'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Guest: Michael Moore, David Corn, Joe Romm
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories
will you be talking about tomorrow?
President Obama takes the fight for financial reform straight to the
belly of the beast. To the financial industry, he says -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unless your business
model depends on bilking people, there's little to fear from these new
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And to obstructionist members of the GOP -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What's not legitimate is to suggest that somehow the
legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts,
as some have claimed. That makes for a good sound bite but it's not
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Our special guest tonight: Michael Moore on the fight to
fix Wall Street.
And health insurance shocker. "Reuters" reports that WellPoint had a
computer program designed to dump insurance policies of women just
diagnosed with breast cancer.
Michael Moore will take on that as well, and the Republican notion of
bartering for health care with chickens.
The tea party probably won't make it as a viable independent party,
but as the future militant wing of the GOP - why not? That is not an
allegation from the left. It comes from the mind of Newt Gingrich. Wait
until Sarah Palin gets ahold of him.
Dick Cheney steps into the GOP Senate primary mess in Florida by
attacking Governor Crist. Is Cheney making it easier for him to bolt the
And an unlikely hero who saved the planet. The U.S. military is
leading the way to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Happy Earth Day!
All that and more - now on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Good evening from Los Angeles. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in
for Keith Olbermann.
President Obama today faced the titans of Wall Street, including the
head of Goldman Sachs, and asked them to join him in fixing their broken
But in our fifth story tonight: The real face-off is now slated for
Monday night on the floor of the United States Senate. That's when
Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled debate to begin on financial
reform, giving Republicans 96 hours to figure out who among them is really
ready to say: no, America does not need to reform Wall Street.
President Obama today took on two of the storylines Republicans have
advanced about the Democratic bills, sometimes even before the bills were
written. First, the Republican claim that the Senate bill includes future
bailouts for the banks, encouraging them to take more risks. In fact, the
bill forces the banks to create a fund that would be used for liquidating
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What's not legitimate is to suggest that somehow the
legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts,
as some have claimed. That makes for a good sound bite, but it's not
factually accurate. It is not true.
In fact, the system as it stands -
OBAMA: - the system as it stands is what led to a series of massive
costly taxpayer bailouts. And it's only with reform that we can avoid a
similar outcome in the future. In other words, a vote for reform is a vote
to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts. That's the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: President Obama also addressed the other Republican
argument, a perennial, that creating new regulations to replace the ones
that were removed over the past several decades will tie the hands of
American innovation. But as President Obama acknowledged, Wall Street
innovation has centered on creating new ways of making money rather than
making new things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not about stifling competition, stifling innovation -
it's just the opposite. With a dedicated agency, setting ground rules and
looking out for ordinary people in our financial system, we will empower
consumers with clear and concise information when they're making financial
decisions. So, instead of competing to offer confusing products, companies
will compete the old-fashioned way, by offering better products. And that
will mean more choices for consumers, more opportunities for businesses and
more stability in our financial system.
And unless your business model depends on bilking people, there's
little to fear from these new rules. So -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: President Obama had another point to make about the
hysterical fears that Democratic lawmaking will somehow destroy Wall
Street. He quoted from an article about a previous president's attempt to
change the rules on Wall Street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and
Wall Street. We will rise, or we will fall together as one nation.
OBAMA: And that is why I urge all of you to join me. I urge all of
you to join me, to join those seeking to pass these common sense reforms.
For those of you in the financial industry, I urge you to join me not only
because it is the interest of your industry, but also because it's in the
interest of your country.
Thank you so much. God bless you and God bless the United States of
America. Thank you.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Let's bring in documentarian Michael Moore, whose most
recent film is "Capitalism: A Love Story."
Thanks for your time tonight, Michael.
Michael, I want to start with a clip from "Capitalism" in which you
visit Goldman Sachs, whose CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, was actually in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: We're here to get the money back for the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand, sir, but you can't come in here.
MOORE: Can't you just take the bag?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
MOORE: Can't you take it up there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.
