updated 3/1/2010 10:40:26 AM ET 2010-03-01T15:40:26

Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Rehema Ellis, Kerry Sanders, Frank Pallone, Jonathan Cohn, David Corn, David Weigel

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

           

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

The road to reconciliation: The White House gives its blessings to congressional leadership to move ahead.  Will a final health care bill pass by April?  House Dems say Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the votes.  As for the Senate—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  It‘s up to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Meanwhile, more obstructionist talk from a one-man filibuster, Senator Jim Bunning.  This time, it‘s about jobs.  And the gentleman from Kentucky isn‘t interested in helping out-of-work Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM BUNNING ®, KENTUCKY:  And I‘m going to object every time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  As scandal forces New York‘s accidental governor, David Paterson, to finally throw in the towel, another embattled politician joins the Luv Guv club.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons is confronted at the Reno airport over whether he went to the governors‘ conference with his girlfriend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No one else came with you on this trip?

GOV. JIM GIBBONS ®, NEVADA:  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  So, is this a cardboard cutout of your girlfriend with you and the governor of the Appalachian Trail?

Plus, the latest on the deadly attack at SeaWorld.  What got into the killer whale that turned on its trainer?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ATCHISON, SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT:  He‘s a very special animal that requires special handling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And Bill O‘Reilly says his new colleague Sarah Palin wants to run in 2012, but has a lot to learn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Sarah Palin needs to go to college—political college, world affairs college, and she is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  At FOX News university, to be exact, with Dean Ailes at the helm.  We‘ll have the latest on Palin‘s independent study with Professor Beck.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  We just don‘t get it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from Los Angeles.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

If President Obama had been hoping to reach bipartisan agreement on reform at yesterday‘s health care summit at Blair House in Washington, it appears he did—but only concerning one point: That Republicans and Democrats seem as deeply entrenched in their respective positions as ever, if not more so.

Senate Republicans have claimed victory in the wake of the summit.  At a fundraiser last night, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, quote, “Health care is a winner of enormous magnitude for us.”

“Talking Points Memo” reports that the White House has told congressional leaders they can move forward on health care reform with a goal of passing final legislation by April.  No word in what order the various bills should be passed.

At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today previewed that President Obama will announce the way forward on health care in the middle of next week.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi today insisted that the question of what happens next with health care is entirely up to the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  A simple majority and that‘s what we‘re asking the Senate to act upon.  Well, it‘s up to them.  What is the Senate able to do with a simple majority, and then we will act upon that.  But I believe we have good prospects for passing legislation in light of the recognition the president gave to the concerns of the House members.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Last night, senior advisor David Axelrod said that Republican complaints about the possibility of using reconciliation were hypocritical—adding that what the American people really want on health care is a final vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR:  All they want is an up or down vote and they want to move on.  Have—let‘s have a vote, let‘s finish this debate, let‘s have an up or down vote, let‘s not use procedural blocks.  Let the vote be held, let the majority rule and let‘s move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Republican John McCain claimed that the single worst thing about the summit was President Obama‘s refusal to take reconciliation off the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I brought it up and, basically, his answer was: well, the people want a vote.  That was really the most disturbing part of this meeting today.  Reconciliation, that‘s the word, the meaning of it is: reconcile small differences between House and Senate on budgetary matters.  Never was it envisioned to affect one-sixth of our gross national product.  And that‘s clearly the path that he signaled that we are on.  It would be an outrage to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Lots to talk about with Congressman Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey.

Congressman Pallone, as we mentioned, the White House said today that President Obama would make an announcement next week on the way forward.  What do you expect the president to say and how specific do you expect him to be on what the legislative half should be?

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY:  Well, I don‘t know if he‘s going to get specific in terms of the process and actually say, let‘s do reconciliation.  I mean, obviously, that‘s one option.  I suspect that it‘s going to be more substantive about what‘s going to be included in the bill.  And it may be broad outlines or it maybe more specific.

But I really don‘t know.  We haven‘t been told, obviously, what the president is going to do specifically.

O‘DONNELL:  Do you believe now that the Democrats are going to go forward in reconciliation on both houses on this?

PALLONE:  I don‘t think that decision has been made.  I mean, it‘s certainly an option.  If you do reconciliation, you can do a lot of the things that the president would like to do.

