be able to deal with the border reformation, which we need badly, until we agree on what constitutes a secure border.

O'DONNELL: Now, your governor, in running for re-election, has already put out a fund-raising plea based on the court's reversal of this law.

You're out there dealing with the citizens and voters of Arizona on the street level. What is your feeling among the voters of Arizona about their perception of this issue? Do they see it as something that need to be done for law enforcement reasons or something that is more of a political football and a re-election maneuver on the governor's part?

DUPNIK: Well, based on the people that I talked to that are angry with me, because of the statements that I've made about the law, don't understand the law. And I think the country in its entirety simply doesn't understand why this law is totally unnecessary and would have just been burdensome and expensive.

First of all, officers, not only in our state, but in every other state in the union, have the authority to detain illegal immigrants and turn them over to ICE or the Border Patrol.

O'DONNELL: Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona - many thanks for your time tonight, Sheriff.

DUPNIK: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Let's turn now to Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, who joins us now from Washington.

Congressman, you also called in the call for the boycott of Arizona.

Do you agree that that boycott can now be lifted?

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: I agree totally with my friend, Raul Grijalva, the congressman from Arizona. I think we should set aside that issue. And now, since the lawyers for the attorney general, the federal government, went in to see a federal judge and said Supremacy Clause of the Constitution says we are in charge of enacting, developing all immigration law and the judge says, yes, you are, federal government.

And since we know we have a broken system, instead of simply now saying, now that we can set aside the law, until the courts continue to review it, so let's begin to listen to what brought about the law in the first place. And that's our broken immigration system.

So, I would like now to see the same federal government that says we're in charge of the federal law, that has said that it's a broken system, to fix it. I hope tomorrow - I mean this very seriously, the president of the United States can call the Senate, the House leadership, set up a team of people to say, I'm going to fix this once and for all, and fix it with comprehensive immigration reform - which, really, Lawrence, is what people really want in this country. They want the federal government to assume its responsibility, to enforce and to create a system of laws that are enforceable within our immigration system. I certainly want one.

O'DONNELL: Congressman, this subject seems to dwell on enforcement and border enforcement, and - as if there's no other part of this story to be told.


O'DONNELL: In Arizona, for example, we know that immigrants have contributed $776 million in tax revenue. They've provided 66,000 jobs in the state of Arizona. That context is not delivered, it seems to me, in this public dialogue, and it seems that it should be being delivered by your side of this discussion.

What do you have to do to get the message out there that this is bigger than border security?

GUTIERREZ: I agree with you totally.

Look, we have 12 million undocumented workers in this country. We know that 5 million of them came to the country legally. They came as students, they came as tourists, they came as temporary workers, overstayed their visas and now they're undocumented workers - nothing to do with that border. So, in order - so it's a false argument that we're going to - but we need to fix the complete system.

Look, immigrants contribute billions of dollars. I want them to contribute even more. We know that there are 12 million - an estimate of 12 million undocumented workers. Don't we want them paying all of the taxes required to the federal government, that that work - is derived from that work? I certainly do.

So what I want to do is, I want to say, look, let's settle this. I'm for an I.D. card, right - a Social Security card, that has a strip, a biometric, that you can swipe to make sure that everybody has them before you can get a job. I think that's a good idea.

I'm for putting employers in jail that hire illegal workers. I'm for enforcing the border and putting the kind of resources that are there.

So, we understand that enforcement, enforcement, enforcement are the important part. But, look, I'm also for a humane immigration system.

And I don't believe in this fantasy that 12 million undocumented workers, most of whom have been here 10 years or more, 4 million American children - that's the parents, that's 12 million undocumented workers, have 4 million American citizen children - that they're simply going to vanish or disappear. So, I'm also for registering them with the federal government, taking their fingerprints, teaching them English, and making them the best American citizens that we can make them.

And I think that's what America really wants, because you want to know something - going back to your original premise - they contribute greatly to the prosperity of this great nation. So we're ready to challenge.

And I just want to say - look, there are Republicans, Jed Bush, former governor, the congressman from Florida, from Texas, the governor, there are many people, Republicans, that have said, we need comprehensive immigration reform.

So, look, this is a wonderful - I think, Lawrence, a wonderful opportunity to segue, right, from 1070 in Arizona and say, let's do comprehensive immigration reform so that we don't need every state trying to create an immigration system. We can have one that works for everyone all of the time.

