Thursday, February 11, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, February 11th, 2010
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Quick Comment (closed doors), Quick Comment (NRCC), Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment (closed doors), Quick Comment (NRCC)

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Dr. Steven Nissen, David Corn, Paul Van Nocker, David Senoff, David



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

In the same hospital in which he underwent quadruple bypass on September 5th, 2004, President Bill Clinton operated on today, two stents placed in a coronary artery after he reported chest pains as long ago as Tuesday - the breaking news from New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Blackwater-gate explodes: Double billing for all Blackwater travel from the U.S. to the Middle East - a pattern of deception on Blackwater work in the gulf after Katrina.

And Blackwater's "Morale Welfare Recreation" department, it consisted of a Filipino prostitute whose salary and plane tickets were charged to the United States government - your tax dollars in action. The whistleblowers and their lawsuit, which could finally bring Blackwater to its knees.

From their demand to televised health care reform talks to fleeing the cameras, Michelle Bachmann, a PR stunt, "a clear assault on the intelligence of the American people." Well, you're not setting the bar very high in your own case, Congresswoman.

HealthAmerica insurance versus Kyler Van Nocker, the 5-year-old, and the life-saving anti-cancer drugs for which the insurer will not pay. His father joins us.

The public gives the back of its hand to Sarah Palin. "Washington Post" Poll: 52 percent think she's not qualified to be president. That's 52 percent of Republicans.

"Worsts": Now, he's advocating mass suicide.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: There's not enough knives. If this, if the IPCC had been done by Japanese scientists, there's not enough knives on planet Earth for hara-kiri that should have occurred.


OLBERMANN: And the "Quick Comment": He's back.


ANNOUNCER: See what has he become over the years? A FCINO, Fiscal Conservative in Name Only - a wolf in sheep's clothing.


OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary and the latest on the health of former President Clinton - now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

We are expecting a statement or a news conference from his cardiologist in approximately half an hour. For now, we know that former President Bill Clinton is in the hospital this evening in New York City said to be in good spirits after being hospitalized for chest pains and getting two stents inserted into one of his coronary arteries. NBC News has learned tonight from a source at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital that Mr. Clinton's condition is not considered life-threatening, that the visit began as routine. The former president is calling the head of cardiology to report chest pains on Tuesday but pushing his appointment back from yesterday because of the heavy snowfall.

After arriving at the hospital today under his own power, Mr. Clinton and his cardiology team decided to go ahead with the angioplasty. A White House official telling NBC News that President Obama spoke with the former president just before 7:00 Eastern tonight and Mr. Clinton reported feeling, quote, "absolutely great."

The former president is 63 years old and, as you know, in September of 2004, he underwent an emergency quadruple bypass, also at Columbia Presbyterian, after doctors found blockages in four major blood vessels that supply his heart with oxygen.

Recently, he has been especially active with his usual philanthropic work through the Clinton Foundation, as well as taking the lead, along with former President George W. Bush, in raising money for Haiti. Mr. Bush today is offering his prayers for a speedy recovery. The first President Bush is offering his wish for a speedy recovery.

In today's procedure, two stents, wire mesh tubes, were inserted into one of Mr. Clinton's arteries and expanded to keep the artery open and blood flowing through. In typical such procedures, the stents remain in place and tissue even eventually grows over them.

In a statement, a spokesman said tonight, quote, "President Clinton is in good spirits and will continue to focus on the work of his foundation and Haiti's relief and long-term recovery efforts."

His wife, the secretary of state, having arrived from Washington in New York this evening to join him at Columbia Presbyterian hospital.

To try to get some perspective on what's happening, we're joined now by Dr. Steven Nissen, vice chairman of the department of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.

We spoke after the president's bypass six years ago. Once again, our great thanks for your insight tonight, sir.

DR. STEVEN NISSEN, THE CLEVELAND CLINIC: Great to be with you again, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This may sound a little incongruous especially since we've started this newscast with it, but technically speaking, medically speaking, is this considered a big deal?

NISSEN: Well, it's a routine procedure. You know, a million stents are put in America every year and Bill Clinton is one of those million people. The outcomes are generally very good, particularly in the short term.

OLBERMANN: Sixty-three-year-old man, history of weight problems in the past, junk food that he admitted to in the past, not to mention, obviously, the quadruple bypass and he calls in with chest pains and I'm wondering if people would say, especially with the former president, you know, don't wait two days. Is that wrong?

NISSEN: Well, we usually counsel patients that have known coronary heart disease that when they have chest pain, that they should seek medical attention right away. But it depends on how much pain he was having, how long it lasted, whether it was provoked or unprovoked. This is within the range of kind of normal procedure. If the pain was really severe and occurring more frequently, then we would want our patients to get in promptly.

OLBERMANN: For reasons unconnected to the president, obviously, I talk to a lot of doctors these days and what the ones I've spoken to today are saying that I haven't heard much about in the coverage of this is perhaps best phrased as a question: is today's procedure necessarily indicative of any kind of inattention to warning signs or poor cholesterol maintenance or any other preventative measure that was not taken, or does it just happen?

