'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, January 7th, 2011
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Guests: Ezra Klein, Thomas Frank, Steven Daglas, Russell Simmons
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Repealing the push to repeal health care reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a great opportunity for all of us in America to kill the jobs-killing health care bill that is taking jobs away from the private sector.
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OLBERMANN: Except, two reports tonight that the health care reform small business tax credit has led to a spike in purchases of insurance by small businesses. So the job-killing health care bill does not seem to be killing private sector jobs.
We, Congressman Pete Sessions and Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, do solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the honorary "Ninja Mutant Turtles Society of America."
The Republicans try to hit "undo" on the illegal votes disaster.
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REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: To the great credit of the maker of the resolution which we just got, it stipulates in the first couple of sections, we violated the Constitution on our very first day.
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OLBERMANN: Arizona's transplant death panels: moved by the story of Tiffany Tate and the new lungs she needs, an Illinois politician analyzed Arizona's state budget and found ways to restore the transplant insurance budget - 26 ways. And this Illinois politician is a Republican. He joins us. Steven Daglas joins us.
Televangelist Glenn Beck defends the three-fifths compromise.
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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: Three-fifths in the South, three-fifths of a human being. That's an outrage - unless you know why they put that in there? They put it in there because if slaves in the South were counted as full human beings, they could never abolish slavery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Except it still took 78 years and 600,000 American dead to abolish slavery because the original idea was to count the slaves as no fifths. So, the South could not keep adding pro-slavery congressman by buying more slaves. Russell Simmons on gross historical revisionism mixed with racism.
Steve King's speech defending Speaker Boehner's mendacity?
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REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: The leader and speaker established their integrity and their mendacity for years in this Congress.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
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KING: That happened in this Congress.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, January 7th, 669 days until the 2012 presidential election.
And when Democrats were still in charge of the House, then-Minority Leader John Boehner called a vote on the Bush tax cuts "chicken crap," presumably because the Senate would never go along.
But in our fifth story: Under Speaker Boehner, the Republican-controlled House today took a preliminary vote to repeal health care reform, even though the repeal has zero chance of passing the Senate and the White House has already said that if, you know, there's a meteor strike or something, and it does, the president will veto it.
Chicken what, Mr. Boehner?
Besides an actual repeal of the supposedly job-killing health care law would, in fact, kill jobs. More on that in a moment.
As for the two Republicans who unconstitutionally voted twice without ever having been sworn in yet - oh, never mind. The GOP finessing the Constitution in four minutes flat. The problem, you will recall, is that Congressman Pete Sessions and Mike Fitzpatrick were at a swearing-in celebration fundraiser in the Capitol instead of at the actual swearing in on the House floor on Wednesday.
So, when they raised their hand to take the oath while watching the TV showing the ceremony, somehow that didn't count. They were sworn in for real later in the day, but they had already voted twice before then.
So, today, the House voted to delete the two votes by those two men, but not before Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York pointed out the absurdity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: To the great credit of the maker of the resolution which we just got, it stipulates right in the first couple of sections, we violated the Constitution on our very first day. The constitutional requirement for oath was violated. And I give you great credit for recognizing that in the resolution.
Now, you do say that it created nullities, which is, frankly, a way of saying we operated outside of this document on the same day we were reading it. The first time in the history of this body we are going to pass a fix of a constitutional infirmity with - wait for it - four minutes of debate when we didn't have the bill until just now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The congressman also pointed out that the resolution was not posted three days before the vote, violating a brand new GOP rule. The Republican retort was the resolution is exempt from that because it deals with internal House business.
But the other problem is that Congressman Fitzpatrick's swearing in celebration was also a fundraiser. His Web site's invitation asks for a $30 contribution, but further below, there were buttons to contribute more still. That section was captured by the "Huffington Post" before the campaign Web site of Mr. Fitzpatrick took it down.
Since fundraising on federal property is prohibited, there have been calls by outside watchdog groups to investigate whether House rules were violated here, too.
A letter of apology to colleagues from Congressman Sessions and Fitzpatrick reads in part, quote, "Our absence on the House floor during the oath, while not intentional" - not intentional? Really?
The apology also acknowledges that, quote, "our error allowed the integrity of this great legislative body's proceedings to be called into question."
From Washington, let's bring in Thomas Frank, the author of "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule."
Good evening to you, sir.
THOMAS FRANK, AUTHOR, "THE WRECKING CREW": How are you doing tonight, Keith?
OLBERMANN: Good. But I need a perspective from your - where you are right now. Does it look in Washington, within even the Republican Caucus, that the first act of a Republican House was a hasty do-over of a screw-up like that? Or is the reaction to this just a sort of extra Beltway thing?
