updated 3/8/2010 11:01:48 AM ET 2010-03-08T16:01:48

Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Ezra Klein, David Corn, Richard Wolffe, Elvis Mitchell

           

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

The end of a reconciliation talking point:

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SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  Senator Byrd said it would be an outrage to run the health care bill through the Senate like a freight train with this process.

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O‘DONNELL:  Senator Byrd today reveals he is now in favor of using reconciliation.  Meanwhile, Senator Franken urges Americans to make Congress pass health care reform.

The House searches for a Bart Stupak abortion language work-around.  We‘ll talk to Congressman Anthony Weiner about the president‘s stark public option news for House Democrats.

Move over, Joe McCarthy.  Now, there‘s Liz Cheney.  Her claim that the Obama Justice Department is aligned with al Qaeda is such a ridiculous lie that it‘s being called “wrong,” “vicious,” “unfounded” by a Bush administration official and fellow conservatives.

The mavericks‘ angel is a centerfold.  Scott Brown tries to help the suddenly conservative John McCain stave off his primary challenger.

And the Republican face-painting continues.  Yesterday, Obama the Joker.  Today, Senator John McCain, the Navi from “Avatar.”

Are the Navi and “Hurt Locker” painted into a corner?  Could a Best Picture dark horse emerge from the field of 10?

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O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll preview Sunday‘s big night.

And “The Daily Show” investigative report, a strange news obsession with Chatroulette.com turns up a familiar face.

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KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Next, and go through there (ph).

JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW:  Olbermann!  What are you doing here?

OLBERMANN:  I think one of us is supposed to take our pants off now.

STEWART:  What?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll reveal a little secret hidden in that skit.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR:  I‘m not like cruising.

STEWART:  No!

(LAUGHTER)

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

The junior senator from Minnesota today recounted the story about how the activists who went to talk to President Franklin D. Roosevelt about getting him to enact Social Security.  At the time, FDR didn‘t have the votes to get it done and he told them he agreed with them, he wanted to do it now but he needed them to make him do it.

Democrat Al Franken‘s message today on passing final health care legislation: make us do this.  “It‘s time to end decades of dithering,” Senator Franken said, “and get this done.”

First tonight: more dithering.  Congressman Bart Stupak says he is not going to vote for the Senate bill unless the abortion language in it is made more restrictive and he threatens to convince about a dozen wavering members in the House to join him.  Except, big problem: the Senate bill needs to pass the House exactly as is as the first stage of the plan.  Democrats seem to have no wiggle room to accommodate Stupak‘s demand.

TalkingPointsMemo.com reports that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is exploring end runs that might appease Stupak.  One possibility would be giving Stupak a vote in stricter abortion language in separate legislation.  Another possibility would be having the White House issue a signing statement or an executive order.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republicans today leaked to Greg Sargent at “The Plum Line” blog that they are going to use the Byrd rule governing budget reconciliation to try to bleed the reconciliation fix to death and ensure it never passes.

But today, the author of that rule, Senator Robert Byrd, endorsed the Democrats‘ plan to use a majority vote to finish the health care bill.  In a letter to West Virginia newspaper, Senator Byrd wrote that that a limited bill structured to adjust some of the elements of the already passed Senate bill may be consistent with the budget act and appropriately considered under reconciliation.

In an op-ed for Politico.com, Congressman Anthony Weiner is still asking why the public option is not being put to a vote.  Thirty-five senators have now signed on to the letter calling for the public option by reconciliation.  Yesterday, at the White House, President Obama told progressive Democrats that he is for the public option but the Senate does not have the votes.

Congressman Weiner of New York is kind enough to join us here in studio tonight.

Congressman Weiner, it‘s deja vu all over again.  We‘re back to Bart Stupak and abortion.  The abortion language in the Senate, the problem is, it is not strong enough for Bart Stupak and we have to re-diagram this play every night for the audience.  The idea is: you and the House of Representatives will pass the Senate bill as is so that there is a passed law that you can then amend in effect through the reconciliation process.  Stupak says, “I cannot vote for it with that language in it.”

Is this a roadblock that‘s going to stop the whole process?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, it is a roadblock.

I mean, look, we do have a situation here with the margin being so close, just about any group on any issue can say, I‘m going to hold this thing up, and in this case, it‘s on this issue.  We heard it argued in immigration.  We heard it argued in lots of places.  Senator Nelson of Nebraska held up for just money for his state.

We have to try to make the point to my colleagues that whatever your issue is on these various items, we can‘t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  I have to tell you something: I‘m not happy with the language that‘s presently in the law about funding for abortions.  Poor women should have access to that, but I‘m accepting it because I know we want to move this forward.