You know, I always talk about three things.  One is to try to cover most Americans.  The second is to try to control cost.  And the third one is to eliminate any discriminatory practices, like buying or having health insurance available because of a preexisting condition.

The discriminatory practices part is a little difficult to do in reconciliation and that may have to be done separately or some parts of that separately.  But anything related to money or the budget is certainly could be done in reconciliation.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, can you—explain to me how you would get wavering Democrats to vote for the Senate bill?  Which is what everyone is saying would be necessary, pass the Senate bill first and then pass a reconciliation bill that would correct and repeal change, some of the elements in the Senate bill.

You would be asking them if they—if you ask them to vote for the Senate bill, as it is now, you‘d be asking them to vote for the giveaway to Ben Nelson in Nebraska, you‘d be asking them to vote for the carve-out on Medicare for Florida, and you‘d be asking them to vote on the deal Mary Landrieu‘s vote in Louisiana, and every one of those Democrats would face opponents in the upcoming election saying that they voted for all of those things and that their defense, their comeback would have to be, “Well, I voted for it before I voted against it.”

How do you convince—

PALLONE:  Well, Lawrence, I don‘t—

O‘DONNELL:  -- wavering Democrats that that‘s a workable proposition?

PALLONE:  Well, Lawrence, I don‘t think that the Democrats are going to see it that way.  I mean, I don‘t want to get into the specifics of the process, but essentially, the Senate bill is there and you‘re voting on amendments to the Senate bill, and eventually, it‘s the amended bill that goes to the president.  So, I don‘t think that my colleagues are going to be thinking much about other than what ultimately goes to the president.  And so, those provisions would come out.

The problem is that a lot of the things that are not money-related, such as discriminatory practices, those types of things would not be changeable or be able to dealt with effectively perhaps in reconciliation.  But I wouldn‘t worry about, you know, whether it‘s the Senate bill first or it‘s get amended.  Eventually, what goes to the president would be a bill that the House Democrats would like, and the provisions that you‘re talking about would be out when they got to the president‘s desk.

O‘DONNELL:  But you all would have had to vote on those provisions and vote in favor of those provisions, and you‘re going to trust your Republican opponents in the fall simply not to mention that vote you made on the way to the final vote?

PALLONE:  Lawrence, you know, your opponent will make up whatever they want.  In my own experience that, you know, they‘ll say whatever they want, so it doesn‘t matter.

I think the bottom line is, what is going to the president.  And if you do reconciliation, most of what we‘re concerned about in terms of setting up the process to cover all Americans through health exchange with subsidies, with the expansion of Medicaid so that something like, you know, 96 percent, 97 percent of Americans would be covered.  That would all be in there and you would have the competition with the health exchange to bring costs down so that, you know, you wouldn‘t see this continual rise every year.  We‘re talking about 20 percent or 30 percent increase in premiums that are being announced.

So, that‘s what the American people want to see.  A bill that, you know, basically puts a stop to those large increases every year, that covers most Americans and that eliminates discriminatory practices—you can‘t get insurance because of a preexisting health condition, for example.

O‘DONNELL:  And, Congressman, quickly, before we go, why is Nancy Pelosi suddenly willing to take a backseat to the Senate?  She‘s never done that before.  She‘s never said the Senate has to go first, before.

PALLONE:  Well, Speaker Pelosi is the most practical person I know, and she realizes that the Senate is a problem right now.  I mean—and so, you know, we‘re going to try to do whatever we can to get the votes in the Senate and, you know, accommodate them as best we can.  But we can‘t pass the Senate bill the way it is for some of the reasons that you mentioned and others.  But I think we can, through reconciliation, make the changes that the House wants so that the House—so we can have a majority in the House and still have a majority in the Senate.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey—many thanks for your time tonight.

PALLONE:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on the summit and what happens next, let‘s turn now to Jonathan Cohn, author of “Sick” and senior editor at “The New Republic,” who has been reporting on this health care reform crusade.

Jonathan Cohn, it seemed to me that the summit had prepackaged messages from both sides.  The Democrats insisting that they were very, very close to the Republicans, with apparently, the intent to make the Republicans seem unreasonable for being willing to make further compromises to get to the finish line.  And then the Republicans saying, come on, let‘s throw out this junk bill that America has rejected.

Was it really just that message war yesterday and not much else going on?

