'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Quick Comment (and YouTube)
Guests: Kerry Sanders, Kate Conradt, Louis Belanger, Richard Wolffe, Lawrence O'Donnell
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): That for which man has no answer.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Why? Why?
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OLBERMANN: That for which man has too few words.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was hoping I would die quickly instead of slowly because I was stuck.
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OLBERMANN: That for which man has only deeds and generosity and heart.
With the first estimate from the Red Cross of the dead set at 45,000 to 50,000, with the machinery of relief finally gearing up to full speed, the moment at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday now frozen forever by a surveillance camera that only looks like it was on a trampoline.
OLBERMANN: This is Countdown's special coverage of the earthquake in Haiti, the third night since the moment that killed at least one-half of 1 percent of that country's entire population and left 3 million more homeless and/or injured.
The president asks the previous two presidents to become formally involved.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the people of Haiti, we say, clearly, and with conviction: you will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten.
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OLBERMANN: And tonight's comment: Rush Limbaugh now tries to discourage Americans from donating to earthquake relief in Haiti.
Also, what can Brown do to you? Democrats rush to keep Ted Kennedy's Senate seat from a challenge by a former nude model.
And a final health care compromise reportedly near. What about the so-called "Cadillac" tax, the antiabortion language, and the surreptitious funding of $20 million worth of third-party anti-reform TV ads by six American insurance giants?
All the news and commentary, and the latest from Haiti - now on
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The morgue is full. The president of Haiti said after the first authoritative estimate of the dead in and around his capital, Port-au-Prince, that the morgue is full there.
The first 72 hours after an earthquake are said to be the most critical, the period of time during which most victims can be saved. That window of opportunity to pull survivors from the wreckage of Tuesday's massive earthquake in Haiti is closing tonight and it is closing fast.
For an estimated 45,000 to 50,000, it appears it might already be too late. The Red Cross estimating today that's how many people this earthquake has killed. Again, only an estimate based on figures being used by the Haitian government and on information from the Red Cross' network of volunteers in Port-au-Prince, epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude quake on Tuesday.
The president of Haiti is estimating today that 7,000 people have already been buried in one common grave.
Crews at the United Nation headquarters in the Haitian capital are rescuing the security guard overnight. The U.N. secretary general is calling it a small miracle during a night which brought few other miracles. Another aid worker found there today and roughly 100 people still buried among the rubble of what was once a five-story building.
Thirty-six U.N. personnel are now confirmed dead; the worst casualties in U.N. history. Nearly 200 are still missing.
Rescue teams from the U.S., the Dominican Republic, France, and China have all arrived, bringing with them dogs and listening equipment; the secretary general adding that more teams will be arriving soon.
The story at the U.N.'s headquarters in Haiti, a microcosm of what's happening all across Port-au-Prince.
Aid workers are facing a logistical nightmare. Almost everything needs to be imported but deliveries to Port-au-Prince by ship is impossible; the port is closed due to severe damage.
At the airport this morning, planes full of supplies arriving faster than ground crews could unload them and as a result, aviation authorities for a time restricting nonmilitary flights from the U.S. for fear that planes would run out of fuel while waiting to land.
Then there is the problem of distributing the supplies once they are in Haiti.
One flight from Florida carrying trauma doctors from the University of Miami, they set up an ad hoc trauma center at the airport and have been treating patients there ever since.
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EDGAR PIERRE, UM, RYDER TRAUMA CENTER: It's chaos but we're doing the best we can. We're trying to triage patients and send the sickest ones back to Miami and set up patients that need surgery, maybe do them tonight or tomorrow, and deal with patients with pain medication and hydration, which is probably the major thing right now because everyone is so dehydrated.
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OLBERMANN: Those doctors telling NPR that they have lost four patients to minor injuries that had they been in Miami could have been easily treated.
Meanwhile back in Washington, Secretary of State Clinton returning at dawn from her trip to the Pacific aborted for this crisis. The State Department coordinating the aid efforts which include soldiers from the 82nd Airborne, 2,000 marines from Fort Lejeune, the USS Vincennes carrying helicopters and medical supplies, as well as the Navy's floating hospital, the Comfort, now being stocked in Baltimore.
