'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for
Guest: Ezra Klein; Sen. Debbie Stabenow
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories
will you be talking about tomorrow?
The final roadblocks to reform: The tea party and the Republicans join
forces in a last-ditch effort to lie about health care reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I don't want to make you sick, but I
brought an abortion to show you today.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: My favorite sign that I saw
said "Grandma isn't shovel-ready."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: When not lying about the bill, they're attacking the
procedure. First, reconciliation was evil. Now, deem and pass is evil -
despite a long history of the GOP using those same tools.
The latest on the health care fight with Howard Fineman, Ezra Klein
and Senator Debbie Stabenow.
A new low for even the right-wing: The likes of Beck and Limbaugh
attack an 11-year-old boy who is pushing for health care reform because he
lost his mother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, your mom would have still
died because Obamacare doesn't kick in until 2014, if they sign it this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The hybrid truth.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PRIUS DRIVER: I'm doing over 90.
911 OPERATOR: You're over 90?
PRIUS DRIVER: Yes, hold on.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: First, California; now, New York. Toyota is getting
aggressive in controlling its runaway P.R. problem over runaway Prius
And, will Tiger Woods be master of his domain? He's launching his
comeback at the Masters in less than a month. Is his return to golf the
only way for him to turn the page?
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I thought I could get away with
whatever I wanted to.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in
for Keith Olbermann.
As if it were not welcoming enough that in this great experiment we
call democracy, anyone is allowed to roam the halls of congressional office
buildings to drop in on lawmakers unannounced. Today, members of the House
were instructed to greet their tea party protester guests with light
snacks, water and coffee. It is not clear if the tea party is consumed
their refreshment with the full realization that some of them were paid
for, no doubt, with the very taxes that they just love to protest against.
A much smaller crowd than expected showed up for today's rally on
Capitol Hill to kill health care reform. FreedomWorks, Dick Armey's group
that organized the protest - which makes the event fake grassroots - told
CNN that somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 people were on hand. That's the
biggest number they could come up with to exaggerate turnout.
The Democratic National Committee, in comparison, places the number of
protesters at only 300.
Today's award for most inappropriate sign goes to President Obama
climbing into a coffin next to the words "kill the bill."
At the start of the rally, Michele Bachmann said her favorite tea
party sign is one from September's protest that read, "Grandma is not
As a good segue as any for Bachmann to repeat the lie that the elderly
will be denied care if the Democrats' bill becomes law, Louie Gohmert of
Texas took a graphic approach to claim falsely that the bill funds
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOHMERT: I brought the bill that's being talked about. Now, I don't
want to offend anybody. I'm sure that there are here - people here who
think abortion is OK and I don't want to make you -
GOHMERT: I don't want to make you sick, but I brought an abortion to
show you today.
There's a whole lot of demon going on. There's a lot of demons around
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: A doctor at the rally told "Talking Points Memo" that
Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be tried for treason because the self-executing
rule known as "deem and pass" is unconstitutional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason in trying Nancy Pelosi for treason, is
that something that you think that should be done? Is that - explain that
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. If she votes for the bill because it has
nothing to do with being constitutional. When you deem a bill, that's not
how - that's not how the House of Representatives is supposed to pass a
bill. Have the courage to vote on the bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you call that treason?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would call that stepping on the Constitution.
When you take an oath to uphold the Constitution and you don't - yes, I
think you should be tried for treason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: That man may be a good doctor, but he needs to get his
hands on a high school government text fast and go straight to the section
on the Supreme Court - which is still kept very busy by Republicans and
Democrats in local and state and federal government who continue to enact
laws of questionable constitutionality. No legislators have yet been
charged with treason for having done so.
Lots to talk about with Howard Fineman, MSNBC political analyst and
senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, today, Steve King of Iowa called for another "Velvet
Revolution." He told "The Huffington Post" that he wanted the tea partiers
to "storm this city. Fill this city up, fill this city, jam this place so
full they can't get in, they can't get out, and they will have to
capitulate to the will of the American people."
