updated 11/24/2009 10:41:13 AM ET 2009-11-24T15:41:13

COUNTDOWN

November 23, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Arianna Huffington, Nicole Lamoureaux, Chris Kofinis, Richard Wolffe

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: The motion is agreed to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Now what? Are the Democrats and health care reform in the Senate in "deep trouble," as Howard Dean says? Or are there rabbits to be pulled from a hat full of senators, some Republicans, some Democrats still wavering?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Behold, Senator Lincoln, what you want to preserve in your home state. The free health clinic in Little Rock, 1,001 patients seen, plus, their family members; two of them had had heart attacks and did not even know; 69 percent of them either get no regular medical care or only go to E.R.s; 24 percent had not seen a physician in more than five years; 9 percent, in more than 10 years.

Some, Senator-some are Arkansans, on your watch. No idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAN JAFFEY, PATIENT AT FREE CLINIC: I can't even remember, years. And just if I get really, really sick, I think I'm about to die, I go to the emergency room. And, otherwise, I just have to rough it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The conservative loyalty oath: Republican National Committee members being asked to adhere to and distribute a 10-point purity checklist to make sure they are right-wing enough, sufficiently Reagan-like. But it turns out Ronald Reagan would have failed the test. Ronald Reagan was a Democrat?

"Worsts": Beck and Limbaugh both call Senator Mary Landrieu a, quote, "prostitute."

And "Saturday Night Live" blows up the divine sister Sarah, done so subtly that her supporters think it was pro-Palin satire directed instead against the first name you will see here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: People are scared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary-now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Thanks but no thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

If the original idea had been to give all Americans the same health insurance that members of Congress get, the bill about to be debated in the Senate instead proposing to do the opposite. Elected lawmakers would reportedly be given the same choices for their health care coverage that ordinary Americans would get under whatever public exchange is set up in the final legislation.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Does that mean ordinary like Americans, members of Senate, would be left with no health insurance should they drop the public option from the bill or fail to pass a health reform bill of any kind? Could we get "Medicare for all" passed unanimously?

Saturday night's procedural vote in the Senate, 60-39, paving the way for debate to begin on a 10-year $849 billion measure. Not a single Republican voted for the bill to be debated. Not one. Not even Senator Snowe.

"The New York Times" is reporting the White House and Senate Democratic leaders are still courting Senators Snowe and Collins. Conservative Democrats, however, remain the most likely suspects for killing the bill altogether.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

LINCOLN: Let me be perfectly clear. I am opposed to a new government-administered health care plan as part of comprehensive health care insurance reform and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: My vote today to move forward on this important debate should in no way be construed by the supporters of this current framework as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I mean, we could negotiate a public option of some sort that I might look at.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

NELSON: But I don't want a big government, Washington-run operation that would undermine the 200 -- the insurance-private insurance that 200 million Americans now have.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I don't think anybody thinks this bill will pass.

DAVID GREGORY, "MEET THE PRESS" HOST: As written.

LIEBERMAN: . as it is.

GREGORY: It's got a public option. You said you would not vote for it as a matter of conscience. That you would even filibuster it if that stays in, still the case?

LIEBERMAN: That's right. If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN: Senator Lincoln, meanwhile, has tonight, for the first time, addressed what she would like to see in the bill. We'll get to that in just a moment.

But here comes the hard part: keeping those four conservatives happy without watering the bill down so much that the Democratic Party's progressive base will no longer support it either. Democratic sources are saying the leadership started feeling out the caucus for two possible compromises, one alternative, that trigger offered by Senator Snowe. Under her proposal, a nonprofit public plan would kick in or be triggered in a specific state only if private insurance failed to offer affordable coverage by a certain date.

The other alternative offered by Democrat Carper of Delaware, calling his plan "The Hammer." It would work like Snowe's trigger option but would also allow states to opt-in to a plan; Mr. Carper is admitting the details are still fuzzy.

Neither plan would seem to win the support of independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who said in a statement, quote, "I strongly suspected there are a number of senators, including myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public option."

Governor Howard Dean, Dr. Dean, also of Vermont, former chair of the DNC, today is saying he sees virtually no path to passing strong legislation. The governor telling the "Huffington Post" that the Senate Democratic leadership is, quote, "in deep trouble," warning that if the party allowed four conservative senators to further water-down the bill or defeat it altogether, it could lead to primary challenges or to a drop in support from the party's base.

