updated 10/19/2009 11:29:18 AM ET 2009-10-19T15:29:18

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Chris Kofinis, Sara Hansen

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

Having tried everything else, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa now tries to sink health care reform by claiming a mandate is unconstitutional.

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SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  A lot of constitutional lawyers are saying it is unconstitutional, or at least a violation of the Tenth Amendment.

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OLBERMANN:  You know, the way making you buy insurance on your car is unconstitutional.  Next thing you know, he‘ll be saying health insurance will cause H1N1.

Or rationalizing like Mary Landrieu, there‘s 77 percent support for the public option because.

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SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA:  When people hear “public option,” they hear free health care.  Everybody wants free health care.  Everybody wants health care they don‘t have to pay for.

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OLBERMANN:  Yes, what a lousy idea that would be.

Speaking of the first announcement, the first of the free health care clinics you paid for is now on the schedule.

First, he said her nomination for president in 2012 would be catastrophic.  Now, John McCain‘s top campaign strategist defends picking Palin for last year‘s ticket.  Well, of course, he does, it was partially his fault.

Nightmare in the Colorado sky: The 6-year-old son of storm chasers disappears.  Their experimental weather balloon is somehow launched.  The balloon lands safely, the child is not inside.

“Worsts”: The insurance company owed the muscular dystrophy patient $1 million.  Legally, it could not cancel its policy, so it just canceled every policy offering unlimited home nursing in the entirety of New York state.

And Colin Powell‘s amazing statement.  His fear of a terrorist industrial complex, calmly but clearly expressed more than two years ago—and almost nobody noticed.

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COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE:  But I think we have to be careful that we don‘t get so caught up in trying to throw money at the terrorists and counterterrorist problem that we are essentially creating an industry that will only exist as long as you keep the terrorist threat pumped up.

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OLBERMANN:  And almost nobody noticed except—Terry Gilliam of “Monty Python”?

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  And good evening from New York.

While he was being heckled at the—by the tea bags at a town hall, Lindsey Graham asked, rhetorically, how many senators are there?  A few of the protesters murmured, “A hundred?”  Most seemed to have no idea.  He then asked how many were Republican senators?  Even fewer answered, “40?”  Even more seemed to have no idea.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: That seems to be the problem not only in South Carolina, where the minority party does not seem to realize it is the minority, but also in Washington where the majority party does not seem to realize it is the majority.

“Filibuster” is the informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill by debating it at length.  “Cloture” is a motion or process aimed bringing debate to an end, requiring the votes of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally, 60 votes.

Thus, Republicans cannot by themselves filibuster health care reform. 

Democrats have to collaborate, collude, cave.

Day two of meetings in Majority Leader Reid‘s office to merge the Senate finance bill with the more liberal version approved by the health, education, labor, and pensions committee.

Senator Reid‘s office is now trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube after reports yesterday that the majority leader had given Senator Snowe a seat at the table.  An anonymous aide to Senator Reid today saying of the Maine Republican, quote, “She will not be at the table.  The Only people who will be at the negotiating table are Harry Reid, Max Baucus, Senator Chris Dodd, and the White House.”  Which isn‘t quite the same thing as saying the majority leader will be vigorously pursuing the public option.

Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi today is reiterating that the House will approve the public option.  Adding that, in addition, lawmakers there are now considering a $6.7 billion a year fee on the insurance companies.  Speaker Pelosi is saying recent attacks by the insurance industry, the cartel, have erased any doubts that substantial reform is necessary.

The industry is out with a new attack on legislation—of course ,it is, it‘s a day of the week ending in why—now claiming that the Baucus bill would mean higher insurance premiums for individuals and small business, thus driving down the number of small employers who would offer coverage.  This report was conducted by Arthur Anderson and paid for by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

On Monday, PricewaterhouseCoopers having released its study that was funded by the entire industry‘s lobbying arm, AHIP.

Even Senator Grassley of Iowa death-paneling the one part of the Baucus bill that the insurance industry actually likes, mandated coverage for everyone, with no pesky public option to provide competition, paid for in part at government subsidy expense.  The Iowa Republican calling individual mandates unconstitutional, in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

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GRASSLEY:  This is the first time in the 225-year history of our country that we have forced you, as a constituent, any of our constituents, to buy a product.  You know, you‘ve been free to buy or not buy.  But now, for the first time, you‘re going to have to buy health insurance.

I‘m not a lawyer, but let me tell you—I‘ve listened to some lawyers speak on this and, you know, it‘s a relatively new issue.  And I don‘t think we‘ve ever had this issue before, of having to buy something.  And a lot of constitutional lawyers are saying, it is unconstitutional, or at least a violation of the Tenth Amendment.  Now, maybe states could do this, but can the federal government do it?

So, I have my doubts.

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OLBERMANN:  You heard of insurance on cars, Senator Grassley? 

Mandatory insurance on cars?

