updated 10/26/2009 11:11:53 AM ET 2009-10-26T15:11:53

Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Craig Crawford, Kevin Tibbles, Rep. James Clyburn, Chris Kofinis, Mary Schiavo, Richard Wolffe   

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The public option options.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  The robust public option is, in my view, a preferred way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  But can the speaker get the votes for a robust public option?  And what exactly does “robust” mean anyway?  And if that won‘t work, will an opt-out or a trigger save health care reform?  And what exactly does “opt-out” or “trigger” mean?

Our special guest tonight: House majority whip, Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina.

The GOP identity crisis: Newt Gingrich backs the Republican candidate for a congressional seat.  Sarah Palin says that candidate is not Republican enough.  So, Palin throws her support behind a conservative party candidate.

Is this the opening shot in an all-out Republican civil war?

Cockpit confusion: The Northwest Airlines flight that overflew its destinations by 150 miles.  New details about what was going on the ground while the jet went silent for 80 minutes.

FOX on the frontline: As the right-wing talking heads of FOX News continue to play victim in the battle with the White House, tonight, a powerful reality check on who fired the first shot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  Even at the inauguration of a black president, it seems white America is being called racist.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  He‘s not going to succeed.  Socialism has failed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And the ring leader of the FOX News laugh factory.  Why is someone floating Roger Ailes as a Republican candidate for president in 2012?

We‘ve got a running mate for you, Roger.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BECK:  Oh, it‘s really scary, huh?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Behind the scenes on Capitol Hill today, Democratic leaders in both chambers were counting votes for a public option.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The unanswered questions about exactly what form a public option would take, and how far the White House might be willing to go to keep the vote of just one Republican senator, Olympia Snowe.

In a moment, we‘ll be joined by House Majority Whip James Clyburn to discuss where things stand in that chamber.

First, tonight, the details: Multiple sources tell

TalkingPointsMemo.com that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is very close to rounding up 60 votes for these strongest version of a public option to emerge in that chamber, a compromised plan that would allow states to opt-out on an individual bases.  The same sources say the White House wants to opt out of the opt-out, pushing the more conservative “trigger” compromise in a bid to keep the support of Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.

Senator Snowe is still speaking out against option, telling “Bloomberg‘s” Al Hunt in an interview to air this weekend that she is opposed to any public option because it would give the government too much control of the health care industry.  Quoting her, “A public option at the forefront really does put the government in a disproportionate position with respect to the industry.

In the latest Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos, a majority of those surveyed believe that getting a good health care bill that has a public option in it is more important than passing a bill with no public option that has bipartisan support of a handful of Republicans: 54 percent to 38 percent.  Overall support for the public option also strong: 60 percent to 33 percent.

In a statement, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller says that trigger mechanisms have failed historically and are no substitute for a public plan.  Quoting him, “A trigger simply delays price competition.  Already, we are seeing insurance companies threatening to game the system by raising their prices in advance of reform.  The only way to curb price-gouging by health insurance companies is with real competition on day one.  That is the public option.”

Meanwhile, in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an emergency closed-door meeting to take roll call on a single question: do you support a robust public option?  Meaning: a public option that pays hospitals and doctors at Medicare rates.

One member told “The Hill” newspaper that there was, quote, “overwhelming support” for a “Medicare plus 5 percent” public option among those members in attendance.  But, 60 Democrats, either did not show up or walked out before the vote.

At a news conference afterwards, Speaker Pelosi said, the form the public option eventually takes is not as important as simply having one in the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  We had a very, I think, congenial—is that the word for a caucus—a lively and friendly caucus this morning where we are continuing to count the votes on this.  The robust public option is, in my view, a preferred way to go because it saves the most money, $110 billion.  It‘s not the only way to go.  And at the end of the day, we‘ll have a public option in our legislation to keep the insurance companies honest and to provide real competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  As promised, we are joined now by the House majority whip, James Clyburn of South Carolina.

Many thanks for your time tonight, sir.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  Thanks so much for having me.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Clyburn, when I worked in the Senate, I was in plenty of caucus meetings that were described as lively to the press.  That also meant there were some very intense arguments in that room.  Is that the way it really went today?