Quoting him, "If you have members refusing to vote for Reid on procedural issues, you will have a revolt in the party. What is the point of having a 60-vote margin? This is going to be death for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Why would anyone donate to them if they are supporting candidates who defeat the Democratic agenda?"

Why indeed.

One Democrat in the House is now looking to make procedural votes a little easier in the Senate, Congressman Alan Grayson starting an online petition to get Majority Leader Reid to change the rules of the Senate to require only 55 votes to invoke cloture instead of the current 60. That sounds unprecedented or unlikely. Invoking cloture used to require 67 votes. The Senate reduced the number to 60 in 1975.

Time to call, once again, in, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who co-wrote the public option that is in the health care bill.

Senator, thanks again for your time tonight.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you, Keith. Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Is it as blunt as this: don't tamper further with the public option or you lose-if you don't tamper further with the public option, you lose the four conservative Democrats; and if you do tamper further with the public option, you lose Sanders and Burris and maybe others?

WHITEHOUSE: I think there's a little bit more room to maneuver than that. I think, first of all, once everyone has got a chance to say their say on the Senate floor, to call for their votes, to make their arguments, when the dust is settled, they're in a slightly different position than at the very beginning. And I think if people go through that whole process and then want to take their ball and go home, that's a very different thing than having never been heard.

I also think that there's some room around the details of the public option between opt-in and opt-out and trigger. I, for one, am not particularly concerned about the names. I would like to see the public option as available as possible. And there may be room for a compromise, for instance, with Senator Snowe about a trigger that actually does better in terms of reach for the public option.

So, I'm supporting the Leader Reid's bill. I think it's a good one. I think we should stick with it. But I don't think that it's beyond the pale to think about ways that we can implement the public option in alternative ways.

OLBERMANN: Based on something you just said and something that Senator Ben Nelson said in a clip we played earlier, and something now that Senator Lincoln has spoken at a jobs event in Arkansas, I'm wondering-is there some measure of this in which people want to be able to say, "I spoke my piece," and then supported an only slightly watered-down bill?

Because what Senator Lincoln has said tonight-and I know I'm catching you cold on this, but here's a summary from the speech. When asked what she'd like to see in the bill, she would protect Medicare and Medicaid, also look at their inefficiencies, cut out extra spending. Small businesses should be represented in the final legislation. She also wants the Senate to look hard at what a public option would bring for future taxpayers. On the underlying bill, she said, should also include strong insurance reforms that would address customer rating based on gender or location as well as preexisting conditions.

She says, in essence, here, she wants these positions raised, not necessarily the bill altered to match her position exactly.

Is there some undercurrent of that in some of the tepid support for this bill?

WHITEHOUSE: Yes. And I also think that all of the points that she's raised are very easy to negotiate and discuss. There's nothing that's highly controversial. They're all very logical kernels for somebody to have, and particularly on the public option. If what she's really focused in on is its effect on future taxpayers, well, the Senate HELP bill solves that, because it requires each public option state-by-state to stay solvent and to have no recourse back to taxpayers.

So, you know, I think as we talk through this, we may find that there's more room than it presently seems.

OLBERMANN: Then, can you address Governor Dean's pessimism, which is heretofore not been expressed and was seemingly expressed pretty profoundly today? He's sort of viewing this-I think to summarize what he said-a kind of lose/lose situation at the moment.

WHITEHOUSE: I think this may be one of those moments when it's more discouraging from the outside looking in than it looks when you're there in the middle of the discussions, when you've seen all the senators in caucus together.

When you've heard from President Clinton and others coming in and reminding us how important this is to get through, and when you see that, you know, elements like the public option remain extremely popular with the American public-I just feel a lot more confident than Howard Dean does. And I think it may be because I have a slightly different perspective and I'm a little bit more-getting the inside view.

OLBERMANN: One of the few advantages being in the belly of the beast right at the particular moment, I hope you're entirely correct.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island-thanks for the encouragement. Thanks for your time and happy Thanksgiving.

WHITEHOUSE: Happy Thanksgiving, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on the politics of this, let's turn to Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the HuffingtonPost.com.

Good evening, Arianna.

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

OLBERMANN: Well, address what Senator Whitehouse just said, behind the scenes, this looks much more optimistic than it does on face value.

HUFFINGTON: Well, I'm glad he feels that way. But, remember, Keith, that's how they have been feeling on Senator Max Baucus' committee for many long wasted weeks when they were negotiating with the Republicans, including Senator Chuck Grassley, when he wasn't busy passing around Glenn Beck books and telling us that they were going to pull the plug on grandma.

