updated 3/9/2010 11:28:09 AM ET 2010-03-09T16:28:09

ANNOUNCER:  This is a special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, “To

Health in a Handbasket.”

HOST, THE RACEHL MADDOW SHOW:  Good evening.

It appears that we are closer than we have ever been as a country to

significant, comprehensive health reform.  Barring a massive cascade of

Democratic fail, this is the end of the endgame.  The end of the endgame of

a whole game that began not with President Obama or President Clinton or

even President Johnson, but with Harry Truman.  President Truman declared

adequate medical care and adequate protection from the economic fears of

sickness were rights of citizenship and he declared that back in 1945.

Tonight, we will try to put the importance of this endgame in

perspective by documenting the lengths and the depths to which opponents of

health reform have gone to stop it this year.

The initial plan from the Obama administration, of course, was that

health reform would be on track to final passage by the end of the summer

last year.  That was the plan.  Until the Senate Finance Committee set

about working up its version of a proposed bill.

The subsequent gabbing and wrestling and dithering and bickering and

delaying opened a very dangerous door.  It gave the opposition time to

build up their movement against reform during Congress‘s August recess.

What they did with that time was relatively easy to see.  They

expressed open, blind, omnidirectional hostility to every idea remotely

associated with fixing America‘s dysfunctional health system, even ideas

that had been around for generations, even Republican ideas.  The “fear

health reform-palooza” took the form of bus tours and rallies and angry,

organized, screaming crowds at congressional town hall meetings.

Who exactly was fomenting and directing and organizing all that

hostility was less than clear at times.  We were supposed to think the

anti-health reform movement was a grassroots groundswell of ordinary

Americans fed up with the government trying to fix things.

We here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW looked into it and found something

quite different actually.  This was our report from August 11th.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Since the political fight over health care has taken the

recent turns that it has taken, it has seemed at times that while there was

a fight going on about health care reform, there was not actually a debate

going on.  That sense started in the third week of July when Roy Blunt, the

top Republican in the House for health care policy, announced that the

Republicans would not be introducing any health care policy.

That sense was furthered when strategy memos for right-wing

protesters attending town hall meetings about health care gave specific

instructions for how those protesters could interrupt those meetings, how

they could try to rattle the members of Congress leaving those meetings,

how they could shout out and then sit down to derail the meeting, to try to

get it off course, not to get a specific point across or try to be

persuasive in a debate.

That sense that this was a fight but not a debate was furthered

still when Democratic Congressman Brad Miller who decided not to have town

hall meetings after getting death threats decided instead to offer his

constituents the chance to meet with him one-on-one, to meet with their

member of Congress one-on-one so they could tell him their views on health

care policy and so they could hear his.

Quite an opportunity, right, if you care about health care policy? 

Yes.  Except the resounding response from his constituents opposed to

health care reform was “No, we don‘t actually want one-on-one meetings with

our member of Congress.  We prefer a town hall meeting.”  The better to get

on the YouTube yelling, like other like-minded people.  Who cares about

policy?  Who cares about health care really?

It‘s felt for weeks now like the conservative reaction to the

prospect of health care reform has not been seen by conservatives as an

opportunity to debate what to do about health care in the U.S., there is

one side wanting to talk about that, but the other side, the conservative

side, just wants the whole discussion to not happen at all.  It‘s not a

fight over how to fix the American health care system.  It‘s people who

want to fix the health care system versus people who don‘t even want this

conversation to happen, and who want to make sure that nothing happens to

the current health care system.

Today, we have confirmation that what it has seemed like is exactly

what it is.  Greg Sargent at the Web site the Plum Line uncovered details

of a conference call that was held last week among some of the organizers

of the town hall disruptions.  And according to someone who is on that

call, the explicit goal of the disruptions, as stated by the protest

organizers is, quote, “not to find a solution to the health care crisis.”