Meanwhile, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, believed to be one of

the conservative Democrats now threatening to filibuster—we would not

know for sure, the majority leader is keeping the that information secret -

·         she did nothing to dispel misperceptions about the public option after our own Tamron Hall asked the senator why she thought the public option was so popular in the polls.

           

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TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Do you believe in that desire from the folks that you and all of the others represent who say that they would like a public option to help offset these costs?

LANDRIEU:  I think—I think when people hear “public option,” they hear free health care.  Everybody wants free health care.  Everybody wants health care they don‘t have to pay for.  The problem is, is that we as governments and business have to pick up the tab and as individuals.  So I‘m not at all surprised that the public option‘s been sold as free health care, but there is no free lunch.

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OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Democrat of New York.

Thank you again for some of your time tonight, sir.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Landrieu said the public option is being sold as a free lunch.  The president was very clear, it‘s not a free lunch.  The public option is a self-sufficient, self-sustaining enterprise paid for solely by premiums out of the system and into the system.  So, who other than those that are dedicated to destroying the public option has tried to sell it as free health care?

WEINER:  Well, as a matter of fact, the American people are supporting the public option because despite what the health insurance industry and some senators think, the American people understand, they want additional choices.

You know, I created this Web site, CountdowntoHealthcare.com thinking I would use the petitions I gathered to lobby my Republican friends.  I seem to need it much more with some of my Democratic friends, because, frankly, there‘s more misinformation being spread out there, and it‘s not just people like Chuck Grassley, who—I got to tell you—is one fry short of a happy meal if he thinks that Congress can‘t do this.  But it‘s a lot of my moderate, Democratic friends are turning out to be our biggest headache here, because they don‘t seem to understand this proposal very well at all.

OLBERMANN:  I really like that name of your Website, CountdowntoHealthcare.com.  How are you using it to tilt against the—against these reluctant Democrats?

WEINER:  Well, I just want to tell you—I checked, I didn‘t step on your trademark much.

Look, we have over 30,000 people.  And when we start looking at the zip codes these people are signing up, saying we want a public option at CountdowntoHealthcare.com, a lot of them were from these so-called swing districts.  Despite the mythology, it‘s these citizens who voted for Democrats because we said we were going to fix health care.

Now, these very same representatives are running for the hills claiming their constituents don‘t want it.  Uh-uh!  I think the American people want alternatives.

And the health care industry over the last several days has done exactly what they hardly ever do, told the truth.  They‘ve been saying they‘re going to raise rates.  They‘re saying it loud and clear.  They‘re begging for to us include competition in this bill, and if we don‘t do it now, we only have ourselves to blame.

OLBERMANN:  And we also, during this bizarre week, found out, many of us—to the surprise of many of us, certainly, that the antitrust exemption is firmly intact.  It and Major League Baseball have this, and that‘s it.

Is it amazing to you that we‘re still having a conversation about whether or not it‘s a good idea to rein these companies in?

WEINER:  Well, you know, the health care industry takes home every year in the neighborhood of $200 billion in profits and overhead.  That‘s money that doesn‘t go into a checkup, it doesn‘t go into operate anyone.  It doesn‘t get us any health care at all.

It is remarkable to me that we have the Republican Party, a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry, teaming up with a group—a small group of Democrats to try to protect that industry.  I just don‘t get it.  And sooner or later, the American people are going to weigh in and say, “Enough is enough.”

I‘m glad Nancy Pelosi is hanging in there as tough as she is.

OLBERMANN:  About Senator Snowe at the negotiating table.  Whether she is there or not, the story has changed in the last two days.

Does it seem evident to you that enough Democrats in the Senate and maybe enough Democrats in the White House have all but given up on the public option or are ready to, unless they are backstopped in some way?

WEINER:  I don‘t think so and I hope not.  You know, I think that, frankly, if you don‘t have a public option, I don‘t think you can pass a bill out of the House.  And I think that the White House gets that.

You know, at a certain point, President Obama has to put his finger on the scale here and say, “We need to have a public option.”  I, at least, give Senator Snowe the credit for seeming to be engaging in a serious debate.  When you see Chuck Grassley pulling these bizarre constitutional theories out of—I‘ll leave it to your viewers.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEINER:  . to imagine where he‘s taking them from.  But, I mean, you really do see how bankrupt a lot of this debate has come.  At least Senator Snowe is trying.  But this bill, if it does not have a public option, not only will it not save money, but I don‘t think it becomes law.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Democrat of New York—once again, great thanks for your work on this and for your time tonight.

WEINER:  And for CountdowntoHealthcare.com.  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.  No infringement there whatsoever.  Thank you.

For more on the politics of this, let‘s turn to our Lawrence O‘Donnell, former chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee, now a contributor to the “Huffington Post” and, of course, to COUNTDOWN.