FRANK: Look, I don't know what the - what the reaction is here in D.C. I don't - I don't hang around with those people most of the time. I'll tell you - no, really. But I have spent time studying the Tea Party movement, you know, over the last couple of months and they regard this oath - it's not just a formality for them, OK?
For you and me, this is small potatoes. Big deal. But for the Tea Party movement, this is a huge deal. The oath that you swear when you're taking the office, you know, to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic - this is a special moment. It is a moment of communion with the Founding Fathers.
Do you remember two summers ago, 2009, Keith, there have a town hall summer, do you remember this?
OLBERMANN: Of course.
FRANK: Yes, there were fights going on all over the country over the health care bill and there was one that particularly sticks in my memory in Washington state. It was Representative Brian Baird and he had - - a constituent was going at him and really put him down in a particularly savage way. It became a big deal. It went viral on YouTube.
I remember the guy's taunt from the floor of the town hall meeting or one of many taunts. But the one that really stung, he said, you know, he had been a soldier, a Marine, I believe, and he said, I - something like he said, I kept my oath. Do you ever intend to keep yours? I mean, turned his back and walked away. It was, you know, just a powerful moment.
And the Tea Party movement talks about the oath all the time. So, for them, I mean, the guy is out doing a fundraiser instead of the oath?
FRANK: If I was one of them, I would be seething. But I'm not one of them.
OLBERMANN: Yes. The fundraising swearing in celebration is not going to be a continuing problem for Congressman Fitzpatrick? Or is it going to go away ironically enough because since they actually had not yet been sworn in, they were not technically congressmen when they held this fundraiser on Capitol property?
FRANK: Oh, that - oh, I don't know the answer to that. That's tricky one.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is.
FRANK: This will blow over. Nobody cares.
OLBERMANN: We're going to explore the health care rhetoric more fully in a moment. But when the Republicans proceed to ram through the health care repeal bill, another nod to the fan base, what are they accomplishing? Is that - did I just answer my own question?
FRANK: Well, that's not going to accomplish anything. But, I mean, they can do things to the health care law. Remember, these guys - the thesis of "The Wrecking Crew," one of the - one of the arguments I tried to make in "The Wrecking Crew" is that the way these guys work is, you know, you guess from the title, by sabotaging things.
And, you know, they can defund the various provisions of the health care law. If they get a chance to appoint people, you know, to positions of power in the new structure, they can screw that up. Really, there's a million ways in which they can jam the wrench right in there. But this isn't one of them.
OLBERMANN: Last point. Does the budget cutting pledge story have any legs? The promise to cut $100 billion that seems now to be topping out at $30 billion - will that still be news next week?
FRANK: Look - people play so many games with the budget business. I don't think they are actually going to try to stop raising the debt ceiling. That would be catastrophic.
But on the other hand, Keith, to bring on the catastrophe would make a lot of Glenn Beck's prophesies come true. And second of all, it would raise the price of gold, wouldn't it?
OLBERMANN: Yes, there you go.
FRANK: That's what it's all about.
OLBERMANN: It very well could be.
Thomas Frank, the author of "The Wrecking Crew" here on sweater night on Countdown - great thanks. Have a good weekend.
FRANK: All right.
OLBERMANN: As mentioned, House Republicans voted preliminary today on repealing health care reform. The motion to advance debate passed with the actual repeal vote scheduled for next week. The push comes despite the Congressional Budget Office's determination that repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion over 10 years. But damn it, the GOP has a catch phrase and they are going to repeat it into the ground.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We know this job-killing health care law hurts our economy.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Government-run plan paid for with job-killing tax increases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the jobs-killing health care bill that is taking jobs away from the private sector.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Job-killing mandates of Obamacare are not the answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repeal President Obama's job-killing health care bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clean the table of this job-killing flawed legislation.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: But a Harvard economist says repeal would actually kill jobs. He estimates it would cost from 250,000 jobs to more than 400,000. That's per year for the next 10 years - adding that in the nine months since the president signed health care reform into law, 200,000 new jobs have been created in just the health care industry.
Tangential evidence of that? "The L.A. Times" reports that more small businesses are offering health care to employees because of the tax credit in the new law that encourages them to do just that. One example, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas City reporting a 58 percent increase in the number of small businesses purchasing coverage since April. One month after the reform tax credit went into law.
Let's turn now to "Washington Post" staff writer, "Newsweek" columnist and MSNBC contributor, Ezra Klein.
Good evening, Ezra.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I think I - even I get the implication of a spike in sales of insurance programs to small businesses. But explain it anyway.