COHN:  Well, you know, actually, I can‘t to think that if the Republicans have showed up and were actually willing to make some sort of deal, I actually think President Obama might even have grabbed that and said, “Yes, OK, fine, let‘s cut some sort of deal.”  But I thought the events yesterday were incredibly clarifying.  You know, I think, most Americans, when they—when they hear the Republicans and Democrats have different positions about this, they assume it‘s just a difference of how you‘d achieve the same thing.  You know, everybody wants to do something about the insured.  Everybody wants to make sure everybody can get health insurance.

I thought the message I took away from yesterday was that the Republicans really don‘t think it‘s worth trying to make sure that we make sure everybody can have health insurance.  They don‘t have an answer to the way that how do you make sure people with preexisting medical conditions, how do you make sure they can get good health care insurance?  You know, President Obama asked that question.  They never had any answers.  You know, they would sidestep it.  They would talk about solutions that didn‘t really solve the problem.

So, I thought it was actually a very clarifying day.

O‘DONNELL:  And what do you make of Nancy Pelosi‘s sudden willingness to step back and let the Senate go forward?

COHN:  Well, yes, I don‘t think she‘s so much, you know, trying to defer to them out of courtesy.  Basically, the situation, as you explained earlier, there‘s two bills that need to be passed.  There is the Senate bill which the House has to pass exactly as it is written, and then, there is this reconciliation bill, which is going to have a few little fixes although they‘re important fixes, stripping out this giveaway to Nebraska, adding a little more money to the subsidies for people who are getting health insurance.

The problem for the House, the problem for Pelosi is that her members don‘t trust the Senate.  They don‘t believe that the Senate will really pass that reconciliation bill if the House goes first and just passes the Senate bill.  So, she wants some sort of ironclad guarantee—and, you know, whether that means the Senate actually has to vote first or there‘s this idea kicking around that maybe they could get 51 senators to sign the letter promising to take that vote, I don‘t know.

But what she‘s doing, she‘s saying, look, my members will do this, but they want to know the Senate‘s going to do its part first.

O‘DONNELL:  Going back to the Republican side of this, Mitch McConnell yesterday in a fundraiser declared this to be a victory for them, the summit worked as a victory for them.  In terms of their politics going forward, what should we expect from them?  I think it‘s very clear we shouldn‘t expect any legislative compromise or legislative initiative from them.  But what do they do as the Democrats move toward reconciliation if that‘s what the Democrats are going to try to do?

COHN:  Well, the best possible outcome for the Republicans is to stop the Democrats from passing this bill.  Meaning, the Republicans have convinced quite a few Americans this is some horrible government takeover of medicine.  It‘s socialized medicine.  They‘re going to pull the plug on your grandma.

So, if they win, they have the virtue of having convinced Americans that the Democrats wanted this terrible plan, and if the Republicans, thank goodness, stopped it.

On the other hand, if the plan actually passes, not only have the Republicans failed to stop this bill, but, you know, Americans are going to discover that, oh, wait a minute, I like this bill.  This bill means that I can get health insurance.  It means that I don‘t eventually have to pay as much of my coverage.  I have more choices.  It means I‘m guaranteed that I won‘t have to pay too much in out-of-pocket costs.

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan Cohn with “The New Republic,” also author of “Sick”—thank you very much for your time tonight.

COHN:  Sure.  Good to be here.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: politics at its worst, at its most mean-

spirited.  Your unemployment benefits might be running out and one senator

one—is upset that he‘s missing a basketball game and he is blocking the extension of benefits.

           

And “FOX & Friends” with benefits: Bill O‘Reilly says Sarah Palin needs some schooling and now, Sarah is going on the road with Glenn Beck.  No word if he‘s going to use his chalk board.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Senator Jim Bunning takes his anger out on unemployed Americans.  Why he is the only senator blocking extension of benefits?

And caught on tape—the governor of Nevada says he didn‘t go to D.C.  with his girlfriend, except the videotape of her with him at the airport suggests something else—as does the picture of the happy couple posing with Governor Mark Sanford.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  We sure are not going to miss Senator Jim Bunning, the Republican from Kentucky, who will not run for a third term this year and is bitter about it because he says the Republican leaders in the Senate have tried to dry up his fundraising.

But what excuse can be made for a senator so bitter or stubborn or mean-spirited that he decides to be the lone holdout for extending short-term unemployment benefits to the millions unemployed in the worst recession since the Great Depression?