But you don‘t have to delve far into this to realize that there are a lot of people who are fighting this right now who are never going to vote for the bill.  And that‘s the message that the president needs to get.  He mustn‘t keep making compromises if we‘re not getting any votes back in return.

So, we‘d given up something, the public option that saves money that the American people liked the House already passed, the president says, I support it.  So, who is it that he gave it up to and what did we get back in return?  And a lot of the cases that we have—we‘ve been doing recently—is negotiating against ourselves.  And that‘s the challenge that we face.

O‘DONNELL:  Just more second on the Stupak thing, is there a way to pick up other Democrats if you lose the Stupak group who voted for it the first time?  Is there a way to pick up other Democrats who did not vote for it the first time in the House?

WEINER:  Well, I think so.  I mean, look, there‘s a lot of moving parts.  There are a lot of people who like the Senate bill—which I believe is a far deficient bill to what we have in the House.  A lot of people said, I‘ll vote for that because it‘s a weaker bill.  And so, there might be more votes there.

But one thing I can tell you for sure that makes this very complicated that the viewers should understand and you can write this down—not a single Republican is going to do anything to help this process along.  So, automatically, you‘re stuck with a very tiny margin in the House and Senate.  Nancy Pelosi is a great politician but it‘s kind of like that childhood game pick-up sticks.  You can pick up a stick but you can‘t move anything else.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

WEINER:  That‘s what‘s hard about this.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, getting back to the negotiating with yourselves.  The president insists and insisted yesterday to the liberal members of Congress who went to see him, that it is not possible to pass the public option in the Senate at the same time that the public option seems to be gaining momentum in the Senate.  They are up to 35 committed votes for it.  And there is a few more, there‘s at least half a dozen more who would vote for it, but because they are in leadership positions, they don‘t want to sign any document like that.

Your argument now is we should be pushing forward in the Senate, or do you agree with the president that we can tell right from where we sit now that it won‘t pass in the Senate?

WEINER:  Here‘s the question I have.  The president says he supports it, and yet he says there‘s not the votes in the Senate.  Why don‘t we let the Senate decide that?  You know, the president, finally, the other day in the Gold Room, said, you know what, let‘s put this to an up or down vote.  He‘s right.  We have to do that.

But why not the public option?  If there‘s been one element of this discussion that‘s had people talking at their coffee shop, talking at bowling alleys and talking over dinner tables, it‘s been about the public option.  Should we know where everyone is on the public option except United States senators?  Let‘s find out.  And there‘s definitely a growing momentum.

And for the concerns that we have about the cost, this saves us $110 billion.  This actually helps the president get to what he wants, which is more choice, competition and lower cost.

That‘s why I don‘t understand for the life of me why we just don‘t say to the United States Senate: you know what, the House passed it, the president supports it, the American people support it.  Go ahead.  If we are killing the public option, let‘s actually do it.

O‘DONNELL:  And there‘s nothing in Senate rules that prevents any senator from offering the public option as an amendment to whatever Harry Reid brings to the floor—any Democratic senator or any senator there can offer an amendment saying let‘s offer the public option and you take a vote on that.  That‘s the normal process in reconciliation legislation.

Is there any reason why that would gum up the works this time?

WEINER:  Well, you know, it‘s interesting you said that.  In many ways, we‘re now back to normal legislating.  We know we need 51 votes for a majority in the House.  So, this is a very traditional process.

I hope that someone raises the question and says, why are we not doing this?  You know, there are a lot of people who animated around this issue and the public option made a lot of sense to them.  It‘s going to be very hard to explain to them when all is said and done, even if this passes, why the public option is not in.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York—thanks for coming in tonight.

WEINER:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on what happens next, let‘s turn to Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek.”

Ezra, do you see a workable solution to this Stupak amendment in the House?

EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I don‘t know that we know what the problem is right now.  We don‘t have a whip count on who Stupak actually has.  So there—as you put it earlier—the majority—Majority Leader Hoyer has a couple of options here: an independent vote on the abortion issue, a signing statement.

But we don‘t know who Stupak takes with him if he doesn‘t get it.  We don‘t know what he‘s demanding in return for what his ultimate bottom line negotiating position is, and we don‘t know who Democrats are actually going to be able to get when the final bill is unveiled here.

You saw some no votes from the original process, like Bart Gordon, saying, you know what, the Senate bill is harder on costs, there‘s no public option.  I can maybe—I can maybe support this.

So, I think the map on this is still pretty opaque.

O‘DONNELL:  If you had to bet on the right move to make on it, would it be simply let Stupak go and try to pick up votes from other Democrats who didn‘t vote for it the first time around?  Let‘s remember, the first version of this passed by the House included a new top income tax bracket, so an increase in income tax.  That‘s not there now.  There are other taxes from the Senate bill to replace that that might or might not be more attractive to those people.

