Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday, January 24th, 2011
Special bonus podcasts: reactions to Keith leaving MSNBC

from Rachel Maddow: download, YouTube
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Friday, January 21, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, January 21st, 2011
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball

Fridays with Thurber:
The Scottie Who Knew Too Much
via MSNBC (and signoff)
via YouTube, h/t 80blatz

Guests: Ezra Klein, Jonathan Alter, Josh Marshall, Dr. Jonathan Slotkin



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

Republicans Mensheviks revolt against their House economic czar.

Paul Ryan wants tax rates for the rich to be lower than tax rates for the middle class. "Not enough," says the Republican Study Committee. "We want $125 billion cut from this year's budget. Rescind the stimulus. Cut the federal workforce by 15 percent. We want $2.5 trillion cut in the years to come."

Please don't ask us to show our math.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: In other words, the real meat upfront cuts are still substantial, about $330 billion, ain't the $2.5 trillion. So, what is the more - I don't know - realistic figure?

REP. JON CAMPBELL (R), CALIFORNIA: The more realistic figure than the two - oh, you mean, other than what's listed on here?


OLBERMANN: Advice to the fired up GOP freshmen from the Tea Party's key astroturfer?


DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The first thing they can do is to manage their enthusiasm.


OLBERMANN: Was that a cub reference?

Ezra Klein on the numbers, Josh Marshall on the political infighting.

The president and the State of the Union and cutting Social Security and/or Medicare. New polling overwhelming against it and liberal activists tell the president, "Don't do it, we got your back against the Republicans who will do it."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At 59, I'm just trying to make it until I can retire at 62. Now, Senator Lindsey Graham says he wants to raise the Social Security retirement age.


OLBERMANN: Arizona wears its heart on their sleeve for Gabby Giffords. After her office release this photo, she leaves for Houston and one of the world's best brain trauma rehab centers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has great rehabilitation potential. I think those three words will sum it up - great rehabilitation potential. Great rehabilitation candidate.


OLBERMANN: One politician knows all about that kind of recovery.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As devastating as Gabby's injury is, it does not surprise me - believe it or not - that she's making the progress she's making.


OLBERMANN: Can Giffords come all the way back, too? We'll ask an expert.

Repealing health care reform. The poll numbers sink again. The repeal, any of its number, drops from half to 40 percent.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, January 21st, 655 days until the 2012 presidential election.

And the battle has begun between the House GOP leadership and the Tea Party-infused House new Republicans over how much to cut the federal budget.

In our fifth story: House GOP economic czar, Paul Ryan, whose road map would privatize Social Security for the rich and impose a middle class tax hike while congressman of the study committee wanted to roll back spending levels to 2006 and slash the federal workforce by 15 percent. With that group's chairman hoping that Democrats will actually, quote, "find Jesus."

The economic GOP economic czar, first. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address next week. The chairman chosen by the Republican leadership for fiscal bona fides, as well as for his now infamous roadmap, though even some Republicans don't want to talk about that, much less implement it. But the roadmap includes raising taxes on Americans making between $20,000 and $200,000, cutting taxes in half for those making more, the wealthiest Americans, to the point where the average tax rate for the middle class would be higher than that for the wealthy - according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

Also, replace Medicare and Medicaid with a voucher system and privatize Social Security for the wealthy - namely and practically speaking, the end of Social Security as it is drained of funds.

Do you think that Republicans will have a hard time enacting their devious (ph) schemes? You could be right. You'll recall that Chairman Ryan, the czar, and the GOP leadership backed off the Republican pledge to cut $100 billion from this year's budget because the fiscal year will be halfway over by the time they got a crack at it.

But the Republican Study Committee, which boasts 2/3 of the Republican caucus and 74 of its freshmen, is crying foul. That committee's chairman, Congressman Jim Jordan and its members, unveiling their own budget plan to reduce spending not to 2008 levels, as suggested by GOP leadership, but rather to 2006 levels and keep them there for 10 years - cutting $2.5 trillion in spending.

Just one example of how they would achieve that - reducing the federal workforce by 15 percent they claim by attrition. Will that affect unemployment?

And the Republican Study Committee doesn't care about half year versus full year. They still want their $100 billion cut this year and then some.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: We also grab unspent stimulus dollars to get to $125 billion for this fiscal year. We think it's important we meet that number, $100 billion, to see our discussion and debate that is starting to unfold as we speak.


OLBERMANN: In case you missed it, the soft-spoken congressman said we also grab unspent stimulus dollars.

Tea Party-backed freshman, Congressman Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina insisting he did not speak for all GOP newcomers proceeded to all GOP newcomers.


REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The pledge, the $10 billion, was simply a start. It was simply a floor. We want more.


OLBERMANN: As for the Democratic-controlled Senate, Chairman Jordan remains full of hope.


JORDAN: Who knows? You know, some of these Democrat senators may have - may have seen the light and found Jesus and realize they need to cut spending in light of what the American people said last fall. So, I think you let the process work out.


OLBERMANN: It's Democratic, Mr. Member of the Republic Party.

Meantime, one of the members of the Republican Study Committee, Congressman John Campbell should perhaps not be a point person for this effort.


CAVUTO: So, in other words, the real meat upfront cuts are still substantial, about $330 billion, it ain't the $2.5 trillion. So, what is the more, I don't know, realistic figure?

CAMPBELL: The more realistic figure than the two - oh, you mean, other than what's listed on here?



Finally, former House majority leader and Tea Party astroturfer, Dick Armey, is calling on GOP freshman to curb their enthusiasm. Lest they repeat mistakes by the Republican House circa 1994, quoting, "We didn't manage our enthusiasms and the fact to the matter is, it ended us - getting us in trouble. We ended up with that horrible nightmare called the government shut down." And that hat.

Let's bring in "Washington Post" staff reporter, "Newsweek" columnist, MSNBC contributor, Ezra Klein.

Ezra, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Is it part of the dynamic here that many of the GOP freshmen want to force exactly the kind of government shut down that Mr. Armey now just so retrospectively deems a nightmare?

KLEIN: They want to credibly threaten to force it.


KLEIN: So, if you're going to - if you're going to take a hostage and if you're going to try to get what you want because you've taken a hostage, you need to be credible when you say, I'm going to shoot him.

So, you can't say, we would never let the debt limit expire and then assume the White House is going to give you everything you want. You need to be so clear that you would let the debt expire, that you have no conception of how horrible that will be, the White House says, you know, we can't let that happen. These guys over here, they're really crazy. They give in to your demands.

OLBERMANN: Before we dissect these extraordinary, competing Republican plans, the first interparty showdown, is this going to be about this $100 billion number with the leadership saying, we can't possibly do that, not half of fiscal year, and the rank-and-file, you know, sort of going glassy-eyed and you just seeing dollar bills dancing in their head more?

KLEIN: It's going to be very difficult for the establishment, the sort of the elders in the House GOP caucus. What's in that figure, that $100 billion or $125 billion figure is pretty amazing. They'll privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in one year.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the only things keeping the housing market afloat right now. They are backing nine out of every 10 new mortgages being sold. They are the only people essentially backing mortgages. You think them away, housing collapses. Housing collapses, the economy goes into a dip. The economy goes - gets back into a dip because the Republicans did something, Republicans don't remain in power for very long.

I mean, this is a world in this bill where there's no Amtrak, with no PBS. It's really dangerous stuff.

And one last thing on this - an unspent stimulus fund, what that generally means: people in your community are building a road. When that road is finished, they get money. An unspent - when you take that money back, they stop building that road. You just have an unbuilt road there.

These aren't - it's not money people are just walking around with in their pocket. And again, this is stuff that makes real people and real communities mad when they have a half finished road that's supposed to go by their house.

OLBERMANN: A road to nowhere.

KLEIN: A road to nowhere.

OLBERMANN: We haven't talked much about Chairman Ryan's authority to set the spending levels once the current stopgap budget expires in March, but before they pass a new budget. And it really is kind of - to use that favorite Republican term - a czar.

How does that work and does it give the GOP and Mr. Ryan sort of outsize leverage to slash spending?

KLEIN: Well, they still need the Senate and the White House to agree.

So, it gives them no more really leverage than they would have before. It's a bit of an odd set up in there. But Paul Ryan is going to have an interesting couple of months here. He's giving the State of the Union response. He's got his own plan, which honestly is going to be a very, very difficult thing to defend if too much of it comes out, if it becomes too much a portion of public attention.

And meanwhile, he's going to have these people who are even further to his right pushing for something, unlike his plan that doesn't delay the pain for a long time but moves it right now. All these folks who have to somehow manage the competing demands of being part of the Tea Party, part of the Republican Party and part of the government, the folks who are right in the middle of that triangle there, are going to have a real tough time with it because from what you saw from the Republican Study Committee today, these guys don't want to disappoint the folks they promised the massive cuts, the massive change in Washington to and they're probably not going to listen to the folks who've been there a little bit longer and say, no, no, no, you got to rein it back, you got to be calm. We're the - we're the adults now.

OLBERMANN: And by the way, Ryan is giving one of the State of the Union responses will get into later on in the hour.

Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" - great thanks. Have a good weekend.

KLEIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Now, let's look at the politics, the internal politics. I'm joined here by the editor and founder of "Talking Points Memo," Josh Marshall.

Good evening, Josh.


OLBERMANN: Policy obviously begets politics. We touched on some with Ezra Klein just there.

But are House Republicans fast appointing some sort of conflicts, some sort of actual get the popcorn popping and let's sit back and enjoy this?

MARSHALL: Absolutely. I mean, you know, some of this is natural when you come in on a big wave and enthusiasm. And Democrats have some elements of it in 2009 and 2010.

I think the key is, though, is that, you know, there's the difference between what the Democrats want and what John Boehner wants, Paul Ryan wants. But a lot of what we saw in the campaign trail last year wasn't so much like a platform. It's like performance are. This is like - this is Primal Scream kind of stuff.

And it's very - you know, it's Boehner and the leadership of the Republican Party, they're in a bit of, you know, a very tough place, as Ezra is saying, that you - you know, you have people who want to be reelected next time, too. And you got those Tea Partier who is - who would like for all the Tea Party stuff, it's kind of nice to be a member - you know, member of the House.

So, it's a classic issue of, you know, letting some of your core supporters down easy if you can, or ending up with a situation like Bill Clinton was able to maneuver the Republicans into in 1995 where they walked themselves right off a cliff. And so, a lot of it is going to come down to Obama and whether he has the finesse to manage them into a jam.

OLBERMANN: I'm tickled, by the way, by the image of the Primal Scream. That was the second choice of the name of the party, the Tea Party or Primal Scream.

MARSHALL: They went back and forth. Yes.

OLBERMANN: We quoted and this is an interesting segue from Primal Scream, we quoted Steven LaTourette from Ohio, ironically enough, who says, "Constituents want cuts, but not my spending." But having thrown them out of the Republican Party, just for acknowledging that, but is that the greatest political dimension to this that the GOP has to somehow find a solution to?

MARSHALL: Yes. I mean, it's the classic issue with the heart of a lot of politics. There is a lot of broad unhappiness about the fact that the federal budget is sort of chronically out of - out of balance. But people actually - there is a reason why we have a lot of this spending. A lot of different people rely on it. Some of it is - some of it, they shouldn't rely on and other of bit is very key.

But it's not there for nothing. And he's - you know, that's the essential issue and, you know, that's the key problem and it's part of what they're going to confront starting in like a week.

OLBERMANN: As we know always with the Republicans particularly, but Democrats do this, too, politicians do it, too - the easiest way to solve an internal problem is to find an external enemy.


OLBERMANN: Is there a goal, is there one goal that they share that maybe they can pin all of this in this entire issue of cuts, or either they're not enough, or they too draconian, or they hurt the wrong people? Is it all going to wind up being sort of hung, you know, around the image of Barack Obama, it's all his fault, no matter what the outcome is?

MARSHALL: I think that will be tough and President Obama will have to play his cards pretty poorly to get to that place. I mean, what President Obama needs to be thinking of and the White House needs to be thinking of, is you want to - you want to seem reasonable. You know, federal budget is in bad shape, we've got to do this and that, but he can't go so far in their direction that when the reality of what these cuts do start dawning on people and people are unhappy that the Republicans say, like, you know, me and Barack. We're re like this. You know, we're right together.

So, but I would - you know, the Democrats are finding out that there's something to be said for being in the minority sometimes. It's not all bad.

OLBERMANN: Government shut down or holding the debt limit hostage? Are these realistic possibilities or is there just too much common sense even in the GOP?

MARSHALL: I actually think it's a pretty realistic possibility. I'm not so sure about it. I think - not raising the debt limit is too insane even for - even for some of the new folks on Capitol Hill. But the government shut down, I think, you know, you listen to what some of the folks were saying a few moments ago and a lot of the new people in the House are not - you know, a lot of them didn't take it quite far enough. That was the problem back in 1995.

OLBERMANN: When they were running Amway.


OLBERMANN: Josh Marshall of "Talking Points Memo" - a pleasure.

Have a good weekend.

MARSHALL: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Allowed to pick only one thing to cut to try to reduce government spending, a new CBS News poll suggests 13 percent would cut Social Security, 21 percent would cut Medicare and 55 percent would cut the military. As the State of the Union looms, is the president listening?

And the extraordinary news conference in Houston by the rehab specialist who's just gotten their chance to examine Gabby Giffords, quote, "She looks spectacular."


OLBERMANN: Is it possible that a Democratic president would actually use part of his State of the Union address to advocate cuts in Social Security? Jonathan Alter on what looms next week.

Doctors are now confirming, as she left Tucson for the rehab center in Houston, she heard the applause, she smiled and teared up. The doctors in Houston say she looks spectacular. So, how much better can Gabby Giffords get?

Support for the full or just partial repeal of health care reform drops again in the polls, and we'll close it out with one more Friday with James Thurber.


OLBERMANN: Get your dirty government hands off my government-issued Medicare. A new poll asking U.S. citizens if they would rather reduce the deficit by paying more in taxes or by cutting funds for programs from which they directly benefit, 62 percent of respondents say, cut my programs, to only 29 percent who say, raise my taxes. Fifty-five percent calling cuts to important services.

But despite the theoretical willingness to sacrifice when it comes to the government services people are willing to slash, there are two areas that remained untouchable: Medicare and Social Security.

And our fourth story tonight: what those poll numbers mean for President Obama's State of the Union address and for the future of the Democratic platform.

The poll conducted by "The New York Times" and CBS News shows an overwhelming reaction against the idea of cuts to Medicare and Social Security. In fact, respondents would rather cut military spending and by a huge number than either social program and by a margin of almost two-to-one. Americans are also strictly opposed to raising the retirement age to help offset spending.

And benefit cuts and a higher retirement age are both recommended by the president's deficit commission, and we know what they had a deficit of. It was led by Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles.

When presented with those recommendations, the president said all options are on the table. But before he delivers his State of the Union next Tuesday, he might want to listen to this guy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you look at how we should approach Social Security, I believe that cutting retiring - cutting benefits is not the right answer. I meet too many seniors all across the country who are struggling with the limited Social Security benefits that they have, that raising the retirement age is not the best option.



Putting those limits or off limits options back on the table has contributed to an erosion of the public's trust. When it comes to Democrats and Social Security, November 2010 poll found that Americans then trusted Republicans, the party that tried to dismantle Social Security only six years ago, more than Democrats when it came to Social Security. First time that happened since the program became the defining issue for the Democratic Party in 1930. A loss of that support has prompted liberal lawmakers and advocates to push back.

Today, the Congressional Progressive Caucus led by Congressman Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison issued a letter to the president saying, quote, "We urge you to send a clear message in your State of the Union address:

Hands off Social Security."

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee also today releasing a new ad they plan to air in Senator Lindsey Graham's home state of South Carolina, proving they will go to bat against politician who threaten Social Security benefits.


AGNES POMATA, CHARLESTON, S.C.: I work at a local library in Charleston. I love my job. But I'm in pain every day at work. I have a torn rotator cuff from carrying books. My hands have been numb at work. There are times when people come up with stacks of books and I want to cry.

At 59, I'm just trying to make it until I can retire at 62. Now, Senator Lindsey Graham says he wants to raise the Social Security retirement age.

Senator Graham, people like me just won't make it.


OLBERMANN: Joining us now, Jonathan Alter, national affairs correspondent for "Newsweek" and, of course, MSNBC political analyst.

Hello, Jon.


OLBERMANN: Good to see you.

These groups as in the ones behind that ad against Graham, are they trying to show the president they will have his back if he stands up in defense of Social Security and Medicare?

ALTER: No. They are trying to show him that they won't have his back if he doesn't.


ALTER: It's a not-so veiled threat from the left.

OLBERMANN: Either what works, though, right?

ALTER: Well, it works to a certain extent. Look, he is going to speak up strongly for Social Security. Remember how well it works for Bill Clinton to say save Social Security first. He'll ill speak out strongly against privatizing. He will make everybody think in that speech that he has, you know, nothing at all critical to say about the Social Security program.

But he will also indicate, as he said when the commission report came out, that all options are on the table. Why does he have to say that? Because you can't get from here to there in terms of getting control of our fiscal future without dealing with entitlements. And you can't deal with entitlement problem in general, not just talking about Social Security, but all entitlement programs if you start saying, well, we're not even going to talk about this, this, or this.

So, it doesn't really make any sense to say, take off the table the idea of extending - raising the retirement age in 2040 or 2050 when Social Security will be 100 years old and there an awful lot of people who actually are healthier if they retire a little bit later, contrary to that woman in the ad, which, by the way, that ad - I mean, she made it seem as if Lindsey Graham wanted to take away her Social Security.

OLBERMANN: But wait -

ALTER: They're talking about way in the obvious.


OLBERMANN: Except the statistics are clear that the life age length, longevity is going up significantly only for the upper 50 percent of income earners.

ALTER: Right.

OLBERMANN: For the lower of 50, for lower 50 percent, it's been like an improvement of two years over the last 50 years. So, those - that added retirement age is not going to do (INAUDIBLE) for people who aren't making a lot of money in 2040.

