updated 2/19/2010 11:02:16 AM ET 2010-02-19T16:02:16

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Andrea Mitchell, Kathleen Sebelius

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  I should tell you guys that after the reception that Dick Cheney got at CPAC today—

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Yes.

           

MADDOW:  -- they might be trading up.  Smith might be trading for him. 

Do you think?

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.  Yes, I‘m sure.  He‘d go there and never come back.

MADDOW:  That was both very kind and very troubling of you to have done that, Keith.  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  That was the plan.  You‘re welcome.  Bring me back a door mat, please.

MADDOW:  Indeed.  You know, the door mats, you looked so good on the door mats, I think you should take it as a compliment.  They picked very handsome pictures of both you and Chris.

OLBERMANN:  The whole staff wants one.

MADDOW:  All right.

OLBERMANN:  Two, one for the office, one for their homes.

MADDOW:  They‘re $32.95.  They‘re made in America.  I‘ve got the order form.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  See you.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for tuning in today.

Today was CPAC day here in Washington.  We will have the highlights and I will talk a little bit about my own experience at the conservative convention today.

Today, also a day of shocking violence.  In Austin, Texas, as an apparent lone wolf, disturbed man flew a single-engine plane into a building housing federal offices.  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has all the latest reporting on this story for us.  She‘ll be joining us here live.

The fight for health reform is back on in a big way.  And in the center of the ring is HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  She will also be joining us here live on set.

Those stories and a lot more from a very hectic, very big news day. 

It‘s all coming up this hour.

But we begin tonight, here in Washington, D.C., with the kickoff to perhaps the biggest single event on the conservative calendar that is not Ronald Reagan‘s birthday, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.  Today marked day one of the annual three-day gathering of conservative activists, conservative elected officials, conservative media figures, and various other conservative types—many of whom we‘ll be discussing later on in the show.

This year, the biggest reception for anyone came in response to a surprise unannounced guest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZ CHENEY, “KEEP AMERICA SAFE”:  There is one man in particular we all know who certainly has taught me what it means to have the courage of your convictions.  Often, before big speeches like this one, I ask his opinion, I seek his advice.  Well, today, instead, I brought him with me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWD:  Cheney!  Cheney!  Cheney!  Cheney!

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  A welcome like that‘s almost enough to make me want to run for office again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You know who was cheering louder than the Republicans in that hall?  Democrats.  Democrats all across the country are going, “Cheney/Palin 2012, oh, please do it, please do it!”

Mr. Cheney very much enjoying himself.  He did vow not to actually run again.  But for politicians who probably will run, their courting of the CPAC audience today did not apparently extend to making sure that what they told that audience was true.  One of the serial offenders today was former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  Let‘s ask the Obama folks why they say no—no to a balanced budget, no to reforming entitlements, no to malpractice reform.

(BUZZER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You want to see President Obama saying no to medical malpractice reform?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now, I don‘t believe medical malpractice reform is a silver bullet.  But I‘ve talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.  So—

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  So I‘m proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Lots of people really do say no to malpractice reform, at least as Republicans have proposed it.  President Obama is not one of those people.  But do go on, Mr. Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  No to tax cuts that create jobs.

(BUZZER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  No to tax cuts.

You know that giant stimulus package that just had its one-year birthday yesterday?  That was also one of the biggest tax cuts in American history.  True.  While you‘re on a roll here, Mr. Romney, try giving national security politics a shot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words “You have the right to remain silent.”

(BUZZER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Unless, of course, that would-be suicide bomber is would-be suicide bomber, Richard Reid, who was told that he had the right to remain silent roughly five minutes after he was arrested back in 2001 when Republicans were running the show.

Mitt Romney was not alone in this insult to his audience‘s intelligence today.  Here‘s Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, for example.  He‘s supposed to be one of the Republican Party‘s big wonks.  He‘s chairman of the Republican House Policy Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER ®, MICHIGAN:  I‘ve heard that the Republican Party and the conservative movement constitutes the party of no.  I think a look at the facts should disabuse people of that notion.  When the American people ask for fiscal integrity in disciplining government spending, the Democrats said no.

(BUZZER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I understand why Mr. Charisma wants to say that it‘s Republicans who are the champions of fiscal integrity and discipline in government spending, but as long as those phrases, “fiscal integrity” and “discipline in government spending” still have meaning as phrases in English, Republicans cannot call themselves that when they‘re the folks who passed the totally unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug act in 2003, for example.  Along with two equally unfunded but ginormous Bush tax cuts which blew the deficit sky-high.

