updated 9/1/2009 10:43:03 AM ET 2009-09-01T14:43:03

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Arianna Huffington, Jeremy Scahill, Clarence Page

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The Republicans stop pretending.  “The number one assignment in 2009,” says Senator Bennett of Utah, “is to kill Obama-care.”  “I ask your immediate support,” Grassley e-mails his constituents, “in helping me defeat Obama-care.”  “Kill the bill,” says Senator Barrasso of Wyoming.

And they‘re still trying to claim support from beyond the grave.  What would Teddy have done—the GOP still insists he would have negotiated away the public option.

No, not unless you think he was lying in his letter to the Pope revealed publicly only at his burial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON:  I‘m committed to everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country.  This has been the political cause of my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Vicki Kennedy is out of contention to be her husband‘s interim successor.

More of the madness of Dick Cheney.  The lukewarm torture investigations?

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DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I think it‘s an outrageous political that will do great damage, long term, to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Like breaking the law, ruining the country‘s reputation, needlessly torturing detainees who are already talking.

And Republican racism and lying about it being racism continues.

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REP. LYNN JENKINS ®, KANSAS:  Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.

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OLBERMANN:  Remember when that Kansas congresswoman claimed she didn‘t know the racist origins of that phrase?

Last month, she supported a House resolution to pardon Jack Johnson.  The resolution read in part, “Whereas, the victory by Jack Johnson over Tommy Burns prompted a search for a white boxer who could beat Jack Johnson, a recruitment effort that was dubbed the search for the ‘great white hope.‘”  She lied.

At least we can always count on the far-right to screw it up somehow.

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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  O-L-I-G-A-R-H.  One letter is missing. 

Oligarch, the one that‘s missing is Y.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Wait, it gets worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  Walk softly and carry a big stick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Speak.  Speak softly.  Theodore Roosevelt said: speak softly and—oh, never mind.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  The one that‘s missing is Y.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

While some of them are tonight still insisting the late Ted Kennedy would have sold out the public option, thrusting their own propaganda instead of a letter written by the dying senator to the Pope.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Any pretext of bipartisanship were negotiated over health care was finally thrown under the bus by at least four Republican senators, including Mr. Grassley of Iowa, the one purportedly leading the bargaining—obviously bargaining with sincerity of the two Japanese diplomats who went to the White House in November 17th, 1941.

What would Teddy do?  The “Liberal Lion” of the Senate having answered that question himself during—as it turned out—his own burial service on Saturday night, with a letter to the Pope that was personally hand delivered by President Obama earlier this summer.  His words read in the fading light beside his grave by Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARRICK:  Even though I am ill, I‘m committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country.  This has been the political cause of my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If somehow that directive were not clear enough indication of Senator Kennedy‘s intentions, earlier that day, in his funeral in Boston, Senator Kennedy‘s grandson, Max, having offered this prayer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAX ALLEN, SEN. KENNEDY‘S GRANDSON:  For what my grandpa called the cause of his life, as he said so often, in every part of this land, that every American will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.  e pray to the Lord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Orrin Hatch is in the Mission Church of Boston to hear young Max Allen‘s prayer, but despite that, the following morning, Senator Hatch claimed that Senator Kennedy would have compromised on the political cause of his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  When he recognized that, you know, he couldn‘t get everything that he wanted but he could get a good bill by working with the other side.  And making through compromise, he would always come through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you think he‘d move in that direction.

HATCH:  I have no doubt about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You‘re the only one.  In Salt Lake City, Friday, two days after Senator Kennedy‘s death, Senator Bennett having stated at a fund-raiser where the fundraising headliner was Karl Rove, quote, “the number one assignment in 2009 is to kill Obama-care.”  Senator Barrasso of Wyoming having declared the same day that it is time to kill the bill.

The bulk of the negotiating that remains is being conducted by the Senate Finance Committee, including Grassley, who learned today set out, three weeks ago, a fund-raising letter in which he, quote, “set the record on my firm and unwavering opposition to government-run health care” and asked for “immediate support in helping me defeat Obama-care”; and claimed that “If the legislation sponsored Chairman Ted Kennedy in the Senate is passed, it would be a path way to a government takeover of the health care system.”

The need to replace Senator Kennedy‘s vote on the health care is more apparent than ever.  Governor Patrick of Massachusetts today setting the 19th of January as the date of the special election to replace the senator in the Senate, also reaffirming his desire to change state law so that an interim appointment can be made in the meantime, and the government also knocking down speculation that Senator Kennedy‘s widow, Vicki, would be interested in that interim appointment.

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GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Mrs. Kennedy is not interested in the position.

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OLBERMANN:  Time now to turn to a veteran of the Senate, MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, who served as chief of staff to the finance committee.