NISSEN: Not necessarily. It's a fact that he has a chronic disease, coronary heart disease. It tends to recur. Bypass surgery doesn't cure this disease. It buys a patient time.

Typically, five to seven years and certainly by 10 years after bypass surgery, many people have had chest pain again. Some of them will require stents as President Clinton did. Nothing about this is unusual and nothing about this tells us he hasn't been taking care of himself.

OLBERMANN: OK. Walk me through this, if we're told that President Obama spoke to former President Clinton about an hour ago, 7:00 Eastern Time. Obviously, he's already out of surgery and well into that recovery stage and presumably back in his room and fully awake. Is that standard procedure? What would the day have been like for the average patient who underwent the implant of two stents?

NISSEN: Well, in fact, patients are wide awake during the procedure.

Some of them actually like to watch on the TV screen while it's going on.

Some of them don't.

You know, you get a little local anesthetic in the groin where the tube is inserted. People are very alert right after the procedure. They feel fine. Often they can go home the next day and return to activities relatively quickly.

OLBERMANN: We'll just flesh out this picture for one more second.

Would he be talking during it, or would he possibly talking during it?

NISSEN: Absolutely.


NISSEN: Knowing President Clinton, I suspect he probably was talking to his doctors.

OLBERMANN: Now, give me the - give me the - how the prognosis for him changes. Can he continue to jet around the world helping Haiti at the drop of a hat and so on, or is there some indication because of this that he needs to dial it back to some degree?

NISSEN: Absolutely. He can continue to do what he's doing.

Look, he's done some great things since he left the presidency, a lot of philanthropic work. We developed these procedures is to enable patients to be active, to engage in those activities that give them satisfaction. He clearly loves the philanthropic work he does. If he were my patient, I'd ask him to take it easy for a few days and I would then allow him to get back to his usual activities. And I think that will get him better faster.

OLBERMANN: Dr. Steve Nissen, the vice chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, really providing us with insight as to what this day must have been like and the implications for the former president - we thank you for doing so. Thanks for your time.

NISSEN: Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Let me reassess here just some of what the doctor said and what we know about this still to come in the next hour or so.

He might, if he is an average patient, go home as early as tomorrow or the day after. He was obviously speaking to President Obama an hour or so ago, Eastern Time, as we speak to you now live from New York. And there is an expectation that there will be a news conference or a statement issued by his cardiologist at the bottom of this hour. And we hope to bring that to you as it happens.

In the interim, new charges tonight that the abuses perpetrated by the private security contractor which used to be known as Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan possibly even worse than previously imagined and a lot has been imagined.

Two former Blackwater employees, a married couple named Brad and Melan Davis filing a lawsuit in which they allege the company put a Filipino prostitute on its payroll in Afghanistan and then billed the U.S. government for her salary and plane tickets. The prostitute's salary categorized as part of the company's "Morale Welfare Recreation" expenses.

Ms. Davis, who worked for the finance department, claiming that she and two co-workers spent numerous hours generating reams of false invoices for airplane travel at inflated rates so her bosses could overcharge the government for the fake trips. In her lawsuit, also saying that the company used a subsidiary, Greystone Limited, to double bill the government for plane tickets between the U.S. and Amman, Jordan, a transit point for the company's employees going to Iraq and back from Iraq.

Ms. Davis is saying she raised concern about Blackwater's bookkeeping with her bosses in March, 2006, when she was handling accounts for the company's contracts with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. She says she was told to, quote, "back off," and that she, quote, "would never win a medal for saving the government money."

No, but if the government is able to recover money from Blackwater as a result of this lawsuit the Davises could claim a percentage as whistleblowers. Ms. Davis having been fired from that company, her husband, a former Marine, who among other jobs worked as a private security guard in Iraq having resigned from Blackwater - formerly Blackwater - voluntarily.

Let's call in the David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and a columnist for

David, good evening.

DAVID CORN, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I said that this was perhaps worse than most of us have previously imagined. But, I mean, in terms of imagination, we're getting into Edgar Allen Poe territory, aren't we?

CORN: Well, it's more like Rambo meets Wall Street -


CORN: - when it comes to Blackwater. And for all of the stuff with the money, which is rather important, already the State Department found that $55 million in charges that the State Department probably should get back from Blackwater because they didn't meet their obligations under their contracts to protect diplomats.

But putting all that aside, in this lawsuit and in other previous allegations, the issue of the use of excessive force in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to plague Blackwater. And to me, that still is the heart of the issue here, because what we're doing, what we've done - not we, not you and I - but what the Bush/Cheney administration did was to privatize this government responsibility, protecting our own diplomats and handed out to Blackwater and other private security firms and has no accountability for what these guys and gals do in the field.

And we've seen time and time again, including that infamous episode in Nisoor Square in Iraq, that there's been an excessive use of force which is done in our name to protect our diplomats, theoretically, but it's something that the U.S. government really doesn't have much control over. And that's been the core problem with Blackwater and the use of other private security firms.