Is that the zone where you think there might be some people now more willing to vote for this version, who didn‘t vote for the House version before?

KLEIN:  That‘s exactly the zone.  The big thing that the blue dog said about the original version was it doesn‘t do enough on cost control.  And the Senate bill has two more aggressive cost control measures.  The independent Medicare commission that would be able to do reforms on Medicare outside of the normal congressional order and the excise tax and it eliminates some of the tax on the rich the House bill had.

So, there is presumably some give there.  But the honest truth is, is that the best path forward for them is where they have the votes.  And I don‘t know if they quite know that yet.  We are in this place right now.  And you remember this from when it went the first time, where everybody gets a real hard line for a couple of days before the vote because if this is when you maximize your negotiating leverage.  This is when you cut your deal.

O‘DONNELL:  And the senior member of the United States Senate, Robert Byrd is back in the news.  He has a rule in reconciliation named after him, the Byrd rule.

Republicans are talking about it a lot these days because what they are pointing out is: through the Byrd rule and other points of order that you can raise in reconciliation, it—you can have things struck from the bill and in order for the Democrats to preserve those things in the bill, it would require 60 votes, so that there are, in effect, many 60-vote thresholds that come up in the course of a reconciliation bill.  Republicans are threatening to push every one of them.

Senator Robert Byrd pushing back today in the way—in the only way he can at this point, simply saying that in his view, he‘s echoing exactly what Senator Kent Conrad said on this show this week.  In his view, this is not a violation of Byrd rules to take pieces of the overall legislation and adjust them once they‘ve already passed into law by the House passing the Senate bill.

Does that—does Senator Byrd now put to rest the idea that there might be some basic fundamental problem with using reconciliation such that you couldn‘t even get started?

KLEIN:  Yes.  There are two relevant players here.  Senator Byrd on the one hand who, as you say, off of the relevant rule.  And then there‘s Senator Kent Conrad on the other, who is the guy who runs the budget committee and will oversees the process.

And Republicans are playing an interesting game using quotes that they made about using reconciliation for the whole bill.  So them saying, you know, you shouldn‘t do that, it won‘t really work, and applying it to, sort of, 11-page micro-reconciliation fix, as I have been calling it.  And that doesn‘t make any sense because as Byrd said, you know, this makes perfect sense to him.

I spoke to Kent Conrad.  He said, we can completely do this.  This is entirely proper.

Then there‘s, of course, the process of it.  And at that point, with 60-vote things come on if the parliamentarian rules against the Democrats on it being qualified for reconciliation, but they‘re going to be pretty careful about what they put in there to avoid that.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, your term micro-reconciliation I think is the one that defines where we really are now.  And Robert Byrd, as you recall, in 1994, personally forbade the Clinton health care reform bill for going through reconciliation in its entirety.

KLEIN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  But as you say, Kent Conrad and Robert Byrd were never faced before with the question of: what about tiny fixes to it after it‘s already become law?  Which is where we stand here.

KLEIN:  Right.  Exactly.  And so, I think that what you‘re seeing here is you—something sort of entirely new.  But the point of the reconciliation is it is rules.  You can look at them.  You have somebody who can decide if it‘s within the rules, and ultimately, he will decide, this is not a game that‘s going to be won with press releases and out of context quotes.  At the end of the day, Republicans and Democrats are going to present their arguments to Alan Frumin, the Senate parliamentarian, and he will rule up or down.

But the Byrd rule is pretty clear, if it‘s directly budget related and things like taxes and subsidies are, and that‘s is the bulk of what they‘re doing right now, then it‘s not going to be too much of a problem.

O‘DONNELL:  Ezra Klein and I could drive the audience away by discussing parliamentary procedure and rules all night.

Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek”—thank you for your time tonight.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Liz Cheney plays the fear card one too many times and is now being called worse than Joe McCarthy.  She calls lawyers representing detainee terrorists sympathizers.  And now, even conservatives understand the true color of Liz Cheney.

And later, can Scott Brown‘s surprise electoral success rub off on Senator John McCain?  The two hit the campaign trail together as McCain tries to fight back his biggest primary challenge.

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O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Liz Cheney finally goes too far for conservatives.  Even they say she‘s worse than Joe McCarthy in her efforts to try to blacklist lawyers representing detainees.

And later, the bizarre Internet conversation between Jon Stewart and Keith.