Lawrence, good evening.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Grassley letter prompting a question that takes on more outrage and more urgency with each revelation about this man from Iowa.  Why is any Democrat still negotiating with the Republicans and particularly with Mr. Grassley whose word seems to mean absolutely nothing?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, let‘s see how much they really are negotiating with them when they get back from the August recess.  That fundraising letter, I think, is the most devastating comment so far.  Obama-care is a very broad term that, I think, to the recipients of that letter means any form of health care reform.  So, that‘s as bad a thing as we have heard from Grassley so far.

OLBERMANN:  The notion, meantime, floated by people like Mr. Hatch and other Republicans, playing on this perpetual loop at FOX, on right-wing radio, that Senator Kennedy would have compromised on the current health care reform bill, particularly regarding the public option.

You worked with Senator Kennedy on the Clinton health care reform bill process, as somebody who was in there and who—now, I presumably, heard the senator‘s letter to the Pope read after the senator‘s death during his burial—how do you respond to this notion from Mr. Hatch?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I would not presume to speak for the senator who is no longer with us.  I think John Kerry can do that.  I think Chris Dodd can do that, because they had conversation with him specifically about where he stood on it this year.

What we do have is the history.  There‘s a history of absolutely no compromise with Ted Kennedy on health care reform and on the central principles of it.  He refused to compromise with President Nixon when President Nixon offered a very, very strong employer mandate bill, which was basically the shape of the Clinton bill 20 years later.  Ted Kennedy came to regret that.  He told E.J. Dionne by 2004 that, in fact, he did regret not doing business with Richard Nixon.

But after that, he became very unyielding also when President Clinton wanted him to be unyielding which was in 1994.  You‘ll President Clinton held up a veto pen and basically said, “I‘ll veto anything that does not have universal coverage,” which in the mechanism for that, was the employer mandate.  The employer mandate was the tough get in that legislative go-ground.  That‘s what we couldn‘t get passed.

Ted Kennedy did get the employer mandate passed in his committee with no Republican votes, including Orrin Hatch.  He did not compromise any of the central principles of the bill to get Orrin Hatch‘s vote.

Same thing happened this time around.  Chris Dodd was in close communication with Chairman Kennedy about what to do.  When Chris Dodd passed the bill out of the committee with zero Republican votes, with Orrin Hatch voting against pens it and with John McCain voting against it, Ted Kennedy called him the next morning first thing and did not say to him, “Why didn‘t you get Orrin Hatch?”  He called him to congratulate him for the way he passed the bill and what was in it.

OLBERMANN:  You said at the start, let‘s see how much negotiating the Democrats actually do after the—after the break is over.  In the Republican radio address over the weekend, Senator Enzi, who‘s also supposed to be part of these purportedly bipartisan talks, said that the Democrats and their health care proposals will actually make our nation‘s finances sicker without saving you money.  He said, “They would raid Medicare,” and he said, “They would intrude in the relationship between a doctor and a patient.”

Mr. Gibbs this afternoon at the White House said that those remarks were illuminating.

Is his response illuminating as to where the White House may have finally come down on this?  Did they finally get it at the White House?

O‘DONNELL:  I think they should be counting Enzi out.  I mean, how you could ever imagine the Republican from Wyoming being on board on something like this, it always surprise me.  He, too, was on the Kennedy committee.  He also voted against the Kennedy bill.  He also did not engage in negotiations with Chris Dodd on that bill.

And now, he has been involved in the finance committee negotiations which had been more than looser—been more open, but I never saw a root to getting his vote on what the president wants which is this public option and other elements. And I don‘t see it now.

And so, the White House, the problem for the White House is, this is

very bad news when they get to the end of the August recess and they

realize there are no Republican votes—if that‘s what they are realizing

because they did not have a strategy prior to now, to do this without Republican votes.

           

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, MSNBC political analyst, also of “Huffington Post”—as always, sir, great thanks.

O‘DONNEL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We mentioned Governor Deval Patrick said today that Mrs.  Kennedy does not what the interim appointment if it happens to succeed her husband.  So, who then and what now?

Let‘s turn to Arianna Huffington, our co-founder and editor-in-chief of HuffingtonPost.com.

Arianna, good evening.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  To your knowledge, is Massachusetts now indeed expected to alter its law about an interim appointment and will it get that somebody who represents Senator Kennedy‘s vote and vision on health care and get them sooner rather than later?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, it is not certain by any means.  But there‘s a lot of pressure to actually change the law so that somebody can fill the seat for the next five months.  And that person has to promise—as you know, Keith—that they are not going to run in the special election.  So, it will truly be an interim appointment.

And since Vicki Kennedy took herself out of the running, it‘s down to Joe Kennedy and—or even Teddy Kennedy because even though Kennedy Jr.  lives in Connecticut, he has a home in Hyannis Port.  So, legally, he could be considered.