MOORE: Fill it up. I've got more bags. $10 billion probably won't
fit in here.
You're using the money to bail out companies, you know, all this -
this is our money and - oh, this is a police officer. I wanted to make a
citizens arrest of the CEO, Mr. Blankfein. And you're here, so maybe you
can help me.
These guys have broken so many laws, you know? This is - this is
money. It's theft. It's fraud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: So, Michael, when the president was referring today to
people whose business model is bilking people, who might he possibly have
been referring to? Anyone in the audience?
MOORE: It was very strange for him to invite the chief bilker to sit
there in the front row. It's a - and it was a great speech. And I think
it set the right tone here for the week.
But it is - it's a little ironic to ask the people who have committed
the crime - it'd be like asking a mugger to say, I'd like to urge you to
join me in calling the police and that if we call the police together, this
will help muggers everywhere. I mean - and that's exactly what these
people have done. They've mugged the American people. Millions are out of
work; millions have lost their homes. And yet, some of them still roam
free on the streets here of New York City.
O'DONNELL: Michael, you know, I've watched the credits roll in your
documentaries. You've got a good crew working for you. But I don't think
it's as big as the Justice Department or the SEC. How did you figure out a
couple of years ahead of them that Goldman Sachs just might be up to
MOORE: That's a - that's a good question, because I convinced my
high school guidance counselor to get me out of economics class, so I
didn't have to take it. And so - I think it was pretty evident to a lot
of people who just have basic common sense and have lived through this.
And, of course, I lived in Michigan. So, I have been a witness - personal
witness - to many lives being destroyed by this economy. An economy that
wasn't going to sustain itself, that was essentially a house of cards ready
And I and others were saying that, you know, for a number of years.
But, you know, who are we? We're just the people who predicted that there
weren't going to be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or that G.M. might
fail some day. So, I don't know - I don't have a good answer to that
But I do think what's interesting is that John Paulson, the
billionaire hedge fund guy who is implicated in the charges, the SEC
charges against Goldman Sachs the last week, that within the year of this
fraud taking place, John Paulson hired Alan Greenspan to be part of his
hedge fund deal.
This stuff - this stuff here is so interconnected, the way that
Goldman Sachs, even with the Obama administration, as you know, Goldman
Sachs was his number one private contributor in his election. There's
three or four former Goldman executives working in the Obama
administration, the chief assistant - Timothy Geithner is a former Goldman
guy. The undersecretary of state for the economy is a former Goldman guy.
So, it goes on and on like this.
The way that they still - and I - at first, I thought the speech
today was going to be Obama like a parent scolding the child sitting there
in the front row, but I think that maybe it's the other way around. Maybe
it was the child yelling at the parents. The parents still call the shots
here. Their money is what controls all of this.
O'DONNELL: Well, he's not the first Democratic president to take this
on. As you know, as well as anyone, that President Franklin Roosevelt went
after Wall Street. He had a totally different style. He merrily went to
war with them.
MOORE: Oh, yes.
O'DONNELL: He referred to them the enemy, went to war with them. And
let's remember, he was coming to the presidency after being governor of New
York. He knew these people.
O'DONNELL: He knew what they were up to.
O'DONNELL: And he did not try to get them to come along with him -
MOORE: Oh, no.
O'DONNELL: - and agree to hold hands and fix this thing.
MOORE: Of course, not because, again, you know, these Wall Street
guys, these hot shots down there, they like to refer to themselves as
sharks or predators. So, you would never invite a predator to go along
Roosevelt gave a great speech just down the street here in Madison
Square Garden in 1936 where he basically put it on the line to Wall Street.
He said, government organized - government by organized money is just as
evil as government by organized mob. And he told - he told the bankers
and the Wall Street people that he wanted historians to record his term as
president as the president who became the master on behalf of the American
people, the master of Wall Street and these banks, not the other way around
where we all work for them and, in many cases, lose our jobs, our homes and
any number of things because of this incredible crime that's been
I just - I can't believe that nobody's been arrested yet. And I'm
glad that the SEC filed those civil charges. But hopefully, the criminal
charges are coming, you know, somewhere down the pike.