KLEIN: A spike in sales of insurance to small business during a horrible economy in which they are going out of business is pretty much unprecedented. And what it means that this small business tax credit that is going out across the country, what we're seeing is much larger take-up than we anticipated. And they are taking it up because it's finally made it affordable for them to offer insurance for employees.
That "L.A. Times" article, if you can get your hands on it, is actually pretty powerful document, because you have these business owners in there who were clearly agonizing for years that they couldn't do this for their people. They said, it came - finally it came and it's been perfect.
And you got a restaurant owner now that says every chef who works for me. We now were able to get them health care. It's been wonderful. It mattered.
OLBERMANN: And it's not the knee-jerk response to opponents of health care reform would say, well, that's part of the mandate, right, well, the mandate doesn't kick in for years yet. It doesn't have anything to do with, but you have to do this. They chose to do this.
KLEIN: No, the mandate isn't operative here at all.
OLBERMANN: All right. Is this exactly what happens when even a flawed minimal health care reform law like the one that passed last year has gotten into effect nine months and the benefits start to become quantifiable?
KLEIN: Absolutely. These benefits are trickling in. This is one of the first major ones that's really come in. But now, repeal is going to mean taking this credit from every one of these small businesses. These chefs are going to become uninsured once again.
And this is going to be the difficulty for the Republicans going forward. The CBO came out this week and as you mentioned in your introduction there, you said, you know what? You guys are going to cost us $230 billion if you do this. And, by the way, you're also going to mean 33 million people don't get insurance the next 10 years.
The good thing for the Republicans is most of those people don't have insurance yet. If they did, there'd be no way to do this at all. But the thing that Democrats learned when they try to pas health care reform is that things are popular in general and they get unpopular when you get specific.
And Republicans are about to find out the same thing. They want to repeal it all? Well, they are repealing the popular parts, too. And we've polled out a lot. When you repeal the popular parts of health care and ask the American people about it, they don't like that one bit.
OLBERMANN: So, Speaker Boehner already dismissed the CBO as "their opinion." Should Democrats thus not only because of the results of the sort of anecdotal evidence out of the insurance industry, but should because of Boehner's attitude toward this and your point about specifics versus general, should the Democrats relish rejoining the fight over health care reform on that specific level?
KLEIN: They should be going to war over it. It's an incredibly important achievement for them. And if Democrats cannot defend a deficit-reducing bill that brings health care insurance to 32 million people and allows folks with pre-existing conditions to get any insurance they want, if they can't defend that, frankly, they somewhat don't really deserve to be a party. If you can't defend the best thing you've done in a generation, then you got some political problems that are bigger than anything the Republicans are doing to you.
OLBERMANN: And yet, we know Republicans have been monumentally successful at controlling the narrative on how health care reform was perceived for two years, for two uninterrupted years. If the Democrats lost policy politics the first time around, how do they avoid this time around besides sort of a common sense approach that you already suggested?
KLEIN: There is good political science showing that people don't like things Congress does. There's a tendency we in the media report on conflict. We spend our time talking about the parts and things that people don't like.
There are a lot of reasons something is happening for folks not to like it. The thing is, when you have good policy and good policy goes into effect like the small business tax credits, that's when people do begin to like it. That's why Medicare is untouchable even among Republicans. Why they keep going to the floor and saying, how dare you cut this socialized government health care plan or same with Social Security, of course.
So, what Democrats really needed to do is protect this thing for long enough that people can begin to benefit from it. And Republicans know full well that if they get it that far along, they got no choice of getting this off the books anytime soon.
OLBERMANN: Get your hands off my federally-mandated tax cut and tax benefit and rebate for business - it's too long of a catch phrase. But you get the idea.
KLEIN: In 2050, Republicans will be saying, how dare you cut Obamacare.
OLBERMANN: There will be a statue to you if that's correct.
Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" - great thanks and have a good weekend.
KLEIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: We are moving toward a time when the only thing that will be nonpartisan in this country is death. In that context, the political individual from Illinois tries to restore the state organ transplant insurance cancelled by the Republican legislature in Arizona. He is a Republican political individual because death is nonpartisan. He joins us next.
OLBERMANN: This woman's plight, her Arizona state insurance for a life-saving lung transplant cancelled as a budget cut back inspiring a solution from a Republican politician who correctly says this isn't a Republican thing or a Democrat thing. It is a human thing. He joins us.
Rewriting history to pretend that the counting of slaves as three-fifths of a person in the Constitution was a means of ending slavery when, in fact, it was a means of extending it. Russell Simmons will correct him.
The Iowa congressman who doesn't seem to know that if congratulate Speaker Boehner on his, quote, "mendacity," he might not take that as a compliment.
And a story for the bespectacled, James Thurber's "The Admiral on the Wheel."
