updated 11/16/2009 11:47:51 AM ET 2009-11-16T16:47:51

Guest Hosts: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Leeanne Gregg, Tom Costello, Leanne Gregg, Jonathan Turley, Kristen Breitweiser, Nicole Lamoureaux, Corey Hebert, Richard Wolffe, Michio Kaku   

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The masterminds of the most deadly and destructive attack on American soil will finally meet the full force of this country‘s justice system.

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ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  These were extraordinary crimes, and so we will seek maximum penalties.

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O‘DONNELL:  But for the GOP, the extraordinary crimes of 9/11 are cause for extraordinary fear, as the “party of no” turns into the “party of no confidence” in the Constitution.

The fear factor in health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Louisianans know a flip-flopper when they see one.

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O‘DONNELL:  The GOP tries to scare Senator Landrieu on the eve of the free health clinic in New Orleans that COUNTDOWN viewers helped fund.

Let‘s play Sarah says.  She claims the McCain campaign made her pay legal bills.  The McCain campaign denies it.  She says this to Oprah about Levi and Thanksgiving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  He is a part of the family and you want to bring him in the fold and kind of under your wing.  And he needs that, too, Oprah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Levi says—she‘s full of it and the book isn‘t even out yet.

The parents of the balloon boy who turned out to be the attic boy face the music.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your intent is to plea guilty to this charge, is that correct?

RICHARD HEENE, BALLOON BOY‘S FATHER:  That‘s correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And a very busy week for NASA.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Indeed, yes, we found water.

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O‘DONNELL:  A huge find on the moon today as scientists warn: do not pay attention to Hollywood‘s hocus-pocus this weekend.

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ANNOUNCER:  It‘s not just California.  It‘s the whole world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Apparently, 10 out of 10 NASA scientists agree, reports of the world‘s demise in 2012 are greatly exaggerated.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s go (ph)!

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O‘DONNELL:  Good evening, from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

Keith Olbermann has the night off.

Under the federal rules of criminal procedure, defendants are tried in the federal district where the offense was committed.  In 1995 and 1996, federal prosecutors won convictions in the southern district of the New York against the conspirators responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: They‘ve done it before, they‘ll do it again.

The Obama administration announced today that it will bring self-proclaimed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks as well as four others to New York to face trial for the terror attacks.  Of the 3,000 people killed that day, more than 2,700 of them died when terrorists crashed two hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center towers.

More than eight years later, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will face justice for his role in planning the attacks, along with four other Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The attorney general announced the decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLDER:  After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice.  They will be brought to New York—to New York—to answer for their alleged crimes, and a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.  I would not have authorized the prosecution of these cases unless I was confident that our outcome would be a successful one.

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O‘DONNELL:  Mr. Holder also asked that Washington leave the politics out of it when considering the decision.

No such luck.  His predecessor as attorney general, Michael Mukasey, who also presided as judge at the first World Trade Center bombing trial called the decision, “unwise,” adding that the Obama administration has returned to the September 10th justice model.

Senator Joe Lieberman calls it inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial.

Minority Leader Boehner said he‘s worried that the men could be found not guilty due to some legal technicalities just blocks from “Ground Zero.”

While, Rush Limbaugh apparently doesn‘t like that the previous administration‘s misdeeds might be exposed.

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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What‘s going to end up on trial here—and this is the insidious part—what‘s going to end up on trial here is the United States, the CIA, our interrogation techniques, all of this is being done to satisfy the rabid, radical far-left that hates this country, that hates George W. Bush, that hates the U.S. military.

They want this show in New York.  They want the United States on trial.  Your country is going to be on trial and your country will likely be found guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Lots to talk about tonight with constitutional law expert, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

Good evening, Professor.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Lieberman, for one, is talking as if—as if this

sort of thing has never happened.  He finds it, in his words, inconceivable

·         inconceivable that we would bring these terrorists back to the scene of the crime.

           

TURLEY:  Well, I‘m not too sure what Senator Lieberman is referring to.  What George Bush did was inconceivable for most people around this world, when the United States became openly hypocritical.  We changed our rules to try to force outcomes.  You know, he created these tribunals of his, designed to guarantee convictions, to avoid due process.

And what we are returning to is the rule of law.  And that has a great deal of resonance around the world.  People want an alternative to the men we are about to try.  But we weren‘t offering alternative.  We were offering a very hypocritical position.