O'DONNELL: Michael, what do you make of the transparency issue?
There's a lot of talk about let's make all of this transparent. But, with
some of these things, like derivatives - so what if they're transparent?
O'DONNELL: Can - I mean, can you stare at a derivative and figure
out its value, even if it is transparent?
MOORE: No. And the average person definitely can't do that. You
need an engineering degree from MIT essentially to figure it out. And I
don't even know if that will do you any good.
But, no, this whole thing about we're all just going to make it all
transparent, well, yes, but you're still allowing the same bad thing to
exist. If you still allow the derivatives and the credit default swaps to
continue - which is what's going on now. I mean, they're back at it in
record form, which is, of course, as many economists will tell you, is
going to lead us to another crash, that's down the road, not much is being
done about that. No one's really talking about it.
Even this bill - I mean, it's great that Democrats have got this
bill, but it's a - it's a weak bill. It's like the health care bill. I
mean, it will be good for some things, but it doesn't have any real teeth
to it. It doesn't have any real power to frighten these people to obey the
And I think that unless the Sherrod Brown amendment, you know, the
Brown and Ted Kaufman, the senator from Delaware - they're offering an
amendment. And I hope that that is brought to the floor because that will
really put some teeth on it. It'll at least put a cap on the size of these
banks so they won't allow - they won't be allowed to be, you know, too-
big-to-fail from that point on.
But the current bill doesn't say that. It's still going to allow them
to be too-big-to-fail. And, frankly, I agree with the economist, Simon
Johnson, who says that these banks should be broken up into about 28
different banks. That would - that would protect us.
O'DONNELL: Michael, I always find - in a normal universe, I find it
to be a legitimate question about whether government can get something more
right than, say, the private sector. Let's just, for the moment, think
about, well, OK, the size of banks. What are the odds of government being
able to measure that and get that more right than the private sector would
do? But as I say, that would be my question in a normal universe.
My question now is: whatever government does, whatever it does on Wall
Street, can it possibly mismanage Wall Street worse than Wall Street has
already done itself?
MOORE: Yes, that's an excellent point. What I think - I think what
can prevent that from happening, that mismanagement - and again, this
isn't really in the bill right now, there's no agency that's going to be
the watchdog over Wall Street and these banks to make sure that they do
obey the law. They've got it set up that way, and that's why, you know -
I mean, the stock market went up after Obama's speech today. They weren't
too worried about what was going to happen. And in fact, I think they were
kind of happy that there wasn't going to be any real enforcement, any real
teeth in this.
And they're just going to go about their merry way like they are right
now. The story in "USA Today" today that pointed out how the bailed out
banks are not only - give more compensation in bonuses than the non-bailed
out banks, they're also the banks handing out the fewest loans to Americans
who need them right now.
So, our tax dollars have helped them, they have not turned around and
helped the American people who need that money for a home, to start a
business, to sustain a business, all these things that - unless President
Obama really takes this thing like President Roosevelt did, we're going to
see another crash, and they're going to get away with another crime.
O'DONNELL: Michael, you didn't take your high school economics
course, but you've done an awful lot of homework on this subject in the
last few years.
Looking at the history of our economies, both here in the United
States and internationally, in the wave of regulation that started in the
20th century, what has happened to capitalism? Did regulation in Europe
and in the United States stifle the growth of wealth in the capitalist
MOORE: No, actually, when there was regulation and when there were
rules, that's when we had the greatest expansion of our economy, especially
after World War II, and there were very strong restrictions on banks. I
mean, Keith has had Elizabeth Warren on this show, and she makes the point
very clearly that from the time that those laws were put in place during
the Depression by Roosevelt and the Congress, up until the '80s when we had
the savings and loan crisis, when Reagan started removing the regulations -
for all those years, there was never one huge banking mess or huge
failure where the economy was going to collapse. Those regulations worked
And once they were removed, by Republicans and Democrats - well, we
saw the results of this, and they're still going to not have the old rules
back in place. That's what has to go back in place. That's why the
Sherrod Brown amendment has to be put on this Democratic Party bill.