Lawrence, first up, good evening.  Let me repeat the numbers here.  Seventy-seven percent of Americans want a public option; a majority of the Democrats in the Senate say they would vote for a public option.  What the hell is Mary Landrieu talking about?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, she represents Louisiana, and Louisiana Democrats sent to the Senate have always been the most conservative Democrats in the Senate.  She‘s not so much worried about the public option number as Barack Obama‘s approval ratings in general in Louisiana, which aren‘t that great.

But this is one of those situations where she‘s not on the finance committee and you see how—you know, how badly informed senators who are not on the relevant committee are about legislation on other committees.  She‘s just really not ready to be talking about this publicly.  She should stay in her office for a while.

OLBERMANN:  Well, but—or she should be led—I mean, is there not

·         are there not any whips?  I don‘t want to sound like Scrooge here, but are there no—are there no Senate workhouses?  Are there no Democratic majority whips or leaders?  Is there anybody—is there a failure to lead

·         is I guess what I‘m asking here—in the Senate?

           

O‘DONNELL:  There is a failure to lead, but there is absolutely to capacity to lead.  It isn‘t anyone‘s fault.  It‘s institutional.

George Mitchell, who was the best majority leader I have ever seen on the job, could not whip people.  He could not force people to vote a certain way.

I used to try to explain to people when I was working in the Senate, how would you get an adult to do something that they don‘t want to do if you cannot hit them?  That‘s what you‘ve got here.  There‘s absolutely no way you can force the Democrat from Louisiana to vote a certain way.

There‘s no way you can force Joe Lieberman to vote any way at all.  And he, by the way, is way off the reservation on this.  I mean, he has said things today that indicate he cannot vote for the finance committee version of the bill.

So, they have no ability to whip up these votes.  Those—you know, these jobs, the whip in the Senate, that‘s just an honorary title.

OLBERMANN:  Sigh.

Governor Dean, obviously, medical practitioner, respected voice on this issue, as respected as anybody else.  Repeatedly, he has said that health care reform is not worth doing if it‘s not done right.  Are there consequences for Democrats of passing a bill not done right?

O‘DONNELL:  I think those are the most devastating consequences, the passing of the bad bill.  I think Howard Dean is absolutely right about that.

You know, the bill is being opposed now, the finance committee bill, the paid for version of it, the tax on health insurance plans is being opposed by labor very, very intently.  If that were to go through, for example, and be in the final bill, labor will not only not help elect Democrats in the next year, they‘ll actually work against many of them who voted for that.

So, there are many pieces of this that if it goes through the wrong way, will be absolutely devastating, politically, next year for the Democrats.

OLBERMANN:  I‘ve asked you before to try to take me through the thought process of Chuck Grassley, if any.  How might individual mandates be a state‘s issue, exactly, and how would they be unconstitutional if it‘s necessary and mandatory by law to buy insurance for your car?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Chuck Grassley always does say, “I‘m not a lawyer, but.”

OLBERMANN:  He‘s not a senator, but.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

Well, you know, car insurance is not a federal law, it‘s a state law. 

So, that‘s the distinction Grassley is drawing here.

And it‘s a—there‘s a reasonable discussion to be had here.  I think the individual mandate would survive constitutional challenge.  I don‘t think Antonin Scalia would see it that way, but it is unprecedented.  Even liberal constitutional scholars who defend the individual mandate will admit that it is unprecedented.  The government has never ordered citizens to buy something before.  But it would probably survive that challenge.

The Massachusetts individual mandate is being challenged in the court. 

It has survived so far in the Massachusetts court.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, also contributor at “The Huffington Post”—great thanks, as always, for your time tonight, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If you want to do something about health care, we are calling on people to donate to the National Association of Free Clinics, so that association can mount free health fairs for people who need them in five states represented by Democratic senators—six of them—who have not yet said whether they support an up-or-down vote on the public option.

As of tonight, so far, 13,600 of you have donated for a total of just over $1 million.  And we can now announce—thanks to your generosity—the association will hold a free health fair on November 21st at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.  There will be a registration process for volunteers to help out and a registration process for patients to sign up for care so people don‘t have to stand in line all night.

We‘ll bring you more detailed information as we have that.  You can learn more and give more at FreeClinics.us, or COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.

And a program note: Tomorrow night, an encore presentation of the hour-long “Special Comment” focusing on health care, kicking off our free clinic campaign.  We hope you will join us then.

So, can you believe it‘s been more than two years now since Colin Powell channeled President Eisenhower and warned us about the terror industrial complex and all the networks did specials and he was quizzed on “Meet the Press” about it and that book came out about the terror industrial complex and—no, not ringing a bell?  That‘s because only the first part actually happened.

More than two years later, we think that if we were to show you this extraordinary interview done with General Colin Powell by a student journalist at the University of Oklahoma, it would be the first time you could have seen it on national TV.  So, let‘s.

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OLBERMANN:  The same man who, 10 days ago, said the nomination of Sarah Palin to the presidency in 2010 would be a catastrophe now says nominating her for vice president last year was a great idea.

