updated 2/19/2010 10:57:55 AM ET 2010-02-19T15:57:55

Guests: Pete Williams, Sam Stein, Chris Hayes, Arianna Huffington, Brent Budowsky




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

Public option or public misdirection: Is 51 votes just as much as the impossible dream as 60 was?


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA:  If you‘re not going to do a 60-vote strategy but instead of 50-plus-one strategy, the public option could very well be a part of this package.


OLBERMANN:  We will count heads with Sam Stein.

“A cowardly act of domestic terrorism,” that the description of Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett after tax protester Joseph Stack deliberately crashed his plane into a building housing the Austin offices of the IRS.


JERRY CULLEN, EYEWITNESS:  It hit right above the retaining wall and shot in that building.  A gigantic fireball came out about 50 feet wide.  And then the windows blew out.


OLBERMANN:  The pilot is dead.  Thirteen are injured, one unaccounted for.

CPAC begins.  The conservatives sure do have a lot of conferences.


RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.



OLBERMANN:  And look at the CPAC chopski.  I have never been prouder.

John Mellencamp for Indiana senator?  You might have to give up living in a small town, but at least you get to hang out with Jack Reed and Dianne Feinstein.

The unbearable whiteness being in a Tea Party—more right wing blowback, hilarious right wing blowback.  “My colleague, who covered the protest and took pictures of it, saw some blacks in the crowd, although he didn‘t count them.”  That‘s some out of a crowd the right claimed was over a million.

And it‘s the “Not Worst Persons in the World” where we compliment, not criticize.


OLBERMANN:  Well said, sir.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  Entertainment, entertainment.  Keep them happy.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

A the rate things are going, our top story tonight might very well change by the time we get to the end of it or maybe even before the end of this sentence.  At one point yesterday, four Democratic senators had signed on to a letter urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass a public option, the government-run insurance plan, using a legislative process known as reconciliation, which allows a simple majority of 51 to bypass a filibuster which otherwise requires 60 votes to kill.

That figure of four senators had doubled by the afternoon.  In the 24 hours since, it has more than doubled again.

The White House is not commenting but, as of now, 18 senators are on the record asking Majority Leader Reid to pass the public option which has broad public support and enjoying majority support among independent and Democratic voters—using a process so uncontroversial historically that it was also used to pass children‘s health insurance and the COBRA insurance, anyone who‘s ever left a job without another one waiting knows about all too well.

The newest signatories: Barbara Boxer, Roland Burris, Dianne Feinstein, Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Mikulski, Jack Reed, Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Jeanne Shaheen and Tom Udall.  They join Michael Bennet, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, Jeff Merkley and Sheldon Whitehouse.  Declining to sign this letter, according to the blog “Firedoglake”: Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln.

Others have said they support the public option but only some support some forms of it or have not said whether they yet support passing it through reconciliation.  Counting votes like this also kind of whip—is called a whip count.  The best way of determining whether Mr. Reid will have to step up and fight the public option, we‘ll do a full whip count with our first guest presently.

Reid, meanwhile, has other numbers to ponder as he decides whether or not to back the public option.  Up for re-election in Nevada this year, Reid is facing trouble in virtually every poll there, which is why he may want to hear about today‘s newest poll.  His constituents oppose the health care bill he passed last month, 58 to 34, by they support the public option, 56 to 38, including 61 percent of independents.  And most voters say Reid should include a public option if he uses reconciliation to pass health care reform, including 88 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents.

Joining us now, Sam Stein, political reporter with the “Huffington Post.”

Sam, thanks for your time tonight.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST:  Thanks, Keith, for having me.

OLBERMANN:  So, we have 18 signatures.  We have three noes, and out of 59 senators left in the Democratic Caucus, we have 38 question marks.

You and your staff and my staff did some reporting, went through the existing reporting.  I want to get your breakout on the list that we‘ve come up with of senators we have a reasonable expectation will vote yes if push comes to shove.  And the list is as follows: Daniel Akaka, Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Bingaman, Ben Cardin, Bob Casey, Chris Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Hagan, Harkin, Tim Johnson, Ted Kaufman, Klobuchar, Kohl, Carl Levin, McCaskill, Menendez, Patty Murray, Bill Nelson, Harry Reid, of course, Rockefeller, Specter, Stabenow, Tester, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden.

Are these reliable “yeses” all of them?

STEIN:  More or less.  All the senators that you listed there have, in the past, said they supported the public option conceptually—some more than others.  And so, it stands to reason that they would vote for it if it came up to vote using reconciliation.

The key names there are Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Chris Dodd, all of whom have been intricately involved in getting health care pass to begin with.  They‘re not coming out in favor specifically right now for using reconciliation, but if one of them did, it would indicate that this process is being taken very seriously by leadership and that it actually might have a chance to come to a vote, which is the key matter.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the noes, but I actually think these question marks, these uncertains, were uncertain—never mind whether or not they are—

STEIN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  -- are far more interesting and that is a shorter list:

Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Tom Carper, Feingold, Daniel Inouye, Mark Warner and Jim Webb.  And at least two of those are a little surprising, aren‘t they?

