updated 3/2/2010 8:52:29 AM ET 2010-03-02T13:52:29

Guest: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ezra Klein, Chris Hayes; Lucy Jones.

HOST:  Good evening from New York.

So many of you have been so kind as to ask about the health of my

father that I thought I‘d provide a brief update before we start tonight‘s

edition of COUNTDOWN.  In a word, it‘s improved.  Not terrific but much

better than we thought when last we spoke on Wednesday night.  I‘ll be

providing a postscript to last week‘s “Special Comment” on the subject of

my father and health care and the end-of-life discussion—the life panel,

along with some of the responses to some of the responses a little bit

later on in the show.

For now, let me turn it over to Lawrence O‘Donnell with my request

to you that you listen attentively to his edition of this show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories

will you be talking about tomorrow?

The health care map: In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she‘s

got the votes.  In the Senate, the total in favor of the public option by

reconciliation now stands at 30.

With a tough primary battle ahead for Democrat Blanche Lincoln, will

the senator from Arkansas be next to sign on?

Meanwhile, the “party of no” continues to live up to its name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  It would really be the end of

the United States Senate as the protector of minority rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  If reconciliation is really the end of the Senate, how

come Senator Lamar Alexander has voted for it four times?

More GOP obstructionism, this time courtesy of Senator Jim Bunning -

the gentleman from Kentucky‘s legislative roadblock is worse than we

thought.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their unemployment and

health benefits.  Thousands of federal workers are left without pay.  But

Mr. Bunning isn‘t taking any questions.

      

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM BUNNING ®, KENTUCKY:  Excuse me!  This is a senator-only

elevator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Devastation in Chile.  The death toll from Saturday‘s

quake passes 700.  Looters take to the streets as aid slowly trickles in. 

The race to find survivors continues.

All of the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from Los Angeles.

COBRA, the health insurance benefits that Americans are allowed to

keep even after they have lost a job passed by budget reconciliation.  The

program got its strange name, in fact, from the first letters of the title

of the bill it was contained in, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget

Reconciliation Act of 1986.

The children‘s health insurance program known as SCHIP, without

which more than 7 million children would not be covered, passed in a budget

reconciliation bill.  Cancer screenings, hospice benefits, protections for

patients in nursing homes all paid for by Medicare, all passed by budget

reconciliation.

An NPR analysis has concluded that over the past three decades,

almost every major health financing measure achieved by Congress was passed

by budget reconciliation.

      

Democrats have all but concluded that the GOP has left them no

choice but to use reconciliation to achieve final passage of the health

care reform bill modeled on the ideas President Obama presented at last

week‘s summit at Blair House.  Over the weekend, Speaker Pelosi said that

she and her colleagues have an obligation to pass final health care reform

legislation, an obligation greater than their own desire to be re-elected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  It took courage to pass

Social Security.  I took courage to pass Medicare.  And many of the same

forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill. 

But the American people need it.

Why are we here?  We‘re not here just to self-perpetuate our service

perpetuate our service in Congress.  We‘re here to do the job for the

American people, to get them results that gives them not only health

security but economic security, because the health issue is an economic

issue for America‘s families.

      

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  In the Senate, Democrat Kent Conrad complained in an

interview this afternoon that his comment over the weekend that

reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform was

widely misinterpreted by those who took it to mean that reconciliation is a

nonstarter.  Senator Conrad today explained that he was merely saying that

reconciliation could only be used to pass some parts of the legislation,

which is exactly the approach House and Senate leadership is now

considering.

At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would not comment

directly on the possibility of using reconciliation to finish health care

reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president believes

that an up or down vote is necessary.  I think the Republicans could decide

not to filibuster and that would be one way.

First of all, the bill that passed—the basic health care bill has

passed the Senate.  It passed with 60 votes.  So, it didn‘t—that

legislation passed the Senate with a supermajority, not just with a

majority of votes.  Again, we‘ll have time to discuss this later in the

week when the president makes an announcement on moving forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And then there are the Republicans now trying to claim

that reconciliation would be the end of democracy as we know it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER:  It‘s for the purpose of taxing and spending and reducing

deficits.  But the difference here is that there‘s never been anything of

this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way. 

There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we could discuss.  It

would turn the Senate—it would really be the end of the United States

Senate as a protector of minority rights, as a place where you have to get

consensus instead of just a partisan majority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Meanwhile, more than half of the Democrats in the Senate

now back the effort to include the public option in a reconciliation bill. 

Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the latest to go on record, along with Senators

Patty Murray and Jeff Bingaman.  They bring the total number of Democrats

or independents who have signed the letter to Majority Leader Reid or who

support the idea in principle to 30.

Lots to talk about tonight with Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann

Schultz, Democrat of Florida.

Congresswoman, Minority Leader Boehner‘s office has put out a

statement tonight in which he calls reconciliation, quote, “a procedural

trick” that Democrats are trying to jam through the Congress.  But we have

yet to hear directly from the president on reconciliation.

What are you hoping to hear from the president on Wednesday on the

way forward?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Well, it‘s interesting

that Leader Boehner would say that.  That must make him a magician, because

he was fully immersed and involved in all of the reconciliation efforts of

the Republican leadership over the last number of years, including the Bush

tax cuts, which are, you know, even larger than—in terms of costs—

than this health care reform proposal.

You know, the bottom line here is that we just need to pass health

care reform with a simple majority up or down vote.  As you said, Lawrence,

the Senate has already passed a health care reform bill, comprehensive

health care reform, with 60 votes, a supermajority.  Reconciliation, which

is—you know, Washington speak for simple majority—would just clear up

the differences between the House and Senate bills and make sure that we

can send this bill to the president‘s desk and not allow the Republicans to

continue to be obstructionist, which is what they‘re interested the most in

doing.

O‘DONNELL:  Do you think that wavering Democrats in the House need

to hear the word “reconciliation” from the president?  Do they need

specific leadership from the president validating going forward in a

reconciliation bill?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I think the president needs to remain fully

immersed in this.  I think he needs to continue to quarterback the—

bringing the ball, you know, across the goal line here, so to speak. 

That‘s going to be a critical component to making sure that we can get this

done.

O‘DONNELL:  What is happening in the House as you watch the public

option gain favor in the Senate as part of a possible reconciliation bill? 

Is that giving more possible momentum for the House to insist on a public

option being in the bill?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, of course, we passed a health care reform

bill out of the House with the public option in it.  The majority of our

caucus continues to support that.  But I think, very likely, we will pass

health care reform without a—we are more likely to pass health care

reform without a public option, because we‘ve got the Senate bill as the

template and the reconciliation provisions need to be directly related to

budget measures.

So, I‘m not sure that we can do a public option under the simple

majority rules of reconciliation.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the leadership has been pretty frank.  In fact,

they‘ve been more open about this than I‘ve ever seen them—admitting

that they don‘t feel they have the votes as of now in the House.

What do they need to get those votes?  Do they need time?  Are there

persuasive devices that they have yet to use that they can use?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, I think once we start counting, we will

reach the—now 216 votes that we need to send this bill to the president. 

With the resignation of Congressman Nathan Deal, the Republican from

Georgia today, we now have—we need a majority which includes 216 of the

members of the body currently.

So, I think we‘re going to be working hard to figure out what

members‘ concerns—remaining concerns are.  We also, as the speaker has

stressed, need to put together the final legislative package and shop that

to members, make sure they understand what‘s in it, find out what their

concerns are, and as we whip—begin to whip this legislation, I‘m

confident, as the speaker is, that we‘ll get there.

O‘DONNELL:  One thing House members have trouble being confident

about is what the Senate is going to do.  What do you need to see from the

Senate before the House can act?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, we do need to make sure that they are

going to pass the—they‘re going to give us a simple majority vote on the

remaining measures that we need to work out on the differences between the

House bill and the Senate bill—because, obviously, it‘s very important. 

We have put our votes up on the board for health care reform.  We have

consistently been there and underscored the needs to make sure that we can

bring costs down for the American people, provide some security and

stability to those who have health insurance.  And with the $100 billion

deficit and the reduction—deficit reduction measure in this bill, we‘re

going to be able to get there.

O‘DONNELL:  Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz of Florida—

thanks for your time tonight.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on what happens—thank you—more on what

happens next, let‘s turn to Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and

“Newsweek.”

Ezra, today on your blog you were advocating the use of the term

“micro-reconciliation.”  We‘re getting down to the fine points here.  What

does micro-reconciliation mean?

EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, the term was suggested by

the blogger Nicholas Beaudrot, so credit where it is due.

And the idea is to distinguish between two types of things you do

with reconciliation.  One is to pass an entire bill.  Reconciliation is a

limited process, limited to directly budget-related things.  It‘s a very

tough thing to pass a big, multipart bill through reconciliation.