CLYBURN:  Well, I think the last night meeting was very spirited.  People are very passionate about this issue.  There are those who feel that the robust public option that is “Medicare plus 5,” which really, when you look at it, it saves $118 billion or $119 billion.  It would be the best way to go, because that would allow us to make the whole thing more affordable with subsidies and that sort of thing, for other people.

But there are others who feel that there are three other forms of a public option that ought to be given consideration.  One is the so-called negotiated rates.  And then there are two, what I call, hybrids of the two.  That is, negotiated rates with the trigger that seems to be favored by some people, including the White House.  And then there‘s negotiated rates with the 150 percent of poverty that will allow about 3 million to 7 million more people to come in to Medicaid.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, I just want to help out the audience on this for a second.

CLYBURN:  Sure.

O‘DONNELL:  By “negotiated rate,” what we mean is the reimbursement pattern for doctors and hospitals would be negotiated.

CLYBURN:  Would be negotiated.

O‘DONNELL:  . with those health care providers, as opposed to, in effect, dictated through the current Medicare rates which many say are too low.

CLYBURN:  That‘s correct.  That‘s correct and that‘s where we are having the debate.  Because there are those people who feel that the Medicare reimbursement rates in many parts of the country are just too low.  And they feel even if you do a “plus five,” that will not do their providers justice.  And others feel that the negotiated rate will be better so that all of these providers can negotiate with the powers that be for what the rate of return would be.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, all the national polls show substantial support for the public option.  Are those polls being passed around in those caucus meetings that you‘re run something?

CLYBURN:  Absolutely.  And so, the public option is not the question.  Remember, when we came back after Labor Day, there were people who thought that the whole reform—health care reform bill was dead for the year.  About two or three weeks later, after we had an opportunity to explain to people what we‘re doing, they say, “Well, OK, we got a good plan.  But the public option is off the table.”

Now, we‘re debating what form of public option.  There are those that said the Senate had absolutely no way of passing a public option.  Now, they‘re saying that it may be a form of public option that will—the Senate will consider.  That‘s all because the public has dialed in and they are, in fact, very much for some form of a public option and that‘s why you see this movement among our members.  We‘re not saying there won‘t be.  We‘re just saying what formula will it take.

O‘DONNELL:  And, Congressman, the other form being discussed is the “trigger” form advanced by Olympia Snowe on the Senate, which says that if the insurance companies do not show sufficient competition over time, there will eventually be a trigger that introduces the public option down the line.  That obviously has more support in the Senate than it would have in the House.  Do you think if it came to it, you could pass a trigger option in the House of Representatives?

CLYBURN:  Well, the only trigger that‘s been discussed in the House is a trigger that would allow for negotiated rates upfront.  And then the trigger will kick in after two or three years if the negotiated rates do not produce the result that we would like to see produced.  And so, that‘s the only one that‘s been discussed.

Now, as I understand it, what‘s being discussed over in the Senate is that the trigger will just sit there and we are not too sure how that will ever kick in.  And so, I don‘t believe that there‘s real strong support in the House for that kind of a trigger.  There is a significant amount of support in the House for another hybrid that is negotiated rates, plus 150 percent of poverty, to allow more people to kick in from—coming into Medicaid.

So, we have all four of these plans.  And I really believe that sometimes, by the end of next week, we‘ll see the House rolling something out with a public option.  I just don‘t know which one of the four forms will be laid out.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip, thanks you for guiding us through the thicket of the public option options.

CLYBURN:  Thank you so much for having me.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on the politics, let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst and CQPolitics.com columnist, Craig Crawford, co-author with Helen Thomas of “Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President To Know And Do.”

Thanks for joining us tonight, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Craig, Senator Reid seemed close—according to some press reports—of finding a way to do this without Republicans, close to that magical 60 votes in the Senate.  “Talking Points Memo” then reported that the White House was pushing back against a public option and pushing it toward the direction that Olympia Snowe wants it to go.

If, indeed, this is the case, if the White House is still pushing for that one Republican vote in the Senate, is that something that the House of Representatives can stand by and watch while they‘re trying to figure out how to get the public option right in the House?

CRAWFORD:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, a lot of the anger I hear from the House side is, you know, why are we all boiling this down to one Republican vote in the Senate?  How can you really call that bipartisanship?