OLBERMANN: Address these comments that I just quoted from Senator Lincoln here. Is it possible that what she's looking for is something she can take back to Arkansas and say, "I did this myself here, I guaranteed something"? Is it just-is she looking for something, some small island to stand on and nothing more than that?

HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, Keith, she was so unequivocal on Saturday on the floor of the Senate when she said, "I cannot vote for something that is basically a government-run health care program." That's what she called it. And that includes the public option.

So, I don't know how she retreats from that. I certainly hope she's willing to retreat from that. But I think it's very unlikely. I think it's really important for Democrats to be really clear and unambiguous about what they will accept, what they will not accept, and to stop trying to believe that they can move people along, because so far they have been incredibly unsuccessful.

OLBERMANN: There's one point that was made-and I believe it was made by a poster at Daily Kos today-and I thought it was a very intriguing point. That this entire argument from the Republican side, that this idea of health care, or any kind of health care reform, the passage of any kind of health care reform, will doom the Democrats and the Republicans will have something to run on next year and 2012 is, in fact, a total red herring; that if the Republicans thought that any health care reform was going to sink the Democrats, they'd let the Democrats pass something. That their goal is entirely nothing and, therefore, the Democrats should be happy with anything.

What do you think of that?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I don't think the Democrats should be happy with anything, because look at the education reform. Remember, No Child Left Behind? It turned out to be a complete disaster. So, what happens now? If the Democrats accept anything and, especially, if they accept it to be prolonged until 2014, which is a point that Governor Dean made to Sam Stein in the "Huffington Post" today, then that would be really problematic, Keith, because what that means is that basically Republicans are going to notice, as will everybody in the country, that nothing much has changed and they're going to attack this as another government takeover that has not worked.

So, the only way that Democrats can win-if they really demand real reform. And they can do it, Keith, simply by asking Senator Reid to go for reconciliation, which basically means to go for a simple majority. They have a simple majority. They already have 51 senators who have committed to vote for a bill that includes a public option.

Without a public option, there is no real cost containment. There is no real competition for the health care industry.

So, why go for something that will not be real reform?

OLBERMANN: But given that conciliation is still budget conciliation or budget reconciliation, in point of fact, and essentially, all you can pass with 51 votes is what relates directly to spending, budgeting, is that final product going to be just as watered down, just in different ways than a bill that has been stretched out to get 60 votes?

HUFFINGTON: No, I don't think so, because it will include this essential element of competition for the health care industry. Without that element, Keith, really, there is no real reform because there's absolutely no guarantee that the industry will behave any differently than it's behaved so far.

OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington of the "Huffington Post" which has the great interview with a not so happy Dr. Dean today-thank you, Arianna.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Once again, nothing speaks to the urgent need of health care reform in this country right now than offering a taste of it to some of our neighbors almost literally starving for its lack. Neither of two of the patients at the free health clinic you paid for in Little Rock on Saturday knew what was wrong with them. You, each was told as gently as possible, as ambulances were readied to take them to the hospital. You have had a heart attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Your free health care clinics moved on to Little Rock, home of one of the Democratic Senators quietly supporting reform and another loudly, holding out. Had the latter attended the event, she could not in all human conscience hold out any further.

We'll take you and her there and be joined by Nicole Lamoureaux of the National Association of Free Clinics.

Later: "SNL" blows up Sarah Palin. The GOP establishes a litmus test to make sure its members are sufficiently Reaganesque, only Reagan would have failed the test.

And the tea partiers laugh at the story of a woman and her unborn child killed by lack of insurance.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: If any United States senators or congressmen had not seen a doctor for 10 years or more because the current system made that literally impossible, health care reform would have been done 11 years ago. If any of those lawmakers had chronic conditions that became untreatable because there was no affordable health insurance option for them, the problem would be solved an hour after the diagnosis.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Again, the urgency made obvious as the free health fair in Little Rock, Arkansas, treated more than 1,000 people in one day. This was the second free clinic paid for in large part by you, the COUNTDOWN viewers.