And then, of course, all the staffers—you know, these amazing Ted Kennedy staffers who‘ve been with him for over 40 years.  Barbara Souliotis ran his Boston office, who is an icon in terms of the way she cares for the constituents or Michael Myers who spearheaded the health care policy team.  And there‘s—great group of staffers who really believe in everything the senator believed in who also may be considered.

OLBERMANN:  Would there be Republican blowback if it‘s if it‘s Teddy Kennedy Jr., if it‘s Joe Kennedy?  Would there be a problem with either one of those simply because they wouldn‘t want the name to carry the weight—even if it was just for less than five months and it was a guarantee those people were not going to run, whoever wound up being the interim senator not running in January?

HUFFINGTON:  Oh, yes.  Of course, there would always be blowback.  As we‘ve seen, they haven‘t exactly being reasonable, and so much is at stake, with milestone health care legislation, that they wouldn‘t let Ted Kennedy‘s memories stand in the way.  And I mean, I think that even Bobby Kennedy or Jack Kennedy somehow found a way to complete the senator‘s term, there might be blowback.

OLBERMANN:  Who outside the family is under consideration to your knowledge?  Who would do it and who would do it well and who would do it?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, I‘m actually being told that senior staffers like the ones I mentioned, or like Nick Littlefield, who you may remember sang during the memorial.  And he‘s a former staffer and now practices as a lawyer in Massachusetts; Carey Parker, who is the legislative director, who is Senator Kennedy‘s staff for 40 years—that all of them are also being considered if the law is changed.  And we don‘t know that yet.

OLBERMANN:  As to the special election in January, is there a chance that the seat might not remain firmly in Democratic hands, the state did elect a Republican governor previous to this one?

HUFFINGTON:  Exactly, two Republican governors.  You know, Mitt Romney, and before that, Bill Weld.

Actually, Keith, I really think it depends on three factors.  One is who the candidate will be.  You know, if it‘s somebody like Ed Markey or Barney Frank.  You know, they have a huge following in the state.  Who the Republican would be—if it‘s Mitt Romney, that would be a real race.

And, perhaps most important, what the conditions are on the ground will be.  Massachusetts already has about 9 percent of unemployment, not quite but almost.  Foreclosures are very high.  What‘s going to be happening by the time the special election comes in January will be very significant and in terms of how much opposition to the Democratic nominee there will be.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s double back to conclude this to the Grassley letter.  Did that surprise you in any—in any way, shape, form, that Mr. Grassley while purporting to be negotiating had told this—in a fund-raiser told his supporters, “My job is to kill Obama-care”?

HUFFINGTON:  Actually, Keith, didn‘t surprise me but I‘m surprised it surprised the White House, because, for Gibbs the Enzi letter, the Enzi comments illuminating and to still hold any hope that Grassley or Enzi could actually support any real health care reform legislation, I find that incredibly surprising.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I suppose the spirit of the idea of it not being surprising is charming in one way, but I think you‘re right on the whole picture.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder, editor of “Huffington Post”—as always, thank you, Arianna.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Irony, isn‘t it, that the Republican approach on health care seems to have been to negotiate while back home promising to kill, to take no prisoners.  Taking no prisoners would have served them well when it came to detention and rendition and torture.

Instead, we have the continuing, astonishing spectacle of their former vice president, now not only demanding that no investigation be made of the crimes committed by him and others, but also—if you reverse-engineer his premise—also insisting that the Obama administration should be able to break any laws it feels like breaking and never itself be subject to any investigation—next.

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OLBERMANN:  Dick Cheney‘s endless opposition to law and order might be a little more credible if he didn‘t say dumb things such as he doesn‘t even know who‘s in charge of interrogation under President Obama.  It‘s a key figure from the Bush administration‘s CIA.

And Glenn Beck might be a little more credible if he didn‘t screw up his own stunts, misspell key words in his demagoguery, and misquote everybody from Shakespeare to Teddy Roosevelt in a span of two days.  Do what to carry a big stick?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  It is true what they say.  For some guys, when they retire, they lose their edge and miss a step here and there and just stop caring—which brings us to our fourth story tonight: Old man Cheney.

Do you ever get the feeling some people aren‘t even trying anymore?  In fact, when he told FOX News that CIA operatives investigated for possible torture will have to pay for their own lawyers, even Chris Wallace corrected him.  Not the first time Cheney said it, mind you, but the second.  On everything else, Wallace was silent.

On Obama‘s new interrogation task force, Cheney, quote, “I don‘t even know who‘s running it.  This guy, it was in all the papers, John Brennan.  He was over at the CIA when you were vice president.