“Worst Persons”: Lonesome roads Beck tries to make a Robert Reich joke, pronounces the guy‘s name wrong.

And an insurance company faced with paying off on a policy for a man with muscular dystrophy but unable to legally cancel that policy simply cancels all the policies like it.

And this just in, General Colin Powell warns on camera of a terror industrial complex.  Two years ago.

Tonight on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin would be catastrophic for the Republican Party in 2012, but she was great for the Republican Party in 2008.  This, the political wisdom of the McCain/Palin campaign‘s chief strategist, Steve Schmidt.

Our fourth story tonight: Mr. Schmidt‘s apparent reversal defending a governor who quit her job to save the country—perhaps not that surprising, in so much as it comes from a man who told McCain to quit his campaign to save the economy.

Schmidt made headlines just two weeks ago when he said nominating Palin for president in 2012 would be, quote, “catastrophic” for his party.  But speaking last night at the University of Arkansas‘ Clinton School of Public Service—yes, the Clinton School of Public Service—Mr. Schmidt said, quote, “I believe to this day that had she not been picked as the vice presidential candidate, we would never have been ahead, not for one second, not for one minute, not for one hour, not for one day.”  He‘s stealing from Irving Berlin.

Asked to reconcile his 2008 and 2012 assessments, he then said, quote, “I said what I said on the 2012 race.  I said what I said today.”

Schmidt explained why McCain/Palin lost despite the Palin part.  Quote, “We were three points ahead on September 16th when the stock market crashed and then the election was over.”

It‘s true, McCain and Palin were leading on September 15th, but what Mr. Schmidt fails to mention is they started dropping from their post-convention, post-Palin bounce before September 15th, almost a week before.

So, what really coincided with the demise of McCain/Palin?  And what light does it actually shed on the wisdom of having picked her?  On the 11th of September last year, at the height of her ticket‘s popularity, but as negative stories about her began to gain traction, Governor Palin started to do interviews.

According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, McCain/Palin dropped a point and a half in the four days afterwards and never recovered.

Let‘s turn to Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist, communications director on the 2008 Edwards campaign.

Chris, thanks for your time again tonight.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I say this slightly with tongue and cheek here.  But did somebody get to Schmidt, or is he just saying, “Hey, she looks awful now, but, boy, we were smart to pick her last year”?

KOFINIS:  You know, I think it‘s a—I think it‘s a bit of both.  You know, the funny thing is, I think there‘s—I imagine there‘s some in the McCain campaign that were kind of sick and tired of the squabbling and back-fighting about the 2008 campaign, in particular, given that it‘s almost 2010.

I think the other piece of this is that, you know, Steve Schmidt is sitting there, making the argument 10 days ago that, you know, she would be a catastrophic candidate in 2012.  Well, if that‘s the case, it makes your choice and your advising John McCain to choose her in 2008 not look very good.  So, it‘s him trying to basically back out of that.

At the end of the day, it was a bad choice in 2008.  It would be a bad choice in 2012.  It would be a bad choice in any century, in any decade in the future.  It‘s really that simple.

OLBERMANN:  The revisionist element to this, too—this idea of the stock market killed McCain/Palin, “A,” did—as the polls suggest here, which are not being revised historically, these were the number there is and are the same numbers now—did they not start falling before the stock market did?  And “B,” even if the stock market problems and the business problems did kill them, how is that an excuse?  Why doesn‘t that mean—well, you know, McCain really should have picked, Mike Huckabee ran as this economic populist, or, you know, Mr. Businessman, Mitt Romney?

KOFINIS:  You know, it wasn‘t the stock market that killed John McCain and his candidacy, and it wasn‘t choosing just simply Sarah Palin.  You know, even before Sarah Palin, he was the wrong candidate at the wrong time, with the wrong message and a terrible campaign.  Choosing Sarah Palin just added to it.

The notion that somehow Sarah Palin was not going to do a single interview between the time she was chosen and election day was ridiculous.  I mean, think about the notion that they didn‘t basically vet her—they didn‘t test her before she was chosen as the vice president.

I mean—and so, this notion of somehow, we were ahead, you know, six, seven, eight weeks before election day—well, you know, those are the kind of the immortal words of every losing campaign.  If only election day was held on the day we were up in the polls—it doesn‘t work that way.  And unfortunately, I think, for Steve Schmidt, it‘s not only revisionist history, I think it‘s kind of exposing some terrible advice that John McCain was getting, which actually gives you an indication of how bad his campaign really was.

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s something almost evil about this if you put it all together.  I mean, does it not add up, thusly, that Mr. Schmidt is essentially saying, the goal was: nominate Sarah Palin, get her through the election without anybody figuring out—to use Mr. Schmidt‘s later term—that she would be a catastrophe?