O'DONNELL: Michael Moore, please stand by. There is much more for us
to discuss tonight, including the latest black mark against health
insurance company, WellPoint. A "Reuters" exclusive reports WellPoint had
software that would flag policies for cancellation if a woman was diagnosed
with breast cancer.
And later, the Newt Gingrich conundrum. Last week, he said he was a
tea partier. Last night, he said the tea party was going to be the
militant wing of the GOP. That's your cue, Sarah Palin.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: Michael Moore returns to talk health care,
including the alarming story about WellPoint and the Republican idea of
bartering for health care with chickens.
And later, Newt Gingrich calls tea party followers "the future
militant arm of the Republican Party," and that's not sitting well with the
tea party. Good luck with that 2012 campaign, Newt. That's next.
This is Countdown.
O'DONNELL: It's the kind of thing that the health care reform law was
supposed to fix: a major insurance carrier sets up a computer algorithm so
it can find and then drop policy holders recently diagnosed with breast
cancer. Our fourth story on the Countdown: State and federal regulators
are now saying what Countdown viewers already know - that the Obama health
care law lacks the enforcement powers either to stop or even substantially
reduce such a practice.
Tens of thousands of Americans have lost their health insurance after
being diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions that require
expensive treatments. The practice is known as rescission. And last year,
congressional committee said that WellPoint is one of the worst offenders.
In an exclusive report by investigative journalist Murray Waas, "Reuters"
disclosed that WellPoint has been targeting women with breast cancer,
dropping their policies for what the company claims is either erroneous or
WellPoint would not comment on the breast cancer cases specifically,
but said in a statement that rescission investigations are triggered
because of various criteria, including certain types of medical claims.
The company also said it changed its rescission practices to ensure they
are handled properly back in 2006.
Health care is another of many topics that filmmaker Michael Moore has
Michael Moore, thanks for staying with us - from New York tonight.
MOORE: Do you like my wardrobe change?
O'DONNELL: Yes, very good, very good.
In the 2007 documentary you did, "SiCKO" -
O'DONNELL: - you showed - you went to great lengths to show what
insurance companies will do when you actually - as a customer and patient,
when you actually start costing them money.
MOORE: They're supposed to. Yes.
O'DONNELL: This doesn't surprise you at all.
MOORE: Oh, no. No, in fact, they're supposed to do it. They're
legally required. They have a fiduciary responsibility, according to our
laws, to maximize profits for their shareholders. So, they're legally
required to do whatever, whatever they can do, to make as much money as
possible for their shareholders.
Well, the way you make money with an insurance company is - if you're
an insurance company, you try to pay out as few claims as possible. And
so, they have entire departments dedicated to finding any loophole or
anything they can do.
And this is - this is one of the sickest stories, because they
literally developed a software program that would - that would
specifically flag any woman who's diagnosed with breast cancer, or any
problem. It could be breast cancer, it was flagged. Then they have a
whole team of people then that start to look for ways to drop this woman.
They don't really want to come out and say it's - you know, we're
getting rid of her because she has breast cancer. You know, it's kind of
crass. So they go about looking for some mistake she made in her
application form, maybe a preexisting condition that she had that she
didn't report, something like that. That's what they do.
They're in the business to make money. That's how they make their
money and that won't change - even very much under this new health care
bill because, as you said, there's no real enforcement power and there's no
real fine. Last time I was here, I pointed out to you that if the
insurance company is caught denying somebody because of a preexisting
condition or throwing them off the rolls because they get sick, their fine
according to this new law - is $100 a day.