That seems to be the motivation for the White House, to get that Republican vote so that they can call this bipartisan.  But if you only get one Republican, the best you can call that is bipart-of-one, not bipartisan.

And I think the other reason that the White House is pushing for this

is they look ahead to the mid-term elections.  The congressional election

is coming up.  They really fear passing something that only Democrats voted

for.  They want to be able to say to the voters that this was a bipartisan

·         both Republicans were along.

           

The other thing is, if Snowe comes on board, the hope is, she might be bring a couple more Republicans, and more importantly, conservative Democrats.  Ben Nelson or Bill Nelson of Florida or Blanche Lincoln or Mary Landrieu, that some of those moderate Democrats would follow her tide and vote for the bill.

O‘DONNELL:  Craig, MoveOn.org today blasted President Obama in an e-mail and other progressive groups are confronting Rahm Emanuel directly.  Now, even if it‘s just the perception that the White House is willing to trade away one of its core principles here, the White House obviously has a problem with its base.  Now, how big a problem is that?  How worried is the White House about its left flank on this one?

CRAWFORD:  It‘s a cumulative impact, Lawrence.  I mean, if you look at the war policy and a lot of liberals and Democrats, left of center, who thought they had elected a president who‘s going to change things in Iraq and Afghanistan aren‘t seeing that.  Now, they‘re seeing that the health care reform isn‘t going to look anything like they had thought it would when they elected President Obama.  Going back to the congressional elections, the problem could be that you‘d have a less than energized Democratic base to get out in those low turnout elections, in those congressional races next year where an energized base can make a big difference.

And if it‘s not energized, if the other side is as fired up as the Republicans and conservatives were last August with those town halls and tea bag protests, they could have a disproportionate impact against a very complacent Democratic base.

O‘DONNELL:  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and CQPolitics.com—thanks for joining us tonight.

CRAWFORD:  You bet.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The civil war in the Republican Party, a special congressional election pits Gingrich against Palin.  Newt supports the Republican and Sarah supports a third party candidate.  Is this just a sign of a bigger divide to come?

And the latest on the Northwest Airlines plane that overflew its airport by 150 miles.  We‘ll have the first comments from one of the pilots involved.

And, how George W. Bush‘s choice for secretary of homeland security finally made America safer this week by going to jail.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Could the special election to fill the seat for New York‘s 23rd congressional district portend a terrible—I mean, delightful fight ahead in the Republican Party?  Newt Gingrich supports the Republican candidate.  Sarah Palin doesn‘t, because the Republican candidate isn‘t Republican enough.

And later, FOX News versus President Obama.  Tonight, the conclusive video evidence that FOX fired the first shot and the second and the third.

That—and Roger Ailes for president?  All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Alaska blogger Sarah Palin touched off a battle last night with Georgia blogger Newt Gingrich—and the winner in the blue trunks is the Democratic Party.

Our fourth story tonight: The battlefield, a special congressional election next month in a conservative district in Upstate New York that has divided the entire national Republican Party, and threatens to cripple it for next year‘s war for control of the House of Representatives.

Meet State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, Republican chosen by local Republican leaders to run in next month‘s special election in New York‘s 23rd district on the Canadian border, endorsed by the NRA, top congressional Republicans, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who engineered the 1994 Republican takeover of the House.

But not conservative enough—we learned last night—for Sarah Palin, writing in the political journal on Facebook, that, quote, “There is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race.”

Palin, therefore, breaking with the party that nominated her for vice president, to endorse a third-party candidate in the New York 23rd, who she says has not been anointed by any political machine.

Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman has been anointed by any number of political machines, including Palin‘s own SarahPAC, and some which are now openly at war with Republicans—the American Conservative Union and New York Conservative Party, which considered Rudy Giuliani way, way, way too liberal to endorse for mayor.  Both now are calling on all GOP donors to stop supporting the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, the Republican committee raising funds for House candidates for 2010 all across the country.

Former House Republican leader, Dick Armey, also yesterday is taking up arms against the Republican hopes in this race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK ARMEY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  The Republicans lost this race when they put up that big-spending, liberal candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right.

