'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Guests: Rick Steiner, Russ Lea, Arianna Huffington, Dan Savage, Dave
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
As Bonnie makes landfall in Florida, the tropical storm's impact is already being felt at the site of the BP blowout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be a delay in the whole system. Everyone here is frustrated that they were so close and now we have to wait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Rick Steiner with answers on the storm and the science.
Plus, BP tries to put university science departments along the Gulf Coast under contract. You won't believe what's in the fine print.
No change on climate change. Democrats in the Senate abandon efforts on a bill to reduce carbon emissions without a fight. Why are they in the White House giving up so easily on an issue that their voters care about so passionately?
Arianna Huffington joins us to discuss Obama's enthusiasm gap.
A question of leadership: If President Truman as commander in chief integrated the Army over the objections of some soldiers, why won't President Obama do the same thing over "don't ask, don't tell"?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. DAN CHOI, U.S. ARMY: I've been serving openly in my infantry unit and there's been nothing but positive impact. There's no reason why anybody needs to be afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The rap on Alvin Greene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAPPER: When I say Alvin, you say Greene. Alvin Greene, Alvin Greene. When I say Alvin, you say Greene. Alvin Greene for senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: No matter how you say it - why he's still the better choice than Jim DeMint.
Beck and his call on financial regulation:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: What is wrong with us, America? Why are people not in the streets? Your republic is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Plus, the leader of the Tea Party Caucus reveals their true agenda.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: Won't that have a chilling effect?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Good evening from Las Vegas. We're here for the Netroots Nation Convention. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
In the Gulf of Mexico tonight on this day 95 of the oil spill crisis:
Vessels that have been there for most of that crisis are leaving, not because the job is done, but because of the subject of our fifth story tonight: Bonnie - formerly a tropical storm, now just a depression.
Bonnie got depressed going through Florida, but hey, that can really happen anywhere. Bonnie is projected to reach the spill site this weekend and make landfall on the Gulf Coast Sunday. Bonnie is no longer considered a threat to the well and could even help to break up some of the oil in the water. Although, it could also push the oil further into the Gulf Coast marshes and wetlands.
Onshore, Transocean whistle-blower Mike Williams testified today about new details of the deadly explosion on April 20th. Among them, alarm systems routinely shut down, including at the time of the blast. Williams claimed a system to isolate well gas from ignition sources had also been turned off, and that he was reprimanded for questioning the system which was, of course, designed to save lives.
BP, meanwhile, removed another photo from its Web site today after Gizmodo revealed the photo had been Photoshopped, to make it appear that a helicopter was flying and that the water was bluer than it really was. The flying thing is difficult to pull off when you forget to remove the air traffic control tower, and when the instrumentation reveals that doors are open and the parking brake is on.
BP's more troubling attempt to buy the silence of Gulf Coast scientists is the subject of our second interview tonight.
But we begin with marine conservationist and consultant Rick Steiner, who advised on the response to the Valdez spill.
Rick, thanks for your time tonight.
And let me start with - let me start with Bonnie. What do you make of the plan to pull the vessels away during this storm?
RICK STEINER, MARINE CONSERVATIONIST: Well, I don't think they should be pulled away at all. I think this is not a huge storm at this point.
These vessels, the relief well rigs, the rigs that are drilling the relief
wells are enormous ships. They're 30 to 40,000-ton ships, football field
long by a football field wide about. They're built to withstand hurricane
category 5 hurricanes and 100-year storm events.
So, there's no reason they can't withstand 30 or 40 knots of wind. To an Alaska fisherman, that's a good day on the water in a much smaller boat.
So, I'd suggest, and I did suggest to Admiral Allen earlier today in an e-mail that they simply disconnect from the wells, remain on station and get back to work as soon as possible on the relief wells. We can't afford another week or two, leaving that well under high pressure. Every minute is a risk.
O'DONNELL: Now, the president was briefed on Bonnie's potential impact, which means he must have been briefed on what it might do to the oil that's already in the water.
What do we need to know about that?
STEINER: Well, we know exactly what will happen. With any storm system like this, the oil that's on the surface gets emulsified and broken up and naturally dispersed down into the water column. So, the water column will be exposed to more oil. But as it's broken up, it will weather quicker. That's a good thing.
