updated 9/21/2009 12:12:33 PM ET 2009-09-21T16:12:33

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Bernie Sanders, Wendell Potter, Markos Moulitsas, Margaret Carlson, Craig Crawford

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The nation‘s health care crisis.  A new study finds more people die from lack of insurance than drunk driving and murder combined.

As we enter a critical weekend of negotiations, Senator Rockefeller says there is still life in the public option and now is the time to improve the Baucus bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  I really don‘t care how long it takes us to do it.  I want to get it right.  I want it to be a real improvement in health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And the pressure on Republican Senator Olympia Snowe.  As the GOP tries to keep her in line, Snowe says she won‘t be dictated to by her party.

The values on display at the Value Voters Forum.  “Obamacare:

Rationing Your Life Away,” “Thugocracy: Fighting the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy,” and “The New Masculinity.”  Which session does Mike Huckabee belong in?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR:  We‘ve become the land of czars, clunker cars, and Hollywood stars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And speaking of czars, the DNC strikes back at Republican hypocrisy, asking if czars are such an evil totalitarian idea, why did the GOP support them during the Bush years?

Hateful spin: After Speaker Pelosi expressed concern about violent rhetoric, suddenly, FOX News decides your words do matter and could indeed incite people to violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  She got all choked up over something that could be very, very serious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you harken to terrible tragedies involving political assassinations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Giving people ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And it‘s a horrible thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And “Saturday Night Live” uncovers the plot behind the Wilson “You lie!” tirade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All at once.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  . together.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  . are going to yell, “You lie!”

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD:  You lie!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell in for Keith Olbermann.

A new Harvard study estimates that 45,000 people die each year because they don‘t have health insurance.  Put another way, that‘s one person every 12 minutes, five people every hour—yes, more people every day than are killed because of drunk driving and murder combined.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: How many more people will die as the minutes, hours, weeks, and possibly years tick by before this nation achieves universal health care coverage?

The Senate Finance Committee is going to start debating and amending its bill next week.  Chairman Max Baucus is still hoping for support among members of both parties.  The chairman of the health subcommittee, Jay Rockefeller, told Charlie Rose that he plans to introduce at least 17 amendments to the Baucus bill.

Senator Olympia Snowe, also a member of the finance committee, is still the most likely Republican to support the measure if not the only one.  She told CNBC that she‘s not going to let her party dictate how she votes.

At a forum in Washington today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, closely identified with this issue in the past, was asked to weigh in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  It‘s interesting that, you know, what we‘re proposing is fundamentally so conservative compared with so many of our friends and allies around the world who do a much better job than we do in covering everybody and in keeping costs down, and yet, some of the political opposition is so overheated.  So we just have to calm down here, take two aspirin, go to bed, think about it in the morning.  But I‘m very optimistic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The current first lady today made the case for what she calls her husband‘s plan.  Michelle Obama spoke not just as a wife, but also as a daughter and a mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY:  I will never forget the time eight years ago when Sasha was four months that she would not stop crying—and she was not a crier.  So we knew something was wrong.

So we fortunately were able to take her to our pediatrician that next morning.  He examined her and said something‘s wrong.  We didn‘t know what.  But he told us that she could have meningitis.  So we were terrified.  He said get to the emergency room right away.

And fortunately for us, things worked out, because she is now the Sasha that we all know and love today.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  . who is causing me great—excitement.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  But it is that moment in our lives that flashes through my head every time we engage in this health insurance conversation.  It‘s that moment in my life, because I think about what on Earth would we have done if we had not had insurance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Much to talk about tonight with Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, and a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has already passed its own health care reform bill.

Thank you for your time tonight, Senator.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  My pleasure.

O‘DONNELL:  One of the biggest differences between your committee and the Senate Finance Committee‘s bill is that Senate Finance Committee has the authority to pay for its bill and has made some hard choices about how to do that—basically a mix of corporate taxes and Medicare cuts.  That‘s how they‘re paying for it.

Is that the best way to pay for health care reform?

SANDERS:  Well, that‘s a good question.  And that‘s why we‘re going to have to take a very, very hard look.  When we talk about Medicare cuts, we‘ve got to be absolutely careful that we are preserving quality care for our senior citizens and that the cuts really are trimming fat and waste and abuse, of which there is a whole lot.