ARMEY:  The candidate that‘s for card check, that candidate that thinks that the president‘s stimulus plan was a good idea.  I have a sense that the tea party activists are committed to this.

CROWD:  Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re joined now by Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis, who served as communications director of the 2008 John Edwards campaign.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good evening, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, I had trouble suppressing my glee introducing this subject tonight.  With Palin and Gingrich going at it like this, is it possible that someone I failed to even mention might actually win this race?

KOFINIS:  Well, and amazing, I think, the Democrat, you know, Bill Owens, he may win this thing.  And that‘s why—the reason why I say that‘s amazing is that no Democrat has held this seat since the civil war and it‘s ironic to say the least, that it‘s a Republican civil war that has broken out that may hand a pretty safe Republican seat to the Democrats.

I think the other part to this and I think this is even more interesting, is this battle between Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.  That, I think, is an interesting preview to the 2012.  You‘re seeing the conservative part of the Republican Party starting to splinter between one faction, which I would put Gingrich in, which is kind of—which is obviously conservative but a little bit more pragmatic, and to Palin, which is this, you know, ideologically pure, that believes if you don‘t fit her vision or her model of a conservative, you can‘t even be a Republican.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris.

KOFINIS:  Either way, it spells bad news for the Republican Party.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, you know—as you know, I worked for Senator Moynihan and so I understand campaigning in that part of New York.

And this is how hard it is for a Democrat to win in that territory. 

FDR never won there when running for governor of New York or president. 

Bobby Kennedy never won there.

KOFINIS:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  . when running for senate in New York.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan was only had one county in New York that he could not win, that‘s where it is.  It is Republican territory.

What does this say about 2010 when Republicans are supposedly going to be storming back to Congress if in their own dissension they can‘t even hold on to a safe seat?

KOFINIS:  Well, you know, the 2010 strategy for the Republican Party basically boils down to—let‘s pray that 1994 happens again.  And the mistake in that logic is, you know, they‘re weeded to this notion that this historical trend is that if the incumbent party controls the White House, there‘s going to be a backlash in the midterms, and that is true, historically.  But you also saw in ‘96, and you also saw in 2002, that was not the case.

So, my instinct tells me, you know, there has been a shift in the electorate.  And this notion the Republican can just bet on history is just wrong.

The other part—and this I think this is more troubling for the Republican Party—their brand is broken.  Two polls, both of ABC and CNN, show the Republican I.D.s in terms of voters who I.D.‘ed themselves as Republicans, had either 10-year or 26-year lows.  This is a Republican party that cannot communicate to voters and voters are leaving them in droves.  And they either moving to become independents or moving to the Democratic Party.

O‘DONNELL:  Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, thanks for presenting your analysis and in a dispassionate way and leaving the glee to me.

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The fight between FOX News and President Obama.  FOX says they‘re not being treated fairly.  We‘ll take a look at what FOX thinks is fair treatment of the president.

And a COUNTDOWN exclusive:  My take tonight on how the system works.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  And now in my regular “The System Worked” segment.

Consider the case of prisoner number 210717 getting ready for bed tonight in the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla, New York, while he awaits the beginning of his federal trial next week on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to the Internal Revenue Service.

There have been fewer New York City police commissioners than there have been presidents of the United States.  The commish is the most prestigious police appointment in the country.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani tarnished the image of the post when he treated it as a political plum and gave it to his former chauffeur, the utterly unqualified, high school dropout, Bernard Kerik.  In 2003, Giuliani convinced the ever gullible George W. Bush that Bernie Kerik was just the guy for a newly-created position in the ever-expanding Bush administration, interim minister of the interior of Iraq.

After a few months of ineffectual service to then-interim Republican king of Iraq, the forgettable L. Paul Bremer III, Bernie returns to the United States to resume his duties in private citizen Rudy Giuliani‘s entourage and offer near-constant, nonsensical commentary on FOX News.

In December of 2004, again at Giuliani‘s urging, the tragically inejectable president who had just barely won re-election, nominated Bernie Kerik to be secretary of homeland security.  The nomination crashed and burned as soon as the FBI started Bernie‘s background check, which resulted in the federal charges he will face in court next week.