OLBERMANN: These companies and their prevalent use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - this was the brain child of Dick Cheney, who stood to profit personally from this. Is there a practical element to this whistleblower suit? Could it in some way bring this company down or at least slow it down?

CORN: I don't know.

We have to note that this is a lawsuit in which whistleblowers can get the U.S. government to take their side and sue the company, and the Justice Department, for whatever reason, has elected so far not to join this couple in suing Blackwater.

But, still, the Justice Department has an ongoing investigation into whether Blackwater bribed Iraqi officials and there's another front that was recently a case in which five Blackwater guards had murder charges against them, they were dismissed. The Justice Department really botched the prosecution but that prosecution - no, that decision is being appealed by the U.S. government.

So, there are a lot of places where Blackwater still has legal liability, public relations liability. And so, I'm not sure if this lawsuit is going to be the story that breaks its back, but Blackwater is still under fire.

OLBERMANN: And yet today, Iraq ordered about 250 former and current employees of this company now known Xe to leave the country within seven days. It sounds like they've got the right idea. We don't.

CORN: Well, that might be a political ploy as well. Listen, the Bush/Cheney gang snowed the American public when they privatized everything. The work that Blackwater is contracted to do is work that has to be done. We have to protect American diplomats overseas. I mean, the contracts that Blackwater and other companies get are for legitimate operations.

The problem is, is that we - is that these operations perhaps should be done by the government itself so that the U.S. taxpayers who pay for this can really be fully in charge and have full accountability of what's being done in return for their - the dollars they spend. So that's - you know, that's the fundamental issue here, and regardless of what happens with Blackwater on all these accounts, we still need these jobs performed but performed well. With sensitivity and not in a way that gets Iraqis, people in Afghanistan, and others really ticked off at Americans or even killed for no good reason.

OLBERMANN: And with fewer prostitutes billed to the U.S. government as well.

CORN: Well, that would - that would be a benefit, too, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Just asking for some side - some side benefits here or a lack of side benefits.

CORN: Yes.

OLBERMANN: David Corn of "Mother Jones" - great thanks, David.

CORN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Against a multitrillion dollar deficit, a couple billion at Blackwater seems insignificant. So, one would think that against a budget of at least $365 million to try and kill reform in its field, a payment to a family of $110,000 for life saving drugs for their 5-year-old boy would seem insignificant, too. Guess what? It's not.

The insurance company is keeping the money. Kyler Van Nocker's father and a "Quick Comment" on televising the health care reform summit two weeks from today - next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The statement from Bill Clinton's cardiologist is now expected at 45 minutes past the hour, not 30 minutes, and we hope to bring it to you live.

We look at the small picture the father of the 5-year-old denied reimbursement for life-saving anticancer drugs by his insurance company in a moment. First, the bigger picture and tonight's first "Quick Comment."

When C-SPAN's Brian Lamb said last month the network was ready to televise health negotiations, House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote Lamb to say, "House Republicans strongly endorse your proposal and stand ready to work with you to make it reality." Then the president scheduled his health care summit for two weeks from today and invited the cameras. Now, Boehner says, "I think that's fine, but you know, is this a political event or is it going to be a real conversation?"

When the Democrats decided not to televise the all Democrat negotiations between senators and congressmen of their party, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona exploded, "There's no good reason to keep the negotiations of the health care bill a secret, unless, of course, the president and congressional Democrats know that Americans wouldn't like what they see, and the only way they can get this bill is to write it in secret and pass it quickly."

But now, with the televised summit a reality, Kyl says, "The truth of the matter is, a lot of things here are done by staff behind closed doors. And it's not always the wrong way to put something together."

Sometimes, Washington hypocrisy is difficult to see and it requires careful parsing and heavy-handed conclusions by analysts like me. Not this time, huh?


OLBERMANN: A lot of people who in the final analysis don't really matter much were yelling about fictional death panels. What we did not hear was the relentless, grinding work of the real death panels that actually already run our health care industry. This is a story of death panels in action.

We told you on Tuesday about 5-year-old Kyler Van Nocker. His father joins us presently. He's just filed a lawsuit detailing his son's encounter with real life death panels.

Kyler was born November 30th, 2004. He had almost three years as a typical kid until that day in June, 2007, when his mother felt a lump in his jaw and then came the bump on his head and then he couldn't walk. On July 11th, 2007, he was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma - cancer.

The 2-year-old boy began chemotherapy. They harvested his stem cells. They used them later for bone marrow transplants. They cut him open to take out the primary tumor. They subjected him to radiation therapy.

When he contracted veno-occlusive disease, they asked his insurance company, HealthAmerica, division of Coventry, to cover a drug not approved by the FDA. Thumbs up from HealthAmerica, Coventry on that.

He spent summer in 2008 in intensive care. That August, they took out one of his kidneys. In October, they asked HealthAmerica, Coventry to cover another drug not yet approved by the FDA and thumbs up again. The cancer in remission and Kyler went home.

Last September, it came back. This time, doctors had only one course of treatment, MIBG radiation therapy, $55,000 per session. This time, HealthAmerica, Coventry said "no."

