Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, January 12th, 2011, special show
video podcast

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Lynn Paltrow, Simon

Greer, Robert Spitzer

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: A special Countdown with Keith Olbermann is up next.



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

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords brings tears of joy to the eyes of a nation.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.


OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes.


OLBERMANN: The president at the memorial tonight in Tucson, where a community mourned and celebrated heroes.

Daniel Hernandez, the congresswoman's intern who helped to save her life, joins us.

And the other good news on her ever improving condition.

And the upstaging.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them.


OLBERMANN: So, words do not have consequences? Well, her words - words about her words, they have consequences.


PALIN: Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.


OLBERMANN: Blood libel? The ancient calumny that Jews killed Christian children to drink their blood? When Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish? The reaction from Simon Greer of Jewish Funds for Justice.

And the reaction to the entire bizarre rant from Gabrielle Giffords' second cousin.


PALIN: We know violence isn't the answer. When we take up our arms, we're talking about our vote.



And the idea to actually do something, not just talk.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should revisit sensible federal laws to control access to guns and ammunition.


OLBERMANN: But Peter King's sensible Republican idea, ban guns within 1,000 feet of elected federal officials, rejected out of hand by the Republican speaker of the House.

All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.


OBAMA: The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.




OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Wednesday, January 12th.

For six dead - a memorial. For the wounded - a prayer to heal. And for a community and a nation riven by a gross act of violence against the backdrop of sometimes bitter political divisions - a call for unity and remarkable elevation of the national discourse, courtesy of the president of the United States.

In our fifth story: a memorial service in what is usually a PAC-10 college basketball arena, ultimately somber and raucous with breaking news from the president himself about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Quoting, "Gabby opened her eyes for the first time" - obviously since the surgery.

Sitting beside the president, the congresswoman's intern who acted on the day of the shooting to save her life and was one of the speakers of tonight's memorial, Daniel Hernandez will join me in a moment.

First, the good news about the congresswoman. As the family today released these pictures, her doctors continued to decrease her sedation. They and her aides said, without any prompting, utterly on her own today, she had raised her fingers in a "V" symbol, had adjusted her own hospital gown and a simple act that neurologists will tell you is hardly simple - she scratched her nose, in about 103 hours after a bullet passed completely through her brain.

Just after the president concluded his visit to her bed side tonight, the extraordinary.


OBAMA: I want to tell you, her husband Mark is here, and he allows me to share this with you. Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.


OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.


OLBERMANN: More details on that extraordinary moment later in this news hour. The president also visited the other wounded victims from Saturday's shooting as well as staffers at University Medical Center. And in his remarks at this evening's memorial, he paid specific tribute to the fallen and praised the heroes of that day, and then reflected on the meaning of this moment and addressed the issues surrounding this tragedy, and did so directly.


OBAMA: At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.


OLBERMANN: Again and again, the president called on Americans to have the conversation they must have without laying blame.


OBAMA: We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.


OBAMA: But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.


OBAMA: That we cannot do.


OLBERMANN: And the president turned the issue of civility into an aspiration rather than citing its absence as cause.


OBAMA: And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy - it did not - but rather because a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.


OLBERMANN: The president repeatedly returned to the necessity of honoring the victims, honoring them through actions. Victims like 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.


OBAMA: I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.


OLBERMANN: So in attendance tonight, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Attorney General Eric Holder, homeland security secretary, former Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano and House Minority Nancy Pelosi, Governor Brewer, Senators Kyl and McCain of Arizona, of course.

The tone of national resolve was not limited to the memorial tonight. The House of Representatives was back in session today for the first time since the shooting on Saturday. The express purpose of honoring the dead and wounded and praising the bravery of those who responded at the scene. The day also included a bipartisan prayer service. The next major remarks expected from the president at his State of the Union Address may coincide with a change in the seating arrangements.