This week, Bernie earned himself the first mug shot ever awarded to a New York City police commissioner when Judge Steven Robinson revoked Bernie‘s bail after finding that Bernie had leaked sealed information in the case.  The judge said, Bernie has, quote, “a toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance,” end quote.  So, you can see what politicians, like Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush loved about this guy.  The judge also said Bernie, quote, “thinks he is different from other people.” 

Your honor, I, for one, have to side with Bernie on that one.  He is different from other people, very, very different. 

Coming up, the drama surrounding that Northwest Airlines flight.  New details about how controllers finally got in touch with the plane.  And we‘ll have the first comments from one of the pilots involved. 

And later, the friends of Roger Ailes are pushing him to run for president in 2012.  Tonight, Ailes responds to his friends.  Is he in or out?  The answer ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Were they sleeping?  Were they doing something else?  A plane skips past its destination by 150 miles.  The pilots were unable to be reached for 80 minutes.  Now investigators want to know why.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the fallout continues over Northwest Airline‘s flight 188. 

Today, the plane‘s black boxes were delivered to the NTSB.  Controllers on the ground say they repeatedly tried to contact the wayward plane.  The AP reporting the pilot realized they were off course when a flight attendant called on an intercom from the cabin. 

Our correspondent is Kevin Tibbles. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Any investigation into what went on in the cockpit of Northwest Flight 188 may be hampered by this older model cockpit voice recorder, which only records 30 minutes at a time, and likely missed the critical moments. 

The Airbus A-320 departed San Diego late, heading east following its cross-country flight path.  But instead of landing in Minneapolis, it flew right past it, 150 miles past it, eventually performing a sky-high U-turn at 37,000 feet over Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and headed back to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Runway 35, clear to land.  Say the gate.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Clear to land on Runway 35.  We‘re going to gate Gulport. 

TIBBLES:  Passenger Brent Borlen (ph) was in row 17 and kept looking out the window. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why are we still way above the clouds?  We can‘t see any city lights yet.  We can‘t see any ground lights. 

TIBBLES:  Controllers say the pilots stopped responding about an hour before flight 188 was supposed to land, calls that were becoming increasingly anxious. 

CRAIG BOEHNE, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION:  So there was a high level of anxiety, definitely.  There were 13 separate attempts by different air traffic controllers to try to establish communications with Northwest 188. 

TIBBLES:  Sources say armed Air National Guard fighter jets were on the runway and ready to scramble if needed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just start thinking about the limit things that could have happened.  You run out of gas.  Do I look out the window and see an F-14 flying next to me?

TIBBLES (on camera):  Once contact was finally established, controllers asked the crew three separate times if everything was OK.  At first, the pilots responded, we were distracted.  Then later added that they were discussing a company issue. 

(voice-over):  But before landing, the pilots were put through a series of maneuvers in the air to prove to controllers they had command of the aircraft. 

Whatever the reason, experts say it‘s cause for alarm. 

WILLIAM VOSS, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION:  I think flabbergasted is even a better word, that you could have a situation where not only do they fly over the airport, but the fact that by 150 miles.  That‘s a pretty big miss. 

TIBBLES (on camera):  Upon landing, police say the pilots, identified as Timothy Cheney and Richard Cole, were cooperative and apologetic.  Blood alcohol tests found no evidence of drinking.

One possibility under investigation is that they may have fallen asleep.  The NTSB will be interviewing them on Monday to find out exactly what happened on flight 188. 

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  A short time ago, Pilot Richard Cole spoke briefly with our reporter at his home in Salem, Oregon. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD COLE, NORTHWEST AIRLINE PILOT:  Nobody was asleep in the cockpit.  No arguments took place.  Other than that, I cannot tell you anything that went on, because we are having hearings this is weekend.  We‘re having hearings on Tuesday.  All that information will come out then. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No arguments took place?  That‘s the statement that‘s out there all over the place. 

COLE:  There was no arguments at all in the cockpit.  That wasn‘t even an issue.  Absolutely not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Time now to call in the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation and current aviation attorney, Mary Schiavo.  Thanks very much for your time tonight. 