KOFINIS:  Apparently so.  I mean, this, really, I think, kind of exposes what happens in the back rooms where advisers play a really key role with a lot of these candidates.  I mean, and the notion that somehow, John McCain just woke up and decided to choose Sarah Palin, that‘s not accurate.  In fact, when you go back, and I read some of the reports from those many months ago, and what happened was a lot of these advisers were pushing Sarah Palin, including, if I‘m not mistaken, Steve Schmidt.

And so, the notion of now turning around and saying, “Oh, she would have been a catastrophe,” what would have happened if John McCain had won and this catastrophe would have been a heartbeat away from the presidency?  I mean, it does put into perspective, you know, what an important event it was that Barack Obama won, that this catastrophe was nowhere near the White House, let alone what‘s going to happen in 2012.

OLBERMANN:  And also kind of underscores this idea that the base of that party is somewhat separated from the mainstream of America.  That this is—this - you can call this a slightly center-left or slightly center-right country, but it‘s—it ain‘t a—it ain‘t a Sarah Palin country.

KOFINIS:  No.  It‘s not a Sarah Palin country.  And, you know, what‘s interesting is the whole infighting that‘s been happening within the Republican Party is between kind of two factions, between the, you know, what I described as the far-right and the far-out right.  And, you know, these ideological battles happen in both parties, but what‘s happening in the Republican Party is unique.  And until they exercise those voices, this Republican Party is not going to basically recover.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist—as always, thank you, Chris.

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As evidenced in this case, just because it happened last year does not mean it‘s now irrelevant, like—remember the time Bush‘s secretary of state warned us about the prospect of an American terror industrial complex?  You don‘t?  It happened.  We‘ll play you the interview, albeit a little late.

And the balloon thing today.  The kid is safe.  The rest of it is an outrage.

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OLBERMANN:  “Bests” in a moment.  And hi, this is the burglar calling. 

I left my wallet in your house when I broke in.  Can you bring it to me?

First, on in this date in 1764, a rather nondescript historian and minor British politician on a trip to Rome heard a group of barefooted friars singing vespers in the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter.  He thought a thorough telling of what happened to the ancient Romans might make a good book.  Thus did Edward Gibbon decide to write a text still in use nearly 340 years later, “The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire.”  Let‘s play Oddball.

Almost contemporaneous with that, we begin in Mount Vernon, Virginia and we get a rare look inside a founding father‘s face.  These are the bottom dentures of President George Washington, made from human teeth, nailed into a hunk of Hippopotamus tusk, not wood.  That was the cheap version. 

The dentures were put on display at Washington‘s home today in celebration of Dental Hygiene Month.  What a fine example old George set.  He also made available the lone original tooth in Washington‘s mouth when he was inaugurated as our first president, which, is now, as you saw, mounted in the fob of a pocket watch. 

The display runs all the way into 2013.  Free tube of Polydent to the first 100 visitors. 

Over to Straubing (ph), in Germany, where over 1,000 garden gnomes have gathered in the town square.  That‘s right, they‘re doing that.  This is art, people.  So says Atmar Hue (ph), the man behind the project he calls “Dance With the Devil.”  Mr. Hue says it is a protest of lingering fascist tendencies in German society.  But many in the town don‘t like it.  Displaying such symbols in Germany is illegal.  But a court ruled earlier this year Hue‘s work is anti-Nazi in nature. 

We don‘t want to make any judgments.  The display, of course, runs through Sunday.  If you‘re interested in getting to Germany to see it, I believe one of the gnomes has a cousin who has this website that can hook you up.  A long way to go for that joke.

Finally, to Gaza City‘s Happyland Zoo, where they could not afford real zebras.  So they turned lemons into lemonade by turning donkeys into zebras.  Using some tape to cover the original hair color and maintain the white stripes, and human hair die for the black stripes, zoo keepers transformed the pair of asses.  Getting a look at the dying process here.  The painting doesn‘t look too difficult, but, just like you might expect, the toughest part is taping your donkey. 

Back outside, the attraction is a great success.  The kids can‘t tell the difference.  And only the donkey‘s hair dresser knows for sure.  Why am I having doubts about that story? 

America stays glued to the images of an out of control balloon carrying a six-year-old across Colorado, except the six-year-old isn‘t in the balloon.  But the former secretary of state admitted he fears this country might foster businesses that need the threat of terror to stay in business.  What he calls the Terror Industrial Complex.  And that—that nobody notices. 

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

Dateline Washington, number three, best liar, Karl Rove.  Goes on “Good Morning America,” announces Obama had better do what the generals tell him about more troops to Afghanistan.  Is challenged by Diane Sawyer that this necessarily means the Bush people had too few troops in Afghanistan.  And Rove replies, quote, “I don‘t believe that at the time the military was saying we need significant more.  If there had been that cry, I suspect the previous administration would have been very responsive to it.” 

Uh-huh.  Last year, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, General McKiernan, asked Mr. Bush for 30,000 more troops, to which the White House said no.  “There was a saying when I got there,” McKiernan said, “if you‘re in Iraq and you need something, you ask for it.  If you‘re in Afghanistan and need it, you figure out how to do without it.” 