President Obama is pledging $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief. The White House also confirming the president has enlisted his two most recent predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to help him raise more money still.
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OBAMA: To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction:
you will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you.
And we will join with the strong network of nongovernmental organizations across the country who understand the daily struggles of the Haitian people. Yet even as we bring our resources to bear on this emergency, we need to summon the tremendous generosity and compassion of the American people.
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OLBERMANN: Let's start off in Port-au-Prince now with NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders, who joins us from there live.
And, Kerry, give me, first off, an overview of this third night as it begins there.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, as night settles in, it is another night where people have no food, no water, no place to sleep - gathering in parks again tonight.
I think what I saw today that is perhaps the most disturbing is, there was one location that had fresh water. The price of that fresh water has now doubled and people were lining up and then they started to scream, push, and I think we're on the edge of that anxiety with anger, possibly spilling over to something that could turn into violence in the coming days. And it's all out of desperation. So, it's a - it's a little snapshot of something that really, I think, is a real great fear.
The other thing is here, fuel. The roads are remarkably clogged with vehicles considering the fact that it's very hard to find fuel. There was only one gas station in all of Port-au-Prince that was pumping fuel today, $8 a gallon. You can buy fuel for $20 a gallon on the black market.
The vehicles we saw that are filled to the brim with people are those trying to get out of Port-au-Prince with no real destination, just to travel out of the downtown city center, the areas that are the hardest hit.
The World Vision Food Program is here and says that couldn't be anything better for them to do that. They have warehouses with food, water, medical supplies outside the city, and if the people can get to them, it will be a lot better than them trying to figure out how to get all the supplies into here.
The logistics - they're under way here. The U.S. military has got things under control. Things are arriving but they're arriving at the airport.
The vehicles that are going to drive this stuff out to where the people are has not happened and I suspect for one very good reason and that is one of security. You don't want to show up with a 10-ton truck with a lot of water on the back and pull into a parking lot, because that could turn into a very ugly situation very quickly.
OLBERMANN: Kerry, you mentioned the water in a sort of informal, non-medical term sense. We just heard from one of the doctors, from the trauma doctors from the University of Miami, about the issue of hydration being a problem even within medical facilities.
Is it - is it any better to your knowledge within those limited, ad hoc kind of medical facilities that are being set up?
SANDERS: It is not improved at all, other than the fact that there are personnel who are here. Now, this is, despite the fact that this is a poor country, people are extremely ingenious. They know how to take an engine on a vehicle and get the electricity that's needed for a car battery to run an X-ray of a machine that's not working.
The problem is, there's just no power - I mean there's no fuel to even power those trucks. If you have a truck, say, a truck on the street and you run the lines, how long can you run it before you can't run the vehicle out? So it's very, very difficult.
I don't want to sound like I don't have hope because these people are strong and they have a lot of desire and the will to live is here, but it's on the edge. It's a city on the edge.
And I think when the U.S. military and the U.N. gets out there, things will improve. The U.N. does have armored personnel carriers out on the streets but it's a show of presence. They are instructed not to stop and not get involved if something develops.
So, the show of presence hopefully will send a signal, but as soon as people figure out that they're not on the receiving end of any sort of authority, it could go ugly.
OLBERMANN: But I'm inferring from what you're reporting now and from what you and Brian Williams and Ann Curry reported with us last night that these fears that people's patients, which has been obviously - patience has been extraordinarily high. It might be waning, and there were flashes of desperation that you mentioned and there were some last night. I mean, the simple premise, you're hungry, you need food. You're injured, you need medical care. And at some point, the promise of it is not sufficient.
And yet, from what I'm hearing you say, largely, even though this might not be longstanding, a description, for now, the patience has been extraordinary, the willingness of these people to understand that there are limitations as to how quickly help can get to them has been extraordinary.
SANDERS: Absolutely. But there's one thing that everybody sees no matter where you are in Port-au-Prince and that is a C-17 coming in and landing in an airport, a C-130 coming in and landing in the airport. This is perhaps one of the busiest airports in this region of the world right now. And they know what those military planes are bringing and they don't see it where they are.
I've had more than one person tell me today, "If I could afford that water at twice the price that is being sold out on the street, I would buy it because I need it. I don't have any money. I don't have a job. I live day to day to begin with and now I've had nothing to do. I need that water."