And, by the way, George Bush sent one person connected with 9/11, at least that‘s what they said at the time to federal court for trial, Zacarias Moussaoui.  The problem is that there was a lack of principle and consistency where he also sent most others to no trial at all and to be held without access for a while for counsel and courts.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Jonathan, I‘m not a defense lawyer.  I just play one on TV.

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  But if I‘m representing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the one place I don‘t want to go to trial is the scene of the crime, is New York, New York, where they have successfully carried out this kind of prosecution before and where obviously there is very, very intense feeling about 9/11.  And the jury pool—isn‘t my first motion as their defense lawyer is to try to get a change of venue to somewhere else?

TURLEY:  You bet.  I—you know, I do handle terrorism cases.  And the first thing I would do is take the clip you just played and—put it into a transcript and say, “Attached is a motion for venue change,” because what the attorney general just said was the perfect case for a venue change.  He said, “I‘m intentionally putting this a few blocks away from the attack in the city that was most directly affected by these attacks.”

And the thing you have to worry about, of course, is that you get a venue change to Virginia, a few blocks from the Pentagon.  But, there is a very good argument to be made that it will be hard to get a jury pool that will be fair just a few blocks from this horrific scene.

O‘DONNELL:  Aren‘t some of these critics are coming to their fear of the terrorists?  I mean, aren‘t they now essentially afraid to fight the terrorists using our own rules—the things that we believe in, the things that we‘ve successfully relied on as a society for a couple hundred years?

TURLEY:  That‘s what‘s most distressing.  You know, this—it borders on constitutional defamation.  These people are saying that our laws cannot stand up to the task.

You know, this country has gone through crises that would have reduced other systems to a fine pumice.  We‘ve last it.  Our Constitution may not be as poetic to some, but it‘s designed to last.  And it has done that.

I can‘t understand why there is this crisis of faith, and that‘s what these senators are showing, that—they are showing a crisis of faith in the Constitution and I don‘t know why.  Because the Constitution has been not the danger, not the risk to our liberties, it‘s been a thing that preserved it.

And what is happening today is one of the most significant events in fighting terrorism.  We have finally taken the high ground, not entirely.  I mean, I‘m distressed that Attorney General Holder in the same press conference said, “And by the way, we are sending five others to military commission.”  It seemed to me that he succeeded to snatch hypocrisy out of the jaws of principle.

O‘DONNELL:  And, Jonathan, he was asked what would happen if these defendants are found not guilty or if they somehow got out on the procedural technicality.  And he refused to answer that question.  It seemed to me he left open the possible that they could do, they could make some extrajudicial move if the trial didn‘t go the prosecution‘s way.

TURLEY:  Well, I hope that‘s not the case, because—I remember seeing the same part of the press conference and I had the same reaction that you did.  And that leads into this fact that he‘s playing the Caesar-like role of sending some to the commission, some to the courts.  But I hope, at the end of the day, we trust our legal Constitution and have faith in the thing that defines us as a country.

O‘DONNELL:  Law professor, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University—many thanks for your time tonight.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on the reaction, let‘s turn now to Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ronald was killed in New York on September 11th.  She is the author of “Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow.”

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Some of the victims‘ families of 9/11 have indicated that they are not pleased with this move to New York.  How do you react to this?

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, HUSBAND KILLED ON 9/11/01:  I think those families seem to be indicating a sense of anger or fear.  And I think, really, to be feeling those types of things, it doesn‘t fit my personality.  I think that that‘s vowing to the terrorist.

I think there is no better place than the southern district of New York to have these prosecutions heard.  I think it‘s an open forum, and I think it speaks to the world that we are, in fact, a nation of laws.  And, frankly, I think, after eight years of the Bush administration, we‘ve got a lot of work in restoring our legitimacy to the rest of the world, that we are, indeed, a just nation that follows the rule of law.

O‘DONNELL:  We talk about closure and things like this.  I can‘t imagine what closure could mean to you or other victims‘ families of 9/11.  But do you—do you imagine there being some sense of closure in this kind of trial?

BREITWEISER:  I think, obviously, there will be some modicum of closure because we‘re going to see that people will be held accountable.  To date, we have not successfully prosecuted a terrorist related to 9/11.  Moussaoui pled out.   So, that was not a successful prosecution.  It was a settlement.