ALTER: Actually, it's - I don't want to quibble over statistics, but I think the numbers are better than that. But, clearly, they - I don't want you to think that I'm for raising the retirement age right now.



ALTER: This is a problem with the debate, Keith, is that, you know, to say that - to take things of the table for people who are not even born yet, I studied Franklin Roosevelt, as you know, and what Roosevelt considered to be bedrock was what Bush tried to destroy - guaranteed return. The idea of privatizing is appalling.


ALTER: You can expect the president as well he should to come out against putting yourself at the fate of the stock market. But the idea of working around the margins of the various complexities of Social Security, it's not set in amber. There are all sorts of other ways that they can - beyond the retirement age, that they can solidify the system. And so, you don't want to tell them that they can't go to any fashion at all. And that's not particularly -

OLBERMANN: Yes. But you heard those numbers. I have them in the opening of the show. And now, it's here in my file somewhere - 55 percent, given a choice of one thing to cut, 55 percent said the military.

ALTER: The military, I know.

OLBERMANN: And then the number for it, Medicare I guess was 21 percent and Social Security was about 15 or something. That's a lot. And that implies there are Republicans and Democrats and young and old people and it's more than the others combined.

Why is there not - does anybody - does this president have the guts to talk about cutting the military?

ALTER: It's a great question. And, you know, they just cut the F-22, but he has not cut nearly deeply enough in the military budget. It's a real test of Obama. How far to the center is he going to move? Is he going to get to a point where he's pandering on military spending?

I think he wants to cut everywhere and he feels like, given the deficit picture, not in the short-term, but the medium and long-term, he has to cut virtually everywhere. But he's going to let the Republicans make their suggestions.

So, think you'll hear him say, as he said before, I'm open to all your suggestions. I'll listen to what you have to say. That way they make the politically unpopular proposals and he gets to stay above the fray. So, you're not going to see him go out there and put his neck out and say, you know, we're going to cut Social Security. That's not going to happen.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Well - Republicans are not going to lead on the military cut, any way. In any event, Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - great thanks. A pleasure.

ALTER: Yes, thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Giffords moved today from the hospital she's been since she was shot two weeks ago tomorrow, to one of the finest head trauma rehab centers in the world. The new doctors are stunned. They say her ability to respond puts her in the top 5 percent of brain gunshot victims - how much better can she get and how quickly?


OLBERMANN: Gabby Giffords and her recovery and the new phase that began today, coming up.

Historically, though, not hellos, but goodbyes for January 21st, and ranging the entire political spectrum, from King Louis XVI of France, executed on this date in 1793, to Lenin, who died, perhaps poisoned, in 1926, though he still looks pretty good under glass. To Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell in 1950, to the most infamous totalitarian of them all, Colonel Tom Parker in 1997. Thank you, thank you very much.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Bakersfield, California with an invention that really exemplifies the idea that just because you can make something does not mean it's a good idea to do so. Say hello to the double-decker bike. It provides the control of a high wheel bike with the pleasant smell of sitting next to somebody's feet.

It's quite simple to operate. You just get a running start and then climb up to the top seat. Then it's just a matter of having the second rider run after the bike and get on without throwing off the balance. I can't wait to see how he improves the car when he gets his driver's license.

To the Internets. Let's meet Stefan Houser (ph) and Luka Sulik (ph), a pair of Croatian cellists. Hi. They have decided to use their incredible talent to do a cover of "Smooth Criminal," complete with cello twirls and a fight scene. Could be the best string cover of a Michael Jackson song that you will hear at least today.


OLBERMANN: Clearly they do not have the dance moves of those Filipino prisoners who do the Jackson tunes. But listening to them was a real "Thriller."

And Madrid, Spain, hola. Hola. Where we find a flea bag hotel I'm not sure even a flea would sleep in. Conceived by artist H.A. Schult (ph) and sponsored by Corona, the hotel was constructed using litter collected from beaches in Spain, Italy and France. Designed to bring awareness to the plight of the world's coastlines, but the hotel isn't just for show.

Corona selects individuals who get to stay a night in one of the five double rooms the hotel has. I guess they need to be careful with who they let in. I mean, you don't want somebody trashing the place.

Time marches on.

The specialists in brain injury rehab who saw Gabby Giffords for the first time this afternoon seemed elated and stunned at their first news conference. We will have the key moments and we'll talk to an expert about what that which they said means, next.


OLBERMANN: They came out today by the hundreds to show their support, carrying flags and signs reading "We Love You, Gabby," "Tucson Goes With You," "Come Home Soon." They watched an ambulance carrying Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords pass. Less than two weeks ago, they did not know if she would survive.

Today, we learned from one of her doctors that inside that ambulance, she could hear their applause and it made her smile and tear up. Our third story, as the congresswoman begins her long and arduous rehabilitation process, her doctors offer unusually frank and hopeful insight into what's already a remarkable recovery.

This morning, the congresswoman was escorted from the Tucson University Medical Center to begin rehab in Houston. She was able to catch one glimpse - that is she looking at the Santa Catalina Mountains before she left. The photo released by the congresswoman's office, showing Giffords in her hospital bed, with her husband Mark Kelly at her side.

Accompanied by her husband and her mother, two staffers and a doctor and a nurse, the congresswoman was then taken first by emergency flight, then air ambulance to Memorial Hermann Hospital, a world renowned brain trauma facility in Houston, at which she will begin her rehab process.

This afternoon, doctors there gave an update, offering stunning details of a transfer described as flawless. Doctor Randalle Friese traveling with Congresswoman Giffords.


DR. RANDALL FRIESE, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: When we were traveling through the streets of Tucson, there was several time we could hear applause in the ambulance with Gabby. And she responded very well to that, smiling and, in fact, even tearing a little bit. It was very emotional and very special.


OLBERMANN: Friese explained how the congresswoman was fit for a special helmet to protect her brain during the transfer.


FRIESE: We had one fitted for her. The first thing that Mark asked us was, hey, can you make us another one with the Arizona flag on it, because that's what she would want. And we immediately got one the next day.


OLBERMANN: The team of rehab doctors at Memorial Hermann sharing their observations on how well Giffords is doing.


DR. GERARD FRANCISCO, MEMORIAL HERMANN HOSPITAL: She has great rehab potential. I think those three words will sum it up: great rehabilitation potential, great rehabilitation candidate. She will keep us busy and we will keep her busy as well.

DR. DONG KIM, MEMORIAL HERMANN HOSPITAL: She looks spectacular in all ways. From a neurological point of view, first, she came into the ICU and she was alert, awake, calm. She looked comfortable. Very good movement on the left side of her body, and was very purposeful.

We were testing her vision and she didn't like us shining the light in

her eye and wanted to keep them closed. These are all very good signs


OLBERMANN: But the most emotional testimony of the afternoon came from her nurse at University Medical Center in Tucson who traveled with her, Tracy Culbert. Giffords arrived in Texas wearing Culbert's ring and she did not want to give it back.


TRACY CULBERT, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: She was taking it off my hand and it was fitting tightly, so I took it off and asked her if she wanted to see it. She took it into her hand. And she was looking at it and turning it to see all sides of the ring. And then she put it on her finger to hold on to it.

I am going to miss her a lot. She is a very gentle person and her personality is coming out. With her touches, the way she touches us, the way that she looks at us - I'm very luck to know her.

I have a lot of hope for her and I know she is going to do great. She is a very strong woman. You can just see it.


OLBERMANN: That strength and personality seemed to amaze everyone in the room. Dr. Friese and Ms. Culbert adding the perfect anecdote to end it.


FRIESE: I'm happy to share with you that my exact words were "Gabby, I'm proud to say I voted for you before and I will vote for you again."

CULBERT: And she smiled really big that time.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn to Dr. Jonathan Slotkin of Washington Hospital Center. He's a neurosurgeon with advanced training in brain and spinal surgery. Dr. Slotkin, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: I want to ask you first not about the patient so much, but about those doctors, the ones in Houston. She looks spectacular, great rehabilitation potential, great rehabilitation candidate. She is going to do remarkably well over the next few months.

Aren't most doctors in this situation, especially with a high profile patient, really circumspect? I mean, these guys were just a little short of jubilant. What does that tell you about this?

SLOTKIN: Yes. You know, the first thing I would say about the doctors involved is that, from everything I can see, the treatment has been first-rate, text book treatment. In terms of why the jubilance, I have thought about that myself over the last couple of days.

I think it's three-fold. The first is that she does have an excellent rehabilitation potential and she has made a remarkable recovery. Even from the get go, when she was following commands the day of surgery, very, very promising.

I think there is probably two other factors at play, too. One is that we doctors are human. I think we are looking at her outcome and feeling a real sense of joy inside. Her doctors have to really feel jubilation.

But the third thing I have wondered about is to what degree - because I have said to myself, sort of like you are implying, maybe you want to play your cards closer to the vest. So I have wondered if there has been a little bit of a public or media pressure to sort of start to push things in this direction in a positive light.

But I think, by all means, she does have an excellent rehabilitation potential, Keith.

OLBERMANN: They got very, very specific. Her left side motion is really good. Her right leg is weak, but there is good tone, which suggests she might not walk on it, but she could stand on it. They are not sure about the right arm.