And Sarah Palin‘s late night stand-up routine—sources say it needed enhancement.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

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O‘DONNELL:  Earlier this week, Liz Cheney‘s group Keep America Safe put out a new Web video suggesting that Justice Department lawyers previously involved in defense work for detainees share the values of al Qaeda.  The video called these lawyers the “al Qaeda 7” and implied they could not be trusted to uphold this nation‘s laws and defend its security as part of the Justice Department.  Forget all the Bush military lawyers who defended terrorism defendants.  Forget that the Bush Justice Department itself hired three attorneys who worked defense on terror cases.

The Cheney attack is, on its face, vicious, offensive, unfounded, outrageous and wrong.  And that‘s just what conservatives are saying.

The conservative “Power Line” blog used the words “vicious” and “unfounded.”  Quote, “It is entirely inappropriate to suggest that these lawyers share the values of terrorists.”

Want more?  A former Bush White House lawyer, quote, “The video is truly offensive.  It‘s beyond a cheap shot to suggest that a lawyer is an al Qaeda sympathizer because he advocates a detainee‘s position in the Supreme Court.”

The Bush assistant attorney general who led the defense against Gitmo legal challenges, quote, “It‘s wrong to suggest that people who sought judicial review are somehow sympathetic to al Qaeda.”

The Bush Pentagon‘s former chief prosecutor, quote, “It is absolutely outrageous for the Cheney crowd to try to tar and feather them.  If you zealously represent a client, there‘s nothing shameful about that.  That‘s the American way.”

And what does it say when Bill O‘Reilly won‘t play?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZ CHENEY, CO-FOUNDER OF “KEEP AMERICA SAFE”:  I think if you read the letter he sent to Congress, he talked about the fact that, often, the Department of Justice hires people who defended white-collar criminals to come in and prosecute white-collar criminals.  But what that tells there is that they believe there is some similarity between terrorists and white-collar criminals or tax cheats—

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  I don‘t know about that.  I don‘t know if that‘s fake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  In 2007, Bush‘s former Solicitor General Ted Olson defended detainee lawyers writing about another attorney who defended the British soldiers in the Boston massacre case.  Olson quotes the lawyer as calling his work “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”  Remarkable because that lawyer made his assessment after becoming President John Adams.

Ted Olson co-authored that piece with one of the most prominent detainee defenders now at the Justice Department.  He is the same Ted Olson who represented George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore and whose wife was killed on 9/11 on board the plane that hit the Pentagon.

Let‘s turn now to the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com.

David, let me start by asking why so many Bush veterans are coming out to push back on this one?

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES” MAGAZINE:  I think the answer is obvious, Lawrence.  They just—you know, they find it just offensive to common decency.  You know, you also left out of that very long list, John Bellinger, who is the legal adviser to the State Department in the Bush years.  You know, he‘s come out against this and it‘s only been a few days.  I‘m sure, if you actually took a poll of people who worked in the Bush administration on these issues, you can find lots more.

I mean, this is a clear case when Liz Cheney has crossed a line.  And let‘s not just blame Liz Cheney.  The other board member—there are three board members of Keep America Safe.  Another one is Bill Kristol, who, you know, is often on FOX, runs the “Weekly Standard” and was Dan Quayle‘s chief of staff.  You know, I haven‘t seen him out there swinging away with this in the last day or two, but he should be held accountable and anybody else associated with Keep America Safe.

O‘DONNELL:  You know, in my own feeling, Liz Cheney has crossed this line so many times before this week.  That—you know, that the fact that this was what it took to get responsible Republicans to counter her, I think, is worth noting.

But the notion that lawyers—that American lawyers representing constitutional positions and constitutional arguments in court in some way share the values of al Qaeda, I haven‘t seen, David, what exactly the al Qaeda judicial system is, what exactly their notion is of defendants‘ rights, of the right to counsel.  How can they—

CORN:  It‘s probably—it‘s probably pretty similar to the Cheney view now which is—you know, by any means necessary.  And you don‘t put principles first.

I mean, I—look, I think it really took a Cheney to cook up this kooky crusade that is really offending everybody except a small circle.  I haven‘t seen too many conservatives rushing to her defense.  And—you know, and it follows.  I mean, it is an extrapolation of the Dick Cheney view that we saw again and again through the Bush-Cheney years that constitutional rights don‘t really matter.

At the end of the day, the niceties, we can pay lip service to them, if it‘s convenient, we can abide by them.  But in tough cases, we toss them overboard.  And we do what we want to show our power.

It reminds me of what Ed Meese once said about suspects.  You know, he said, you know, if they weren‘t guilty, they wouldn‘t be suspects.  I mean, there‘s just no at all recognition that people picked up by these detainees, no matter what they might have done, have any rights whatsoever.  That‘s an argument that Cheney has made with John Yoo and others more or less.