STEIN:  Yes.  Well, people who read this list would say, why is Russ Feingold on it?  He‘s a devout progressive and supporter of the public plan.  But he happens to be a congressional purist and there‘s some question as to whether he would institutionally like to see reconciliation used for this matter.  I reached out to his office today.  They offered me a very vague response that everything is on the table which doesn‘t indicate that he would support yes or no.

Another name that might be surprising for people on that list is Evan Bayh for exactly the opposite reasons.  Everyone assumes that the retiring Indiana Democrat would be a no vote on the public option.  In fact, his staff tells me specifically tonight that he‘s never actually explicitly said that he doesn‘t support the public plan.  And then, also, in an interview he did earlier today on NPR, he suggested that he would support the use of reconciliation to pass health care legislation if it was the last option.  Whether it extends to passing a public option is a big question mark going forward.

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, obviously, Bayh can vote his conscience entirely on that.

STEIN: Well, yes.  Now that he‘s no longer running for re-election, of course.

OLBERMANN:  Now, the final handful that we‘re not holding out hope for were Byrd, Conrad, Ben Nelson, and Mark Pryor.  I presume they‘re all prepared to be the single vote that shoots this down.  But the question is, with all these names and numbers thrown out, where are we numerically and how fixed do you think the numbers are?

STEIN:  Well, I talked to a couple of Senate aides and I talked to some strategists who have worked on this campaign specifically.  And they say that it‘s so much up in the air that you can‘t really tell where it‘s going.

With Conrad, again, it‘s institutional concerns about using reconciliation for this path forward.  But, that said, some people think he could be persuaded to vote yes.  Same with Mark Pryor.  With Ben Nelson, you have him opposing the public option on policy grounds although his reasons sort of bring political.  And so, they don‘t think that they‘re going to able to get him.

As it stands now, there‘s about 40 or so definite yeses, about six to seven most likely noes, and what you‘re dealing with essentially is you need about 50 -- you need 51.  So, you have about a margin of two to three to work with if you‘re looking at the map right now, which is not a very large margin, obviously.  But again, if you get a Harry Reid or Max Baucus to join Chuck Schumer in saying this is the path we should go down, that starts making others get on the record and say if they support that.

If it comes to a vote, people have to say yes or no.  In the betting money right now is that they will say yes.

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Well, that‘s exciting news in many respects and from our lists here, of all the maybes went yes, there‘d be 52.

STEIN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Political reporter Sam Stein—great thanks for your time, your assistance also from your “Huffington Post” staffers crunching these numbers with us.

STEIN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Joining us to lay out the political impact of that whip count, Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, 40 probably for certain, 45, 46 is realistic, 52 is a high number.  And who knows if there‘s a wild card to pick off there.  Why is that mathematical momentum—what it stands right now and what it conceivably could be—not creating hope among the progressives who actually track this stuff?

HAYES:  Well, I think it‘s creating some hope.  I mean, it‘s certainly hope among the people who‘ve engineered this campaign.  That‘s the Democracy for America, the Progressive Congress Campaign Committee and CREDO Action, have done really a remarkable job of getting people to go to WhipCongress.com and to look up their senator.  And there are thousands of calls coming in.

The whole reason this is moving forward is because they‘ve engineered this campaign and it‘s been incredibly effective.  It started in House in a letter.  It‘s now migrated over.

To the degree, there‘s some worry or skepticism or tentativeness, it‘s because it‘s been with a public option Lucy and the football the whole time, which is that it‘s always polled very well, it‘s always popular with the public, it‘s also had a sound policy rationale, and yet, time and time again, when it looked on the precipice of actually getting into the final legislation, it‘s been killed.  And so, I think people have been scarred by that.

So, the short answer is that people are a little worry, not to get their hopes up.

OLBERMANN:  We discussed before what Harry Reid‘s role in this is.  If it gets close, he‘s going to go with it and he‘s going to push it.  That‘s his job to go with what the majority of his folks go for.  What does he do if it gets to 49?

HAYES:  What does Harry Reid do if it gets to 49?  That‘s anyone‘s guess.  I mean, look—the rationale for this politically, I think, is quite strong.  I mean, you know, I‘m trying—you know, one of the things that‘s easy to do as an opinion journalist is to—is to always kind of see within the public a desire of your preferred policies.  And it‘s very important to resist that temptation because frankly the public believes a lot of things that I don‘t think are good ideas.  On this, though, I have been amazed by how reliably popular the public option is.


HAYES:  It makes sense to people.  It makes sense among independents.  It‘s certainly invigorating for Democrats who have worked very hard.  The progressive wing of the party has worked very hard.

And so, I think there‘s just a very strong rationale at this point, particularly when you think about midterm elections being determined by base turnout, which is what people generally think of the case and people are very worried about the differentiating levels of enthusiasm on the left and right.  This is the kind of thing that can really invigorate the progressive base of the Democratic Party.