Grandpa Dick also claiming—before the preliminary investigation into CIA torture has even begun—that it‘s all political.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  They‘re going to go out and investigate the CIA personnel who carried out those investigations.  I just—I think it‘s an outrageous political act that will do great damage, long term, to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  An outrageous political act to be carried out by this man prosecutor John Durham, appointed by the Bush Justice Department to investigate CIA destruction of interrogation videos.  And outrageous political act first recommended by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the ethics office of the Bush Justice Department.

“The Weekly Standard‘ today reporting that Mr. Bush‘s attorney general, Michael Mukasey, when hay saw an early draft, quote, “questioned why the ethics office recommended that investigation.”  That same office, not as the old (INAUDIBLE) claims Mr. Obama, that same office was the one to suggest disbarring Bush lawyers who had green lighted torture.

And, of course, the logical fallacy that torture must have worked because al Qaeda has not attacked again.  Vice president‘s dodos, ignorance about terrorism apparently still immune to the fact that the first World Trade Center bombing was followed by more than 8 ½ years without any attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  I guess the other thing that offends the hell out of me, frankly, Chris, is we had a track record now of eight years of defending the nation against any further mass casualty attacks from al Qaeda.  The approach of the Obama administration should be, to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say, how did you do it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  With us tonight, Jeremy Scahill, contributor at “The Nation” and author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.”

Good evening.

JEREMY SCAHILL, “THE NATION” MAGAZINE:  It‘s sobering to think that man actually had his finger on the trigger.

OLBERMANN:  And still thinks he does.  That‘s the other part of it.

Mr. Obama said, Mr. Holder said—they both did this—that they will only investigate those who actually went beyond the Bush/Cheney guidelines, which has infuriated many on the left on the pretext that breaking the law is enough to merit investigation, let alone breaking the law that broke the law—but why would Cheney object to Obama enforcing rules that come from Bush and Cheney?

SCAHILL:  Right.  Well, let‘s remember that Dick Cheney doesn‘t want the American people—not to mention the U.S. Congress to know anything that happened under his administration—that when he took us to the dark side, as he talked about it.

But let‘s remember here that these legal justifications, quote-unquote, “for torture,” that‘s what it was, that Cheney and Bush and their lawyers developed, they were incredible stretches of the law to begin with.  They violate the basic principles of multiple conventions, including the Convention Against Torture, which was, of course, ratified under that militant leftist Ronald Reagan, that violates the Geneva Convention as that draft-dodging man who had never know torture if he endured it for years, John McCain condemned on the Sunday talk shows this weekend.

So, the fact is, I think, that Dick Cheney wants to cover up all the criminality, all of the wrongdoing from the American people.

OLBERMANN:  There remains no proof, no evidence in the last batch of documents revealed that torture saved anyone—even people on the right-wing have said it‘s not there.  The Bush liaison to homeland security said you might be able to infer it from what is written there but it‘s not in the report.  Chris Wallace failed to ask about evidence that torture hurt us and not just in terms of reputation but in terms of our safety.  You never brought that—never brought the negatives up in this interview.

SCAHILL:  Right.  Well, I mean, watching Chris Wallace, quote-unquote, “interview” Dick Cheney, and in the words of Andrew Sullivan, it was like watching a teenage journalist interviewing the Jonas Brothers.  I mean, the only way it could have been lower is if Sarah Palin interviewed Dick Cheney herself.

So, if you just looked at the so-called questions that Chris Wallace asked Dick Cheney, there was not a single hard question there, except when he corrected him—as you pointed out—on the issue of the CIA paying for the defense of these individuals.

We don‘t have real journalism, for the most part, in this society when we talk about the question of torture.  The fact is, that if the American people were aware in detail, drumbeat coverage of what was being done in their name—power drills, squeezing of testicles, slamming people‘s heads against walls—all of the things that went on, it would stop.  That‘s the role of journalists, and yet we see this infotainment with Dick Cheney, a war criminal.

OLBERMANN:  Let me reverse-engineer this as I suggested.  Has it occurred to Cheney or anybody who defends him what he is ultimately suggesting for the future, that if any administration can‘t look—this one—can‘t look back at what crimes or wrongdoing may have been committed by the previous one, that that‘s basically a signal to anybody in the Obama administration, “Hey, go ahead, do whatever you want because nobody in the future can come back and investigate you” is essentially a divine right of precedence then, isn‘t it?

SCAHILL:  Right.  I think there are two things here.  One, Dick Cheney is fighting to have these policies continue.  That‘s really the point here.  He is not thinking about what Obama—what the Obama people are going to do.  He‘s thinking about what he wants to continue to happen in the dark corners of the Earth of secret prisons at Guantanamo and Bagram.