And Liz Cheney is now pushing it to the extreme that people who even defend them, you know, should be branded and tarred and feathered as one of your—one of those he people said earlier at the top of the show --- top of the segment, as al Qaeda sympathizers.  It really, I think, is just pushed a lot of buttons which may be good.  You know, even though it took this to get people to look at what they are doing, these people—I think she‘s lost an incredible amount of credibility when she didn‘t have a lot to begin with.

O‘DONNELL:  David Corn of “Mother Jones”—thanks for joining us tonight.

CORN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: John McCain‘s tea party primary challenger takes the senator‘s conservative record to task.  J.D. Hayworth asks if McCain is up for on Oscar for his attempts in pretending to be a conservative.

And later, the real Oscars.  With all the buzz surrounding “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker,” will the expanded field of 10 for best picture nominees leave room for a big surprise on Sunday night?

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O‘DONNELL:  Ahead on COUNTDOWN: John McCain is in the fight of his electoral life in Arizona, so he calls in Scott Brown to help.  This as his opponent mocks him as merely playing the part of a conservative without really believing it.

And can you believe this?  What are the odds that Jon Stewart and Keith meet up on Chat Roulette?  And what was that picture behind Keith in the shot?  Details to come.

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O‘DONNELL:  It‘s been a series of mavericky moves for the senior senator from Arizona, building up a more conservative voting record, re-embracing Sarah Palin.  And while his Republican primary opponent accuses him of palling around with East Coast liberals like the former senior senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, John McCain goes full maverick and enlists the help of the new junior senator from Massachusetts, liberal Republican Scott Brown. 

McCain, facing a tough primary battle in Arizona against former Congressman and conservative radio talk show host J.D. Hayworth—today the four-term senator holding a rally in Phoenix, importing GOP curiosity Scott Brown to galvanize conservative support, even though Brown‘s vote for the Democrats‘ jobs bill has angered the very conservatives who helped get him elected.  McCain, describing Mr. Brown as one of the great political heroes in American political history. 

Mr. Brown calling McCain his mentor and praising his fight against Washington insiders, despite McCain‘s many years inside Washington. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  If you want somebody who‘s long before—long before it was—you know, the cool thing to do in Washington is to hammer away at the Washington insiders, and who would fight against waste and spending, and the out of control taxation and interference in our lives—this guy was doing it a long, long time ago. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Nevertheless, Mr. Hayworth questioning McCain‘s conservative street cred, while demonstrating his own cultural literacy.  Hayworth placing an online ad on “The Drudge Report” portraying McCain as a character from the movie “Avatar.”  The placard next to his face reading “John McCain, nominee for best conservative actor.”

In case there was any doubt that the ad compared McCain to the fictional Navi, Hayworth later issued a different ad, making McCain‘s entire face blue.  The McCain camp, fighting on behalf of all CGI creatures everywhere, stating that the Hayworth ad is insulting to Native Americans here in Arizona and across America. 

Oscar-worthy ads aside, the numbers tell a much different story.  The “National Journal,” tracking the senator‘s voting record, showing just how conservative McCain has become.  McCain starting off last decade with a composite conservative score of 61.7 Out of 100.  The two years Mr. McCain ran for president, he did not vote enough to be fairly sampled.  But last year, that score jumped to 84.3. 

Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst and author of “Renegade: The Making of a President,” Richard Wolffe.  Good evening, Richard. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, “RENEGADE”:  Good evening, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  If John McCain is trying to go to his right in Arizona, get conservative votes, teach me what I don‘t know about Arizona.  Explain to me why the guy who may be one of the most liberal Republicans in the senate—we know he voted for the jobs bill, Scott Brown.  He‘s also pro-choice and always has been.  Explain to me how that senator from Massachusetts helps McCain in Arizona. 

WOLFFE:  Well, you know what they say about CGI movies; they can make you feel sick.  I don‘t know what‘s confusing about it, frankly, Lawrence.  Is it the idea of this guy who was the go-to guy for Democrats in the Senate trying to be ultra conservative, or is it that he‘s been in Washington for decades and is trying to latch onto this anti-incumbent mood? 

There is nothing that‘s ever been that consistent about John McCain.  He was a guy who suspended his campaign about 24 hours before he relaunched his campaign in the general election.  And the whole maverick thing he‘s built up doesn‘t stack up with his voting record over the last couple of years.  There is a question mark over who he is, over who Scott Brown is, over what the Tea Party is.  These things are all coming together.  It‘s going to be fascinating to watch as people understand what they are dealing with. 

O‘DONNELL:  Scott Brown has already alienated the Tea Party world with his first vote in the Senate, basically.  What we just saw, he wasn‘t exactly electrifying that crowd.  I don‘t know if he earned his airfare getting out to Arizona to help this campaign. 