OLBERMANN:  Specifically about Reid, though, those numbers from Nevada are startling that—

HAYES:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  -- he is in trouble and they don‘t like the bill he‘s passed, but the thing that he has not gotten done and seems to be holding back on at the moment would make him pretty popular—

HAYES:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  -- with his base and independents.  It seems that if he has to make a purely political decision for his own hide—

HAYES:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  -- he has to back the public option.

HAYES:  Yes, I know.

OLBERMANN:  How early could he do it?

HAYES:  Well, that‘s really interesting.  I mean, there are sort of two roles, right?  There‘s the role of senator who‘s up for re-election and there‘s the role of caucus leader.  And I think, you know Harry Reid, there are a lot of criticisms of he‘s been a majority leader.  I think a lot of those criticisms are legitimate.

I do think that Harry Reid has generally managed things in a way in which he really has put his own kind of political survival underneath the priorities of being the majority leader.  And I think that‘s to his credit ultimately.  So I think the worry here is that there‘s a little bit of a rebellion that starts to bubble up amongst the conservative members of the caucus who don‘t like this.

And the other thing to worry about, right, is the insurance companies start to go apoplectic.  And we‘ve seen over time and time again, the insurance companies have a lot of sway in Washington—this is not news to anyone watching.  And they start to throw a fit, and that actually ends up having—that starts registering with the members of the caucus and with Reid.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but the last time this was brought up, this was

before the Supreme Court decision about the corporations, this was before -



HAYES:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  -- much of the—much of impact of the Scott Brown election got registered for what it really is, which is kind of an anti-corporate, anti-big thing.

HAYES:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Certainly, anti-corporate is involved in it, too.  So, maybe it plays out differently.  I don‘t know.

Go ahead, Chris.

HAYES:  It certainly possible that will.  I mean, I think—look, the momentum here is promising, and I think that at this point, the logic of this, I think, is really irrefutable.  I mean, the fact of the matter is, this is popular.  We need to pass this bill.  And if they‘re listening to the voters, then they will.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—great thanks, Chris.

HAYES:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  During all this, the president, of course, is not just sitting in the Oval Office with his feet on the desk—oh, you haven‘t heard about this?  The latest right wing phony outrage with the latest insistence that the tea parties are not virtually all white because a guy told another guy he saw, quote, “some,” unquote, black people at 9/12 event.  Does the term “hoist with his own petard” mean anything to you?


OLBERMANN:  And now, tonight‘s first big comment.  And no, again, (INAUDIBLE) president of the United States?  I have absolutely nothing to do with his race.

The e-mail has flown around the world already like a good lie should.  “Subject: keep your feet off the furniture.”  “Does this photo of President Obama in the Oval Office convey anything to you about his attitude?”

Yes.  Look at this, feet up on the presidential desk.  We should inundate the White House with emails demanding he keep his feet off our furniture.  This arrogant, immature and self-centered man has no sense of honor or simple decency.  While this posture‘s disrespect to any culture, it is absolutely never done in any executive setting.

These people knew how stupid they look.  Some of this asinine madness might actually stop.  Hey, email writer, perhaps this will refresh your memory.

Same desk, different shoes.  If you don‘t recognize the guy, it‘s George W. Bush.  Same desk, different century.  That‘s President Ford.

And if that were not enough, the racists in the right wing are digging themselves in deeper by the moment by trying to answer the unanswerable, the commentary in which I noted the obvious.  The tea parties are overwhelmingly almost exclusively white.  Defending the 9/12 rally in Washington, one of the Brent Bozell‘s henchmen at the so-called Media Research Council cites another one of the henchmen.

How many blacks were in the audience?  My colleague, Cliff Kincaid, who covered the protest and took pictures of it saw some blacks in the crowd, although he didn‘t count them.

That‘s the crowd organizers‘ claim was more than a million.  Why not just say it?  Some of my best tea party friends are black!


OLBERMANN:  The manifesto dated today and posted on the Internet, reading in part, quote, “I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different.  I‘m finally ready to stop this insanity.  Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let‘s try something different.  Take my pound of flesh and sleep well,” unquote.

If you have become so angry over the U.S. tax system that your idea of stopping the insanity is to fly your small plane into an office building that houses 200 federal tax employees, that is, by definition, the act of an insane person.

A software engineer, the author of that diatribe, today, crashing his plane into an Austin, Texas, office building that houses federal offices, setting off a raging fire.  Law enforcement officials are identifying the pilot as Andrew Joseph Stack III.  And because of that anti-government message posted on the Web site registered to Mr. Stack in which he said violence is the only answer, officials now investigating what appears to be obvious that the pilot crashed his plane on purpose in an effort to blow up the IRS offices.

At one point in his note, Mr. Stack describing more than 30 years of battles with the IRS.  Adding he have been recently often audited, expressing anger at government bailouts of Wall Street and other industries at the expense of the middle class.  Mr. Stack concluding that nothing changes unless there‘s a body count.

