updated 7/29/2009 10:18:42 AM ET 2009-07-29T14:18:42

Guests: Keith Olbermann, Chris Hayes, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Wendell Potter, Phillip Longman

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD DEAN, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Are Democrats waging a bipartisan battle only to lose the health care war?  No public option, no employer mandate—why bother?  Is President Obama slowly losing the health care fight?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s so obvious that the system we have isn‘t working well for too many people and that we could just be doing better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  Democrats could definitely be doing better in the negotiations.  Tonight, why bipartisanship is ruining real reform?

Who‘s pulling the strings behind the scenes?  A whistle-blower from the world of big insurance explains how the industry plays the politicians.

And, fear factor.  As the GOP tries to scare you about government-controlled health care, we‘ll look at the reality that‘s already out there and it works.  Don‘t believe me?  Just ask of all people, conservative William Kristol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE JOURNALIST:  One of the ways we make it up to the soldiers and since they‘re risking their lives, we give them first-class health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  That would be first class government-run health care, just like members of Congress have.

The GOP‘s hypocritical spin job on Obama‘s birth place.  Republicans stoke the birther conspiracy, but when it comes to an actual vote, even the farthest right of the far right, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, voted that Obama was born here in America.

The poetry of Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  The cold though, doesn‘t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  As interpreted by William Shatner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR:  The cold though, doesn‘t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  And the great thaw in Major League Baseball.  Is Pete Rose about to become eligible for the Hall of Fame after a 20-year ban from baseball?  My special guest: Keith Olbermann, live from Cooperstown, New York.

All of that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Governor Howard Dean.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.

Sure, you can call it health care reform, but if it doesn‘t provide more Americans with the insurance they need or fix what‘s fundamentally broken about the system we currently have, is it really actual health care reform?

Our fifth story on THE COUNTDOWN: What, if anything, will be left in the watered-down so-called “compromise bill” that‘s now being negotiated by the Senate Finance Committee?

President Obama took questions at a virtual town hall hosted by the AARP, the lobbying group that represents older Americans.  At least twice the president reaffirmed his desire for a public option in the final bill.  Seventy-two percent of Americans, including 50 percent of Republicans, say they want that choice.

The Congressional Budget Office has weighed in with some news about the public option with its assessment that the government-run option will not force out private insurers.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer trumpeted the report, which contradicts a chief criticism by the Republican.  Congressman Hoyer also said there would not be a floor vote on the health care bill before lawmakers leave town for vacation on Friday.

During August recess, the Republican National Committee is planning to spend $1 million over just one month campaigning against health reform.  But what if the Senate Finance Committee‘s already done most of the Republicans‘ dirty work for them?

“The Associated Press” reports on some of the details emerging out of the committee‘s negotiations being chaired by Senator Max Baucus: as it stands now, the so-called “compromise bill” will have no public option, no employer mandate which requires that companies provide health insurance to their employees.

At the town hall, the president tried to dispel some of the Republicans‘ spin about government-run health care, especially Medicare, which was passed by the Senate 44 years ago today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  A lot of people had heard this phrase socialized medicine, and they say, “We don‘t want government-run health care.”  Nobody‘s talking about that.  We‘re saying, “Let‘s give you a choice.  You can choose the private marketplace, or this other approach.”  And I got a letter the other day from a woman, she said, “I don‘t want government-run health care.  I don‘t want socialized medicine.  And don‘t touch my Medicare.”

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  And, you know, you know, I wanted to say, well, I mean, this that‘s what Medicare is.  It‘s a government-run health care plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  Lots to talk about with Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.  He is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee and he serves as assistant to the speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Chris, welcome to the show.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Great to be with you, Howard.

DEAN:  Chris, I know the House is doing a great job on this.  But why haven‘t we seen—why haven‘t we seen Democrats in the Senate take a stronger bargaining position with the Republicans?  Why give away something as fundamental as health care reform as the public option?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, you‘re absolutely right, Howard.  We‘ve got to have a public option in the plan that we send to the president‘s desk.  We‘re all still hoping that the Senate Finance Committee bill will have a public option.

If they don‘t, we‘re going to press hard.  This has got to be in the bill that we send to the president‘s desk.  We‘ve got to create more choice for consumers and more competition for the insurance companies.

I don‘t think anyone was surprised to learn that the insurance companies are fighting this.  These are the same companies that have seen their profits go through the roof over the last seven years.  In fact, if you look at just the top 10 insurance companies, their profits have gone up about 430 percent over the last seven years, while everyone‘s income stayed flat and while their premiums were going through the roof.