WOLFFE:  Well, I can forgive him being raw here.  Barack Obama wasn‘t fluent on the campaign trail for about a year.  He‘s been thrust into the national limelight.  I think there is a danger here for him, more than for McCain, because McCain represents everything he doesn‘t.  There are two things that he was supposed to represent, Scott Brown.  First of all, anti-incumbency.  What can be more traditional than standing next to, frankly, an older senator who‘s been there for years? 

And secondly, the ideology purity test, which is core for many in the Tea Party; McCain clearly doesn‘t pass it, no matter what he‘s done over the last year. 

O‘DONNELL:  Richard, speaking of electrifying the crowd, we have a bulletin here from the Sarah Palin desk indicating the distinct possibility from inside “The Tonight Show” the other night that Sarah Palin‘s performance didn‘t electrify the crowd, and a lot of the laughter we were hearing was sweetened laugh track stuff added in for broadcast.  What does that do to Sarah Palin‘s comedic credibility? 

WOLFFE:  I think she should stick to Facebook.  Maybe delivered by William Shatner.  That‘s when I think she reached the peak of her comedic abilities.  She‘s supposed to be a great performer and an authentic at that.  The worst danger for politicians is when they start to think they‘re funny. 

O‘DONNELL:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, thanks very much for your time. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Jon Stewart take a roulette ride on the Internet, and comes across Keith as a chat buddy.  We‘ll show you the bit and fill you in on an inside joke from the taping. 

And later, with not a lot of surprises expected at this Sunday‘s Oscars, can Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin at least push up the funny factor as the show‘s hosts?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Remember yesterday?  When you had no idea what ChatRoulette.com was?  Now we all know it‘s a website that hosts live, one-on-one chats between total strangers.  You talk to a random partner via webcam, until you‘re bored, then randomly switch to a new partner.  The site‘s unique capacity for human-to-human interaction is ground-breaking and limitless. 

Also like almost everything else online, it can be used with pornographic intent.  As Jon Stewart put it, this site will, quote, “very quickly become a repository for five percent curiosity seekers and 95 percent free-floating dongs.”  Jon Stewart‘s words. 

Last night‘s “Daily Show” captured an investigation into ChatRoulette.com and the media‘s shock that such a website could be used like a bathroom stall at the Minneapolis men‘s room.  After highlighting a few Chat Roulette news reports, Stuart decided to hop onto the website for himself, where he discovered some familiar faces. 

Before we play it for you, an as yet unnoticed detail to freeze frame on.  Take a close look over Keith‘s shoulder. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  All right.  Let‘s go on ChatRoulette.  Let‘s see here.  What have we got so far?  OK, bored guy.  Next?  Let‘s see.  All right.  That guy—whoa!  OK.  Penis in my face, all right.  Bored Austrian guy.  OK!  Wow, I think that guy goes to my gym.  All right. 

Let‘s get out of that.  Wyatt? 

WYATT CENAK, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Jon, I don‘t have time to talk.  I‘m about to break this Chat Roulette story wide open.  Remember how I did the story on Twitter, and then that other story about Glory Holes? 

STEWART:  Right. 

CENAK:  I think Chat Roulette is the missing link.  Next!

STEWART:  No, don‘t send me back.  I don‘t want to go back—hey, Liz Clayman, reporter from Fox Business.  Are you covering the financial angle on Chat—don‘t next me!  Damn it.  Diane Sawyer?  What are you doing? 

DIANE SAWYER, ABC ANCHOR:  Oh, great. 

STEWART:  Hey, what‘s going on? 

SAWYER:  I‘m checking out this Chat Roulette thing.  But so far, I only get reporters. 

STEWART:  Me, to, plus other things. 

SAWYER:  What are you doing? 

STEWART:  I‘m doing a satiric look at Chat Roulette. 

SAWYER:  Sounds hilarious. 

STEWART:  Damn it.  She hit me next.  Not cool, Sawyer.  That guy‘s boring.  I don‘t want to see that guy.  That‘s just boring.  That‘s just—let me go to the next thing.  Olbermann!  What are you doing here? 

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Bearing witness to the new era of communication, Jon.  It is Orwellian, sir.  It is big brother.  And big brother is none other than each of us.  The Bush administration‘s warrantless wiretap search society at T1 speeds, the surveillant state gone viral. 

At long last, sir, have we no shame?  Well, I think one of us is supposed to take our pants off now. 

STEWART:  What?  No!  Next, next.  Geez.  Oh, my god, Jason Jones. 

No!  Jason, no.  What are you doing? 

