'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, March 26th, 2010
video podcast (partial)
Guest: Ezra Klein, Margaret Carlson, Jonathan Alter, Nicole Lamoureaux
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories
will you be talking about tomorrow?
Back to the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: It's time to kick it old
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Sarah Palin and John McCain together for the first time
since their failed campaign. And the ex-governor once again demonstrates
her dedication to reading everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: By the way, I see today that Fidel Castro likes Obamacare, but
we don't like Obamacare. Doesn't that kind of tell you something?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: It tells John McCain to push his "repeal and replace"
campaign, even though a fellow Arizona Republican calls it a waste of time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's going to be repealed and
replaced, and it's going to be done soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Republican repeal pledge
with Ezra Klein and Richard Wolffe.
Back on the Hill, Nancy Pelosi sends the House reconciliation bill to
the White House - as Democrats suddenly gain momentum going into the fall.
And the need for affordable health care continues. Tonight, a new
free clinic update.
And a post-Cold War update: the U.S. and Russia agree to reduce long-
range nuclear warhead stockpiles, but the president must get bipartisan
support to pass the arms control treaty in the Senate. Cue the Republican
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE: Shall we play a game?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And going to outer space on a shoestring budget - a man,
a plan, and 750 bucks yields some out-of-this-world amateur photos. Just
ask the vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a big
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: We might as well call it like we see it, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in
for Keith Olbermann.
The Republican Party has proclaimed that in the wake of health care
reform, it no longer wants to be the "party of no." GOP members now intend
to become, and these are their words, the "party of hell no." John
Boehner's rant against health care reform has been remixed and otherwise
mocked this week, but to many on the right, the minority leader accurately
summed up the anger of his party's base.
This afternoon in Tucson, at John McCain and Sarah Palin's first rally
together since the 2008 presidential election, McCain's former running mate
was there to help him win re-election to the Senate. He is facing a tough
primary challenge on his right from former congressman and Jack Abramoff
buddy, J.D. Hayworth, who says McCain is too moderate for Arizona
With that in mind, the 2008 ticket pushed the new unofficial GOP
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PALIN: You know, we're being accused of being the "party of no"
because we oppose some of the things that the administration's doing. The
Louisiana governor says, "Well, no, we're not the 'party of no,' we're the
'party of hell no.'"
MCCAIN: As Sarah said, yes, we're the "party of no," on this - on
this bill, "hell no."
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O'DONNELL: For the party of no's 2008 nominees, a simple "no" is not
enough when it comes to Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PALIN: Now, when it came to Obamacare, when it came to Obamacare -
PALIN: Hey. By the way, I see today that Fidel Castro likes
Obamacare, but we don't like Obamacare. Doesn't that kind of tell you
MCCAIN: It's historic that it is also the first time that on a pure
partisan basis, a major piece of legislation has been passed, and it's
going to be historic because it's going to be repealed and replaced, and
it's going to be done soon.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O'DONNELL: Former Governor Palin also dismissed the idea that
opponents of health care reform have been reacting violently, calling the
entire controversy the creation of - you guessed it - the mainstream
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Here in the news report lately, kind of this ginned up
controversy about us, common sense conservatives, inciting violence because
we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do it with our votes!
PALIN: Amen, brother. That's what you do it with - with your vote.
PALIN: You got it right.
We know violence isn't the answer. When we take up our arms, we're
talking about our vote. We're talking about being involved in a contested
primary like this and picking the right candidate, too, John McCain. We
thank you for that.
But this B.S. coming from the lame-stream media lately about this -
about inciting violence, don't let - don't let the conversation be
diverted. Don't let a distraction like that get you off-track. Keep
fighting hard for these candidates who are all about the common sense
conservative solutions that we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Palin essentially said that tea partiers are lovers, not
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: In respect to the tea party movement, beautiful movement -
you know what? Everybody here today supporting John McCain, we're all a
part of that tea party movement - because I have had the privilege of
traveling around the U.S. and meeting with everyday Americans who are that
great tea party movement, and folks always ask me about my friend John
McCain everywhere I go. And first, you know, you've got to think about it.
We're all that tea party movement.