But that raises a more important point.  The Obama administration needs to hold these individuals accountable from top to bottom so that we send a message, going forward, that torture is going to be unacceptable in this country.  The media set the tone and they get an “F” for their coverage on this issue.

OLBERMANN:  Last point briefly.  Cheney wanted to attack Iran.  He mentioned this.  But nobody in his own administration agreed with him.  What does that tell us?

SCAHILL:  Well, I mean, I think—given the amount of power Cheney had, it shows us how close to nuclear midnight we actually were.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

SCAHILL:  . when it came to a war in Iran.  It also is a vindication of all the reporting that Seymour Hirsch did about Cheney‘s role.

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.

SCAHILL:  . in the threats against Iran.

OLBERMANN:  And it also says that there are—were, in fact, ideas that were too crazy even for George Bush.

SCAHILL:  And that‘s also true.

OLBERMANN:  Jeremy Scahill of “The Nation”—great thanks for coming in.

SCAHILL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to complain but the poll dancers in this place leave a lot to be desired.

As does she—back on the air, billed as an expert on health care reform while she‘s being paid by health care companies to try to kill health care reform.  Who would fall for this act again?  The lies of Betsy McCaughey—ahead in “Worst Persons.”

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OLBERMANN:  “Bests” in a moment and what happens when health care supporters Astroturf a Republican town hall?

First, 112 years ago yesterday was born one of the great underrated American actors.  Frederick March played everything and everybody from “Jekyll & Hyde” to Normain Maine in a “Star is Born” to the World War II vet in “The Best Years of Our Lives,” Willy Loman, to the president in “Seven Days in May,” to the William Jennings Brian character in “Inherit the Wind.”  And he worked from 1921 through 1973.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Beijing as China‘s invisible man prepares for his next vanishing act.  The latest in body paint technology allows local artist, Liu Bolin, to camouflage himself into the city‘s many nooks and crannies.  Three of Liu‘s assistants paint the human chameleon for several hours while he stands pretty quickly still.  Once paint is applied, watch as Liu disappears into this intricately carved doorway.

Although the blending works much better with simple surroundings, like a baron wall or the brain trust at fixed news.  Liu is already planning his next stunt using paint to vanish into thin air although a few have advice he should not attempt that particular trick near the adjoining highway.

To (INAUDIBLE) in India, where the village elders are worried that one of their most hallowed traditions will die an untimely death if they don‘t do something about it, talking, of course, about the ancient virtual pole pillow fighting.  Opponents sit facing one another straddling this bamboo pole here and just doing “Monty Python” bits on each other.

One of them is supposed to fall off, he‘s the loser.  Town‘s folk hope the latest tournament will encourage the local youth to not be swayed by more modern, sophisticated sports.  Participants are judge on speed, accuracy, awarded points for their pillow‘s ability to really tie a room together. 

Meanwhile, the reining champs said to be so dedicated, he keeps a pillow by his bed.  Thank you.  Thank you.

The self-described right wing terrorist, applauded by the California congressman, he now says he meant extremist. 

How do you spell relief?  I spell it watching Glenn Beck and laughing out loud as he sabotages himself, yet again. 

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Dateline, Virginia beach, number three, best political resume, Robert F. McDonnell, Republican candidate for governor of Virginia.  In a recent interview, he proudly referred to his master‘s thesis.  So the “Washington Post” found it in his university‘s library.  In it, he described women having jobs as detrimental to the family, called legalized use of contraception illogical, pushed to make divorce more difficult, and insisted government should favor married couples over, quote, cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators. 

Wow.  When did he write this?  1875?  No, 1989.  Wow, 1989.  Good-bye, Mr. McDonnell. 

Dateline the Pentagon, number two, best reversal, Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith.  The military had rehired the Rendon Group to vet journalists seeking to get embedded in Iraq.  Then “Stars and Stripes” pointed out that the Rendon Group had graded journalists on whether they were willing to emphasize positive coverage.  Rear Admiral Smith has now fired the Rendon Group. 

And Dateline Lamar, Texas, number one, best comeuppance, Republican Congressman Pete Olson.  Held a health care town hall, during which he told the story of Britney, a pregnant woman who couldn‘t find a doctor to treat her unborn child‘s heart defect, and claimed she is, quote, convinced her child would not have been born if there was a public option. 

That‘s when Congressman Olson found that protests and shouting cut two ways.  Somebody at the town hall yelled that‘s not true and then—then it was olly, olly, oxen free.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETE OLSON ®, TEXAS:  Don‘t talk to me.  Talk to Britney. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s not true. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The insurance company turned her down, not the government.  The private insurance turned her down, not the government.  My god.  The doctors—exactly, that‘s not the government.  That‘s not the government.  That wasn‘t the government. 

OLSON:  Quiet.  The government set it up.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There you go.  Death panel.  Death panel. 