TRANSPORTATION:  Thank you.  Good to be here. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the NTSB says the black box only records 30 minutes, so we‘re unlikely to get any objective evidence from that that will shed light on what happened.  Are there any other sources of objective evidence that you would expect to find in this, excluding, for the moment, the pilots‘ own stories? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, you obviously—if there was any kind of arguing,

which they say that there wasn‘t, or anything going on in the cockpit, the

flight attendants would have been able to at least hear something, if they

were working in the forward galley.  And when the NTSB does question them -

·         obviously, they will question them.  They will be probably, in this instance, placed under oath, I do think that there‘s a lot of pressure to tell the full story. 

So I think that‘s probably the best that they‘ll be able to do. 

O‘DONNELL:  Has there ever been a story like this?  Today, I could find one story of a plane overshooting an airport in Hawaii by 18 minutes.  And it turned out the pilots were nodding off.  They figured that out.  But an hour and 20 minutes of inexplicable flying; have we ever seen anything like this? 

SCHIAVO:  No, not like this.  I mean, there‘s been situations which, of course, would be cause for alarm.  Remember the Payne Stuart plane a number of years ago, where the pilots had perished, which is why the air traffic controllers were so alarmed.  Then, of course, the tragedies of 9/11.

There are many instances—it‘s not as rare as people think—of pilots falling a sleep, particularly on long flights across the ocean.  It‘s a big problem, and the FAA has recently done some studies, along with the NTSB.  But nothing quite like this, where there‘s no explanation for why they were out of touch for an hour. 

O‘DONNELL:  What kind of hearings and procedures are these pilots facing? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, they‘re facing inquest, both by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has authority to examine their operation of the aircraft, whether they should have a certificate action against them, meaning yanking their pilot certificate, et cetera. 

And then the NTSB has responsibility for the investigation.  And they‘re already keyed into the pilot-cockpit coordination, and safety issues concerning the pilots‘ fatigue, coordination in the cockpit, et cetera.  And there were new initiatives announced on October 3rd.  So they‘ve flown right into the crosshairs. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, just very quickly on this one, they put the pilots through some tests before allowing them to land, maneuver tests.  Was that, in effect, a drunk driving test they were putting them through? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, not exactly—well, a drunk driving test, yes, but also a terrorist test.  They needed to make sure that the people in that plane were the people who were supposed to be in the cockpit, indeed the pilots for Northwest Delta.  And they were really trying to find out if someone had taken over the cockpit.  Remember, on 9/11, for a while, they couldn‘t contact them and then they got intercepts. 

O‘DONNELL:  Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, and author of “Flying Blind,” fly safe.  Thank you very for joining us tonight. 

SCHIAVO:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Fox News criticizes the Obama administration for going after them.  But we‘ll show you a powerful look back at what Fox has had to say about this presidency. 

And later, the hot political rumor of the day, Roger Ailes as a candidate for president against Barack Obama.  Ailes weighs in on what exactly his 2012 dreams are, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  If you‘re a journalist, you‘re supposed to have a healthy adversarial relationship with the people and institutions you cover.  You‘re not supposed to have an adversarial relationship with the truth or reality.  And that goes a long way, in our number two story tonight, toward explaining why the Obama White House has not mounted concerted criticisms of NBC News, ABC or CBS, although all of them, us, from the campaign through today, have reported critically on Barack Obama. 

Why, then, viewers of Fox News must ask themselves, assuming they do introspection, has the White House singled out one organization for criticism?  Especially an organization that has just, this year, emerged from an eight-year record of utter presidential fealty?  The progressive website Media Matters has compiled some excerpts straight from Fox‘s own air that might offer an answer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Even at the inauguration of a black president it seems white America is being called racist. 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOT HOST:  We‘re being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles. 

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  He‘s not going to succeed.  Socialism has failed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think the honeymoon is over. 

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  You can‘t break all your campaign promises. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You think it‘s really socialism.  Why? 

ANN COULTER, COMMENTATOR:  The next Jimmy Carter. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Barack Obama was elected by—mostly by black racists and white guilty people. 

HANNITY:  End of capitalism as we know it bill of 2009.  

BECK:  We‘re starting to look at fascism. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Closer toward socialism. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Closer to communism.  How do you quantify whether or not your country is socialist? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Dangerously like socialized medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It sure feels like open season on capitalism in

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The president pitches and the Dow dies? 