Back then in 1773, remember, it was the freedom fighters and those who
protested tyranny and big government - throwing the tea in the harbor and
saying, you know, we're going to tell big government, intrusive government,
"No more." And that's what we're doing today. And when you think about
that first tea party, shoot, some may claim that John was there at that
first tea party movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And then things took a sudden turn toward the truth with
Senator McCain reminding everyone of some of the reasons Republicans lost
control of the House and Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: And I'd like to give you old school straight talk. We
Republicans blew it. We blew it when we let the Abramoff corruption come
in and we blew it when the out-of-control spending took place, and we blew
it when we didn't pay for the programs that we sponsored.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Of course, McCain harps on former lobbyist Jack Abramoff
who now makes home in a federal prison because McCain's opponent, J.D.
Hayworth used to pal around with Abramoff.
But we'll take political honesty any way we can get it, including from
the senior senator from Arizona, Republican Jon Kyl, who actually admitted
what everyone already knows, that health - that the health care law cannot
be repealed outright as long as there's a Democrat in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Our view is that we should repeal and
replace the bill with the solutions that we think actually work.
Obviously, the president will not sign a repeal bill that the Congress
passes, so that's more of a symbol.
JIM LEHRER, PBS: You're not in favor of a massive attempt to repeal
the whole bill right now?
KYL: Oh, I'd love to see the bill repealed right now. The problem is
LEHRER: Sure, but I mean, you're not - yes -
KYL: No. Barack Obama is president. He would never sign a repeal
law. We don't have the votes to get it passed right now. We're not going
to waste our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Time now to call in Ezra Klein, a columnist for "Newsweek"
who covers domestic and economic issues for the "Washington Post."
Ezra, I've been listening carefully to the "repeal and replace" gang,
and I'm waiting to hear what the "replace" is. Have they said anything
about what they would replace this bill with?
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: No. I think "repeal" didn't poll as well
as they might have been hoping, but "replace" hasn't had much to fill in so
far. The closest we came today was Paul Ryan - excuse me, I have
something in my throat. The closest we came today is Paul Ryan on a "New
York Times" op-ed page where he said he'd like to see the employer tax
break, it's actually from employer-base insurance, repealed or ended.
The problem is, of course, that is sort of in the plan with the excise
tax. So, even the bits of it that they think they would like to bring in
after they - after they take all of it out, they're there, too.
O'DONNELL: Ezra, get a sip of water as I try to lengthen this
question for you.
O'DONNELL: Let's talk about the prospects of repeal. I can't - I
haven't been able to think of an example today of a program like this that
has become law - something this big that's become the law of the land, and
was then repealed. I mean - and after a campaign, after people running on
a campaign to get elected to repeal it. I guess you could say this
prohibition, you could say FDR ran on prohibition, but that was a very
simple thing to repeal compared to this.
Anything you can think of that's a parallel here?
KLEIN: Well, what people bring up is the Medicare catastrophic bill
O'DONNELL: That's so small though.
KLEIN: It is very small. And also, it was a two-party move right
KLEIN: It was Reagan and the Democrats. So, nobody was defending it.
There's nothing really similar. And if you remember, there was some
repeal rhetoric from Democrats coming out in the Bush era. There was a lot
of repeal rhetoric around No Child Left Behind, a law still, and a lot
repeal rhetoric about - and this I think is important too - the Medicare
prescription drug benefit, which just got strengthened in the law.
The history of these social programs in America is not that they get
repealed, is it that they become firm parts of our social infrastructure
and get improved and expanded over time.
O'DONNELL: Now, Jon Kyl's reality note must have been embracing for
the "repeal and replace" gang. Why did he ruin their fun by pointing out
that President Obama will just veto any attempt on repeal? Was that - was
that Jim Lehrer's interviewing skills bearing down on him and forcing the
truth out of him finally?
KLEIN: A little bit of it. You can see sometimes with some of these
Senate Republicans who, you know, are the big kids on campus. They can
feel themselves getting painted into a corner they don't quite want to be
in. And you'll see them sort of try to feint their way out of it. So
when, later, they don't repeal this thing, they can say why they didn't.
But you can - you can sense him getting the pressure to do - to
engage in a long, futile struggle for something they don't actually think
they can accomplish and don't really think they should waste their time on,
and they don't quite know how to resist that pressure. So, they try, when
pressed on it, to create little escape hatches here and there.