And I think some of that anger has turned to the people who are profiting by selling that water on the street. Look, there are people here who are industrious, who can figure out ways to get by for a couple days, and that's exactly what they're doing. But the systems that are needed in place are coalescing, as we speak, and we start seeing some of that delivery as early as tomorrow. It will make a significant difference on how this plays out in the coming week.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you two more questions and then I'll let you go, Kerry, with my thanks.
First, the scope of the disaster that we are seeing because of the continuity of communications such as it is to the United States, the extraordinary things that are being done by people behind cameras and in front of satellite dishes - is that understanding of the breadth of this thing known to the average person in Port-au-Prince? Would he know, or he or she know that the president has said the morgue is full with the scope of the disaster being readily apparent to them?
SANDERS: They know the scope of the disaster because, you know, there is the word of mouth that spreads around.
SANDERS: And I stopped by a - I stopped by - I mean, the streets here are littered with bodies, you can't not know how big this disaster is.
I went to a grave yard today and there was no room in the graveyard for the bodies that they were burying. They dug a hole between two grave sites which was about that wide and they placed a family of four bodies in there and covered them up. And that's people who want to bury their loved ones.
There are so many bodies on the street and this is a tropical climate. I'm probably sun-burned you can see. It's been hot here today. It will be hot here again tomorrow.
Those bodies are now sitting outside for - calculate the days for me, I'm a little lost on it - but, you know, the decay will begin, the disease will pick up. People who are exhausted, unfed, have not had water, have immunity systems down because of all of this, are now going to be exposed to yet one more potential problem.
OLBERMANN: Kerry, my second question can't possibly follow the extraordinary word picture you just painted there and so I'll let you go with our great thanks. Kerry Sanders of NBC News at Port-au-Prince - great reporting and thank you.
One more detail and then we'll go back to Haiti through the eyes of the Save the Children organization, and supposedly 2 million children have been affected by this disaster.
The nightmare inside the vast nightmare on 9/11 in this country was the 411 emergency workers, police, fire, medics, killed as they tried to help. The nightmare inside the mass nightmare in Haiti, at least 200 of those there to help from the U.N. unaccounted for, at least 36 more dead.
And a second nightmare right here at home as an American radio commentator actually tries to discourage Americans from contributing to earthquake relief in Haiti. A comment - next.
OLBERMANN: Back to Port-au-Prince in a moment. Haiti is also the topic of tonight's first "Quick Comment."
At a time of great humanity and great generosity in this country and all other countries towards people in need, our great national shame is again underlined. The small percentage of us who will not only turn anything even this into an excuse and a conduit for hatred and racial prejudice, but who arrogantly believe they have an entitlement to this hatred and its expression - people who are led by Rush Limbaugh.
After yesterday having projected his own hatred of minorities into the sad and somber equation of Haiti, Limbaugh today discouraged Americans from contributing to Haitian earthquake relief.
When a listener noted that donations could be made to the Red Cross via the Web - the White House Web site, Limbaugh asked, "Would you trust that the money is going to go to Haiti? Would you trust your name is going to end up on a mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him and other causes?"
Limbaugh then completed the expression of his sub-humanity: "Besides we've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax."
The conservative Web site RedState has a front page link for Haitian relief donations via the Salvation Army. The sites "National Review" and Town Hall and FOX News have front page links for Haitian relief donations by the Worldview Organization. SeanHannity.com has a front page link to Haitian relief donations via the Red Cross.
RushLimbaugh.com has a front page link to a company that sells gold coins.
It was a Saxon jurist who seems to have said it first in 1673 and it applies tonight, "More inhumanity to man has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes."
OLBERMANN: The human toll of Tuesday's quake is still not measurable, but the pictures leaving little doubt that Port-au-Prince is crushed. The morgue is full. Some of the cemeteries are full, as you heard. And bodies still littered the street.
As we've mentioned, Haiti's president is telling the world that 7,000 have already been buried in a common grave.
The hardest faces to watch by far are those of the children there. This primary school was flattened; close to 700 kids inside. Today, despite the best efforts to rescue some of them, there was no sign of life there.
More children among the injured flocking to this hospital, one of the few hospitals left standing funded almost entirely by American donors. So many people are coming every day that the doctors don't know how many people they are treating. They are running out of everything and do not know when there will be more.