I know I'm asking to you guess about a patient you have never actually seen, but does any of the detail that you've heard tell you anything about what her recovery ceiling might be?

SLOTKIN: If she was my patient, with that description that you give, that we learned right now, I would say that the chance of a full recovery, from a motor perspective, is still on the table. For me, if I was her doctor, I would think it was a home run if she ended up walking with a cane or walking with crutches. I would consider that to be an outstanding result given that description.

OLBERMANN: For want of a better term, what about the parts of her that make her Gabby Giffords. Everything we've heard has hinted at this. She has vision clearly, strong hearing. She is smiling, tearing up. She is responding to applause. So that part of the politician is intact.

She is massaging her husband's neck and doing these complicated motor skills things with the nurse's ring, with the iPad, with an iPhone. Frankly, she seems, in some cases, to be goofing on people already. Can you assess by that how much of a patient like her has had their personality survive this trauma?

SLOTKIN: At this stage, that would be very advanced. Not unheard of, but advanced. The emotion and personality pieces do seem like they are progressing very, very well. To me, the biggest question over the next few months - and there is no way to answer it now - is I think we would all say there is a significant interval between functioning in society, I'm a good family member, I can carry on a conversation - to - the difference between that and a cognitive rehabilitation potential that allows you to perform as a U.S. congresswoman.

I don't think there is any way to know that now. But that will be questions about decision making, concentration, memory, things of that nature, that there is no way we can know at this stage.

OLBERMANN: The last part of this - the doctors say they have seen lip movement, but they'd only examined her for a half an hour, and they weren't willing to say that was an attempt to speak yet. Her husband said she is trying to speak. Do you have any guesses based on what we've seen, on her potential ultimate speech capacity?

SLOTKIN: Sure, that's a great question. So, you know, if you look at this brain model, everything in the brain is location. Speech production would be more far forward. Speech understanding would be sort of in this area. We know from the fact that she can follow commands that speech understanding seems to be fine. Because she has a tracheotomy in place, a breathing tube in her neck, the type she has in doesn't allow speaking. So we don't yet know if speech production is intact.

I think one of the next moves over the next couple of days is going to be transitioning that tracheotomy to what we loosely call a "talking trach." And then we'll really get a sense. But I don't think that's known right now.

OLBERMANN: Neurosurgeon Jonathan Slotkin, it's been extremely helpful. And thank you kindly for spending some of Friday night with us.

SLOTKIN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thinking about voting to repeal health care reform? The poll numbers supporting that have dropped again.

And on Friday's with Thurber, "The Scottie Who Knew Too Much."

And at the top of the hour on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," with Joe Lieberman going, who will succeed him as most hated by Democrats? I didn't write that either.


OLBERMANN: So they don't believe in the fairness doctrine, but conservatives are still going to give two rebuttals to the State of the Union next week, including one by her.

And we will wrap it up with James Thurber, Friday's with Thurber, and "The Scottie Who Knew Too Much."


OLBERMANN: There's news about the future of the Tea Party tonight, news about people who wants nothing to do them, and the possible presidential candidate who speak for them after the State of the Union. But, leading our number two story tonight, we begin with a look backwards to jobs lost under the Bush administration.

One job in particular. Teresa Chambers was the head of the U.S. Park Police in the early days of the Bush administration. Then she told "the Washington Post" that budget cuts to the park police, who patrol the monuments in Washington, could make the public less safe. The Bush administration fired her in July of 2004.

Miss Chambers spent the subsequent years fighting in court to get her job back. "Politico" reports the merit system's protection board just ordered her reinstatement, and that Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will not appeal that ruling. Ms. Chambers returns to Washington just as Republicans are pushing budget cuts which would bring spending back to the levels of the Bush administration.

And Republicans may claim that voters sent them to Washington with a mission to repeal Obama-Care, as they call it. But as with any time you are dealing with health insurance, it turns out you better read the fine print. The last poll suggested American support for the repeal of health care reform had dropped to about half.

Now, in a CBS News poll, it's down to 40 percent. Here's where the fine print comes in. This time, the pollsters also asked a series of telling follow-up questions. When they asked whether Congress should try to repeal all or just some of the reform, only 20 percent said all of it;

18 percent said just repeal parts of it.

When asked what part of the program they most wanted to see repealed, only eight percent said everything; 11 percent naming the insurance mandate. No more than one percent calling for the repeal of any other element of the reform.

Mitt Romney's health care plan from Massachusetts, a model for the national system, has turned a lot of Tea Partiers off his campaign. But the "Boston Globe" reports he may not want their help anyway. The Globe saying that even in the key early primary states of Iowa and Romney's neighbor, New Hampshire, he has made virtually no outreach to local Tea Party leaders, suggesting Romney has settled on a strategy of running as the mainstream alternative to Palin, Huckabee or whoever wins the Tea Party's favor.

One potential rival, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, is a Tea Party favorite. And just like the Republicans will have its official rebuttal to the State of the Union speech, Bachmann has announced now that she too will give her own on the website of the Tea Party Express.

That's correct. The first State of the Union Tea-buttal. This will be the last edition of Countdown. I will explain that, next.


OLBERMANN: I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told, that this is going to be the last edition of your show. You go directly to the scene from the movie "Network," complete with the pajamas and the rain coat, and you go off on an existential, other-worldly verbal journey of unutterable profundity and vision. You damn the impediments and you insist upon the insurrections. And then you emit Peter Finch's guttural resonant "so," and you implore - will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell - you know the rest.

In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative. When I resigned from ESPN 13 and a half years ago, I was literally given 30 seconds to say goodbye at the very end of my last edition of "Sportscenter."

As God as my witness, in the commercial break just before the moment, the producer got into my earpiece and he said can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we can get in this tennis result, Stuttgart? So I'm grateful that I have little more time to sign off here.

Regardless, this is the last edition of Countdown. It is just under eight years since I returned to MSNBC. I was supposed to fill in for the late Jerry Nachman for exactly three days; 49 days later, there was a four year contract for me to return to this nightly 8:00 p.m. time slot, which I had fled four years earlier.

The show gradually established its position as anti-establishment, from the stage craft of "Mission Accomplished" to the exaggerated rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq, to the death of Pat Tillman, to Hurricane Katrina, to the nexus of politics and terror, to the first Special Comment, the program grew, and grew thanks entirely to your support, with great rewards for me, and I hope for you too.

There were many occasions, particularly in the last two and a half years, where all that surrounded the show, but never the show itself, was just too much for me. With your support and loyalty, if I may use the word insistence, ultimately required that I keep going.

My gratitude to you is boundless. And if you think I have done any good here, imagine how it looked from this end as you donated two million dollars to the National Association of Free Clinics, and my dying father watched from his hospital bed, transcendentally comforted that his struggles were inspiring such overwhelming good for people he and I and you would never meet, but would always know.

This may be the only television program wherein the host the much more in awe of the audience than vice-versa. You will also be in my heart for that, and for the donations to the Cranich family in Tennessee and these victims of governmental heartlessness in Arizona, to say nothing of every letter and email and Tweet and Wave and hand shake and online petition.

Time ebbs here, and I want to close with one more Thurber story. It is still Friday. Let me thank my gifted staff here, and just a few of the many people who fought with me and for me, Eric Sorenson (ph), Phil Alangie (ph), Neal Shapiro (ph), Michael Weissman (ph), the late David Bloom, John Palmer, Alana Russo (ph), Monica Novatny (ph), my dear friends Rachel Maddow and Bob Costas, and my greatest protector, and most indefatigable cheerleader, the late Tim Russert.

Let me finish by turning again to this ritual of reading Thurber stories to you. I read these to my late father in the hospital last winter and then to you, at his specific suggestion. It is from "Fables For Our Time and Modern Poems Illustrated," published first in 1940, when they taught those - they taught these kinds of things, "The Aesop's Fables," much more than they do now.

This one is called the "Scottie Who Knew Too Much" by James Thurber.

"Several summers ago, there was a Scottie who went to the country for a visit. He decided that all the farm dogs were cowards because they were afraid of a certain animal that had a white stripe down its back.

"You are a pussycat and I can lick you," the Scottie said to the farm dog who lived in the house where the Scottie was visiting.

"I can lick the little animal with the white stripe too. Show him to me."

"Don't you want to ask any questions about him," said the farm dog?

"No," said the Scottie. "You ask the questions."

So the farm dog took the Scottie into the woods and showed him the white striped animal, and the Scottie closed on him, growling and slashing. It was all over in a moment and the Scottie lay on his back. When he came to, the farm dog said "what happened?"

"He threw vitriol," said the Scottie, "but he never laid a glove on me."

A few days later, the farm dog told the Scottie there was another animal all the farm dogs were afraid of. "Lead me to him," said the Scottie. "I can lick anything that doesn't wear horseshoes."

"Don't you want to ask any questions about him," said the farm dog."

"No," said the Scottie. "Just show me where he hangs out."

So the farm dog led him to a place in the woods and pointed out the little animal when he came along.

"A clown," said the Scottie, "a push over." He closed in, leading with his left and exhibiting some mighty fancy footwork. In less than a second, the Scottie was flat on his back. And when he woke up, the farm dog was pulling quills out of him.