And I doubt it will work. I'm surprised to hear the depth of that
rhetoric coming from, you know, folks like McCain, who know how this - who
know how this goes.
O'DONNELL: Now, there's a much quieter liberal repeal movement that's
been identified on this network. Two liberal New York congressmen have
already said to me on the air that they want to repeal the tax on health
care plans that actually goes into effect two years after an eight-year
Obama presidency, and then they would obviously be joined by Republicans on
repealing a tax part of the bill.
Do you think that pieces of the bill like that are more vulnerable to
repeal than the overall bill?
KLEIN: Certainly, pieces of it are more vulnerable to repeal and to
reform. I think you and I may disagree on this. I think the excise tax,
which is the Cadillac plan tax there, is quite likely to go into effect. I
think that when it comes down to it, you're talking five, seven, eight
years in the future, the deficit problem is still bad, still need 60 votes
to get anything done like that. I don't see where those votes come from
and I don't see where you get those offsets.
And I think what you'll basically have here is it's a semi-perfect
situation for politicians where money gets saved and it's not really their
fault. Somebody passed it back in the past and the work is already done.
So, when they try to be responsible, this tends to be the easiest way for
them to do it. Let something that's already happened keep going and begin
O'DONNELL: Ezra Klein of the "Washington Post" and "Newsweek" -
thank you very much for your time and your guidance on health care all
KLEIN: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: For more on John McCain and Sarah Palin, let's turn to
MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, author of "Renegade: The Making of
Richard, she may not have helped him with independent swing voters
during the 2008 general election, but do you think Sarah Palin helped him
today when he needed it in a primary contest coming from his right with
congressman - former Congressman J.D. Hayworth?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I think
endorsements are of questionable value at most times. But in this case,
Sarah Palin could have added extra donors to John McCain. She could have
added some extra organizers and volunteers on the ground for him.
But this is where I think she is the anti-endorsement. She is the
mirror image of what an endorsement is. Normally, you'd have an upstart,
unknown candidate getting some validation from a more seasoned politician,
someone who can vouch for their character and responsibility of a
In this case, Sarah Palin is the newcomer, and John McCain is the guy
with the record. And so what you end up with is Palin making these
inappropriate jokes about his age, and also making him look needy. In the
end, the contrast between the two of them - him going to her at this point
actually weakens him; it doesn't strengthen him. And that's why even more
than a normal endorsement, I think this one can hurt him.
O'DONNELL: Now, McCain has not been a right-wing Republican over the
course of his career. He's disappointed conservatives many times,
including on the Bush tax cuts which he did not vote for. These tea
partiers are, among other things, extreme anti-tax people.
Are they going to buy McCain's sudden conversion?
WOLFFE: Well, there is the credibility issue here. He has changed
his voting record significantly over the last year to become more
conservative. But there's something interesting in what Palin said,
because the slogans of 2008 were still rattling around there. She talked
about being a maverick, that he is essential maverick. That's his brand
and she's right about that.
The problem is that being a maverick for him meant bucking his party.
That's how he challenged Barack Obama. He said, you never stood up to your
own party. Well, John McCain the maverick has stood up to his party on a
whole bunch of things that his party, and particularly now, the tea party,
actually supports - tax cuts being one of them.
But if he was true to his brand, he'd just stand up to his party right
now on health care and now, he's pandering. I think the credibility
question is a tough one for him.
O'DONNELL: Now, when Palin was on the ticket, they had a lot of
trouble according to reports in disciplining her as a candidate and getting
her to give the speeches they wanted her to give. Today's speech was
interesting. I imagine now McCain has absolutely no power to try to check
the text of her speech ahead of time, and approve and disapprove.
The passage that interested me the most in that territory is when she
basically says everyone here is part of the tea party. We are all part of
the tea party, including herself and John McCain - and making that choice,
Richard, on the heels of these demonstrations, these protests by the tea
partiers in Washington, where they are spewing racist epithets, anti-gay
epithets, that's the time when Sarah Palin decides to declare John McCain
and herself to be members of the tea party.
What do you think McCain was thinking at that moment?
WOLFFE: By the looks of it, he had his hearing aid off because he
wasn't paying much attention. Look, this is all a figment of our
imagination. So, yes, you can kind of have to set that aside. That's the
least of what Sarah Palin said.