We're joined now on the phone from Port-au-Prince by Kate Conradt, a spokesperson for the organization Save the Children, one of the great groups who helps children in need around the world.
Thank you for your time tonight.
KATE CONRADT, SAVE THE CHILDREN (through telephone): Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Describe for us your reaction after your arrival there today.
CONRADT: Well, you all have seen the pictures. And in person, the destruction, the devastation is certainly far worse. In the area where our office is, in Petionville, about 60 percent of the houses are damaged or completely destroyed. The roads are full of rubble.
But the most difficult thing to see were the masses of people moving, clinging to their children, and they have baskets of whatever they could salvage from their house on their heads, in their hands, sort of looking for refuge somewhere.
This is a very hilly area. People are looking for flat areas to, you know, that obviously don't have anything hanging over them to spend the night or get out of the sun. Sometimes that includes closed gas stations which are, of course, have their own dangers.
But, you know, we're seeing spontaneous camps set up. We're seeing an extraordinarily difficult situation for everyone but especially for children because they're smaller, way more vulnerable, and with this kind of movement of people, way more prone to be separated from their families.
OLBERMANN: To that point particularly, there is an estimate that 2 million children, all told, have been affected by this. What happens? How can you possibly keep up with the idea of kids who have been separated from their parents or who have lost them and are on their own?
Is there - is there a chance that there are kids literally on their own still at this point? Or have they been shielded by neighbors or strangers? Do you have any measure of that yet?
CONRADT: Well, the usual reaction of the community is, yes, that neighbors and strangers will shelter them. What save the children does as well as other agencies do, and we did this after the tsunami in Aceh, is we get together, we take reports of unaccompanied children, and we work to trace them to their families.
So, there is sort of one repository, one database, so that people don't have to run all over town looking for their children - or, you know, if their parents are gone. It's not a simple process, but it certainly is very important. But, generally speaking, the community does take care of them for as long as they can.
OLBERMANN: The weather was mentioned earlier by Kerry Sanders, our correspondent, that it was about 80 degrees today and that the bodies, as we know, untreated, un - not removed and essentially beginning the process of decomposition. And now, what might relieve the heaviness of the weather could be just as bad. Now, the prospect of rain is something that you're particularly concerned with?
CONRADT: Yes. The rain can only exacerbate the misery of the people who are homeless, who are living outside. They've got, you know, blankets strung from trees as shelter, but also, there is concern that because the land is destabilized - there are giant cracks in the earth behind our office and there is a retaining wall, but if there is a flood, if there's a heavy rain, we're afraid the wall is going to go and you see a lot of erosion here anyway. And so, it will be problematic. And also the mud and the mud will complicate things for people, too.
OLBERMANN: Extraordinary. Everywhere you turn, something else is at risk or something else is a threat.
Kate Conradt, spokesperson for the organization Save the Children in Port-au-Prince - thank you kindly and good luck.
CONRADT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Fifty-five hundred troops, $100 million, and perhaps two ex-presidents, the first wave of American support for Haiti. But what about food and water as it is needed right now?
We'll talk to Oxfam, a spokesman for that organization in the Dominican Republic, right across the border from Haiti when we continue.
OLBERMANN: Port-au-Prince, Haiti - the first estimate from the Red Cross today is now in 45,000 to 50,000 dead; 2 million homeless and injured, or both. The port is destroyed. The airport is open.
The president says the main morgue in the city of Port-au-Prince is
full. Kerry Sanders reported earlier this evening that cemeteries are full
full enough that he saw a family of five buried in the space normally held unoccupied between two graves.
From Port-au-Prince, we're going to move east to the Dominican Republic, on the other side of the mountainous border from Haiti. And Mr. Louis Belanger, the spokesman for Oxfam America. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
LOUIS BELANGER, OXFAM AMERICA: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: I understand you made it into Haiti today but not all the way to Port-au-Prince. What did you see?
BELANGER: Well, I just went in quickly just to see if there was communication, if communication was restored, and then came back into the Dominican Republic.
And I think it talks to the main problem that we're facing here as an aid community is communication. The first 48 hours were a nightmare just because, you know, phone lines were down, cellular phones were down, Internet was down. So, in terms of coordinating aid efforts, we need to have phone lines working. They were simply not working and it was making our lives quite difficult.