And as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed actually made a self-admission on al Jazeera that he did the 9/11 attacks, he planned the 9/11 attacks, I‘m quite confident that that will end in a successful prosecution.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the attorney general indicated that this would, like all trials, be open to the public, except for certain moments where there might be some classified material.  You‘ve known this for less than a day that this is going to happen.  Have you—feelings about whether you would like to be in that courtroom?

BREITWEISER:  Obviously, I‘d like to be in the courtroom and I‘m one of the 9/11 widows who fought for the 9/11 Commission, so that we could have access to information transparency, accountability.  And I think that‘s one of the benefits of having an open Article III federal court as opposed to a military tribunal.

Military tribunals shroud everything in secrecy.  There is no jury. 

There is no appeals process.

And these are horrible people.  They committed a crime.  But much like the trials in Nuremberg, where we had individuals who are responsible for the death of millions of people, this country is a country who stands on the principle of being a nation of laws and we are more than adequately prepared to do this.

O‘DONNELL:  How do you feel about the risk of a trial?  The procedural elements of a trial could lead to some form of dismissal or inability to use certain evidence because the Bush administration used torture in some of these cases and some of the information might then be ruled out because of the use of torture.  There is also the possibility of not clearing the “beyond the reasonable doubt” proof standard.

How do you feel about the possibility of the outcome of this trial of being risky and unsatisfactory?

BREITWEISER:  Listen, obviously, it‘s an outrage that if you want to talk about this turning into a circus, it‘s not going to turn into a circus because of the abuses of our judiciary system going forward, from now on.  What did turn this process into a circus was the Bush administration‘s torture policies which were half-baked.  And as a result of that, many of the 9/11 families will not see the sort of prosecution—swift prosecution that we should have seen several years back.

O‘DONNELL:  Kristen Breitweiser, author of “Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow”—I cannot thank you enough for coming here in tonight.

BREITWEISER:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The political education of Senator Mary Landrieu on the eve of free health care clinic in New Orleans, located there to show the senator the urgent need for health care reform.  The GOP aims political scare tactics at her.

And later, Sarah Palin‘s book isn‘t for sale for four more long days and nights, but the fight between her and McCain staffers is already in full swing.

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O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The Republicans try to scare Senator Mary Landrieu in advance of tomorrow‘s free health care clinic in New Orleans.

Science scores a big victory today, NASA finds water on the moon.

And the mad scientist Richard Heene—he pleads guilty in court today because of his big balloon boy hopes.  And just wait until you find out what he‘s doing now to celebrate.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

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O‘DONNELL:  The longer you ponder the problem of achieving universal health care coverage in this country, the more you realize that Congressman Anthony Weiner, Dennis Kucinich and about 100 of their colleagues are right; the more realize that the late Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Ted Kennedy were right.  The best, cheapest, indeed the only the only way to get to universal coverage is by extending Medicare to everyone.

But because Democrats gave the biggest health care profiteers a place at the bargaining table, they are fighting to protect their profits.  You can‘t really blame them.  Their executives‘ allegiance is to shareholders, not patients.  Well, their strongest allegiance is to their absurdly oversize and utterly undeserved pay packages.  And so, it has always been and always will be.

David Brennan, CEO of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, gave notice today to “Huffington Post” that big pharma‘s tenuous support for health care reform will revert to forceful opposition if anything like the House health care bill emerges as the final package.

You may recall, big pharma struck a deal with the White House and the Senate Finance Committee that health care reform would not empower the government to pay the cheapest possible price for drugs.  The House bill does not observe that deal.

And then there is United Health, whose lethal pursuit of profit has been chronicled before on this program.  With reform options narrowing as we—as we near release of the Senate bill, the group Consumer Watchdog reports that United has once again e-mailed its 75,000 employees, asking them voluntarily, of course, to lobby the Senate against including a public option.

The motive for all of this already obvious, but laid bare in a new study from Goldman Sachs which concludes that the House bill would actually reduce insurance company earnings.  Under the Senate Finance Committee bill, earnings would rise by a healthy 5 percent, which Goldman Sachs, of course, considers disastrously meager.

The best scenario for insurance company profits?  No prize for guessing this time—status quo.  Killing health care reform is the best profit plan for the insurance companies once again.

Republicans, in a new ad, are targeting conservative Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana for indicating she might—might—allow health care to come up for an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

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SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I actually did vote for the $87 million before I voted against it.