Karl Rove is a congenital liar. 

Dateline the Internet, number two, best brainless protest, whoever hacked NFL commissioner‘s Roger Goodell‘s page on Wikipedia, after Rush Limbaugh was squeezed out of his minor interest in a bid to buy the St.  Louis Rams.  Here‘s the Wikipedia page showing what was there, “Roger Goodell is a racist against white people and conservatives,” et cetera.  Conservatives is misspelled, by the way, and everything. 

I already defended Mr. Limbaugh‘s right to be, ironically enough, a minority team owner.  But his supporters have misunderstood this totally.  Katherine Jean Lopez (ph) wrote that he was secluded because of his politics.  No, he wasn‘t.  He was excluded because he called the media covering the NFL race manipulators and he demeaned quarterback Donovan McNabb of the Eagles by saying McNabb had been praised because of the color of his skin. 

That ain‘t politics.  That‘s racism.  Here‘s a shock also for people attacking Commissioner Goodell as a lefty, Limbaugh bashing, Pink-O: his wife is Jane Skinner, anchor for Fox News. 

And dateline Little Rock, number one, best dumb criminal, Courvoisier Marteze Riley.  The 23-year-old tried to rob a home there.  While police were interviewing the victim, Mr. Riley phoned to say he had dropped his wallet at the house, and could the homeowner please bring it to him at a gas station.  What happened next you can probably guess.  But as he sits there under arrest and really dumb, at least Courvoisier Marteze Riley can say to himself, I have a spectacular name. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It would have been a stunningly gentle ending to what seemed to be a horrific flight.  A saucer-like aircraft made out of plywood, cardboard, string and some kind of foil thought to have a six-year-old boy inside a box hanging from it, landed today after three hours of careening out of control in flight, and landed in a recently plowed field in Hudson, Colorado.  But nobody was in it. 

In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, after a desperate, hours-long ground search for the boy, he was found alive, reportedly safe in his home, in an attic, above the garage, in a different box.  The helium-filled balloon was never intended for flight.  It was owned by the boy‘s parents, tethered behind the family home, according to Kathy Davis of the Larimer County Sheriff‘s Department.  She said an older brother saw the younger one, six-year-old Falcon Heene, go into a compartment at the bottom of the balloon, and fly away from the Ft. Collins home at approximately 11:00 am prevailing local time. 

By time the live coverage was under way, reports indicated the boy was likely inside that aircraft.  As the foil-covered balloon traveled at altitudes as high as 15,000 feet, in a southeasterly wind of up to 30 miles per hour, rotating and tipping, authorities were reportedly discussing rescue efforts with the parents. 

But after nearly three hours out of a 90-mile flight, the balloon landed.  Its partially deflated, listing side apparently causing a slower, gentle accident.  The touchdown northeast of Denver International Airport, in a plowed field, at the beginning of a whole new set of questions.  Authorities tethered and deflated the craft, but nobody was inside it. 

And the focus returned to exactly what that six-year-old boy‘s older brother had witnessed.  Local authorities had already reportedly searched the boy‘s home without finding him.  So they set up a command post in a search of the boy—or box that had reportedly been attached to the balloon at takeoff. 

A sheriff‘s deputy having reportedly seen a piece of the balloon detach and fall.  The thing inside the circle there.  It was far from the aircraft at the time.  Coincidentally, that photo taken by a local resident, of a black dot below the balloon, a piece of it as it had fallen off, supposedly. 

Meantime, the bizarre minor celebrity of that family also coming into focus.  They had participated in the ABC show “Wife Swap.”  “When the Heene family aren‘t chasing storms,” the show‘s website says, with grammatical incorrectness, “they devote their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrial and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm.” 

But by this evening, this particular storm had obviously passed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD HEENE, FATHER OF “BALLOON BOY”:  This little guy got inside of it.  I thought he did, anyway, according to Brad.  Brad said he saw it.  He said he videotaped.  And we watched it back.  And sure enough, he got in.  But, obviously, he got out.  So we don‘t know—he says he was hiding in the attic because I yelled at him.  I‘m really sorry I yelled at him. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s been rumors that this might be a big publicity stunt or a hoax.  Please address that. 

HEENE:  That‘s horrible.  I mean, after the crap we just went through, no.  No, no, no. 

FALCON HEENE, “BALLOON BOY”:  I was scared because he yelled at me.  That‘s why I went in the attic.  I heard shouting.  I didn‘t want to come out really soon, or else he would yell at me.  And I would probably get in trouble. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining us now, the senior content editor with the newspaper, “The Ft. Collins Coloradoan,” Sara Hansen.  Ms. Hansen, thank you for your time tonight. 

SARA HANSEN, “THE FT. COLLINS COLORADOAN”:  You‘re welcome. 