Elsewhere on the Web tonight, a Facebook page or more than one having been opened, some already closed by Facebook.  One post read, “Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee,” as well as, “We hope that everyone is OK accounted for.  It is our belief that his intention was not to hurt anyone but to prove a point.”  If only that were so.

One IRS employee unaccounted for as of this hour.  Two more hospitalized.  Mr. Stack presumed to have died in the crash.  Based on eyewitness accounts, it is perhaps remarkable that casualties were not far higher.


JERRY CULLEN, EYEWITNESS:  It hit right above the retaining wall and shot in that building.  A gigantic fireball came out about 50 feet wide.  And then windows blew out.  And then insulation flew out.  Then, those venetian blinds were flopping everywhere and then fire started.


OLBERMANN:  In a neighborhood about six miles from the crash site, about 45 minutes before that crash, firefighters were called to Stack‘s home, neighbors having rescued Stack‘s wife and daughter from that fire.

Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who represents Austin today called the apparent attack “a cowardly attack of domestic terrorism.”

Let‘s turn now to NBC News justice correspondent, Pete Williams, who has been following that story from Washington since it broke this afternoon.

Pete, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  This phrase, officials suspect, he crashed his plane on purpose and are investigating.  Is that not obvious, or could there be something else to this that we or they don‘t know about?

WILLIAMS:  Well, there could always be something they don‘t know about.  And I think that‘s why they haven‘t formally come out and said that was the reason.  But privately, that‘s what they‘re saying to themselves.

It sure looks that way.  It sure seems that the plane was directly flown into the building.  There‘s this 3,000-word essay on his own company Web site excoriating the IRS, talking about 30 years of trouble with the tax people, not only the federal tax people but also tax authorities in California where his license to do business was twice suspended because he wasn‘t paying his taxes, and he talks about losing something like $50,000 in tax problems with the IRS.

So they haven‘t—as I understand it, Keith, they haven‘t found anything other than this.  No separate note at home.  But, you know, they‘re still looking, but I don‘t know anyone that I talked to that doesn‘t assume that that‘s what happened here.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any question about the nature of the fireball that was discussed by those witnesses?  Was there some suspicion there might have been extra fuel on the plane or anything else to create that extraordinary scene?

WILLIAMS:  That is an open question tonight, a very good question because some people who have looked at the scene you‘re looking at here say that there isn‘t enough fuel on a small plane, even when it‘s fully loaded up with fuel to cause that kind of fire.  Now, having said that, fortunately, the number of cases like this where a fully loaded plane flies into a building is quite small.  So the field of experience isn‘t that high here.

But it is—you are right.  That‘s one of the things they‘re looking into.  Did he have some extra fuel or some sort of—some other kind of explosive, or some other combustible thing on the plane to enhance the nature of the attack?  That‘s a good question that‘s under investigation.  I think they don‘t know that yet.

OLBERMANN:  This manifesto that describes the 30 years of his grievances with the IRS and other parts of the government—do we have any idea how long this had been in the works, this—either this manifesto or his plan, whatever it was?

WILLIAMS:  Well, here‘s what we definitely know.  We know that he posted it just within a few hours of the plane crash this morning, made the final adjustments to it.  And, in fact, he dates it today.  And he says at the end, you know, he gives his name and his date of birth and then he lists the date of his death as 2010.

He says in the—in the suicide note itself that he started writing this thing many months ago, is the way he put it.  He says he started writing it as a form of therapy and that as he wrote it, he just became more and more angry.  But by his own words, he says said he started this months ago.

We don‘t know, though, when he decided to do this specific act to set his house on fire and then crash his plane into a building.  The only indication that he intended to do it comes that—when he formed that intent is that he made the final adjustments to this Web site within the past several hours.

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s no—there‘s no question about the house fire now, that that‘s his work as well?

WILLIAMS:  I‘ve been told that all day long, that that‘s really what started this whole thing for the Austin police is they got a call of a domestic disturbance.  That‘s how this originally started.  And when they got to the house, they realized that it was a fire, called in the fire department.  And by that time, he had fled.  And they know now that he went to the airport.

But initially, Keith, it‘s interesting.  They didn‘t know whether he got into the plane initially to try to flee and then just, you know, lost control of the plane or whatever.  But by tonight, it seems quite clear that this was a deliberate act.

OLBERMANN:  Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent, staying late for us in Washington tonight—and as always, Pete, thank you for doing that.

WILLIAMS:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  CPAC starts in Washington.  So does draft a cougar.  So does standing on the Olbermann doormat, and on it, President Cheney says to Senator Mellencamp.  Plus, we go bizarro tonight.  The “Not Worst Persons in the World.”


OLBERMANN:  The conservative conference of the week opens in D.C. with a speech from Dick.

First, on this date in 1856, a grassroots anti-establishment, low government political movement convene in Philadelphia to nominate its first presidential candidate, former President Millard Fillmore, the party was called the Know-Nothings.