NARRATOR:  The flip-flop.  Democratic leaders want Senator Mary Landrieu to use the same tactic to pass President Obama‘s government-run health care experiment, with a vote to move a bill forward with tax increases, cuts to Medicare, and rising premiums.  Then, once it comes up for a final vote, they will allow her to vote against it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Of course, Republicans also put out ads arguing for exactly this kind of flip-flop when they wanted Democrats to allow up or down votes on things Republicans wanted, namely judges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  Senate Democrats have abused the rules and refused to even allow a vote.  So, courtrooms sit empty, while thousands of Americans have their cases delayed.  A job of a U.S. senator is to vote.  Urge your senators to vote up or down.  Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  With us tonight, from New Orleans, and Senator Landrieu‘s state of Louisiana and site of tomorrow‘s free health care fair, the first sponsored by donations from COUNTDOWN viewers are: Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, which runs this fairs; and one of the volunteers who will be working the fair tomorrow, Dr. Corey Hebert.

I should note that tomorrow‘s clinic will be held from 8:00 to 5:00 at the New Orleans Convention Center.  People can register for an appointment or donate at FreeClinics.us, and at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.

Since Keith first called for these clinics, you have donated $1.7 million.  Tomorrow, at least 1,300 registered patients will benefit from your generosity, along with that of 616 volunteers, including Dr. Hebert.

Thank you both for your time tonight, as well as your time tomorrow.

Before we get to the policy, Nicole, how does the—how do things look for tomorrow?

NICOLE LAMOUREAUX, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FREE CLINICS:  They look wonderful.  We‘re very, very excited.  As you said, 1,300 patients already signed up, over 600 volunteers.  We‘re ready to go.  We‘re ready to open the doors right at 8:00 a.m.

O‘DONNELL:  Dr. Hebert, on a personal level, why are you volunteering?  How did you find the time to volunteer?  And as a matter of public policy, why do you think it‘s necessary to run these kinds of clinics?

DR. COREY HEBERT, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR:  Well, it‘s so important for this city, number one.  This facility was the place where so many people died four years ago.  Now, four years later, we are giving life to this city.  This is so important.

I met Nicole at the Dr. Oz free health care clinic in Houston.  We talked about it.  She said, “You know what, it‘s go.”  I said, “You know what?  I‘m going to be your man.  Let‘s make this happen.”

I‘m the medical director of this thing.  And it‘s going to be a great, great day.  We need more things like this because the people that come to these types events are the working poor.  Eighty percent of the people that come to the free health clinics, they have a job.  It‘s not just for poor people.

O‘DONNELL:  Nicole, one of the reasons Keith wanted to do this in New Orleans was precisely so that Senator Landrieu would see how real this need is in her home state.  Now, she has Republicans telling her to block a vote on health care reform.

What message do you in this that you think tomorrow has for Senator Landrieu?

LAMOUREAUX:  Well, I think what message we have, not just for the senator but every member of Congress, is that while you‘re discussing health care and you‘re having this debate, there are people every single day providing quality health care to those people who need it.  So, there are opportunities right now for people to get involved in.  I think that‘s the first, most important message while everyone else is talking about the debate.

O‘DONNELL:  Dr. Hebert, as a practitioner, you know that we will still need these clinics, even if health care reform passes, because none of the bills come close to providing universal coverage.  How do you explain to the 15 million or 20 million people who will still be stuck without health insurance, why their government chose to leave them behind?

HEBERT:  This is a very, very serious question that people have to get to the crux of.  Nobody really wants to do poorly.  People want to do well.  If you give them cloudy water, they will drink it if they have no option. 

They want clear water.

So, my message to everyone out there is, keep on keeping on, folks.  And with the National Association of Free Clinics, there will be more facilities out there.  Seek them out.  Find them, because in the final analysis, people are here to help you.

This event will see 1,300, 1,400 people tomorrow, maybe even more.  We‘ll not turn anyway away.  But there are free clinics in New Orleans that have existed since Hurricane Katrina that will continue to see the patients that need to be seen.  And they‘re all over the United States.

O‘DONNELL:  Dr. Hebert and Nicole Lamoureaux—thank you very much for your time tonight, and more importantly, your time tomorrow.

LAMOUREAUX:  Thank you.