The moderator of the conference call—again, this is a conference

call of the organizers of the town hall protests, the moderator of the

call, said, quote, “The goal is not compromise, and any bill coming out

this year would be a failure for us.”

Yet another organizer put it even more bluntly, saying, quote, “We

have an opportunity to realistically kill Obama‘s agenda.”

That conference call was brought to you by a group called the Tea

Party Patriots.  The Tea Party Patriots—it sounds like a pretty

grassroots organization, right?  Probably made up of just normal folks

looking for a way to organize.

Well, if you tootle on over to the Tea Party Patriots‘ Web site, you

will see that the group bills itself as the, quote, “official grassroots

American movement.”  It‘s official.  They say so.

Scroll down to the bottom of the Tea Party Patriots‘ Web site and

you‘ll see their list of partners, official grassroots partners no doubt. 

Among them an organization that‘s been popping up over and over and over

again in connection to these town hall disruptions, it‘s a group called

FreedomWorks.  FreedomWorks has acknowledged that it is a national

copartner of the Tea Party Patriots.  In fact, when the Tea Party Patriots

organized a trip to Washington, D.C. last month, it was FreedomWorks that

provided them with prepared packets of information and who briefed them on

a typical Capitol Hill visit.

Last week, FreedomWorks came out with an August recess action kit,

directing people to town hall events and arming them with questions to ask. 

Recently, FreedomWorks officials have been going on the TV machine to brag

about in their words blowing up town hall events and calling on those who

attend them to be, quote, “aggressive.”

FreedomWorks is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that is

chaired by the former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey.  In

addition to being the head of FreedomWorks, Mr. Armey is a senior policy

adviser at a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm called DLA Piper.

Among DLA Piper‘s clients and former clients who just might be

interested in what happens with health care reform: Pharmaceutical-maker

Bristol-Myers Squibb, who paid DLA Piper through the end of 2008; medical

device supplier SleepMed Incorporated, who also ended their arrangement

with Piper just last year; health care provider Metropolitan Health

Networks; and the pharmaceutical firm Medicines Company.

Now, we mentioned Medicines Company on this program last week, and

while they do acknowledge paying Dick Armey‘s legal firm for lobbying, they

told us explicitly that the type of activities that FreedomWorks is engaged

in now with the shutting down of the debate over health care, by shutting

downtown hall meetings about health care, this group, the Medicines

Company, says that that is not at all what they were paying for.

The question is why are DLA Piper‘s clients relevant?  There appears

to be some pretty good evidence that when you pay Dick Armey‘s lobbying

firm DLA Piper, you get what Dick Armey‘s grassroots organization

FreedomWorks does.

Take the American Council of Life Insurers, for example.  According

to government records, they hired DLA Piper in February of 2007.  Within

six months, they paid the lobbying firm $100,000.

What else happened in that six months?  You guessed it.  Dick

Armey‘s group FreedomWorks, grassroots, remember, began lobbying Congress

to deregulate the life insurance industry.

You know, that just all happened to happen within the same six

months.  And, of course, perhaps it is just mere coincidence that

FreedomWorks happened to have a new found ideological purist grassroots

commitment to life insurance deregulation at the same time the American

Council of Life Insurers hired Dick Armey‘s lobbying firm—it could just

be a coincidence.  Could be, right?

Want one more?  In 2006, DLA Piper began lobbying for the Senado de

Republica, the Mexican Senate.  The purpose of the lobbying: quote,

“enhancing U.S./Mexico relations.”  Coincidentally, around the same time,

FreedomWorks began promoting itself as, quote, “one of the few conservative

organizations willing to aggressively promote meaningful immigration

reform.”  Another cowinkydink.  It‘s very grassroots.

In 2004, when President George W. Bush was trying to privatize

Social Security, a FreedomWorks employee was introduced at a White House

economic conference as a single mom from Iowa who supported President

Bush‘s efforts.  The president‘s budget director even singled out that

FreedomWorks employee as one of the regular folks who was behind the whole

idea to privatize Social Security.