You know, there is something that John McCain has to confront if he's
going to be a tea party candidate which is that he's one of the most
loathed figures for tea party folks precisely because he reaches across the
party lines so often. You know, the maverick status of him doesn't sit
well with a movement of people that is trying to be even more partisan and
try and block everything that Democrats want. There's just a basic
contradiction there. And Palin and McCain together kind of exposes it.
O'DONNELL: Now, the crowds were big in the presidential election when
it was McCain and Palin and they got an OK crowd today. I actually wasn't
that impressed with the size of the crowd. They roped off some of the room
to make the crowd look bigger than it actually was.
But without Palin, what kind of draw is John McCain going to be on the
campaign trail in a state that is, by this time, very used to seeing him,
you know, and doesn't feel like they have to go out of their way to see
WOLFFE: Well, crowd size is one of - is one problem he has. People
know who he is, and whether he has momentum is something you can kind of
measure with the crowd. But if this is an anti-incumbent time, which it
seems to be, then having someone who is a senator of many years standing,
running at a time like this with a long record is more of a problem than
the size of his crowd.
O'DONNELL: Was this a difficult decision for Sarah Palin to go back
and do this for John McCain when John McCain seems like the old politics of
the Republican Party and that the tea party is the future that Sarah Palin
seems to be aiming for?
WOLFFE: I think her future seems to be aiming for reality TV and
making lots of money. Ands so, the political decision isn't really, I
think, the critical assumption for her. To be honest, she has actually
been loyal to him. And the finger-pointing, the back-biting that's been
going on, including from her, has been leveled at his staff. She has been
pretty kind to him.
So, it doesn't surprise me that she was out there, but I also don't
think she's serious about a career in politics.
O'DONNELL: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and veteran of 2008 campaign trail
thank you very much for your time tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: what a difference a week makes, with health
care reform now law and Democrats re-energized, what's next on Capitol
And later, President Obama announces a deal with Russia to cut back on
nuclear weapons. With GOP senators vowing to not cooperate on anything, is
there a chance they won't ratify the treaty?
O'DONNELL: Coming up: Democrats on Capitol Hill finally embrace their
majority status. With health care now on the record books, what's next?
And there's a free health care clinic in Atlanta tomorrow. We'll
bring you a last-minute plea for help.
And later, a British man puts NASA to shame with his own ingenious way
of taking pictures from outer space.
That's next. This is Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Democratic reaction to passage of health care reform is
obviously miles away from Republican reaction. But it is also light-years
away from where the Democrats were just a week ago.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over today's enrollment ceremony
for the reconciliation bill before sending it to the president for his
signature. In her remarks today, Speaker Pelosi read from a letter she had
read last night - a letter she said illustrates the day's importance and
why every day mattered in this fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Cindy Mercer Jones
Wynne wrote, "My beautiful daughter Courtney Leigh Huber, 23 years old,
died January 5th, 2010, just a matter of weeks ago. She was an insulin-
dependent diabetic who was kicked off her father's insurance the day she
graduated college. She wasn't able to find a job that provided insurance
or even a reasonable income to buy her medical supplies.
I helped her financially as much as I could, but being a teacher and
single mother of five, my income was also limited. To try to conserve her
insulin, she attempted to wean herself off her nighttime insulin dosage,
resulting in ketoacidosis. She slipped into a coma and never woke up."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Despite polls showing signs of growing public approval for
health care reform, the Democratic Party is apparently not forgetting which
Democrats jumped ship on this issue.
Congressman Michael Arcuri, Marion Berry, Daniel Lipinski, Stephen
Lynch and Zach Space all voted "no" this week after voting "yes" last year.
And now, "Politico" reports that White House aides say, President Obama and
Vice President Biden will, quote, "have to focus on our friends during
campaign season," according to an unnamed senior White House official.
Blanche Lincoln, meanwhile, one of the three Democrat senators who
flipped from "yes" to "no," now finds herself below 50 percent against a
Democratic primary challenger who supported both the reconciliation bill
and the public option, and also finds herself at war with the unions who
wanted her to support the reconciliation fix this week. Lincoln is
reportedly now attacking her primary challenger for his backing from
Washington unions - despite the fact she not only used to have their
support, but tried to win it again this year, filling out a lengthy AFL-CIO
questionnaire to win them over.