But let me reiterate for a moment what Hillary Clinton just said.  As a nation, we should be fundamentally embarrassed that we remain the only country—industrialized country on Earth that doesn‘t guarantee health care to all of our people.  We spend almost twice as much, and now, we‘re talking about tens of thousands of people dying every single year because they don‘t get to the doctor on time.

And add to that, that this year, about 1 million people will go bankrupt—bankrupt—because of medically-related bills.  And you‘ve got Republicans out there who are saying, “Sorry, we don‘t want to do anything.  We prefer politics over dealing with this serious problem.”  And in the midst of all of that, if we don‘t act, health care costs are going to double in the next eight years.

So, we‘ve got to move and we‘ve got to make this the strongest and most progressive bill we can.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the Baucus bill in the finance committee, as he‘s introduced, that has been greeted by a large round of boos from both Democrats and Republicans.  But in President Obama‘s address the other night, he essentially endorsed the Baucus bill completely, especially on the point that the final bill must be paid for and must not add a dime to the deficit.  This is the only bill coming out of any committee that does that.

So, how can the president get behind any other approach?

SANDERS:  No, no, no.  Of course, it has to be paid for.  But one of the reasons that many people are booing the Baucus approach, among other things, is that it does not contain a public option.

And a public option is important for two points.  Number one, the American people should have a choice about whether they want to stay with their private insurance or go to a public plan, a Medicare-type plan.  Second of all, in terms of cost containment—if you don‘t have a public option in competition with the private insurance companies, what is going to stop them from raising their rates higher and higher and higher?

So, Lawrence, when you talk about cost containment and the need to have something that is affordable to the American people—that is why you need a public option.  Unfortunately, while our committee does have that, the Baucus plan does not.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Jay Rockefeller, the member of the finance committee, has pledged that he will vote against any bill in committee and on the floor that does not have the public option.  Will you join him in that pledge?

SANDERS:  Well, I‘m going to do everything—you know, we don‘t know what this bill is going to look like.  But let me tell you something, in my state and all over this country, people want a public option.  We‘ve got the votes to do a public option, and I just told the White House today that is what I am going to fight for.

And in addition to that, I happen to believe that long-term, the only real solution in terms of providing comprehensive universal cost-effective health care is a single-payer system.  And I‘m going to fight in this bill to give states—states—the option to go single-payer if that‘s what the people of that state want.  Because long-term, I think that‘s how you can deal with the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste that the private insurance companies are generating through excessive administrative costs and CEO compensation packages.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, I think the evidence is with you on single-payers unique ability to contain costs.  But given that that‘s not one of the components of any of the bills, and certainly is not something that President Obama is backing, in the approach President Obama is currently taking, where he insists that it not only not add to the deficit but actually—as he puts it—“bend the cost curves down.”  Given that the Senate Finance Committee is the only bill that does this, don‘t—do you see it, as I do, that President Obama seems to now be locked on to the Max Baucus approach?

SANDERS:  No.  No, quite the contrary.  Lawrence, I think what you‘re missing here is that is the finance committee‘s jurisdiction, it‘s not the health committee‘s jurisdiction.  So, they were uniquely within the Senate obliged to deal with financing.  So, I think that‘s the issue there.

But ultimately, what you‘re going to see is a melding of these two bills.  I want to make sure that the funding of it is progressive as possible.  In other words, I am very concerned within the Baucus bill that there‘s going to be a tax on so-called “Cadillac” health care plans.  Well, a lot of working people in unions have given up wage increases in order to get good health insurance.  I don‘t think they should be taxed.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont—as always, sir, it‘s been a pleasure.  You‘re going to have some long nights on the Senate floor with this bill.

SANDERS:  We are.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SANDERS:  My pleasure.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on where things stand tonight, let‘s turn to veteran of the insurance industry, Wendell Potter, former communications director at CIGNA Healthcare, now senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Many thanks for your time on this Friday night, sir.

WENDELL POTTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, economist Paul Krugman in his “New York Times” column today asked the basic question: how bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?  Now, we‘ve heard already on this program that you are no fan of the Baucus bill.  You have a lot of anti-Baucus bill fans out there with you.

But at the end of the amendment process in the finance committee—which could take a few weeks—it could involve hundreds and hundreds of amendments and hundreds of changes.  How bad does that final Senate Finance Committee bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?