Howard, how did that work out for Steve King today? Could you get in
and out? Were you able to move around at all?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I was moving around
both inside the Capitol and on the grounds, especially out on the east
front. And I didn't see a lot of capitulating going on.
I did talk to some tea partiers who told me they were disappointed by
the crowd. I talked to a guy who'd driven out all the way from Missouri,
gotten a flat tire on the way, got there just in time for the thing to be
winding down. He said he was very disappointed by the crowd.
It's the standard issue but the sort of the low tide of the standard
crowd, Lawrence. You had the hard line abortion - you know, pro-lifers,
you had the "take up the guns" crowd, you had the people who think that
Nancy Pelosi is trying to ruin not only the currency but the Constitution.
It was the usual suspects, only very few of them.
O'DONNELL: Now, the last time they did this, it seemed to me, all the
encouragement the House needed to actually go and pass the bill.
O'DONNELL: So, going by their record on these pre-vote protests, it
doesn't - it's not going so good. But is the turnout - is the big drop
in turnout about organization? Is it about a sense of fatalism that this
thing is going to pass and there's nothing they can do? Or is it a -
O'DONNELL: - drop in energy and interest in this subject?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it's a combination of all those things,
Lawrence. I think there is a sort of done deal sense, even though the vote
is really close. We'll be tracking all the way up until, you know,
whenever, midnight Saturday in the House. I think there's a sense that
it's done deal.
I think, Barack Obama, by his sheer persistence, and the House
leadership and the Senate leadership on the Democratic side, their sheer
persistence and willingness to pursue this have, to some extent, I think
exhausted the opposition.
And, you know, you worked in the Congress. I covered the Congress and
legislatures. At some point everybody says, "OK, let's vote. Let's vote."
And that's sort of where we are right now.
O'DONNELL: Howard, there's word tonight that Dennis Kucinich is
holding a press conference tomorrow morning to announce his vote on health
care reform. Now, he announced his vote on health care reform on this
program to me saying that he was absolutely going to vote against it again,
having voted against it the first time, saying it does not do enough.
Since then, the president flew to his district yesterday, gave that
speech, talked about Natoma Canfield's plight. Natoma Canfield, on this
program last night, from her hospital bed, asked Dennis Kucinich to vote
for this bill.
Would he be holding a press conference to announce how he is going to
vote if he is still a "no" vote, if nothing has changed?
FINEMAN: Well, let's move from conjecture to what I think is going to
happen, Lawrence. I have - I have from some very good sources tonight
that Kucinich is going to come out tomorrow in support of the bill. And I
think that's going to be very important because it's all hanging in the
balance right now. Dennis Kucinich happens to have stumbled in a key role
And it's important not just for his vote, which I'm pretty sure now -
based on my sources - is going it will be yes, but because Dennis Kucinich
will supply a kind of heat shield for President Obama and even Nancy Pelosi
from the direction of the left and the Democratic Party who are dead-set in
favor of a public option in the bill. They are furious that the Senate
version that's going to be voted on does not have the public option.
I think, not only will Kucinich say, "I have reluctantly concluded I'm
going to vote for it," but he's going to make the argument which I think
President Obama made to him in private that this is just a first step.
That Social Security began with small steps. Medicare began with small
steps. And so, this bill will be one step on the road to a public option.
I think that is what he is going say tomorrow.
O'DONNELL: We'll be watching the Kucinich press conference tomorrow
Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - thank you very much for your
FINEMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: For more on what happens next, let's turn to Ezra Klein of
"The Washington Post" and "Newsweek."
Ezra, the whip counts that I've seen being passed around this
afternoon do not indicate that it's close. They have large clumps of
congressmen on those lists, some of them surprising names for me to see,
who they don't feel they have the yes from yet.
How close do you think, at this point, given the whip counts, given
everything that's flying around there - how close do you think Nancy
Pelosi is to getting the 216 she needs?