On this date in 1861, a grassroots anti-establishment, low government political movement convened in Montgomery to inaugurate its first leader Jefferson Davis.  That group was the Confederate States of America.  What a coincidence.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Britain with Murdoch‘s Sky News coverage of the Obama-Biden stimulus availability yesterday.  Anchor Kay Burley discussing the U.S. economy with correspondent Greg Milam.  Neither of them realizing it was the first day of lent also known by Catholics as Ash Wednesday.


KAY BURLEY, SKY NEWS ANCHOR:  Waiting for Joe Biden to introduce the president within the next few moments.  The vice president as you said—what happened to his head?  I‘m sure that‘s what everybody‘s asking at home.

GREG MILAM, SKY NEWS ANCHOR:  He‘s been up to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics and was the face of the administration there.  So, whether there was some accident or what little incidents (ph) being up in Vancouver, we don‘t know.

BURLEY:  (INAUDIBLE) on those T trace down the nose (ph) or something. 

Certainly, it looks like quite a bruise, doesn‘t it?  Anyway—


OLBERMANN:  You see what happens, Henry VIII—you see what happens when you kicked out the Catholic Church?

Forget about that Papal assignment you two are hoping for.  Eventually, somebody called in.  She apologized, claimed she was a very bad Catholic and went to break.

Speaking of breaks, Internets LOL, and keeping with fashion week here in New York, there‘s a fashion show from some other location on the planet.  Two models strutting their stuff on the runway, on the runway, styling the latest trends with this fall, or make that one model styling the latest—medic?

Now, they don‘t actually call it suspension of reality weekend but they might as well have.  Dick “Mr. Popularity” Cheney forecasts the 2010 and 2012 elections.  John Boehner says a Republican-led Congress would act differently than a Republican-led Congress.  And Marco Rubio criticizes President Obama‘s teleprompter reading while reading a speech off a teleprompter. 


OLBERMANN:  With at least have a dozen seminars called “Saving Freedom” and with so-called rising political stars trying mightily how to figure out how to handle the Tea Parties, the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee began with an unexpected roar today.  At Washington‘s C-PAC conference, the early surprise appearance from former Vice President Dick Cheney, actually greeted by chants of “Run, Dick, Run.” 


DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office again.  But I‘m not going to do it.  The sky‘s the limit here.  I think 2010‘s going to be a phenomenal year for the conservative cause.  And I think Barack Obama is a one-term president. 


OLBERMANN:  He made a cameo with his daughter, who rolled through her greatest hits of bashing the president, including the claim that the Obama administration had missed or ignored warning signs leading up to the attempted Christmas day attack by the unsuccessful underwear bomber. 


LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF FMR. VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY:  Now, there‘s no polite way to put this, but that kind of can incompetence gets people killed.  And yet no one has been held accountable. 


OLBERMANN:  Are we talking about the Bush administration—oh, no, bonus points to Miss Cheney for saying that with a straight face.  South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint told “Roll Call” a praise that conservative and Tea Party favorite in the Florida Republican primary for Senator Marco Rubio, challenging Governor Charlie Crist for that spot.  Rubio, in his keynote address, also praising the Tea Partiers and other so-called average citizens. 


MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATE:  They have taken matters into their own hands.  From Tea Parties to the election in Massachusetts, you see, 2010 is not just a choice between Republicans and Democrats.  It‘s not just a choice between liberals and conservatives.  2010 is a referendum on the very identity of our nation. 


OLBERMANN:  More on Mr. Rubio in a moment.  House Minority Leader Boehner offering the GOP campaign message to win back Congress. 


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  Ladies and gentlemen, if you help elect a Republican Congress this November, and if I‘m fortunate enough to be the speaker of the House, I‘ll pledge to you right here, right now, that we‘re going to run the House differently.  And I don‘t mean differently from the way the Democrats are running the House today.  I mean differently in the way the House has been run under both Democrats and Republicans in the past. 


OLBERMANN:  And Mr. Boehner took a moment to mark an anniversary, a year since House Republicans unanimously voted no on the Recovery Act, the stimulus. 


BOEHNER:  I was still taking heat from Keith Olbermann and others on the left because they didn‘t like the fact that I threw the bill on the floor.  You know, they called it disrespectful.  And they said we were committing political suicide.  They said it was the death nail for the Republican party, and the death nail for conservatives.  Well, as usual, they were wrong. 


OLBERMANN:  No, I said spray tans were disrespectful.  But Boehner and 110 of his GOP brethren have touted, in speech or letter or website posting, various jobs that the Recovery Act created, choosing hypocrisy for the sake of self-congratulation.  And at the Conservative Media Research Center‘s booth, a lovely carpet now available, suitable for your door or your bathroom, I suppose, “stomp out the liberal media.”  I‘m honored.  Does kind of bring a different meaning to those doormats that O‘Reilly sells: “Wipe Your Feet on the No-Spin Zone,” or Stamp Out Patriots Welcome Here.”