POTTER:  Well, if it doesn‘t have a public option, it‘s too bad to vote for.  If it continues to allow insurance companies to shift more and more of the financial burden of health care to consumers, to Americans, it‘s too bad to vote for.  If the premiums have the appearance of being affordable but you are making people pay so much out of their own pockets, that it‘s just the illusion of affordability, then it‘s not worth voting for.

O‘DONNELL:  The bill does seem to have some real affordability problems.  I just did some back-of-the-envelope calculations of my own.  The bill indicates that if you‘re at $66,000 of income with a family of four, which by any definition is a very struggling family.

POTTER:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  . having trouble making ends meet every week, that they have to pay $700 a month in a health care premium, $8,400 a year in premiums before you get to deductibles.

POTTER:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  If they don‘t do that under the individual mandate in the bill, if they refuse to do that, they then have to pay a penalty tax of $3,800 in a family like that, which—and I hope we haven‘t lost the audience on the map—but basically what it comes down to is: there remains for that family at $66,000 a year of income, there remains a $5,000 incentive not to purchase health insurance.

POTTER:  You‘re exactly right.  The incentives are all wrong, and it‘s the cost-shifting that I don‘t think that many people are paying attention to.  It really is a gift to the insurance industry, and that there will be subsidies for people who can‘t afford the premium that will go to the insurance industry.  But the industry is making a lot more money in the same way by making people pay more out of their own pockets.

So, it‘s a real wonderful bonanza for the insurance industry.  But the president said during his joint address that he wanted to make sure that this bill does not make anyone anymore having to file for bankruptcy.  This bill will guarantee that people will be filing for bankruptcy because of the cost you just described.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you‘ve worked in the insurance industry.  I haven‘t, but I can imagine what their lobbying teams are doing right now.  They‘re meeting in rooms and they‘re dividing up into Democrat and Republican lobbyists.

POTTER:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  They‘re going to send one team of the Republicans saying, “Hey, you‘ve got to kill that public option for us.”  They‘re going to send another team at the Democrats saying, “You have to increase those subsidies so people who can‘t afford our product can buy our product.”  Aren‘t they going to be lobbying both sides of this thing?

POTTER:  They really are.  And as long as they can try to keep Congress focused on making people able to buy their product, I think that may succeed.  They have every incentive to get this bill passed the way the Baucus bill is written.  They want to try to kill the public option as you and Senator Sanders described.

But they also do want to try to make sure that there are adequate subsidies that can make their products appear to be affordable and provide them with a great new revenue stream.  So, they—and they know that the president really, and Congress too, the Democrats need to get a bill passed.  So, in many ways, they‘re in the driver‘s seat.

O‘DONNELL:  Wendell Potter, thank you for your invaluable insights on how the insurance industry approaches this legislation.

POTTER:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks for being with us tonight.

Coming up: The GOP puts its values on display at the Values Voter Forum.  Ms. Wasilla is a no-show, but former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, somehow finds the time to show up.  Markos Moulitsas joins me to consider all the ugly thinking going on in the presence of the beauty queen.

And later, the manufactured distraction from the right wing about President Obama‘s advisers.

And Joe Wilson, he now agrees with Nancy Pelosi that we need to have a more rational debate on health care.  And Joe Wilson finally falls victim to the writers at “Saturday Night Live.”

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Just what you‘ve been waiting for, the Values Voter Summit is back with sessions like “Obamacare: Rationing Your Life Away,” and “The New Masculinity.”  Markos Moulitsas joins us to discuss the values really taking center stage at that gathering.

And later, Nancy Pelosi calls for a more responsible national discourse.  So naturally, FOX News responds that she‘s planting thoughts of assassination in people‘s minds.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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O‘DONNELL:  The first straw poll for the 2012 presidential election will be conducted this weekend in Washington, D.C. at the conservative Values Voter Summit, which began today.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Former Governor Sarah Palin will not attend; former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, is attending, and an assortment of GOP nominee-wannabes warmed up their anti-Obama sales pitch.

One of today‘s featured speakers at the summit in Washington, D.C., former governor and current talk show host Mike Huckabee.  He offered a few examples of present-day conservative obsessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE:  It is at times a country that is almost difficult to recognize.  We have become the land of czars, clunker cars, and Hollywood stars.  But unfortunately, it‘s also become a place where we‘ve lost any semblance of those promises of transparency and accountability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Mike Pence went after the czars as well, and he also tossed out classic red meat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  And the American people will not stand for government-run insurance that uses taxpayer money to fund abortions in this country.