JASON JONES, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  What‘s it look like I‘m doing, Jon? 

STEWART:  I‘ll tell you what it looks like, but—

JONES:  Relax.  I‘m playing Wii Craps. 

STEWART:  Oh, god.  Thank you. 

JONES:  While I masturbate. 

STEWART:  Oh, next, next.  Katie Couric?  You, too? 

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  Jon, you would be the perfect interview for a piece I‘m doing on Chat Roulette. 

STEWART:  OK.  Well, do it. 

COURIC:  OK, I‘m just going to toss to it.  Great.  I‘m Katie Couric.  There is a new place where creeps like to dwell.  It‘s called Chat Roulette and it‘s home to some of the most deranged criminal perverts I have ever seen in my many years of broadcasting.  One of these vile creatures has actually agreed to an interview. 

Jon, that‘s your part. 

STEWART:  Next!  Next!  Damn it.  No!  What are you doing? 

JONES:  Jon!  Relax.  It‘s Wii Butter Churn. 

STEWART:  All right. 

JONES:  While I masturbate. 

STEWART:  No!  Brian Williams!

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Jon? 

O‘DONNELL:  What‘s going on?  Are you doing a story on Chat Roulette for NBC?  Is that this? 

WILLIAMS:  Uh, yes.  I was on here researching the whole—the trend. 

I‘m not—I‘m like—not like cruising. 

STEWART:  No.  Why would I think that?  That‘s crazy.  I wouldn‘t think that. 

WILLIAMS:  No.  That—that is not what I was doing. 

STEWART:  That‘s not who you are. 

WILLIAMS:  So we‘re doing—we‘re researching this for a story. 

STEWART:  Exactly.  You‘re a great American and a terrific newsman.  So want to get this party started?  Let‘s do this, baby.  Let‘s do this, yeah!

WILLIAMS:  You want—

STEWART:  Yeah!  Let‘s do this.  Come on, Williams.  No, don‘t next me!  No!  I hate Chat Roulette!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  For those of you not watching in HD, the head shot sitting over Keith‘s shoulder—it is not easy to make out—but on close inspection, you will see, making a blurry return to “The Daily Show” is former “Daily Show” host and ESPN colleague of Keith Olbermann, Craig Kilborn.  It is so true.  You never know who you will get on Chat Roulette.

Coming up, Roulette for Hollywood.  Our next guest says the Golden Globes are way cooler than the Oscars.  What can the Oscars do to get its mojo back?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  This Sunday, the Oscars will once again embark on the Herculean task of getting through a three and a half-hour show before we give up and go to bed.  The 82nd annual Academy Awards will, for the first time in 66 years, feature ten best picture nominees.  And though conventional wisdom keeps insisting that “Avatar” or “The Hurt Locker” will grab the big prize, is there a dark horse to watch in the race? 

One potentially disastrous and/or amusing moment has already been nixed.  Sasha Baron Cohen has been dropped as an Oscar presenter, because he was working on a sketch in which he would appear as a female, blue-skinned Navi.  Ben Stiller was reportedly going to translate that the Navi was pregnant with the love child of “Avatar” director James Cameron.  But Oscar producers, in a fit of good taste, were reportedly worried that Mr.  Cameron might react badly.  This graphic, by the way, is obviously a COUNTDOWN simulation. 

Co-hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will try to inject some fun into a show reliably exhausting in its normal run.  And while Oscar night will feature plenty of movie clips, we offer just three. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, location, shack.  The days are starting to blur together. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The language is a pain, but I figure it‘s like field shipping a weapon.  Repetition, repetition.  Navi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Navi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Navi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Navi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s he doing? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you doing? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If I‘m going to die, I want to die comfortable. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You don‘t like them.  You don‘t really know why you don‘t like them.  All you know is you find them repulsive.  Consequently, a German soldier conducts a search of a house suspected of hiding Jews.  Where does the hawk look?  He looks in the barn.  He looks in the attic.  He looks in the cellar.  He looks everywhere he would hide. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in film critic and host of KCRW‘s “The Treatment,” Elvis Mitchell.  Good evening, Elvis. 

ELVIS MITCHELL, FILM CRITIC:  Hey, Lawrence.  You‘re right.  They managed to cram a 90 minute show into a three-hour telecast.  That‘s no small feat.

O‘DONNELL:  Exactly.  Now all the betting is on “Avatar,” “Hurt Locker,” for best picture.  We just showed a clip of Quentin Tarantino‘s movie, which I have been hearing from some Academy voters may be the dark horse.  Is there any chance of that? 