So, we‘ve got to have a public option to create that competition and to give Americans more choice.

DEAN:  Some Democrats are saying that there needs to be compromise on the public option in order to get the bill passed.  But 72 percent of Americans say they want the choice of a public option.  Does that mean that what the American people want is already dead in the Senate?

VAN HOLLEN:  No.  I certainly hope not.  It‘s certainly not dead with respect to the bill that we‘ll send to the president‘s desk.

The American people are exactly right.  If you want more choice, you want to bring down premiums, you need that competition.  There are parts of the country where the private insurance companies have huge monopoly lock over the markets.  We need to provide that competition.  As the president said, we need to start keeping these insurance companies honest.

You know you‘re getting somewhere when you get a lot of resistance.  And as you get closer to making this happen, you get more and more fight from the insurance companies, and we have to stick up for the consumers.  And it‘s pretty clear that the Republicans support the status quo, and there‘s a good reason for that, which is their allies, the insurance industry, that has provided huge amounts of campaign contributions, supports the status quo, with respect to not providing for a public option.

DEAN:  Chris, voters were promised change they can believe in.  Are you concerned about what may happen to our party in 2010 or 2012 if we don‘t get any change at all?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, we‘re going to get change.  I‘m an optimist, Howard.  I believe that the will is there.  I believe, when our members go back to talk to their constituents over August and early September, they‘re going to hear about the need to provide for the public option, to provide for real competition.

The status quo is not working.  In fact, as we well know, most people who currently have health insurance are already paying a hidden tax of over $1,100.  And those are the people who already have insurance.

And so, we‘ve got to fix a broken system so that we can bring down their premiums, bring down the cost to the government and to the taxpayer, and that‘s what we‘re going to get.  And a public option is a critical part of creating those choices and competition.

DEAN:  How much of an issue do you think this is going to be in 2010 and when everybody‘s up for re-election in the House?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I think our whole record, of course, will be an issue and the big question when you look at that record will be: Did we follow through on the promise to change direction in this country?  And a big part of changing direction was trying to fix our health care system in a way that preserves what works but changes that part that is broken.

So, I think the American people are going to hold us accountable, as they should, on whether or not we‘ve received—we‘ve achieved real health care reform.  And I do believe that having a public option is a critical piece of that.

DEAN:  Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thank you so much for your time tonight.

VAN HOLLEN:  Thanks, Howard.

DEAN:  To some extent, blue dogs and Republicans are defending genuine, ideological principles: restraint spending and constrain government.  But they are also pulling in millions of dollars from health insurance companies fighting—which are fighting for their lives and their profits.

Joining us tonight is a former insurance company soldier from the front lines of this battle, Wendell Potter—a 20-year veteran of insurance public relations, most recently communications director for CIGNA, until he attended a Tennessee public health care fair in 2007 that turned his view of American health care upside down.  He left CIGNA and he‘s now a senior fellow on Health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Thank you so much for your time tonight, Wendell Phillips.

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER CIGNA COMM. DIR.:  Thank you so much, Governor.  Thank you for the opportunity.

DEAN:  Ideology aside, what motive do blue dogs and Republicans have to defeat the public option?

POTTER:  Well, I think the motive is to satisfy the expectations of the insurance industry.  One of the things we have to keep in mind is that the insurance industry has been devoting a lot of time and attention and money as well to make sure that the Republicans are lined up behind them.  And they‘ve been focusing most of their attention, most recently, on the members that they might be able to persuade, and those include the blue dog Democrats.

DEAN:  Robert Zirkelbach is a spokesman for AHIP, America‘s Health Insurance Plans.  Today, he said, quote, “For every dollar our government spends on health care, less than one penny goes to health plans‘ profits.  We need to focus on the other 99 cents.”

Now, this guy does for AHIP what you did for CIGNA.  Any reason not to believe him?

POTTER:  Well, yes, what he‘s doing is what I used to do when I was in the industry as well.  It‘s misleading with statistics.

A better way to look at this is that, if we consider that we spend about $2 trillion in health care in this country, one of every $8, $250 billion, last year, passed through the seven largest for-profit health insurance companies in this country and they made billions of dollars.

So, what he‘s doing is misleading with statistics, and there are many other ways that you can look at this and determine just how much the insurance industry is really in control of our health care system.

DEAN:  What happens if this ends up as just health insurance reform rather than meaningful health care reform?  Is that enough?