Today, Senator Mark Udall sent a letter to his colleagues asking them to end the tradition of sitting intact and only with their own political parties. "What Americans see when they watch it on TV," he wrote, "is a Congress that is bitterly divided by party. Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night, we should emphasized divided government separated by party."

That very proposal had been offered by the centrist Democratic group, Third Way, of which Congressman Giffords has been an honorary co-chair.

And now, joining us as promised, the gentleman who begun an internship with the congresswoman only days before the shooting but who has known for her years and who acted to help save her life, Daniel Hernandez, Jr.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, JR., REP. GIFFORDS' INTERN: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What did you think of tonight's service?

HERNANDEZ: I think it was definitely a good step forward not just for those of us here in Tucson and in Arizona, but also for the entire country, because what happened on Saturday, of course, is not just a tragedy for Tucson or Arizona, but a national tragedy.

OLBERMANN: When you think about what Congresswoman Giffords is going through, even at this point, and what you witnessed on Saturday and what the president said tonight, is there a message that you'd like to see Americans take from this arc of this tragedy that has seemed to have been so long but is, in fact, just a span of five days now?

HERNANDEZ: I think the president said it excellently. Coming together as one big American family that's 300 million strong, that's definitely the message we need to take away as we move forward. But also, a renewed sense of interest in public service, because that is what is important at this time.

OLBERMANN: The news about the congresswoman tonight scratching her nose, adjusting the gown and now these reports of her opening her eyes and being asked, "Can you see?" and indicating she could - is there a way for you to express what that means to you?

HERNANDEZ: I think words are very hard to describe how I'm feeling right now. I think when I heard that, that is one of the first times I smiled in days. Pure elation maybe is the best choice of words - but really there are no words to describe how excited not just I, but people all over the country were to hear that she was recovering as well and as quickly as she is, because we know Gabby's a fighter.

But she constantly surprises us. Even when she was in Congress, she's been the one that surprised us.

OLBERMANN: Were you - did you know about that in advance before the president said it? Or were you surprise with the rest of us?

HERNANDEZ: I was surprised with everybody else. I don't think they told anyone. I think it was kind of something they wanted to save for that moment, so that we could end on that high note.

OLBERMANN: Well, I have to ask you this about the other high notes. You will not answer, as you repeated when you spoke tonight, to hero - the president seemed to disagree with you and loudly and in front of everyone at the McKale Center which is not a classroom or something. It's a pretty big place.

Is it possible you might be mistaken, maybe you are a hero, just slightly, or hero-like or something?

HERNANDEZ: I think it's hard to disagree with the president, but I'm still going to go ahead and say, I'm not a hero. I really don't think that what I did was heroic because I think it was a total one-off and at least I hope that was because I don't think anyone should ever have to go through anything like that ever again.

OLBERMANN: Daniel Hernandez, the intern for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords - thank you for your time and with the thanks of all of us, both for your time and what you've done in the last five days.

HERNANDEZ: Thanks so much for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And now, we mentioned more on what happened ton in the hospital at the University of Arizona, we're joined by the former speaker of the House, now the minority leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California.

Congresswoman, thank you kindly for your time tonight.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER (via telephone): You're welcome. It's quite an evening.

OLBERMANN: What happened? What happened? You were there. What did you see? What did she see?

PELOSI: Well, we were very blessed to be invited by the family, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and Senator Gillibrand and I to visit Gabby. And while we were, there we witnessed almost a miracle. We saw the power of prayer, the power of the effect of - the excellence her medical care, and we brought a little girl power, too, because we were trying to amuse Gabby, trying to get through to her how much she was loved and missed in the Congress, and what was waiting for her when she came back.

And being there with her parents and her husband, when she opened her eyes was quite remarkable. That was a glorious, glorious experience. One that I think we all will remember for the rest of our lives. Again, she's getting the greatest of care, so much love and respect, and we thought we brought a little fun to the room and she reacted.

OLBERMANN: Evidently. Madam Minority Leader, one of her aides said that she was then asked if she could indeed see and she indicated yes. Did you see that?