(CHEERING)

PENCE:  Washington, D.C. must become a no-czar zone, starting here and starting now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Of course, the five health bills in the Congress currently written would not fund abortions.

Another popular speaker today was Carrie Prejean, who spent a great deal of time reliving that fateful night when a pageant judge dared to ask her how she felt about gay marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARRIE PREJEAN, FORMER MISS CALIFORNIA:  I tried to stand there and look pretty, but in my head I could not believe that they were asking that question at Miss USA.  I thought that it was extremely inappropriate for that venue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Former liberal Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, is scheduled to deliver remarks tomorrow.  And on Sunday, the results of the infamous straw poll will be released.  Some of the possible contenders:

Romney, Huckabee, Pence, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, along with former House speaker, the thrice married and twice divorced Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin—all still on their first marriages.

Let‘s bring in the founder and publisher of the Daily Kos and author of “Taking on the System,” Markos Moulitsas.

Good evening, Markos.  Great to have you with us.

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILYKOS.COM:  Thank you.  Happy Friday, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you know the titles of some of these sessions.  I know you‘ve been paying close attentions to this one.  The titles are pretty catchy—“Speechless: Silencing the Christians,” “Thugocracy:

Fighting the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy” was another.  They also have “Activism and Conservatism: Fit To a Tea (Party).”  There was even one called “The New Masculinity,” because, quote, “feminism has wreaked havoc on marriage, women, children, and men.”

Now, that‘s pretty much sounds like a complete round-up of the values that they‘ll be exploring there this weekend, doesn‘t it?

MOULITSAS:  Well, they‘re definitely not going to have any values about intellectual consistency, because they didn‘t seem to care when George Bush had more czars than Barack Obama.  And they sure aren‘t going to talk about honesty and telling the truth in politics because between claiming that Obama wasn‘t born in the United States and claiming that Obama wants to kill your grandmother and claiming that these mythical bills have abortion language in them, clearly, they‘ve abandoned that sort of notion of truth and integrity a long time ago.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, if what they‘re looking for is the best rhymer, clearly, Mike Huckabee‘s going to win this straw poll just going away, isn‘t he?  I mean, who is the king of this group?  It seems to me, if you were looking at them from the perspective of these very, you know, conservative family values types, Huckabee‘s their guy, isn‘t he?

MOULITSAS:  He‘s always been their guy.  The problem with Huckabee is that he‘s not very palatable to the Wall Street Republicans, the guys who pretty much truly call the shots in the Republican Party and they did a fantastic job of taking him out when he seemed to be the front runner post-Iowa in 2008.  And I think they still make him nervous because they see him as a fiscal liberal.

This is a guy who supported college scholarships to children of undocumented immigrants which, of course, you know anything that helps anybody, especially those brown people, is something that is completely unacceptable to the Republican Party these days.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, of course, there was a health care panel today, and maybe the first one that they‘ve ever had in the Values Summit.  And Michele Bachmann—Congresswoman Michele Bachmann championed the idea of putting fewer restraints, fewer regulations on health insurance companies.  Now, she seems like—I don‘t know, maybe I don‘t get the values thing there—but she seems to me to be straying even farther away from the “what would Jesus do” approach to health care, isn‘t she?

MOULITSAS:  When I was growing up going to Sunday school, I learned that Jesus would help the sick, the poor, the needy.  He didn‘t care.  He helped them all.  But apparently, that was liberal propaganda because the conservative Jesus—he asked if they had an insurance card.  They couldn‘t afford insurance, he turned them down.  And when leprosy was considered a preexisting condition—well, those guys are out of luck.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the big no-show, of course, is former Governor Sarah Palin.  What significance should we draw from this?

I thought she quit the governorship so she‘d have time to attend important events like this.  And if we‘re looking at this for hints of who the next presidential candidate is, doesn‘t it mean skipping something like this when all of the possible candidates for president are going—doesn‘t it indicate she‘s probably not actually going to run for president next time?