What we‘re doing here, though, isn‘t passing the whole bill through

reconciliation.  It is taking two bills, the House and Senate bills, and

creating or passing it by 11 pages, right now anyway, of changes that would

bring them into alignment, literally reconciling the two bills together.

And so, Nick suggested it be termed micro-reconciliation to

distinguish it from passing the entire legislative effort of

reconciliation, which has been confusing a lot of people out there as you

well know.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Conrad went into some detail yesterday about

reconciliation on television and it caused quite a stir.  I got a call at,

what was it, at 1:00 in the morning Washington time from a senator who

wanted to know what Conrad said and was it true about reconciliation not

being useable for health care.

I think he clarified it.  It was very clear to me what he meant,

which is what you‘re talking about here, which is he didn‘t believe you

could do the giant bill, what‘s already passed the Senate, for example, in

reconciliation.  But you can modify it in small ways, which is all they‘d

have to do in a reconciliation bill following it—what they‘re now

calling the reconciliation side car.

KLEIN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  But it really did create quite a stir in Washington

today, what did Conrad mean.  And this is what is getting more focus on it,

what I think is this smart term now, micro-reconciliation, isn‘t it?

KLEIN:  I think that‘s right.  And, you know, one thing we saw with

Conrad‘s comments, you knew what it meant.  I knew what it meant.  But it

confused a lot of folks in the press.  One thing that was important about

the 11-page document Barack Obama released of his changes was it left out a

lot of things that wouldn‘t fit in reconciliation.  So, what Conrad is

worried about if you did the whole bill through it is what‘s called the

Byrd Rule.  And the Byrd Rule says you can only do things that are directly

related to the budget.

So, insurance regulations are private regulations, and they do

affect the budget in the spending changes.  But it isn‘t directly about the

budget, so they go out.  What you don‘t see in the president‘s bill is

anything like that.  There‘s no abortion regulations.  I don‘t think

national exchanges—national exchanges aren‘t in there.  Excuse me.

There aren‘t things in there that even though they might be good

policies or politically necessary would not survive reconciliation.  What

we have here is a very limited reconciliation side car that has very little

to do with the whole bill, but just brings it to—into alignment in the

ways reconciliation is built to best accommodate.  Again, hence, micro

reconciliation.  We‘re using the process for its original purpose of

reconciling two different bills, rather than the broader purpose it has

come to end as you begun doing—tax cuts through it and welfare reform

and everything else under the sun.

O‘DONNELL:  And so, everything that‘s left in the bill—or that‘s

left out of the reconciliation bill will actually be, in terms of law, it

will be what‘s in the Senate bill if all of this passes—the notion is

the House will pass the Senate bill as written first and that will become

the law of the land and then the reconciliation package will amend that

slightly in different ways.  So that means, for example, that the Senate

language on abortion is what will be in law.

Can the House live with that and can they possibly round up enough

votes given that they‘re going to have to live with the Senate language on

abortion?

KLEIN:  Well, that‘s what Nancy Pelosi is trying to figure out right

now.  My sense is—from talking to people, is that you‘re seeing a lot

more optimism recently.  And one thing Pelosi is not known for is losing

votes.  My understanding is she actually hasn‘t even done it yet.

But you‘re right.  You have the big problem here is the Stupak 14. 

They came on for this very restrictive abortion language that got added in

at the last minute in the House bill.  Nelson lost a vote when he tried to

add it into the Senate bill.  So the language in the Senate bill is quite

restrictive.  It isn‘t as restrictive, so you may have lost the Stupak 14,

and the question is: how do you get these folks back?

Now, the Senate bill is somewhat more fiscally conservative than the

House bill, so maybe you get a couple like that and others are going to

need sort of very individual methods of persuasion.  But it is a lift in

part because—again, reconciliation you can do some things and not

others, and that does upset some of the delicate compromises we saw in the

earlier bills.  But that was always going to be how it was.  Bringing these

bills together was always going to be a tough project.

O‘DONNELL:  Ezra, I think you‘ll be continuing your tutorial here on

COUNTDOWN.  The national tutorial on reconciliation has about another month

to go in it I think.

Ezra, thank you very much for joining us tonight—Ezra Klein of

“The Washington Post” and “Newsweek” magazine.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Jim—coming up: Jim Bunning‘s wild pitch. 