And if we‘re going to talk about fiscal integrity, there is also the matter of the accounting tricks that the government of George W. Bush used to keep two massively expensive wars off the government books—a practice that the Democrat who succeeded Mr. Bush is now ending.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCOTTER:  When the American people asked for smaller deficits and a reduction of the debt, the Democrats said no.

(BUZZER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I know this pains you, guys, but the truth about who grows debt while in office is exactly the opposite of what Mr. McCotter would like to make the CPAC audience clap for.

In the last 30 years, it‘s been Republican presidents who have exploded the debt at record rates.  The patron saint of fiscal conservatism, Ronald Reagan, grew the debt by 189 percent while he was in office.  It was also seven Republican senators who recently single-handedly stopped Congress from creating a bipartisan deficit commission.  Thanks for playing, though, Congressman McCotter.

Today‘s roster of speeches wasn‘t all about insulting the intelligence of the audience at CPAC.  It was also an educational experience.  For instance, did you know that President Obama created this mythical health care crisis for his own political benefit?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. DICK ARMEY ®, TEXAS:  You create the perception of a crisis in order to be able to ride to the rescue and achieve your self-indulgent purposes of controlling the distribution of income in America.  So, either it is the crisis in health care, which is a notion you‘re getting away with peddling, despite the fact that America has the greatest health care in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes!  According to former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, Mr. Obama has created the perception of a crisis when it comes to health care.

You want to see what that fake crisis looks like?  In 1960, health care spending was about 5 percent of our GDP.  In 1970, it was up to about 7 percent.  By 1980, 9 percent.  By 1990, it was up to 12 percent.

By 2000, we were spending 14 percent of our GDP on health care.  By last year, our health care spending constituted more than 17 percent of our entire economic output as a nation, and that‘s counting everything.  In 10 years, it‘s projected to be one out of every $5 in the entire American economy.

That‘s the crisis President Obama has apparently created out of thin air for his own political gain.  He apparently started working on this in 1970 when he was 9 years old.  He was very precocious.

One of the most frequently used “Bash President Obama” applause lines today was offered up early on by one of the day‘s first speakers, Florida Senate candidate and tea party favorite, Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  You know, a week ago, we didn‘t know we were going to make it.  We were watching all that images of that winter weather, that extraordinary blizzard that even impacted the government.  I don‘t know if you know this, but the Congress couldn‘t meet to vote on bills.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

RUBIO:  So regulatory agencies couldn‘t meet to set new regulations either.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

RUBIO:  And the president couldn‘t find anywhere to set up a teleprompter to announce new taxes.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I mean, they do kind of got him here.  Can you believe that guy who uses a teleprompter?

Did you notice the very, very beginning of that clip?  The very beginning there.  Oh, hey, there, what‘s that?  Hey, there—hi, there.  Hi, there.  What‘s that thing about people in glass houses, people behind glass teleprompters making fun of teleprompters.

Senator Jim DeMint, do you want to give this one a shot, too?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I think we‘ve confirmed you can‘t govern from a teleprompter.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Says the guy reading off a pair of teleprompters.  Whoo hoo!

Well, totally lacking in self-awareness, Mr. DeMint did succeed in offering the CPAC crowd some of the reddest of the red meat that was thrown to them today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMINT:  We now see all too clearly that the hope and change the Democrats had in mind was nothing more than a retread of the failed and discredited socialist policies that have been the enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The enemy of freedom.

As I said before, CPAC is a big deal.  This is where conservative politicians go to hone their messages, to align themselves with where the modern conservative movement is.  And judging from the speeches at the podium today, the modern conservative movement—at least in the mind of its politicians—is in La La Land.

Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an associate editor for “The Washington Post.”  He‘s also an MSNBC political analyst and he‘s here in person.

Hi, Gene.  Good to see you.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Rachel, great to be here with you.

MADDOW:  So—

ROBINSON:  Welcome to Washington.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  It‘s nice to be here.  I wish the roads were better—were plowed better but I‘m still enjoying myself.

ROBINSON:  Yes.

MADDOW:  It seems notable that the politician who received the warmest welcome today was Dick Cheney.  People just—people lost their minds for Dick Cheney more than they did for Marco Rubio.

ROBINSON:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Translate that into Republican politics for 2010.

ROBINSON:  I can‘t, because Dick Cheney doesn‘t have a future of Republican Party politics in 2010.  What that would suggest was that Republicans in 2010 were going to what, say, remember the good old days of the Bush/Cheney administration?

I just don‘t think they‘re going do that.  I don‘t think—I don‘t think that even in this heady atmosphere now for conservatives, they really think that recalling the Bush/Cheney years is a great idea, is a great way to take over the Congress in 2010 and set up a victory in 2012.

So—but it‘s interesting.  Cheney was clearly seen as something of a father‘s figure if not a patron saint of—for this group of activists there.