MITCHELL:  Well, there is certainly a chance of it being a dark horse.  Whether it‘s going to win, I don‘t know.  I think it is actually the most entertaining and most fun of the movies.  The thing people give Tarantino short shrift from, but he‘s a terrific director of actors.  Because he does so much other stuff so well, and there is so much movie geek excitement in these movies, people don‘t understand what a great performance he got out of people like Christoph Waltz, and Diane Kreuger and Michael Fassbender. 

It‘s a terrifically entertaining film.  But sometimes that gets in the way at the Oscars.  After all, if the show isn‘t entertaining, why should the movies be entertaining? 

O‘DONNELL:  Christoph Waltz playing that Nazi in the clip we just showed.  He is guaranteed for supporting actor, right?  He has won every one of these supporting actor—

MITCHELL:  Unless you have some inside information, you want to break another story, like the whole thing was Sasha Baron Cohen.  I‘m game.  Who do you got? 

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  Well, what about the nominating of ten movies?  Did that turn out to be a good idea? 

MITCHELL:  I think, in the abstract, it‘s a terrific idea, because there are lots of movies that come out, lots of great independent films.  Of course, they will all get their awards on Friday night, tonight, as we speak, at the Independent Spirit Awards.  But there‘s been so much great stuff this last year.  But you look at these ten—the one thing the Golden Globes do get right is they have five nominations to comedies or musicals.  You look at that list of films.  With the exception of parts of “avatar,” there really aren‘t any comedies in it. 

O‘DONNELL:  We have sent some great comedians to that Oscar stage.  Many of them, like Steve Martin, who has done it before, have done great jobs.  But a lot of them have fallen flat.  It seems the wild card, the unpredictable performance up there this time is Alec Baldwin.  He‘s not a stand-up comedian.  This isn‘t in the Bob Hope tradition.  What do you expect of Alec Baldwin on Sunday night? 

MITCHELL:  Well, I think the thing he‘ll bring to it is a real presence.  I think some of the most entertaining Oscar telecasts have been the ones people thought fell short.  Remember that great bit Chris Rock did a few years ago, when he went to the Magic Johnson Theater, and nobody had heard of any of the Oscar nominees.  Then they all sat there in stony silence, until they realized they were on a show that nobody in North America really cared about. 

I think that‘s what—you want somebody to shake things up.  As a viewer, you want that.  You also don‘t want the best songs.  So this year we won‘t get.  But it would be nice to have something that basically pays tribute to the movies that—basically “The Hangover” or “I Love You Man,” movies that impacted American culture, that people will be talking about in two or three years. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, do you film critics watch this thing—

MITCHELL:  Do you film critics?  Listen to the derision in your voice. 

Ask me again. 

O‘DONNELL:  You subversive film critics, do you watch this stuff in a way that‘s different from the rest of the citizenry out there?  Do you have insights to it, and expectations that other people don‘t have?  Or do you just sit there with a bucket of popcorn like everybody else and wonder what‘s going to happen? 

MITCHELL:  Yes, I sit there with a bucket of popcorn, think maybe, is there a new “Sex and the City” movie tonight on HBO.  You ask yourself those questions because they have done so much now to sort of guarantee the show is going to run on schedule, they‘ve taken the fun out of it.  There won‘t be any crazy speeches that go on too long, because everybody‘s limited to 45 seconds. 

I mean, all those wild card things—you talked about good taste, but do you remember that great moment where Rob Lowe danced with Snow White about 20 years ago?  That‘s what people talk about.  Nobody remembers the moments of what passes for good taste on the Oscar.  People don‘t want good taste.  They want food that tastes good. 

O‘DONNELL:  Compared to the Golden Globes, which is done kind of nightclub style—people are at banquet tables.  They are being served booze before the cameras even go on.  Whereas, in the Oscars, they are in that sort of church-like seating arrangement, and much more strict behavior.  The Oscars doesn‘t have a chance in terms of fun, compared to the Golden Globes.  Does it?

MITCHELL:  Not if you take all the craziness out of it beforehand.  What fun is that?  The great thing about the Golden Globes, it‘s like a high school assembly.  All the cool kids are outside smoking and drinking.  So by the time they stumble on to the stage, who knows what they are going to say? 

You have a host on the stage—this last year you had the great Ricky Gervais making fun of the entire event.  And the Oscars want—demand so much propriety out of the show that it really drains the fun quotient out of it.  You said before, the Golden Globes are hipper than the Oscars.  Well, that‘s like being the fastest midget at the circus.  It‘s kind of a meaningless, sober—

O‘DONNELL:  Film critic Elvis Mitchell, great thanks for your time and your perspective tonight. 

MITCHELL:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Enjoy the big show this weekend. 

MITCHELL:  You try to. 

O‘DONNELL:  That will 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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