O'DONNELL: Before we leave 1070, Congressman, the law will go - what's left of it - will go into effect at midnight tonight. Do you see problems with what remains in that law?

GUTIERREZ: You know, the most onerous parts of that law, the parts that I certainly spoke to you and others about, have certainly been responded to. And I think we have a wonderful opportunity now to gather all of our forces, because I just want to reiterate this, Lawrence - look, we went to court and, it's the responsibility of the federal government. We're kind of saying, "Don't stick your nose in our business." That's what the federal government said to Arizona.

Well, you know something, we also have to take responsibility and take, you know, the helm and take responsibility for our immigration and our broken system. Let's fix it, so that we don't need anymore 1070s. Until we deal with that, you know, 1070 is going to pop up its ugly head some way or another somewhere again.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Gutierrez - thanks for joining us once again on this subject.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thanks.

Coming up: a Countdown exclusive - the cover-up in the Gulf. An EPA whistleblower says the government is lying to residents and cleanup workers about how unsafe the dispersants are. We'll talk to the whistleblower - next.

And later: the marriage of the Tea Party and the GOP. Democrats come out swinging in the 2010 midterm campaign, unveiling the contract on America, brought to you by the Republican Tea Party.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: The real story about the dispersants in the Gulf. One man in the EPA says the government isn't telling the truth about its toxicity because it thinks the residents can't handle the truth. A Countdown exclusive - next.

And later: Sarah Palin has been dubbed queen endorser by the D.C. chattering class, but actual evidence shows the coronation is way too early. That's next.

This is Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Today is day 100 of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, and a whistle-blower has come forth from the Environmental Protection Agency, charging the EPA with helping BP to downplay the environmental impact of its supposed cleanup efforts. You will meet him in a moment.

But if the cleanup has been compared to letting the criminal clean up the crime scene - we begin our fourth story tonight with news about the cops.

"The Washington Post" reports that federal agents who call themselves the BP squad are investigating whether BP, Transocean, or Halliburton, even before the blowout, lied to regulators, obstructed justice, or faked the test results for their equipment - including the blowout preventer that, needless to say, failed to prevent a blowout. Specifically, sources told "The Post," investigators are asking whether inspectors at the Minerals Management Agency went easy on the rig and why.

BP, yesterday, revealed that it is now the subject of an investigation by the SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission, into something - no word yet on exactly whether that is related to the spill.

And while Jane Lubchenco, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the oil is becoming harder to find, the Natural Resources Defense Council's annual report on beaches found no downturn in the number of beach closures or advisories since the spill was capped. The NRDC reports that the number of beach closures and advisories this year, 2,200, is roughly 10 times more than last year. And it predicts that the impact will last for years.

And in a cable news exclusive, that whistle-blower we mentioned joins us now. EPA senior policy analyst, Hugh Kaufman, is a veteran and legend of the agency, having had a hand in Love Canal and the creation of the Superfund and helped expose the EPA cover-up of air quality at ground zero.

Mr. Kaufman, what should we know about the dispersants used in the Gulf that the EPA isn't telling us?

KAUFMAN: Well, first of all, the dispersants mixed with the oil and the water is extremely toxic. Sweden has done studies on this. Israel has done studies on this.

And the only real purpose of using so many dispersants with the oil was to cover up the volume of oil that was released from that well. So, that and lying about how much is coming out was a mechanism to help BP save billions of dollars in fines.

O'DONNELL: Should they have not used dispersants at all?

KAUFMAN: That's correct. If they did not use dispersants, they would have been able to get most of that oil off of the surface and would not have endangered all of the fish and ecosystem underneath the water that now will be affected for decades on down the line.

I was listening to some of the, quote, "experts" who are being paid by BP at universities who are saying that the oil has disappeared. It hasn't disappeared. It's throughout thousands of square miles in the Gulf, mixed with dispersants, and because the temperatures down there are so cold, they're going to be around for decades.

O'DONNELL: Now, were you and others at the EPA making this case within the system, that - arguing that we shouldn't be using dispersants there? And what was the response?

KAUFMAN: Well, the working level troops in research, some of the toxicologists who have experience and education, were trying to get management to pay attention to the data that EPA had and has had for decades, but to no avail. There was a political decision made to let BP take the lead as opposed to the government being proactive, as we used to be.