Joining us tonight is Margaret Carlson, Washington editor of "The
Week" magazine and political columnist for "Bloomberg News.
Thanks for your time tonight, Margaret.
Democrats seem to be feeling much, much better this week than last
week. But are there still some risks for Democrats on the health care
front between now and November?
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, as far as talking about it, I
don't think there's that much risk in talking about it, because they're
only going to talk about the good parts. The bad parts are down the road.
If it increases the deficit, if that tax benefit doesn't go through to help
But in the meantime, the preexisting conditions, the not being
dropped, letting junior stay on until he's 26, and not throwing grandma
under the bus - all these things are good and are the parts of the bill
that the Republicans certainly aren't going to want to be in favor of
O'DONNELL: Now, the White House seems to want someone to think that
they're playing very tough with the people who voted against the
O'DONNELL: But they're - you know, that they're not going to -
they're not really going to help any primary challengers against any
incumbent in the House or Senate, are they?
CARLSON: Well, they - their official rule is they don't get involved
in primaries. Oh, but they do - because they can withhold love from
incumbents that haven't done what they want them to do, if they want to
hold a grudge and play it out. That, you know, those funds don't have to
go there, that bridge doesn't have to happen. Instead of Obama visiting
that district, he can just go someplace else in the state. There are a lot
of ways that the White House can reward and punish - and in this case,
they might punish.
Blanche Lincoln, you know, she was in trouble before. I don't know
that she can be saved. But her opponent is just on fire.
I mean, he raised $1 million in 36 hours. MoveOn.org is helping him.
The unions are helping him. And by the way, he's not even officially for
card check. The unions are supporting him simply because Blanche Lincoln
voted "no" on health care.
So, there's going to be a lot of activity in the primaries of those
Democrats that voted "no," and in a year, by the way, when incumbents are
in trouble anyway.
O'DONNELL: Yes. Lincoln's opponents may ironically turn out to be the
first largest beneficiary of the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited
amounts of outside money being spent on the campaigns.
O'DONNELL: But Blanche Lincoln has been endorsed by President Obama.
And so, what are we really watching here? What can - does the White House
want Blanche Lincoln to be re-elected or not?
CARLSON: Well, that was while they were still trying to get her. I
mean, now that she's voted "no," I don't think you're going to see a
wholehearted embrace of Blanche Lincoln. I mean, that would be masochistic
on their part. That means that there's no party discipline, you can do
what you want, even when the chips are down and they're desperate to have
you? Is that the kind of message?
I mean - but Obama is too bipartisan. Is he now going to become like
too forgiving of Democrats?
O'DONNELL: Well, isn't there also the question of what can Obama do
to help any of the people in these columns? I mean, a guy like Steve
Lynch, for example, in south Boston is going to be re-elected. He doesn't
need any help from anybody. He's not in an endangered district.
And then someone like Blanche Lincoln and, by the way, Mark Pryor, the
and by the way, Margaret, just on a side note here, it's been
interesting that Pryor, the other senator from Arkansas, voted like Lincoln
on this and we don't really hear anything about it.
O'DONNELL: There's something odd to me. Why is Blanche Lincoln -
CARLON: That's because we still -
O'DONNELL: - the target of all this energy and Pryor just sits
quietly beside her and no one seems to care about him?
CARLSON: Well, but that's because men still hate some women perhaps,
you know? This is a female - well, he's not up, you know, this time. So
there's not as much interest in what he does. She's the one, as Sarah
Palin would put it, in the crosshairs.
So, there's - she's just much more vulnerable because of her
favorability rating, and she's vulnerable now because she voted "no" and
she's not going to be able to excite the people that were unexcited.
O'DONNELL: And some of these people actually, in many cases, wouldn't
want President Obama to come to their state or district, especially
Arkansas, where he lose by 25 points to McCain in Arkansas? He can't
really help anybody there, could he?
CARLSON: Well, you know, she doesn't have the - you know, her base.
I mean, he could discretely go to, you know, Democratic dinners and, you
know, not show up at some big rally in the city square. He could certainly
send some money there. There are lots of bridges and courthouses. I mean,
there are other things he can do, and maybe he will.
Maybe that endorsement he gave, maybe he's a sap. Maybe he wants to
help people who voted against him when he really needed them. But I'm
Irish. I would hold that grudge.