MADDOW:  Well—

ROBINSON:  I just don‘t see where that goes.

MADDOW:  To me it‘s interesting, though.  To see Cheney revered in this way, to see him really, and just in terms of the reaction today, rise above every other figure there.  Obviously, he‘s not going to run again, although there might be some nostalgia for that in that room.

But when he talks about the Bush legacy, both on fiscal matters and particularly on national security matters, he‘s saying, “Oh, secretly within the administration, you didn‘t know this but I was against all this stuff that you guys are running to the right of it now.  I was more fiscally conservative than Bush.  I was more pro-torture than Bush.  I was for not letting people out of Guantanamo,” even though we let people out of Guantanamo.

So, he‘s almost running a shadow, he‘s proposing to the moderate Republican Party they run a shadow Cheney presidency.

ROBINSON:  Right.  He‘s portraying himself as having been more pure on all of these issues—

MADDOW:  Yes, that‘s right.

ROBINSON:  -- than certainly the second Bush term was, for example, when President Bush was during his second term.  And that gets the crowd going.

But is that—even from the conservative point of view—is that winning strategy for—even for 2010, much less for 2012?  Is that really what independents want, who you have to attract?  I won‘t even get into the question of outreach to the fastest growing segments of the population, like Latinos and African-Americans and the, you know, the 38 percent of voters who are—who are not white and who were not represented really at CPAC.

MADDOW:  Well, I was—I‘ve been walking around today, going—I‘d just walked through the exhibitor hall and talked to people.  And I definitely met some African-American conservatives, a handful.  I definitely saw on the program there agenda items that are targeted toward Latino conservatives, but they‘re alongside this—they‘re alongside arguably racist rhetoric about the president.  We‘re going to be talking a little bit about that more later in the show today, and alongside this still incredibly vituperative anti-immigrant troupe that runs through this movement—

ROBINSON:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- that‘s really survived since 2007 (ph).

ROBINSON:  And there—I understand that the John Birch Society had a booth.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  I spent a long time with them today, yes.

ROBINSON:  And, you know, that‘s an amazing thing.  I mean, Bill Buckley kicked him out years ago.

MADDOW:  Yes, he did.

ROBINSON:  He—you know, pure conservatives wouldn‘t tolerate that sort of thing in his day.  It does show how far the conservative movement has come and that sort of thing really alienates a lot of the kind of old line Buckley-style conservatives who feel they don‘t have a home in this organization that they kind of founded.

MADDOW:  You know, it‘s interesting.  When I was talking with the John Birch Society folks, they wanted to talk with me because we had talked with them as the cosponsor in the months and weeks leading up to this.  And I said to them, “Do you feel any friction in dealing with the sort of Buckley-tie conservative core folks because William Buckley essentially exiled you from the conservative movement for a generation or more since the ‘60s?  They‘ve been exiled because of the way he just absolutely ran them out of the movement.

And the president of the John Birch Society had in his backpack a book that he wrote about what a bad guy William F. Buckley was.  And he had one copy of it with them but they were not demonstrating that—they were not offering that for sale, showing that—proffering that as their wares to the CPAC audience.

ROBINSON:  This is not your father‘s or grandfather‘s conservative movement.

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.

Eugene Robinson, thank you so much.  Nice to see you.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Gene Robinson, of course, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an associate editor at the “Washington Post,” also an MSNBC political analyst.

OK.  There‘s more to come on my illuminating day at CPAC.  Wait until you see my awesome Ronald Reagan calendar.

Plus, the Obama administration completely agro (ph) about big insurance companies‘ big rate hikes right now.  The person leading the fight has done it before.  She is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  She‘s “The Interview” tonight.

Next, though, the almost unbelievable story from Austin today of the man officials believe crashed his airplane into an office building containing federal agency offices.  All of the details with NBC News‘ Andrea Mitchell.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Early this morning in Texas, 53-year-old Andrew Joseph Stack replaced the Web site for his small software engineering company with a 5,000-word, fairly incoherent screed about the evils of the IRS and a lot of other more or less coherent things that made him feel victimized and alienated and angry.  Mr. Stack apparently then set fire to his own house.  He then drove to an airport, got into a Piper Cherokee single-engine airplane and then he crashed it into a building in northwest Austin, Texas.  It‘s a building that houses federal offices, including those of the IRS.

The pilot was killed.  Thirteen people on the scene were injured, two of them critically.  An FBI spokesman has told the “Austin American Statesmen” that another body was recovered from the scene after the recovery of the body of Mr. Stack, the pilot.

Law enforcement officials quickly declared this a criminal act, putting it jurisdictionally, under the FBI, not under the NTS—the National Transportation Safety Administration which would handle accidental plane crashes.