MOULITSAS:  Well, the thing to note about Sarah Palin is that she is extremely, extremely lazy.  She was elected governor of Alaska and, of course, decided that was too much work.  So, she quit that.  She was nominated to be the vice president of the Republican Party, she couldn‘t be bothered to prepare and study for the job.  And she couldn‘t even be bothered to obviously take care of her own children, supervise her children.

So, she‘s a lazy person.  I think she figures she has the name recognition, people know who she is.  And in a couple years from now, she can wink at an audience and it‘ll fall apart and in love with her again.  But if she doesn‘t watch out, that Carrie Prejean could be winking at their audience too and she‘ll have some real competition.

O‘DONNELL:  And if Carrie learns how to rhyme, Huckabee‘s in trouble.

(LAUGHTER)

MOULITSAS:  Absolutely.

O‘DONNELL:  Markos Moulitsas, thanks for joining us tonight.

MOULITSAS:  Thank you very much.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: What values are shown by smearing Nancy Pelosi‘s emotional plea to soften the nation‘s violent discourse?  Today, FOX News blames her for planting the idea of assassination in people‘s heads.

And, criticizing Obama at any cost: Bush czars are good, Obama czars are bad.

The Republican distraction du jour—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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O‘DONNELL:  Half a show still ahead of us tonight on COUNTDOWN.

Remember on Tuesday when the GOP criticized the effort to officially reprimand Congressman Wilson because there were more pressing matters of national importance?  What do they think is important?  Phony attacks on President Obama‘s advisers.  The DNC calls that silliness, “Dancing with the Czars.”

FOX News attacks Speaker Pelosi over her comments about out-of-control speech and imagery on the radio and at town halls.  Fox, of course, blames her for planting assassination thoughts. 

And the story behind the infamous Joe Wilson tirade.  The writers at “Saturday Night Live” offer a behind the scenes look at how it all went down. 

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O‘DONNELL:  In the continuous effort to paint the president as a communist, a Marxist, a socialist, a plagiarist, whatever, the right is now championing a fabricated term conveniently channeling imperialist Russia.  The latest right wing anti-Obama meme, the war on czars.  You know, the drug czar, the car czar. 

Of course, Republicans don‘t seem to know there aren‘t actually any czars in the American government.  The term here is used as an invention of a lazy news media that prefers drug czar to the job‘s real title, Director of National Drug Policy Control—Director of National Drug Control Policy.  See, that‘s why they prefer drug czar.  A lot easier. 

In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Republicans are now leading the charge against the Obama administration‘s appointment of policy advisers, the same kind of policy advisers every administration has had.  The right wing‘s war on imaginary czars, high level policy advisers who do not face Senate confirmation, has led Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia to introduce legislation barring any presidential adviser unconfirmed by the Senate from joining the federal payroll. 

Mr. Kingston joined by a veritable anti-czar chorus, among them Senator Susan Collins, along with five other GOP senators, firing off a letter to the president, singling out 18 advisory posts that, quote, may be undermining the constitutional oversight responsibilities of Congress, end quote. 

Senator Collins, of course, neglecting to identify which specific positions she has issues with.  And in a recent op-ed, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison claiming an unprecedented number of czar posts in the Obama administration, even though she has supported the same advisory positions in the past. 

The White House hitting back; calling the self-appointed czar in the war on czars, Glenn Beck, and other GOP lawmakers with a post on its website.  “Although some members have asked serious questions about the makeup of the White House staff, the bulk of the noise you hear began first with partisan commentators suggesting that this is somehow a new and sinister development that threatens our democracy.” 

Meanwhile, the DNC doing some further truth squadding, with a new web video, “Dancing With the Czars.”  Showing Beck rattling off a list of appointees, except the pictures shown next to Beck aren‘t czars from the Obama administration.  They‘re actually from the Bush administration.  Yes, the Bush administration. 

Joining me now is Margaret Carlson, columnist for “Bloomberg News,” and the Washington editor for “The Week Magazine.”  Good evening, Margaret.  I‘m going to need your help shooting some fish in a barrel here. 

MARGARET CARLSON, “THE WEEK MAGAZINE”:  Right.  It‘s Friday night.  We need an easy one. 

O‘DONNELL:  I mean, is it possible that Republican Congressmen like Kingston, he actually does not know that his bill would‘ve prevented the likes of Dick Cheney working in the White House as a chief of staff, which he did, of Henry Kissinger, working in the White House as an adviser to President Nixon.  it would prevent everyone who‘s currently working in the White House who advises the president on anything other than his tie selection, wouldn‘t it? 