The Republican senator‘s roadblock of unemployment benefits is having much

wider ripple effects.  And today, he responds with the senatorial

equivalent of “get off my lawn.”

And in Chile, the desperate search for survivors in the rubble of

Saturday‘s earthquake.  We‘ll get the very latest from the devastated

region.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  So, Senator Bunning didn‘t want to extend unemployment

benefits.  Did he realize his actions would also furlough thousands of

workers and trigger cuts in Medicare?  The ramifications for the “party of

no”—next.

And later, Keith returns with an update on his father and reaction

to his “Special Comment” last week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  A senator‘s bizarre behavior takes a cruel turn.  Since

Senator Jim Bunning blocked a short-term funding bill, the passage of which

was inevitable, unemployment benefits for 400,000 Americans have now

officially expired, and 2,000 people are now out of work.

Today, 2,000 federal transportation workers were furloughed without

pay, work was scheduled to stop at multiple construction sites around the

nation, several transportation safety programs were also halted, including

drunk driving programs—all thanks to Senator Bunning, sticking his thumb

in the works, an act that can be effective for only a few days. 

Unemployment benefits for 400,000 people affected, also a 21 percent cut in

Medicare fees paid to doctors has been triggered and though eventual

passage of a bill will correct these lapses, it will not be without

additional, unnecessary cost to the federal government.

But Bunning‘s behavior has surprised no one in the Senate.  When

running for re-election six years ago, Bunning said that his Democratic

opponent looked like one of Saddam Hussein‘s sons.  Bunning‘s behavior was

so strange during the campaign that Republicans begged him not to run again

this year.

In 2006, “TIME” magazine called him one of America‘s five worst

senators.  Last year, Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth

Bader Ginsburg would be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

In the Senate, Bunning is regarded as a very, very strange man with

a nasty temper.  Earlier today, when Jonathan Karl of ABC News tried to get

an explanation of Bunning‘s most recent act of weirdness, he got this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Sir, we just wanted to ask

you—

BUNNING:  Excuse me!  This is a senator-only elevator.

KARL:  Can I step on the elevator?

BUNNING:  No, you may not.

KARL:  Can you tell us why you‘re blocking this vote?

BUNNING:  I already did explain it.

KARL:  Well, what is the issue?  Are you concerned about these—

BUNNING:  Excuse me.

KARL:  -- people who are unemployed?

BUNNING:  I‘ve got to go to the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Senator, can you just explain to us why you‘re

holding this up?  I‘m sure you have an explanation.

BUNNING:  Excuse me.

KARL:  Are you concerned about those that are going to lose their

benefits?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And Karl says that before the cameras were rolling,

Bunning shot him the middle-finger.

Later on the Senate floor today, Bunning defiantly repeated his

rights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUNNING:  Anybody, 100 of us, can object to anything that is brought

to the floor of the U.S. Senate.  Whether it‘d be a nominee, whether it‘d

be a judge, whether it‘d be somebody that is pointed to the treasury—

anybody can object.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Nation,”

Chris Hayes.

Chris, Senator Bunning is one of the stranger men in the body.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  He sure is.

O‘DONNELL:  To call him a contrarian would be the kindest thing you

could call him.  But is this a new high or a new low for him, I guess,

depending how you look at it?

HAYES:  Well, I think it is a new low.  I mean, there are real,

genuine human consequences to what he‘s done.  I mean, a lot of it is

contingent on whether everybody can get together and pass something in the

next two days that‘s retroactively operable, which means COBRA won‘t lapse

for people and they‘ll get unemployment checks.  But there‘s hundreds of

thousands of people there and a projected 1.2 million people not getting

unemployment if they don‘t get this done by the end of the week.

And, you know, Bunning is complaining that he had to miss a

basketball game.  It just—it has this sort of like, you know, “Rome

right at the fall” kind of feel to it that he‘s fiddling while people in

the country are suffering from tremendous misery.

O‘DONNELL:  And just in case Republicans thought this was going to

be perceived as one weird guy on the floor, it is having some serious

spillover effects to other Republicans.  For example, the “Huffington Post”

is right now reporting that Senator John Kyl of Arizona today—

HAYES:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- out n the floor while discussing this situation,

because it involves unemployment benefits.  Out on the floor, he said that

some people are enjoying in effect—

HAYES:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- their unemployment because people are being paid even

though they‘re not working.  Those are Kyl‘s words.  Kyl said that

unemployment insurance doesn‘t create new jobs.  In fact, if anything,

continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for

them—

HAYES:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- to seek new work.