Incredibly, a Facebook group was started moments after Mr. Stack‘s name surfaced.  It featured the “Don‘t Tread On Me” flag and a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.  People on the right posting things on that Facebook site like: quote, “The government should fear the people, not the other way around.”

Lest anyone try to find political comfort or confirmation in the incoherent suicidal rantings of a man setting off to do something like this, let it also be noted that Mr. Stack ended his manifesto/suicide note with this, quote, “The communist creed: From each according to his ability to each according to his need.  The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

There‘s one more liberal commentator on the Joe Stack Facebook page wrote today with sarcasm, “Quoting Marx while denouncing taxes?  Genius.”

The creators of that Facebook page tell us tonight that they had not yet seen Mr. Stack‘s line invoking communism when they started this Facebook group in support of him.  While we were actually—that we had a producer on the phone talking with them, during that conversation, that Facebook page disappeared.  Facebook is taking it down today just after 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Joining us now is NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.

Andrea, thank you for being here, helping us sort this out.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  It is so crazy.  The whole thing is so crazy and so tragic, but clearly, a criminal act.  The FBI and domestic—not terrorism, not the CIA.

MADDOW:  And that decision was made very early in the day it seems.

MITCHELL:  Very early.  They figured it out.  The key clue, of course, was that the house was on fire.  Once they realized that this was the same person who had burned down his house—this is all presumptive unless some other evidence comes out because he died presumably.  Although there has not been DNA testing, they presume that he died in this crash.  They do have a body.

Because of all that, they now assume that he set his house on fire.  They also disabled a jerry-rigged device in a car also at that airport so that—

MADDOW:  A car that he had left at the airport.

MITCHELL:  That he had left with a bomb, with some sort of a device.

MADDOW:  A lot of what we‘ve learned about Joe Stack came from sort of Internet forensics, people digging around and finding the trail online.  Is it—did you get the sense that the federal government is ahead of or behind the general Internet public right now when it comes to these sorts of investigations?  A lot of what I learned—first, I was hearing rumors on that online before I ever heard it confirmed by officials.

MITCHELL:  Well, there were so many people—including all of us, journalists—

MADDOW:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  -- and citizen journalists, all sorts of people, the online community, looking at this.  We don‘t know exactly what the federal government had.  The FBI and the CIA do work together in a Counterterrorism Center, as you know.  And so, they know whether to hand off—who to take the lead on something like this.

They quickly—what they do is they go back and look at possible threat nexus leading up to an event such as this.  That‘s how they quickly try to sort through something they may have overlooked, some threat from some foreign connection.  They very quickly figured out that Major Hasan had a foreign connection.  In this case, it was not, and then, clearly, it was domestic.

Once they found the manifesto.  I don‘t know who was first with it, but 3,000 words clearly talking about years and years, decades, of grievances against the IRS.

MADDOW:  Some of which made sense—at least in the sense that they made sense rationally, some of which didn‘t make any sense.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  It was hard to follow (ph) any real—I mean, I think people instantly, which was the case I think with this Facebook group, were looking for some sort of clear political message or clear political signal here—you can‘t find that in the Unabomber manifesto, I don‘t believe you can find that here.

MITCHELL:  Well, that‘s what this immediately reminded me of.  And just a point about Facebook, because as you noticed, your producer, we were all looking through these postings, and they came down around 6:00.  So, our Pete Williams, who has been working on this all day, got in touch with Facebook and they did give us a response to why they took it down.

And they basically said in response to, you know, our questions that they have a team that removes contents that violates their policies, which include content that‘s hateful, makes actionable threats, or includes nudity, pornography.  And inline with that policy, quote, “We remove several groups supporting Joseph Stack‘s actions that were themselves credible threats of future violence.”  Other groups remain online which were—when they last checked—not overly threatening.

So, they‘re saying that there are some—they were not censuring, but they do have—

MADDOW:  Threatening nature of the—

MITCHELL:  -- they do have policies and they did find that some of this was objectable (ph).

MADDOW:  In terms of this being a lone wolf action and as you say, not seeming to have any foreign connection, seeming to be a troubled, mentally-ill man with a lot of grievances, some seemingly real, some seemingly imagined—what happened with the law enforcement in terms of the next steps, in terms of dealing with lone wolf threats like this?

MITCHELL:  Well, had he survived there would be a clear series of events.  I think this will be an investigation to see what led up to it, to make sure that there is no conspiracy, that there are no other people involved—his wife and there‘s a child involved.  There had been a domestic dispute according to neighbors and other authorities.

So, there‘s a lot of sadness here and some tragic survivors.  But they‘ll have to nail all this down.  But if he was, in fact, a lone wolf, then there won‘t obviously be any criminal prosecution.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Loose ends to tie.