O'DONNELL: Oh, Margaret Carlson. Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg
News" and "The Week" magazine - thank you for joining us and hold that
CARLSON: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: the United States and Russia agree to reduce
their nuclear arsenals. It's one of President Obama's biggest foreign
policy achievements. Will Senate Republicans try to block ratifying it?
And later, a self-described geek beats NASA at its own game. He gets
amazing shots of earth on a shoestring budget.
O'DONNELL: It is a strange new world when the most interesting
thing about the most comprehensive nuclear arms reduction treaty in two
decades is weather, in the current political environment, it might actually
be difficult to muster these 67 Senate votes necessary to ratify the
The treaty between the United States and Russia announced today by
President Obama would reduce the long-range nuclear arsenals of both
nations by about 30 percent. The president plans to sign the pact with
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on April 8th.
At today's news conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was
asked whether Senate ratification of the treaty might actually be an issue,
given the extremely partisan political climate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're confident that we'll be
able to make the case for ratification. In fact, I think if you look at
the last three major nuclear arms treaties, the Sort treaty of 2003, 95 to
zero, Start One Treaty, 1992, 93 to six, the INF treaty, 1988, 93 to five.
There should be very broad bipartisan support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Senator Jon Kyl, who is an influential voice among his
Republican colleagues on arms control issues, has withheld judgment on the
treaty until he fully reviews it.
Let's bring in senior editor for "Newsweek" and MSNBC political
analyst Jonathan Alter. Good evening, Jonathan.
We heard Secretary Clinton say that in these situations the votes for
these kinds of treaties are normally unanimous or nearly unanimous. This
doesn't feel like normal times for this kind of thing. What do you see
JONATHAN ALTER, "NEWSWEEK": You know, I honestly don't know whether
she's right. I hope she is. I pray she is.
I'm worried, though. You have John McCain saying he will not be
cooperating with President Obama for the rest of the year. How far does
that extend? We don't know.
You have a number of conservative Republican senators who are very
much in the Dick Cheney camp. And you might remember that during the Bush
administration, Cheney dissed Russia.
Now, just to give you a little bit of the context here, he wanted to
pick a fight with Russia as if the Cold War was still going on, right? To
give you have the context, why is this so important at this stage in
history? And the answer is one word: Iran. Russia is essential to
containing Iran. We need them to reprocess Iranian fuel. So this is
really about Iranian nukes, inspecting Iran.
And if we can get this treaty through, we're on much stronger footing,
with both the United States and Russia reducing arms, to make the case to
Iran and the international community that they also need to let the
inspectors in. The future of the world - you know, the security of the
world is very much tied up in this treaty, not because of issues between
the United States and Russia, but because of these other issues.
And so if - you know, if the Republicans object, they will show that
they are completely unserious and irresponsible about international
O'DONNELL: With the security of the world dependent on a two-thirds
vote in the Senate on the approval of this treaty, let's just go back and
consider John McCain. John McCain would normally be a leader in an area
like this. He would normally bring senators with him. Then to his quote,
which is like nothing I've seen a sitting senator say before, "there will
be no cooperation for the rest of the year." They, the Democrats, "have
poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it."
With a statement like that, and with McCain out there desperately
campaigning with Sarah Palin to show what a good right winger he can be
when challenged from his right, what will happen in the Senate if McCain
defects on this treaty? Will he take people with him?
ALTER: Well, I hope not. You know, he's not very popular among his
Republican colleagues. So it might be that his sitting this one out does
not have serious consequences. The other senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl,
who just showed, he might be - I think he is much more relevant to this.
So when he said he wants to take time to read the treaty, I take him at his
word. And we'll see whether he does the right thing.
But, you know, it's hard enough to get 60 votes; 67 votes, it's a
steeper hill to climb. And I understand Secretary Clinton saying, you
know, in the past, in the Bush administration and the - you know, the
Clinton administration before that, these treaties were ratified by
overwhelming margins. But hypocrisy, flip-flopping on your vote, this is
nothing new. You had seven senators who sponsored a budget commission
bill, and once the president endorsed that, they not only didn't sponsor it
anymore, they were in opposition to their own bill.
So their ability to say, you know, we voted for old treaties but we're
not going to vote for this one because this or that is wrong with it, I
wouldn't underestimate this.