OLBERMANN: On Monday, a handful of state legislators in Arizona will the try to undo what has become known nationwide as a true, real life death panel. One man has already lost a liver that was specifically donated to save his life because Arizona had stripped state Medicaid coverage known as AHCCCS from seven kinds of organ transplants, leaving some 100 patients to their own devices. Two others have died, removed from the waiting list, because the Arizona death panel would not pay for their transplants.
But now on our fourth story tonight: something truly encouraging. The slight tendrils of bipartisan push-back on this draconian measure might be blossoming. An Illinois man has scoured Arizona's entire state budget, looking for ways of putting that small amount of money back in, and that man is a Republican.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer has stood behind her decision to let some of her own citizens die, saying that her job requires her to make tough choices. She's refused however to open the state's books so that advocates for Arizona 98 as the patients have now come to be known can determine how, for instance, the governor is using stimulus money that could cover the $4 million or less needed to keep providing transplant coverage.
Keep in the mind, the Brewer administration had months after approving the budget last spring in which to find the money that would, for instance, have allowed Francisco Felix to receive a liver from his dead friend, instead of being yanked from the operating room at the last minute for lack of funds.
So, one man took it upon himself to read the state budget and reports from the auditor general and the ones from the treasurer, and from the legislature and from AHCCCS insurance program itself. He hoped to find the $1 million-plus, which, along with federal matching funds, would then cover the transplants and guess what? He did it.
His Web site, Arizona98.com lists 26 separate ways Arizona could use existing funds or raise new funds to pay for these transplants. Everything from using the proceeds from a settlement with AIG to selling bonds backed by future settlements from big tobacco, to cutting subsidies for travel by Arizona State University's sports teams.
And the man who does it doesn't live in Arizona. He's from Obama's district in Illinois and he's not only a Republican, he's an official of the Illinois Republican Party. That's him Steven Daglas, with the guy you might recognize as the architect of the Bush presidency.
And joining us now is Illinois Republican Party committee man, Steve Daglas.
Thank you kindly for your time tonight, sir.
STEVEN DAGLAS, ILLINOIS REPUBLICAN PARTY: Thank you for having me, Keith. I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to the details here, you told the Arizona Republicans, as I already quoted, "This isn't a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It's a human thing." Amen to that.
Republicans make mistakes and Democrats make mistakes. And I'm wondering if you sense and fear as I sense and fear that elected politicians of both parties are now terrified of admitting even a mistake of this size for fear of blowback from the bases.
DAGLAS: I think there's validity to the point, Keith, without a doubt. The primary concern here is this will set a dangerous precedent. I think there are a lot of good people in government on both sides of the aisle, Democrat, Republican, libertarian, conservative, liberal, across the spectrum of politics. These are good people who mean well and sometimes just get caught up in the overwhelming pressures of government and leading a state the size of Arizona.
It's a $9 billion budget and I understand tough decisions have to be made. But right now, I don't think that's the way to go. So, here's a way we can work on this and just make it right together.
OLBERMANN: Actually, 26 different ways. Having said that -
OLBERMANN: Yes. Was Governor Brewer thrilled when you sent her the list of 26 ways to pay for this and re-establish the insurance?
DAGLAS: That's the hope, Keith. I don't know. We just haven't been able to get through to her. I'm hoping and praying and I think a lot of families are praying that these are on her desk and if they weren't they are on her desk now. She'll look at these 26 possible funding solutions, pick one or two she likes and finds suitable, and move forward with that and quite literally save the lives of these96 remaining individuals now who need transplants.
OLBERMANN: So, no response from the governor. I know there has been some murmurs among Republican members of the Arizona legislature that they want to be involved in fixing this no matter who winds up getting credit for it. And - but I do know you have reached out to the Democrats in the legislature who were fighting this.
Has there been more of a response there?
DAGLAS: We have - we have gotten positive feedback on both sides, Keith. I got a call actually today, which is a very, very encouraging from Chairman Kavanagh of the House Appropriations Committee out in Arizona, Representative Anna Tovar on the Democratic side has been helpful. Leila - - forgive me, I can't remember her last name at the moment, I believe it's Aikens (ph). She's been extremely encouraging.
And a lot of people behind the scenes and on the ground are looking at these options and saying, these are good ideas. These funding solutions don't take money away from anyone else. They require no new spending and they require no cuts to state services or other obligations.
These are ways to restore life, restore transplant funding without taking away from anyone else. I think that's an idea that everyone wants to get on board with.
Just at the end of the day, there is a basic sense of it's the right thing to do as a matter of humanity. Like we said, it's not a Democrat thing. It's not a Republican thing. It's a human thing.