NBC News correspondent, the host of MSNBC‘s “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS,” which is at 1:00 p.m. Eastern—

MITCHELL:  Thanks.

MADDOW:  -- everyday here on MSNBC and which I enjoy very much.  Thank you.

MITCHELL:  Always a pleasure.

MADDOW:  Appreciate it, Andrea.

In the first three quarters of the year 2009, the sixth largest publicly-held insurance companies in this country dropped 2.2 million customers—which it turns out has been great for the bottom line.  Welcome to America‘s future without health reform.  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joins us for “The Interview” next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In case you haven‘t noticed, health reform is back.  Or at least the Pfeiffer health reform is back.  And in the frontlines today, the Obama administration is out with a new report that sees your outrage over Wellpoint‘s giant rate hike plan for California and raises you six more giant rate hikes in other states and a projected future of rate hikes forever and for all. 

Wellpoint‘s initial plan to raise rates for Anthem Blue Cross customers in California by up to 39 percent has been postponed after a firestorm of protests.  A variety of state and federal officials are looking into that.  But the Department of Health and Human Services says it‘s not just Anthem and it‘s not just California. 

Today‘s report highlights huge increases or attempts at huge increases in states like Michigan where Blue Cross/Blue Shield has put in a request to raise rates for individual insurance plans by 56 percent. 

Or states like Maine where Anthem was rejected by the state when it requested an 18.5 percent premium increase last year.  Now, they‘re back saying they want to hike rates even more, by 23 percent. 

Premium hikes like these aren‘t just explained by increased health care costs.  Many of these hikes are five or even 10 times higher than the increase in the cost of care. 

HHS also says the biggest insurance companies made 56 percent more profit in 2009 than they did in 2008, all while insuring fewer Americans and spending a smaller proportion of the money they take in, in premiums, on actual medical care. 

In other words insurance companies are making more money because they‘re providing less to fewer people.  Awesome.  And that, says the Department of Health and Human Services, is why we need health reform.

And here‘s a part where a rapidly growing group of Senate Democrats enters stage left.  Last night, on this show, we talked about a letter written by four Democratic senators to Harry Reid calling for the return of the public option. 

These four senators asked Mr. Reid to bring the public option for a vote under budget reconciliation rules, which means it couldn‘t be filibustered.  A real majority, 51 votes, is all it would need to pass. 

The letter from those four Senate Democrats was public on Tuesday.  By Wednesday, by our show last night, seven other senators had signed on to it.  And now, there are yet seven more.  We‘re up to 18 - 18 Democratic senators publicly calling for a vote on the public option by a legislative means that would avoid the filibuster so it could pass with a simple majority. 

Joining us now is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Madame Secretary, thank you so much for your time.  It‘s nice to have you here. 

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES:  It‘s nice to be with you.  Welcome to D.C. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  I‘m having a good time.  Specifically on the Anthem plan hike in California, you have asked the company to try to justify that hike.  They have made some responses to your request and state officials‘ request.  Have you felt like you‘ve received a satisfying answer? 

SEBELIUS:  Well, I think for a company that posted a huge profit in the fourth quarter of 2009, $2.7 billion to be exact, to turn around and then say to 800,000 Californians the following week, “We desperately need to increase your rates by an average of 39 percent,” doesn‘t seem to make a whole lot of sense. 

And we‘re talking about people, Rachel, in the non-group markets that don‘t have the protection of being able to negotiate in a bigger pool.  They don‘t have the opportunity to get discounts. 

Most of these folks are locked out of the group market because the employers don‘t offer coverage or they may have a pre-existing condition.  So they really have no options.  And they‘re looking at coming up with thousands of dollars more or not having coverage at all. 

MADDOW:  Sounds like you‘re not satisfied with that explanation. 

SEBELIUS:  Not so much. 

MADDOW:  You said today that the president plans to put out a proposal for health reform before this big bipartisan summit that‘s due to happen next week.  What should we expect the plan to look like?  Is it a combination of the House and Senate bills? 

SEBELIUS:  Well, I think he‘s likely to get a lot of the best ideas.  As you know, the House and Senate have worked for over a year on really comprehensive health reform to lower costs, premium costs to individuals and families.  And the CBO says both bills do that to lower the long-term rise in health care costs so that we don‘t face increases year after year after year. 

The Congressional Budget Office again says both bills do that to cover a lot more Americans.  I mean both these bills address - 30 million to 35 million additional Americans would have affordable coverage and finally, to go after the insurance companies for the kinds of practices that we see here. 

And not only the kinds of rate increases but the kinds of restrictions and benefits, kicking people out of the market, locking people out of the market.  Those rules would change once and for all. 