Kyler is getting the treatments anyway, but now, the family is on the hook for $110,000 and counting, and the insurance company? Coventry CEO Allen Wise, on Tuesday, telling analysts, quote, "This company knows how to control costs and we will."

The company reporting a loss ratio of 82 percent - meaning 82 cents of every dollar they got from the Van Nocker family went to treatment and 18 cents went to things like Wise's $23 million compensation.

What is Washington doing about it? Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for one is playing games, poorly, writing President Obama's health care sit-down must be a PR stunt. Why? Because an aide to Speaker Pelosi said he thinks Democrats will have to pass health care using reconciliation. Quoting Bachmann, "It looks like Democrats have already decided on a plan to pass their original legislation."

A, they already did pass it. B, they passed two versions of it, in fact. And therefore, C, reconciliation would be used to change those original bills which is a perfect opportunity for the congresswoman to make changes. Thanks for playing.

And then there is Republican Senator Judd Gregg telling he is open to some steps on health care that could win some Republican support. Quoting Gregg, "I am ready to sit down and try to be helpful."

Now as promised, we're joined by Paul Van Nocker and Attorney David Senoff.

Gentlemen, we appreciate your time tonight.

Paul, let me start by asking about Kyler. How is he and how is he responding to this treatment?

PAUL VAN NOCKER, FATHER OF BOY DENIED COVERAGE: He is doing wonderful. He has responded very well to the treatment. We got great news last week. He's being a typical little boy, happy to go to school and play with his friends.


This insurance company, HealthAmerica, Coventry - what was its reason that it gave you for not covering the cost of this?

VAN NOCKER: They deemed the treatment to be experimental.

OLBERMANN: Didn't they - didn't they - isn't it not, in many respects, the same kind of experimental, not FDA approved treatment that they approved previously that just happened to cost a little less?

VAN NOCKER: As far as we can tell, yes, sir. We've asked them about it and didn't get much a response.

OLBERMANN: David, we read your complaint today. It sounds like there

you know, to use this awful phrase, there literally are, in fact, death panels. Complaint review committees that decided, "Sorry. This 5-year-old boy can't have the one drug that'll save his life."

Can you explain how that worked?


I mean, basically, what happens was the doctor submitted a request for this treatment. It was reviewed by one physician at Coventry. They denied it. The Van Nockers appealed that denial. That appeal was denied again.

They appealed a second time. This time, Paul actually went to HealthAmerica, pled his case, HealthAmerica sent the file out to an independent, outside reviewer. The committee heard from Kyler's doctor. They got a report back from their outside reviewer, and their outside reviewer actually said there was medical literature to support the use of this treatment for a patient like Kyler in Kyler's condition with his prognosis.

The committee then denied it again, sent a letter to the van Nockers saying, "You know what? We denied it again. And our decision this time is final and the only thing you can do is file a lawsuit."

And that's what we did.

OLBERMANN: Paul, if you had any time during all of this to follow this health care debate at all, what did you think when you heard people were criticizing the prospects of health care reform talk about these - the death panels? Did you hear about that? What did you think if you did hear about it?

VAN NOCKER: Honestly, sir, I'm not really political, if you will.


VAN NOCKER: You know, I don't follow that. What I do follow is, you know, how things affect my son.


VAN NOCKER: And I'm not an activist, an advocate for my child. We wanted this - we'd like to see this part of the health care debate move forward. This is something that can be addressed. This is something that we spoke to members of Congress and, honestly, we're not seeing a lot of action on it.

This is not about access to health coverage. I work hard. I have health coverage. Kyler actually has two health insurances covering him. This is about insurance companies making decisions instead of the doctors.

OLBERMANN: Well, you just nailed it and boiled it down to what's essential here. But I got to ask you, the "Philadelphia Daily News" reported, Paul, that you're bankrupt. Is that correct or is it close to being correct? Or is it - I mean, what does it do - what does it mean in terms of Kyler's coverage going on if these insurance companies continue to have the attitude they've had in the last - in the last few months on this case?

VAN NOCKER: Well, what I can tell you is, anybody in our situation, Middle America, we did all the right things.


VAN NOCKER: And we put - we put money away. We have insurance and this - you know, retirement funds, college funds for the kids. Unfortunately, we started dealing with these kind of medical expenses.

I don't know of too many Middle American people that could survive as far as a financial situation. Bankrupt? Sure. By legal definitions, we are bankrupt. Absolutely.

We're also very fortunate that we have, you know, in Philadelphia, two of the absolutely amazing hospitals, St. Christopher's and Children's Hospital, both of them are taking care of my son. Those doctors have moved forward because this is what needs to be done to save Kyler's life.

And they've given us the opportunity to take care of our child and let's worry about the money at the end. Let's take them to court and let's move forward.

OLBERMANN: And it's wonderful to hear that. I've seen that in cases involving my own family in the last year, and it's the best part of this.

Paul Van Nocker -

VAN NOCKER: Yes, sir.

OLBERMANN: - Kyler's father and their attorney, David Senoff - great thanks for your time and, especially, good luck in your battle for getting care for Kyler and our best wishes to the young man.

VAN NOCKER: Sir, thank you for your time and having us on.