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: My understanding is that people on
both sides of the aisle, leadership on both sides, think Nancy Pelosi has
around 200. But I should tell you, Lawrence, I have a personal rule that I
don't do whip counts for this reason. Right before a bill passes, as you
know from being in the Senate, it is the time of maximum lying by
representatives and senators. People trying to increase their leverage,
increase the chances Barack Obama comes to their district, or they can
promise more money for their election, or they get a concession in the
So, you get a lot of folks who proclaim themselves undying opponents,
and then, three days later, like potentially Representative Kucinich
tomorrow, switch to qualified supporters when they get what they wanted.
So, it's a time of real sort of insincerity in statements.
O'DONNELL: And now, there's - all this talk about the self-executing
rule in the House, the "deem and pass" way. They are, in effect, in the
House of Representatives, trying to find a way for the Democrats to vote on
this bill and be able to say they never really voted on the Senate bill,
which will be the underlying bill that is deemed pass if you vote on the
bill on top of it.
Is this the cover that Democrats need to cast this vote? And will it
work as cover?
KLEIN: Oh, my God. They seem to think it is. I can't possibly
imagine how and it seems they've just done themselves a lot of damage with
Quick background here, David Dreier, when he was running the rules
committee for the Republicans, he used the "deem and pass" 35 times. This
is not unprecedented, but it is dumb.
And in particular, it's dumb because at a time the Democrats are
trying to protect themselves from argument that they are making special
deals, that they're twisting the rules to fit their purposes, they come out
with this thing that doesn't make sense to any living human being. They're
going to pass the Senate bill as part of deem and pass.
And the idea that because they are deeming it passed as opposed to
passing it passed, there will be some difference in the mind of any voter
anywhere, except to think Democrats are being underhanded in some way they
can't quite explain frankly baffles me.
O'DONNELL: Well, it's all about apparently, Ezra, trying to be able
to say, when you're campaigning -
O'DONNELL: - I never voted for that dirty deal in Nebraska and I
never voted for that dirty deal in Florida or Louisiana, or whatever thing
in the Senate bill you think is a dirty deal. I didn't vote for that.
The trouble is, the way I read that vote, I think you did.
KLEIN: Yes, you did vote for it and I can promise you, your
Republican opponent is going to say you voted for it. And if you've been
attempting to explain to other people that you didn't vote for it, you are
quickly going to just come across as insincere.
The Democrats have been much better off. I think the Senate and House
bill are very close. And I understand there's a political toxicity to the
Nelson deal and the Florida deal and other pieces for it, but to say that -
this Senate bill, it is imperfect beginning and we are going to fix it.
And that is what's going to happen from now on.
Every year, we're going to come back and we're going to make this
better and better and better. We will vote on the public option. Vote on
paying doctors differently. And this is how health care work from now on,
a start and then an improvement and then another and then another. And
they can promise they will do this forever to make this is a system that
America can be proud of.
They'd be in a whole lot better shape than if they came out and said,
"This bill is terrible," even though it's very close to the House bill, and
now, we're going to put 11 pages on top of it that will make it fine. Deem
and pass is just not good politics. It's too Washington for people.
O'DONNELL: Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" and "Newsweek" -
thank you for your time tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: the flipside of surviving the tea party.
Senator Debbie Stabenow on what it was really like on Capitol Hill today
and the latest on the health care negotiations.
And later, the return of Tiger Woods is no longer a mystery. The
Masters, the scene of his first major victory, will be where golf great
truly begins his professional rehabilitation.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: The critical week in health care reform.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan joins us for the latest on where things
stand on Capitol Hill tonight.
And later, the right-wingers want to stop reform so bad they'll stoop
so low as to attack an 11-year-old for saying his mother died because she
couldn't afford health insurance.
That and more - ahead on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Today's tea party invasion of Capitol Hill was an historic
event, transforming politics in the nation's capital just as much as the
last time they did it. That's what happens when you get thousands or
hundreds or certainly dozens anyway of people determined to block passage
of a health care bill that exists primarily in the minds of Sarah Palin and
And as we mentioned in the previous segment, the latest outrage is
over the fact that House Democrats may use a legislative procedure known as
"deem and pass" because this will allow House Democrats feel they have
actually avoided actually voting on the Senate health care bill, despite
the fact the House has - you guessed it - voted deem and pass and will
have to vote to deem and pass the bill.