On that note, let‘s turn to the co-founder and editor in chief of “The Huffington Post,” Arianna Huffington.  Arianna, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  For all the conserve-o-love that was poured on Marco Rubio, that highlight must have been, “run, Dick, run.”  And this tells us everything we need to know, right? 

HUFFINGTON:  It does because this is the resurgence of the Republican party, going back to Dick Cheney.  Voters may have short memories, but not that short.  When he was left office, his approval rating was at 13 percent.  That was before all those torture memories and everything we found out about how he had wanted water-boarding used to coerce confessions linking 9/11 to Iraq. 

So I think if anybody was chanting, “run, Dick, run” along with those at the convention, it must have been Barack Obama and his re-election team. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, obviously, Obama‘s the focus here, not Cheney, not Scott Brown, who warmly introduced Governor Romney, but even his status did not, sort of, translate or transfer to Romney.  The half-governor, Sarah Palin, was not there.  Obama is the common enemy.  But who is the leader against the common enemy, from their point? 

HUFFINGTON:  Well, that‘s really the problem with the Republican party.  They are still in search of a leader.  Remember, Mitt Romney actually won the straw poll at the convention last year.  And Bobby Jindal came second.  And if you want to go down memory lane, in ‘05 and ‘06, the straw poll was won by George Allen.  So I don‘t know how seriously we can take all the goings on at the convention, in terms of predictions of who the leader of the Republican party is going to be in 2012. 

OLBERMANN:  The Rubio explosion, which is for a guy who hasn‘t gotten a nomination yet, let alone a seat—he may very well wind up beating Governor Crist as the Florida Republican nominee for the senate, but in states and districts where the Rubio, to use a term, loses to the more establishment Republican, are we seeing more possible repeats of what happened in the New York 23rd, based on the substance and the tone of today? 

HUFFINGTON:  Well, Keith, that‘s really the problem at the moment with the Republican party and the Tea Party movement.  They do not own the Tea Party movement.  Many Tea Partiers have made it very clear that, as far as they‘re concerned, it‘s a pox on both their houses, and that their allegiance is not necessarily to the Republican Party. 

Now, they were scolded for that by Sarah Palin this week.  But the point is, we don‘t know where all this is going to end.  And the danger is that Republicans are playing with gasoline and matches, because they are taking the legitimate anger at double digits unemployment, foreclosures, et cetera, and fusing it with a very dark anger that we saw today at the convention, with all these displays of violence, with what you described about the stomping on you and others on the floor, with the pinatas of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and even a punching bag of John McCain. 

OLBERMANN:  They yelled at Orrin Hatch yesterday, which I‘m going to get to in the comment after the commercial.  But one last thing about what Boehner said about throwing the last—essentially, threw the last Republican Congress under the bus, in hopes of convincing whoever out there thinks they weren‘t conservative enough, that they‘ll get it right next time.  They‘ll be much more conservative.  They‘ll do it right next time.  That‘s one of the great charlatan acts you could possibly come up with. 

It‘s a new Republican party led by the same damned people. 

HUFFINGTON:  And also, it‘s the Washington establishment running against the Washington establishment.  And I don‘t know how well this is ultimately going to go down, because, remember, today some of the biggest applause was reserved for Bush and Cheney, which is kind of stunning.  And it shows how confusing everything is at the moment. 

OLBERMANN:  They want to run Bush and Cheney again.  We should change the Constitution and let them.  Arianna Huffington of “The Huffington Post,” great thanks, Arianna. 

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so pick out your favorite of his song titles and apply it to this story: the effort to convince John Mellencamp to run to succeed Evan Bayh in Indiana. 

Tonight, it is the not worst persons in the world.  Why I will defend Ann Coulter‘s right to make a joke she made based on my dead mother. 

And Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, from Washington, where she spent the day at C-Pac and lived to tell the tale to thee.


OLBERMANN:  Ahead, a special edition of worst persons, in which I agree with, defend, or praise each of them.  The not worst persons in the world. 

But now, the second of tonight‘s quick comment.  And something is really wrong with me here.  I‘m beginning to love the Tea Party.  Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah told a crowd at American Fork Junior High last night that they had better get in line.  “If we fractionalize the Republican party,” he told this group, “we‘re going to see more liberals elected.” 

Somebody in the crowd of 300 elected, “I think you guys are as out of touch as you can get.” 

Hatch doesn‘t get it.  The Tea crowd doesn‘t want reform.  It doesn‘t want to be heard.  It wants something for nothing.  In fact, it wants everything for nothing, including violence. 

A woman speaker at the Take Back America rally in Eastern Washington underscored that point.  Speaking of her state‘s Democratic senator, she asked rhetorically, “how many of you have watched the movie “Lonesome Dove”?  What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd?  What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd?  He got hung.  And that‘s what I want to do with Patty Murray.” 

So which one of the founding fathers advocated that, ma‘am?  John Quincy Molotov? 