Senator Bunning resisted repeated attempts to pass the bill last night by unanimous consent, which was necessary because so many senators had already left town for the weekend, unaware that Bunning was going to block a bill that everyone else was in favor of.  The bill would extend unemployment benefits set to expire on Sunday, but it would also extend health insurance assistance for people who have lost their jobs.  But Bunning was not budging, and even mentioned how he was sacrificing because he was missing a college basketball game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUNNING:  I want to assure the people that have watched this thing go quarter of 12:00 --and I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00 and it‘s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they‘re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.  And—all of these things that we have talked about and all the provisions that have been discussed, the unemployment benefits, all these things, if we have taken the longer version of the—of the job—the job bill, that was a mutually agreed on bipartisan bill.  We wouldn‘t have spent three hours plus, almost 3 ½, telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn‘t give a damn about the people that are on unemployment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  At one point, when Senator Bunning was sitting in the back row of the chamber, he was asked by two Democratic senators to drop his rejection to the bill.  Bunning was overheard saying tough blank.

So, the Senate adjourned today and the bill will have to wait until Tuesday when the Senate again has enough members to bypass Bunning.  Meantime, some of those benefits will lapse.

Senator Dick Durbin, exasperated, said, quote, “I just don‘t think that one Senator ought to be able to heap this kind of suffering and misfortune on people who are already struggling in this economy.”

And Bunning‘s stunt drew this response from White House Press

Secretary Robert Gibbs:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The White House would call on Senator Bunning to agree to—agree to even vote on his own proposal so that the Senate and the House don‘t leave town with the health care benefits and the unemployment benefits of those that have lost their jobs, that those—we would not see those expire over this past weekend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones,” also a columnist for “Politics Daily,” David Corn.

David, the first part of the story is obviously Senator Bunning.  Now, there is always a silliest senator in the body.  Bunning has been that man for quite a while now.  But no one, even knowing him as they do, no one saw this coming.  I mean, in the list of Bunning craziness—is this about the nuttiest thing he‘s done on the Senate floor?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE:  This is the biggest curve ball or knuckleheaded pitch of his career.  I mean, he was a hall of famer baseball legend.  He had the second number of strikeouts—highest number of strikeouts when he left the game.  And he‘s gone from Hall of Fame to “hall of shame.”  He was a massive blunder on his part.

But, as you‘ve noted, he doesn‘t seem to care.  He‘s not running for

re-election.  He hasn‘t seemed to care for years.

           

He‘s known in the Senate for not giving a damn about what‘s going on.  He missed the historic vote on health care reform.  Last year, he disappeared from the chamber for a week without explaining it.

There‘s a long history of Bunning bizarro behavior.  And this is the culmination.  He really hit it over the fences on this move last night.

O‘DONNELL:  And you would think that maybe unemployment is running around 2 percent in Kentucky, but no, it‘s up over 10, over the national average rate.  Did the Democrats—

CORN:  In some counties—

O‘DONNELL:  And Harry—go ahead.

CORN:  I have to say, in some counties, it‘s even much higher than that in Kentucky.

O‘DONNELL:  And did the Democrats and Harry Reid maybe miss a chance here to stay on the floor with him and highlight Republican intransigents through this one senator blocking something that 99 senators want?

CORN:  Well, I spoke to some Democrats about that.  They took several runs at trying to persuade him to be reasonable and he kept saying, no, no, no.  They could have tried to invoke cloture and stay, you know, keeping the session.

But they‘re coming back, they say, on Monday, not just even on Tuesday, to work on a long-term plan to extend benefits for a year and not just for a month, and that this will sort of incorporate what they did.

It seems to me that Bunning did a pretty good job b of drawing attention to himself.  I‘m not sure how much more there was to gain by the Democrats keeping the Senate in session to make Bunning look even more foolish than he did.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, even though Republicans know he is their greatest

embarrassment in the Senate and they begged him not to run for reelection -

the party leadership—still, we have Republicans go out there—

           

CORN:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- and say positive things about him.  You had Senator Corker saying that the holdout, the one-man holdout—he said about, “That‘s something we honor in this body.”  Well, it‘s something that they have to live within the body, but most of them do not honor it when 99 want to pass something and one doesn‘t.  I mean, if they kept out—

CORN:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- if they stayed out there with Bunning, wouldn‘t we get more of these kind of lame statements from Republicans?