Now, you know, we're seeing some cargo arriving today. That's really good news because it means that we have communication systems that will arrive. We're going to have big machinery that are going to move out all the rubbles from the road so we can get that aid flowing a little bit smoother than it's going now.
I mean, you know, we're not kidding ourselves. This is a - this is a serious crisis and I think your viewers can see that on the images that you've been showing tonight.
OLBERMANN: Can you give an estimate as to how close we are to the closing of the window that separates this from rescue to mere recovery?
BELANGER: Well, yes. There's a - there are varied steps to a - to the aid effort. But - I mean, right now, what we're trying to do, Keith, is just regroup and make sure that, you know, we talk to one another, make sure the aid is delivered in the most efficient way.
I think your reporter was right. If it's not done the right way, it can be chaos. And that's what we want to avoid. So once we have that communication system, you know, fully back on, we can talk to one another, coordinate.
I mean, you know, we all know what we have to do. Oxfam is an expert in delivering water. The World Food Program is obviously an expert in giving food. We all know our roles. We have the staff. We just need to sort of coordinate it better and get it under way. So I think you can expect the next 48 hours to improve drastically.
OLBERMANN: And the water situation that Kerry referred to, one place, one location he saw, where it was available to the public is - how quickly could that situation be improved?
BELANGER: Well, we heard the military were bringing in some water tanks. That's good. At Oxfam, we're going to bring in some engineers. We're going to dig in, try to go and find some water.
And yeah, I mean, how quickly - we're doing this as fast as we can.
But as I said, it's been really difficult.
If we can catch a break and the communication system can get back on, the same way the airport got back on - you saw as soon as they cleared one strip, you know, aid was starting to flow in too much. There were actually too many flights - well, not too many, but they actually had traffic problems. But, you know, as soon as we get communication resolved, I think you'll see a big improvement.
But we're not - I think we have to be honest about this one. It's a big humanitarian crisis. But we're working hard to make sure that the aid reaches the Haitian people.
OLBERMANN: Louis Belanger, spokesman for Oxfam America, another one of the organizations doing the work of the heart in Port-Au-Prince, speaking to us from the Dominican Republic. Thank you, sir.
BELANGER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Our continuing coverage of Haiti and the other day's news resumes after this.
OLBERMANN: There are two late developments from Haiti tonight, and it is fortunate in this case that we do not have live video of any of this, and we'll rely exclusively on the videotape shot earlier today in Port-Au-Prince.
It probably is understandable that it has come to this. There are reports now from the Associated Press that to remove the bodies that we have heard described as being left in the street, the authorities there, such as they are, have resorted to the use of bulldozers.
There is also a report from the Reuters News agency. I will read it. "Desperate Haitians set up road blocks with corpses in Port-Au-Prince to demand quicker relief efforts after a massive earthquake killed tens of thousands. Angry survivors staged a protest as international aid began arriving. Photographer for "Time Magazine" said he saw at least two downtown road blocks formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks. 'They are starting to block the roads with bodies. It's getting ugly out there. People are fed up with getting no help,' said Mr. Schwartz."
We might update this story. I hope we do not have to update it visually.
At home, the White House today finally won the support of organized labor, including the AFL-CIO, for the emerging version of health care reform that includes a new tax on expensive and so-called Cadillac health care plans, often negotiated by the labor unions in exchange for wage concessions. The White House made some of the concessions of its own, but whether or not they will be sufficient to satisfy progressives in the House of Representatives or their political opponents next November, that remains to be seen.
The news coming on a conference call with organized labor and reporters after a second day of intense negotiations at the White House between Democratic leaders in the Congress and the administration. The president reportedly pushed for taxing health care plans, instead of enacting the House plan to tax the rich. And at his briefing today, the press secretary defended that position without really acknowledging it.