Volunteer workers at Saturday's clinic finding that 69 percent of the patients either do not go anywhere for medical care, or are forced to rely on emergency rooms, like Rean Jaffey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAFFEY: A month or so ago, I had landed in the emergency room with a bladder and kidney infection. And so, they said I needed follow-up care. And I was not able to get it. And so, I came today to (INAUDIBLE). I work part-time in Home Depot. But I'm a single mom with three kids and I'm not able to afford the insurance. I have other priorities, staying on our feet, and can't do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The last time Ms. Jaffey had seen a doctor?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAFFEY: I can't even remember, years. And just if I get really, really sick, where I think I'm about to die, I go to the emergency room. And otherwise, I just have to rough it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Her gratitude for that clinic evident, but she was hardly alone. Nine percent of Saturday's patients had not been examined in more than 10 years; another 24 percent had not been to a doctor more than five years. Seven patients were sent immediately to the hospital. Two of them had had heart attacks and did not even know it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. KIM GARNER, VOLUNTEER AT HEALTH CLINIC: She had some concerns that we could not handle in this one-day clinic and felt like it need more emergent evaluation. I feel like she's going to get good care and get good evaluation. I think provided she gets that access, that she'll do well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: The access that a patient needs is precisely part of this problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARNER: The health care system is, in my opinion, broken. When people don't have insurance, much of that is absorbed by the hospital, but makes all health care costs rise for every-you know, all the other payers. Our system is not designed to manage and treat long term chronic medical problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Chronic medical problems like diabetes. Twenty-one people newly diagnosed just with that on Saturday. And another problem not commonly raised but all too common, college graduates in limbo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANEY CAREY, SON HAS NO HEALTH INSURANCE: He's a typical graduate from college who has not been able to find work yet and he doesn't have health care insurance and the health care insurance is so expensive. So, he's one of those that are uninsured right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: But the ultimate irony-one woman who, like 83 percent of those who use free clinics, is employed but cannot afford health insurance. She asked that she'd not be identified for fear of losing her job. Her employer does not provide affordable health benefits. She works for a health insurance company.

Let's turn again to the executive director of National Association of Free Clinics, Nicole Lamoureaux.

Good evening, Nicole. Congratulations.

NICOLE LAMOUREAUX, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FREE CLINICS: Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: Arkansas senator, Blanche Lincoln, was commenting on Saturday's event and said something that was very telling. I'm not sure which it was telling. Let me quote her first. "This one day clinic is a blessing. But it is not a sustainable way to deliver health care for the thousands of uninsured and under-insured Arkansas."

Has the senator gotten the point or missed it?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, so many times, as you and I have discussed, we've never claimed that these one-day health clinics were a sustainable answer. But one of the things that I do think the senator missed is that every single day in Arkansas, there are free clinics in community health centers and a safety net that is providing quality health care to the uninsured. But when 1,000 people have to show up at a convention center because they do not have access to health care, that is something that needs to be acknowledged.

OLBERMANN: Yes. She just proved the reason why she should vote yes for the thorough health reform that is imaginable, because of her point that it is not sustainable for this to be the only safety net.

To that point, we've now done two of these with you, assisting you, one in Little Rock and one earlier in New Orleans. Has anything surprised you? Is there any new information you can glean anecdotally about our nation's health care system based on these two events?

LAMOUREAUX: I think the things that surprised me the most were these. We stopped three suicides. People who are thinking of taking their own life, that the only thing that stopped them was coming to a one-day health clinic, the people who had newly diagnosed diabetes and their blood sugar was over 500 , and the two heart attacks that you spoke about. Those are walking time bombs that could be very easily addressed if people had access to quality health care.

The other thing that's surprised was the gratitude of the patients as well as the volunteers that came those days.

OLBERMANN: I don't want to go too deeply into the-into the politics or the details of the Senate bill that is now being debated. But is there anything in it that will help your organization, particularly reach more people? Is there anything that will backstop free clinics and make them stronger and more vibrant and less ultimately necessary, but still a component?

LAMOUREAUX: No. Quite frankly, there is nothing in the Senate bill -

there was nothing in the House bill. And in the Senate bill, we would like to be named as an essential provider. It will only help strengthen the current medical community as well as help the 8 million patients that we're seeing right now.

OLBERMANN: Two-day event in Kansas City as the graphic shows on the 9th and 10th. Tell me about what do you expect in Kansas City.

LAMOUREAUX: The 9th and the 10th at Bartle Hall in Kansas City. As we spoke about before, this is America's heartland. And we are excited because this event will be bigger than what we have done before. On top of the medical exams and labs that we'll be having, we will also be doing mental health screenings and dental care as well.