The other thing, though, that will happen is it will surge along with any storm surge into areas in-shore that had not previously been oiled.
The other thing is with the churning up of sediment from the high turbulence from any storm, that sediment will attach to the oil droplets in the water and after the waves and winds subside, that will settle to the seabed. So there will be a new vector, unfortunately, of contamination into the seabed.
There's not much that can be done about any of this, but they can pre-stage some response equipment into the area where they're expecting the storm surge.
O'DONNELL: So, it seems like there are mixed effects here, some helpful. Am I correct in what I think I just heard is the net effect of the storm is more harmful to the environmental situation?
STEINER: It depends on which environment you're looking at. If it's the offshore environment, I've seen several oil spills where hurricane-force winds entirely dissipate the oil and put it down into the water. So for a short-term, it's more toxic in the water column, but over the long-term, it degrades quicker. In the inshore area, it's certainly going to be a problem. A lot of the islands will be flooded and the oil that's in that water will then contaminate those islands.
O'DONNELL: Take us through Mike Williams' testimony today. He's testifying that he was reprimanded for his concern about some of the systems - systems designed to save lives that were turned off or not being used properly.
STEINER: Yes, it was quite striking, certainly. And, you know, the list of mistakes and decision-making and in equipment failure that caused this disaster just continues to grow almost by the day.
Mr. Williams' testimony today was quite poignant in that he basically said that they had averted, inhibited the general alarm system on the rig which is sort of like taking the battery out of your smoke detector in your house, not wanting to be bothered by an alarm in the middle of the night that could have given rig workers more time to evacuate the drill floor and not get trapped there in the explosion. There were alarms that went off, but not the general alarm, apparently.
They also had a problem with, you know, months before this with rubber gaskets blowing up in the well. They had computer problems.
But the most significant thing I think today that he said was that they had failed to - they had bypassed a system that would have isolated a potential ignition source in the engine control room, on an electronic panel, and that could have caused the spark that ignited this enormous amount of methane that was blowing out of the well.
O'DONNELL: Rick Steiner, marine conservationist and consultant - thanks for your time tonight, Rick.
STEINER: My pleasure.
O'DONNELL: Let's turn now to Russ Lea, vice president for research at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile.
And, Dr. Lea, I should explain that the "Mobil Press Register" obtained a copy of a contract BP offered your institution - a contract that you turned down. And we're going get to that in a moment.
But, could you first explain what BP wanted you to do?
RUSS LEA, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA: BP approached our scientists in the process of trying to engage them to become part of their expert witness team both for the NRD process which is a process by which damages are assessed eventually against the spill and for interpretation and potentially legal proceedings in the future. So, they had a discussion with our scientists. They were concerned about the terms and conditions, and they came to the university and expressed their concerns.
O'DONNELL: Is it common for universities to be contacted to be expert witnesses in litigation?
LEA: Faculty are often contacted to be expert witnesses just because they are on the cutting edge so often of the technologies that evolve in courtroom discussions and litigations. So, it's not unusual at all for our faculty to be on plaintiff sides or defendant sides of lawsuits.
O'DONNELL: And why did you turn it down?
LEA: Well, in this instance, the contract was specific in terms that BP had the right to fund research at the university which would be conducted by our faculty and our faculty's grad students using the laboratories of the university. And in the process of conducting research, then our researchers would want all that new data and all that information to be subject to transparency, peer review and sharing with the public especially with relation to the spill. And they wanted to keep that confidential for up to three years.
O'DONNELL: Now, BP says they only wanted to keep legal matters confidential. Is that something you could actually separate in research like this, something that was a legal matter and something that wasn't?
LEA: Well, it would have been very difficult for fisheries biologist in conducting new research using BP funds under this contract to determine what might have been a legal matter and subject to their interpretation as a legal matter and what might not have been a legal matter. And it was totally subject to their interpretations. And our faculty would have been mightily confused by that.
O'DONNELL: Do you know if other research institutions and universities are doing these deals with BP?
LEA: Yes. From what I've been able to determine, there have been individuals and others within universities that have signed these contracts. Some have felt uncomfortable with some of the pressure that has been put upon them and have backed out of that. But from what I understand, several individuals or potentially even universities signed those.