MADDOW:  Between the two bills that have passed - one passed in the House, one passed in the Senate.  The Senate is rather more conservative bill.  If that ends up being the basis for what is finally signed, would that bill actually prevent the kinds of rate hikes that I described in this introduction that your department did this report on today? 

SEBELIUS:  Well, what it would do in both the House and Senate bill is it wouldn‘t take over insurance regulation away from the states.  It would assume that the states are the first line of defense, but it would do a couple of things.  One is require a huge spotlight on any rate increases.  Companies would have to basically file online.  Anybody anyplace would get to figure out what‘s going on.  Just a spot light on Anthem has made them delay for two months what‘s going on. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

SEBELIUS:  And I think, you know, we‘ll see what happens there.  It also would have a requirement for a medical loss ratio at about 85 percent.  So the money that comes in the door, about 85 percent of it would have to be spent on paying for health cost, not for CEO salaries, not for advertisement, not for overhead cost, but health cost. 

That‘s very different than it is today.  And we require that, if that doesn‘t happen, the money would have to be rebated to customers.  So you‘d make sure that you couldn‘t have this dramatic increase in rates and not a dramatic increase in health cost and some choice and competition, which is huge. 

MADDOW:  On the matter of choice and competition - when I heard about the Anthem/Blue Cross hike and actually - the people in my personal life who are affected by that directly. 

And my feeling about that is, you know, while I wish that the insurance companies were regulated so that couldn‘t happen in a way - I sort of feel that way. 

But more than anything, I feel like, wow, insurance companies have been really awful and they‘ve - we‘ve left - entrusted essentially creating an American health care system.  They‘ve done a really bad job of it. 

I don‘t know of anybody who loves their insurance company.  I know a lot of people like their doctor.  And looking at those rate hikes - yes, I want regulation. 

But really, I want people to have an option to get something other than private health insurance because I think private health insurance has not been great for American people.  It just really hasn‘t.

There are some things that are nice but the overall system really hasn‘t worked.  And it‘s made me the want the public option maybe more than I‘ve ever wanted it, looking at these hikes again.  Do you guys in the administration understand the visceral reason that the public option still polls so well?  We really don‘t trust the insurance companies to have our best interests at heart in this country. 

SEBELIUS:  Well, I think that the essential piece is some competition.  In most of these cases and across the country, about 94 percent of the market, companies have a monopoly.  There‘s no one to compete with. 

And particularly, if you are the mom who wrote me from California looking at a 38 percent rate increase which translates for her into $7,000 a year more for her family.  Her son has Type 1 diabetes. 

She‘s a single mom.  She has no options at all.  She can‘t drop coverage because it could be a life-or-death situation for her kid.  She doesn‘t know where she‘s going to come up with $7,000 and there‘s no other company to go to. 

So what she needs desperately is an option and an affordable option to help pay the premium.  But some competition - you know, let‘s go back to just market principles.  Let‘s compete. 

Insurance companies should not have a monopoly.  They should not

be able to, you know, have profits that so far exceed any health care costs

that -

MADDOW:  But in the competitive market - we have a more-or-less competitive market that we have now.  Nobody thinks - looks at one insurer and says, “Now, they‘re doing an awesome job serving all of their customers.” 

The private insurance writ large hasn‘t done a great job, that‘s why we want a public option to compete with them.  These 18 Democratic senators want to bring that back into the fold.  If that happened, would the administration fight for it? 

SEBELIUS:  Well, I think, certainly.  If it‘s part of a decision of the Senate leadership to move forward, absolutely.  And the president said from the outset he thought that was a great way to provide cost reduction and competition.  But if that is not the choice of the majority moving forward, I think there are other ways to get there. 

But the competition and choice for consumers are the essential features.  And we‘ve got to give people a way to afford coverage and also make sure that companies can‘t write their own rules.  And that‘s what‘s happening all over the country. 

MADDOW:  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, I‘m really thank you for your time.  It‘s nice to have you on the show. 

SEBELIUS:  Great to be with you. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Good luck.

SEBELIUS:  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  Public option.  There, that was my lobbying for the day.  All right.  Still ahead on this show, the great adventure that was my own personal trip to the conservative confab, CPAC, today, all caught on tape. 

Have I told you yet that I shook Liz Cheney‘s hand today?  Yes. 

And it‘s the next to last day our rename the filibuster problem contest. 

The latest entries are inspired.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Quick update on our ongoing call-all-100-senators effort to figure out just who wants to fix the filibuster problem that‘s stopping up the Senate and who has a better name for it than the “filibuster problem.” 