So, we are encouraging patients as well as volunteers to go to FreeClinics.us to get more information. And we are truly encouraging volunteers, because as Rich Stockwell talked about, by coming to these events, it will forever change your life.

OLBERMANN: Nicole Lamoureaux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics-again, great thank for your time, for your efforts.

Nicole is one of the people who can truly sleep soundly as this debate rages around us. She has done her part.

Thank you, Nicole.

LAMOUREAUX: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That the Republican Party is betting its very existence on being able to go to the nation next year and in 2012 and say, "We kept health care unchanged" is not an ideological statement but a neutral fact, and it's underscored again tonight by the revelation of a conservative loyalty oath. Ten things members of the GOP national committee must do or become enemies of the ghost of Ronald Reagan.

Number two is, support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style. Number nine: opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion.

There's only one problem, of course, with that big Reagan litmus test for true conservatives, eight out of 10 required, Reagan would have failed the Reagan litmus test-ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The secret Republican loyalty oath to make them more conservative, more Reaganesque. Nobody noticed, Reagan would have failed, would miss at least six out of 10. That's next.

Time first for COUNTDOWN's Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Dateline: Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Number three: Best business decision. Phil Wolf, owner of Wolf Automotive, just off I-70 there in Wheat Ridge. He's put up a new billboard above his place. That's the president in a turban with the legend "president or jihad," and "wake up, America, remember Ft. Hood." It demands that the president produce his birth certificate again. Mr. Wolf of Wolf Automotive, your friendly neighborhood seller of Jeeps, hatred, paranoia and racism, said, "I wanted to bring a little more attention to this. To me, it just wasn't getting addressed." Several death threats later - and for the record, not even somebody as hateful as this guy deserves a single death threat-he has gotten the attention he hoped for and he's shocked anybody thinks he's a racist because he once voted for Alan Keyes.

Dateline Washington, number two, best evidence you skipped logic

class, Star Parker, columnist at Townhall.com, linking possible increase of

or approval of same-sex marriage in Washington to the increased spread of HIV. She writes, "the DC City Council, perhaps on the theory that serving up another glass is a way to help a drunk, is scheduled to vote on December one to legalize same sex marriage in America's capital city."

Ms. Parker is thus either operating on the assumption that unmarried gay men do not have sex or that the marriage would increase promiscuity among gay men. Ms. Parker is not very bright.

Dateline New York, number one, best pouring cement on top of the grave you dug for your career, Lou Dobbs On CNN on 2005, he erroneously reported that there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the US in a three-year span attributed to undocumented immigrants. In fact, there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the entire country attributed to everybody in a 30-year span. Mr. Dobbs was confronted about this during an interview with the Telemundo interview. Maria Seleste (ph) asked, "but even after that, that was proven wrong, what you had said, you stood behind your reporting, insisting that it was accurate. Why was that? "

Mr. Dobbs' response, "no, no. Let's be very clear. For one, I did not stand behind that reporting. In fact, we corrected that reporting." He lied. Maybe the fourth time they corrected it. But in 2007, Dobbs had been confronted about the same sloppy prejudiced crap and he defended the lie to "60 Minutes." Lesley Stahl said, "now we went to try and check that number, 7,000. We can't. Just so you know" - Dobbs interrupted, "I can tell you this: if we reported it, it's a fact."

Stahl, "how can you guarantee that to me?" Dobbs: "Because I'm the managing editor and that's the way we do things in this business. We don't make up numbers, Lesley. Do we?"

Except Lou. Lou made up numbers. How can a guy destroy his own career and two weeks later still be re-destroying it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: After Republican tea baggers undercut and sabotaged

moderate Republican Congressional candidate Dede Scozzafava in New York,

some members of the Republican National Committee have come up with a plan

to make their party bigger, kick more people out. In our third story

tonight, they're doing it in the name of Ronald Reagan, except that the

plan they have chosen would have resulted in them kicking out Ronald Reagan

A proposed RNC resolution says President Reagan considered his friends those he agreed with 80 percent of the time. So it would deny funding to any Republican candidate who did not agree with 80 percent of ten Republican principles.

One, smaller government, reducing taxes and the deficit.

Two, oppose health care reform.

Three, oppose cap and trade.

Four, oppose card check.

Five, oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Six, support military recommendations like troop surges.

Seven, contain Iran and North Korea.

Eight, support Defense of Marriage Act.

Nine, oppose health care rationing and federal funds for abortion.