$100, that's their - now, do you think they're going to take the
fine? Or do you think they're going to pay out thousands of dollars to
help you if you have cancer?
I think they're probably going to take the fine, and then there's no
police action on the part of the American people. There's just no
regulatory, no committee, no nothing that's going to go after them when
they do this.
And can I point something else out, Larry? The $100 a day thing - if
you have a copy of the health care bill, you can't find that in the bill.
It's so hidden, the way they put it in there. I mean, my team of
researchers spent a couple weeks on it and they found where this actually
is going to be just $100 a day. But it's not there. It's hidden.
And, in fact, if anybody is watching this, if you want to just - get
the bill online, see if you can find where that is. If you can actually
find it and break the code of this bill - you know, send me a thing on
Twitter and I'll send you - I'll come over and wash your car.
O'DONNELL: OK, bloggers. Michael's given you your assignment for the
Michael, to go back to your point, I think it's the crucial point
here. The insurance company is doing what it's supposed to do in a
capitalist system. This is where we have to crosscut between your movie
"SiCKO" and "Capitalism."
And I have always felt that we shouldn't be putting insurance
companies in this position. We shouldn't have people sitting in those
cubicles out there in the Midwest in these different office towers trying
to cut people out of their health insurance because the government should
be the first provider of this kind of service in this kind of service and
these kinds of situations. This is the argument for single-payer health
MOORE: That's right.
O'DONNELL: This is the argument for Medicare for all - is that the
insurance companies are indeed doing exactly what they're supposed to do,
and the new law leaves the insurance companies in place to continue to do
I think that, you know, 100 or 200 years from now when historians or
anthropologists dig us up, they're not going to understand why we allowed
companies to make a profit off someone who got sick. They're just -
they're not going to understand. They're going to - how cruel were these
people? And they were like the richest country on earth at the time, and
they allowed some of their people to make a profit off others when they
fell ill. They won't understand it.
We're going to look as crazy and demented as we look back on, you
know, hundreds of years ago when people did cruel things or when they put
leeches on their bodies to heal themselves or whatever. We thought they
were crazy. Well, that's what they're going to think of us, that we allow
this to continue.
Here's how President Obama can fix this - and everybody watching
should write to their member of Congress or senator and to President Obama
and say: look, you do have the authority to write the regulations, to
actually write how this health care bill is enforced and he can - he can
do - and believe me, if you remember, George W. Bush did this quite often
he can write and do executive orders to issue some of the regulations
that need to put some real teeth into the health care bill so that the
WellPoints and these other insurance companies aren't able to punish you
because you come down with breast cancer.
I mean, it's up to our president and our Congress at this point to
O'DONNELL: And, Michael, we have a new Republican idea this week
coming out of the Nevada Senate campaign. Harry Reid's Republican opponent
in Nevada says that if you're having trouble affording health care it is
perfectly reasonable to barter with your doctor. She actually specifically
suggested you could possibly bring a chicken for your doctor. She was
offered an opportunity - repeated opportunities - to back down, to say -
O'DONNELL: - well, I didn't mean it literally. She means it
literally. She is, I guess, showing us the Wild West idea about what
health care reform should be - go back to a barter system.
MOORE: Well, you know, I think if we go to chickens in order to pay
the doctor, who's going to want to go to the doctor's office when it's full
of chickens? I mean, I don't know if you've ever cleaned out a chicken
coop, but, man, that's the last thing you want are a lot of chickens
So this - this actually, Larry, proves something very fundamental
about our two parties. Say what you want about the Democrats - they're a
bunch of wimps, they don't have courage of their convictions. Yes, they
can be bought, by big corporations and lobbyists, too - just like the
But the one thing that they're not - the Democrats - the one thing
they're not is completely crazy.
The ideas like this just make you want to go, what has happened? I
mean, I used to know, really - nice, smart, good Republicans. What has
happened? This is so ultimately bizarre, and I just hope they keep coming
up with more ideas like that so the American people are reminded just how
bad we had it for those eight years in the first part of this decade, and
we certainly don't want to go back to that.