And then, of course, there are the political leaders of that movement.  Speaking at that C-Pac conference, which we just discussed with Arianna, Florida TP Senate candidate Marco Rubio said the recent Washington snowstorm crippled the Obama administration because, quote, “the president couldn‘t find anywhere to set up a teleprompter to announce new taxes, ha-ha.” 

Mr. Rubio appears to have read this cheap shot off one or both of the two teleprompters you see in this picture of him giving his speech.  Hearing Rubio speak, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said, “I was standing backstage with tears.” 

I know how you feel, Jim.  Symbolically, the rest of us were there with you, our eyes also filled with tears, of laughter.  


OLBERMANN:  Well, if he does run for Senate from Indiana, he‘ll really know the meaning of the lyrics of “Hurts So Good.”  The john Mellencamp bandwagon, that‘s next. 

But first, a very unusual edition of worst persons in the world.  Instead of the normal thing where I disagree with people and try to employ the Henry Burbson (ph) rule of laughter as a social sanction against inflexible behavior, tonight, I‘m going to praise three people with whom I have, until now, disagreed with 100 percent of the time.  Tonight‘s not worst persons in the world.

The bronze of this bizarro edition to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who has sent an e-mail to her supporters bravely announcing that being picked worst person in the world for her nit-wit idea to privatize Social Security will help her raise campaign funds.  “As my re-election campaign swings into high gear, I know that attacks like these from the liberal media will become more frequent and more vicious.  Will you make an immediate contribution to help me prepare for these coming attacks?”

She says she‘s wearing her selection “like I‘ve won a gold medal at the Olympics.”  Well, I‘m going to compliment you on trying to make yourself into chicken salad, congresswoman.  And I‘ve got more good news.  Your campaign mailer, it‘s wrong.  Nine days ago you were on the list, but as this screen cap from the February 9th program shows, you only won the bronze, not the gold.  You finished behind Senator Inhofe‘s family and the education commissioner for the state of New York.  So now you can send out another fund-raiser explaining that the liberal media has called you out for not knowing third place from first place. 

Our runner-up in not worsts, Lonesome Rhodes Beck.  That‘s right, someone else I‘ve attacked ceaselessly.  But here I find myself finally agreeing with him, finally saying the man has made a cogent, intelligent, inciteful remark.  It‘s his most succinct expression of his philosophical position and the posture of those who do not believe he‘s some guy with a drug-destroyed mind and the long-term memory of a Roomba, and who instead believe in him. 

Yes, Glenn, when you said this, I finally understood you.




OLBERMANN:  And Glenn, when you and your pals barked “Jingle Bells,” fabulous. 

But our winner in our special not worst person in the world

competition, Coulter Geist.  A column in which she announced she suddenly

stopped believing that Iran‘s President Ahmadinejad lies when he says his

country has nuclear capacity, now just takes his word for it, veered off

into some really weird territory.  Of me, she writes, “after donning his

mother‘s house coat, undergarments, and fuzzy slippers, then Olbermann‘s

even creepier sidekick, androgynous ‘Newsweek‘ correspondent Richard

Wolffe, then Olbermann‘s most macho guest, Rachel Maddow” 

Now, I know your reaction to this.  Usually even political points don‘t go invoking other people‘s recently deceased mothers, and Coulter‘s continuing self-revelatory obsession with sexual identity really suggests a hell of a back-story in her own life.  But I‘m going to defend this.  All I have to say about Ann Coulter is this: if this guy wants to live his life as a woman, I‘m going to back his choice up 100 percent.  Coulter-geist, today‘s not worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  As Indiana Democrats scramble to find a replacement for Evan Bayh in the Senate, one grassroots organization wants to enlist perhaps the second most well-known Hoosier of our time.  He was born in a small town and is known occasionally to rock in the USA. 

John Mellencamp, who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, has neither confirmed nor denied he‘s interested in running.  A longtime supporter of Democratic causes and candidates, Mellencamp‘s populist anthems and advocacy for farmers making him a likely proponent for the working class. 

Brent Budowsky, a former aide to Senator Birch Bayh, who will join us momentarily, touching about that sentiment in “The Hill,” writing that Mellencamp is, quote, “one of the great advocates of smalltime America, of the kind of square deal for Americans that Teddy Roosevelt once championed.” 

The news of possible candidate Mellencamp causing the conservative blog Hot Air to sneer, “this tool is very far left at a moment when being very far left isn‘t exactly a political asset.” 

Odd considering that such the lefty tool, he attracted the likes of John McCain, who played “Pink Houses” and “Our Country” at his campaign rallies until Mr. Mellencamp asked him to stop, pointing out also that a true conservative probably shouldn‘t subscribe to a populist, pro-labor message.  Ain‘t that America?  I actually got to talk about that with the most well-known Hoosier during my visit to his show, which will air later tonight on CBS. 


DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:   One of the senators from my home state, the senior senator, of course, Richard Lugar, and Evan Bayh, son of Birch Bayh, a longtime senator from Indiana, announced that he would not seek re-election, because he couldn‘t get anything done in Congress.  And while I‘m sure that‘s true, doesn‘t that put an end to his political career?  Because he‘s just saying, I can‘t work in a political system; I‘m going to open a wallpaper store.  I mean, isn‘t that really what he did? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, yeah, I think we‘re giving him a show on MSNBC, in fact. 