POTTER:  No, it‘s not enough.  Health insurance reform is very vital because it is such a big part of the health care system.  But there are many other elements of the health care system that need to be addressed, physician—ranging from physician compensation to a lot of other things that need to be fixed, that have created this situation of us having the most expensive health care system in the world, but one in which 50 million of our citizens don‘t have access to it.

DEAN:  Aetna had higher medical costs than they expected.  And so, yesterday they slashed their earnings forecast for the year and the stock fell more than 5 percent.  Can you explain to the audience how facts like these can change someone‘s health care?

POTTER:  Yes, it‘s an example of what I try—I have been talking about quite a bit over the past month.  Wall Street analysts and investors look for something called the medical loss ratio, and that is the percentage of money an insurer takes in in premiums, that it actually pays out in medical claims.

In 1993, the last time we had a big debate on health care reform during the Clinton years, 95 percent of every premium dollar was paid out in claims by insurance companies.  Since then, there‘s been a huge consolidation in the industry.  It‘s now dominated by seven large for-profit insurance companies.

And most recently, the medical loss ratio was down to 80 percent, just around 80 percent, which means that 20 cents of every premium dollar is being diverted to things like marketing and sales and underwriting to pay for executives‘ exorbitant compensation and to go into the pockets of big shareholders.

DEAN:  Is it fair to say that without a public option, that the bill hands the insurance companies $1 trillion in order to add 47 million uninsured people to the insurance rolls?

POTTER:  Oh, absolutely.  And, in fact, I‘m fairly certain that the lobbyists for the health insurance industry and the analysts on Wall Street in New York were probably doing high-fives with the news coming out of Washington that the Senate committee might—Senate Finance Committee might be voting on a bill that does not include the public option, and also that the House is not going to vote on the bill before the—before the recess.

It‘s getting a gift in the insurance industry, no doubt about it.

DEAN:  Why do you think it is that the private insurance companies have so much more trouble controlling costs?  Medicare is not perfect in controlling costs, but the cost increases in Medicare have gone up a lot more slowly than they have in the private insurance industry.  Why is that what is that all about? 

POTTER:  Well, the private insurance industry has much hiker administrative costs than Medicare does and that‘s primarily because of the things that Medicare doesn‘t seem—is not necessary for Medicare.  High sales and marketing expenses and underwriting expenses—a lot of those marketing dollars are, by the way, used not to find new members but to steal profitable accounts away from each other.  And also, a large amount of the money that they take in goes, again, to pay executive salaries, like mine used to be, and the CEOs, and also for shareholders.  That doesn‘t happen in a public plan like Medicare.

DEAN:  Do you think we ought to have solely a public plan, like a single payer, or do you think the hybrid kind of system that the president is suggesting would work better?  Clearly, you don‘t support what the Senate Finance Committee is trying to do, which is to eliminate the public plan.  What‘s your idea about the best way to control costs and cover everybody?

POTTER:  You know, as has been pointed out before, the health insurance industry is—every time this comes up, it goes to great lengths to try to scare the American public away from something like a single payer system, like Canada has.  Canadians are very, very happy with their health care system.  And, in fact, there are more people in this country without health insurance than the entire country of Canada.

I think that what we need to realize is that this year, though, it doesn‘t seem like the members of Congress have given any serious consideration to a single-payer plan.  So, the president‘s approach is the most pragmatic, I guess you would say, and one, if it‘s a hybrid, that would do a lot of good toward making sure that more of our people have access to quality, affordable health care.

DEAN:  Wendell Potter, formally of CIGNA, now a senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy—thank you so much for your time.

POTTER:  Thank you, Governor.

DEAN:  After hearing his story, it‘s hard to understand why six senators on the finance committee are fighting so hard to preserve the system of health care we have instead of embracing a government-run option that we know works—we know because it‘s the very system that members of Congress have for themselves and their families.

Coming up: Why you shouldn‘t fear changes we already know provide quality health care—next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN:  Coming up on COUNTDOWN: Taking the fear out of Republican scare tactics.  Why they want you to believe the very government-run health care they have won‘t work for you.  It‘s a lie.

And, an amazing admission from William Kristol: Our fighting men and women not only deserve the best health care, they already have it.  And guess what?  It‘s run by the government.  Details—up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN:  One simple thing unites not only the president, Democrats in Congress, blue dog Democrats and Republicans: no matter what they think about government-run health care, they all have government-run health care.

Our number four story tonight: The secret horrors of the government-run health care—a system so horrible and brutal, government politicians not only force it on themselves, but also on the elderly and our military veterans.