HANNITY:  Sounds like the honeymoon is over. 

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He‘s a one-term guy, is that what you‘re looking at? 

HANNITY:  Day number 52 of the socialism that you‘ve been waiting for. 

BECK:  The Manchurian candidate couldn‘t destroy us faster than Barack Obama. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are heading towards a one world sort of government.  I think Obama probably likes that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Obama administration is trashing the Constitution in order to micro manage the economy Soviet style. 

NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  A third-world government. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama‘s agenda towards socialism. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is Joseph Stalin would the bloodshed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country.

BECK:  I feel like President Obama is just saying, you know what?  I have that 3.5 trillion budget that we‘re doing—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re celebrating the first 100 days of Barack Obama‘s tenure. 

HANNITY:  One hundred days of America going down the drain. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What he did by talking to Hugo Chavez and embracing him, and the fist-bumping, and making lovey-dovey in the hotel—god knows what went on behind the closed doors. 

MORRIS:  We have a president whose foreign policy can only be described as anti-American.

HANNITY:  Journalism is dead in America, but for Fox and talk radio, and Matt Drudge. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot of people have suggested that if we go down this path, we‘re going to look a little bit more like Canada than perhaps we want to when it comes to health care. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So called health care reform.  It‘s not real reform. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s our benefits are going to be going down. 

Meantime, our taxes are going to be going up? 

O‘REILLY:  Hate crime legislation could possibly say yes to protecting pedophiles? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And there has been no global warming over at least the last ten years, and that the Earth is actually cooling now. 

HANNITY:  Pretty much left God out of the prayer proclamation.  Was Reverend Wright not available today? 

HANNITY:  Czar you serious?  Get it, czar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good-bye, free markets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President as social engineer.  President as bio-ethicists.  The government decides who will live, who will die. 

BECK:  You think America‘s family is going to survive?  The answer is yes.  But in what condition?  We are all going to be living under a bridge soon, fending off bums with a beer bottle. 

HANNITY:  I think he is Bill Ayers.  I think he is Reverend Wright. 

I think he‘s now implementing and proving me right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama‘s health care plan, scarier than cancer. 

Why one patient fears for her life. 

MICHELLE MALKIN, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR:  It puts a discount on the lives of elderly people and would result in the redistribution of health. 

O‘REILLY:  Should white Americans be worried about Judge Sotomayor? 

BECKS:  Reparations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought it was a racial statement, if not a racist statement. 

BECK:  This guy is, I believe, a racist. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The whole system is, in fact, a kind of death panel. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Critics now claim the administration is actually pressuring certain disabled veterans to, quote, hurry up and die. 

BECK:  This is what Hitler did. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He seems to have, it seems to me, some malevolence towards this country, which is unabated.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They do this type of thing in North Korea and the former Soviet Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One should wonder how seriously this administration takes its oath to uphold the Constitution? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think in his heart he believes in socialism. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The shadow government behind the scenes. 

MORRIS:  Obama would lose the Congress in ‘10.  The problem is we may not have a country by then. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama is Van Jones.  Obama is Acorn.  

O‘REILLY:  The conservative media is winning now.  They‘re wining. 

They are damaging the president of the United States. 

BECK:  It‘s almost like we‘re living in Mao‘s China right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kevin Jennings did not report a case of sexual abuse he encountered at a school teacher. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re talking about a case that involved statutory rape and Jennings never reported it. 

HANNITY:  Does Kevin Jennings support the group NAMBLA? 

BECK:  People like Van Jones, Mark Lloyd, Carroll Browner, Cass Sunstein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess his worldwide apology tour has worked? 

BECK:  The enemy is not only in the gates.  They‘re inside the house. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Sorry.  I‘m still stuck at what Rush said at the beginning of the tape.  Does anyone out there actually believe that Rush can bend over and grab his ankles? 

Could what we just showed you also double as the first campaign commercial for 2012?  Presidential race rumors surfaced today that friends are pushing Roger Ailes to run for the White House in the next election.  Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Before the break, we got an extended whiff of the anti-Obama propaganda spewing from the Fox News Channel.  Right-thinking people see that footage and know they are not watching real news.  Right-wingers see those clips as a campaign ad for Roger Ailes. 