PELOSI: Well, I didn't - she didn't speak. But all of her reactions were very positive in terms of command and she reached out to her husband when he asked her to make certain signals and the rest. But you have to speak to her nurse that was in the room as to what an advance this was. But for those of us who love her so much, it was really a glorious moment.

As I thought the president's speech was at the University of Arizona at Tucson later in the evening. I hasten to add that the president and first lady had been in the room before us. So, I'm sure they contributed to the good feeling that Gabby was receiving.

And we went there to thank - to bring our love to her, to thank the health care providers for what they were doing for her, for all of those affected on Saturday, and, in fact, for all of the people that they treat to pay respect. To her staff, and to join "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America," the spirit of the evening, the attendance, I think we saw a sense of community there. I think the president took the spirit of civility to a new height and I think it was very transformative. That's the way it seemed to us in the hall.

And when he announced that Gabby had opened her eyes, it just got such an incredible response. We could identify with that because in the room, we felt as if we were witnessing something quite miraculous.

OLBERMANN: It sounds extraordinary even at this great distance. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader - great thanks for making yourself available to us at short notice.

PELOSI: Thank you. Thank you so much, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Pleasure as always and congratulations on being there.

PELOSI: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, joins us now from Washington to look at the other components of this. He is the author, of course, of "Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House."

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: This was a memorial service and there was an extraordinary bit of good news in it as Minority Leader Pelosi just mentioned, and our thoughts with the fallen and the wounded.

But this also existed as a message to this nation and as a political speech as surely as President Reagan was both after the shuttle explosion. Let's split this in half. Assess this first as a message to the nation.

WOLFFE: Well, it was transformational on a number of different fronts.

On a personal level, there was this personal front section of the speech talking about the people who passed and actually transforming a memorial service into a celebration. It was an incredibly upbeat tone to that, and that was uniquely, I think, American - uniquely something that this president could deliver.

And then the political back end of the speech, much more political than these other examples people have been talking about, whether Clinton or Reagan, and I think this is where there's transformational both for this president as an individual and for the nation and for Tucson - because what he was saying there didn't just take him back to 2004, to that whole idea of bringing the country together, but it he was really asking people to pause, and look at themselves and say, can we live up to the ideals of the very people we all profess to care about? The victims out of all of this. And that's a moral case for what we've all been talking about politically.

Everyone, especially on this network, has said, why does this guy want to work with the other side so much? Is there a political gain for him?

What he laid out tonight was a moral values case, a nationwide case for saying, we need the politics that bring people together. And that was, I think, unexpected, because everyone thought he would be personal and commemorative, and he did something very different with this speech.

OLBERMANN: And thus, what does this mean? Assess this as a political event and a milestone in a presidency?

WOLFFE: Well, you only have to do what I did, I'm sure other people did, which is tune in to other networks, especially FOX tonight and look at the different tone that they've taken. Maybe it's just one night, but it's much, much harder to say that this president doesn't share American values or to demonize him in some way - because, by the way, he just called all this stuff out. He said, enough with the finger-pointing, it doesn't lead to better results. It doesn't lead to a better country. This is not what this country stands for.

And that's where you get into the compare and contrast with Sarah Palin today. Her address was about finger-pointing. And yes, she may feel some righteousness in feeling abused and neglected or attacked. But, in fact, that's not what this moment calls for, it calls for leadership, it calls for something much more positive, and the contrast between him saying no finger-pointing and her actually saying everyone else is to blame, was very, very striking today.

OLBERMANN: So, the imagery that we come away with, we had Ronald Reagan with the explosion of the shuttle and having slipped the surly bonds of earth for the members of that crew, what is the phraseology that we will take away from this? The references to the 9-year-old victim jumping in puddles?

WOLFFE: I think very much so. He brought this down to a personal level. One of his signature themes is to tell an American story in a way that places him at the center of the narrative, but in a way that says to all of us, we can relate to these people. He made that very explicit, he said this 9-year-old is like the daughter you have, or a young person that you know. And all of these victims are people that you know.