As President Obama pointed out today, elderly voters sometimes, in the same breath, attack government-run health care and then demand to keep their Medicare—which is government-run health care.  But Medicare is not the only government-run health care in America.  The Department of Veterans Affairs provides both coverage and care to more than 8 million Americans.

And what do the brave men and women who fought for this country think of American government-run health care?  Studies and surveys consistently rate the V.A.‘s government-run health care, just like Medicare‘s, and better than that provided by private insurance.

Our next guest is Philip Longman, whose book “The Best Care Anywhere: Why V.A. Health Care is Better Than Yours” explores in details, if I might coin a phrase, why the V.A. health care is better than yours?

Thanks for joining me tonight.  Phil, can you explain what the V.A.‘s government-run health care plan is and why it works?

PHILLIP LONGMAN, AUTHOR, “BEST CARE ANYWHERE”:  Well, the Department of Veterans Affairs operates about 153 hospitals and some 900 clinics in every state of the Union and in many of our territories.  It‘s the primary vehicle for providing care to the veterans who qualify.

I came to find out about it a couple of years ago when “Fortune” magazine called up and asked me to find out for them who might be the Jack Welch of health care—Jack Welch, of course, being the fabled CEO of General Electric at the time.  And I thought that was a pretty interesting assignment, so I went off to search for the Jack Welch of health care.

And discovered, as I looked around for innovation and who was winning the highest marks for quality and cost effectiveness in American health care, it was the institution that I couldn‘t believe could possibly be delivering these results—because, like many Americans, I didn‘t have much contact with it.  And what I did know about it came from movies like “Born on the Fourth of July.”  But it turns out—this is an amazing system and a really good news story for health care going forward.

DEAN:  So, it was RAND Corporation, which is published in the annals of American medicine, which found that in 294 different measures of quality, the V.A. outperformed every other sector of American health care, including the private sector.  How did they do that—bogged down by bureaucratic inefficiency, up against the super-efficient private sector?

LONGMAN:  Right.  Well, the first thing to notice about the V.A. is almost uniquely, in American health care, they have a near lifetime relationship with their patients, which means that, as an institution, they actually have incentives to invest in prevention, wellness and effective disease management, effective drug formulary, and they have done that.

They have used health I.T., a particular program called VistA that was written by doctors for doctors that has great volumes (ph).  They have used that to, you know, do very coordinated care of diabetes, for example.  They have given everybody a primary care physician, and then used the health I.T. system to coordinate care among specialists.  This has the added virtue that with their electronic medical record, researchers can go back after the fact and find out what procedures actually work and which don‘t.

The V.A. was among the earliest providers to pick up on the dangers of Vioxx, for example, a drug that killed more American than died in the Vietnam War.  They picked it up because of all of the clusters of heart attacks in their electronic medical record.

DEAN:  You know, one of the things that happened to me when I was governor is that we tried to allow non-veterans to use the V.A. system, and the veterans objected to it greatly, thinking that if you let more people in, it would wreck the system or hurt it in some way.

LONGMAN:  Yes.

DEAN:  What are the pros and cons of allowing—of expanding the V.A. system to cover more Americans?

LONGMAN:  Well, first of all, among veterans, the politics has changed very much.  The V.A. has the highest patient satisfaction level of any health care provider in the United States.  And I did a lot of work recently with the American Legion there.  Their prime legislative agenda is to enable veterans to use their Medicare to be treated at the V.A., which would be good because the V.A.‘s cost per patient is about two-thirds of what Medicare is, and it has higher quality metrics.

So, the picture we have here is a lot of veterans banging on the door to try to get into the V.A.  They‘re excluded by eligibility rules, many of them, and it doesn‘t make any sense at all.  In fact, now the Legion and many other veterans‘ groups are embracing the idea of allowing family members of veterans to come in.

Besides that, though, we contemplate something like a civilian V.A.  You know, where at this moment, where the public option, so-called, you know, is hanging by a thread and the reason that it is is because many blue dog Democrats and others, you know, have legitimate fears about the fiscal impact of just creating an entitlement that puts more people into an already-broken system.

If we combine—if we focus on the actual delivery vehicle under the public plan, I think the V.A. is a very good model to use.  We can go into various public hospitals all over the country, the St. Elsewhere‘s that are going out of business so rapidly, and say basically this, “You know, if you will adopt a V.A. protocols of care, if you will wire up your hospitals with their software and use it, we‘ll help you to do that, we will guarantee you this new pool of patients who have been recently mandated by insurance.”