OLSON:  Sit down.  I want to thank you all for coming. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Challenged by reality—Britney was not denied doctors.  She was denied insurance.  Congressman Pete Olson lasted 47 seconds until he shut the meeting down, 47 seconds, congressman.  Congratulations.  Also, there is a doe in your backyard who wants the deer in the headlights look back whenever you‘re done with it. 

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OLBERMANN:  The Republican Congresswoman who called for the “great white hope” and then claimed she did not know what the phrase really meant, turns out she had recently supported a bill that explained what it meant.  The California man who proudly declared himself a right wing terrorist now says he meant to say extremist.  And it is his fault, not that Congressman‘s.  Also in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, secessionists in Texas holding a rally, with a gubernatorial candidate, saying they know it might mean a bloody war. 

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins first.  The Kansas lawmaker, you will recall, let this one fly at a recent town hall meeting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LYNN JENKINS ®, KANSAS:  Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.  I suggest to any of you that are concerned about that that are Republicans, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  She rattled off four examples of Republican great white hopes.  And in her subsequent pseudo apology, she said that she did not know what great white hope meant, or that it held negative connotations.  Turns out that less than a month earlier, she had supported a House resolution calling on President Obama to pardon, posthumously, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champ, Jack Johnson, for bogus and racist convictions under the Mann Act. 

The resolution read, in part, “whereas the victory of Jack Johnson over Tommy Burns prompted a search for a white boxer who could beat Jack Johnson, a recruitment effort that was dubbed the search for the great white hope.” 

Jenkins‘ new excuse?  Quoting her spokeswoman, “no, she did not read the specific resolution.” 

You may also recall Congressman Wally Herger of California‘s second district and his response to this man. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to say that I‘m a proud right-wing terrorist. 

REP. WALLY HERGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  Amen, god bless you.  There is a great American. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The so-called great American, Burt Stead, now says, quote, “I meant to say extremist.  I was defending my right to be extreme, but not in the same sense as going out and doing violence.  I think Wally heard extremist.  My mistake has caused Wally a lot of trouble.” 

And more noise in Texas, where a pro-secession rally in Austin last Friday drew, wow, almost 205 people.  It included a reference to a bloody war and a Republican candidate for governor named Deborah Medina. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  US flag is coming down from over Texas.  It will not be part of Texas anymore. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have no clue about the legality of it.  All I do know is that‘s what we as Texans need.  Secession is the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are aware that stepping off into secession may, in fact, be a bloody war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to Pulitzer prize winning syndicated columnist and an editorial board member of the “Chicago Tribune,” Clarence Page.  Clarence, good evening. 

CLARENCE PAGE, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start in California first.  This is—we‘re wading into some very deep waters here.  This man calls himself a proud right wing terrorist and a Congressman not only doesn‘t question that, but praises the man.  And a week later the man says, no, I didn‘t mean terrorist.  I meant extremist.  And he says Congressman Herger must have heard extremist, not terrorist.  And his fault—all of this is his fault, not the Congressman‘s.  How does that work exactly? 

PAGE:  The gentleman has been caught not listening to what he said and Congressman Herger has been caught not listening to what the gentleman said either.  This is fascinating, Keith.  I‘m reminded of Barry Goldwater, remember him, back in ‘64?  He proclaimed that he was proud to be an extremist in pursuit of liberty and it cost him about 44 states, as I recall, in his pursuit of the presidency. 

So this gentleman apparently wanted to say extremist, and that wasn‘t quite hot enough under the hot lights.  So he said terrorist.  What‘s odd is that the Congressman smiled and nodded and let the crowd applaud and all of that. 

Not a great sight.  Really comes off well on Youtube, doesn‘t it? 

OLBERMANN:  It does.  As does Congresswoman Jenkins and the stuff

about the great white hope, which gets more and more embarrassing as it

proceeds.  She said she did not know this was a racially charged phrase,

even though it has been one for just about exactly a century.  And now we -

she supported this resolution that not only explained the phrase, but went to the defense of its original victim, Jack Johnson, the month before this all happened.  And now she says, no, she didn‘t actually read this resolution that she supported. 

This is another terrific sense of coincidences.  Isn‘t it?  She should play the Lottery. 

PAGE:  I wanted to give her a break because young people just aren‘t learning history these days.  We all know that.  But I mean, not to be able to remember a month ago what she voted on—the real embarrassment here is that she, like a lot of Congress people, doesn‘t really read the legislation that she votes on all the time.  She has been caught in this instance. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the good news.  If she—if she is lying and she‘s covering up something else—the good news is she‘s not doing her job correctly. 