CORN:  Well, I think what—I think what happened, you heard a tremendous, deafening silence.  I mean, this happened last night and we—so, we‘ve had almost a whole day now and where are the Republican leaders denouncing Bunning or criticizing him?  They are not there.  They‘ve run for cover.  Corker did defend him.

And this is—what‘s stunning is, that they basically don‘t like Bunning to begin with.  He‘s been at odds with the Senate Republican leadership for very good reason, and here, he pulls this boneheaded move and they still can‘t come out and say, “We disagree.  We want to come back in and work in a bipartisan manner with the Democrats to get this thing done.”

So, I think the—

O‘DONNELL:  David Corn of “Mother Jones”—we‘re going to wrap it there, David.

CORN:  OK.

O‘DONNELL:  David Corn of “Mother Jones”—thank you very much for coming in tonight.

CORN:  Sure thing, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: another problem for another governor—in the middle of a divorce in which he said he hadn‘t had sex for 15 years.  The governor gets caught lying about where he‘s been with his new woman friend.

And, snowmageddon hits the northeast again.  Nearly two feet of snow in New York City.  Elsewhere, hurricane force winds.  Details—next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  In a winter already destined to go down in history, yet another record has fallen today.  This time it‘s New York City.  Central Park now with its largest monthly snowfall ever.  More than a million people throughout the northeast lost power.  As Rehema Ellis reports, the entire region is now begging for mercy. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  it‘s the fourth major snowstorm in a month, and one more storm the region didn‘t need.  Across the New York area, starting early in the morning, people struggled to keep up with the falling snow.  In the northern regions, heavy snowfall took out power lines across the northeast, leaving more than a million without electricity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We lost power 9:00 last night.  No heat, no electricity.  We managed to sleep through the night, and this morning woke up.  There was still no power. 

ELLIS:  Travel was treacherous.  A 20 mile stretch of I-84 was at a standstill for hours, stranding hundreds of motorists in their cars, some since last night. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We haven‘t moved an inch and it‘s a little over 15 hours now. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  On a weather day like this, you never know what to expect.  You always have to be open for anything. 

ELLIS:  The major airlines were in business, but more than a thousand flights were canceled at New York and New Jersey‘s three airports. 

In Hampton, New Hampshire, firefighters continued at the scene of a blaze that broke out just after midnight.  Fueled by winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour, the fire destroyed an entire block.  No one was injured. 

All this weather comes at a huge cost for cash-strapped towns, even cities with snow removal budgets in the millions. 

MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA MAYOR:  We‘ve anticipated already spending about 11.5 million dollars.  Now with this storm, we‘ll easily go over 15 million dollars. 

ELLIS:  Despite the pile-up of Winter woes, some still made the best of it.  Back here in New York, more than a million New York City school kids got a head start on the weekend. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I just want a storm that‘s two weeks long. 

ELLIS:  For just the fourth time in six years, New York City public schools were closed. 

(on camera):  While the storm is winding down, people flying in and out of this region tomorrow are advised to check ahead with their airlines.  There could still be many delays. 

Lawrence. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Rehema Ellis reporting.  >

Ahead on COUNTDOWN, when denying you‘re at the governors conference

with your girlfriend, it‘s probably not a good idea to take photos of the

two of you there. especially with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. >

And the tragedy at Sea World.  Executives there today explaining the show will go on, and what they will do now to protect the trainers from the killer whales.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  What is it about life in governors‘ mansions that makes men lose all self control?  From Bill Clinton to Eliot Spitzer to Spitzer‘s unelected successor, David Paterson, to South Carolina‘s Mark Sanford, and now Nevada‘s Jim Gibbons? 

Tonight‘s goofy governor update begins in the Empire State.  Today, New York Governor David Paterson announced he will not seek election to that office.  The “New York Times” had a report that Paterson intervened in a domestic violence situation between one of his top aides and that aide‘s wife.  Paterson read the “New York Times” report and quit.  Governor Paterson originally announced he was running last Saturday.  His campaign lasted 144 hours. 

Then there‘s Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, soon to be an ex-governor, soon to be an ex-husband.  A judge in Charleston today granted wife Jenny Sanford‘s request for divorce on the grounds of adultery.  Governor Sanford‘s troubles began, you recall, last year when he lied to the media about hiking on the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually in Argentina with his, as he put it, soul mate. 