O'DONNELL: And is it possible that some of them negotiated terms that could be acceptable in an academic setting?
LEA: That I have no knowledge of. But we tried to do likewise. We tried to steer BP back in their research in support of our university scientists to be - allow us to be transparent, allow us to publish and not tie up the new research results that they might have funded. So, we came right back to them with a different set of terms and conditions that were favorable to doing research in the manner by which we normally do that.
O'DONNELL: And how much money was BP offering in these kinds of contracts? Is it - is it - were they being very generous in their offers?
LEA: Well, the eventual contract that I saw had a blank line for the compensation basis. But typically, I think, faculty consult anywhere from 250 to 500. In environmental kinds of cases, if you're talking medical malpractice, it could be much, much higher. But from my experience, environmental consultants tend to be in that range.
O'DONNELL: And when they - when they do this kind of work in other litigation cases, are they allowed to publish, as they would, with peer review research?
LEA: Yes, I think - I think the difference here is we had a single contract. And within that single contract that was trying to tie up expertise as an expert witness or someone that would help them eventually in litigation or part of this damages assessment process and also buried in the contract was the right of BP to have our scientists conduct research. And so, it was all-in-one contract and really it should have been separated out. We should have had a contract by which we can do our research and publish.
And if they wanted experts to line up on their side - which would be a natural thing - everybody is looking to experts related to scientific interpretations of this disaster, I think they put it in all agreement, and that was very troublesome to the academic university.
O'DONNELL: Dr. Russ Lea of the University of South Alabama - I think we all appreciate you maintaining the research standards of your institution. Thanks for joining us tonight.
LEA: Thank you very much. Thank you.
O'DONNELL: In the wake of the oil blowout, it seems like a no-brainer. Energy legislation is desperately needed now. But that's not how the Senate sees it. And why isn't the White House fighting back?
Later, the leader of the Tea Party Caucus describes her vision of a do-nothing Congress. Do nothing but issue subpoenas.
O'DONNELL: Still ahead on Countdown: President Obama won the White House on a platform of clean energy. So why isn't he heating up debate over an all but dead climate bill?
And Lt. Dan Choi just spent 17 months serving in the Army quite openly without any problems, until he was fired yesterday - the case for repealing "don't ask, don't tell" now, instead of later.
Stay with us.
O'DONNELL: Nineteen months after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and 95 days into the Gulf oil disaster, comprehensive energy legislation has died a quiet, lonely death.
In our fourth story: the replacement bill which does next to nothing for energy reform is pleasing just about no one.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered the new bill since the votes simply weren't there for the comprehensive measure. Even Democratic senators from industrial and coal-producing states were not on board.
And the new bill could hardly be called scaled-down since it bears
almost no resemblance to comprehensive energy legislation. The new bill is
pegged to the Gulf oil spill and would increase liability costs for oil
companies responsible for spills. The bill would also include incentive
for home energy efficiency and encourage the production of vehicles powered
by natural gas, among other small bore provisions.
The bill might be taken up on the Senate within the next two weeks. The legislation would not include a cap on greenhouse gases or a nationwide mandate for renewable energy.
Senator John Kerry, the co-sponsor of the Senate energy bill that was abandoned, said that the new bill was, quote, "admittedly narrow."
And Obama administration official told "The Washington Post" that the White House was "not packing its bags" on a comprehensive energy bill, but, quote, "We're not interested in a vote that's not going to succeed."
Let's bring in the co-founder and editor-in-chief of "The Huffington Post," Arianna Huffington, also author of the upcoming book, "Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream."
Arianna, I'm in Las Vegas with the Netroots Nation Convention this weekend, and I'm having trouble convincing the Netroots Nation that this is the way the Senate works. When you don't have the votes, you just move on. That was my experience working in the Senate, but no one here wants to hear that.
What's wrong with giving up when you don't have the votes?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: But, Lawrence, you know perfectly well as a student of history that you never have the votes for anything major. That's what Lyndon Johnson told Martin Luther King in March 1965 when they met about the Voting Rights Act. And Martin Luther King went out and the Selma March happened, and a few months later, somehow we had the votes.
And even with the health care bill, you know, Nancy Pelosi didn't have the votes until she had the vote, until she made deals and twisted arms, and suddenly, she had the votes.