Ten, oppose gun control.

Sponsor Jim Bop (ph) told the RNC this would free the party, quote, "future party splitters," such as former Senator Lincoln Chafee, no longer a Republican. Senator Arlen Specter, no longer a Republican. And Scozzafava herself.

Who else would fail the Reagan litmus test? Number one, Reagan expanded the government taxes and the deficit. Number five, he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. Number six, he ignored the military recommendation to pull out of Beirut. Number seven, he sold weapons to Iran Number eight, he opposed California's anti-gay prop six, and hosted the first openly gay sleepover at the White House. Number ten, he signed a gun control law in California and supported the Brady Bill after he and his press secretary were shot. President Reagan, four out of 10.

Welcome back to the Democratic party, sir.

With us tonight is democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Thanks for your time tonight, Chris.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Stuff like this, measuring your standing in a political party versus its past greats, that probably goes back to Andrew Jackson and the early Democrats. Isn't the first rule of it, though, pretty obvious, fix your tests? Stack it so the guy you're comparing everybody else to would have gotten 100 percent, not 40 percent?

KOFINIS: It is kind of ironic that Ronald Reagan would fail the apparent Ronald Reagan test. But this is kind of a statement of where the Republican party is today, that they're even discussing these kind of purity tests. It is a party that is completely out of touch with mainstream America When you see these type of purity tests, it just reinforces it.

They seem to be kind of trapped in this model of trying to find new innovative ways to self-destruct. Maybe put it another way, they're subscribing to thunder dome politics. Two Republicans go in, one conservative out of touch Republican comes out. It is not a recipe for electoral success. I do not understand why they seem to keep choosing to go down this path, at least-or even discuss going down this path.

OLBERMANN: Is there a better way, can you think, off the top of your head, to make the party more open or more successful or just larger?

KOFINIS: Yeah. Don't do purity tests. I mean, it's really simple. A purity test, especially one that is this out of whack with reality, even for the Republican party, let alone for Ronald Reagan, is kind of the equivalent of a chastity belt. We know how that works.

It just doesn't make any sense. You end up alienating the very voters you're trying to attract because you set up this kind of artificial criteria about who you decide is qualified to be part of the Republican party.

It is Orwellian that the Republican party would even be discussing this. But given where they are right now in the country, even with the various troubles that the country faces, they still have not been able to capitalize. I would argue the reason is they continue to find ways to alienate themselves with the very voters they're trying to attract.

OLBERMANN: Plus, you build up a false reality. These are the same folks that proposed this proposed the resolution that would have the RNC members refer to the Democratic party as the Democrat-Socialist party and Michael Steele had to talk them down from that one. Have they gotten more powerful in projecting their own vision of the world over the majority vision of the world?

KOFINIS: I think they've gotten more vocal. I mean, they seem to be the ones that are only-the ones that are shouting in the Republican party, and that seems to scare the Republican party, including folks like Michael Steele And they just freeze. I mean, the reality is the leadership of the Republican party sees these elements, these birthers, these tea-partiers-they see them as the grassroots of the Republican party. And because they've been vocal and active and ginned up by Glenn beck, Sarah Palin and others, they're unwilling to stand up to them.

The problem is now they're a prisoner to them. Until they realize you cannot appeal to moderates if you're simply trying to appease the most radical, out of touch elements of your party, they're going to continue to deep this rabbit hole deeper and deeper. So Michael Steele, I think, is probably in a tough position, but it is a tough position that he has made for himself and the party has made for themselves, because they're unwilling to stand up to people who clearly don't understand politics.

OLBERMANN: And counting. They don't understand counting. You have to have more votes than the other guy. Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, veteran counter, who is tonight welcoming Ronald Reagan back into the democratic fold. Great thanks, Chris.

KOFINIS: Welcome to Ronald Reagan Thanks, Keith

OLBERMANN: The willful self delusion is so powerful that some on the far right think Saturday night was complimenting sister Sarah What they saw wasn't a Palin presidency followed by an apocalypse. They saw was an apocalypse followed by a Palin presidency. They're in favor of that.

It's official, also, there are no conservative feminists. Beck and Limbaugh each call Mary Landrieu a, quote, prostitute, and no right wing woman complains, let alone demands they be fired.