HEBERT:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  If you‘d like information on future health fairs, you can go to FreeClinics.us or COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.

Coming up: Sarah Palin‘s book is not out yet but she‘s already at odds with “The Associated Press,” the McCain campaign and, of course, Levi Johnston.  Oh, but Rush Limbaugh just loves this book.

And the latest high jinx from the Heenes.  You might have heard that balloon boy‘s parents pleaded guilty in court today.  But wait until you hear what they‘re doing right now.

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O‘DONNELL:  Richard Heene, the dad of the year who claimed his son was aloft in a wayward balloon wanted his own reality TV show.  Instead, he ended up today in criminal court which—that‘s right—puts him one step closer to getting his own reality TV show.  And tonight, sure enough, he went from entering his plea in Colorado to a flight, in an airplane, we assume, to New York City, there to pursue an undisclosed, quote, “employment opportunity.”

NBC‘s Leanne Gregg was in Fort Collins for today‘s court appearance and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For the couple that wanted fame, today they were in the spotlight.  Cameras from the air and on the ground following them from their Ft. Collins home to the Larimer County Justice Center to face criminal charges. 

RICHARD HEENE, PLED GUILTY:  That‘s correct. 

GREGG:  Richard Heene‘s plea to falsely influencing a public servant, a felony.  His wife, Mayumi, also entered a guilty plea to knowingly filing a false report to authorities, a misdemeanor.  A more severe conviction could have led to deportation of Mayumi, a Japanese citizen.  Because of that, Richard‘s attorney said the pleas were best for the family. 

DAVID LANE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  It was our judgment that she could run the risk of deportation if she were to go to trial and get convicted.

GREGG:  Under the plea agreement, Richard could face up to 90 days in jail, Mayumi up to 60.  The judge agreed to adjust their bond conditions so the Heene‘s can leave Colorado for employment opportunities out of state.  They were allegedly trying to gain attention to get a reality TV show at the time of the balloon stunt. 

After the hearing, Richard was asked if he had anything to say to the people who helped look for his son.  He had no response. 

Leeanne Gregg, NBC News, Ft. Collins, Colorado. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, we stay with the family drama theme, Sarah Palin versus Levi Johnston.  We now have Levi‘s response to the Thanksgiving invitation on Oprah.  It goes something like, quote, “she‘s full of it,” end quote.

And later, remember NASA‘s efforts to bomb the Moon?  What lacked visual punch that day has instead resulted in a huge discovery, H20 on the Moon. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Breaking news; in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Levi Johnston has seen Sarah Palin‘s Oprah prompted invitation to Thanksgiving and says, quote, “you can tell by her laugh that she was full of it.” 

Meantime, Rush Limbaugh calls Palin‘s book, quote, “truly one of the most substantive policy books I have read,” end quote.  Rush, I believe you.  I cannot imagine you, in full recline on your Gulfstream, Cuban cigar in hand, struggling to get through a more substantive-policy book than Sarah‘s index and footnote free, score settling campaign memoir.  No mind numbing charts or graphs, no big words, no scholarly Latin phrases, like caveat emptor (ph).  And I bet the pictures are, like, amazing. 

The previously-released clips from Palin‘s interview with Oprah Winfrey getting new life now that would-be-son-in-law Mr. Johnston has had a chance to see it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, “OPRAH”:  One final question about Levi.  Will he be invited to Thanksgiving dinner? 

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  You know, that is a great question.  It‘s lovely to think that he would ever even consider such a thing, because, of course, he is a part of the family.  You want to bring him in the fold and under your wing. 

He needs that too, Oprah.  I think he needs to know that he is loved.  He has the most beautiful child.  This can all work out for good.  It really can.  We don‘t have to keep going down this road of controversy and drama. 

We are not really into the drama.  We don‘t really like that.  We are more productive.  We have other things to concentrate on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Mr. Johnston, through a “Playgirl” spokesman, has now responded.  Quote, “you could tell by her laugh that she was full of it,” and that her invitation was a, quote, “nice gesture, but she didn‘t mean it.”  If he went, it would be “awkward.”  Do you think? 

By the way, on the day Palin was taping that Oprah Interview, Mr.  Johnston was at the 2009 Flesh-Bot Awards.  And he was given his very own award for sexy achievements. 