So, this is a major piece of legislation. It's an imperfect one, the one that just died, but major. And so, it would have required a lot of leadership, which is the only way that you create the votes.
O'DONNELL: Why hasn't the White House and the Democrats been able to use, develop, jump off from the emotional base created by this oil spill, which begins with an industrial homicide that kills 11 people and then gets into this great extraordinary environmental disaster in the Gulf? There's a tremendous amount of emotional reaction to that in the country, and apparently none in the Congress.
HUFFINGTON: Well, Lawrence, that's what stuns me the most. I mean, the president on June 15th, when he addressed the nation, spoke like that.
In fact, I just want to remind you of his exact words. He said, "Now is the time to embrace a clean energy future. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny."
Now, you cannot speak in such grand terms about our own destiny, about innovation, about the clean energy future and then do nothing. That is for me what creates that incredible loss of trust in this administration. It's better to say nothing if you're going to do nothing.
O'DONNELL: And who are these Democratic senators from coal states and industrial states - I mean, who are killing this thing? And why isn't there any Democratic Party pressure on them?
HUFFINGTON: Well, we know for sure Jay Rockefeller is one of them.
Claire McCaskill was on the fence. She has not said how she would vote. But she was one of the eight Democratic senators back in February who signed a letter to Lisa Jackson at the EPA opposing the agency's regulations of the greenhouse gases.
Carl Levin of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and the usual industrial state Democrats who are not willing to see beyond the very, very short-term of this country's future, which has to be about innovation and clean energy, which is also a great way to create millions of new jobs.
O'DONNELL: Now, there is some talk of revisiting a comprehensive bill in a lame-duck session of Congress after the midterm elections, after presumably the senators who have lost their seats on the Democratic side are comfortable in their retirements and the ones who have been able to hold on to their seats are confident enough to vote for something like this.
But, Arianna, that sounds to me like some sort of carrot that they're holding out for people who still have hope for something comprehensive. It doesn't sound like a likely strategy. Does it sound possible to you?
HUFFINGTON: No. It's pure fantasy, Lawrence - because after all, there are going to be setbacks in this election for Democrats.
You know, even the possibility of Republicans winning the Senate, in which case Senator James Inhofe would be in charge. And, of course, there's no greater climate change denier than Senator Inhofe. So, he would be in charge in the Senate. And if Republicans win the House, then Congressman Barton, the one who apologized to BP, would be in charge.
O'DONNELL: Energy issues are a number one priority for many Democratic Party supporters, many Barack Obama supporters, many of them are here in Las Vegas at the Netroots Nation Convention. What does this cost President Obama and the Democrats with the Netroots Nation, with supporters, who are passionate about this issue?
HUFFINGTON: It costs a lot in enthusiasm and it costs a lot in trust. But for me, this is beyond left and right issue. This is an issue about the future of this country. And just as this bill collapsed, we have China actually announcing all these new plans about cap-and-trade. So, we have China leading the way. And we have America falling behind. Not good for our future.
O'DONNELL: Arianna Huffington of "The Huffington Post" - thanks for your time tonight, Arianna.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: Integrating the Army and repealing "don't ask, don't tell" - the pages out of the President Truman playbook that could help President Obama.
And later: Beck's call on financial regulation. Does he really think that America as we knew it last week no longer exists?
O'DONNELL: Ahead on Countdown: Wasting time to survey what members of the military think about letting fellow troops who are already serving alongside them serve openly. "Don't ask, don't tell" - why wait to repeal it?
And later, the enigma that is Alvin Greene. We've learned one more thing today: he has become a musical inspiration.
O'DONNELL: In 1948, Jackie Robinson played his second season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, because general manager Branch Rickey broke baseball's color barrier and hired him. In 1948, white communities could no longer legally prevent homeowners from selling property to people of color, because six justices on the united states supreme court ruled that racial covenants were unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. And in 1948, the armed forces |z were integrated, because President Harry Truman issued an executive order desegregating the military.