SENOFF: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: My great pleasure. Thank you.

Fortunately, you can only fool all of the people some of the time even on this. Abraham Lincoln did not say that, but he's actually in the news tonight anyways as is little sister death panel herself, of whom a majority is now saying she's not qualified to be president - a majority of Republicans.


OLBERMANN: And we're expecting a live statement from President Clinton's cardiologist after his hospitalization and the placement of two stents in his coronary arteries, today, in which the president was awake throughout the procedure, as we're told, and has already discussed the thing over with President Obama. The statement is expected about quarter to the hour.

Over the past few months, former governor Sarah Palin of Alaska has assiduously tried to return to public relevance. The American public has responded: poll numbers that have taken a dive. The newest survey conducted over the weekend during which Palin gave a keynote address at the Tea Party convention, but the poll follows months of other Palin activity like her book tour and her vocal opposition to the Obama agenda including her infamous death panels fabrication.

Palin's favorability rating, according to this polling, now 37 percent. It was 43 in November. This the latest ABC News/"Washington Post" poll. Fifty-five percent of respondents holding an unfavorable view of her and only 26 percent of respondents thought she was qualified to serve as president; 71 percent say she is not qualified, that's up by 11 percent.

Again, reflecting further disintegration since November. Even among Republican respondents, only 46 percent think she is qualified to be president, 52 percent actually saying "unqualified."

When Republicans were asked in a Gallup Poll to name their party's preferred 2012 candidate, former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts led with only 14 percent. Palin second with 11 percent and their newly elected Senator Scott Brown in fourth place, four percent.

So, perhaps it should not come as such a surprise that even with the economy still struggling and disappointment that President Obama has not accomplished all that he attempted in his first year in office, he still beats the generic Republican candidate were the re-election to be held today, that according to a new Gallup poll. It should be noted that often times once a party's generic candidate is replaced with a party specific candidate, the numbers go a bit lower.

And by the way, only 35 percent of all respondents view the Tea Party movement favorably, 40 percent unfavorably. Much of this summed up by Vice President Joe Biden.


JOE BIDEN (D), US VICE PRESIDENT: Sort of like some of the comments made are just so far sort of out there I just don't know where they come from, but she - if you've met her, she's an engaging person. I understand why people like her. Governor Palin appeals to a group of people who are generally frustrated, feel disenfranchised, are very conservative, not all of them...


BIDEN: Tea Party people, but beyond that, she has appeal beyond that, as well. But I don't know that it represents a - anything approaching a significant portion of the population.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to MSNBC's political analyst, Richard Wolffe, the author of "Renegade: The Making of a President."

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The assumption is her poll numbers are tied to some sort of failure over the last few months in getting her message out or selling herself correctly. Could that be wrong? Could it just be that she has succeeded in identifying herself to the public?

WOLFFE: Well, I do think she has given us a new first, which is she's proved there is such a thing as bad publicity. I mean, here is someone who has done nothing individually, there's no one big screw-up on her account in the last several months since November, which is the last time the "Post" has put up some numbers.

What's happened, as you pointed out before, is her book tour. It's that she has spoken more, she has gone on this round of interviews. She's engaged in back biting and finger pointing with her former staffers who have responded in kind. And it's the inverse of what we saw with Barack Obama through his campaign. The more people saw of Obama the more they liked and respected him.

I think what we're seeing here is the more people see and hear from Sarah Palin the less they respect and like her.

OLBERMANN: The qualified for president numbers are scary, especially if you throw out the Democrats and just go with the 52 percent of Republicans saying no. Did the vice president nail this, to paraphrase, Palin's support might not be fervent - or might be fervent, but it's not wide, it's not deep?

WOLFFE: Well, I'm not sure that the vice president is correct here, because if you look at the "Post" numbers, the most shocking decline in Sarah Palin's numbers is actually among conservative Republicans. These are the people who will be shaping the Republican primaries. She has sunk on the question of whether she's qualified to be president, she has sunk by 21 points since November. That's a collapse even bigger than Karl Rove says President Obama's numbers have collapsed.

And so if you look at that you've got to say, there's something serious going on here with her supposed base. Maybe that's why actually so few of them showed up to pay up the money to see her talk in Nashville.

OLBERMANN: Are we missing the headline here? Is the headline that the fourth leading Republican presidential hopeful in that one Gallup poll is Scott Brown?

WOLFFE: These are extraordinarily poor numbers. I mean, Mitt Romney spent all those millions to come up with 14 points? Sarah Palin sold all those books to come up with 11 points? It could be, clearly, none of the above, right now. And, anyone like David Broder who says this lady is good, that she's ahead of the pack at this point, either doesn't understand how politics can change or doesn't understand the numbers of the party right now because they're all anemic numbers.

OLBERMANN: Is there something to this idea that there's a flavor of the month thing going on here, that Scott Brown, in fact, is the great hope for Republicans who saw how badly they did last year and how things had gone in the mid terms in '06, and even to some degree in '04, and their, essentially, you know, Sarah Palin is to some degree old, tarnished goods by this point?