CARLSON:  Well, Jack Kingston is taking his facts from Glenn Beck, who has replaced Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican party.  You know, many of these people are confirmed by the Senate.  And then they get the name picked up as czars. 

Many of us have imaginary friends.  Glenn Beck and these Republicans have imaginary czars.  They‘re nothing more than people that are in jobs that, as you said in the intro, when you stumbled over one of the names, it‘s much easier to call them a czar than to come out with these long names. 

O‘DONNELL:  The term czar, it is—let‘s just get it straight here, it‘s a journalistic coinage.  It has no real meaning.  Is the right suffering from a kind of confusion here that just a half decent high school education could‘ve cured? 

CARLSON:  Well, you know, they‘re looking for every little thing to mount, you know, three hours on talk radio every day.  And the czars came up because, as you point out, the Russian thing plays into the socialist charge. 

And imagine if the president didn‘t have a drug czar.  Then they would be saying, oh, he didn‘t name a drug czar.  Or, by the way, there was a Bush faith-based czar.  These are—there‘s nothing new.  There was a czar in the Roosevelt administration.  He was called a rubber czar.  There really was one.  And he was in charge of getting enough rubber for the war efforts.  And he fired everybody, and he got new people and, by the way, he got enough rubber, and then he went back to his other job. 

That was what a czar was then, which was a temporary thing.  These people are mostly here in jobs that are confirmed.  I know at least ten of the ones that Glenn Beck was talking about, not the ones left over that he‘s talking about from the Bush administration, are just your normal every day appointed Senate confirmed person. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you know, I‘ve never worked in the White House taking these incoming shots.  But this thing feels like a joke to me.  Am I under-estimating it?  Should the White House be taking it more seriously than it‘s taking it? 

CARLSON:  Until you showed me the bite from President Obama, I‘m shocked that the White House responded, because it does seem like a totally silly charge that no one would take seriously.  And there he‘s talking—you know, it is noise.  But why would you dignify the noise?  It seems to me it‘s something that would pass by very quickly. 

O‘DONNELL:  By the way—

CARLSON:  Maybe these days you can‘t count on anything passing by. 

O‘DONNELL:  By the way, Margaret, that war that the rubber czar was helping us out with, we won that war, didn‘t we?  There‘s a pretty good record for some of these czars, isn‘t there? 

CARLSON:  Well, not particularly the drug czar so far.  But yes. 

Maybe the faith-based czar might be doing it. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll see.  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week Magazine,” thanks for joining us tonight. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Nancy Pelosi‘s emotional plea yesterday to be more responsible in our political discourse.  Today, Fox News answers that call by saying Pelosi has planted thoughts of assassination in people‘s minds. 

And later, “Saturday Night Live” puts its unique spin on the Joe Wilson yell.  We‘ve all seen the yell and the debate it has sparked; now find out what made it happen. 

And coming up on Rachel at the top of the hour, Joe Wilson snatches the oddball torch from Governor Mark Sanford.  What are those guys smoking in South Carolina?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  In an all timer from the do as I say not as I do file, today, Congressman Joe Wilson is asking for a dialing down of the rhetoric in the debate over health care reform.  In our number two story, Nancy Pelosi made a similar request yesterday, except the House Speaker‘s belief that crazy talk could lead to violence has led to more crazy talk from where else, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. 

Beginning with Mr. Wilson, who has barely stopped talking since his “you lie” interruption of the president last week.  Today, he tells Capitol Hill newspaper “Roll Call,” quote, “I do believe people should be temperate in their remarks and non-condemning.”  On the raucous town hall crowds, quote, “these are dear people at town halls and tea parties.  They‘re loving people.”

And he tries to explain away the hateful imagery on the signs that

some of the anti-reform crowd.  “People should know that people with the

Hitler signs were Democrats.  They‘re with the LaRouche campaign,” a

reference to former Labor Party presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, who

has had nothing to do with the Democratic party, and, in fact, despises it. 

At a press conference yesterday, the House Speaker called for a stop of the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the health care debate, fearing a similar result that befell San Francisco Mayor George Muscone and City Supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who were assassinated in 1978. 