O'DONNELL: But this has always been the area where they behave like
adults. So if they change now on this, then it really is a giant change in
the Senate. Might the game be we can't let Obama have another huge victory
like this, a kind of international victory before the November election?
Let's just act on this thing after the November election, whether that be
in a lame duck session or whether that be 2011? Might that be the game?
ALTER: Well, that's possible. Most people in the United States don't
care about nuclear arms talks, so I'm not sure it would be that big a
victory. It didn't get as much play today as it probably should have.
But I'll tell you an ace in the hole that the president has; last
year, he had a meeting at the White House with Henry Kissinger, George
Schulz, Sam Nunn, a quite a number of Republicans and Democrats. This has
been a bipartisan effort, arms control, over the years. And if he gets
Henry Kissinger and George Schultz lobbying for him with some of these
Republicans - you know, Kissinger and McCain have a longstanding
relationship. So we'll see.
O'DONNELL: So we'll keep our eye on Iran in this deal, as being what
it's really about. Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, thank you very
much for your time tonight.
ALTER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, with health care reform now law, the work isn't
over. People still need urgent care right now. We'll preview tomorrow's
free health care clinic in Atlanta.
And how a weather balloon, a digital camera and duct tape could
actually compete with hundreds of millions of dollars spent by NASA to take
pictures of Earth.
O'DONNELL: It cost about 450 million dollars to launch a space
shuttle, making the pictures they bring home the most expensive in the
world. So when someone at NASA stumbled upon some shocking pictures taken
by an amateur British scientist on the Internet, they called the man to ask
him how he took those photos.
His answer? A camera, GPS tracking device, and a balloon. The
budget? Slightly less than 450 million dollars. NBC's Mike Taibbi has
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty eight-year-
old Robert Harrison is a self-confessed computer geek who says it was
boredom that got him thinking a while back about space exploration, photo
exploration, that is.
ROBERT HARRISON, AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER: You have a camera, a simple
point and click camera, a Cannon, 50 Quid on eBay.
TAIBBI: That's about 100 bucks, and about 600 more for a GPS tracking
device duct taped to hold it all together, plus a standard weather balloon
and the helium to fill it. Then up, up, up and away, above the English
countryside while the camera clicked away automatically, as Harrison
tracked progress from his attic of his Yorkshire home.
HARRISON: We've got the bottom part of the UK. And then France is
underneath the cloud there.
We can see where the camera is in three dimensional space. So it's
latitude, longitude, as well as altitude.
TAIBBI: At 22 miles high, the stratosphere, the edge of space, the
balloon bursts as expected. With that cheap camera capturing images like
these, a parachute carried it safely back to Earth, where Harrison followed
the GPS signal to find it.
(on camera): Harrison may have been the first hobbyist to try weather
balloon photography from near space, but now there are several dozen
enthusiasts going for the same cheap thrill, cheap as in inexpensive, but
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
TAIBBI (voice-over): Pictures like these have often been taken aboard
the Space Shuttle, each mission costing NASA about 400 million dollars. So
getting images like these for a few hundred dollars is an eye opener.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM ASTROPHYSICIST: If somebody
out of their backyard fancies together a device that can photograph Earth
from above, surely there are government agencies who are going to want to
have access to this.
TAIBBI: A team at MIT has gotten their own balloon camera aloft, and
for only 150 bucks. And they posted a how-to primer for the next explorer,
a bargain basement way to see the truth revealed to real space travelers.
HARRISON: I now know the Earth is round and space is indeed black.
TAIBBI: With your own photographers as proof.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, it was an historic week in Washington with
health care reform finally becoming law of the land. But there's still an
immediate urgent need for millions of Americans. We'll talk to Nicole
Lamoureaux of the National Association of Free Clinics about the free
clinic to be held in Atlanta tomorrow.
O'DONNELL: It began a year ago, a proposal to overhaul America's
health care system. After months of promises and set backs, attacks from
the right and the left, this week President Obama signed into law the
largest government expansion of health care coverage since Medicare.