And at the top of the hour on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," the state ethics report is back on Governor Mark "Hiking the Old Appalachian Trail" Sanford. And it's found only 37 violations; 37, well played, sir.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Sister Sarah goes to Fort Bragg for a book signing that she turns into a political fund raiser at a military base. Plus the trailer for SNL's Palin 2012 movie. That's next. First time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Lonesome Roads Beck, who announced on Saturday that he's starting either a political movement to sell a book or he's starting a book to sell a political movement. It will take 100 years and it will be based on Mao Tse-Tung's plans for China, or something. With incoherent mystical visions, it's hard to tell. To reporters from "Time Magazine" and "Politico" and the "New York Times" and everybody else in the main stream treating this seriously, what are you doing? We have another free health clinic on Saturday. More than 1,000 people in Little Rock were assisted and paid for fully by viewers of this show. Instead of wondering about the implications of that, you're covering a guy from the university of I don't remember, who has announced some sort of amorphous plan, which he has creatively entitled "The Plan."

The runners-up, Beck and Orly Taitz Limbaugh. Gretchen Carlson has just complained that if you're a conservative woman, you get more attacks than if you have a liberal point of view. Well, Beck and Limbaugh have evened that out in a hurry, each speaking of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and each called her a whore.

Beck, "we're with a high class prostitute. That's what we're with."

Limbaugh, "that may be - folks, that may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution and she's bragging about it, Mary Landrieu."

He's an expert. The next time I say something about Michele Malkin being a bag of mashed up meat with lip stick on it and I'm called sexist by conservatives because I use the word lipstick, even though every week on the football show I use the exact same phrase about men, only I don't say lipstick, and lipstick was the one word punchline to a joke by Sarah Palin, just remember, Beck and Limbaugh happily called a sitting US woman senator a, quote, prostitute, and not a single conservative woman has as much as disagreed with them. Ms. Carlson, where is your umbrage now, you fraud?

But our winner, Katherina Roiterich (ph) of Mt. Greenwood in Chicago, organizer of what is described as a tea party splinter group, as if they all weren't splinter groups, Chicago Tea Party Patriots. Nine days ago, a couple, Dan and Mitch Huff, spoke out in favor of health care reform at the town hall of Congressman Dan Lipinski. They told how their daughter-in-law and her unborn child did not have insurance. So she did not get prenatal care and her pneumonia turned into double pneumonia and then septic shock. The baby died in the womb. The daughter-in-law, Jenny, died two weeks later. She left a husband and two-year-old daughter. And her in-laws told this story as an example of the current health care system at its worst.

And the tea party slobs not only interrupted them and made fun of them and rolled their eyes, but this woman, Katherina Roiterich, sent out an e-mail calling the Huffs Obama operatives who had fabricated the story of the deaths and, quote, "go from event to event and cry the same story."

After a local newspaper reporter verified the Huff's account, Ms. Roiterich defended herself by saying the protesters were frustrated by all these isolated tragedies that get in the way of discussion of the bill. Ma'am, that's what health care is. It's a series of isolated tragedies. Isolated until they happen to you, or until you, Ms. Roiterich, become a human being again, rather than a manipulated tool of big business and fear mongering and shapeless, hopeless greed and selfishness. Because if any of the world's major religions are right, ma'am, you and for what you and the other people did to the Huffs, you're going to hell. Katherina Roiterich of Chicago Tea Party Patriots, today's worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The man who was effectively John McCain's campaign manager served it up like the proverbial softball. Steve Schmidt said months ago, if she were the Republican nominee, 2012 would be a, quote, "catastrophic election." Our number one story, Sister Sarah is denied permission to make a speech on a US Army base, but does manage to solicit political contributions while signing books there. "Saturday Night Live" decided to illustrate the motion picture possibilities of Mr. Schmidt's remark: Sarah-pocalypse now.

The "Going Rogue" tour bus rolling into Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Army regulations banning any politician from using politicians for political platforms. But a Fort Bragg spokesman says Palin falls into a gray area because she's, quote, not a political figure per se.

So instead the military offered her a compromise, no speeches, no posing for pictures, no personalized messages in books. But as the Associated Press reports, that did not stop the Palin camp from encouraging donations to her political action committee. Allowing Palin's father, Chuck Heath (ph), to call President Obama's handling of the military, quote, "scary. People used to be afraid of us and respect us. They're not afraid of us and don't respect us anymore."

I guess he's in touch with Kim Jong-il. The scary extending beyond the fort Bragg stop to the Mayan calendar's warning of Armageddon and the Hollywood CGI spectacle chronicling of civilization end. "SNL" pitched perfect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening from Capitol Hill. What a day this has been. The nation has a new president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah Palin

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 2012.