And you guys are doing great work just by keeping the story alive. I know a lot of the families I've spoken really, really appreciate it. Not to mention the folks you have had on your program, Keith. It's incredible.
OLBERMANN: Thank you for saying that.
Well, lastly, tell me the story - well, tell me specifically what inspired you to get involved in this?
DAGLAS: I read this story of Tiffany Tate. She's only 27. I myself am 30. And I read this story about how she needed the lung transplant and it struck me that she's three years younger than me. I have already been on the face of the earth for three years longer than Tiffany will be if she doesn't get these transplants.
So, I took a look what I could do as a human being just to help. I'm not a wealthy man. I can't write a check to cover these transplants, but I know something about politics. I know something about policy, Keith.
So, it's kind of a stretch to think that one person could do it, but I got this crazy idea in my head that somehow, some way, I could find the money. I went through, like I said, I went through the entire budget line by line. I went through thousands of pages of audits, briefings. You know, there were people who pointed me in the right direction along the way, too. And just came up with solutions.
And like I said, as a conservative myself, Keith, I wanted to find ways that wouldn't take away from anyone else but would restore life. And I think these are ways to do it that everyone can agree on - Republican, Democrat, just as a matter of humanity. We can do this and here's how we can do it.
Pick one. Pick one of 26. Whatever floats your boat and let's do it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, you gave them enough choices. Well done, sir.
Steven Daglas, founder of Arizona98.com.
DAGLAS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And my thanks to you for your time and for being with us.
DAGLAS: It's been a privilege, sir. Have a good night.
OLBERMANN: You, too.
On Monday, on this subject, a Countdown exclusive: An Arizona woman fights for her daughter's heart transplant because if Republicans repeal Obamacare, her daughter's preexisting condition will prevent her from getting any health insurance and she will die. The mother is the granddaughter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She and her daughter, FDR's great granddaughter, join us Monday.
Russell Simmons on Glenn Beck's defense of the three-fifths slavery compromise - ahead.
OLBERMANN: Glenn Beck tries to whitewash the hateful Three Fifths Compromise. Russell Simmons joins me to make sure he does not get away with it.
First, the sanity break and the Tweet of the day from Stephanie. "Wonder if Bill-O thinks sex can't be explained either. I mean, something goes in, something goes out. Big smiley face emoticon."
No, I think the Makris lawsuit confirms that sex can be explained. And by him. If you don't know what Stephanie is referring to, let's play it again. Bill's proof that religion is not a scam.
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BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'll tell you why it's not a scam, in my opinion. All right? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can't explain it. You can explain -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tide goes in, tide goes out.
O'REILLY: The water of the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make it's Thor on top of Mount Olympus who is making the tides go in and out.
O'REILLY: But you can't explain that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: No, no, it was tide goes in, stains go out. But seriously, you want one of those inexplicable only something only God could make happen things? Bill's career.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Abidad, Republic of Georgia, with every bull fighter's nightmare, a two-headed calf. Born on Saturday, this baby bovine has four eyes, three ears and a sparkling personality. The owner has been forced to bottle feed the animal after the mother rejected it. But thus far, the calf appears to be healthy and is progressing at a normal pace. When it grows up, it is expected to go into business management.
London, hello, and the next wave in pop music, ice instruments. Composer Turje Insisest (ph) - that's Turje with a J - is holding performances featuring music utensils carved from glaciers. But he doesn't just play frozen instruments. He think the music itself sounds best when heard in temperatures below zero.
This is the plot of the move "What's Up, Doc" isn't it? For those of you who do not want to attend a sub-zero concert, here is a sneak peek.
OLBERMANN: Oh, race you to iTunes. A chilling glimpse into the future of music, but it is still not the worst glacial type music ever. That honor still belongs to Vanilla Ice.
No degree of difficulty on that joke.
Finally, to the Internets, we follow the never-ending battle between canines and ball. And down goes Pugsy. Too anxious for a clear shot at the ball, the puppy did not notice the open pool skimmer and fell right in. He was OK. The owner quickly retrieved him. But one thing is for sure, this is the biggest setback for dogs since the puppy sweater.
Time marches on.
Russell Simmons on Glenn Beck and racial historical revisionism next.
OLBERMANN: First, it was the attempt to sanitize secession by claiming it was about states rights. Then the "New York Times" published a piece about the governor of South Carolina, in 1860, who promised his legislature that if they seceded, they could re-establish the African slave trade, declare whites the ruling race, and punish all abolitionists, quote, "summarily and severely, if not with death."
In our third story tonight, Glenn Beck once again attempts to rewrite our nation's past, this time whitewashing the stain of a compromise that extended the life of slavery. During yesterday's Congressional Constitutional read-a-thon, the section containing the Three Fifths Compromise was omitted.