With us tonight from Capitol Hill is Democratic Senator Debbie
Stabenow of Michigan, who sits on the budget and finance committees. Good
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Hi, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: I'm sorry. I'm getting mixed up on deem and pass every
time I try to pass through it.
Let me start with the question about House Democrats. We know what
their plan is. They're trying to get this things passed by the end of the
O'DONNELL: What is the plan of action in the Senate if this passes
the House? What would be the schedule of action in the Senate?
STABENOW: Well, Lawrence, we'll - we will take it up as soon as the
House passes it, sometime next week is what we are assuming right now.
And so, we're - we are anxious to get this taken care of. We know
what this means in terms of families and small businesses and manufactures.
Frankly, it's as much a jobs bill as anything else - certainly, in my
state, where we're losing jobs because of rising health care costs. So, we
are anxious to get it done.
O'DONNELL: Not to get too technical, but is there any committee
action contemplated before taking it to the floor in the Senate or will it
go from the House of Representatives straight down to the will of the
STABENOW: Well, as I understand it now, as we've been talking about
it, it would go directly to the floor.
O'DONNELL: And are you surprised that House Democrats think that the
bill you voted for in the Senate is so bad they don't want their
fingerprints on it in any way. They want to be able to deny they voted for
STABENOW: Well, I - you know, I appreciate the concerns that came up
about certain special provisions.
But, Lawrence, I have to say that we have a bill that makes sure that
costs go down for families and small businesses. I'm very proud to have
authored an immediate tax cut for small businesses this year, as soon as we
pass it, up to a 35 percent tax cut. All the provisions like eliminating
preexisting conditions for children would happen immediately. For adults,
we set up a special fund. If they can't find insurance, they can buy into
Another provision I'm very proud to have co-authored with Senator
Kerry is a provision to help early retirees, people 55 and older, to be
able to get help right now - this year - to bring their costs down.
We have 17 different provisions that will take effect right now this
year that are in the Senate bill.
And I think that what we have done is a good bill. And I appreciate
the differences between the House and the Senate, but I think people will
find that this really does help them. It brings down costs. It creates
more access. It holds insurance companies accountable and it's important
to move it forward.
O'DONNELL: Now, Senator, it must be fun for you, people in the
Senate, to watch all the pressure on the House for a change. They had a
O'DONNELL: - relatively easy time passing the bill in last year
compared to the Senate.
O'DONNELL: But can you guarantee the House that if they do pass this,
that the Senate will be able to get it through reconciliation intact? That
the Senate parliamentarian will accept everything sent over by the House
and that you actually do have the 50 votes plus the vice president in the
Senate to pass that?
STABENOW: I have absolutely no reason to believe that the votes
aren't there. Everything I hear from colleagues, everything that we
discuss together indicates to me and it gives me confidence that the votes
are there. And we certainly are willing to demonstrate that to the House
before they move ahead. We're going to be working with them on
And, you know, reconciliation is really just a majority vote, as you
know. This is really about just letting democracy work. And the
provisions in this 51-vote corrections bill actually make the bill better.
There are things that I would have liked to have done in the Senate that we
didn't get done that I think actually make it more affordable for families,
address the excise tax which I believe needs to be addressed, tackles what
was Nebraska only help, now to reach out and make sure every state is
treated fairly in Medicaid.
So, there are things that I think should have been done anyway.
O'DONNELL: Senator, before we go, quickly, I just have to ask what it
was like having the tea partiers in the hallways today. Did they flood
your office? Did they try to slow you down on the way to votes? Was there
were there any problems at all?
STABENOW: Well, I've seen folks - you know, folks who are in the
halls and coming to our office. I mean, we are willing to sit down with
people, talk about what is really in the bill and not in the bill.
I think, most importantly, Lawrence, I have to say before leaving
tonight that with all the protesting from Senator McConnell and the
Republicans about how bad this would be for Democrats, you would think
they'd be rushing to the floor to help us pass it. And the old saying,
"Thou dost protest too much," I think comes to mind, because the reality
is, if this was so bad for us, they would let us pass it immediately.