And finally, the other governor in the middle of a divorce, Jim Gibbons of Nevada.  Late Monday night, Gibbons had a run-in with the local CBS I-Team at the Reno Airport.  Governor Gibbons had been in Washington, DC for the National Governor‘s Conference. 

The I-Team wanted to know why his alleged girlfriend was with him on the return flight.  Gibbons said he was alone.  He said his alleged girlfriend, Cathin Karrasch (ph), was not in the airport.  And he said she was certainly not with him in Washington.  The I-Team found Karrasch at the airport ducking into a bathroom, and later actually shot footage of the couple leaving the airport in the same car. 

Tuesday, Governor Gibbons apologized for misleading the I-Team, maybe because he realized this photo would eventually leak out.  At a dinner for the governors at the White House, that‘s Gibbons, Karrasch and, of all people, Mark Sanford. 

Despite his blatant lying, Governor Gibbons got a seven-point bump in the poll taken after the airport incident.  That is the Clinton bump you get for being involved in a sex scandal.  Maybe the new voters supporting the governor hadn‘t yet seen the I-Team‘s handiwork.  And then again, maybe they had. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We met with Governor Jim Gibbons at the Reno Airport Monday night.  When we asked about the trip and a possible Reno love interest, he became upset at our questions. 

Did you go with anyone today? 

GOV. JIM GIBBONS ®, NEVADA:  Well, what‘s it to you?  Yeah, I went with security. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And anyone else? 

GIBBONS:  What‘s it to you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Karrasch became romantically linked to the governor after he sent her 800 texts messages in the past, this at a time while they were married to other people. 

No one else came with you on this trip? 

GIBBONS:  No one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kathy Karrasch did not accompany you? 

GIBBONS:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She did not? 

GIBBONS:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘s not in this airport right now? 

GIBBONS:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was not on that flight? 

GIBBONS:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Despite what the governor says, our cameras caught Karrasch going into an airport bathroom.  She came out and ran inside when she saw our camera. 

When she came out, we asked her about the trip. 

Did you attend this conference in any way with the governor? 

KATHY KARRASCH, ALLEGED GIRLFRIEND OF GOVERNOR JIM GIBBONS:  I did not attend any conference in any way. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She walked toward an SUV with tinted windows, the governor‘s state-owned vehicle. 

You say you did not attend the conference with the governor, even though we saw you coming off the plane directly after him? 

KARRASCH:  You know what?  I could have been in Las Vegas having tea with the First Lady. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you see him at all in Washington, DC? 

KARRASCH:  Does it matter? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it does to the people of Nevada. 

KARRASCH:  The people of need to know he is a very honorable, trust worthy man, which is a little less than I can say about you at this point. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you spend time with him this weekend? 

KARRASCH:  You know what, it really doesn‘t matter who I spent time with.  I spent time with Arnold Schwarzenegger this weekend.  Does that matter to you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was he at the governors conference? 

KARRASCH:  I don‘t know.  You better ask him. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No comment. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Meanwhile, the governor‘s security officer tried to move our cameras away, and help Karrasch get into the back seat. 

You work for the governor‘s detail. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you obstruct a police officer, I can take you to jail. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then the governor walked out to the vehicle. 

Governor, you just told us just ten minutes ago that Kathy Karrasch was not on this flight.  Do you want to change your statement?  

GIBBONS:  She was not with me in Washington, DC.  I can‘t control where she goes or what she does. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you just happened to be in Washington, DC with her, and happen to be leaving in the same car with her. 

GIBBONS:  No.  She was not in DC. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why are you with her right now? 

GIBBONS:  I‘m giving her a ride home because she lives near me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You happened to be on the same flight? 

GIBBONS:  Vegas, yeah.  Prove it otherwise, because you know what—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She did say that she met the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, this weekend. 

GIBBONS:  You know what?  She met him someplace.  That‘s fine.  I don‘t—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you also said she wasn‘t on this flight with you.  You lied to me. 

GIBBONS:  I didn‘t say—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I asked you whether she was on the flight with you. 

GIBBONS:  The flight went into Vegas.  She was not on that flight. 

She was on the flight coming from Vegas to Reno. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Either way, Kathy Karrasch landed in the same plane with you.  Were you sitting with her on the flight? 