And that was extremely powerful. They became less figures in the news or photos in the newspaper and real life Americans who we all are part of a community with. That's extremely powerful and rare in this political climate.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe - great thanks for spending some of the late night with us.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Earlier, as Richard suggested, it may have easily been the worst timed political statement ever, the morning of the memorial ceremony. Was it also the worst, most self-damaging statement ever? Next.


OLBERMANN: Last night, conservatives were commenting her on having had the class to say not until after the memorial and the funerals in Tucson - that's out the window. The strange videotape in which she tries to sell the idea that her words have no consequences, but words about her, words that cause violence.

Gabby Giffords' cousin responds and then there is her use of the phrase "blood libel." Simon Greer of Jewish Funds for Justice responds.

And guess who doesn't support the Republican proposal that prohibit guns within 1,000 feet of federally elected officials? The Republican speaker of the House, who is a federally elected official. Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: In a nearly eight-minute video posted on her Facebook page, Sarah Palin spoke at length about the victims of the Tucson shooting. She also spoke about herself as a victim.

Our third story tonight: What she said about the Tucson tragedy and what it says about her, including how Congresswoman Giffords' second cousins assesses that.

Many have taken Ms. Palin to task for her insensitive use of one term in her video address, more on that term, "blood libel," later with Simon Greer of Jewish Funds for Justice.

First, an explanation of what else was said.


PALIN: I spent the last few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After the shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event. President Reagan said, "We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society's guilty rather at that point law breaker." It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.


OLBERMANN: A different assumption was made by the U.S. Secret Service in the fall of 2008, according to "Newsweek" magazine's coverage of the presidential election, quote, "The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and very disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time Palin rallies became more frenzied."

And yet, according to Ms. Palin, the irresponsible now are those calling for a rejection of violent rhetoric. Worse: those critics are enemies of the First Amendment.


PALIN: No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent. And we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinions and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.


OLBERMANN: Today, former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle claimed the criticism of her Second Amendment remedies remark, quote, "puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger."

Also today, "National Review Online" posting instructions on how to recall Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, guilty in their eyes of questioning the tone of political discourse in Arizona.

But back to Mrs. Palin and her argument about individual accountability -


PALIN: Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts who use both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, now with those who proudly voted in the last election.


OLBERMANN: While basically asserting that her words could play no part in subsequent violence but people criticizing her words might indeed foment violence, she also was absolving herself of her own crosshairs map. Mrs. Palin essentially criticizing Congresswoman Giffords herself who had spoken out about that map here on MSNBC last March.


REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: This is a situation where people don't - I mean, they really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and, you know, even things - for example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list. But, the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district - when people do that, they got to realize there's consequences to that action.


OLBERMANN: One person who understands the consequences is relative of Congresswoman Giffords' cousin. Her cousin Lynn Paltrow. Prior to the release of Palin's video, Ms. Paltrow an open letter entitled, "Dear Sarah Palin," in which she asked, quote, "If you do not mean literally that elected officials should be targeted with rifles and threatened by political activists armed with loaded weapons, what do you mean?"

Lynn Paltrow joins us now, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and, as mentioned, the second cousin of Congresswoman Giffords.

Thanks for coming in tonight.


OLBERMANN: Obviously, we're delighted for you about the news of her eyes opening tonight. Keep that front of mind here.

PALTROW: And if I may, I think we're all thrilled. And I just do want to say that the family that's closest to her, her husband, Mark Kelly, on her Web site has said that people who really want to show their support, because it's frustrating to be able to do so little can contribute to the community food bank in Tucson, Arizona and the American Red Cross of southern Arizona.

OLBERMANN: Let's talk about what happened earlier today. Did the Palin video address the sort of concerns you had as a related family member of the congresswoman?