First joining Senators Orrin Hatch and Chris Dodd in the “No, I don‘t want filibuster reform” column, we‘ve now got that Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Republican Senator James Mountain Inhofe of Oklahoma.  His fellow Republican senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn and Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia. 

Thank you to those senators and staffs for getting back to us.  We also have a late add.  Alaska Senator Mark Begich has just contacted our producers that Sen. Begich, Democrat of Alaska, supports filibuster reform.  Specifically, he supports Tom Udall‘s proposed filibuster reform efforts. 

We do have calls out to all senators to clarify their exact position on filibuster reform.  We do have a handful of responses.  Some people still deliberating their exact position.  We‘ll keep an update going and keep you posted. 

In our ongoing “rename the filibuster problem” contest.  Today‘s featured entries include “discombobulegislation,” “obstructioneering,” “don‘t pass, don‘t tell,” which I like for obvious reasons, “minority resort” and “majority-proofing the senate.” 

If you have a good suggestion for a new name for the filibuster problem, the competition is still happening online, Rachel.MSNBC.com.  We‘re looking to declare a winner by tomorrow.  Please keep them coming. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Later tonight, on “COUNTDOWN,” Sen. Mellencamp of Indiana.  I can‘t decide if I like the sound of that better or worse than Sen. Cougar of Indiana.  In any case, Keith examines both possibilities. 

And next on this show, do you want to see me trying to talk to the Cheney family in person?  We have the tape.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW (on camera):  This is as close as I‘ll ever get to interviewing Liz and Dick Cheney. 

MADDOW:  Hi, Rachel Maddow from MSNBC.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF DICK CHENEY:  How are you? 

MADDOW:  Take care.  I think that was it.  I don‘t know what she said. 

She smiled at me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will you sign the Sarah Palin cover? 

MADDOW:  Oh, sure.  Do you have a sharpie? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do we have a sharpie? 

MADDOW:  Or give me that fat one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can even on the face if you want to.  You can do whatever you want. 

MADDOW:  Here you go. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you very much. 

(CROSS TALK) 

MADDOW:  Thanks a lot.  Hope you guys have a great conference.  Take care. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of requests for you. 

MADDOW:  For me? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  I‘m offended.  Nobody wants to stomp me out.  Chris and Keith, I want to tell one thing about this.  They picked very handsome pictures of you guys.  I mean, really.  You have to admit.  He doesn‘t look puzzled.  He looks fierce. 

Chris looks delighted to be here and Keith looks like, “don‘t mess with me.”  I think there is a secret undercurrent of flattery. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  One of the great reasons to go to conferences - one of the only reasons to go to conferences is to mess around on a video camera at other people‘s biz, but also the swag, the free stuff that exhibiters give away. 

My haul from the Conservative Political Action Conference today included some tangible, interesting windows into the modern conservative movement.  For example, I learned today that there are a lot of large pictures of Sarah Palin in the modern conservative movement.  They were free. 

To be fair to the folks who gave these out, you actually had a choice.  Giant, five-times-larger-than-life Sarah Palin facial close-ups or giant five-times-larger-than-life Ann Coulter facial close-ups.  I picked Palin and I definitely saw Ana Marie Cox picking Ann Coulter. 

There were those wipe your feet on Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews doormats, “Stomp out the liberal media.”  They did not have one for me, which I am trying not to take too personally, though, as I mentioned, I do think that both Chris and Keith look super-cute in the pictures they chose to use of them for these floor mats. 

Liz Cheney‘s group, Keep America Safe, was there.  I just lurked for a long time around their booth thinking she would stop by unofficially because they had to sign up that she was going to be appearing. 

Ultimately, all I got, though, was this bumper sticker, “Guantanamo saves lives.”  I did shake Liz Cheney‘s hand.  I did say hi later when she and her dad were leaving a talk radio interview. 

Today, you could buy books about “The Tyranny of Liberalism” and “The Consumer‘s Guide to the Apocalypse.”  They were right next to each other.  There was a whole booth devoted to one lady telling a sad and inexplicable tale about her brother invented a blood pump.  She was a very nice lady.  I don‘t know what it had to do about CPAC. 

The one bad experience at CPAC was a guy yelling at me and getting up in my face and being sort of physically threatening after making a beeline to me through a crowd to hand me this flyer. 

And I said, “Thank you, who are you?”  And he yelled right in my face, “We‘re normal people.  What about you?”  He did not seem like normal people, but more specifically, he was from an organization called Tradition, Family, and Property, whose booth I sought out later.  They said it would be unclean to have gay people in the military and they have this neat-o gold, Welsh-looking crest. 