Beck took the opportunity to, once again, mangle history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Three Fifths Clause; African-Americans, three fifths - in the south, three fifths of a human being. That's an outrage, unless you know why they put that in there. They put that in there because if slaves in the south were counted as full human beings, they could never abolish slavery. They would never be able to do it. It was a time bomb. Progresses should love that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In the even a broken watch is right twice a day category, Beck is correct to say the south wanted slaves counted as fully human. But the anti-slavery draftsmen of the Constitution did not want slaves counted at all. Counting slaves while simultaneously denying them the rights of free people would help southern states increase their share of representation in Congress. And it would have been pro-slavery.
What's worse, the more slaves the deep south imported, the more seats it would get in the House. Beck is dead wrong to claim the Three Fifths Clause led to the abolition of slavery. Nearly 75 years later, it led to the Civil War and 600,000 American dead.
Sadly, id not have to be that way. One author of the Constitution, Governor Morris of New York, proposed a sliding scale in which slaves would count less as years went on. It was rejected. Yale Law Professor, recent guest on this program. Akhil Reta Amar explains in his book "America's Constitution, A Biography," quoting, "a declining ratio approach would have avoided glaring defects, while putting the slavery bonus system on a gradual but sure path to elimination. Slave holding regions would eventually stop getting extra House seats as rewards."
Mr. Beck's fascination with the remaking of the history of race relations in America is not new. Here he is last year with professional history reviser Richard Barton discussing African-American preacher Richard Allen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: Richard Allen was also - he was a preacher at a white church, a mega church.
RICHARD BARTON, HISTORICAL REVISIONIST: A mega church. He would preach to 2,000 whites at a church in Philadelphia.
BECK: Again, give me the year.
BARTON: This was about 1790s.
BECK: OK. How many here in the audience have been led to believe that in the 1790s blacks and whites hated each other? It was slavery, right? How many people - raise your hand. How many people said - look at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now to talk about the implications of his growing historical revisionism, Russell Simmons, co-founder of the pioneering hip hop label Def Jam, chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and the author of "Super Rich, A Guide to Having it All." Good to see you, sir.
RUSSEL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, FOUNDATION FOR ETHNIC UNDERSTANDING: Nice to se you again.
OLBERMANN: It's easy to dismiss this guy as an idiot.
SIMMONS: Yes, yes.
OLBERMANN: It's easy to dismiss this. But this is not done in a vacuum. We have these cleanup for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Haley Barbour on how great things were in the '60s in Mississippi.
SIMMONS: "Hucklebbery Finn." A lot of it going on.
OLBERMANN: Why is it going on?
SIMMONS: I'm the chairman of the Foundation as you pointed out. We get the research. And we have been moving to a more tolerant space in this country for the last 12 years, so long as I have been chairman. This year, we took a massive step backwards.
I see it going everywhere. And people are able to say things today that only 12 months ago they couldn't get out. Certainly not in a board room. Yesterday I was on the way to see you. I came out of yoga, excited to see you and you guys canceled me. Because I'm selling my book, you know, my "Super Rich" book - it's about consciousness and happiness. It wouldn't suit this.
Anyway, I'm on the way and they said, no, no. You're going to see Sean Hannity.
SIMMONS: He was in his happy mood. So I knew he was going to pounce on me. He read something that I wrote about Islamaphobia and the rise of antisemitism and rise of just - you know, the way people are - the Tea Party's effect on and Fox's effect on the collective. It's so bad.
He said Islamaphobia, where? He said, where? Then - and it was on -
I realized - I started to talk a little bit about - even though I'm far to the left of Dennis Kucinich and maybe even you in terms of my politics, I started to say I thought the president would come into a good season, because he's going to compromise. Maybe he'd finish some of the prison reform work.
He did Don't Ask, Don't Tell. There are some other things he could get done. I listened to him long enough. And all the yoga just disappeared. I was thinking to myself, what if they really - the power to really reverse so much, to do so many things - reverse health care. It is a real fight for this country, for the soul of this country.
I was surprised, because I thought maybe the president would get away with - but he's not atypical.
OLBERMANN: I know.
SIMMONS: This man, Glenn Beck, is gaining. And Sarah Palin's got a following. There is a group of people in this country that the level of tolerance is sliding, and they are pushing it. And they are part of - it is a mass movement away from the American dream.
OLBERMANN: Is the idea to go back an change history, is that to make people doubt what's going on now? So that you say, well, the problem was never that bad to begin with, so it can't be a problem at all now?