PALTROW: I think as an American, we definitely want to see the kind of civility and we want to see people who are leaders speak out and explain that change needs to come about peacefully in this country and that violence is never the answer. And I think she did speak to a lot of that. And I think many people are speaking out, there are places where she even sounded a little bit like you.

At the same time, different leaders speak better than others, and the hope that she might speak about how real nonviolent change comes about, that it's by people who are willing to be attacked rather than to suggest that criticism is an attack, rather to suggest that attacking is OK, would have been even more appreciated.

OLBERMANN: I want to take a look at something else she said, and then get your reaction specifically to this clip from the video. Here it is.


PALIN: In times like these, we need God's guidance and the peace he provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves or weaken our solid foundation or provide a pretext to stifle debate. America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy.


OLBERMANN: So, she's saying there she does not want tragedy to stifle debate, which is a fair point. I think everybody would agree with that.

But did she not just miss this opportunity for an open debate about violent rhetoric and how poisonous it can be, whether or not it's responsible for any given act, on any given day, in any given year?

PALTROW: I think that would have been very much appreciated. And I think it's very important that people to understand that when people raise questions about what speech does, what effect it has or doesn't have - that that's not an attack on other people's First Amendment rights, that's the exercise of the First Amendment.

And in particular, I think it would have been much appreciated. She had one line in which she talked about, when we take up our arms -


PALTROW: - we are talking about our vote.

And I think for her constituents, it may need to be a lot - for everybody, let's talk about all of us - it needs to be clear. The Second Amendment is not the same as the 15th Amendment or the 19th Amendment. And when you use language like "lock" and "reload" and you tell voters to come back and reload - I had to use the new scanning voting machines in New York City, we didn't require locking and reloading.

OLBERMANN: In your capacity, you have another experience with this, and this question of rhetoric perpetuating cycles of violence, or at least contributing to an atmosphere. Again, there's no cause and effect necessarily here, but there's an environment.

You were an ally of the late Dr. George Tiller. What did your experience with him tell you about this?

PALTROW: I can tell you - first, let me say thank you. You are one of the few people who I think noticed and commented on the similarity and the rhetoric, that it's not just elected officials, and it's not just judges who are facing death threats. But it is people, as said -

I sent an e-mail to Congresswoman Giffords after her offices were shot at after the vote for health care reform. I told her I was sorry she had to be as courageous as the - in favor of health care reform as the providers of health care to women who sometimes need abortions and other reproductive care services.

I know that language isn't necessarily the cause of the behavior, but I do know - and it doesn't necessarily cause terrorism, but I do know there are a lot of people in America, caring, loving, humane health care providers, who every day live in terror because of that language.

OLBERMANN: Lynn Paltrow, cousin of Congresswoman Giffords, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, again, great to meet you. Thanks for coming in.

PALTROW: Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: We'll focus in on that one remark about blood libel. It's remarkable inappropriateness given the religion of the congresswoman and given the millennium of pain it has represented for the Jewish people, next.


OLBERMANN: According to one media critic, in defending her language today, Sarah Palin, quote, "could not have come up with a more inflammatory phrase."

In our third story, Mrs. Palin falsely claimed journalists and pundits

or as she pronounced it, pundits - had blamed her for the shootings in Arizona, which she claims turned her into the victim of a, quote, "blood libel."

Whether or not Palin knows that the term blood libel was originally a

reference to the persecution of Jews in the Middle Ages is not clear. What

is clear is that several prominent Jewish groups are not pleased. The president of the Jewish Funds for Justice joins me presently.

The term was used this week as the title and the body of a "Wall Street Journal" editorial by the conservative writer Glenn Reynolds, "The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel."

The disgraced conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart picked up the meme, Tweeting, "and to gutless GOP establishment who watches in silence the blood libel against Sarah Palin, USA, we will remember."

Neither gave historical context to that term. For that, we'll refer you to the Anti-Defamation League website. "By the high Middle Ages, 11th to 14th centuries, Jews were widely persecuted as barely human Christ killers and devils, forced to live in all Jewish ghettos. They were accused of poisoning rivers and wells during times of disease. Some were tortured and executed for supposedly abducting and killing Christian children, to drink their blood or to use it to baking matzo, a charge known as the blood libel."