Fox News says it is Pelosi‘s remarks, not the angry rhetoric she is condemning, that is sewing the seeds of assassination. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you raise it in this fashion, when you hearken to terrible tragedies involving political assassinations—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Giving people ideas. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- and it‘s a horrible thing to do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And if that logic isn‘t tortured enough, enter Rush Limbaugh. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  They‘re setting the table now so they can point fingers of blame.  She‘s out there.  She‘s playing a strategic game here.  I wouldn‘t put it past Pelosi to want to be trying to create some violence with this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Setting the table, indeed.  Joining me now to sift through the debris of the right wing thinking on this one is MSNBC analyst and CQPolitics.com‘s Craig Crawford. 

Craig, welcome.  Thanks for joining us on this one.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  I did my extra duty sifter for this one. 

O‘DONNELL:  You had to do a lot of homework on this one.  I know you don‘t think this way yourself.  I‘m trying to follow what the “Fox and Friends” crew is up to here.  They‘re saying that if the crazy off the wall rhetoric at the anti-health reform rallies and all of that, some of it verging on the violence is—that won‘t cause anyone to tend toward violence.  But Nancy Pelosi preaching against violence, that will definitely provoke violence.  That‘s the “Fox and Friends” notion of how this works? 

CRAWFORD:  And where was the outrage about some of those who talked fairly violently on their side of the fence?  How about the guy who brought the gun to an event?  Where was the outrage about that from this side? 

Absolutely.  There‘s no way the Fox folks think their crowd is going to follow Pelosi over anything.  I think disingenuous is the word for that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Glenn Beck seems to maybe have feelings not that dissimilar from Nancy Pelosi, because earlier this summer he pleaded with his followers to be vigilant and be angry, but specifically pleaded with his followers not to be violent.  He didn‘t want another Timothy McVeigh scenario.  He seems to know something about his audience, doesn‘t he, if he‘s wanting them not to be violent? 

CRAWFORD:  If I could be extra cynical, what if the thinking here is if something does happen down the road, they‘ve created cover, that it‘s Pelosi‘s fault, if something did happen.  That is at least a consequence of what they‘re doing, if not the purpose. 

O‘DONNELL:  Craig, there aren‘t a lot of us in this country who have any idea of who Lyndon LaRouche is or where he stands or where he has stood on our political spectrum.  I find it a little bit indescribable and challenging to try to explain Lyndon LaRouche to anyone.  But would you call him a good and faithful Democrat? 

CRAWFORD:  Not at all, considering that not too long ago he told a crowd of supporters that under Obama, their sisters would be carted off to ovens.  I don‘t think that is a supporter of at least the president, certainly not the Democratic party.  I haven‘t understood LaRouche since about 15 years ago, when his people threw some sort of wine on my suit.  And in those days, media companies had more money.  I got the budget to get dry cleaning. 

But here‘s how I explain LaRouche, Lawrence.  His movement is nativist revolutionaries.  Revolutionaries in the sense that they really want to be the second coming of the founding fathers.  And they have to have something to revolt against.  They want to run out that experience that the revolutionaries had against the British occupiers. 

Nativist in the sense that it‘s ethnic and even racial chauvinism.  In the sense that white Europeans don‘t run the country anymore.  This is why we hear all of this we want our country back.  People—there are people who just can‘t accept that that‘s what‘s happening. 

O‘DONNELL:  So in his—and Joe Wilson‘s mounting of his defense, he, you know, blames some of these things on Lyndon LaRouche, who he says is a Democrat, which is completely untrue.  He continues to bumble along here.  Is he—keeping him in the Congress, is that an asset for the Democrats, to keep a clown like that around to represent the Republican party? 

CRAWFORD:  It might even be an asset for Republicans, some Republicans, because it‘s the people like him and Michele Bachmann and others and Sarah Palin who are going to keep the faithful energized.  But I think it‘s going to keep the Republican party a minority party, just a very loud one.  And if anything, standing on a postage stamp of whatever their principles are.  And in the end, yes, I think it‘s better for Democrats, even though I think some Republicans see this as an advantage. 

O‘DONNELL:  Craig Crawford of “CQ Politics” and MSNBC, thanks for your time tonight. 

CRAWFORD:  Good to be here. 