Our third story, civil rights have been achieved in this country not because popular opinion shifted, but because a handful of people who were in a position to do something and did it. So why can't president Obama do that now, and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
Obama's decision to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military now on hold, as the Pentagon undergoes a year-long review, which includes asking some 400,000 Americans in uniform how they feel about repealing the policy. But this isn't the first time the Pentagon has surveyed the troops. Newly released documents, published exclusively by "Wonkroom," show that in 1942, white members of the armed forces overwhelmingly believed that white and black troops should be segregated.
President Truman integrated the military anyway. A few years later, the Pentagon asked white Christian enlisted forces what they thought about Jews; 86 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that there is nothing good about Jews; 61 percent in agreement that you can always tell a Jew by the way he looks; while a bare majority of 51 percent agreed that Jews are the biggest goldbricks in the Army.
To a military infested with those opinions, on July 26th, 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, establishing equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed services anyway.
Gay men and women are already serving alongside other troops in the U.S. military. They just aren't doing it openly, except for Lieutenant Dan Choi, who until yesterday - when he came out on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" in March 2009, he then kept serving as a soldier for a year and a half until he was fired yesterday. Last night, the Iraq War veteran spoke to Rachel again about how his infantry unit treated him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. DAN CHOI, FIRED GAY ARMY OFFICER: There is no need for a survey. There is no need for a poll. There is no need for people to put up shower curtains because they're afraid of what might happen.
I've been serving for 17 months quite openly. And I've seen nothing but positive impact when you tell people around you, people who you work with the truth about who you are. There is nothing but an increase in unit cohesion, in team work, in trust. Honesty is the fabric, the foundation of all of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Still lots to talk about with syndicated columnist Dan Savage about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He is also the editorial director for "The Stranger," a Seattle news weekly. Dan, Lieutenant Choi makes it clear that his infantry unit has advanced since the attitude of 1948. But the Pentagon still made the decision to fire him after thinking about it for a year and a half. What were they thinking about for a year and a half?
DAN SAVAGE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't know what they were thinking about, but I know what they were thinking like. The pentagon, the U.S. Senate, the people who run the armed forces, they're thinking like old men. And the people who serve with Dan Choi are thinking like young people.
One of the things that distinguishes younger generations from the older generations is homophobia. People are much more homophobic - the older people are much homophobic than younger people. The enlisted people, the troops that Dan served with are younger people.
So what you really have here is the political class, the Senate, the guys who run the Pentagon, the women who run the Pentagon projecting on to younger troops their own hang-ups, their own homophobia. Younger people are past it on this issue, on same-sex marriage, on Employment and Nondiscrimination Act. Young people embrace full equality for gays and lesbians. Older people have a problem with it. That's what you're seeing here now.
O'DONNELL: If President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates have decided that gays and lesbians are going to serve and cannot be kicked out for that, shouldn't that be the end of the discussion? The U.S. military takes orders. They don't vote on what to do in the military.
SAVAGE: Congress has to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell because it's a law. In the meantime, the president can issue a stop loss order that prevents any further discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. What is interesting I think about the policy and why I think a stop-loss order should be issued immediately is it creates a blackmail risk. It creates a security risk. Every person who is gay or lesbian and currently in the Army and hiding it, their career is at risk if outed. That person, if somebody should get the drop on them and threaten to expose them, is a security risk.
And therefore, we should get rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, just if we're serious about protecting ourselves and protecting our country.
O'DONNELL: What do you think the rationale is - the current rationale behind commissioning surveys? Clearly, if you were going to go by the 1948 surveys, you wouldn't have Jews in the military at that time. What help could the survey possibly be?
SAVAGE: If you went by surveys of the American people, we would never have made any progress at all. Broad majorities of the American people supported the internment of the Japanese, denying the vote to women. Broad majorities of the American people are wrong so often that when a broad majority of the American people are in agreement about something, we should give it a second look.
What is going on with the survey, though, is - if Barack Obama were a white Republican, he could issue - he could Nixon and China this and just end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The hit on the Democrats from the right wing, from the Republicans always is that the Democrats are insufficiently deferential to and respectful of the military. So this process has to be dragged out, lest the Democratic president and the Democratic majorities in Congress are accused of not deferring to the military.
Ironically, it creates the impression, though, also harmful to the Democrats, that the president is weak and can't just make this decision, that he can't treat this issue the same way that he treated General McChrystal. And he fired him. He didn't hesitate. And he shouldn't hesitate to end the enforcement of Don't Ask, Don't Tell while we wait for the results of this survey.