PAGE:  What‘s really interesting here, Keith, is this kind of reminded me of poor Joe Biden, when he thought he was complimenting Barack Obama by saying he was clean and articulate, and made a little culture gaffe there, if you will, because of the way blacks and whites perceive the word.  It‘s really closer to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who said he thought the Obamas were a couple of those intellectual uppity people, and said he didn‘t know later that uppity had racial connotations to it, in Georgia. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s too bad that that Ken Burns‘ DVD didn‘t get out to Kansas about Jack Johnson, that wonderful two parter about Jack Johnson, a year before—two, three years before. 

PAGE:  Not to mention James Earl Ray—excuse me, James Earl Jones wonderful movie.  I just made a gaffe here. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, but you corrected it immediately and you didn‘t hide from it.  You didn‘t say, no, no, I didn‘t know the difference between these two men, and you should compliment me about that. 

PAGE:  As I guy who gets called Clarence Thomas by accident about once a week, believe me. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s your sense.  That‘s your cross.  Last point, Texas; that was a minor Republican candidate, probably not somebody that will be running against Rick Perry and Hutchison.  But speaking of a bloody war, the Republican governor, Mr. Perry, didn‘t attend that rally, but he previously has said Texas would be able to leave if necessary.  He has flirted with this idea of secession.  Where are the grownups on this?  Secession would be a bloody war.  If Texas would managed to secede, it would become an instant third world country. 

PAGE:  This kind of reminds me of what a friend in Virginia once told me, when I said I thought the Civil War ended in 1865.  He said that wasn‘t the end.  That was just intermission.  That‘s the way a lot of folks think out in the south, especially out in Texas. 

Now, you know, I love Texas.  I have a lot of readers in Texas.  And I was educated myself here about 15, 20 years ago as to how much the Republic of Texas movement is still very much alive in some people‘s hearts.  Obviously, Rick Perry‘s no dummy.  I mean, he knows that he can touch a lot of heart strings in his pursuit of higher office here by ringing the old Republic of Texas bell.  You see the folks gathered out there in the square.

What‘s sad here is that there‘s kind of an implication here of sour grapes, if you ask me.  It is like things haven‘t gone the way they want to, with our democratic system, elected this latest president.  And now they‘re talking secession. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m also reminded again, of the civil war—the civil war, southern politician who said of one of the states, it was too small for a country and too big for an insane asylum.  Clarence Page, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the Tribune, as always, sir, great thanks for your time. 

PAGE:  Don‘t forget about Chicago too, Keith.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  O-L-I—I don‘t know how to spell—G-A-R—are you sure this how you spell Olbermann?  H?  Uh-oh. 

The man who last month was openly rooting for another bin Laden attack in this country now says it‘s Democrats who want one.  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the Grassley cat is out of the bag.  As he tells constituents he is trying to kill health care reform, not negotiate about it.  Her special guest, Senator Bernie Sanders. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  He can‘t spell.  He can‘t get Shakespeare‘s quotes right. 

He can‘t get Teddy Roosevelt‘s quotes right.  Other than that, genius.  Genius, I tells you.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Betsy McCoy, the shameless, factless health industry shill, back on cNBC, allowed to again spew the stuff she made up, or more likely that was handed to her by her Pharma overlords, claiming pages 16 and 17 of the reform bill will, quote, “force everyone under the age of 65 to buy the same, one size fits all, government plan.”  Except it doesn‘t say that.  It describes how you can keep your current insurance if you like it for some reason. 

When a pro-reform advocate repudiated McCoy‘s lie, the interview was suddenly capped by the host.  But the real question is why is she still allowed on TV when her shill-dom is so well known that even one of her own health care employers fired her from its board in embarrassment?  She is a paid employee? 

The runner up, columnist, singer Pat Boone, describes seeing cancer

fighting cells he saw under a microscope once as “a bunch of little orphan

Annie eyes, perfectly round, clear circles.”  Described the cancer cells he

saw as, quote, “little black iridescent globs, almost radiant from within,

pulsing with menace, looking like miniature Darth Vaders from ‘Star Wars.‘

Then he concluded, “I have to ask the obvious question.  Do we know how cancer starts, where the black, filthy cells come from?” 

He then compare the miniaturized Darth Vaders, the black iridescent globs, the black filthy cells, to a political virus.  And concluded, quote, “I call it liberalism.”  And when there is an African-American president, Pat, the rest of us call those filthy black references racism. 

But our winner, Michael Scheuer, ex-CIA staffer, back with another remark about a terrorist attack here, which if uttered by a liberal would be the subject of diatribes on every Fixed News show and every right wing radio hat cast all day long.  “Oh, sure we‘re going to be attacked.  Rahm Emanuel wants an attack.  He loves crisis and crisis, the Democrats, he says, can get all their programs through.  These people simply do not care.  For the first time, I think a sitting president is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, both psychologically and materially.  The president obviously does not care.” 