And then we‘ll have an actual delivery vehicle and Congressional Budget Office and others will actually be able to score and make realistic estimates of what it will cost.

DEAN:  And in 30 seconds, if we were to adopt a public option that was modeled after the V.A., could they control costs?

LONGMAN:  Well, the V.A. is a proven model.  Their cost per patient has actually been going down even just as general health care inflation has been going up, and their quality is high.

So, you don‘t have to go to Sweden or believe in some wild economic theory.  This is proof on the ground.  Ask your veteran friends.  They‘ll tell you.

DEAN:  Philip Longman, author of “The Best Care Anywhere: Why V.A.

Health Care is Better Than Yours”—thank you for joining us.

LONGMAN:  Thank you.

DEAN:  I‘d like to take a quick moment now to tell all of you watching at home that you can join the health care debate as well after the show.  We‘re going to continue the discussion online.  All you have to do is go to ProgressiveBookClub.com.

Coming up: William Kristol exposes the hypocrisy of the right in opposing the public health option.  Jon Stewart gets Mr. Conservative himself to admit that the government already runs the best health care system there is.

And later: The art of Sarah Palin‘s final farewell as Alaska‘s governor.  William Shatner performs Palin poetry—ahead on COUTNDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN:  When Republicans are playing to the media, they love to say, “We‘ve got to keep health care away from the government.  The insurance companies do a better job.  It‘s too expensive.”

That‘s what they say.  But what do they think?

Some insight last night, courtesy of Jon Stewart‘s “Daily Show.”  Conservative pundit William Kristol talking health care, admitting the government does just fine running a first class health care system for the military.  It‘s just that the rest of the American people don‘t deserve the same. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  So you don‘t believe—no public option.  So even though that‘s good enough for the military, not good enough for the people of America? 

WILLIAM KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST:  No.  The military has a different health system than the rest of Americans. 

STEWART:  It‘s a public system, no?  

KRISTOL:  They don‘t have an option.  It‘s built-in military health care. 

STEWART:  Why don‘t we go with that then? 

KRISTOL:  I don‘t know.  Is military health care—Well, first of all, it‘s expense.  I think they deserve it, the military.  I‘m not sure -- 

STEWART:  The American public do not? 

KRISTOL:  No, the American public do not deserve the same quality health care soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve.  They need all kinds of things that the rest of us don‘t need. 

STEWART:  They can have that level of care.  But are you saying that the American public shouldn‘t have access to the same quality of health care that we give to our better citizens? 

KRISTOL:  Yes.  To our soldiers?  Absolutely. 

STEWART: Really? 

KRISTOL:  I think if you become a soldier—

STEWART:  Should they get paid more? 

(CROSS TALK)

KRISTOL:  They get paid less.  One of the ways we make it up to the soldiers for risking their lives is give them first class health care.  The rest of us can go out and buy insurance, as 90 percent of us have. 

STEWART:  I just want to get this on the record.  Bill Kristol just said that the government can run a first-class health care system. 

KRISTOL:  Sure it can. 

STEWART:  A government-run health care system is better than the private health care system. 

KRISTOL:  I don‘t know if it‘s better.  I don‘t know if it‘s better. 

STEWART:  You just said that. 

KRISTOL:  I don‘t know. 

STEWART:  You said it was better.  You said it‘s the best.  It‘s a little more expensive.  But it‘s better. 

KRISTOL:  The military needs a different kind of health care than the rest of us. 

STEWART:  I just want to write this down.  The government-run health care—

KRISTOL:  I will support you for arguing in better health care for the military, if they are in anyway being deprived. 

STEWART:  I understand that.  So what you‘re are suggesting is that the government could run the best health care system for Americans, but it‘s a little too costly, so we should have the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) insurance health care?  Or no health care? 

KRISTOL:  I think the soldiers deserve better health care than the rest of us because they‘re risking their lives.  And they are not in the same situation as all the rest of us. 

STEWART:  They have the best government-run health care money can buy. 

KRISTOL:  That could be.  I hope they do.  I‘m not sure the VA, for example, which is another government agency has the best health care.

STEWART:  Don‘t try and back out now.

KRISTOL:  I‘m not sure Medicare and Medicaid, which are government programs, provide the absolute best health care. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  From William Kristol boxed into a corner, to the entire GOP boxed in.  Republicans in the House, after encouraging questions about Obama‘s birth place, are forced to go on the record and say he was born in the USA. 