GIBBONS:  It‘s a public flight.  It‘s a public airport.  It‘s a public plane. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sir, we‘re literally less than 12 hours away from a special session that is going to decide almost a billion dollars in cuts, and here you are with a woman who is not your wife. 

GIBBONS:  You‘re full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  You are.  You really are.  All you‘re doing is out here late at night trying to make a scene, and there‘s nothing to that.  She flies whenever she flies. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Well, someone is certainly full of something. 

Coming up, new video just minutes before a killer whale attacked his trainer.  What will happen to the whale now that he‘s killed yet again?

And first came the Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin TV love fest.  Now they are asking people to shell out money to see a Beck/Palin stage show. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.  Among their topics, the Wellpoint rate hikes in California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Two days after trainer Dawn Brancheau‘s life was taken by a 12,000 pound killer whale, the Shamu Believe Show at Sea World in Orlando is set to return at 11:00 am tomorrow.  Sea World‘s president and CEO Jim Atchison holding a news conference this afternoon in front of an orca-filled backdrop.  The headlines, there will be a charitable foundation created in honor of Dawn Brancheau, and a video tribute to her at tomorrow‘s show. 

The massive whale, a male named Tilicum, will continue to work in shows, and resume his husbandry.  The whale is a prolific breeder, the only living killer whale grandfather in captivity.  Marine biologist Nancy Blake telling the website Discovery News that “Wednesday‘s tragedy could have been mating behavior.” 

As to whether Tilicum was regularly isolated from the other whales, causing stress for the animal, Atchison said, quote, “he‘s never separated.” 

That claim was undercut when a reporter pointed out the Tilicum was left out of Atchison‘s fish tank backdrop.  Then there was the question of the whale‘s past. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There have been three deaths that have been tied to this whale. 

JIM ATCHISON, SEA WORLD CEO:  Realize, the whale was at another facility before he joined our—what I‘m telling you is we‘ve had two incidents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The whale has been involved in three deaths.  How do you explain the combination of circumstances that all lead back to the same whale, and the judgment call to put people back in the water with this whale? 

ATCHISON:  What I‘ll say is the events surrounding the other incidents that Tilicum was part of are quite varied.  And actually there‘s information available on those, and we can make that available to you. 

Those incidents and the nature of them had really nothing to do with this particular event.  Those are separate interactions, separate events that occurred altogether, and really are not relevant to this particular altercation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was the same whale. 

ATCHISON:  Exactly, but very, very different circumstances. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Kerry Sanders continues with more on the history that Sea World was hesitant to discuss. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Veteran orca trainer Dawn Brancheau just minutes before her death.  A tourist camera recording her playful moments with the killer whale Tilicum.  Minutes before the orca attack, the tourist stopped recording.  Witnesses say Tilicum swung around and snagged the trainer‘s long ponytail, pulling her underwater. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He grabbed her by the head, and in a very hard thrust she went down.  I screamed and she screamed.  Then I started yelling to the other trainer, because he wasn‘t looking.  I said, he just took her down.  He took her down.

SANDERS:  Tilicum has a long history of human aggression.  In 1991, in an aquarium in British Columbia, Tilicum and a group of whales killed their trainer.  The aquarium closed after that.  Tilicum was sold to Sea World.  But a former trainer says it was not his understanding the whales would be used in shows. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They were not to be performance animals.  They were just to be displayed, primarily breeding animals. 

SANDERS:  Sea World disputes this claim, but confirms the orca has sired 13 calves since they bought him.  Tilicum also was involved in the 1990 death of a man who, it‘s believed, jumped into the tank when the park was closed. 

With Tilicum‘s known dangers, should this killer whale, the largest one in captivity, ever have been near humans? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The lesson is that confinement and isolation and removal from natural habitats drives whales a little crazy. 

SANDERS:  The trainer Dawn had spent almost half her life with the orcas at Sea World.  In 2006, NBC‘s Peter Alexander was the first non-professional to swim with Sea World‘s captive killer whales in more than two decades. 

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  The trainers I was in the water with explained to me that these killer whales were exotic marine animals that had been conditioned to work with humans, but made it very clear they were still killer whales. 