O'DONNELL: Do you think this decision is politically and, in other ways, easier than the 1948 decision to integrate the military? Because gay men and lesbians are already serving in the military?
SAVAGE: They are. And what is really indicative of how politically easy low-hanging fruit, if I can use that expression in a conversation like this, broad majorities of Americans support the immediate repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Liberals, conservatives, independents, Tea Partiers, this is a no-brainer politically, no risk, no brainer. And the president should have done it two - he should have done it the day after he was sworn in, issued that stop-loss order while Congress worked on a formal repeal of the law.
O'DONNELL: Syndicated columnist Dan Savage, also of "The Stranger," thanks for your time tonight, Dan.
SAVAGE: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, there is little about Alvin Greene that isn't captivating. A new rap video about the South Carolina Senate nominee is no exception.
The truth about the Tea Partiers and their agenda. Surprising admissions from top Republicans in Congress.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she talks to Congressman Anthony Wiener about the Obama paradox; why doesn't the president get more credit for passing so many major pieces of legislation?
O'DONNELL: If only every political campaign video could feature a catchy call and response, a danceable jobs platform, a rap-infused plea for the nation's party people to come together, and an auto tune takedown of Senator Jim DeMint. Our number two story, one such political campaign video features all of that. It's called "Alvin Greene is on the Scene."
In a moment, we will play it for you. The three-minute long video mash-up features Alvin Greene's campaign highlights, including Keith's interview with Mr. Greene accompanied by a rap. It even has a series of credits at the end billing South Carolina's nominee for Senate as the video's director, producer and editor.
The only problem is Alvin Greene had nothing to do with it. The person claiming responsibility now is a San Francisco-based producer named Jay Freedman (ph). Mr. Freedman telling CNN the video is meant to be a parody.
Nevertheless, the Greene campaign Tweeting a link to the video. As for the candidate himself, he has heard the rap, and he likes it. Quote, "it sounds good. Make sure everybody hears it."
And so, without further ado, straight from the Youtube, I give you "Alvin Greene is on the Scene."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're up for this?
ALVIN GREENE (D), SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For running for Senate?
GREENE: Yes, I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you think you can win?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: In the interest of fairness, we would like to extend an invitation to Jim DeMint to submit his own campaign rap video. Your move, senator.
Michele Bachmann's vision for a Republican-led Congress: lots of testifying, no legislating. The week in Tea Party madness, next on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: At a breakfast meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill this week, House Minority Leader John Boehner offered a description of the people who he has met firsthand showing up at Tea Party rallies. Boehner said some are disaffected Republicans, some Democrats, and there are, quote, "always a couple of anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office."
In our number one story, Boehner's remarks about the homicidal maniacs he has met in the Tea Party go a little further than the NAACP call for the Tea Party to repudiate any racists in their midst. Meanwhile, Tea Party Caucus Leader Michele Bachmann tipped her hand on the 2011 Republican legislative agenda if they take control of the House. And Mr. T, Glenn Beck, says it doesn't matter anyway because the American Republican -
American republic died this week.
Wednesday at a media breakfast held by the "Christian Science Monitor," John Boehner was asked why he didn't join Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. He explained he doesn't join any caucuses, but offered praise for the Tea Party movement. And gave this characterization of what he has witnessed at Tea Party rallies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Let me tell you about these events. Yep, there is some disaffected Republicans there. There are always some Democrats there. Always a couple of anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office. But I tell you this, 75 percent of these people who show up at these events are the most average everyday Americans you have ever met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Sounds like a description of the crowd along the presidential motorcade route in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963.
And yesterday at the GOP youth convention, Michele Bachmann revealed what she thinks House Republicans should do if they gain 39 seats in November: subpoena, baby, subpoena. From the website ThreeFingersOfPolitics.com.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assuming the Republicans win the House back this next cycle, how do you feel about the chances for, like, a little oversight or a little accountability now that the Republicans have the subpoena power? How aggressive do you think?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Oh, I think that's all we should do. I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Needless to say, Bachmann didn't refer to any specific nonsense she hopes to expose. And after years of predicting the end of the republic is near, yesterday Glenn Beck finally declared this grand American experiment dead. Because of, that's right, the new financial regulations law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It takes 2,300 pages just to outline the different groups of people who can later come and figure this out. What is wrong with us, America? Why are people not in the streets? Your republic is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining me now is MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel. Dave, to John Boehner's point about there being always a couple of homicidal maniacs in the Tea Party assembly; doesn't he understand that historically that is all its taken and even less, just one, for assassinations of our presidents and for taking shots at Ronald Reagan? Does he think this is a small thing to admit?