As for the crowd formerly known as the presidential campaign of senator John McCain, we are told that McCain instructed them not to respond to allegations in Palin‘s book.  But some of them have done more than just respond.  McCain himself today saying he has the Palin book, but has not had a chance yet to read it. 

Back to Mr. Limbaugh.  He says he told Ms. Palin, quote, “people who get hold of this, like the AP or any of the state-controlled media, they are going to focus on the soap opera aspects of your book, and they are going to ignore what is truly one of the most substantive policy books I‘ve read.”

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst and author of “Renegade,” Richard Wolffe, also senior strategist at Public Strategies. 

Good evening, Richard. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Truly, Lawrence, good evening. 

O‘DONNELL:  Richard, I want to listen again to part of Sarah Palin‘s answer to Oprah‘s Thanksgiving dinner question. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Of course you want—he is a part of the family.  You want to bring him in the fold and under your wing.  He needs that, too, Oprah.  He needs to know that he is loved. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Richard, you want to bring him into the fold.  You want to take him under your wing.  She can‘t say I want to do that.  Was she trying to get Oprah to invite Levi to Thanksgiving dinner? 

WOLFFE:  It‘s a nice suggestion.  But I suspect Oprah is kind of busy. 

Actually, I am, too, in case you were suggesting me. 

I think there is a bigger picture here, which is that if you talk to people involved in the McCain campaign, she—Sarah Palin had this weird disembodied reaction to everything going on around her.  In public, we saw this fabulous TV performer, someone who could give a great speech at the convention.  But in private, she was frozen in the head lamps.  It was very difficult to connect reality to her, and get her to wake up to her situation. 

I think, in her own mind, there may be a Sarah Palin, the real person, and Sarah Palin, the performer.  And maybe the you, we, I think reflects that. 

O‘DONNELL:  McCain has gotten word out to the campaign staff that he doesn‘t want them talking.  He doesn‘t want them prolonging this story.  But today an unnamed senior campaign official did dispute Palin‘s claim that she was asked to pay legal fees for her own vetting.  McCain‘s former chief of staff, Mark Salter, defended the campaign‘s version of how the Palin interviews with Katie Couric came about.  But how long can the rest of the McCain campaign staff control themselves as they turn the pages of this book and find things in the book that they think are untrue? 

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s hard for them.  I‘ve been speaking to some of them.  They find it very difficult when there are just plain factual errors, inaccuracies, fabrications.  They don‘t want to get into a public fist fight with Sarah Palin, because that‘s unedifying.  They recognize it, even if someone who may run for president again doesn‘t recognize it. 

Look, I was speaking to Nicole Wallace, who was accused of coming up with some weird story for why Sarah Palin would go speak to Katie Couric.  According to Palin, Wallace had said that Katie Couric had low self-esteem, and that‘s why, I guess out of some sympathy, she should do the interview. 

Anybody who knows Nicole Wallace, who was a formidable figure in the 2004 Bush campaign—anybody who knows Katie Couric would recognize that story just doesn‘t pass the smell test. 

O‘DONNELL:  There‘s someone right there, Nicole Wallace.  Doesn‘t there come a point where she has an incentive to clarify as much what she thinks about Katie Couric as what she thinks about Sarah Palin in a situation like this? 

WOLFFE:  I think there is a desire to clarify things.  And they are putting out statements through other people.  Again, Sarah Palin has more ink than anybody else.  She has more media attention.  There comes a point where people have to make a judgment about credibility.  Palin, for instance, has gone out and said that the AP reports—according to her Facebook posting, AP reports about her book were erroneous.  Well, she better be right, because in four days we‘ll be able to see if the AP was true or not in its reporting about the book.  And if she is lying, then, yet again, her credibility is going to be called into question. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Levi Johnston has also said I don‘t really pay

attention to politics now that Sarah is gone.  But I think—Obama that is

·         is doing a lot better than Sarah would have done.  So I give him props. 

Do we expect former members of the Palin inner circle to go rogue and give props to Barack Obama? 

WOLFFE:  I‘m not sure the White House is in that desperate a situation that they are going to need this kind of thing, especially from someone who is having trouble keeping his clothes on.  We‘ll see.  It‘s a fascinating spectacle. 