"What happened," said the farm dog?

"He pulled a knife on me," said the Scottie. "At least I have learned how you fight up here in the country."

"And now I'm going to beat you up." So he closed in on the farm dog, holding his nose with one front paw to ward him off the vitriol, and covering his eyes with the other front paw to keep out the knives. The Scottie couldn't see his opponent, and he couldn't smell his opponent, and he was so badly beaten that he had to be taken back to the city and put in a nursing home.

Moral? It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers."

"The Scottie Who Knew Too Much" by James Thurber.

Chris Hayes, filling in for Rachel Maddow on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," is next. Again, all of my greatest thanks. Widen the shot out just a little bit, so we can do one of these a last time. Thank you, Brian. Good night and good luck.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, January 20th, 2011
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball
Video via YouTube: Twitter Report and Oddball

Guests: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, David Schapira, Chris Hayes, Maysoon Zayid



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

More death panels in Arizona. Jan Brewer's proposal to insure those who need transplants by cutting Medicaid to 280,000 others and mental health aid to 5,000 more. And the transplant patients are still on their own until July 1st.

Nationally, people with pre-existing conditions - don't worry about it. The insurance industry will look out for them.





REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I think, again, this is an issue for the marketplace, that the marketplace has dealt with in the past and that they can again.


OLBERMANN: Gabby Giffords' daily miracle. Her husband says she is trying to talk.


MARK KELLY, REP. GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: I am extremely confident that she's going to be back here and back at work soon.


OLBERMANN: But an outrage from the right - a blogger linked to by David Frum, demands - just 12 days into her recovery before her rehab has even begun - demands that she resign from the Congress.

Reforming the filibuster: Democrats gear up hoping that once again to hold the floor indefinitely, senators will have to - you know, get up, hold the floor, and talk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're going to obstruct, if you're going to oppose something, you have to come out of the shadows.





OLBERMANN: And why this is exactly like the "Star Trek" episode "A Taste of Armageddon."

The latest "It's your fault, you're offended" apology from the new Alabama governor for saying, "Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister."


GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: I want to tell people that I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of offending in any way, the "prince of peace" over here makes an oopsies about what Democratic leaders would have to do to their followers.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: You're going to have to shoot them in the head.


OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: Good evening in New York. This is Thursday, January 20th, 656 days until the 2012 presidential election.

Confronted with the reality that her party's cuts to insurance guaranteed for transplant patients put 98 Arizonans at risk, two of whom have already died, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has now offered a solution that will leave them at that risk until July and then pay for their transplant insurance by denying other medical coverage to 285,000 more people in her state.

Our fifth story: It's the death panel somehow made worse. And for Republicans nationally, like Michele Bachmann, it may be a template.

Arizona first - the governor's plan for those the Republican legislature cut off from transplant insurance created an uncompensated care pool of $151 million, which would be paid for in part by cutting 280,000, mostly childless adults from the state Medicaid rolls - according to the governor's budget summary. Also by cutting 5,200 more seriously mentally ill individuals from Medicaid, according to "Bloomberg News."

The problem, other than denying coverage to the seriously mentally ill in Arizona and other than kicking another few hundred thousand people off Medicare, is that those individuals would then fall into the new uncompensated pool.

As explained by Arizona State Representative Anna Tovar, through her spokeswoman, quoting, "All those people will be making use of that fund" - which drains that fund. So then, quote, "the likelihood of receiver transplants is very low."

Governor Brewer's proposal also is for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, meaning that until July of this year, the governor doesn't even have a bad idea on how to cover these life and death cases. And even then, the state would have to get a waiver from a federal law that prohibits states from changing Medicaid eligibility for two years.

Let's turn first to the State Senate minority leader in Arizona, David Schapira.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

STATE SEN. DAVID SCHAPIRA (D), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What is your opinion of this proposal by the governor and whether it would or would not achieve this claimed goal of covering these life or death cases for the transplant patients?

SCHAPIRA: The worst part about the story is it does not solve the problem. It does not pay for the transplants. And so, you know, I appreciate my colleague, Representative Tovar, saying that, you know, this might help but it wouldn't really help enough - I actually talked to the budget chief of the governor today, and this plan does nothing for these transplant patients.

And here's the reason. Because what they're going to do is they're going to kick 280,000 people off of ACCCHS, off of our state's Medicaid program. These are lots of people that are going to still be out there seeking medical services. And they're not going to be able to pay their doctors.

And so, what's going to happen is that we're going to create this $150 million pool, which, by the way, we can only do with approval from the federal government - which I don't believe they're going to give us - and approval from our state's voters. And then doctors who maybe give transplants are going to go seek to get compensated out of this fund which they will only get compensated to the tune of pennies on the dollar. So, what will happen is doctors just aren't going to do these transplants. They're still going to say back to the patients, you've got to pay for it and if you can't pay for it, we're not going to perform the procedure.

OLBERMANN: As I understood it, if you were gaining some momentum and there were even some Republicans in the legislature who were appalled at the fact that for want of a $1,400,000 that 98 lives were imminently at risk in your state because of the cancellation of this ACCCHS coverage for these transplant people - what happened to that? What chance do you have legislatively of overturning the governor's decision without going into this Rube Goldberg solution that isn't even a solution?

SCHAPIRA: I would love to say we'd have a great chance, but I don't know that that's true, and unfortunately, it's again because of the governor. I've actually introduced a bill, Senate bill 1001, and Representative Tovar has introduced a companion bill in the House to try and restore the transplant coverage. I've gone and talked to the appropriations chairman, who is the chair of the committee this bill's assigned to and asked can we get a hearing for this bill, and can we do it urgently because there are still 96 people counting on us to restore this funding.

And my response from that person was that the governor has told him, representative - Senator Biggs, the chair of that committee, the governor has told him not to hear the bill. So, the governor does not want this transplant funding restored, and no matter what kind of solutions we can come up with, she is basically so against it that she's actually telling the legislature not to hear the bill.

OLBERMANN: But your state, like most obviously, has budget issues, and we don't have to get into the weeds of the particular budget issues. But the governor's still making choices about - there is money to spend p. It's not like the pockets are absolutely empty. And she's still pushing for tax cuts for corporations as opposed to $1.4 million to potentially save 96 lives.

SCHAPIRA: Here's the saddest part of the story. The saddest part is, this is a very small amount of money relative to our overall state budget. And it's actually $1.2 million, and then we get a $3 million match from the federal government, which we've now lost because we've cut that money. If we restore that $1.2 million and get the $3 million match, we could potentially save these 96 people's lives.

There are so many different options out there of things that we could do, and the governor is unwilling to consider any of those things - regardless of the point that this could actually potentially save lives.

OLBERMANN: Last point. Did she potentially propose this solution and attach it to the issue of the transplants to cover the fact that she just had a good opportunity here to cut another, you know, quarter million people's state Medicaid to some significant degree?

SCHAPIRA: Keith, sadly, I think this was the plan all along. All along, the governor has been holding on to this transplant issue so that when the state seeks the waiver for Medicaid, we could say, well, you've got to give us this waiver because if you don't, then we are not going to be able to restore this transplant money.

The sad part is, if that was the trade-off you would think that she would be directly restoring this money as a process of asking for this waiver, and she's not. She's creating this uncompensated care fund which doesn't even solve the problem. So, she's using literally 96 people's lives as a political bargaining chip.

And all I ask and the Senate Democrats are asking is for the governor and the leadership of the capital to set partisanship aside, set politics aside, take into account the real human capital that we're talking about here, and let's just stop playing politics and deal with this issue.

OLBERMANN: Yes, apparently, you had 12 days of that in Arizona and that was this year's allocation, unfortunately, of putting politics aside and people first.

Arizona State Senator David Schapira - thanks for your time tonight, Senator.

SCHAPIRA: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: To the likely macro version of this, if the Republicans got their wish on a national scale, from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Arizona, when it was suggested that Democrats wanted the GOP to offer its so-called health care reform replacement.


BACHMANN: We'll be happy to. We have all sorts of plans. We've already been signing up on bills yesterday that we're going to be introducing to replace Obamacare and we're all too happy to come up with our free market solutions.


OLBERMANN: Free market solutions. Congresswoman Bachmann confessed that free market solutions would extend even to this.


BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: Will you allow pre-existing conditions, under a new plan, at which point it's unveiled to the American people, that pre-existing conditions will be included in that?

BACHMANN: Well, I think, again, this is an issue for the marketplace that the marketplace has dealt with in the past and that they can again. The real issue on pre-existing conditions deals with people who could go into a high-risk pool. We already have a number of states that do that.


OLBERMANN: And it's worked like a charm.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are about 50 million Americans with a pre-existing condition based on the definition used by those high-risk pools. When using the guidelines established by the marketplace, the insurance companies, there are 129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition and therefore subject to denial. Never mind those tawdry little numbers, Ms. Bachmann is eager to press her point for the next c election cycle.


BACHMANN: This is not symbolic. This is why we were sent here. And we will not stop until we repeal a president and put a president in the position of the White House who will repeal this bill; until we repeal the current Senate, put in a Senate that will listen to the American people.