O'DONNELL: Now, when you say a political decision, are you saying that that decision was made by EPA administer, Lisa Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee? Or was it made outside of the EPA?

KAUFMAN: The decision was made outside of the EPA, by political appointees. But I don't have the vision to see how high up that was made. My vision is limited, because I'm in the middle of the bureaucracy.

O'DONNELL: And what evidence is there that the dispersants are doing the kind of damage that you're talking about?

KAUFMAN: Well, we've seen anecdotal information of mammals in the water, like dolphins, bleeding from their orifices; some of the workers who have done the spill cleanup are having the same problem. The dispersant and oil mixtures are supposed to atomize materials like oil. Well, if that gets into your system, that atomizes your cells, and that's why there's hemorrhaging.

So, there's anecdotal information both down there in the Gulf, similar to the anecdotal information at the Exxon Valdez case almost 20 years ago.

O'DONNELL: What is the best scientific approach from this point forward?

KAUFMAN: Well, right now, we're very limited. We've got hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spread out, mixed with 2 million gallons of dispersant. And so, what we have to do is accurately monitor the air and water and be very careful with the seafood. But we've now poisoned thousands of square miles of the Gulf and we have to recognize that and take precautions so that we minimize the damage that we have done.

O'DONNELL: Hugh Kaufman, senior policy analyst for the EPA - thank for your insights on this tonight.

KAUFMAN: Thank you, sir.

O'DONNELL: Coming up: a reminder of the heroism in the early hours of the oil explosion - the story of a man who risked his life to rescue injured rig workers in the hours after the horrific end of Deepwater Horizon.

And later, the end to the pundit Palin spin. It turns out she doesn't have the Midas touch when it comes to endorsing candidates.


O'DONNELL: One hundred days ago, it began as an emergency call, an explosion on an oil rig. Before we knew the extent of the damage to the Gulf, we knew the human cost: 11 dead, 17 seriously hurt. And as we mark the 100th day, a moment to honor those who rushed to the scene to help.

NBC's Janet Shamlian introduces us to one of the first rescuers to respond to the death trap that was the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is what these teams train for, what they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cutter Venture, it's Cutter Titon, position as follows.

SHAMLIAN: But little could have prepared anyone for the call that came 100 days ago.

KIRK PETERSON, U.S. COAST GUARD: I just thought it was surreal. It's something you don't ever expect to see.

SHAMLIAN: rescue swimmer Kirk Peterson was aboard the first Coast Guard helicopter sent to the scene. And on the way, reports grew more dire by the minute.

PETERSON: Started progressing to a rig explosion, a rig on fire, 160 People in the water with injuries. It just kept growing and growing and growing.

SHAMLIAN: As they circled the blazing Deepwater Horizon, it was immediately apparent, Peterson says, they were flying into a full-blown catastrophe.

With the chopper running low on fuel, the 39-year-old father of two was hoisted down on to the nearby supply ship that had now become, by necessity, a hospital.

(on camera): Hundreds of people were treated out here that night, in the dark, in what became a makeshift triage. Some of the injuries were critical.

(voice-over): Seventeen rig workers needed urgent care. In the black of night, lit only by the burning rig beside them, Peterson loaded survivors into rescue baskets that were then hoisted into choppers and headed to hospitals.

PETERSON: This is the first time I've been out here since that night.

SHAMLIAN: He remembers working through the night, treating dozens more who were less seriously injured.

PETERSON: I've got a job to do, I mean. The whole crew, without them, I couldn't have done any of this. So to single me out I don't agree with.

SHAMLIAN: Kirk Peterson doesn't want the credit, says he didn't do it alone. But the fact remains, he was a life-saving link in the aftermath of tragedy.

PETERSON: It's a Katrina-kind of moment, where it's always going to be with me forever and forever.

SHAMLIAN: As it will be with the souls he saved.

Janet Shamlian, NBC News aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive in the Gulf of Mexico.


O'DONNELL: NBC's Janet Shamlian reporting for us. And again, we want to offer a brief reminder tonight about two upcoming health clinics made possible by the generous donations from you, our Countdown viewers. On August 4th in Washington, D.C., you can register to be seen by going to Or to donate your services and time, medical or otherwise, please do so as well.