O‘DONNELL:  The Joe Wilson yell.  It‘s been heard around the world.  It‘s been reprimanded by the House.  But finally it‘s been explained to us by the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”  Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Did Congressman Joe Wilson act alone?  Or was he part of a larger plot gone awry?  New insights into what really went down minutes before President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress last week.  The shocking new information comes not from the hundreds of inside the Beltway groupthink journalists working the case, but rather the writers of “Saturday Night Live.”

Last night was the season premiere of the season‘s “Weekend Update” Thursday special.  And while there was no Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, we did get the incomparable Kristin Wig as the incomparable Michele Bachmann. 

In our number one story tonight, SNL pulls back the curtain on exactly how Joe Wilson and his Republican colleagues strategized their response to the president‘s address to Congress. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  All right, now, are we all here?  OK. 

Because Obama‘s address starts in five minutes.  We all here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are we really doing this? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, we are.  Now, you see the president has been glossing over the facts of his health care plan all summer.  And this live address is our chance to make our dissent heard.  Now we have the text of the address right here. 

OK?  Now, you look here.  Let‘s see, right somewhere in the middle.  Here it is.  OK, he is going to say this: “the reforms I‘m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.” 

OK?  Now when he says that, all of us, all at once, together, are going to yell “you lie.” 

Got that?  We‘re all in agreement.  Good, that‘s going to be fun. 

That‘ll send a message.  Senator Roberts, a question? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m just worried this might come off as a major breach of Congressional decorum. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  Now, normally I would agree.  If only one guy yelled “you lie,” I imagine they would call him out on it.  But all of us?  You know, remember school.  If we all do it, we can‘t get in trouble?  That‘s what I‘m talking about.  It‘s been a long time for some of us, right?  Yes, Representative Bachmann? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How about we yell “you lie, you freedom-hating, secret half Muslim?” 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, I think just “you lie.”  That‘ll send the message, yes.  Let‘s practice.  Someone has to be Obama.  Who here can do an Obama? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Really?  OK.  That‘s great.  OK.  Here you are right there.  There you go.  Read right there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It would not apply to those who are here illegally. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One, two, three—

GROUP:  You lie!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good yelling, real good yelling.  That‘ll do it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Excuse me? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, Congressman Joe Wilson? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If there‘s nothing else, I‘m just going to duck into the bathroom for a moment. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  We‘ll see you on the floor. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  See you on the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.  There he goes.  OK, gang, show time. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hold on.  Hold on.  I‘m starting to have second thoughts about this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know what?  You may be right.  Let‘s not do it.  All of a sudden, I‘m realizing we can come off very badly.  OK.  So we‘re all in agreement.  We‘re not doing it.  Nobody‘s doing it.  Nobody‘s doing it.  Everybody hear that?  Nobody. 

Good?  We‘re going to be quiet?  Good little listeners? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good, let‘s get out there.  Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You lie!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys, McConnell, Cantor, what the heck?  We were all going to do it.  And you didn‘t do it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know.  I‘m sorry about that, Joe.  We forgot you went to the bathroom. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys!  That didn‘t feel good out there.  Be honest with me, do you think a lot of people heard me yelling?  I mean, a lot of it was drowned out, right, because people were booing Obama. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think they might have been booing you, Joe. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, jeez Louise.  God, this is going to come off real bad.  Real bad. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now—now, not necessarily, Joe.  Let‘s think about this.  Where are you from? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  South Carolina. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, yikes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, hey, hey now.  Calm down.  That is not the worst answer.  OK.  Mississippi would have been the worst answer.  All right.  Mississippi, we all agree. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh hot corn, people are going to remember this thing.  I don‘t know if you know this about me, but I‘m not known for any other thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, well, Now, come on. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, Joe, there‘s got to be some legislation you championed.  I mean, some cause. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, there was one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, what was it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Protecting the Confederate Flag. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, boy.  That‘s worse than Mississippi, that‘s what that is. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys, McConnell, Cantor, you‘ll stand by me, right?  You‘ll explain how we were all going to do it, except I went to the John? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know.  I mean—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought we were friends. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  Look.  You don‘t worry.  You do not worry. 

Here‘s what you‘re going to do.  Now you apologize once to the president.  And if anyone asks you to do it again, you look them right in the face and say, live from New York, it‘s Saturday night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Though Joe Wilson is unlikely to reappear very often on SNL, obviously the Michelle Bachmann costume will have to be kept at the ready. 

That will do it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  Rachel, it‘s all yours. 

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