This is the same lunatic who last month said, without anybody as much as reproaching him, “the only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”  Mr. Scheuer, you do realize that it is now self-evident you are rooting for terrorism to take place in this country and thus rooting for the terrorists? 

Former CIA bin Laden station chief and evidently former American, Michael Scheuer, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The danger of today‘s version of the mythical, home spun, awe shucks, TV totalitarian Lonesome Roads, Glenn Beck is summed up by remarks today in which he claimed that a revolution has begun in this country, “a stealing of America in the guise of an election,” and his repeated insistence that the president is a Marxist.  In our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, the comfort of today‘s mythical, home spun, awe shucks, TV totalitarian, lonesome roads Glenn Beck is that every day he gives away the essential truth that he is an idiot. 

If you are going to warn the colonist that the English have arrived in the bay, you are not going to get very far by jumping onto a horse and yelling, “the brutish (ph) are coming.  The brutish are coming.” 

If you are trying to tell Mr. Chambers that the alien book “To Serve Man” is not about helping people, but eating them, you kind of lose your credibility if you say, “Mr. Chambers, don‘t get on the ship.  The rest of the book, ‘to serve man,‘ it is a phone book!”

Here‘s Mr. Beck last week, with the zeal of Paul Revere and the panic of Mr. Chambers assistant cryptographer, Pat, and the spelling ability of a third grader. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I told you we were going to—we were going to talk about these things.  We were going to talk about Obama, the left, internationalist, graft, acorn-style organizations, revolution and hidden agenda.  O-L-I-G-a-R-H—

One letter is missing.  Why did I select these words?  Because Acorn selects tides.  They all select their words first, and then tie them all together into one word.  Oligarch—the one that‘s missing is Y. 

I don‘t know if we are turning into an oligarchy or what we‘re turning into.  But unless you ask why, we are going to transform into something.  Ask questions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I have a question.  Don‘t you rehearse?  Oligarchy?  Did Obama steal the letter C?  Mr. Beck came back the next day and tried to bury the reality that the less than one percent of the country that watches or listens to his show thinking they are not listening to an uneducated, imperceptive, panicky whack job are completely mistaken. 

Channeling his inner Pee-Wee Herman, he said everything but I meant to do that, and suggested he almost left out the C in oligarchy on purpose, that the C stands for czars.  This was desperation at its worst.  The fascination with czars is fodder for a segment of its own.  The use of the Russian dictatorial term czar for a presidential appointee did not just begin yesterday.  It began with President Nixon, when he put in an energy czar, William Simon, during the oil crisis of December 1973.  Simon probably announced we‘d be starting daylight savings not in April, but in January.  That‘s a czar. 

The true era of American czars came under, gosh, Ronald Reagan.  He created the position of drug czar, filled more or less continuously since 1982.  So Mr. Beck, if you are going to insult czars and the sainted memories of President Nixon and President Reagan, I‘m going to have to challenge you to a duel.  That‘s D-U-E-L, by the way.  It is hard to say what percentage of that less than one percent watches in rapt, mesmerized fascination as the truth teller, whose low brain function is no lower than their own, and what percentage watches, as the rest of us do, for the never unfulfilled promise of a train wreck yet to come. 

He misquoted Shakespeare the other day.  To me, train wreck.  To his gullible viewers, golly, he knows about Shakey‘s Pizza.  I mean, look, he quotes Theodore Roosevelt, yes, the guy who looks like the mountain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  We speak without fear, while basing it all in fact.  Walk softly and carry a big stick.  That ain‘t a gun, man.  That is the facts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it is.  Walk softly and carry a big stick.  Speak softly and carry a big stick.  Whatever.  That‘s the facts.  One other thing here.  College communications programs don‘t teach you much about actual broadcasting.  But I have one professor whose full-time job was as general manger at one of the local radio stations.  Among many things, he taught me one truth that he said separated the men from the boys.  “I hate those egotistical good morning world sign-ons,” Don Martin said to me.  “People watch and listen to radio and TV one person at a time.  Talk to one person at a time.  Whenever I hear good evening, everyone, I turn around to see who comes in the room with me when they say that.”  Ahem. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  Well, hello, America. 

Good night, America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t forget, squawk softly, carry a big brick and leave off the last C for savings.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,314th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.

I‘m Keith Olbermann, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy‘s sign off, stay classy, COUNTDOWN-land. 

Now, to discuss Mr. Grassley‘s fund-raising letter, in which he finally admits he is just trying to kill health care reform, and not negotiate it, ladies and gentlemen, here‘s Rachel Maddow. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Thank you, America. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  All of you are watching at the same time.  It is not my ego that‘s predicting that, yes. 

MADDOW:  America.  Thank you, Keith. 

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

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