DAVE WEIGEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm not used to hearing Ohio Republican politicians talk so blithely about anarchists. Maybe 109 years is enough time to get over it. But it was - that was a striking comment. I think what he was trying to do was, you know, kind of divert the discussion from how the Tea Party movement has basically been successfully integrated into the Republican electorate, and point to the more wild elements that the media likes to pay attention to.
He was doing that just to keep this discussion, which is good for Republicans, about how diverse the Tea Party is and how it's not really an arm of the Republican party. Again, it's just weird to hear a man from McKinley's state make that comment.
O'DONNELL: Now you've been around Tea Party people. Do you have any quibbles?
O'DONNELL: Do you want to adjust his description of the crowd in any way?
WEIGEL: You know, I don't think he was wrong. This is something that has been in the movement since the beginning. And there really are - I don't think - I don't disagree with him. There are elements at these Tea Parties - our cameras manage to find them pretty easily - that make Republicans look bad. The Republicans at this point are confident that the electorate maybe doesn't care.
Now, I don't know if they're overly confident. Sharron Angle when she says something that is more anarchist than popular gets in trouble and sees her poll numbers go down. Same thing for Rand Paul. I think they might be whistling past the graveyard here.
But this is true. The Tea Party movement has brought into the Republican fold the kind of activists and the kind of thinkers that weren't really comfortable in that movement, or comfortable brushing elbows with the Republican leadership for the last decades.
O'DONNELL: Now has Michele Bachmann done her Republican colleagues a favor or created a problem by creating this Tea Party Caucus in the House? I can see where creating the caucus says to the Tea Party, we care about you in the House of Representatives; make the House Republican. I can also see where it creates a problem for Republicans in the House, who aren't joining it and feel under some pressure to do so.
WEIGEL: Well, it irritates some Tea Partiers because they really don't like Republicans adopting them this way. They're going to vote for Republicans, more or less, when they go in November. They're working for them right now. But seizing them this way, I'm sure some Tea Party activists talk to Michele Bachmann all the time. She's swarmed when she speaks at one of these rallies. I'm sure many are comfortable with the idea. A lot are uncomfortable.
As far as Republicans - the rest of Republicans go, it's just - it's just superfluous. This doesn't really mean anything. It's just another way for reporters to try and nail them on questions about if they support this one Tea Party activist in this one state who said something. I think it is a case of her maybe taking an idea that the Tea Party doesn't even agree with to make the Tea Party - to make the Tea Party more politically controversial. It's confusing. I can see where Republicans don't like it.
O'DONNELL: And to Glenn Beck.
O'DONNELL: Do you have any information on where he is moving his family this weekend? To what country now that the American republic is over?
WEIGEL: Well, I just read this actually as a promo for his upcoming August rally in Washington and his September 11th rally in Alaska. And I've accidentally just promoted both of them by talking about them. Look, in order to get people to show up to his events and buy his books, he needs to convince people that it might already be too late. If you rush to Wal-Mart fast enough and get a copy of his novel, maybe we can turn this clock back.
But I saw that - I'm not sure this is the first time he has predicted the death of the republic. Maybe someone with more patience than I can comb through the transcripts. But look, this is the kind of - this is the kind of thing that he does that I think kind of fuels what Tea Partiers are saying and then creates a problem down the line for Republicans when they're asked, OK, you've got a lot of people out there saying it's the end of America; do you agree with this.
O'DONNELL: MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel, thanks for your time tonight.
WEIGEL: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: That will do it for this Friday edition of Countdown Las Vegas. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. You can catch my new show on MSNBC at 10:00 p.m. week nights this fall. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." Good evening, Rachel. Wish me luck. I'm going out into the Las Vegas evening now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END