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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has obviously a strong desire to see a bending in the cost curve for health care, while at the same time not impacting working men and women. So those meetings have taken place in order to try to find some sort of compromise that does not impact working men and women, while at the same time we take responsible actions to ensure that the amount of money that people are paying for health care - that we change the direction of that curve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As a result of today's deal, the threshold for who will pay a 40 percent tax on the value of their health care plan has been raised. Individuals with health care plans worth 8,900 or more will now be taxed, as will families with plans worth 24,000 or more. Along with various exemptions, the tax will now raise less money, meaning the president and his Congressional negotiating partners may still need to find other revenue sources, presumably through other taxes, including possibly a more rarefied tax on the rich, or a Medicare payroll tax, applied either to high income earners or unearned income, capital gains.
Various reports today suggest the final bill - and this would be the final, final bill - could go to the Congressional Budget Office as early as this weekend, presuming deals are struck on other issues, including immigration and abortion, and whether insurance plans are offered and regulated on a state level or a national one, not to mention a new hitch, the inclusion today of Senator Joe Lieberman in these talks as well. RollCall.com reporting that talks were to resume tonight at 9:00 pm and that Lieberman is now in the mix, because he is again seen as a linchpin for passage.
Addressing House Democrats tonight, the president sought to reassure them not only that he knows what a bruising fight health care reform has been for them, but promising he will campaign across the country to defend it, and said he would love to fight Republicans on whether to roll back the reforms the Democrats hope to enact.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know everybody in the media is all in a tizzy. Oh, what is this going to mean politically? Let me tell you something. If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo, and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining us tonight on this, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also the author of "Renegade, the Making of a President." Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For those who believe that any kind of health care reform is better than nothing, they probably are admitting at this point that if it is, it's just better than. Organized labor gets this threshold from 8,000 to 8,900 on this tax, for families from 23,000 to 24,000. Is it meaningful movement or does it mean that labor basically had to fold like everybody else on this?
WOLFFE: No, it is meaningful movement, and that's why the president put in so many hours into this. There is a palatable sense of relief tonight speaking to White House officials, because not only is this a major hurdle, but actually both sides have come out of this pretty happy.
The president has defended his position in terms of this Cadillac health care plan tax, and that's an important principle for him. And the unions have won a whole range of exemptions and adjustments for workers who are higher cost, older workers, women, dental and vision excluded. Most importantly, they have this time to adjust and to get into a new negotiating pattern. Because, as you said before, in the past, they've accepted lower wages for better health care plans. That dynamic has to change.
OLBERMANN: Why not go the simpler route here, which would seem, at least on paper, to be the House plan, which was deemed more conservative fiscally?
WOLFFE: Well, the idea of taxing wealthy people may still be out there, and you've got to pay attention to how the payroll tax develops here with regard to Medicare. But, in the end, there are people who face higher costs. Maybe because they live in higher cost states or because their jobs have put them at higher risk. And taxing wealthy people does nothing to adjust behavior.
In the end, the White House is looking not just to raise the revenue, but to adjust behavior when it comes to health care costs. That's true of unions and people with these plans.
OLBERMANN: Another essential point; is this thing in its final form going to still include measures that would make it more difficult for women to pay for abortions, and thus make it more difficult for women to get abortions?
WOLFFE: Well, the abortion question is still out there, and it's not a fight that the White House is still looking forward to. You know, the question is, obviously, highly charged. We'll have to see how it shapes up. Of course this is going to suck up a lot of time in the next few days, as they try to get this done before the State of the Union.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of"Renegade" helping us briefly upgrade the health care reform situation. Thank you, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Other functions of health care reform; what was supposedly the Ted Kennedy seat in the Massachusetts special Senate election, and how the insurance cartel got away with funding anti-reform TV ads with money laundered through the US Chamber of Commerce.
We will recap another stark day of headlines. The first authoritative estimate of the dead, the injured, the homeless, as MSNBC's special coverage of the earthquake in Haiti continues after this.
OLBERMANN: We're going to go back to Haiti at the end of this broadcast. In the interim, a potentially critical part of the health care battle is taking place far from the national stage. The vote to fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy will determine whether Democrats retain the 60/40 margin they believe they need.
While, the state's political leanings are about as consistent as the Tower of Pisa's, the fact that this is a special election, with charged up Tea Bag Partiers on one side, and an uninspired Democratic base on the other, led both the "Rothenberg Political Report" and the "Cook Political Report" to now call this race, quote, "a tossup," less than one week out.