SIMMONS: Well, there's no history anyway. I'm an ambassador for the U.N. for the Transatlantic Slave Trade Memorial. And I think it's important, that history. I said I wouldn't accept the post unless we talked about 27 million modern day slaves.
So you need that history. You need to know that six out of seven people died in the Transatlantic Slave Trade coming across. You need to know how horrific that was, because that's kind of a gift. That suffering is a gift to humanity so that we could not repeat the same things. But do you know how short - it takes just a second to go down the wrong path.
SIMMONS: I live across the street from the World Trade. Imam Rauf has been preaching down there for many, many years. The idea that 28 out of 29 people voted, OK, it's all right. Then Fox News got a hold to it, and the whole country, 70, 80 - our governor, African-American governor, who knows what can happen, was going to negotiate to move the prayer center. Our own governor.
Anything can happen. We have to be careful. Thank you for uncovering these things. It is serious the way we're going.
OLBERMANN: It's unbelievable. Russell Simmons, the book is "Super Rich, A Guide To Having it all."
My apologies for sending you over to Sean Hannity by accident.
SIMMONS: Not your fault. My publicist did it to me.
OLBERMANN: Me apologies to everybody.
SIMMONS: I'm a whore to sell books. By the way, you look very slick in your - without your tie today.
OLBERMANN: I forgot to bring one.
SIMMONS: It looks good.
OLBERMANN: All right. Take care. Have a good weekend.
There's been an escape of truth gas on the floor of the House of Representatives, as Representative Steve King confirms the, quote, mendacity of Speaker Boehner.
Maybe he was reading the dictionary with his glasses off, the premise of James Thurber's wonderful story "The Admiral on The Wheel."
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the book cover says it all. The attempted machoization of Tim Pawlenty, conveniently just before 2012. Man, I don't think so.
OLBERMANN: A story completely lacking vision, Thurber's "The Admiral on The Wheel" next. First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for today's nominees for the Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze to Michael A. Davis. He is charged with being one of two men who held up a Burger King in Elmwood Park, Illinois. The other guy got away. Police say Mr. Davis did not because he took a taxi to the hold up and told it to wait. But the job took 30 minutes. When Davis came out with the loot, the cabbie had given up and driven away.
Our silver winner is the Las Vegas Police Department. They served a jaywalking ticket on 13-year-old Tacara Davis (ph) this week. Actually, the officer did not give her the ticket. He had to give it to her mother because Tacara was unavailable. She was in a coma in the hospital, because when she was allegedly jaywalking, trying to join her friends on the other side of the street, she was hit by a car.
Las Vegas Police issued the ticket anyway, and told her mother Tacara has to go to court on March 6th, you know, if she's out of the coma by then and not dead. The Vegas Police Department issued a statement saying "we wouldn't do anything deliberately insensitive," which is crap.
But our winner, challenged for the title of craziest congressman by the Paul Brown and Michele Bachmann and the newly elected Colonel Allen "Wacky" West, Steve King of Iowa has made a roaring comeback. Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen made a reference to Republican leadership lying about health care reform, and Mr. King took umbrage.
What he should have taken - he should have taken a dictionary. It's important to note the definition of the word mendacity before you hear Mr. King's remarks. "Mendacity, the quality of being mendacious, untruthfulness, tendency to lie."
To quote "The Princess Bride" for the second time this week, "you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: As I deliberate and I listen to the gentleman from Tennessee, I have to make the point that when you challenge the mendacity of the leader or another member, there is an opportunity to rise to a point of order. There is an opportunity to make a motion to take the gentleman's words down. However, many of the members are off in other endeavors.
I would make the point that the leader and the speaker have established their integrity and their mendacity for years in this Congress. I don't believe it can be effectively challenged. And those who do so actually cast dispersions on themselves for making wild accusations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You bet your ass. We will never again challenge the mendacity of Speaker Boehner and the Republican House leadership. Congressman Steve - he just said Boehner has the tendency to lie - King, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: James Thurber lost vision in one eye as a boy, and the sight in his good one gradually deteriorated to the point that he spent the last two decades of his life blind. Those who knew him say, not surprisingly, that this did not make him happy. But at least in his writing, he found a way to smile about it.
First published in "Let Your Mind Alone" in 1937, I'm reading it from the wonderful "Library of America, Thurber, Writings and Drawings," edited by Garrison Keiler. I can take of my glasses without either the peril or the wonder that Thurber describes in "The Admiral on The Wheel," by James Thurber.
"When the maid stepped on my glass the other morning, it was the first time they had been broken since the late Thomas A. Edison's 79th birthday. I remember that day well, because I was working for a newspaper then, and I had been assigned to go over to West Orange that morning and interview Mr. Edison.