Also, could former baseball star Pete Rose actually add Hall of Famer to his resume?  Keith Olbermann joins us from Cooperstown, New York, on the mounting evidence that Major League Baseball is warming up to Rose again. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN:  The Obama birther conspiracy theorists will probably never accept the facts, and certain Republicans have been more than willing to fan the flames of this phony controversy.  But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, those Republicans in the House of Representatives have blinked, forced to vote on a resolution recognizing Hawaii as the birthplace of our 44th president. 

But let‘s admit it, it was never fully resolved when he was a candidate for president.  This persistent question about whether this man is a natural born citizen of the United States, particularly since he was not born in any of the United States, and now this very man is president of the United States?  No, this man is the defeated candidate for that office, Senator John McCain.  Since Senator McCain was born in Panama on a military installation. 

Granted, most Constitutional scholars agree that this still makes McCain a natural born citizen, but some scholars have said it‘s not a clearly settled area of law, which makes the Obama controversy all the more ludicrous by comparison, since the president was born in Hawaii, one of those facts that some fringe elements refuse to accept. 

So last night, as part of a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming a state, Democrat Neil Abercrombie inserted this language: “whereas the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii.”  The resolution passed with 378 aye votes and zero nays; 55 representatives did not vote.  But no one voted against it, including the nine House Republicans who are supporting the so-called birther bill that proposed that pretends to care about documentation for future potential candidates, and a reminder about how hard it is for some Republicans to simply admit that President Obama is a natural born American citizen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe Barack Obama was a natural born citizen of the United States and is Constitutionally permitted to serve as president? 

REP. MIKE COFFMAN ®, COLORADO:  The question doesn‘t sound right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You do believe that?   

Thanks very much. 

What do you believe personally? 

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS ROGERS ®, WA:  I would like to see the documents. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you‘re kind of afraid of the lunatic fringe base? 

REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY ®, LOUISIANA:  It‘s being looked at. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you personally believe, though?  Do you think there‘s a question here? 

BOUSTANY:  I think there are questions.  We‘ll have to see. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You do believe there are questions.  That‘s good enough.  Thanks very much. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  Let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes.  Good evening, Chris. 

CHRIS HAYES, “THE NATION”:  Good evening, governor. 

DEAN:  That House vote—first when pressed, it looks like no House Republicans could bring themselves to question that President Obama was born in Hawaii. 

HAYES:  Yes, I mean, look, these aren‘t—these people aren‘t idiots.  I don‘t think anyone actually believes that he wasn‘t born in Hawaii.  Or I will at least charitably interpret their actions as being cynical, as opposed to insane and think that this is essentially a ploy to kind of stoke the base, in that they don‘t want to be caught looking like idiots. 

That‘s why you see the discomfort in members when Mike Stark, who is a great blogger and writer, who is the man in that video and doing some great work for Firedog Lake—when mike was tracking those Republican members down, that‘s why they don‘t want to answer the question, because they‘re caught in this pincher between sort of respectability and the fringe elements of their own constituency. 

DEAN:  Doesn‘t that suggest that certain Republicans want it both ways, that they‘ll vote as they did last night, but they‘ll also continue to say and do things to keep the fringe element of their base active and engaged on the birther nonsense? 

HAYES:  Yes, I think that‘s exactly right.  You know, back in 2006, I was reporting on a somewhat similar kind of conspiracy theory going on about an impending North American Union.  And you actually have a lot of House Republicans, Virgil Goode, recently defeated from Virginia, he was a sponsor of a resolution coming out against the North American Union, and against a currency that would unite Canada, the US and Mexico. 

This was all, you know, emanating from a similar sort of element to the base.  The difference is that no one ever called it out.  And so they were allowed to kind of simultaneously stoke this kind of stuff amongst the base, and still present this respectable face to the Beltway establishment. 

DEAN:  Senator Jim Demint spoke to the Heritage Foundation last night.  He, of course, is now infamous for saying health care could be President Obama‘s Waterloo.  Of course, this is a Republican and he encourages that.  And while the speech was very critical of the president, Senator Demint later told the “Huffington Post” that, quote, he, Obama, is not only a citizen, but he‘s our president, and he deserves our respect.  He referred to the citizenship issue as nonsense. 

So why haven‘t we heard more of this from other Republicans? 

HAYES:  Well, you know, I think because—for two reasons.  One, I think they thought they could get away with just sort of stoking this.  So now that they‘ve been kind of caught with their hand in the cookie jar, I think you will see a little bit of a break.  I mean, there is this famous moment in the mythology of American conservatism in the 20th, when Bill Buckley sort of cast the Birchers and the conspiracy theorists out of the conservative movement on the ‘50s. 