OLBERMANN: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Besides which, in Tuesday's "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, only 18 percent of Americans still support full repeal.

As for the GOP backslapping over its repeal of health care reform, it was Congressman Joe "You lie" Wilson tweeting in all caps yesterday, quote, "We just repealed Obamacare." All you need to know about substance and message and I.Q.s less than 50.

Let's turn to the senior political editor at "The Huffington Post," MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: This was obviously one of those moments longed for by those congressional Republicans, as we could tell, especially from Ms. Bachmann's kind of repeal Tourette's right there.

The day after the big repeal, how's the repeal road show going?

FINEMAN: Well, I don't think it's going that well. You cited the poll numbers in the new "A.P." poll. And I think there's been some loss of steam in the repeal movement, as it runs into reality and it runs into politics - because the fact is, as even the FOX News interviewer indicated, the administration has managed to get across the point, the Democrats have managed to get across the point that the reform bill does, say that people, all people with pre-existing conditions are entitled to insurance coverage. That's a reform that most of the American people understand, and I think basically like.

Ditto with allowing kids up to the age of 26 to be covered by their parents' plans. People also understand that for the near poor, there will be other subsidies allowing them coverage, which I think a lot of people support. And the administration has gotten across the notion that there are real cuts that would save money and that Medicare and Medicaid, two of the most problematic programs in all of the federal government, are subject to reforms that might help them both.

So, all of that's gotten across. And even though there's still some support for the overall idea of repeal, these individual pieces have gotten through to the American people and made the situation a lot more complicated politically for the Republicans.

OLBERMANN: How low does the support for the repeal have to drop before the Republicans change the subject? Or are they going to try to ride this for two years and just futz around with, you know, big symbolic victories that don't mean anything in the real world?

FINEMAN: No, I don't think they're going to. In talking to the Republicans in both the House and the Senate - they're aware that they don't want to make the mistake that they think the president made and that they campaigned on during the last election. They said he spent too much time talking about health care, he took a year on health care and ignored jobs.

Now, the president in the State of the Union, as I understand it, is going to - among other things - do a kind of Sputnik II thing where he talks about technology and education and innovation and the long haul to compete with the Chinese economically. He's going to move on and the Republicans, I think, some of them, at least the leadership knows that it will be making a mistake if it spends the next year on health care. And I don't think they're planning to do it.

OLBERMANN: Thus, are Democrats - particularly House Democrats - looking better by default? I mean, we saw what happened when this bill went out there and the Democrats came back with hard-hitting facts and quick, terse rebuttals of the Republican points on this, where they just suddenly looked like - well, these are actual politicians with some backbone to them.

I mean, is that because they've actually seen something or because the thing is popular, therefore they can support it, or has it just been made easy for them because the Republicans seem to be, you know, beating the proverbial dead horse?

FINEMAN: Well, the thing is, as you've pointed out and as others have pointed out, the Republicans haven't yet come with any kind of thorough-going replacement. They've got all kinds of pieces out there, some of which make sense, but they haven't bothered to put them together into a whole if they were serious about selling it.

So, a lot of people in the middle who are - who are just looking at citizens at this don't take the Republicans seriously, number one. And number two, the Republicans' effort to, quote, "defund," which they may try next through the budget process, to defund health care reform, is impractical. If you look at it carefully for technical reasons I won't bore you with, it's pretty much impossible to do it.

So, they're left with nothing. They're left with one symbolic vote with no real change in the program, and looking like they're opponents rather than supporters of anything, and their opposition makes the Democrats look noble even in defense.

OLBERMANN: And at least Congressman Wilson got to send a tweet.

FINEMAN: That's right.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman, the senior political editor of "The Huffington Post" - as always, great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The other Arizona health story tonight almost defies description in both directions. While Gabby Giffords' recovery astounds even specialists in her field - tonight, there are calls from the right for her to resign from the House. Gene Robinson joins me next.


OLBERMANN: As she makes more progress still, the right wing has begun the drumbeat that she should resign from the House of Representatives.

Senate Democrats finally moving to fix the filibuster so you at least have to try as Jimmy Stewart did in the movie. There's no violent rhetoric out there unless you count him saying of Democrats you'll have to shoot them in the head.

And a shake-up puts the greatest name in British politics in the spotlight. I'd say I'd be making sophomoric jokes about his greatest name, but that would be an insult to sophomores.


OLBERMANN: Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords will leave the hospital tomorrow, says her family, 13 days then after being shot in the face at close range with a 9 millimeter bullet, piercing her skull and tearing a hole through her brain. Her husband says she's begun to try to speak. Tomorrow, she's expected to be flown by air ambulance to Houston where she will enter a rehab facility for what is expected to be months of therapy to recover whatever motor and cognitive function she can - could be quite a lot. All this just 13 days after being shot.

But in our fourth story tonight: the right-wing blogosphere says, "Too long, time to step down." The blogger in question is an alumni - alumnus, rather, of Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's office and a regular contributor at "Hip Hop Republican." His blog post attracted little notice until former Bush speechwriter David Frum, who appeared on this program this week specifically denouncing violent rhetoric, posted the call for Giffords to resign on his own Web site, "Frum Forum." and giving it a headline on his home page.

The original post was entitled "Who Controls Representative Giffords' Seat, Her or the People of Arizona? Constituents shouldn't have to wait for representation." Among its extraordinary assertions: "There is no doubt her constituents mourn for her and her family, but does that mean they should also go without representation in Congress? Certainly not."

"Should constituents," it says, "allow members to hold on to their seats like," still quoting this now, "political Brett Favres with no concept of when it is time to go?"

There is more of this crap. "Stepping down from one's office is nothing to be ashamed of. In actuality, the shame lies in not being honest with one's own self about the responsibilities that voters have entrusted in one and the expectations that they have. Constituents should expect that an official will either be appointed or a special election held within six months, not years. This current Congress should take this issue up immediately and in consultation with Giffords' family and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer come to an appropriate remedy."

Thank goodness, Governor Brewer's office, to her credit, has already rejected such discussion as, quote, "entirely inappropriate." Amen, Governor.

Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of "The Washington Post," author of "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America."

Good evening, Gene.


OLBERMANN: It is rare to get 100 percent recovery from a bullet wound to the head but it can happen. And if it happens, as I understand it from the experts who understand this much better than any of us could, it tends to happen quickly, it could happen within two to three months, full recovery. But even if she doesn't get full recovery, 95 percent might mean conceivably she's clear as a bell mentally and she might have a limp or she might need a cane or she'll have trouble with smells or who knows what.

This whole question of how much better she gets is completely open right now. How can anybody with a soul not let some time pass before trying to rush her out of Congress?

ROBINSON: You did say with a soul, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Yes, I get it.

ROBINSON: I think that qualifier might be the answer to the question. I mean, you know, look, it - I could say classless and - but you know that. I could say tasteless. But you know that.

What we also know is that Giffords' recovery, thus far, has been described as, at the low end, remarkable. At the high end, miraculous. So, the idea that after 12 days it's time to start calling for somebody else to fill the seat is not only heartless but also stupid.

OLBERMANN: What does Mr. Frum or anybody on the right - what does he gain by linking to, putting out these inflammatory stories?

ROBINSON: Perhaps censure.


ROBINSON: Opprobrium. You know - look, I know David Frum, and I disagree with him on just about everything. But frankly, I'm surprised that this sort - that he would feature this sort of thing on his Web site. It's not appropriate. And I think it brings him - brings the kind of attention that's not good.

There is such a thing as bad publicity, I hope, left in this world.

And this should bring some of it.

OLBERMANN: The original point of this blogger, and this has also been raised in other forums with far less responsible people - that's a relative term, obviously - is mental incapacity really the issue here? I mean, the same week that Ron Reagan talked about his belief that his father had Alzheimer's while president. I mean, this is the same day - Leslie Stahl today again addressed having witnessed President Reagan so completely lost mentally in 1986 that her words were "doddering space cadet," that she was going to go on the air that night and report it on the "CBS Evening News."

I mean, is this really about, in that context, is this really Gabby Giffords' potential intellectual capability as she recovers from this?

ROBINSON: You know, I guess maybe it is, although the irony is rich. I mean, you want other examples. For how many years was Strom Thurmond in the Senate without really knowing what he was casting his vote for or against?

But again, we have no idea what the end point or event mid-point of Gabby Giffords' recovery is going to look like. And so, until we have a little more experience, it just doesn't make any sense to talk about mental incapacity.

OLBERMANN: Something else. The right today is also trying to blame Michelle Obama because there's been a slight increase in pedestrian deaths. Their claim being her - the anti-obesity campaign encourages walking.

What's the right responsible thing to do with stories like this, with this level of asininity? I mean, you smack them down right away or does that help them get in the mainstream and give them traction? What do you do with these things?

ROBINSON: You know, I think you say - yes and yes. I mean, frankly, talking about these stories does give them wider circulation and thus I guess more currency. But I go back and forth on this, as I know you do, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Absolutely.

ROBINSON: Right now, I'm in smackdown mode. I think you - you know, you - when you see something like this, when you hear something like this, you've got to call it out. You've got to call out the people who are responsible for it and say, look, this is - this is - this is asinine.