SANDERS:  Shows like these since the 1960s are credited with raising the awareness of orcas.  Because of laws in the US, killer whales can no longer be captured in the wild as they were in the ‘70s.  But that‘s driven up their value today to more than two million dollars. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Kerry Sanders reporting.

And now to political shows.  Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck taking to the same stage.  Is it all a part of the Fox News grand plan to educate Palin?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Great news!  Thanks to the efforts of a former boxing promoter, you will soon be able to see former half-term Governor Sarah Palin and Fox News Host Glenn Beck together, and apparently not a moment too soon.  Because that other Fox News host, Bill O‘Reilly, says that Palin needs to go to political college.  So perhaps, just perhaps, Mr. Beck can serve as an able tutor. 

Mr. O‘Reilly first.  He was asked whether he agreed with former Governor Jeb Bush‘s recommendation that Palin add some depth of understanding to her charisma. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Bush is right.  The governor is right in a sense that Sarah Palin needs to go to college, political college, world affairs college.  And she is.  She‘s hired a bunch of advisers, and they‘re giving her a whole bunch of tracks to learn, because it is a sophisticated deal. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Of course, Governor Palin is now part of Fox News.  As a contributor, doesn‘t Fox News count as political school?  With Roger Ailes, O‘Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, what more schooling does she really need? 

But if that‘s not enough, Palin will be appearing with Beck at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in March as part of the “Taking Our Country Back” Tour.  A production manager for the event told “Politico” that Palin will be paid, but far less than her 100,000 dollar speaking fee.  The event was organized by Tony Holden (ph), who is a former boxing promoter. 

But the so-called tour has only two dates.  Beck will appear at another rally with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.  However, as many as 10 more dates will be added if the first two are a success. 

Let‘s bring in David Weigel, a reporter with “The Washington Independent.”  David, before we get to the kind of school Sarah Palin might actually need at this point, should we be surprised that people like former Governor Jeb Bush and Bill O‘Reilly are willing to say out loud, publicly that she actually needs such a thing?  I mean, isn‘t that kind of a retroactive admission that she was not really ready to be one John McCain heartbeat away from the presidency? 

DAVID WEIGEL, “THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT”:  No, I don‘t think they mean it that way.  I think they mean it in in the Reading Rainbow, you can be anything you want sense.  This is something that is said about Palin every six months or so; if she just takes time off and gets schooled on the issues—let‘s say she wants to be a spokesman for energy, and bones up on that again—then she‘ll be a powerful force. 

She never really does it.  She prefers to do these softball interviews instead of actually talk about these things.  They mean this as a compliment.  If she wants to, she can talk about anything, learn anything. 

O‘DONNELL:  Is she able now to assemble this little school program for herself tuition free?  Are Republican advisers in Washington eager to lend their expertise and their time to her for no money? 

WEIGEL:  Not really.  Not in a way that‘s very—that‘s certainly not

visible when she goes on Fox and talks about these things.  She has a very

she has Fred Malick (ph), who is a Republican fixer around town, associated with a new Think Tank that launched last week, the National Action—American Action Network.  I apologize.  And she‘s got a small group of people with Sarah PAC. 

But she just lost her spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton.  It‘s actually not possible to reach her for media questions anymore, unless you‘re really good friends with her on Facebook.  You don‘t—if she is being tutored, it‘s very secret and it doesn‘t show up when she does—I listened to her on the radio today and most of the conversation was how silly reporters were for making fun of her hand notes and for not respecting her family enough, and how arrogant Barack Obama was.  If there‘s policy in there, it doesn‘t really come across. 

O‘DONNELL:  Is there any danger in this rally for her?  Glenn Beck clearly is a god of the Tea Party universe.  They‘re going to be there.  Tea Parties will be filling up the place.  But she now has her strains with the Tea Party movement, doesn‘t she? 

WEIGEL:  Not really.  I think the only danger would be if this does not sell out.  And I think it will.  She was able to move tickets about five times as much as these tickets will cost for the Tea Party convention, for one banquet speech.  This one has country music at it.  And it has Glenn Beck, who is a real, in the trenches Tea Party leader.  His 9/12 project is a way a lot of these guys get into the movement. 

I think this will be another hit for her, another situation where she can give a speech, get people like us talking about her, and not take any questions. 

O‘DONNELL:  David Weigel of “The Washington Independent,” thank you very much for your time tonight. 

WEIGEL:  Thank you so much.

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

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

END   

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