O‘DONNELL:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

WOLFFE:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, a huge discovery on the Moon.  NASA finds water, and not just traces of it, gallons of it.  Is it a game-changer for the future Moon exploration?  But does any of it really matter if the world is all going to end on December 21st, 2012 anyway?  We‘ll check the science homework of the authors of Hollywood‘s latest end of the world movie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Thirty six days ago, the TV news paused for what wound of feeling like the galactic version of the opening of Al Capone‘s vault.  Whether or not NASA‘s 80 million dollar L-Cross rocket kicked up some water when it crashed into the Moon was irrelevant to most on planet Earth.  We were looking for a wicked, awesome Moon explosion and got nothing. 

In our number two story today, however, NASA reports that the big budget, bad photo op project was a success beyond their wildest dreams.  More from Tom Costello.  Tom?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Lawrence, good evening to you.  NASA had hoped that they would find maybe just a few teaspoons of water in a football-field sized area on the Moon.  Instead, they found enough water to fill all these jugs, they say, 24 gallons of water in just the crater that they dug. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over):  The images were a big letdown.  We never saw the promised plume of rock and debris NASA L-Cross probe slammed into the Moon‘s surface at 3,500 miles per hour.  But NASA now says there was a plume right there.  In that plume, NASA found what it was looking for. 

ANTHONY COLAPRETE, L-CROSS CHIEF SCIENTIST:  Yes, we found water.  We didn‘t find a little bit.  We found a significant amount. 

COSTELLO:  Twenty four gallons of water just in the crater L-Cross dug.  Scientists had suspected that the hydrogen they found on the Moon might be evidence of water.  Now hard proof. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you could clean it, it would be drinkable water. 

COSTELLO:  Drinkable water on the Moon?  Unthinkable during the Apollo missions.  That means a future Moon base could mine for water, rather than carry it from Earth.

LAURA DANLY, GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY ASTRONOMER:  It‘s not just water that we drink.  It‘s also the oxygen atoms give us air to breathe and water can be a fuel. 

COSTELLO:  Rocket fuel from hydrogen in the water.  Just as the Moon is looking more hospitable, another manned mission is looking less likely.  President Obama‘s human space flight review committee has reported back that NASA‘s plan of returning to the Moon by 2020 is unrealistic, underfunded by at least three billion dollars a year. 

NORMAN AUGUSTINE, SPACE FLIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  The human space flight program that the United States is currently pursuing is one that is on an unsustainable trajectory. 

COSTELLO:  The president has yet to decide whether to ask Congress for more money and continue with the Aries One on a return Lunar mission.  But for many space enthusiasts, finding water has only whet the appetite for a return trip to the moon. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO:  Where did all that water come from?  It‘s possible it came from comets bombarding the Moon.  If that‘s the case, then the water, the ice might very well hold secrets to the solar system that scientists will be very anxious to glean.  As one scientist said, this is not your father‘s Moon.  Lawrence, back to you.

O‘DONNELL:  Tom Costello, thank you. 

Coming up, from the building blocks of life to the destruction of it;

“2012” hits the big screen tonight.  NASA has mounted a preemptive strike all week, just in case any of you above the age of reason might consider believing any of it. 

By the way, the Roman Catholic Church, which has been at this for a while, pegs the Age of Reason to be about seven or eight years old. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  You have to hand it to the marketing people for the apocalyptic film “2012.”  The first trailer for the movie featured an epic scene, the entire Himalayan mountain range, the world‘s tallest peaks, flooded by massive ocean waves that swallowed them hole.  Then the trailer cuts to the movie‘s billboard, “2012, find out the truth.  Google Search 2012.”

In our number one story, people followed those instructions.  When they Googled 2012, besides the movie website, they got web-spun crazy theories about Mayan calendars and galactic alignment that predicted the end of days in the year 2012.  Tonight, as the movie opens, the viral marketing campaign has actually forced NASA to respond to those inane theories. 

In a moment, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku on the 2012 phenomenon.

First, once again, here‘s Tom Costello. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over):  You have to hand it to Hollywood.  If they waited until 2012 to release a movie about the world ending in 2012, there wouldn‘t be much time to cash in on the DVD sales.  Instead, “2012” was premiering in 2009, tonight, loaded with jaw-dropping special effects, lots of meteor strikes, cascading highways, tidal waves, cities sliding into the ocean, bad stuff. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not just California.  It‘s the whole world. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The victims adhere to the Mayan calendar, which predicts that the end of time will coincide with a planetary alignment on the 21st of December. 

COSTELLO:  Well, kind of.