In our number one story, the headline from the website “Politico” this morning, “Friends Push Roger Ailes For President.”  Fox News President Roger Ailes has responded.  And in a moment, we‘ll ask Richard Wolffe to give us the odds of Roger Ailes winning the Iowa straw poll against his own employee, Mike Huckabee. 

First, the Republican party and Roger Ailes have long had a symbiotic relationship.  Ailes has worked as a media consultant for the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Giuliani and Bush, the elder.  He produced Rush Limbaugh‘s unmatchable failed 1990s television show before he was hired by Rupert Murdoch in 1996 to launch Fox News, which, on day one, became a propaganda arm for the Republican party, with Ailes as the propagandist in chief. 

This morning, “Politico” reported that friends of Ailes want him to run for president, president of the United States.  And an anonymous top source told the website that, quote, “Ailes knows how to frame an issue better than anybody and that‘s what we need now.” 

According to, quote, “informed sources,” “talk of an Ailes run was based on more than mere speculation,” though little evidence of that was actually provided in the article. 

Late today, however, the Fox News honcho weighed in himself, letting the air out of the trial balloon, telling “Politico,” through an aide, that, quote, “this country needs fair and balanced news more than ever before.  So I‘m going to decline a run for the presidency.  Besides, I can‘t take the pay cut.”

Joining me now is Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst, senior strategist at Public Strategies, and author of “Renegade, The Making of a President.”

Richard, welcome. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Richard, as the world knows now, after a day of saturation coverage on this network, Chuck Todd bet a colleague that he would shave his goatee if the Phillies went to the World Series.  I was going to bet you that if Roger Ailes actually ran for president, I would get a Brazilian.  Now was there any chance you would have taken that bet?

I would have had to give you odds.  You could then have chosen to shave any two square inches of any body hair of your choice.  Is there any way you would have taken that bet? 

WOLFFE:  Could you just give me a couple seconds for my retinas to stop burning with that image.  I will say that I did not ever think this was going to happen.  That line, by the way, more than mere speculation, tells you that it was all mere speculation. 

And if Roger Ailes had ever been a candidate, even consider being a candidate, I was going to say, I‘m a banana. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, just indulge us for the moment, the fantasy of Roger Ailes running for president.  You‘ve been on the ground in Iowa among the hay bails, watching a candidate come from out of nowhere, win Iowa and go on to the presidency.  What would Roger Ailes have had to do if he actually got himself out there in Iowa, to take on Mike Huckabee? 

WOLFFE:  Well, apart from distinguishing the bails of hay from the bails of pancakes, you have to understand that Roger Ailes is a master image maker, not just because he‘s managed to take a fake news organization and make it look like it‘s real cable news, but also all these presidents that he aided along the way, most notably—read “The Selling of The President,” about the Nixon campaign. 

I have to say, though, for a guy like this, it might even stretch his image making to turn Jabba the Hut into a presidential candidate.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, his actual operations, formal, paid for operations within the Republican party are almost a generation ago in politics, anyway.  And people have kind of forgotten it.  I‘ve often told people he used to work for Nixon and they‘re surprised.  Does this story revive all of that, and remind people out there who the creator of Fox News really is? 

WOLFFE:  Well, it ought to.  Of course, you could just listen to all the clips you just played to understand what the real agenda is there.  But look, he is a sophisticated political mind.  He understands the media very well.  And the key thing here is that, until fairly recently, I think people in the White House, and more broadly, in the Democratic party, thought that he was just a sort of commercial whiz that had turned this political stuff into money for Rupert Murdoch.  But there‘s an increasing believe inside the White House that this stuff is what he actually believes. 

He thinks that Barack Obama is a fascist, communist dictator or whatever you want to call him. 

O‘DONNELL:  And based on the video we were just looking at, he would definitely have to learn to walk faster if he was going to be running for president in Iowa.  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of “Renegade,” and a senior strategist with Public Strategies, thank you for bearing with me on this one, Richard. 

WOLFFE:  I look forward to the waxing.  Thank you, Lawrence. 

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

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

END   

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