This, to Sarah Palin, as analogous to what is happening to her.


PALIN: If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas. But especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.


OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin, knowingly or not, is comparing herself to the persecuted Jews of the Middle Ages, as a Jewish congresswoman lies in critical condition in an Arizona hospital after being shot in the head. Today, the Anti-Defamation League put out a statement in support of her comments and sentiments in general, but it also noted that the term blood libel has become part of English parlance for someone being falsely accused. And they're right.

Reporters and commentators from both sides of the aisle use the term often to describe the actual persecution of others, not themselves. The ADL went on to say, quote, "we wish that Palin had used another phrase instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."

According to conservative author Jonah Goldberg, because it invokes anti-Semitic myths, quote, "the use of this particular term in this context is not ideal."

Media critic Howard Kurtz took it further. "Had Palin scoured a Thesaurus, she could not have come up with a more inflammatory phrase."

The president of the National Jewish Democratic Jewish Counsel said, "Palin's invocation of a blood libel charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction."

And according to Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice, "unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzo from their blood, her use of the term is totally out of line."

Mr. Greer joins us now. Thanks for coming in.

Explain as much as you can the offense that you took from Sarah Palin's use of this term blood libel?

SIMON GREER, JEWISH FUNDS FOR JUSTICE: On a day when the attention of all Americans is on the victims in Arizona, Sarah Palin is trying to confuse us and make us think that there's a victim in Alaska, which clearly there isn't. To do it, adding insult to injury, she invokes a phrase that has caused countless lives of Jews across the centuries. And she uses it to lodge a complaint about the media.

On the face of it, it is a grotesque comparison.

OLBERMANN: The term is used by others. Our friend Gene Robinson used it after the false charges of a woman in Pennsylvania before the 2008 election. He said it was the equivalent of - or towards that affect, of the blood libel. Usually, when somebody invokes it, it's related to actual persecution of another group.

Is part of the problem here is that the person claims that blood libel is being used is also the person who claims it's being used against them?

GREER: Yeah, you have a situation where a Jewish congresswoman is fighting for her life and a Christian is claiming that she's the one that's the victim of a blood libel. It does make me think that leaders like Sarah Palin, and other Tea Party leaders like Glenn Beck, have a Jewish problem. They continue to invoke Holocaust, Hitler, Nazi, blood libel as if they're trying to paint a picture of themselves as victims in an almost Orwellian turn of phrase. It's a bit hard to fathom.

OLBERMANN: There's no need to speculate further at this point why this was said or why it was said today, in advance of this event tonight in Tucson at the basketball center there. But does, in your opinion, the use of this phrase impact her political future to any serious degree?

GREER: I think it does. And I think even more so in the context of the president's speech this evening. I thought the president gave us what the nation needed. He offered a eulogy, in essence, to the people who had lost lives. And he called us to something higher. He said the discourse we create, the nation we build is something we build for our children.

To me, the question became quite clear, what is it that we do for our children? We tackle unemployment. We tackle the foreclosure crisis. We don't point fingers. And I think Sarah Palin revealed herself today to be in the blame game and the victim game, not in the problem solving game. And I think it will haunt her for months to come.

OLBERMANN: Does she need to say anything else about this? Would it do any good or just exacerbate the situation.

GREER: If she makes a light weight apology, I don't think it does any good. If she does offer an explanation, I for one would like to hear what were the circle of Jewish advisers around her? What were they thinking? Were they thinking we know what the blood libel is and we're going to use it to great effect? Or oops, we didn't really know what it meant; we deliberated for four days about what to say and then we slipped in the blood libel? I would love to hear her explanation.

OLBERMANN: Her explanation is probably it was on the teleprompter. Simon Greer, the president and CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice, again, great thanks for coming in at such a late hour.