The other clinic that we are still raising money for is a two-day clinic in New Orleans coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, taking place on August 31st and September 1st. As always, we appreciate all the efforts, time, and money that you have provided to give health care to those in need. Once again, that's

Coming up, will the Tea Party end up being the GOP's albatross this November? The Democrats launch a campaign to show a vote for a Republican is a vote for the Tea Party.

When it comes to endorsements, Sarah Palin is no Paul the Octopus, far from it. The polls are in and the power of Palin isn't quite what the pundits would like you to believe.

And the campaign, Don't Vote For my Dad; the votes are in tonight.

Did the family feud keep voters from pick Judge Mantooth?


O'DONNELL: The Republican party may not have figured out exactly how to finesse their connection to the Tea Party movement, particularly since it is such a powerfully polarizing force. But in our third story, Democrats are more than willing to make the obvious link. They are equating the GOP to the Tea Party with all that implies.

Today, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and several Democratic House members unveiled this piece of their midterm strategy. The point is to demonstrate the dangers of a Republican party back in power. Kaine saying, quote, "these are all positions that have been taken by Republican leaders, multiple Republican leaders, their leading candidates, the Tea Party faithful, which Republicans have bent over to attract."

And with Republicans reluctant to commit to another 1994-style Contract With America, Democrats are ready to fill in the blanks for them. But they are calling it the Republican Tea Party Contract on America. This web ad is just the beginning.




O'DONNELL: The Republican National Committee, of course, dismissed the DNC's strategy, saying that Democrats were clearly out of touch with voters' frustrations. Let's bring in Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland's Seventh District. He's also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Progressive Caucus.

Thanks for your time tonight, congressman. You were one of the lawmakers at this rollout event today.


O'DONNELL: Is this an honest strategy?

CUMMINGS: It is not -

O'DONNELL: Let me just make this point, though, that most Republican members of Congress have refused - they've specifically refused to join Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus. So how can you fairly link all Republicans to the Tea Party?

CUMMINGS: Well, the fact is that 136 people who are running for the Congress have associated themselves with that caucus. And the fact is that when you look at the policies that the Republicans have espoused in the past, they link very closely with what the Tea Party is all about.

Keep in mind that Republicans and the Tea Parties are talking about taking us back. Social Security, for example, turning it over to Wall Street, repealing what we have done with regard to health care, so that people who have pre-existing conditions will not be able to get insurance. And I could go on and on. And even the Wall Street reform, Lawrence - I mean, keep in mind, Americans have lost 17 trillion - not billion, not million - trillion dollars in retirement savings and 6.6 foreclosures, eight million people have lost their jobs.

And yet and still, when it comes to reform of the system that has basically done so much harm to our economic system here in our country, the Republicans are saying we want to go backwards. So, I mean, come on. The fact is is that it is a - they've bent over backwards trying to appeal more and more to the far right. And that's just not where America is. It's a shame. It really is.

O'DONNELL: Can you really make a national campaign strategy work in congressional elections? The most famous line ever said about life in Congress is that all politics is local, said by Tip O'Neill when he was speaker. With that in mind, aren't you really running individual races in each one of these districts. And any Republican who needs to disown the Tea Party can. And any Republican who needs to embrace the Tea Party in a really conservative district can. How do you counter that with a national strategy?

CUMMINGS: Well, it's very simple. When you look at votes, for example, in the Recovery Act, and the votes for health care, we didn't get any Republican votes. I mean, you've got people, say, for example, in South Carolina, where you've got 20 percent of the people without health insurance and you've got folks - Republicans voting against health insurance for their very people so they can stay alive. Come on, now.

And then you've got situations, as I said, where you've got an economic situation where people have basically lost everything they have. So, basically, all someone's got to do is look at the votes and say, OK, why are you saying no to everything. Why are you blocking everything? And why are you joining with the Tea Partiers to stand in the way of this president, who has actually done a lot to lift Americans up.

And so all we get is spitballs from the sidelines, complaints from the sidelines. And I think, basically, what the Republicans are doing is what I call rope-a-doping. They're just hoping that - they're worried about scoring political points. We are about making life better for the American people.

O'DONNELL: How long do we have to wait for your health care commercial, congressman? Last year when you were trying to pass health care, all the Democrats were saying, we're going to run on this and win when we pass this bill. Back in February and March, when you were trying to squeeze out those final votes, the chant was, you know, we're going to win on this in November. The party seems to be silent about it now.