OLBERMANN:  Do we have any idea yet what really happened here?  Boy‘s prank, self-promoter‘s fraud, or just simple confusion? 

HANSEN:  It sounds like simple confusion.  Apparently, the parents were out with the boys this morning, and Falcon was climbing in and out of the box.  And his father yelled at him for doing that.  And then, apparently, later—it‘s not exactly clear if the balloon was set loose by the boys.  Perhaps when they were still playing. 

But whatever is the case, Falcon then decided to climb up into the garage attic and hide there, and spent the day eating snacks, playing with his toys, taking a nap, hiding in a big box.  And although the house was searched twice by law enforcement authorities, they were unable to locate him. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘re advised now that, obviously, the police have come down on the side of confusion, because there are no charges in either sense of the word.  There‘s no investigation about what the family might or might not have done here.  And they will not be billed for any of the police activity involved in this. 

HANSEN:  Yes, that is correct.  Because, mainly, they don‘t want parents to then feel concerned about calling 911 if they do have a missing child.  They still want them to feel free to contact law enforcement and not worry that if it turns out to be something similar, where it‘s unfounded, then they could possibly have to foot the bill for the search. 

OLBERMANN:  We can understand, I suppose, local authorities, as you mentioned, having searched the boy‘s house, and maybe neglected an unusual space like an attic in a garage.  Not everybody has an attic in their garage.  But while this was happening, wouldn‘t the father, who, after all, would have the best idea of what this thing was capable of doing, knowing the most about the craft, that obviously he was involved in building—wouldn‘t he have been able to say, you know, it‘s really unlikely anybody is inside this.  There must be a different explanation? 

HANSEN:  Apparently not.  He, apparently, was very concerned that the boy was inside this box, attached to the bottom of the balloon, where they apparently hold batteries and some other items, because the family was nervous all day, worried about where he was.  And I think that anxiety just escalated when the balloon did come down safely in the freshly plowed field, and the boy was not there. 

OLBERMANN:  End result here is all‘s well that ends well, and everybody got scared.  Did anybody—was there any kind of—was there any indication at that news conference that the family be a little more protective of its balloons, of them accidentally taking off somehow? 

HANSEN:  Well, that would certainly be a good idea, wouldn‘t it?  I‘m not so sure.  This family, as you may know, is a little bit unusual.  They have some interesting parenting styles and definitely have encouraged their three boys to be very free spirits.  And we were told by his father, no pun intended, he is not going to ground Falcon. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Some times lessons are offered cheaply and sometimes expensively.  But you‘ve got to know when they‘ve been offered, one way or the other.  Sara Hansen of the “Ft. Collins Coloradoan,” great thanks for updating us on it. 

HANSEN:  You‘re very welcome.

OLBERMANN:  More than 25 months after he gave it, a remarkable interview with Colin Powell has come to light about his fear that an American industry would build up based on terrorism fears.  It has come to light because Terry Gilliam of “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus” mentioned it last night. 

And the rapaciousness of the insurance industry on display anew.  Cancel the policy of one Muscular Dystrophy patient?  Well then just cancel all the policies. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she goes toe to toe with Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, trademark, and his effort to scuttle health care reform by using Astroturf groups like Americans For Prosperity. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Colin Powell and the terror industrial complex.  His startling honest remarks about the danger of creating industries that depend on the threat of terrorism continuing, and why almost nobody noticed those comments, except Terry Gilliam of “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.” 

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Lonesome Roads Beck, glad to take a jab at the former Clinton secretary of labor.  “Is it Robert Reich III or Robert Third Reich?” 

It‘s Robert Reich.  Next time you want to complain about one of the grown ups waxing poetic or sounding Shakespearean or boasting about his oratory skills, maybe you could first make sure your brain is big enough to understand a comic book. 

Our runner-up, Charles Cooper, the attorney for the group that sponsored Prop 8 in California, now defending a legal challenge to it in front of U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker.  Mr. Cooper asked Judge Walker to dismiss the suit, saying that Prop 8 had furthered California‘s goal of encouraging naturally procreative relationship. 

Judge Walker asked the 64,000 dollar questions: “What is the harm to the procreation purpose you outlined of allowing same-sex couples to get married?” 

The lawyer then said, “my answer is, I don‘t know.”  I don‘t know.  He then clarified saying, “there are things we can‘t know.  That‘s my point.  The people of California are entitled to step back and let the experiment unfold in Massachusetts and other places to see whether our concerns about the health of marital unions have been either confirmed or perhaps they have been completely assuaged.” 

In other words, the attorney for Prop 8 just told the judge he has no Earthly clue if same-sex marriages really do threaten male-female marriages, or if they do, how they do. 

And our winner, Dennis J. Madding, the president and chief executive officer of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.  He issued a policy to Ian Pearl (ph), resident of the state of New York.  Mr. Pearl is 37 years old and he has muscular dystrophy and annual costs to keep him alive and functional exceed one million dollars.  So, the Guardian Insurance Company did not cancel Mr. Pearl‘s policy.  That would be illegal and it would be discrimination. 