O'DONNELL: And now we know what Harry Reid has really been up against
in Nevada, which, to my eye, makes his work this year all the more heroic
in trying to push forward something that in his state was never popular,
and in his state - a state where you can get away with, apparently, at
this point, political statement s like bring a chicken to your doctor to
pay for your medical bill.
MOORE: I just don't know what to say. The last thing you want to do
is actually have to barter with your doctor. Imagine this: you're going in
for a really important operation, and you have to - like you're going to
bargain him down. And let's say you get a good deal. How is he going to
feel going into the operating room?
I want that guy to be really happy. I don't want to have to have just
gone through some serious negotiating - negotiation with him or to have
filled up his office with a bunch of chickens.
O'DONNELL: Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, and friend of
Countdown, thank you very much for co-hosting the first half of the show
MOORE: Thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Newt Gingrich says the Tea Party doesn't have a
future as a third party, but it does as the militant wing of the GOP.
Well, that settles that, then.
And the future of energy consumption, how the U.S. military is leading
the U.S. away from fossil fuels.
O'DONNELL: When Bill Clinton compared today's political climate with
the political climate around the time of the Oklahoma City bombing,
conservatives accused the former president of trying to smear Tea Party
protests. In our third story on the Countdown, we patiently await what
those same conservatives will say about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
categorizing the Tea Party as potentially, quote, "militant," end quote.
Speaking at a trade event in central Pennsylvania, Mr. Gingrich called
the Tea Party movement "a natural expression of frustration with
Republicans and anger at Democrats. But it is more likely to end up as the
militant wing of the Republican party, rather than an independent or third
Not all in the crowd agreed with Mr. Gingrich's description. Tea
Party supporter Susan Livermore telling the "York Dispatch, "I wouldn't use
the word militant."
Also at odds with Newt Gingrich Gingrich's choice of words? Newt
Gingrich. Just last week, Gingrich spent Tax Day with Tea Partiers in
Austin, Texas. There, he praised the movement as crucial to taking back
the White House and Congress. He told attendees they were serving their
country through patriotism, right before signing the Tea Party pledge,
Contract From America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm going to sign this myself as a
Tea Partier. I think every one of you should feel comfortable saying to
the news media, saying to elected officials, we are American citizens, and
we have the right to gather, and we have the right to petition. That was
the base on which America grew.
And anybody who lacks respect for that should automatically be
defeated as being totally out of touch with the spirit that made America
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The perfect time to bring in the D.C. bureau chief for
"Mother Jones," and columnist for "Politics Daily," David Corn.
David, so last week, Newt's calling himself a Tea Partier. This week,
he dismisses the movement as a militant fringe. So which Newt is right?
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": Well, I'm not sure when he called it
militant that was an insult. I think there's always been a split
personality within Newt Gingrich, between the Newt that wants to see
himself as a statesman, and the Newt that wants to see himself as a bomb
thrower, which is how you recall he came to power back in the late '80s and
So - but the important thing you hear is that he's talking about the
Tea Party as an extension of the Republican party, which polls show it is.
O'DONNELL: And how is this likely to play with Tea Party operatives?
Do they want to be seen, or at least temporarily, anyway, as more
independent of the Republican Party? Does this get Newt in trouble with
the Tea Party movement?
CORN: Well, there was an interesting piece in "Politico" today that
made a somewhat obvious point that poll after poll after poll show that the
Tea Party folks are basically just Republicans. You know, they identify as
Republicans or independents who lean Republican; 70 percent of them voted
for John McCain.
So this isn't a third party, independent force rising out of the
ether, or descending from the ether. It is basically ticked off
Republicans. They're ticked off mainly at Obama. And they're ticked off
a little bit at the Republican party for not having defeated Obama. So in
that way, there's not a lot of, I think, debate over whether they're going
to be Republicans or not, because I think, already, they are.