WOLFFE: Well, I think this is a party looking for a leader. There's no question they're trying to capitalize on the moment but Scott Brown faces a really interesting dilemma, right now. He is one of the rare Republicans who is representing a Democratic state and he's been elected on this platform to change the way Washington works. That's - that gets down to this partisan gridlock.

If he wants to fulfill his mandate, he's going to have to figure out a way to tack between the Tea Party folks and what he needs to do to Democrats and with this administration, so he's got to figure out a way to be bipartisan and also feed the base. That's not going to be easy.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Did you say Captain America versus the Tea Party? Damned liberal comic strip media!

And look out, the robot monster killer laser sheep is back. It's alive! It's alive! In tonight's second quick comment.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour the latest on the health of president Clinton. Plus ending the filibuster with her special guest, Howard Dean.


OLBERMANN: As we await the statement from Dr. Alan Schwartz president, President Bill Clinton's cardiologist, after today's minor successful heart procedure, now the second of tonight's quick comments in a vignette from the wonderful world of political outsourcing.

The National Republican Congressional Committee apparently uses an outside company to send out a lot of its public fund raising letters. Thus in the fifth district of Alabama, those who get the political junk mail are being advised ,over the signature of Congressman Pete Sessions, that their incumbent congressman has been falling in line with Nancy Pelosi's destructive liberal agenda. "We're airing hard hitting ads against your Democrat member of Congress and it's making an impact." The problem is the incumbent in the Alabama fifth is Parker Griffith, Republican. He recently switched from the Democratic Party but somebody didn't get the memo.

Thus not only is the Republican Congressional Committee attacking a Republican congressman, but it is giving other Republicans who are trying to win a primary against the guy all the ammo they need. That letter says, "Mr. Mo Brooks confirms what we all know - Parker Griffith is a wolf in sheep's clothing." Wait. Did you say a wolf in sheep's clothing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Campbell. Is he what he tells us? Or is he what he's become over the years - a FCINO - fiscal conservative in name only, a wolf in sheep's clothing. The man who literally helped to put the state of California on the path to bankruptcy and higher taxes.

Fiscal conservative? Or just another same old tale of tax and spend authored by a career politician who helped guide us into this fiscal mess in the first place?


OLBERMANN: Oh, it's been too long since we've seen that. And one final thought about this. Winston Churchill, it was, who once called someone a sheep in sheep's clothing.

A statement from President Clinton's cardiologist after today's successful procedure. Captain America versus the Tea Party; one of the leading experts on the Tea Party and comic books joins us to explain the battle of the century. But first, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze to New York state education commissioner who. We told you Tuesday his department had invalidated high school student Rosa Bracero's regent exam because she missed the original date of the test and took a makeup, so she could not graduate from high school on time. She missed it because she had to attend mandatory meeting between her entire family and New York City's bureaucracy handling shelter for the homeless. If she had missed the meeting to take the test, her entire family would have been sent to live on the streets.

I named Commissioner Steiner the worst person that night. He has announced now that all homeless centers in the state will receive the regents' schedule so that this never happens again.

Steiner's gotten a lot of praise for this, but exactly what does this do for Rosa Bracero? The state still won't accept that makeup test, says she'll have to wait until June, take the grueling Regent's test again, and she can't graduate high school until then.

Runners up Floyd and Mary Beth Brown, out there columnists. How out there they didn't realize until they found their raison d'etre pushing the Birther conspiracy theories was going to be dismissed by, "Beck, O'Reilly and Breitbart... on the issue of constructional eligibility, we are embarrassed that these smart men, whom we admire, are either unwilling or too arrogant to look closely at these serious issues. Instead, they attack others for having the audacity to ask questions, questions they normally would ask if they had their facts correct."

If those guys aren't buying into your right-wing insanity, you may have to find a new flavor of right-wing insanity to peddle.

Our winner is Lonesome Roads Beck, as part of this paroxysm that statistical inconsistencies in the U.N. climate change report means that the whole report is invalid, every climate change scientist is incorrect and climate change has never occurred. No, no, no, I can't hear you. He has suggested that the scientists involved should kill themselves by the Japanese ritual method.

"There's not enough knives. If the IPCC had been done by Japanese scientists there's not enough knives on planet earth for hara-kiri," he called it harry carry, "that should have occurred. I mean these guys have so dishonored themselves, so dishonored scientists."

So, let's follow Glenn's line of half-thought, here. You're saying people who have totally, irredeemably dishonored themselves in their field, who have lied for personal gain, and to espouse political beliefs that have no basis in reality, who have doctored evidence and exaggerated numbers, who falsely invoked imminent mass death, who guided people into joining phony political protests and who have inspired paranoia should kill themselves? Really? Lonesome Roads Beck today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: "My friends," he said, "no one not in my situation can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of these people I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried. I now leave not knowing when or if ever I may return with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the divine being whoever attended him I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all yet will be well. To his care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

With those words, 149 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln stepped onto a train in Springfield, Illinois to take him to Washington and his destiny.

As we await the cardiologist's news conference let's play "Oddball."