Chris, this is amazing stuff coming as we‘re facing the worst

unemployment rates we‘ve seen since the depression.  For the Republicans to

be pumping this out is very harmful to them as a group, isn‘t it?

HAYES:  Yes.  I mean, I really hope—I really hope that America

gets the message here.  Bunning may be a bizarre character.  But he‘s doing

nothing less than channeling the modus operandi of the Senate Republican

caucus, which is to obstruct, which is to deny every—you know, the

American people the most basic kind of services they expect from their

government.

And the message from John Kyl who isn‘t this sort of bizarre

contrarian figure is to Americans that are unemployed.  Everyone should

understand this, the 10 million people out there, if you‘re unemployed, get

off your fat ass and find a job.  That‘s what Jim—that‘s what the

Republican caucus‘ message is.  And they don‘t care whether you applied a

million times, if you‘ve been unemployed for nine months, if you tried

everything you done to get a job.  That is what Jon Kyl thinks about the

people who are unemployed and Americans should really understand who‘s in

their corner in this sort of thing.

O‘DONNELL:  Before we leave the Senate today, Chris, I just want to

talk about Democrats and primary challenges.  We have Arkansas Democratic

incumbent getting a primary challenge, and in New York a new Democratic

incumbent, Kirsten Gillibrand, scaring off yet another primary challenge. 

Harold Ford at this hour has announced that he will not challenge the

Democrat in New York.

What is this—what are the politics of the way those two incumbent

senators have played this situation tell incumbent Democrats about how to

handle challenges in primaries?

HAYES:  Well, I think the primary challenge in Arkansas, which has -

which has been the result of a lot of very excellent grassroots

organizing, Accountability Now, Move On is doing fundraising, a lot of the

net roots is really smart.

      

I mean, the fact of the matter is Blanche Lincoln is essentially a

dead woman walking this point.  Her re-elect numbers look terrible.  Her

approval ratings are very low.  And I think, at this point, removing her

from the ticket probably is a net benefit to Democrats there.  And she‘s

also just not represented the will of the people of Arkansas on things like

the public option.

In the case of Harold Ford, it was one of the most laughably inept

candidate rollouts in recent memory, and I think, finally, at some point,

he got the message this was not going anywhere.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Chris Hayes of “The Nation.”

Coming up: The devastation in Chile.  Ann Curry travels to ground

zero to the massive earthquake and shows us the devastation from the

tsunami along the coast.

And later, Keith will return for reaction to his “Special Comment”

last week about health care reform.  He‘ll also have an update on his dad‘s

condition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  First Haiti, now Chile.  Another major earthquake

strikes another nation, and the death toll this time has risen to more than

700 people.  Some coastal towns in Chile have been nearly obliterated, and

the extent of the destruction is becoming more painfully evident with each

passing day.  For the latest on emergency relief efforts in Chile, our

correspondent tonight is NBC News‘ Ann Curry. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Flying into the

destruction zone for the first time today, evidence of the power of one of

the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. 

(on camera):  From the air, you can begin to see the extent of the

destruction.  Over hundreds of miles, town after town flattened by mother

nature. 

(voice-over):  Five hundred thousand homes damaged or destroyed. 

Major bridges down.  Some coastal towns, hit with both the quake and

tsunamis, washed away.  Two million people affected.  Rescuers are

struggling against exhaustion to find people buried alive, especially here

in hard-hit Concepcion, Chile‘s second largest city. 

Even closer to the epicenter, today chaos. 

More than two days after the quake, fires are still burning in

Concepcion.  This building burning out of control.  Police and the military

out in force making numerous arrests, trying to contain a rising fury,

especially from mothers upset about food rationing, saying their children

aren‘t getting enough. 

To survive, some people admit to taking supplies.  This man is

saying “I need food.  This is what is going to help me.  Each person thinks

what they think, and we do what we have to do.”

Add to that the trauma.  These young girls weep, not knowing if

their father is alive.   

One saying, “please, come get me.  We‘re OK.  Come get us, daddy.” 

Rosa Sanchez Buchamente (ph) tells us her granddaughter, Claudia, is

missing.  “She‘s 12 years old,” Rosa says.  “We don‘t know anything.  We

don‘t know if she is alive or dead.”  She can‘t contain a grief that

mirrors a nation‘s. 