And there are some who are kind of calling for a similar situation to go on right now with the birthers.  The question is, how many people can the right afford to cast out?  It‘s a very small constituency relative to the electorate at this point.  So there‘s sort of a sense in which they want to activate everyone they can get. 

DEAN:  Because the state of Hawaii keeps getting flooded with requests, the state‘s health director again issued a statement saying he had seen Obama‘s actual birth certificate and he was born in Hawaii.  So as this birther conspiracy gets shot down again and again, how much do you think the Republicans risk if they continue to attach themselves to it? 

HAYES:  Well, I think they risk respectability.  I‘m not sure how much reputational capital is left in the Republican party at this point.  Its approval ratings are in the basement.  It‘s sort of at a nadir.  You kind of wonder how low it can go at this point. 

So I think there‘s a certain element within the party that just kind of wants to double down, circle the wagon, consolidate the most extreme elements of the constituency, and try to wage and kind of wait for everyone to wake up to the impending road to serfdom and socialist revolution being inaugurated by Barack Obama. 

But that‘s not really a winning long-term political strategy.  And at some point, I think some other people inside the constituency are going to rebel against that—that direction. 

DEAN:  Chris Hayes of “The Nation,” thanks so much. 

HAYES:  Thank you. 

DEAN:  Coming up, Pete Rose willingly banned himself from baseball in the middle of a gambling scandal 20 years ago.  But now he‘s a Major League -- is Major League Baseball ready to forgive and forget?  My special guest from Cooperstown, New York, will be the one, the only Keith Olbermann. 

And I know Keith will hate to miss this, Sarah Palin‘s farewell address to Alaska, performed by William Shatner as poetry, next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN:  Perhaps we‘ve misunderstood her all along.  Maybe she‘s been operating on a much higher plain than the rest of us, and instead of honking water fowl of Lake Lucille as her backdrop, all she really needed was the soft beating of a Bongo Drum and mood lighting. 

Our number two story, Sarah Palin, Alaska beat poet.  Last night on “The Tonight Show,” Conan tested out the theory that Palin‘s erratic speeches are not just random thoughts, but rather one way the former governor channels her inner Alan Ginsburg.  First, her own words as a speech, and then as performance art. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  And getting up here, I say it is the best road trip in America, soaring through nature‘s finest show, Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun.  The cold, though, doesn‘t it flip the Chachacos (ph) from the Sourdoughs.  With Fire Weed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing. 

CONAN O‘BRIEN, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  Here to read the Palin speech verbatim, as it was intended to be heard, is Emmy award winner, and master thespian, Mr. William Shatner. 

WILLIAM SHATNER, EMMY AWARD WINNER:  Soaring through nature‘s finest snow, Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun.  And then the extremes in the wintertime, it‘s the frozen road that is competing with all of its ice fog frigid duty.  The cold, though, doesn‘t it split the Chachacos from the Sourdoughs?  And then in the summertime, such extremes.  Summertime about 150 degrees hotter than just some months ago, and then just some months from now.

The Fire Weed blooming along the frost beams and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here Mother Nature wins and it is, as throughout all Alaska, that big, wild, good life, teaming along the road that is north, to the future.

O‘BRIEN:  William Shatner!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN:  Coming up, is it possible that Pete Rose might one day make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame?  Keith Olbermann joins me next on the new clues surfacing that could be good news for Pete Rose. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN:  Perhaps no team sport places more emphasis on the individual as does baseball.  And in the annals of baseball history, there may be no one more solitary than one Pete Rose.  When Rose was playing, he was in a league of his own, atop the rankings for most career at bats, games played, and base hits.  And for the past two decades, since embroiled in a gambling scandal, he‘s also in a league of his own outside the sport. 

Twenty years ago this August, Rose was banned for life when allegations surfaced that the former Cincinnati Reds‘ star bet on baseball games.  Rose voluntarily agreed to be placed on a list of players who are permanently ineligible to participate in Major League ball.  There were charges Rose publicly finally admitted to five years later. 

But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, is baseball ready to issue a pardon and reinstate Pete Rose?  Recent developments may suggest just that. 

Joining us now from Cooperstown, our man on the ground, who has a job that‘s a lot harder than I thought it was, and a very familiar face to all of you, Keith Olbermann.  Thanks for taking the time from your vacation.  What exactly happened this weekend that all of a sudden we‘re talking about Pete Rose being reinstated? 