The Democrat, Martha Coakley, continues to lead in the polls, including a Research 2000 poll conducted yesterday and Tuesday, that put her up 49 percent to 41, a healthy margin elsewhere, but close enough that the two most recent Democratic presidents are working to engage the Democratic base. President Obama issuing a video today explicitly tying Tuesday's election to health care reform.
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OBAMA: - shall be your voice and my ally, which is why the opponents of change are pouring money into your state. They believe that by defeating Martha and replacing Ted Kennedy with her Republican opponent, they'll be in a position to tie up the Senate and prevent a vote on health insurance reform, financial reform, and other issues so important to working families of Massachusetts and the nation.
So I need you to put on your walking shoes again. Knock on doors. Call. E-mail. Text and Tweet. And make sure everyone you know understands the stakes for their families, for Massachusetts, and our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's turn to MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell, also a contributor at "Huffington Post," former chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee. Thanks for your time.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And former Massachusetts voter, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I was going to say, this is not exactly outside of your bailiwick, to use a Massachusetts term. Where are the Democrats in Massachusetts? The state hasn't voted in a Republican senator since 1972. They're going to start now with a tea bag guy one year after electing Barack Obama?
O'DONNELL: They have voted in plenty of Republican governors since then. They've been shut out in the Senate, but actually they've dominated the state house with governors during the Ted Kennedy Senate career. And, you know, remember Barack Obama lost the Massachusetts primary, even with Ted Kennedy's backing and John Kerry's backing.
And remember that Ted Kennedy, during all of those governors races during his career, was always campaigning energetically against the Republican for the democratic candidate and most of the time losing. And so the Kennedy coat tails here have never been strong in the state. And they're not working right now.
OLBERMANN: And the impact of the limited campaigning or campaigning by proxy here by President Obama, President Clinton for candidate Coakley. is that going to have the impact they hope? Enough of an impact?
O'DONNELL: Well, it's very tricky because the Obama health care plan is polling below 50 percent in Massachusetts. The last poll I saw, it was at about 43 percent. The president has lost a tremendous amount of political capital in the state of Massachusetts. And so it's just that bad year for incumbents, Keith, that we've all been hearing about.
Governor Deval Patrick's numbers have collapsed. He is definitely on the wrong side of the popularity numbers now. So it's a very tough time for people to come into Massachusetts and try to tell Massachusetts voters how to vote.
OLBERMANN: One thing, though, that I had not understood - and perhaps this is my naivete and relative inexperience in this field of politics - but it would seem to me that there are a lot of things a candidate could overcome in his previous life, but posing nude for "Cosmopolitan Magazine" is not one of them. How is that one issue not becoming something to rally around, against, or even for in this candidate, the candidacy of Mr. Brown, the Republican?
O'DONNELL: Well, it turns out Massachusetts has become very French, Keith. Welcome to 21st century politics in Massachusetts. True. It's inconceivable, you know, during my lifetime that I would have seen that not be a liability. But people are leaving it behind. They're just - so far anyway, it's being treated as something that's in his distant past. And they're judging the candidate they're seeing today.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Last question, doubling back to health care. You mentioned the effect of health care on the Coakley candidacy. What about the reverse version of that? What is this doing to support for health care in Massachusetts, health care reform, because either Democrats want to hurry up or just because people in Massachusetts, of all places, has the party terrified about November?
O'DONNELL: Well, Massachusetts is a problem for the Democrats on this subject, because they've been responsible there trying to address this issue ahead of the federal government. So now, politically, what the national Democrats are presenting to Massachusetts is, yes, you've got this issue already dealt with in your state, but now we're going to ask you, through taxation, including the tax you were talking about in the last segment - we're going to ask you to help pay for health care in other states. Because Massachusetts is a donor state to the federal government. It sends in more money than it gets back.
So it's hard to see in Massachusetts what the great deal is, other than just being a good team mate on the 50-state bandwagon. So this is - it's very difficult for Coakley to make health care reform a driving force for her campaign in the state that already has health care reform.
And the rush in the White House now, the panic in the White House in getting this bill done, getting it to CBO is all about the possibility of losing that seat on Tuesday, which everyone of the Democratic party now takes very, very seriously.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell, who knows his health care, knows his Democrats, knows his Massachusetts, and does not know his "Cosmopolitan Magazine," great thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: More on the disaster in Haiti next, when we return.