(on camera):  There have been 128 after shocks of magnitude five or

greater since the earthquake, 14 of them just today.  It is probably

important to note that the president of Chile has said in accepting

international aid that field hospitals and rescue workers are especially

welcome.  I‘m Ann Curry reporting from Santiago, Chile.  Now back to you,

Lawrence. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Curry in Santiago, thank you.  The quake was so

powerful, it actually moved the Earth off its axis by three inches. 

Coming up, we‘ll talk to a seismologist about whether even bigger

earthquakes are coming.

And later, Keith will return with a postscript to his last Special

Comment, and important information on what he learned about his own life

panel discussions about his father. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, with Democrats vowing

to get health care reform passed, the opponents of reform are coming out of

the woodwork again.  Rachel will examine who‘s behind the efforts to kill

it all this time around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re back now to talk about the 8.8 earthquake in Chile

this past weekend, and what appears to be a recent flare-up in seismic

activity elsewhere around the globe.  To help us non-scientists process

what‘s going on here, let‘s bring in Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the

United States Geological Survey.  Right now, we‘re looking at a USGS time

lapse animation, plotting earthquakes around the globe. 

Now, there certainly seems to be a spike in seismic activity in the

last week.  Seven weeks ago, Haiti was hit hard.  Lucy, is there a pattern

here or is this purely random activity? 

LUCY JONES, UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY:  The only pattern that

you‘re seeing is that each earthquake tends to trigger aftershocks.  So

there‘s going to be a lot of earthquakes right now as aftershocks to the

Chilean earthquake.  But, over all, we aren‘t seeing a significant

clustering of earthquakes.  It‘s always random and that‘s what we‘re

seeing. 

O‘DONNELL:  And so always random means you guys aren‘t getting any

closer to forecasting these things? 

JONES:  Unfortunately, no.  And a fundamental issue is that, as far

as we can tell, little earthquakes and big earthquakes start in the same

way.  So if you want to have something happen before the earthquake that

you can see, it‘s unfortunately happening before all the earthquakes, and

we record several magnitude fives every day somewhere in the world. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the death toll in Chile is about 733, still

counting.  It is significantly lower, obviously, than the 200,000 plus in

Haiti.  What is the difference here in the way these things hit?  Is it

population density?  Is it building codes?  Was Chile somehow more

prepared?  And the 8.8 in Chile was higher than what hit Haiti, wasn‘t it? 

JONES:  Oh, the Chilean earthquake was much, much larger than the

Haitian earthquake.  It released about 500 times more energy.  But the most

important difference is that Chile was better prepared with better building

codes.  Earthquakes don‘t kill people, buildings do.  so there was much

more shaking, much more vibration through Chile, but their buildings were

better able to withstand it. 

O‘DONNELL:  And the tsunami that was caused by this earthquake, it

did cause pretty severe damage in some locations, but it wasn‘t anything

like the tsunami that we saw in Indonesia in 2004.  What determines the

energy of that tsunami? 

JONES:  Well, even though 8.8 seems huge, it‘s definitely smaller

than the 9.2 that created the Sumatra tsunami.  And the tsunamis are

directly created by the change in the shape of the sea floor during the

earthquake, as a fault moves upward and displaces that water.  The fault

that moved in this Chilean earthquake is about 300 miles long; whereas the

one in the Sumatran earthquake was about a thousand miles long.  So much

more water was displaced in Sumatra and therefore went out. 

We also seem to have been lucky, to some extent.  You can see that

as it travels out across the ocean, you get sort of little, you know,

focusing areas that are stronger than some others.  And none of those seem

to have really come in at the more distant sites.  But, of course, nobody

in Chile would consider themselves lucky.  It was a very damaging tsunami

there. 

O‘DONNELL:  Watching that wave move across that screen, I now

finally understand why I was required to have tsunami insurance on my house

in Santa Monica right here in Los Angeles County, even though it‘s back

from the beach, I don‘t know, about a quarter of a mile or so, and up a

hill a little bit.  When I start to see that wave move across the screen,

there‘s much more reality to the possibilities of what we could get.  We

already know about our earthquake possibilities here in California, but the

tsunami possibility looks real, too, doesn‘t it? 

JONES:  It is.  And there‘s been a lot of damage over the years in

California from tsunamis, especially in our ports.  The ports of Los

Angeles and Long Beach suffered significant damage in both 1960 and 1964. 