GREER: Thanks very much, Keith. It's a pleasure.

OLBERMANN: The guns right advocate who today said restricting high capacity ammo clips is absolutely justifiable. And the speaker of the House who has rejected the proposal by one of his own party colleagues to ban guns within 1,000 feet of elected officials.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, an assessment of the president's speech tonight with the president of the Inter-Faith Alliance, the Reverend Welton Gaddy.


OLBERMANN: A quick personal note, if my enunciation has seemed a little on and off throughout the course of this hour, I'm not exactly sure what it is. I'm either sick with kind of wave-like flu or there were some bad oysters for dinner. Either way, enjoy the next 11 minutes, because I may fall flat on my face or perhaps something else bad could happen.

Still ahead, why the gunman got off so many rounds before he could be stopped and whether Congress is going to do anything about that. But in our number two story tonight, there is other news, some of it with grim echoes of today's events.

A 32-year-old man from Palm Springs, California, Charles Turner Haberman (ph), arrested and charged with threatening to kill a member of Congress, Seattle Democrat Jim McDermott. The FBI saying that Haberman called McDermott's office on December 9th during the tax cut debate and left two messages.

Quoting, "I'd like to remind you, McDermott, that if you read the Constitution, all the money belongs to the people. None of it belongs to government. If he ever F's around with my money ever the F again I'll Fing kill him, OK? I'll round them up. I'll them. I'll kill his friends. I'll kill his family. I will kill everybody he Fing knows." .

Not a lot of margin for error there. And more importantly, perhaps, the Constitution actually gives Congress the power to collect taxes. Mr. Haberman allegedly told the FBI he would never have carried out his threat, because he did not want to jeopardize his three million dollar trust fund. How many cliches in that story.

While the Governor of Texas Rick Perry is trying to figure out what services to cut to fix his 25 billion dollar shortfall estimated for two years hence, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the state legislature have come up with an approach today that Charles Turner Haberman would definitely not approve of. They raised taxes from three percent to five percent.

The world did not come to an end, yet anyway. New government data showed last year tied with 2005 as Earth's warmest year on record. All but one of the top ten warmest years now starts with a two.

One Republican congressman wants to prohibit those carrying guns from getting within 1,000 feet of an elected federal official. Another Republican congressman instead wants to make sure those elected federal officials can carry their own weapons and fire back, like a scene out of "Police Squad." Guess to which one Speaker of the House Boehner is opposed.


OLBERMANN: Not one single gun control bill has crossed President Obama's desk since he took office. Yet Saturday's tragedy in Tucson has already led to several proposals, including one that would ban people from carrying a gun within 1,000 feet of a federal elected official. That came, as you have heard, from Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. Republican.

But in our number one story, the GOP leadership tells him and everybody else where they stand on gun control, not unless you pry it from our dead policy. Congressman King says the legislation's goal is to not only protect government officials, but obviously the public, as we so tragically learned over the weekend.

As "The Hill" newspaper reports "Speaker Boehner rejected King's proposal shortly after it was announced."

Slightly different story out of Majority Leader Cantor's office. His spokesman, Brad Dayspring, telling "The Hill" Mr. Cantor believes "it's appropriate to adequately review and actually read legislation before forming an opinion about it."

I hope Boehner doesn't hear about that.

Yet Mr. Dayspring told "The Daily News" of New York that Mr. Cantor is in fact against the legislation, "the proposal wouldn't have prevented this tragedy or other mentally unstable individuals or criminals from committing horrific acts."

Perhaps the leadership will be more clear on another Republican proposal, this one from Louis Gohmert of Texas. That congressman is drafting a bill that would allow lawmakers to to carry guns on the House floor. Seriously.

Mr. Gohmert telling "Politico," "it would be a good thing for members of Congress who want to carry a weapon in the District. I know friends that walk home from the Capital. There's no security for us."

Apparently no cabs either, genius. Mr. Gohmert added that he felt afraid during last year's health care debate. Quote, "there is some protection in having protection."