(on camera):  Under the Mayan calendar, today‘s date, November 13, 2009, is written as 12-19-16-15-6.  On December 21st, 2012, the Mayan date will be 13-0-0-0-0.  That‘s the end of the Mayan calendar.  And that means we‘re all in trouble. 

(voice-over):  Except it doesn‘t really. 

ED KRUPP, GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY ASTRONOMER:  The normal thing in the Mayan calendar after you end a cycle is another cycle begins.  If you talked to the ancient Maya, that‘s what they would say.  This isn‘t the end of time.  We‘re just starting another cycle.   

COSTELLO:  Yes, but there aren‘t many ancient Mayans around anymore.  Still, one of NASA‘s chief scientists says, don‘t worry, the Earth‘s got a pretty good track record.

JAMES GARVIN, NASA:  The last colossal event that affected the history of life on Earth was 65 million years ago. 

COSTELLO:  Although that didn‘t dent so well for the dinosaurs.  And then they took their revenge in “Jurassic Park,” which just goes to show this stuff never gets old. 

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, author of the best seller “Physics of the Impossible” and host of the upcoming series called “Sci-Fi Science,” airing December 1st on the Science Channel.  Doctor, welcome.  Thank you for joining us tonight.   

DR. MICHIO KAKU, THEORETICAL PHYSICIST:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  Yes or no, the history of the planet Earth ends in 2012?

KAKU:  No.  And don‘t quit your day job.  Don‘t sell the furniture. 

You may be homeless in 2013. 

O‘DONNELL:  You have seen the movie.  I don‘t want you to spoil anything—or, actually, spoil what you want.  Give us an idea of how much destruction is in this thing, and what, if any of it, is possible? 

KAKU:  This movie is the mother of all shake-and-bake movies.  It has that wow factor.  India is submerged.  A mile-high tidal wave devastates Washington, D.C.  It all starts because the Earth is aligned with the Sun towards the center of the galaxy.  One problem, that happens every December.  And hey, we‘re still here, aren‘t we? 

KAKU:  That‘s right. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, NASA was worried enough about this movie that they have actually tried to push back and debunk it.  Has NASA—has a movie ever pushed NASA this far that they feel they have to get the word out that don‘t worry, the world‘s not going to end? 

KAKU:  I think this is the first time that NASA has been overwhelmed with thousands of e-mails.  In a contest between Hollywood and NASA, it‘s no contest.  Hollywood has the best PR people, the best special effects people.  Hey, NASA ought to get its PR up to speed, as well.  NASA was caught with its pants down. 

O‘DONNELL:  One theory, fantasy that is in this movie is that a rogue planet will bombard Earth and destroy us in 2012.  NASA says that is not going to happen.  How do they know that‘s not going to happen?  Why couldn‘t something come from out of nowhere and destroy us? 

KAKU:  First of all, the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 and was meant to be celebration, a new cycle emerging.  It makes no mention of Planet X.  Planet X is supposed to be way out there beyond Pluto.  We‘ve scanned everything outside Pluto.  All we see are pieces of ice and debris.  So Planet X is not coming. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, let‘s get to water on the Moon.  What is the significance of discovering gallons and gallons of water on the Moon? 

KAKU:  This is big, real big, because water ice is worth more than gold on the Moon.  To put a pound of anything on the Moon costs about 50,000 dollars.  That‘s five times the weight in gold with water.  You can extract hydrogen for rocket fuel, oxygen for breathing.  It‘s also good as a shield against cosmic rays and solar flares. 

This is a no-brainer.  NASA really scored the jackpot here. 

O‘DONNELL:  How much—the things you are talking about require a lot of water, don‘t they?  How much water do they have to discover to make those kind of processes viable on the Moon? 

KAKU:  Well, 24 gallons out of one football field doesn‘t seem like much.  But realize that that 24 gallons of water was worth more than gold on the Moon.  We could shave hundreds of millions of dollars right off the top of the space program.  Remember, it‘s cost.  Cost it the reason why Obama is thinking of scaling back the space program.  If we find water on the Moon, one that does not have to be carried to the Moon at 50,000 dollars a pound, hey, that is a game-changer. 

O‘DONNELL:  Dr. Michio Kaku, author, physicist, and TV host, thanks for joining us tonight. 

KAKU:  My pleasure. 

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

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thank you. 

Have a great weekend. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you.

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