No, no, that would be wrong.  Plus, somebody at Guardian had a better idea.  According to the conservative newspaper, the “Washington Times,” Guardian canceled the entire line of coverage that insured everybody like Mr. Pearl in the state of New York.  Wiped out an entire class of policy holders to avoid paying out for one guy with MD.  “Moreover,” writes the “Washington Times,” “in an email, one Guardian Life Insurance Company executive called high-cost patients such as Mr. Pearl dogs that the company could get rid of.” 

A federal court ruled that Guardian‘s action, wiping out the insurance of Mr. Pearl and the other dogs, was legal.  So unless the Federal Department of Health and Human Services issue a special order, on the 1st of December, his benefits will vanish, and so will similar policies covering everybody else in the state of New York. 

These are the people the United States is fighting against.  They agree to pay you if you get sick.  You get sick, they don‘t pay you.  Instead, they cancel your policy, and every policy that looks like your policy.  And they call you a dog. 

Dennis J Manning, president of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, who should have to spend 24 hours in Ian Pearl‘s body, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you saw the interview last night, you know I had a million questions for John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones from “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.”  Most of them fan questions.  But Terry Gilliam had one question for me: how come that Colin Powell interview about the terror industrial complex didn‘t become a bigger story? 

Our number one story, what Colin Powell interview about the terror industrial complex?  In a 2007 interview with “GQ Magazine,” the former secretary of state, strikingly honest, outlined an entire aspect of the nexus of politics and terror.  And even in this day of instant information, this modern day version of President Eisenhower‘s farewell address, and his warning about a Military Industrial Complex, barely made a dent in the mainstream media. 

Possibly because, in effect, Powell buried his own lead.  In that interview that ran in October 2007‘s issue of “GQ,” he said that he was, quote, “sorry that he gave the world the wrong information at the UN,” the information regarding the threat that Iraq supposedly posed that led us to war.  We reported Powell‘s admission on this program the week of September 10th, 2007.  And we excerpted some of Powell‘s remarks to “GQ.”  “What is the greatest threat facing us now?  People will say it‘s terrorism.  But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system?  No.  Can they knock down a building?  Yes.  Can they kill somebody?  Yes.  But can they change us?  No.  Only we can change ourselves.  So what is the great threat we are facing?” 

But perhaps if we had all just dug a little deeper into that article, we would have noticed that Powell went a little further.  “The only thing that can really destroy us is us.  We shouldn‘t do it to ourselves and we shouldn‘t use fear for political purposes.  Scaring people to death so they will vote for you, or scaring people to death so that we create a Terror Industrial Complex.”

Powell, of course, borrowing that phrase, first used by President Eisenhower in 1961.  In his farewell address to the nation, the president warned of the Military Industrial Complex, a concept that perhaps he knew something about, considering that prior to being president, he was a five-star general in the Army during World War II. 

“In the counsels of government,” he said, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or Democratic processes.” 

Shortly after Powell‘s comments to “GQ” were published, he gave a speech at the University of Oklahoma.  The reporters at OU‘s campus newspaper, “The Oklahoma Daily,” picked up on Powell‘s remarks and asked the former secretary of state what everybody else did not, just what did he mean by Terror Industrial Complex? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE:  We‘re spending an enormous amount of money on Homeland Security.  And I think we should spend whatever it takes.  But I think we have to be careful that we don‘t get so caught up in trying to throw money at the terrorist and counter-terrorist problem that we essentially are creating an industry that will only exist as long as you keep the terrorist threat pumped up. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The follow-up question was, do you see warning signs that this country is in fact headed in that direction? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL:  We spend a lot of money to put a lot of equipment out there, kind of terrorism equipment.  But now we need more money to keep that equipment running.  Well, let‘s make sure that what we have sent out there is absolutely essential.  And let‘s be cautious in our appropriations and in spending money. 

I don‘t think we‘re out of control, I think we had to respond in an aggressive way.  But it‘s now been six years.  Let‘s make sure we‘re spending money on the right things, and not spending money just to spend money. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “Let‘s make sure that we‘re spending money on the right things, and not just spending money just to spend money.” 

Halliburton no-bid contracts, not to mention the old Bush/Cheney cronies that had financial stakes in the very complex Mr. Powell warned us about.  But what can a new administration learn from this two-year-old warning?  To the growing chorus chiding the president to hurry up and decide about the strategy going forward in Afghanistan, take note; beware of the terror industrial complex. 

And my apologies for not reporting this to you in September 2007. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,359th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

Now, to discuss the protests to stop health care reform with Tim Phillips, one of the man leading the anti-reform charge, ladies and gentlemen, back from the wars or something, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So far, so good. 

MADDOW:  So far, it works.  Thanks, Keith.  I appreciate it.

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