O'DONNELL: Now does this put Newt in a crossfire with Sarah Palin?
Is she warming up her Twitter account to clarify the Tea Party is not at
all militant? Not in any way?
CORN: Listen. I think that everybody, you know, on the Republican
party who has any idea of running in 2012 - I don't know why Newt thinks
he can, but obviously he likes to at least imagine that he can - you know,
they want to have the Tea Party energy on their side. It's really the only
base in the Republican party left. I'm not sure they have that much
energy, but - given the advanced age, the average advanced age of the tea
But militant I think can be spun one way or the other. Were the
people who took arms at Lexington and Concord militants? You bet you. You
can bet your chicken on that, Lawrence, if you want to go to the doctor's
office. So I think this is a word game that Newt and Sarah Palin can spin
in whatever direction they want. And I think a lot of the people I see at
the Tea Party rallies would be happy to be called militants, rebels, you
know, almost treasonous, if the government they're overthrowing is that of
O'DONNELL: David Corn of "Mother Jones," thanks for taking a stab at
deconstructing Newt Gingrich.
CORN: It's tough. It's tough.
O'DONNELL: It is.
CORN: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Dick Cheney is on the hunt to take out Charlie
Crist in Florida. But is the Cheney attack only making it easier for
Christ to jump ship and run as an independent?
And the U.S. military today tested a fighter jet running on biofuel.
How the armed forces are leading the way for energy independence.
O'DONNELL: The Dark Knight has made his choice in the Florida
Senatorial Republican Primary. In our number two story on the Countdown,
former Vice President Dick Cheney likes Marco Rubio. Cheney also takes a
nice, healthy swipe at Rubio's rival, Governor Charlie Crist. And if Crist
really wants to be a senator, he will have better luck running as an
independent, according to the latest poll.
Finally, what would a GOP segment be without RNC Chairman Michael
Steele, who admitted that there really is no reason for African-Americans
to vote Republican?
First, the former vice president, who has now endorsed Rubio in that
Republican primary, and in a statement offered his view of Governor Crist.
"Charlie Crist has shown, time and again, that he cannot be trusted in
Washington to take on the Obama agenda, because, on issue after issue, he
actually supports that agenda. Lately, it seems Charlie Crist cannot be
trusted even to remain a Republican. I strongly urge him to either stay in
the Republican primary or drop out of the race. The only winners from an
independent bid by Crist would be Barack Obama and Harry Reid."
And, of course, maybe Charlie Crist. But there is more evidence that
Governor Crist would fare better as an independent. In a new Rasmussen
poll, Crist still trails Rubio, but not by much. Rubio 37 percent, Crist
30 percent, and the Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, 22 percent. But
Crist was 17 points behind Rubio in the same Rasmussen poll last month.
So, by that measure, he is gaining real ground. And a Quinnipiac poll from
last week had Crist ahead in a three-way race with Rubio and Meek.
Meantime, Chairman Steele went before a group of students at Depaul
University and was asked why an African-American should vote Republican.
His answer, "you really don't have a reason, to be honest. We haven't done
a very good job of really giving you one. True. True. For the last 40
years, 40-plus years, we had a southern strategy that alienated many
minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the south. Well,
guess what happened in 1992, folks? Bubba went back home to the Democratic
party and voted for Bill Clinton."
Ahead on MSNBC, there will be much more on the political admissions of
Michael Steele when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour.
But up next on Countdown, same old FA-18, whole new fuel, biofuel.
The military is leading us into a brave new energy world.
O'DONNELL: This year, for the first time, the United States Defense
Department acknowledged a national security threat posed by climate change
and our reliance on fossil fuels. In our number one story, the good news
on this Earth Day is that unlike Congress, the Pentagon is doing something
about it. Today saw the Navy's inaugural flight of a Green FA-18 Hornet
fueled in part by this: the Camalina Setina (ph) Plant. It's in the
mustard family. You may recall last month, when President Obama rolled out
his new oil drilling policy at Andrews Air Force Base, he used the hybrid
FA-18 Hornet as his backdrop.