OLBERMANN: Hopefully, Gabby will have the final word on this.

ROBINSON: Hopefully.

OLBERMANN: Gene Robinson of "The Washington Post" - always a pleasure, Gene. Thank you.

ROBINSON: Great to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Senate Democrats move toward actually doing something to reform the filibuster. You might want to start by changing the name since it does derive from the Dutch word for pirate.

Plus, the woman who fell into the mall fountain while she was texting, she's suing. And it turns out she's got a rap sheet.


OLBERMANN: Trying to reform the filibuster - so if you're going to filibuster, you at least have to stand up and pass out like Jimmy Stewart. Next.

First, the tweet of the day. It's from Title of Magazine. "Glenn

Beck on Democrats, June 10th, 2010: 'You're going to have to shoot them in

the head.'"

Really? From the man who claimed to be pledging against using violent imagery but wouldn't admit he ever used it. And there's a video link?


BECK: The radicals that you in Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep's clothing, change the polls. You'll get the ends. You've been using them?

They believe in communism. They believe and have called for revolution - revolution. You're going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning: they may shoot you.


OLBERMANN: Nice guy. Insane.

Let's play "Oddball."


OLBERMANN: We begin in Oberhausen, Germany. If you thought the story of Paul the Prognosticating Octopus was over as I did when we memorialized him with the help of our friend Anne Akiko Meyers, it looks like we were wrong - horribly, horribly wrong. The aquarium where Paul rose to fame has unveiled a commemorative statue in his honor. Coming over at over six feet high, the plastic - wait, plastic? No marble, bronze? Plastic?

Anyway, the statue shows an apparently hung over Paul sitting atop a soccer ball - touching tribute to a classy cephalopod. In case you're wondering - yes, the golden urn inside contains Paul's ashes and some olive oil and oregano.

And this Oddball update. Monday, we played this video of a woman taking a texting tumble. Release. Rotation. Splash.

If the act alone was not embarrassing enough, the lady of the lake has decided to reveal her identity on national TV. Cathy Cruz Morero (ph) appeared on ABC this morning with a bruised ego and a not bruised attorney. She says she was texting a friend from church when the fountain jumped out of nowhere.

She claimed she's getting ready to sue the mall because security did not come to help her. She also wants to sue whoever took the video and uploaded it.

If you're wondering how she snagged an attorney so quickly, turns out she had one handy. Ms. Morero's been out on bail since 2009 after being charged with running up more than 5,000 dollars of purchases on a co-worker's credit card.

She went from morning television to morning court. Plus, turns out she's a golden-voiced drifter.

Fixing the filibuster with Chris Hayes, next.


OLBERMANN: There are not a lot of analogies between the United States Senate and "Star Trek." But the one good one is a doozy. The crew finds itself on the planet Imanear (ph), which has been at war with the planet Vendekar (ph) for so long that they found a more efficient way to fight. Vendekar has just dropped an atomic bomb killing half a million people.

But the crew noticed no damages to any Imanear city.

Turns out the actual weapons are inside a simulation. The computer simply calculates how many would have died if there had been an actual bomb and that number of residents then dutifully walk into suicide booths to be disintegrated. But fortunately no buildings are damaged.

Apparently there are Republicans on the planet.

The episode ends with William Shatner destroying the computers and explaining that war needs to be horrific to motivate nations to stop it. Destruction, death, disease, horror.

In our third story, same goes for the filibuster. Chris Hayes joins me in a moment as Spock. Among other reforms, Democrats are about to try to end the computer simulation version of the thing. If you're going to blow up Imanear, you're going to have to use real bombs. And if you're going to filibuster, you're going to have to stand on the Senate floor and talk until you topple over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir. I guess I'll just have to speak to the people of my state from right here. And I'll tell you one thing, that wild horses aren't going to drag me off this floor until those people have heard everything I've got to say, even if it takes all winter.

SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington." I think most Americans saw that movie. And really what that was all about is that he was very uncomfortable with something that was going on, with the direction the Senate was moving. And he stood up for a long period of time, tried to rouse the American people to his cause. And that's what we want to see.

OLBERMANN (voice-over): Far from trying to rouse the American people to a cause, the GOP minority in the 111th Congress wielded the filibuster as a weapon to help run out the clock, even when Republicans overwhelmingly supported the legislation in question.

In November 2009, Republicans filibustered the Worker, Home ownership and Business Assistance Act, a bill to extend unemployment compensation. After days of inactivity, the bill passed 98 to nothing. No Republicans voting against it. They filibustered a bill they fully intended to support.

Same goes for the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, created to protect consumers from practices like arbitrary rate increases. That bill filibustered. Then it passed 90 to five.

Or how about the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which allowed harsher punishment for financial mortgage and securities fraud? Filibustered. Passed, 92 to four.

Martha Johnson waited nearly eight months while the minority delayed her confirmation as administrator of the General Services Administration. End result of that, confirmed, 94 to two.

Wait, scratch that. Senator Jim Bunning and Jeff Sessions subsequently changed their two no votes to yes votes. Eight months of filibustering, no opposition.

Senator Franken was left questioning the sanity of his fellow lawmakers.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: This month, my colleagues forced a cloture vote - they forced a cloture vote to approve a judicial nominee for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. She was then confirmed unanimously, 99 to zero. And yet we were forced to vote for a filibuster. That's nuts.

OLBERMANN: It was not always like there. For the better part of 200 years, the Senate was rarely exposed to the filibuster. In fact, were it not for Aaron Burr, we may never have had any filibusters. As vice president, Burr proposed doing away with a little-used Senate procedure that ended open debate on legislation.

In 1806, the Senate changed the rules, creating the potential for endless debates on bills, later called filibusters. Rarely was the filibuster enacted over the next century, mostly because the majority could just change the Senate rules if the filibuster was used to thwart legislation, which is exactly what happened in 1917, when 12 anti-war senators managed to kill a military arms bill.

President Woodrow Wilson urged the Democratic Senate to change the rules. They adopted cloture of debate, in which a two thirds vote would end a filibuster. That lasted through 1975, when a procedural battle led to a compromise agreement that lowered the cloture threshold to only 60 votes. The rule change coincided with a new system that allowed two or more pieces of legislation to be considered on the floor simultaneously.

The Democratic majority leader of the time, Mike Mansfield, thought the two-track system would make it harder for the minority to hold up Senate business. Instead, he wound up making a filibuster easier. Now all a senator needed to do was announce an intention to filibuster and the issue would be set aside until a cloture vote could be held.

This type of procedural filibuster was enacted 136 times by the 111th Congress in 2009 and 2010, which is why Senator Udall and other Democrats want the Senate to go back to its roots.

UDALL: If you're going to obstruct, if you're going to oppose something, you have to come out of the shadows. You have to go to the floor of the Senate and tell the American people why you're slowing everything down.

OLBERMANN: If the filibuster rules are not changed, Senate Republicans will continue their strategy of block and delay, even for legislation they intend to support. Each tied-up bill brings them closer to the goal Senate Minority Leader McConnell outlined in October: "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."


OLBERMANN: Let's bring in Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation," and MSNBC contributor. Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, "THE NATION": Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I'm advised the "Star Trek" planet is pronounced Imanear. I just remember the guy with the goatee. That's the only part of it I actually remember. That's not your problem. It's mine.

The Senate will debate the new proposals next week. And the Democrats said they're going to take several days to do it. They only need a simple majority to change the rules.

Are there must-haves in this? Is the talking filibuster resurrection the essential priority?

HAYES: So there's a number of things that are part of this package. And as is often the case in Washington, right, they kind of go in ascending order of importance. And that's also the order of likelihood. OK?

So the easiest things, the kind of lowest-hanging fruit, are these procedural mechanisms that there's complete broad consensus I think are just out of bounds, like, for instance, secret holds. So one senator says I am blocking the nomination secretly of this nominee. I think there's generally a consensus we have to do that.

Another thing that they're talking about that I think there's some consensus on is getting rid of the filibuster on the motion to proceed. A lot of the examples you gave - a lot of the places in which you have wide consensus for legislation that ends up passing by broad margins but is filibustered, they're actually filibustering the motion to proceed to get to the actual question.

If you got away with that, you might - then you might be getting somewhere. The hardest thing is going to be reinstating the kind of talking filibuster. And right now, the people who are whipping for that are playing it very close to the chest about whether they have the votes for it.

OLBERMANN: Well, do they? I mean, Mr. Prior of Arkansas made some noise this week about protect the minority's rights. Do they have 51 votes at this point?

HAYES: I don't know. I don't know if anyone knows, to be honest. I don't know if there's a hard vote tally. I know the people that are engineering this want to keep this very secret until they think they have the votes. I don't think they have them now. I think that's what that means.

I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility. But I think what you're going to end up seeing is what is going to get 51 votes. Because at this point, I think everyone's on board there's got to be some changes. So my sense is that something is going to pass.

Now, at this point, they're also talking about passing it with two thirds and having it be a bipartisan deal, and the Democrats and Republicans come together and say this is the way we're going to do it. And if that doesn't work, then they go the Constitutional option and they get that majority.

I think something is going to pass in terms of rules reform. The question is, it's like the same story with the public option and financial reform, what compromises are going to have to be made at the margins to get the 51st vote.