OLBERMANN: At nine minutes to the hour, here are the headlines from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. The estimate of 45,000 to 50,000 dead comes from the Red Cross there. It is the first authoritative guess, or estimate, or guesstimate from anybody in that location, that stricken island nation.
The other number that goes with it is just as horrifying. Two million, perhaps, in total either injured or homeless or both. Another estimate from several relief organizations that two million children alone have been affected. The death toll, if it's 45,000, is one-half of one percent of the entire nation's population.
And the two late headlines that we got, in addition to the paucity of available water, both inside and outside of health care facilities, hard pressed recovery teams have resorted to using bulldozers to transport loads of dead. And other residents protesting the lack of resources and aid, according to Reuters News Service, have set up road blocks using corpses on the streets of Port-Au-Prince. Our MSNBC coverage continues after this.
OLBERMANN: In recapping, this third day after the disastrous earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, a 7.0, six miles beneath the surface; for an example for comparison, the one at Northridge, California in 1994 was more than 11 miles beneath the surface. And you can guess what the impact means when it's that much closer, in terms of vertical relativity.
I think I made a mathematical mistake. I believe it was out of wishful thinking. The correct number believed homeless and/or injured is not two million but three million. That number that the Red Cross has estimated, as you see on your screen, 45,000 is the minimum they're expecting. It could be as much as 50,000. I guess that's good news, compared to numbers we were talking about last night.
It is still horrifying. And it is having a toll now, as this becomes a humanitarian crisis. We're joined again from the Save the Children Organization in Port-Au-Prince by Kate Conradt. And I just wanted you to react to something that a colleague of yours from Oxfam told us, Louis Belanger, who said this is a humanitarian crisis, and we're right at that tipping point where it's possible to salvage much of this, if the relief effort can somehow be accelerated, if some breaks are caught, and things like water and food get to these people in the next 12 hours. Is that the window that you're thinking of?
KATE CONRADT, SAVE THE CHILDREN: I don't know that I'd put a window on it. It is dark right now and there is nothing really that could be done. But absolutely, we need to catch some breaks. And we have to understand that this is a major natural disaster that came - that sort of overlays what was an on-going humanitarian crisis here, with 80 percent of the population living under the poverty level.
Most people were on the edge before this happened. They are still recovering from the hurricanes of late 2008. There were four. So there were desperate times then. People didn't have work. The malnutrition rates - and children are the most vulnerable. So, yeah. I think - I hope we catch some breaks and it would be great - it would be great to see, yeah, more planes and more stuff come in.
I think it's possible. It's very difficult in the early days, in any disaster, to get aid in. It's never quick enough and it's never enough in the first 72 hours.
OLBERMANN: It's almost heartless to try to compare this to other things, other places, other nightmares that we've witnessed through television. Most of us, and people like you have witnessed, with your good hearts, in the locales. But you were in Banda Aceh after the Indian Ocean tsunami. And I guess I'm asking this question in terms of that financial structure, that societal structure, comparing what that world was like before the tsunami and the effect the tsunami had on the entire environment, to what the world was like for the residents of Haiti before this disaster, and what it is now? Is there a way to compare these two events, in terms of their total effect on the two societies?
CONRADT: I don't think you can really compare disasters. I mean, both were horrific. And I wasn't in Aceh, but my colleagues were. What happened there - I was in Indonesia in November for the earthquake in Pedong (ph). But in Aceh, it helped at least stop a civil war. Or at least they came to the peace table.
But you can't - it's human misery. It's something we all need to respond to. It's very important that the global community mobilize to help, you know, people. Sort of there but for the grace of God go I.
OLBERMANN: Kate Conradt of Save the Children in Port-Au-Prince, as we said earlier, thank you and all the best. Good luck.
OLBERMANN: Let's hope we get that break.
CONRADT: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: That late headline again, we'll just mention it one last time. The - those who have not received the relief that they need have now, according to a photographer from "Time Magazine," on at least two occasions in downtown Port-Au-Prince, used the bodies of the victims as road blocks in hopes of getting the aid, food, and water that they need.
That's Countdown. Now to continue our MSNBC coverage of this third night since that earthquake in Haiti, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Rachel, good evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END