CUMMINGS: No, we're not silent about it. We've done so many things to help the American people. And Lawrence, if you'll recall, you were the one - and I'll never forget it, as long as I live - who told me, we'd never get it done. You said that on camera.

O'DONNELL: I didn't say you'll never get it. I said - congressman, I said, I didn't know how. It's a different thing. It was a modest statement on my part.

CUMMINGS: I've never forgot it. And we got it done. I think, basically, the American people - you know, I respect the American people. They'll see through this. And we will do the fine in the election. I know all the pundits are saying we're not going to do well. We will have the House come next session.

And so I think the American people will see through this. They see that the American - the Democratic party is trying to take us forward and the Republican party is either staying silent and basically wants to take us backwards. We cannot have that.

O'DONNELL: Congressman Elijah Cummings, who always knew passing health care was going to be easy and he was right, thanks for joining us tonight, congressman.

CUMMINGS: Good being with you.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has a message for New York: here's the Situation and Snooki. Take them back, please.

And candidates might not to have Sarah Palin take back those endorsements. Turns out she may do more harm than good.


O'DONNELL: An update to a story we brought you on Countdown last night. The woman asking people, do not vote for my dad did not get her wish, yet. John Mantooth of McClain County, Oklahoma, placed second and is in a runoff for the District 21 judgeship. His daughter had placed an ad in the local newspaper and started the website, in an effort to sway voters.

Coming up, Sarah Palin's endorsement may sway voters in the other direction.


O'DONNELL: The governor of New Jersey has a Snooki problem. In our number two story, Chris Christie, governor of cash-strapped New Jersey, actually wants the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" and all the tax revenue they generate in New Jersey to leave his state. Here's the crew presenting a brave face yesterday in New York. Snooki, also known as Snickers, J-Wow, the Situation, DJ Pauley D. and the gang fist pumping at the ringing of the morning bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Obviously, they were just barely holding it together after Christie's original salvo was fired their way on Sunday. Asked about the "Shore" kids on ABC's "This Week," Christie said the money they generate for New Jersey isn't worth the negative publicity.

This morning on "The Today Show," Matt Lauer again grilled Christie about "Jersey Shore." This time the governor all but offered a police escort through the Lincoln Tunnel.


MATT LAUER, "THE TODAY SHOW": You took on the "Jersey Shore," not the geographic location, but the television show. You said that the show is negative for New Jersey. Now, I get the whole governor wrecking ball thing and taking on teachers is one thing. Taking on Snooki and the Situation?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, listen, Snooki and the Situation are New Yorkers, you know, as you know. So the fact of the matter is they parachute all these people from New York on to the Jersey Shore and then they say, this is New Jersey. It's not New Jersey. And if you want to come to the Jersey Shore, six, seven weeks left in the summer. Let's go. I'll show you the real Jersey shore.

LAUER: Some people are saying they're good for the economy in the towns along the Jersey Shore, that they've increased tourism. You're a guy who needs money in your state.

CHRISTIE: Listen, we'll find other ways to increase tourism. We'll take Snooki and the Situation, you can have them back. I'll do something else.

LAUER: All of a sudden, you're dumping them on me?

CHRISTIE: Listen, they're yours to begin, Matt. I have enough problems here. Eleven billion deficit, I have to take Snooki and the Situation also? Come on. There's only so much a man can take, Matt.


O'DONNELL: Coming up, why that Mama Grizzly blessing is a curse in some voters' eyes. The Palin myth debunked, next on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: While true believers remain as devoted as ever, recent polling suggests that the rest of America isn't praising the church of Sister Sarah. Our number one story, debunking the Palin myth. Greg Sargent of "the Washington Post" lays out the evidence. In a moment, he will join me.

As Sargent points out in the PlumLine blog, a Sarah Palin endorsement isn't the political gold that many pundits think it is. Take the case of Republican senatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte. Palin recently bestowing the Mama Grizzly title on former New Hampshire attorney general. But Ms. Ayotte, who hopes to fill the seat of the retiring Senator Judd Gregg, may want to reconsider touting the Palin endorsement on her website.