They know that when you provide a tax cuts to small business, when you
lower the cost for families, you hold insurance companies accountable, and
you help people be able to afford insurance that that's a good thing.
O'DONNELL: Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan - thank you
for your perspective tonight.
O'DONNELL: There is nothing off-limits in attacking supporters of
health care reform for the right-wing talking heads. Glenn Beck and
company criticize an 11-year-old boy who is fighting for reform after his
mother died because she didn't have insurance.
And later, one day after Toyota investigators raise doubts about a
Prius accident in San Diego - now, they're traveling to New York to get to
the bottom of an accident there. The great P.R. pushback begins.
O'DONNELL: Ahead on Countdown: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck take aim
at an 11-year-old boy because he wants health care reform after his mother
died. Chris Hayes joins us on the new low for even the right wing crowd.
And later, Tiger Woods makes it official. He's returning to
professional golf for the Masters. Eugene Robinson will tell us if that is
the perfect place for Woods to stage a comeback.
O'DONNELL: Michelle Malkin warns of a new dubious poster boy for Dem
care; Glenn Beck attacks his family; while Rush Limbaugh calls his message
a sob story. If you thought the right couldn't sink any lower in their
hysteria over health care reform, they just did. Their latest target an
Marcelas Owens, a fifth grater from Seattle, speaking at a news
conference alongside his grandmother and senior Senate Democrats, sharing
the story of his mother, Tiffany.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCELAS OWENS, MOTHER DIED OF CANCER: My mom was diagnosed with
pulmonary hypertension in 2006. She missed so much work that she lost her
job. And along with her job, she lost her health care. And losing her
health care ended up causing her her life. And I wanted to finish her
fight for health care. So I don't want any other kid to go through the
pain our family has gone through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Tiffany Owens died at the age of 27 of pulmonary
hypertension. As Media Matters reports, her story and the son's telling of
it sent the right wing noise machine into over drive. The website News
Busters calling the 11-year-old a spokesman for a liberal lobby. Attacking
his grandmother, Gena Owens, for her attack with the Washington Area
Network, a consumer advocacy group.
Glenn Beck taking that attack, questioning Ms. Owens' motives by
attacking her group and the issues it supports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: There are pesky phrases in that one that
we should point out: social justice, shared community and collective
responsibility. Let's not forget "truly democratic society." Well, we're
not a democratic society. I think that was the Soviet Union. I believe it
is the Democratic Socialist Republic in China as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Beck then went after the group that helped Marcelas and
his grandmother get to Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: The trip was paid for by Health Care for America Now. That is
the George Soros funded, Barack Obama approved, group fighting for health
care. Since all of these groups are so concerned and so involved now, may
I ask where were you when Marcelas' mother was vomiting blood? Wasn't this
the perfect opportunity to help provide a decent quality of life for all,
or at least for one? You had somebody in your own ranks that knew that -
her mother knew. Dare I ask, where was grandma?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Desperate to catch up with Beck, Michelle Malkin and Rush
Limbaugh also joined in. To refresh your memory, the pair also targeted
12-year-old Graeme Frost and his family in 2007. Graeme gave a Democratic
radio address objecting to President Bush's veto of a bill that expanded
SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance program. That led Malkin to
call his parents spoiled brats and Limbaugh to question the family's
In the case of Marcelas Owens, Malkin called him "a human kiddy shield
for the Dems," with Limbaugh echoing the sentiment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now, this is unseemly,
exploitative. An 11-year-old kid being forced to tell this story all over,
just to benefit the Democrat party and Barack Obama. I would also say this
to Marcelas Owens, well, your mom would have still died, because Obama care
doesn't kick in until 2014, if they sign it this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Really, rush? That's what you would say to an 11-year-old
kid about his dead mother? Come on, Rush. Tell your listeners the truth
on this one. Even you would never say that to an 11-year-old. I know
being mean is part of your business model, and I know it's easy to say
things you regret in three hours of live radio, but now you really should
do what your dead mother, Millie, taught you to do in a situation like
Come on, Rush. Tell Marcelas you're sorry. You saw him, Rush. He is
a classy kid. He'll accept your apology. You just have to be big enough
to say you're sorry. Go ahead, Rush. You can do it. It's not that hard.