OLBERMANN: Do we need to put a little blame on Mr. Smith's shoulders here? I mean, hasn't that movie been used to give the filibuster some sort of undeserved sanctification? Is this not really all Frank Capra's fault?

HAYES: It is by far the most iconic cinematic representation - the most iconic representation, period. The most - in some ways, the most revealing actual filibuster is the famous Strom Thurmond filibuster against the Civil Rights Act, in which - and the fact of the matter is the history of the filibuster has been quite reactionary.

I mean, the two things it was marshaled most often for, particularly in the '50s and '60s, was labor - any kind of law that would increase the power of organized labor and any kind of law that would empower African-Americans and civil rights legislation.

So it doesn't have a wonderful history. And I think actually there's fundamentally something small C conservancy, almost reactionary about it. The fact that you have this super majority requirement is one of the things that separates America from parliamentary democracies. And when we look at those parliamentary democracies across the ocean in Europe, we see they're actually much more social democratic.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. I mean, the House of Lords laughs at the Senate at this point. Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation." great thanks for your time tonight.

An update, Vendekar two, Imanear nothing. That's not a final. Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Ohio has elected a genius governor. He has declared Martin Luther King Day March 17th.

Alabama has elected a genius governor. He's shown religious bigotry and then blamed you if you were offended.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, it's a hat trick.

Her guest is former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.


OLBERMANN: It has not been done in Ohio since 1962. But former Fox News guest host John Kasich ends the streak, becoming the first Buckeye State governor to name an all-white cabinet in nearly half a century. And yet in our number two story, the Republican shows he is open to diversity by signing a resolution to honor Martin Luther King on St. Patrick's Day.

The mistake, proclaiming the holiday for the slain black civil rights leader, to be held on a day normally reserved for excessive drinking and green clothing in public, March 17th, first pointed out by the progressive blog PlunderBund. A Kasich spokesman acknowledging the error was out there for a time.

The date has since been corrected to January 17th. However, the proclamation still states that Dr. King helped break down the barriers of racial and economic justice. This comes on the heels of state black and Hispanic leaders criticizing the new governor for a lack of diversity in the new cabinet. So far, the members of Kasich's cabinet are all white. Only five of the 22 are even women.

The governor telling the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" that pursuing a diverse administration is not a top priority. "I don't look at things from the standpoint of any of those sort of metrics that people tend to focus on." Adding "I don't pay attention to my critics." Or calendar apparently.

And yet in Kasich's swearing in last week, in the Ohio Senate chamber, the "Plain Dealer" reports that two African-Americans appeared to take the oath of office that Mr. Kasich administered. One, an interim director, not an official cabinet member, the other a volunteer for the swearing in event.

As the "Plain Dealer" reports, it is not clear why she walked in with the cabinet leaders.

Yeah, it's clear.

And one note from the politics of the United Kingdom. Juggling in the so-called shadow cabinet, the opposition said of spokesmen who parallel the governor ministers. As the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Alan Johnson is out. Ed Balls has replaced him.

Did we include this story just so I could say that? You might very well think so. I could not possibly comment.

The governor of Alabama on who are his brothers and who aren't, next.



OLBERMANN: The new governor of Alabama is now saying he was speaking as a private citizen, not as an elected official, when he referred to non-Christians as people who were, quote, "not his brothers and sisters." In our number one story, he made the remarks an hour after being sworn in as governor.

Robert Bentley made it clear during his run for office that in addition to being a conservative Republican, he was also a Baptist deacon. At his inauguration in Birmingham on Monday, unfortunately the Birmingham in this country, Bentley promised to be the governor of all Alabamians. Then he went and spoke at a Baptist church in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

It gets better and better. "The Birmingham News" printed some less inclusive text from Bentley's speech in church. Quoting, "if you're a Christian and you're saved, it makes you and me brother and sister." Now, I will have to say that if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

Roll tied? It turns out some of the thousands and thousands of non-Christian citizens of Alabama were not happy about being disinvited to the Bentley Christian family picnic. The head of the Birmingham Islamic Society said the governor's words were quite disturbing. The head of the Birmingham Jewish Federation said such comments tend to disenfranchise those of a different religious view.

The president of the American Atheists called the remarks disgusting and bigoted.

Yesterday, on day three of his administration, Governor Bentley held his first full-on crisis mode news conference.


GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: I want to tell people that I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way. Whether you are a Baptist or whether you're Jewish, whether you're Muslim, whatever you are, I'm going to be your governor.

The people in the church understood because I was speaking as a evangelical Christian who is a Baptist, speaking to fellow Baptists. And we use some terminology that other people of other religions may not at times understand.


OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by Maysoon Zayid, the executive producer of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival. She'll also be appearing later tonight at the Broadway Comedy Club here in New York City. Hi.

MAYSOON ZAYID, COMEDIAN: Hi. Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: My pleasure.

Just for background, you're not from Alabama and you're not a Baptist, correct?

ZAYID: No. Unfortunately, I'm neither of those things. But I am from New Jersey, so I can identify.

OLBERMANN: Does this offend you? Are you offended either that you can't be the governor's sister or that he's talking about this stuff?

ZAYID: I mean, first and foremost, I'm shocked because this is crazy even for Alabama. It really is. And I find it offensive that this was done on Martin Luther King Day, in a place where Martin Luther King spoke. This man is using the fact that he's a bigot to prove that he's not a racist. Because his initial comment was "I don't see skin color, just religion."

OLBERMANN: Yes. Very good. He can see through the skin color and be prejudiced without even that easy marker, right?

ZAYID: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: And he still seems to be digging. Besides the lovely "I'm sorry if you were offended" apology, he now says that - at the end there, that non-Christians don't understand his Baptist language. Let me read it to you again. "Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister." What am I missing there?

ZAYID: What I got from that statement was that I'm not his sister.


ZAYID: And I also was very creeped out by the use of the word "daddy." But I think he left out something important, because he's saying we're not his brothers and sisters because we don't have the same daddy. What if we have the same mom? What about that? Is this a backhanded slap at half-siblings that he's taking?

OLBERMANN: That's it. It's not just religious. We're also hitting brothers and sisters.

ZAYID: I think that, in reality, that apology was - it was really him just saying I didn't mean it because you heard it. Not I didn't mean it. Because when they say I was speaking as a private citizen, they're saying, you know, I did say this, I did mean it, you're just not supposed to hear it.

Frankly, I'm happy that I heard it, because I'd rather know his real intentions, you know, than have someone pretending that he actually wasn't a bigot.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. I once had a basketball coach deny a story of mine because he said it in front of 200 boosters after a game, and he claimed it was off the record. There were more boosters than there were fans in the stands.

It is a funny thing in the governor's case that in the apology, he left out atheists. Isn't that odd?

ZAYID: He also left out Scientologists. And I think that that's really divisive.

OLBERMANN: I have to ask you this. For all the crap that Muslims take in this country, if a politician of Muslim faith, if Congressman Keith Ellison as a leading example, said something parallel to this, he would have had to have resigned the same day, right?

ZAYID: If Keith Ellison had said the exact same thing, he'd actually be in an orange jumpsuit badly fitting right now. But I think that like what this points to is the fact that separation of church and state is kind of an illusion, because the fact of the matter is people talk about God every day in whatever context they want.

Our former president said - invoked the name of God so much that if I took a shot every time he said God, I would have died of alcohol poisoning. And you know, to say that it's not part of it is a lie, because, you know, if Obama had put his hand down on a Koran on the inauguration instead of a Bible, there would be rioting.

So I think that when he speaks out, it reminds us we haven't really gone that far from George Wallace.

OLBERMANN: Really. And our covering this of course will be interpreted entirely as part of an anti-Christian backlash of this huge prejudicial nation against Christians.

ZAYID: Exactly. And it will also be considered pro Muslim, especially when you mention the fact that Muslims believe in Jesus and the Virgin Birth. Shocking.

OLBERMANN: One last thing; you blanched as this, as I did, as we actually heard the tape. What's the name of his religion? I thought he was a Baptist. Did he say baddist (ph)? Is that something else I'm not - is that like some spas in Germany you? Worship at spas in Germany?

ZAYID: I'm not sure. I'll have to look that up on Wikipedia. But I think baddists are people who have completely lost Christ's message.

OLBERMANN: That's for the ones who don't know that it's named for Jesus Christ.

ZAYID: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Exactly. It's such an extraordinary commentary that a guy like this becomes governor, and then it's our fault that we're offended when he said that.

ZAYID: It's really amazing. And like when I sit there and say, you know, I grew up in an Italian Catholic town. I was never, ever treated as an other. I used to go to Christmas Eve, midnight mass. They would show me off to their friends. They'd be like she's from where Jesus was born.

And when I hear the things that he's saying, we laugh, but sometimes it does get scary. You know, and when Rick Lazio's screaming, when this guy is like talking seriously - seriously about people not being his brothers and sisters, I don't want you to be my brother. I'd have to make excuses for you all the time.

OLBERMANN: This is my crazy brother. Maysoon Zayid, appearing later tonight at Broadway Comedy Club in New York, great thanks for coming in.

ZAYID: Thank you for having me.