To the St. Marks River near Tallahassee, Florida with 30-year-old Drew Gregory who was quietly fishing when a goose that had been hanging around his kayak all afternoon suddenly did this.

Mr. Gregory, flummoxed over why the goose attacked him, though he says it's possible it really liked me, you know? The attack caught on video with a camera mounted on the kayak because Mr. Gregory has a Web site and wants his own TV show about fishing or maybe kids in runaway balloons.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hello. Specifically the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Rocky Balboa ascended. He never did this. During the thrilling pinnacle of all six or seven movies these locals after yesterday's big snowstorm choosing instead to downhill slalom, a fitting tribute to the rare collection of art proud assembly of art in that building behind - never mind. Yo, Adrian!

Now, this is really odd. The Tea Party without a sense of humor? Why the far right movement is going head to head with Captain America?


OLBERMANN: Just so you know, we haven't been making this up, that is where the news conference will take place with Dr. Alan Schwartz the cardiologist for President Bill Clinton. When it will take place, we are no longer making any guarantees.

In the interim, the Marvel comic book series, Captain America, has been ripping material from the headlines since day-one. In fact, on the cover of issue one, March, 1940, there's Captain America Steve Rogers, slugging Adolf Hitler in the kisser, 21 months before this country even entered World War II.

Six-hundred and one issues later, the original Captain America is dead, kind of. The new Captain America and his sidekick are infiltrating Tea Party protests and Marvel comics is apologizing. Captain America No. 602, two Americas. The new Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and his African-American sidekick, the Falcon, are in Boise, Idaho. The men out of costume are surveilling a Tea Party rally while looking for a Captain America who has joined an antigovernment movement. The text on the various signs being held by the protesters read, "Stop the Socialists," "No to new taxes," and "Tea bag the libs before they Tea Bag You." Seen anything like that before?

When the real Captain America suggests blending in with the protesters, the Falcon objects saying, "I don't exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks." That remark chapped some actual Tea Party persons including a blogger named Warner Todd, Houston, who thinks this is the worst comic ever.

"Not only is Cappy quaking in his little red booties, Houston writes, "but he's sure that the Tea Party folks are dangerous racists, too. Nice going Marvel comics. Thanks for making patriotic Americans into your newest super villains."

Now Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada is defending the content, but apologizing for the Tea Party reference, "...the editor asked the letterer on the book to just fudge in some quick signs. We spoke to the letterer and he was mortified at his mistake and was truly sorry as he has no political agenda."

Since I'm politics and baseball cards, let me turn to David Weigel who is politics and comic books, a reporter for the "Washington independent." And just to further indicate he is the man to ask, he was reporting at a Tea Party protest last year and snapped this picture, the one that the comic book copied from.

Mr. Weigel, thanks for your time tonight.

DAVID WEIGEL, "WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT": Thank you. That's a photo that will not die.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, I guess not. I don't get it thought, the publisher is apologizing for showing that phrase that as your photo sort of confirms, was first used by the Tea Party a year ago?

WEIGEL: I think he's apologizing about the implication that there might ever be racism involved with tea parties in this fictional story line in Idaho.

OLBERMANN: I have to interrupt you. As soon as we got this started, I know it would happen. Here comes Dr. Alan Schwartz, the cardiologist for President Clinton, to make his statement outside New York Presbyterian Hospital.


Thanks for joining us, my name is Steve Barnes, communications director.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't hear you.

BARNES: I'll speak a little louder. Sorry. My name is Steve Barnes, I'm communications director at the Clinton Foundation, here in New York.

President Clinton would like to thank Dr. Mark Apfelbaum and Dr. Michael Collins who performed the procedure which is overseen by Dr. Craig Smith and President Clinton's cardiologist, Dr. Alan Schwartz. He's chief of cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea are with him. They all want to thank New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia, all of its doctors, nurses and staff for taking great care of him. He looks forward to getting back to the work of his foundation, here in America and around the world. The Clintons are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from everyone, again, here in America and around the world.

And now I'm going to introduce to you Dr. Alan Schwartz, chief of cardiology here at New York Presbyterian Hospital, who's going to make a brief statement and take a few of your questions. Thank you.

DR ALAN SCHWARTZ, BILL CLINTON'S CARDIOLOGIST: Good evening. Today, President Clinton came to see me because over the past several days he had been having episodes of chest discomfort that were brief in nature, but because they were repetitive he contacted me and came in. On the basis of his symptoms which were occurring at rest, it was decided to admit him to the hospital and perform angiography.

His initial test, electrocardiogram and blood test showed no evidence of heart attack. Again, I repeat, he did not have a heart attack or any damage to his heart.

The pictures were taken of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and of the four bypass grafts that he had six years ago, one of the bypass grafts was completely blocked and because of that, and the fact that he was having repetitive symptoms at rest, he was treated with two stents that were placed into his own coronary artery. That is the artery that had been supplied previously by this bypass graft was open by the placement of two stents, more metal scaffolds that hold the artery open.

The procedure went very smoothly. President Clinton has since been up and walking around and visiting with his family. He's in good spirits, and we hope to have him go home tomorrow.