The latest from an admittedly Democratic-leaning polling organization using robo calls finds that 51 percent of Granite State voters say they're less likely to back a Palin-endorsed candidate. Meanwhile, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the conservative-leaning "Union Leader," dismissed the endorsement in an editorial. "New Hampshire voters are rarely impressed by what outsider have to say. Former Governor Palin isn't making these endorsements because, as she claims, she has spent time in New Hampshire."

And while a recent Gallup poll shows Palin still has high favorability among Republicans, the majority of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of her. In fact, a recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll showing the majority of those surveyed view a candidate backed by Palin negatively, with 37 percent, quote, very uncomfortable with this attribute.

The only thing worse than a hypothetical Palin endorsement, if the candidate supports the elimination of some federal agencies or Social Security or previously backed President Bush's economic policies.

Joining me now, as promised, is the writer of "the Washington Post" blog, the PlumLine, Greg Sargent. Greg, thanks for your time tonight. What is the overall picture of the Sarah Palin endorsement record?

GREG SARGENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean, you can't really quibble with the fact that she's an enormous draw in Republican primaries. No one is contesting that. But when you look at the broader picture, the evidence is just mounting. It's becoming overwhelmingly obvious that she's completely toxic to everybody outside her base. I mean, as you mentioned, that Gallup poll there showed that while she's overwhelmingly the - far away the most favorite among the Republican 2012 hopefuls among Republicans, the picture gets flipped as soon as you start asking the same question of the broader electorate.

She's overwhelmingly the most unfavored among the broader electorate of the 2012 hopefuls. So it's becoming clearer and clearer that as she tightens her grip on Palin nation and the hordes that support her sort of unthinkingly, the rest of the world just sours on her.

O'DONNELL: She was also the favorite Net Roots Nation last weekend in Las Vegas, when they voted on who they hoped the Republicans would nominate to run against President Obama and lose. And their choice was Sarah Palin based on what you're talking about. They can see how negatively she polls when you bring it out into the general election territory. Is there anything in what you see in the Palin polling information to indicate that she might be able to repair the damage she's already done to her own image?

SARGENT: Well, I mean, I think what you're going to see - you know, I don't know if you can see that in the data itself. But I think what you're going to see is sort of a very concerted effort to soften her up over time. We're already seeing that. We saw the Mama Grizzly video, right, which had a lot of slow motion and soft pictures and all the rest of it. And that was clearly al about, you know, softening her image, right?

The whole idea behind Mama Grizzly is, OK, she's got a hard edge; she's got a bit of a snarl; but, you know, she's snarling because she's defending her cubs, right? It's a bit of a far cry from just the pit bull. We didn't have a mama pit bull, but now we have Mama Grizzly. So you're going to see some very tough - I mean, presuming she runs, which I don't even think she will. but if she does, you're going to see some of the most high-priced Republican consulting talents in the game come around and start softening her up and softening her image up.

We're seeing it already with that video, which was a very professional piece of work.

O'DONNELL: Now, I share your bet that she won't run. But if she does, it presents a certain problem for Mitt Romney and the boys, not wanting to seem to be too tough on the woman running, and not wanting to hit her too hard. So would their strategy be to just let her trip over herself as a candidate?

SARGENT: You know, I wouldn't even want to figure out what you'd have to do to run against her. I guess you'd just have to sort of hope that her handlers let her get into the cross fire of real media interviews, which they may not do. Right? I mean, we don't ever know if she'll ever be subjected to any kind of real media scrutiny at this point or real media cross-examination.

I mean, all they can do is hope that the press will force her to answer some tough questions and that she'll trip up that way.

O'DONNELL: What should Kelly Ayotte do running in New Hampshire with a Palin endorsement that isn't doing her much good? Should she start running away from that?

SARGENT: I mean, you know, it's funny, I got some pushback from operatives on the Republican and the Democratic side, who said, you know, caution, caution, don't read too much into this. You know, a local race like this isn't going to be decided by an endorsement. But the fact is that that data - yes, it's admittedly a Dem firm and all the rest of it.

But they directly polled on, you know, how would you react to a Sarah Palin-endorsed candidate and a majority looked at it unfavorably. So, you know, you've got to - it's hard to see how it helps in a general.

O'DONNELL: Greg Sargent of "the Washington Post," thanks for actually looking at the data to make your calculation of how useful the Palin endorsements actually are.

SARGENT: You're welcome.

O'DONNELL: That will do it for this Wednesday edition of Countdown.