LETTERMAN:  Well, there you go. 

OLBERMANN:  A little lower than a wallpaper store.  But you know who they‘re trying to get to replace him, right?  John Mellencamp. 

LETTERMAN:  I heard that.  I saw that in the paper today.  That‘s fantasy.  He would do it. 

OLBERMANN:  Why not? 

LETTERMAN:  I know that John Mellencamp smokes cigarettes. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I know that the president of the United States has smoked cigarettes. 

LETTERMAN:  See, look at trouble he‘s having. 


OLBERMANN:  You have me there, Dave.  Joining me now, as promised, Brent Budowsky, former aide to former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh and current columnist for “The Hill.”  Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir. 

BRENT BUDOWSKY, “THE HILL”:  Pleasure to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s the question: any word on how John Mellencamp feels about this Draft Mellencamp movement? 

BUDOWSKY:  No, not yet.  What‘s happened is, these events happened suddenly and quickly, out of nowhere when Evan Bayh surprised everyone and decided he wasn‘t going to run again.  There were thousands of good, patriotic Americans all over the country, and in Indiana especially who rallied to try to draft him.  This came out of the blue.  It‘s a grassroots movement from people who care about America.  There‘s nothing in it for them, except a better country and a better Indiana. 

And as they mobilize, I think Mr. Mellencamp is probably  digesting events, as all of us are. 

OLBERMANN:  You called this possibility an inspired idea.  Why, particularly, that choice of words? 

BUDOWSKY:  Well, I think what Democrats should stand for and have a candidate for is the idea that we fight for people, as Mellencamp does, who are having their homes foreclosed.  We don‘t fight for people, as his probable opponent, Dan Coats, the former senator and bank lobbyist—we don‘t fight for people who are doing fund-raisers for banks and writing bills to make banks wealthier and to throw people out of their homes. 

We fight for people the way John Mellencamp does, to keep small town America alive, to keep jobs in this country.  We don‘t fight for people the way the Republicans do, the way his opponent, Senator Coats, probably will, who want to outsource jobs, who want to close down small towns and be crushed in the economy. 

So we want a country and candidates like John Mellencamp, who really believe in the heartland of America, the sole of America, the character of America, the decency of America, the working people and the farmers.  I mean, the work that he did on Farm Aid is spectacular, with Willie Nelson, another other great Americans.  The work that Mellencamp did with veterans, when he went to Walter Reed hospital and did a wonderful and moving and personal concert, you know, for the heroes who came back wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq. 

A whole lifetime, Keith, of fighting for heartland America.  And what they offer is a lifetime and a career of fighting for banks and Wall Street and foreclosures. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s an old-fashioned notion these days, with Scott Browns being elected and Al Frankens being elected, not that I‘m equating the two of them, but is it an advantage to not have a political record before you run for office these days? 

BUDOWSKY:  I think it‘s an advantage to have spent your life trying to help people and running against the party that hopes America fails.  That‘s what the Republicans have become, the hope America fails party.  We saw that again today at the convention of conservatives, because they hate the president so much and they want to win, they have to hope the country fails so the president won‘t succeed. 

To have the experience of being a bank lobbyist and a Wall Street lobbyist and going to bank fund-raisers and supporting the people who are foreclosing homeowners, who are raising credit card rates for people all over Indiana, who are cheating Americans left and right—that‘s the kind of experience that his opponent would have.  And I think the kind of experience of fighting for small towns and people hoping to keep their homes and to keep jobs in America and to keep our country flourishing—I think Mellencamp has the kind of experience that Americans want. 

There has been an outpouring of support from the grassroots, from people who want to be proud again and believe again, with having people like John Mellencamp, who have the kind of experience that Americans value, not the Washington hack lobbyist campaign money experience.  I mean, 80 percent of Americans hate the Supreme Court decision and want it reversed.  It allows companies to buy elections.  And that‘s what Dan Coats comes out of and what the Republicans want.  And Mellencamp is for the people. 

OLBERMANN:  Brent Budowsky, a columnist for “The Hill.”  You can throw in there as well that in a small room, with about 1,000 people at a time, he makes a heck of an impression.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BUDOWSKY:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

Before I send you to Rachel Maddow, a survivor of the start of today‘s C-Pac conservative conference in Washington, a reminder that I‘ll be appearing on the “Late Show with David Letterman” tonight. 

I got a warm reception, but I did not get quite as warm a reception as when Smith College president Carol T. Crist told the senior class there who is going to give the commencement speech this year. 


CAROL T. CRIST, SMITH COLLEGE PRESIDENT:  Stanford University graduate, Rhodes Scholar, political analyst, and national television host Rachel Maddow!


OLBERMANN:  Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Evening, Rachel.



Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET


Discussion comments