So it‘s a real risk.  It‘s not as common as our earthquakes, but it‘s big. 

O‘DONNELL:  And what we think of as our big earthquakes, 1989 here

up in northern California, San Francisco, 1994 was it—yeah, the

Northridge earthquake in the Los Angeles area, they both had about 60

fatalities.  Is our ability to handle earthquakes here in California based

on our building codes and the way our population is more spread out and not

so dense? 

JONES:  Well, we do have good building codes, and they make a lot of

difference.  But when we get to our really largest earthquakes, we‘re going

to be seeing a lot of the same things that are going on in Chile right now. 

When you have such a big event, you stress your whole system.  And they‘re

going to be dealing with loss of utilities and long-term economic impacts. 

And we‘ll face the same thing when it‘s time for us to have our big

earthquake. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks for joining us, Lucy Jones of the US Geological

Survey.

Coming up, Keith will join us with not only an update on his dad,

but how the update includes a very important consideration when having end

of life discussions with your doctors and family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Finally, as promised, back here in

New York and a kind of postscript to last week‘s Special Comment about the

health of my father, and the discussion of end of life care, what we deemed

here the life panels, and also some of the reactions to that. 

First of all, to update you on my father‘s health.  Last Thursday at

noon, in the hospital not far from here, my sister and my nephew and myself

gathered with my father‘s surgeon nurse to discuss a timetable of sorts, to

discuss when to, in effect, start changing his care from restorative to

palliative. 

What we laid out is a little bit too personal for me to go into in

depth, but I will tell you this much: we left ourselves an out.  His white

blood cell count, which is, if you‘re at all familiar with medicine, was at

a horrifically high level of 54,000, needed to drop and drop quickly, or

there would be little hope.  And so, having followed his instructions,

including those instructions about when to apply my best judgment instead

of his own, and with him still largely unawake, if not exactly unconscious,

we laid out this rather grim bit of business. 

We didn‘t like it, but we knew we were working from his

instructions.  Our little life panel, along with the consultation of

doctors and this doctor‘s nurse, was invaluable to us.  And so we laid out

all of the plans with that one caveat, if, say, each time there was a new

white blood cell count reading it was 10,000 less, we‘d revisit and revisit

in a hurry. 

By 6:00 that night, it was 10,000 less.  My father has not regained

wakefulness, but he is more responsive now, and here these many days later,

in fact, his white blood cell count is about two-thirds less than what it

was. 

And so this brings the issue of flexibility to your end of life

discussions, which, again, I urge you, immediately, tonight if you can, no

matter which part of the equation you are in, or if there is no equation

yet, to have these conversations with your loved ones now, because you will

know what they want, and at least you will know you‘ve had the

conversation, and whatever you are guesstimating from, you‘ve already

talked to them about the essence of it. 

And so we continue to help him try to regain his health.  If he does

not succeed in doing that, we can again turn to palliative care later on. 

But clearly, that flexibility to be able to say, no, it‘s nearing the end -

wait a minute, maybe it‘s not nearing the end—is the essence of what

is permissible and what is to be encouraged in our society, to have that

conversation in advance and act accordingly. 

And in the health care reforms that have been proposed, the only

difference in this process would be that the doctor who helps you with

these conversations can bill the insurance company for them.  So you‘re not

guessing on your own.  You‘re guessing as much as he is and with him

present.  That is the entirety of what has been fabricated into, by

unbelievably incompetent and unknowing people on the far right, into the

quote/unquote death panel.  There is no death panel. 

And this brings me to some of the reactions from the right to this

topic, death panel versus life panel.  We start with Rush Limbaugh.  Mr.

Limbaugh went on the air and said, “trust me.  There is a death panel.” 

That‘s all he said.  He offered no proof.  He offered no evidence. 

He didn‘t even quote anybody.  I don‘t know about you, but if Rush Limbaugh

asks me to trust him, immediately check to see if my wallet is still in my

back pocket.  There is no death panel. 

This brings me to the reaction of Glenn Beck.  Mr. Beck, while

saying what I believed were sincere good wishes to both me and my father,

then immediately turned around and said, I didn‘t understand about the

death panels, that what Sarah Palin was talking about was not these end of

life discussions, not what we have called life panels, but, in fact,

something else. 