BARNES: We'll open it up now. One at a time, guys. Right over here.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Dr. Schwartz, was the former president's life ever threatened in this whole episode?


QUESTION: No. So does this mean you consider this routine...

SCHWARTZ: I don't consider any procedure routine. These are high-skilled procedures and you're dealing with the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart, so these are high-skilled procedures, it's a serious business. However, both due to the skill of the operators and the perfection of the technologies they can be done at extremely low risk. And I would not describe this at all as a high-risk procedure.

QUESTION: Dr. Schwartz. Dr. Schwartz...

QUESTION: Dr. Schwartz, can you tell us the brand of the stent that was put in...

SCHWARTZ: I won't comment on brands.

BARNES: Right over there.


SCHWARTZ: So, I would like to say that the goal of the treatment, and I think it will be achieved, is for President Clinton to resume his very active lifestyle. This was not a result of either his lifestyle or his diet which have been excellent. He's exercised regularly, he's in excellent condition as evidence both by what he does and by objective testing with stress testing.

His cholesterol numbers have, and other risk factors that we follow, have all been excellent. This is part of the natural history, just as illnesses have natural history, treatments have natural histories. And this particular type of bypass graft has about a 10 to 20 percent failure rate at five to six years.


SCHWARTZ: No, it makes him less susceptible to future heart attacks since. This graft is gone. The stents have opened the vessel, and the primary driver for his heart surgery was not this blood vessel. The primary driver for his heart surgery was the main artery in the front of the heart. And the bypass of that artery is what conveys the longevity benefit of bypass. That's what's called a left internal mammary artery bypass. That artery, that bypass looked pristine. And we know from multiple studies that if that bypass is opened at this point after the surgery, it will remain open.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the prognosis going forward after this?

SCHWARTZ: His prognosis is excellent.


SCHWARTZ: I think this is like high blood pressure. Say, this is a chronic condition. We don't have a cure for this condition, however we have excellent treatments that involve lifestyle modification, medications, and occasionally when necessary, procedures. Also President Clinton responded appropriately and promptly to warning symptoms that had been discussed with him on numerous occasions in the past.

BARNES: We'll take a couple more.


SCHWARTZ: Again, the mammary - without getting too technical, the grafts are of different kinds. This - so the graft to the main blood vessel on the front of the heart is what's called a left internal mammary artery graft is not prone to this type of blockage.

BARNES: One at a time. Take this one.


I didn't say chest pains. He had some vague chest discomfort that when it became repetitive, he recognized that it might be a problem with his heart and that's when he consulted me and that's when we acted. So -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were they ever chest pains?

SCHWARTZ: I'd like to keep using the word discomfort because that's what he felt. And also just educationally, often heart symptoms are not pains. They can be pressures, they can be constrictions. In his case, he felt sort of a pressure or constriction.

I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When can he resume -

SCHWARTZ: He is back on his feet.


SCHWARTZ: So I told him he could be back in the office on Monday.

Back in the office on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you call it a wake-up call?

SCHWARTZ: No, I wouldn't call it a wake-up call. The wake-up call happened in 2004. Again, he has really towed the line in terms of both diet and exercise. He's followed an excellent program. This particular complication is not hardening of the arteries. This sort of graft failure is the - the history, excuse me, the history of this type of treatment that is not related to anything he did.

BARNES: It's cold out here. One more for the doctor.

SCHWARTZ: The circumflex.

The procedure, it took on the order of an hour and he - he was able to get up about two hours afterwards.

BARNES: Thank you, guys. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The chief of cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital, President Clinton's cardiologist, Dr. Alan Schwartz, concluding a brief news conference outside that hospital where earlier today two stents were placed in vessels feeding the heart of the former president of the United States.

To recap it briefly: the chief of cardiology, Dr. Schwartz, said this was not a result of lifestyle or diet, or it is a chronic condition, and that President Clinton had towed the line regarding the care of his health since his quadruple bypass in 2004. He can go home tomorrow and he can be back in the office on Monday and he is already back on his feet - literally, he is already standing.

It was not a heart attack. It was not, in fact, chest pain. He called the hospital on Tuesday, said Dr. Schwartz, with vague chest discomfort. The elaboration on that from Dr. Schwartz: not pain but pressure and constriction.

One bypass graft from that 2004 major surgery had been completely blocked, which is a common occurrence at this late date, six years nearly since the surgery. These bypass grafts do, in fact, fail, wear out over time. It makes him according, to Dr. Schwartz, less susceptible to heart attack going forward and not more so.

And as we were talking to Dr. Nissen from the Cleveland Clinic, the president should have been - President Clinton that is - should have been awake during the procedure and could have been speaking to the doctors as he did it. We know that he spoke to President Obama at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

So, this was, as advertised apparently, a quick procedure and although the doctor would not say it was just an ordinary, not a big deal kind of thing, he did say it was low risk. And so that's where the state of President Clinton's health stands today. And that will be Countdown.

We'll now conclude the program and turn you over to the tender care of Rachel Maddow and THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

Rachel, good evening.