Make your own joke.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, to whom none of this is a joke, is preparing to circulate legislation tomorrow banning the sale or transfer of high capacity magazines. These are the kind that Jared Lee Loughner allegedly used to fire off his 31 shots from his Glock before stopping to reload. Loughner would not have been able to legally purchase that kind of clip had a Bush-era Congress not let the Assault Weapons Ban expire in 2004.

President Obama, who campaigned on reinstating the ban, dropped the issue after entering offer. The White House declining to comment on whether Mr. Obama would support a restriction on high capacity magazines such as Congresswoman McCarthy has proposed.

But today, some unlikely support from a proponent and a prominent gun rights advocate. Robert A. Levy, co-counsel of the landmark Supreme Court case establishing that the Second Amendment does indeed mention the right to bare arms, District of Columbia v. Heller.

He told NBC News that he does not see any Constitutional barrier in regulating high capacity magazines. Quote, "Justice Scalia made it quite clear some regulations are permitted. The Second Amendment is not absolute."

Time now to call in Robert Spitzer, professor of political science at SUNY Cortland, and the author of "The Politics of Gun Control."

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: I recognize that logo behind you. But we will let it pass for just the moment.

Will support from Mr. Levy help Congressman McCarthy's proposal? Will it at least signal to libertarians or even those on the right or perhaps in the middle that this is in some way OK?

SPITZER: I think it does help. It is clearly a signal. Levy was lead counsel, as you pointed out, in the Heller case. And the Cato Institute, libertarian, arch-conservative organization. It is kind of a crack among the hard right wing on this issue.

I'm sure there are other Republicans who would be willing to support a measure like limiting high capacity ammunition clips. But it's hard for me to believe that the Republican leadership will let that come to the floor.

OLBERMANN: What about this other measure from Mr. King, which seems perhaps - you know, just a nice first step, but the Republican leadership shut it down without discussing it. Mr. Cantor even made a point of saying he would at least read it before coming out against it?

SPITZER: That would be seem to be like almost a no-brainer, except that it would seem to run afoul of those hardcore gun carrying individuals, such as those who showed up at a speech that President Obama gave in 2009, where the concealed carry or open carry. Their notion is that if they're entitled to carry, then they're entitled to carry. That might bring them closer to a 1,000 yards to an elected official.

So maybe that element of the gun community would object to that provision. But you would think that that would have bipartisan support in Congress.

OLBERMANN: Why when the Democrats were in charge of both Houses and had the president at the same time - why did they not push for anything in terms of stricter legislation?

SPITZER: Well, I think two reasons. One, because the Democrats had a very, very, very full plate in the last two years. The economy tanks. Wall Street - a host of other problems, health care, and gun control simply would have been further down the list in any case.

But secondly, the Democratic party has backed away from the gun issue, especially dating to the 2000 elections, the Al Gore election. Many Democrats felt that Gore and other Democrats lost that election because of the gun issue. I'm not sure I agree with that, but that was the feeling.

Democrats have moved away from the issue in the 2000s. And in addition, you had the Bush presidency, which was the most gun friendly presidency in American history, in policy terms. The Democrats also have within their fold Blue Dog Democrats, conservative Democrats who were elected as pro-gun or gun rights Democrats. So it becomes much tougher to advance gun control legislation under those circumstances.

OLBERMANN: In a word, is Tucson going to do anything to advance the cause of some kind of gun control?

SPITZER: No. I think, at the end of the day, at the national level, there will be no policy change, because I think the wave will subside. And in Arizona, I'd be very surprised if there were any change. It might embolden gun control supporters in some states around the country to look at their laws again.

If the recent history of this issue reveals anything, it is that once the wave subsides, things return to where they were before.

OLBERMANN: Robert Spitzer, the author of "The Politics of Gun Control," thanks for your time.

That's January 12th. I'm Keith Olbermann. Rachel Maddow is next.

Good night.