Also, Ronald Reagan calendar.  Did you see that?  Ronald Reagan calendar - yes - which is - features Ronald Reagan, followed by Ronald Reagan, followed by Ronald Reagan, followed by Ronald Reagan, followed by - wait, I think there‘s, oh, yes, Ronald Reagan - there he is.  Followed by Ronald Reagan and a horse. 

A lot of Ronald Reagan here.  As much Ronald Reagan as you could possibly handle.  This was the best one, Ronald Reagan and the bottom of his shoe.  This is supposed to celebrate tax cuts. 

Also, the American Petroleum Institute gave away jump drives loaded with their Web site, they said, which is kind of a weird thing, since Web sites live on the Internet, even if you don‘t have one of their flash drives. 

I commiserated with the American Petroleum Institute about how utterly more enormous their booth was in comparison to everybody else‘s booth.  The API had such a huge booth they had to put them way back in a corner. 

They said it would have been weird to have to shrink it down and that‘s just their standard booth.  They also had personalized M & Ms - oil. 

The more down market Liberty Central also had food, but they just printed out these little cuffs they wrapped around Hershey bars.  There were lots of people giving away copies of the Constitution.  But in a way, that sort of bothers me. 

They couldn‘t resist adding their own documents to the Constitution, so you can get the Constitution plus, say, the mission statement of the anti-ACLU, American Civil Rights Union.  Or you can get the Constitution plus the mission statement of the Young Americans Foundation. 

Or you can get the Constitution with a foreword by Ron Paul.  As much as I love Ron Paul, I don‘t think you get to write a foreword to the Constitution.  The Ron Paul group also sponsored sort of an anti-Lincoln, “Lincoln wasn‘t such a great guy speech.”  Also, “a real conservative shouldn‘t support the war on terror” speech. 

The Oath Keepers is a group.  They were mentioned in the “New York Times” this week.  They‘re law enforcement people who pledge to disobey laws that they don‘t like with their guns and stuff. 

The Oath Keepers, however, were AWOL when I went by their booth today.  They all just left to go to lunch together and left their booth unmanned.  AWOL, Oath Keepers. 

The Free State Project wants people to move to New Hampshire for the second American revolution.  The magazine “Human Events” was selling the idea that Alan Grayson is the biggest jerk in Congress, which I bet made Alan Grayson‘s day, knowing Congressman Grayson just a tiny little bit. 

Some other newsletter was trying to sell the idea that Bush beats Obama.  And no, that headline doesn‘t make more sense when you read the article - trust me, I tried.  Inside the “Bush beats Obama” newsletter, there‘s a nice sort of racist-ish cartoon as President Obama as a loose Tiger Woods character with three white girlfriends. 

President Obama is also denounced as arrogant, because - you know.  And this is the thing that I bought today.  And I paid cash money for “Let Freedom Ring‘s” publishing “Grandma‘s Not Shovel-Ready: Signs from 9/12 and the Tea Parties of 2009.”  I bought this - $10, no tax. 

Because there‘s so much complaining from the tea party and Fox news people that we‘re selective in the signage that we show from the events like 9/12 and the tea parties.   But really, the signs are almost all totally normal and not creepy.  And we, in the liberal media, single out the ones that make them look bad.

But these are the pictures from the book they published in their own tea party book about themselves.  This is the stuff they‘re bragging on in terms of their movement. 

And I think that was sort of a theme for me today.  Everybody was very nice to me, except for the creepy screaming guy from the anti-gay group, who I thought was going to hit me. 

But CPAC relishes its role as a showcase for the conservative movement and the conservative movement right now is really not afraid to let its freak flag fly, whether it represents a political calculation or not. 

They‘re happy to show off the “we want another revolutionary war,” “we think the black president is arrogant,” “we think the apocalypse is nice” side of themselves. 

And as supposedly mainstream Republicans speak at events like this and compete for CPAC‘s affections, Democrats have an opportunity here to make Republicans answer for what happens in this movement they‘ve allied themselves with. 

This is political strategy 101.  Which would Democrats rather?  That the next election be a referendum on President Obama, which is what these folks would like?  Or would Democrats prefer the election to be a choice between President Obama and this other option in American politics that the Republican Party has totally allied itself with. 

Obama referendum or choice between the Obama and the “we came unarmed this time” folks?  It really is a choice.  These folks are real and I have the anti-gay marriage souvenir pin to prove it. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MADDOW:  Before we sign off, one note.  Earlier, we said here that a bomb had been found in the car that Austin suicide pilot Joe Stack had left at the Georgetown, Texas airport.  For the record, NBC‘s Pete Williams says that despite earlier reports, Austin police cleared Mr. Stack‘s car at the airport and found no bomb.  I want to make sure we got that clear.

That does it for us tonight.  We will be on both at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and at our regular time tomorrow, for one night only.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.

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

END   

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 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,