Make Millie proud of her little boy.
Time now to call in the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine,
Chris Hayes. Good evening, Chris. What can possibly be gained in American
politics by attacking an 11-year-old kid who lost his mother? I missed the
lesson where that's good politics.
CHRIS HAYES, "THE NATION": Well, yeah. I mean, I don't know how much
they are thinking strategically in going after him. I think it is a reflex
that the kind of attack mode is always the prime instinct, particularly for
people like Malkin and Beck and Limbaugh.
I also think - to be honest, I think these are compelling stories. I
think putting a human face on what's going on, what the stakes of health
care are, is threatening. It really makes them uncomfortable. I think
there's both a kind of just knee jerk reaction, where they just want to
destroy anyone that stands in their way, but also there's the implicit
recognition of the strategic vitality of a message that actually focuses on
real human beings.
O'DONNELL: It does seem like the anecdotes are driving them crazy
somehow, that the true stories of health care reform, of the holes in the
health care system, of the way people are being victimized in the health
care system, just drive them nuts.
In politics, you tend to use each other's weapons. If you tell a
story to illustrate your point, I'm going to tell a story to illustrate my
point. But they've got, what, 40, 43 million people on Medicare in this
country, close to 50 million on Medicaid in this country. They can't find
one person in that group to come out and say, my government health
insurance is bad? My government health insurance has failed me? They
can't find one?
HAYES: Right, well, look, they don't want to do that, because when
you look at the demographics of the conservative movement and of the
Republican party, it is a lot of people who are on Medicare. I think they
have been very worried about being seen as attacking Medicare and all this.
That is why we got all this weird jujitsu about government hands off
Medicare, et cetera.
I don't know why they haven't gone out. Look, there's a lot of people
out there. People are discontent about a lot of things. But I think, at
this point, because they are not trying to proactively offer anything,
their mode - the rhetorical mode is to raise questions and to point out,
you know, errors and to go after people in the most sort of brutal, ad
hominem way, to try to kill the bill.
There is nothing other than that. Whatever comes into view is what
O'DONNELL: You know, I'm getting the feeling by this kind of
desperate attack - I don't know Rush Limbaugh, but there is no way he
would say that to an 11-year-old. He knows he wouldn't say it to an 11-
year-old. And he just blurts that out on the radio. Combining that with
what we saw a few hundred Tea Partiers maybe is the best that Dick Armey
and his machine and all of that support he has to organize - that's the
best he could do on the lawn of the capitol today? I'm getting a feeling
of the emotional air going out of the tires of opposition here.
HAYES: Look, I think you're putting your finger on something. If you
look at the polling data, we've seen the popularity of the bill begin to
move up. It's actually - the inflection point was right after the Scott
Brown election. Since the president has sort of gotten out front, since
there have been less process stories, and since they have also focused the
message on what the stakes are for actual people, and what the current
system allows to happen, the cracks that millions of people fall through -
all of those things have pushed up the approval of the bill.
I think there's been a real messaging improvement. I think the right
recognizes that, and they're trying to fight back against it. I also think
they realize that this is probably going to be passed.
O'DONNELL: Chris Hayes of "The Nation," thank you for looking inside
yourself and somehow finding the decency to come to the defense of an 11-
year-old boy whose mother died.
HAYES: I'm a stand up guy.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: See you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Toyota is fighting back in the latest round of
Prius problems. First, they call the high-profile San Diego accident into
question. Now their own investigators are coming to New York for another
Later, Tiger Woods back in the swing of things, so to speak. He is
returning to golf at the Masters next month. Will it be a triumphant
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her exclusive sit down
interview with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. She will ask him about his
part in the steps that led to the financial meltdown.
O'DONNELL: Humanity has always had mysteries, the Loch Ness Monster,
Bigfoot, and now the runaway Prius. Toyota today said it will investigate
a runaway Prius report from Westchester, New York, after government testing
on the Prius that allegedly sped out of control on a California highway
last week found no evidence to prove or disprove that driver's story.