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: As for my running mate-it was an honor to stand beside a true American hero.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm sorry. I'm just a guy who cares an awful lot about my country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy-

PALIN: Thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: See, but that's not how I imagine it. In my imagination, it's really bad. Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, author of "Renegade, the Making of a President," senior strategist at Public Strategies, Richard Wolffe.

Good to see you in the flesh.

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, "RENEGADE": Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Stipulating that I recognized that I was zinged in there, in out loud fashion, and/or complimented at the same time, there's some on the right that interpreted this as a compliment to Sarah Palin. How exactly? Do you know.

WOLFFE: God bless them. They are testing to the extreme the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The real disaster movie for the Republicans is if she runs, let's face it, because either she's the nominee and most of the American people say that she would actually be a disaster and can't see her as president, or she runs, she fails to get it, you have all of these disappointed grassroots people who then have to cheer for Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney That would be a horror movie.

OLBERMANN: One of the interpretations I read was that you see this and it's obviously she's been elected or she's been inaugurated, and then there's an apocalypse. They decided to look at it the other way. It's like, oh, there's an apocalypse and Sarah Palin saves the country, after the apocalypse, which is apparently OK with people on the far, far, far, far, far, far right.

WOLFFE: That's one big tea party, that's what that was.

OLBERMANN: A Biblical prophecy fulfillment.

WOLFFE: Exactly, which is why she said all of those Jews will be going to Israel.

OLBERMANN: Flocking.

WOLFFE: In the days and months.

OLBERMANN: Months, weeks, days to come, in that order, or whichever order it was. The event at Fort Bragg today, she-obviously, she's waved military flags like she invented the gun-the Gatling gun. Why not follow the rules? Because clearly they bent them to do some politicizing there when they were told not to.

WOLFFE: You and your pesky rules. Don't you know that only dead fish

go with the flow? There is a new set of rules for Sarah Palin I mean, she

did quit being governor of Alaska for a reason. I'm not quite sure what

the reason was. But, in any case, the bigger issue here I think politically

because she does have political advisers-is wrapping yourself in the flag. It's easy. It's a simple talking point. It's trite but it works for many people.

Problem is, it didn't work for George Bush in 2006. It didn't work for John McCain, a decorated war hero, in 2008. Why would it work for someone who hasn't served in the military, running against the commander in chief in 2012?

OLBERMANN: As we saw on the "Newsweek" cover, she looks good in red. That's my explanation for it. On a serious note, Frank rich wrote this in "the New York Times": "Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid." What kind of attention is actually appropriate in the situation.

WOLFFE: As much as possible. If she is a serious politician-and clearly there are thousands of people who are treating her as a serious politician - then the press needs to do its job. Hold her to the same standard as any other candidate. Scrutinize all her statements. Compare them, contrast them with what she said before. Fact check them against reality. That's the kind of scrutiny she's inviting now. We'll see if she's up to it.

OLBERMANN: Then the problem becomes what if her supporters don't believe in reality? This is a big question to ask as a news show concludes. But take 45 seconds and answer it. Who is her parallel in American history? Do we know yet? Is she Barry Goldwater? Is she Huey Long? Who is she?

WOLFFE: I think she is Ross Perot without the charts and the ears and maybe the billions. She'll have millions after this book. But she is trying to tap in-look at what she put in her seminal text, which is the Facebook entry. It's about deficits. It's about the military. It is a conscious avocation of everything that happens so successfully and wonderfully for Ross Perot, not once but twice.

OLBERMANN: Millions, she got it up front, right? Because she's not going to get millions if they're selling this book at Newsmax for 4.97. You and I as authors understand, get it up front, right?

WOLFFE: We would hope bob Barnett did his job that way. Look, she is turning out the crowds. This book is selling. Let's hope people are reading it.

OLBERMANN: It's 4. 97. If we sold books for 4. 97, they'd be stacked up here and people would be taking them as they went home.

WOLFFE: We'll try that next time.

OLBERMANN: All right. Good idea. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of "Renegade" and also with Public Strategies. Good to see you, sir.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,398th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Now with more on the challenges to health care and Blanche Lincoln and the baker's three dozen ethics charges against Governor Mark Sanford, ladies and gentlemen, sitting in for Rachel Maddow, here is Lawrence O'Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.

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

END

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