The jet, seen here taking off this afternoon at a Naval air station in
Maryland, is powered by a 50/50 blend of jet fuel and biofuel which is
produced by that plant. The Pentagon expects the jet to perform exactly
the same as a fossil-fueled model. And today's inaugural test flight went
of without a hitch.
It was not, however, the Pentagon's first green test flight. In
March, the Air Force flew their own hybrid plane, an A-10 Warthog.
Beyond aircraft, there is also the Pentagon's green effort at Nevada's
Nellice (ph) Air Force base, which boasts what President Obama has called
the largest solar installation of its kind in the western hemisphere.
The United States Army says it has plans to buy at least 4,000
electric vehicles in the next three years.
And back to the Navy, last year, they launched their first hybrid
amphibious assault ship, the USS Macon Island. Its maiden voyage, from
Mississippi around South America to San Diego, was fueled by gas and
electricity, and saved taxpayers two million dollars.
Joe Romm is a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress, and
the editor of the blog ClimateProgress.org. He is also the author of
"Straight Up, America's Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on the Status Quo,
Media, Politicians, and Clean Energy Solutions."
Joe, welcome to the show tonight. How did the Pentagon end up leading
the way in our effort to get this country off fossil fuels?
JOE ROMM, CENTER FOR AMERICA PROGRESS: I'm sure it strikes people as
a little odd, but there's three main reasons. First, they're the biggest
energy user in the United States. And they know that we just can't keep
sending a billion dollars a day overseas to buy foreign oil, a lot of it
from countries that don't like us. So number one is, you know, it's just
bad national security to be funding our enemies.
Secondly, you know, the biggest - the most exposed part of our
military on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan are the convoys of gasoline
trucks and diesel trucks. So they understand that energy wasted at the
front means lives lost.
And the third reason is the one you alluded to, the climate change.
The generals have come to understand that one of the biggest sources of war
and strife in the future is going to be global warming causing, you know,
droughts and strife and fights over resources. So the Pentagon's
responsible for, you know, fighting all those wars. And if we can prevent
them by reducing pollution today, that's a big improvement for U.S.
O'DONNELL: And how much encouragement or resistance is the Pentagon
getting from Congress on this?
ROMM: They're getting resistance from the usual sources, you know,
the conservative, big oil polluters, like Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
He said the only reason they're talking about national security and energy
is because they want to get back in the lime light. But I think everyone
else understands that this is a matter of national security.
They just did a poll that three out of four veterans of the Afghan and
Iraqi wars support strong action on climate and clean energy. It's just a
matter that makes sense; energy independence, clean air, clean water,
O'DONNELL: Is there anything developing technologically in the
military that will have spin-offs that are usable in the private sector?
ROMM: Well, you know, remember, the military helped give us the
semiconductor revolution by helping make major purchases. And NASA bought
solar cells for all the space missions. So yeah, the military can make a
big difference through large purchases of solar cells, of energy
efficiency, and, as you mentioned in the beginning, the Green Hornet buying
these green fuels can help jump start that market.
O'DONNELL: Just looking forward quickly on what's left of the
legislative year in the Congress, what do you see happening on energy
ROMM: Well, Monday's going to be the big day. Monday is when we are
going to get the bipartisan climate clean energy jobs legislation,
introduced by Senator Kerry, Senator Lieberman and conservative Senator
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. It's going to be a bipartisan bill.
People who want to follow it closely, they can come to my blog
ClimateProgress.org, where I track the matter. This is going to be the
first piece of legislation in two decades that can reduce pollution and
promote clean energy.
So it's going to be an uphill battle, as I'm sure you know, to get 60
votes. But I think it's a big deal.
O'DONNELL: Joe Romm of ClimateProgress.org and author of "Straight
Up," thanks very much for your time tonight.
ROMM: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Burbank edition of
Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann, who will be
back tomorrow. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW." Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED. END