The story had already raised eyebrows because the 911 dispatcher
repeatedly asked the driver to shift the car in neutral or, you know, turn
it off. The driver later said he was afraid to shift the car into neutral
because that might flip the car over. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports on the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system was tested under driving conditions -
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toyota didn't
just release a statement. They made a statement by putting on a show.
Company executives rolled out a handful of 2008 Prius Hybrids to
demonstrate the car's brake override system.
Toyota was so eager to prove their point, they allowed reporters to
get behind the wheel of a similar Prius at speeds of 50 miles an hour and
then have their drivers -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring the speed up to 60, 70, 80 -
ALMAGUER: Try to simulate an out-of-control acceleration at 85 miles
an hour. In every instance, when the brake was pushed firmly down, the car
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the car comes to a stop.
ALMAGUER: Shown here in this Toyota video to simulate a stuck
accelerator, Toyota test drivers punched the gas pedal, then simultaneously
hit the brake with pressure. They say that overrides the throttle, as the
brakes slow the car.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is going on? Is your accelerator stuck?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Yeah.
ALMAGUER: Last week, James Sikes told investigators he lost control
of his Prius when it accelerated over 90 miles per hour. For more than 20
minutes, he claimed he was pressing hard on his brakes but the car wouldn't
slow down. Toyota says their investigation shows that is simply not
BOB WALTZ, TOYOTA QUALITY CONTROL, VP: I can tell you the information
that we found was not consistent with the claim that was made.
ALMAGUER: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA,
agrees. Their investigators, who worked alongside Toyota, were also unable
to replicate James Sikes' claims using his car.
KATE LINEBAUGH, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Toyota feels like the media
really hasn't been in its corner. So it is trying to re-establish its
reputation and regain credibility.
ALMAGUER: According to NHTSA, their probe did reveal that Sikes'
front brake pads were almost completely worn out. Toyota shows that shows
Sikes may have ridden the brakes off on on, but never applied consistent
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gas pedal felt like it was stuck in fast
ALMAGUER: James Sikes is no longer speaking to the press and
continues to stick by his story. His attorney says just because Toyota
couldn't replicate the incident doesn't necessarily prove Sikes' sudden
acceleration didn't happen.
O'DONNELL: That was Miguel Almaguer reporting.
Coming up, Tiger Woods announces the start of his professional
comeback, the Masters early next month. Eugene Robinson will tell us if
that is the right move for Tiger after everything he has been through.
O'DONNELL: The last time Tiger Woods played professional golf was on
November 15th last year in Australia. Then the "National Enquirer"
reported that Woods was accompanied on that journey down under by his
mistress Rachel Uchitel. Thanksgiving at the Woods house was difficult,
and Mr. Woods hasn't been hitting anything since.
But today, the comeback plan was unveiled. Tiger Woods will return to
the links in Augusta, Georgia, at the Masters Tournament on April 8th. A
statement on his website reading, in part, "the Masters is where I won my
first major. I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and
necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season
He continues, "I have undergone almost two months of in-patient
therapy and I am continuing my treatment. Although I'm returning to
competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life."
About that personal life, Tiger and his Wife, Elin Nordegren, have
been working together - have been working through their issues following
all those reports of broken marital vows. First the "Enquirer" had the
Rachel Uchitel story, then porn stars, an alleged call girl, a waitress and
others popped up. Woods publicly apologized for what he described as
personal failings in December, before heading into therapy.
The world's most famous athlete lost several but not all of his
sponsorship deals. He has hired former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
to coordinate his return to golf. "USA Today" speculates Woods may conduct
his first interview to coincide with his Masters appearance.
As for actual golf coverage, ESPN will tee up the eye balls with the
early rounds of the Masters on April 8th, and CBS gets the weekend ratings
bonanza if Woods makes the cut.