So now what? As Jonathan Cohn warns in a "New York Times" op-ed,
"much as the Iraq war wasn't over when American forces conquered Baghdad,
so health care reform didn't end when President Obama signed the bill. If
carrying out the legislation doesn't get the same sustained attention that
passing it did, then this week's historic victory will lose much of its
While the current law aims to cover 32 million eventually, most will
not see any changes in their health care until 2014. And the CBO estimates
that some 23 million Americans will still be without insurance in 2019,
even after major provisions of the law have been in effect for several
All the more reason for the National Association of Free Clinics to
continue its work. You, our Countdown viewers, have given 2.1 million
dollars to the cause, helping 5,300 of your fellow Americans in need in
over five days of clinics. Your donations will fund one more clinic, a
location and date yet to be announced.
But through the generosity of other donors, not linked to Countdown,
there will be another free clinic tomorrow held in Atlanta. Joining me now
from Atlanta is Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National
Association of Free Clinics. Good evening, Nicole.
NICOLE LAMOUREAUX, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FREE CLINICS: Hello. How
O'DONNELL: So even after this legislation's been turned into law, you
expect not much change in the people who need your kind of clinic.
LAMOUREAUX: That's right. And before I go any farther, the National
Association of Free Clinics would like to offer our condolences to Keith
and his family.
But you're right, we do not see much difference right away. As you
said, the law will not go into effect until 2014. So there are people who
need care right now. And the National Association of Free Clinics and our
members will continue to service those uninsured Americans.
O'DONNELL: How many do you expect at tomorrow's clinic in Atlanta?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, it's been amazing. We had to shut our phone lines
down at 10:00 a.m. this morning. We received 200 phone calls a minute.
And we have 1,700 people already registered for appointments.
O'DONNELL: And do you have everything you need for tomorrow's clinic?
LAMOUREAUX: We need more doctors. Quite frankly, the more doctors
that we have, the more people that we can service. And doctors can contact
FreeClinics.us to help us tomorrow. And they must be a licensed physician
in the state of Georgia.
O'DONNELL: Now, how do the numbers you're seeing tomorrow in Atlanta
compare to what you've had at the other clinics prior to the passage of
health care reform?
LAMOUREAUX: Well, we have never had to shut down our phone lines
before the end of the day. So that is a first. And I think what we're
finding is that many Americans still need health care now. And with the
passage of health care reform this week, it has been elevated in everyone's
mind, so they continue to call and ask us to help them. And that's what
we're going to be doing here. So the numbers are dramatically higher than
what we've seen in the past clinics because it's right there in the
forefront of everyone's mind.
O'DONNELL: Now, the bill being signed into law with great fanfare, as
it well deserved as a legislative accomplishment, I wonder if that somehow
might take some of the energy out of supporters of your clinics, thinking
that maybe something has changed as of this week, that means that the need
for these clinics isn't what it used to be.
LAMOUREAUX: Well, I think that is a great point. And we are
certainly hoping that everyone understands that this bill, as we've said
before, is not in effect, and it starts in 2014. So between now and 2014,
we continue to see patients who are going to need help. And then even
after that fact, knowing that there is going to be uninsured Americans that
still have no place to go really concerns us, that people are going to
think it's done now.
In fact, when we're talking about people talking about repealing the
law as it is, we know that the fight is far from over.
O'DONNELL: One of the great weaknesses of this bill is the slowness
of its implementation, as we've already been discussing here. But another
weakness at the other end of it, when it is fully implemented, it will
still leave out possibly 15 million people, possibly more than that, with
absolutely no access to health insurance whatsoever. So it seems to me,
even when we get to the end of the line of implementation, ten years from
now, there will be 15 million people out there looking for one of these
clinics, aren't they?
LAMOUREAUX: Yes, they will. This bill was just a first step. That's
all this bill was, a historic first step, nonetheless, but just a first
step. There are still going to be people that are going to need care, and
free clinics will be there to help those patients.
O'DONNELL: Nicole Lamoureaux, thanks for your time tonight, and thank
you for expressing your condolences to Keith and his family.
LAMOUREAUX: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Friday edition of
Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann, who, it is my
honor and pleasure to announce, will be back in this chair on Monday. Our
MSNBC coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening,
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Lawrence. Let me just
take a second here to tell you how grateful all of us at MSNBC have been to
have you here filling in for Keith while he's been away dealing with family
stuff. You've done a tremendous, tremendous job. You've just been great
to work with. Thanks.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
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