I got up early and in reaching for my glasses under the bed, where I always put them, I found that one of my more sober and reflective Scotch Terriers was quietly chewing on them. Both tortoise shell temples - the pieces that go over your ears - had been eaten and Jeannie was toying with the lenses in sort of jaded way.
It was in going over to Jersey that day without my glasses that I realized the disadvantages of defective vision, bad eyesight, are at least partially compensated for by its peculiar advantages.
Up to that time, I had been in the habit of going to bed when my glasses were broken and lying there until they were fixed again. I had believed I could not go very far without them, not more than a block anyway, on account of the danger of bumping into things, getting a headache, losing my way.
None of those things happened. But a lot of others did. I saw the Cuban flag flying over a national bank. I saw a gay old lady with a gray parasol walk right through the side of a truck. I saw a cat roll across the street in a small, striped barrel. I saw bridges rise lazily in the air like balloons.
I suppose you have to have the right proportion of sight to encounter such phenomena. I seem to remember that oculists have told me that I have only two-fifths vision without what one of them referred to as artificial compensation - glasses.
With three-fifths or better, I suppose the Cuban flag would have been an American flag, the gay old lady a garbage man with a garbage can on his back. The cat a piece of butcher's paper blowing in the wind. The floating bridges smoke from tugs hanging in the air.
With perfect vision, one is inextricably trapped in the workaday world, a prisoner of reality, as lost in the commonplace America of 1937 as Alexander Selkirk was lost on his lonely island.
For three days after the maid in cleaning the apartment stepped on my glasses - I had not put them far enough under the bed - I worked at home and did not go uptown to have them fixed. It was in this period that I made the acquaintance of a remarkable Chesapeake spaniel.
I looked out my window and after a moment spotted him, a noble silent dog lying on a ledge above the entrance to a brown stone house in lower 5th Avenue. He lay there, proud and austere, for three days and nights, sleepless, never eating, a perfect watch dog. No ordinary dog could have got up on the high ledge above the doorway to begin with. No ordinary people would have owned such an animal.
The ordinary people were the people who walked by the house and did not see the dog. I got my glasses fixed finally and I know now that the dog has gone. But I haven't looked to see what prosaic object occupies the spot where he so staunchly stood guard over one of the last of the old New York houses on 5th Avenue.
Perhaps an unpainted flower box or a cleaning cloth dropped from an upper window by a careless menial. The moment of disenchantment would be too hard. I never look out that particular window anymore. Sometimes at night, even with my glasses on, I see strange and unbelievable sights, mainly when I am riding in an automobile which somebody else is driving.
I never drive myself at night out of fear that I might turn up at the portals of some mystical monastery and never return. Last summer, I was riding with someone along a country road when suddenly I cried out to him to look out. He slowed down and asked me sharply what was the matter.
There is no worse experience than to have someone shout at you to look out for something you don't see. What this driver didn't see and I did - two-fifths vision works a kind of magic in the night - was a little admiral in a full dress uniform riding a bicycle at right angles to the car I was in.
He might have been starlight behind a tree or a billboard advertising moxie. I don't know. We were quickly passed the place he road out of. But I'd recognize him if I saw him again. His beard was blowing in the breeze and his hat was set at a rakish angle, like Admiral Beatty's.
He was having a swell time. The gentleman who was driving the car has been since that night a trifle stiff and distant with me. I suppose you can hardly blame him.
To go back to my daylight experiences with the naked eye, it was me, in case you have heard the story, who once killed 15 white chickens with small stones. The poor beggars never had a chance. This happened many years ago when I was living at J., New York. I had a vegetable garden some 70 feet behind the house. And the lady of the house had asked me to keep an eye on it in my spare moments, and to chase away any chickens from neighboring farms that came peeking around.
One morning, getting up from my typewriter, I wandered out behind the house and saw that a flock of white chickens had invaded the garden. I had, to be sure, misplaced my glasses for the moment, but I could still see well enough to let the chickens have it, with ammunition from a pile of stones that I kept handy for the purpose.
Before I could be stopped, I had riddled all the tomato plants in the garden, over the tops of which the lady of the house had, the twilight before, placed newspapers and paper bags to ward off the effects of frost. It was one of the darker experiences of my dimmer hours.
Some day, I suppose, when the clouds are heavy and the rain is coming down and the pressure of reality is too great, I shall deliberately take my glasses off and go wandering out into the streets. I dare say I may never be heard of again.
I imagine I'll have a remarkable time, wherever I end up.
"The Admiral" - oh, sorry. "The Admiral on the Wheel" by James Thurber.
That's January 7th, 32 days since the Republicans got the deal for taxes for the rich. Mr. Boehner where are the jobs?
I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END