He is, of course, entirely wrong.  He has no earthly clue what he‘s

talking about.  He presented no evidence.  The only evidence he has ever

presented as to the supposed existence of these so-called death panels is

to quote Sarah Palin.  And Sarah Palin‘s spokesman admitted that what she

was talking about was a proposal made by Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon

to establish the right for you to get the insurance company involved in

paying for the physician who helps you with your life panel discussion. 

If there was any doubt about this, I turn to a letter I received

after the comment was raised last Wednesday from Congressman Blumenauer,

who said he only wished he had the presence of mind to call them life

panels.  We can call them life panels now. 

The discussion about end of life care is all that there is in health

care reform, the right for you to bill a doctor to help you through this

most trying and necessary and salvation-like time.  The thing that will

guide you through a situation if you are in that, that I am in, and my

family is in with my father right now, you get to get it reimbursed from

the insurance company. 

That‘s it.  There is no death panel.  I wish there was no Glenn Beck

to make up stories about death panels.  We‘re going to have to live with

Mr. Beck. 

But it does raise the question of why Mr. Beck‘s efforts are being

supported by an honorable organization called the Special Operations

Warrior Foundation, which has somehow gotten mixed up with these events he

has planned for next August in Washington.  Mr. Beck is making it up,

pulling it out of some orifice or another, for whatever purpose we do not

know.  And yet this fine and honorable organization is somehow associated

with him, and perhaps they should reconsider that. 

Lastly, in terms of reaction to last week‘s special comment and the

concept of the life panel, I am indebted to the Tea Party of Dallas, Texas,

which as you may know invited me to attend its gathering on Saturday to

prove that it was not an all white, nor nearly all white organization. 

When I explained I was not traveling to attend to my father in his time of

need, they said nothing about that.  On Saturday, when they got up and made

their little speeches and invoked my name and my non-presence there, they

mentioned only that I was not there and did not give a reason for my

absence. 

I am indebted to them because they have proved my point about the

nature of this organization.  I don‘t know to what degree racism really

applies to the whole Tea Party movement, nor the Dallas one in particular. 

But it is clear to me that people who would leave out that vital bit of

information about why I would not attend and mock me for not attending are

not really people anymore, are they? 

Lastly, I mentioned last week, and I‘m going to mention it again,

that in the last few weeks, even though my father has not been fully

conscious, I have been reading to him and talking to him.  Several dear

friends of mine who have had similar experiences of unconsciousness, if not

coma, have said that they could remember clearly hearing things said to

them while they could not communicate in return. 

And so that‘s another little piece of advice.  I‘ve been reading him

mostly James Thurber short stories.  And, in fact, I came across one that

seems relevant to our political time. 

If you‘ll permit me to close with it and permit me to remove my

glasses in order to do so.  It is from his “Fables for Modern Times,” and

this one is called “The Peaceable Mongoose.”  Forgive me for doing it this

way, but there is no better way. 

“The Peaceable Mongoose” by James Thurber. 

“In Cobra Country, a mongoose was born one day who didn‘t want to

fight cobras or anything else.  The word spread from mongoose to mongoose

that there was a mongoose who didn‘t want to fight cobras.  If he didn‘t

want to fight anything else, it was his own business, but it was the duty

of every mongoose to kill cobras or be killed by cobras.

“Why, asked the peace-like mongoose, and the word went around that

the strange new mongoose was not only pro-cobra and anti-mongoose, but

intellectually curious and against the ideals and traditions of mongoosism. 

‘He is crazy,‘ cried the young mongoose‘s father.  ‘He is sick,‘ said his

mother.  ‘He is a coward,‘ shouted his brothers.  ‘He is a mongoose-

sexual,‘ whispered his sisters. 

“Strangers who had never laid eyes on the peace-like mongoose

remembered that they had seen him crawling on his stomach or trying on

cobra hoods or plotting the violent overthrow of Mongoosia. 

‘I‘m trying to use reason and intelligence,‘ said the strange new

mongoose.  ‘Reason is six-sevenths of treason,‘ said one of his neighbors. 

‘Intelligence is what the enemy uses,‘ said another. 

“Finally, the rumor spread that the mongoose had venom in his sting,

just like a cobra, and he was tried, convicted by a show of paws, and

condemned to banishment. 

“Moral?  Ashes to ashes and clay to clay; if the enemy doesn‘t get

you, your own folks may.” 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1st of March.  Rachel Maddow and “THE

RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” are next.  Thank you for your time tonight.  Good night

and good luck. 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

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