But for those of you who can't wait until April, Comedy Central has
you covered. Tomorrow night's season premier of "South Park" delivers its
take on Tiger Woods and the horrible plague on society that is sexual
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted
to. I felt I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all of
the temptations around me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sex addicts, what other destructive
behaviors did we engage in that led to our ultimate downfall. Anyone have
another example? Yes, Tiger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having sex with lots of girls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having sex with employees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining me now is a golfer who has never been parodied on
"South Park," "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC analyst Eugene
Eugene, the bookies already have Tiger Woods as the favorite to win
the Masters, just coming right off the bench into the game. He is the
favorite to win. Does he need to win? Does he need another one of those
green jackets to get the golf fans back on his side?
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He'll probably get one
eventually, maybe not this year. He certainly doesn't have to win the
tournament this year. Look, people are going to watch. Clearly, people
are going to watch the Masters to see him com back. But people are going
to watch, going forward, because the difference between watching a golf
tournament with Tiger Woods and without Tiger Woods is basically the
difference between thrilling and boring.
Ratings plummet when he is not in a tournament. I think probably the
happiest people in the country today are the golf commissioner and the
networks that carry golf tournaments.
O'DONNELL: Eugene, I don't play golf. I don't know what it is like
to come back from not playing competitively. How important is it for these
guys to continue to be out there on the tour in order to stay sharp? What
does he lose by being out of the tour in terms of sharpness?
ROBINSON: He loses that last bit of competitive edge, they say. I
play golf. I'm a bad golfer, like most golfers. So I have no idea what it
feels like to hit some of the shots that Tiger Woods hits. But that
amazing ability that he has to seize the moment, to conceive and execute
what others would think of as an impossible shot, under unbelievable
pressure to win the tournament - I mean, he does it again and again and
again. That can't be as sharp as it normally is coming back after a
On the other hand, he has come back before. He is not always the
sharpest on his first outing, but he gets back pretty fast.
O'DONNELL: There was that period after his father passed away that he
was out for several weeks, nine weeks, and he came back and he didn't make
the cut in the tournament when he came back. There was a real diminution.
Then there's the concentration issue in a situation like that, coming back
after your father's death. What about the concentration issue, in this
game that's all about concentration, after what he's coming back from?
ROBINSON: That is what is going to be so fascinating to watch,
because, of course, one of the almost super human abilities Tiger Woods has
is this concentration, this focus, this ability to block everything out.
How do you block this out?
He has picked the perfect venue. The Masters is an incredibly
controlled venue, of course. Every detail is managed by the private club,
Augusta National, to the point that they have in the past barred television
commentators who have said things that the club didn't think were dignified
They're very protective of their past champions. Tiger Woods has won
the tournament four times. I anticipate they will be very protective of
him, too. So this is the one tournament where he can play and he doesn't
have to worry about being accosted on every hole, or really perhaps
accosted at all by packs of rude journalists.
O'DONNELL: What about the Ari Fleischer part of this? Why would a
Republican former White House press secretary be the right guy to manage
your re-entry in this venue?
ROBINSON: Beats me.
O'DONNELL: OK. We share that feeling, Gene. I know Ari. He was
good at his job, but I don't get this part of it.
ROBINSON: I don't quite get that part either. I think I would have
picked someone the public has a more simpatico image of. The last most
people saw of Ari Fleischer, he was defending some pretty unpopular
policies, under attack at the White House. I'm not sure that's - but, as
you said, he is good at his job and maybe his role is going to be more
orchestrating behind the scenes, rather than getting in front of a podium
and saying what Mr. Woods meant to say was the following.
O'DONNELL: At the end of this tournament, win or lose, is the right
picture for Tiger to be one of those golfers with his arm around his wife
as he's leaving the golf course at the end of this whole thing?
ROBINSON: I sure don't think so. I'm not anticipating that. This is
an intensely competitive guy. He comes back to tournaments to win. The
right picture for him is putting on the green jacket for a fifth time.
That is what he'll be trying to do.
O'DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, thank you for guiding me through the
longest conversation about golf I have ever been in in my life.
ROBINSON: You're welcome, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Tuesday's edition of
Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC
coverage continues now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED. END