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, first of all, governor, I have to tell you, I like this show a lot better with you here than that usual idiot they have hosting it.  But the stuff is all circumstantial.  Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, still does not want Pete Rose anywhere near this place, the Baseball Hall of Fame, behind me, or anywhere else in baseball, for that matter. 

But there‘s increasing pressure that we saw this week, that suggests that a lot of the people who influence Bud Selig will be trying to convince him that the time has come to give Rose at least a chance to get into the Hall of Fame, if not back in baseball in a paying job.  And it‘s all circumstantial. 

Sparky Anderson, his former manager, who had not talked to him in 20 years since Rose was banned—Sparky came by to visit with him at the baseball card shop which Rose was signing autographs at about a minute and a half from here, over the weekend.  And with tears in his eyes said, you know, you made a lot of mistakes 20 years ago.  It shouldn‘t detract from what you did in baseball. 

Joe Morgan, who is vice chairman of the Hall of Fame, was here and talked to Rose for hours.  Several other of his former teammates, Tony Perez—Mike Schmidt came by to express some sort of support.  The most curious event of all, governor, was that the MLB chairman and president—chief operating officer and president, Bob Dupay, was seen in that card shop.  I don‘t know if he said, hey, Pete, you stink or whatever he said to him, but he visited with him, too. 

So something‘s going on, as much as baseball is insisting that nothing has officially changed.  And the 20th anniversary will come and go next month with Pete Rose still being suspended.   

DEAN:  Keith, you had a chance to speak with Pete Rose over this weekend.  What can you tell us about the conversation, and what was his mood like? 

OLBERMANN:  It was very strange, because Rose is usually anything but taciturn on this subject.  He will tell you how much he deserves to be back and what a benefit he will be to the game.  He was giving one-word answers to questions.  He said—he underplayed what Morgan was doing here.  He said that the visit with Sparky was very nice.  But he didn‘t go into any detail.  He just listed who was there. 

And that is so atypical to Rose that it suggests that he is trying to his critics would say put on a good sense of behavior.  One way or another, he‘s being quiet where usually he is as loud as they come. 

Just as a side story to this, if you can imagine such a thing, as we‘re talking to Pete Rose, not 20 minutes ago, Roger Clemens walked through this town because his son happens to be playing in a 12-year-old‘s tournament at a stadium here in Cooperstown.  So you talk about—I don‘t know—the village of the damned, perhaps, over the course of a couple of days here, Rose and then Clemens in just a four-day period. 

DEAN:  Speaking of all of that gambling, always been baseball‘s biggest taboo, going back to the 1919 Black Sox scandal and before.  But the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which Clemens has been accused of, by some of the game‘s brightest stars have cast a cloud of suspicion over the sport.  Is drug use in baseball becoming a bigger black eye for the sport than gambling‘s ever been? 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s interesting, because it‘s so much easier for fans to relate to negatively than the idea of gambling, or what‘s the difference if you bet on a game or you bet on your own team?  It becomes something that needs explanation.  I think the performance-enhancing drugs issue gets through to the fans pretty quickly and pretty directly.  And the big problem with that, Howard, is, as we look ahead in the next five, ten years here, there are going to be fewer and fewer automatic Hall of Famers. 

This was a great, wonderful weekend.  Ricky Henderson, Jim Rice, automatic guys that people love.  The lines were around the block for them.  There were applause and cheers and good feeling all around.  Maybe not so for the next five years of new Hall of Fame eligibilities, until Greg Maddox becomes eligibility. 

Ironically, it may be that Pete Rose looks not less guilty for what he did, but less guilty in the context of what other players have done with drugs. 

DEAN:  One of the things you wrote in your blog, in about 30 seconds, which we have left, is that Hank Aaron is playing a major role in this, because of his friendship with Bud Selig.  You want to talk a little bit about that? 

OLBERMANN:  Very simply, Bud Selig worships Hank Aaron.  He‘s one of his best friends.  And Hank Aaron said publicly the other day here, it‘s time, Pete should be in the Hall of Fame.  Take that for what it‘s worth, Howard. 

DEAN:  Keith Olbermann, working even while he‘s on vacation.  Enjoy the rest of your time off. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.  Thanks for filling in. 

DEAN:  Thank you.  It‘s harder than it looks. 

That will do it for Tuesday‘s edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Governor Howard Dean.  And a quick reminder, in minutes you will find me on the world wide web talking with you about health care.  Go to ProgressiveBookClub.com to join the conversation.  I will see you back here tomorrow. 

Up next on MSNBC, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  Good evening, Rachel. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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