This is how FreedomWorks does their work.  They try to create the

impression that they‘re just regular grassroots Americans without any

financial or political interests in the outcome of these policy fights.

On the board of directors of FreedomWorks, you‘ll find Richard

Stephenson.  In addition to being director of FreedomWorks, a group that‘s

actively trying to derail health care reform, Richard Stephenson is also

the founder and chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America,

Incorporated.  He‘s also president of International Capital and Management

Company, which runs a hospital consulting company.  Totally disinterested

party, right?

Then there‘s the president of FreedomWorks, a gentleman named Matt

Kibbe.  Before joining FreedomWorks, Mr. Kibbe was the former senior

economist for the Republican National Committee.  Before that, he was chief

of staff to Republican Congressman Dan Miller of Florida.

Republican officials and the health insurance industry and for-

profit hospital consulting firms and for-profit cancer treatment centers

and all of these other people have every right to participate in this

debate.  Of course, they do.  They have every right to go to these events

and yell “no” and say that there‘s no reason to reform health care.

They even have the right to scream at people who actually want to

talk about the fact that there might be a need to reform health care.  That

is their constitutional right.  They are Americans like any of us.

Nobody is suggesting that they can‘t participate in this debate in

the way that they are.  What is dishonest is to do it in a way that

disguises who they are, that disguises their role in it, that disguises

their financial role in it.

Washington lobbyists and health care executives and former

Republican Party officials have just as much a right to shout down the

policy debate about health care reform as anyone else does.  These folks

have just as much a right to try to derail this entire process as anyone

else does.

But we have the right to know who they are and who is paying them

for their efforts.  These guys are pros.  This is an industry.  This is

Beltway politics being organized and played out in town halls across the

country.

And as we have said before, and I fear we will have to continue

saying and saying and saying again, this should be reported as such.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  In the days that followed our reporting about Dick Armey‘s

role in opposing health reform, he resigned his position as senior policy

adviser at the giant lobbying and legal services firm DLA Piper.  Dick

Armey has continued his effort to kill health reform though, including one

time when he shouted me out at a rally and got my name wrong.  I have to

say it was an honor just to be mentioned.

So, at least some of the public rage against health reform was

fomented and organized and mysteriously financed inside the Washington

beltway.  One strand of pure baloney used to foment the rage was the made

up idea of death panels.  Up next, the birth of the deathers.  Do you

remember how the death panel thing started?  It was not Sarah Palin.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  One of the primary strains of anti-health reform rhetoric

came from folks known as the deathers.  Up next: the truth about the lies

about death panels and the old but forgotten anti-health reform pro who‘s

singularly responsible for inventing the whole thing.  Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  You know who‘s not all that excited about fixing America‘s

current health care system?  The companies that comprise America‘s current

health care system.  You see, they have a preexisting condition of awesome

profitability.  Please don‘t cure us.

The level of resistance among health industries is directly

proportional to the level of ginned up hysteria about the possibility of

America finally getting health care reform.  Among the most hysterical and

completely bogus drivers of public opposition to health care reform has

been the idea that the U.S. government plans to determine which senior

citizens among us should die and when.  They are the death panels and they

don‘t exist.

Yes, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has done what we could to figure out why

so many people believed the death panels do exist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  In 1993, the last time a newly-elected Democratic president

was pursuing health care reform, two of his most formidable foes were Harry

and Louise, a fictional middle-aged couple sitting at a kitchen table

talking smack about how dangerous it would be to reform the American health

care system.

Harry and Louise, of course, weren‘t just a freelance actual middle-

class couple concerned about cutting into the insurance industry‘s profit

margins.  They were actors.  They were hired by the insurance industry to

try to sink the reform plan.

Well, incidentally, the same actors who portrayed Harry and Louise

back in 1993, this year, have been hired by pro-health care reform forces

to try to sell the idea of reform.  So, the corporate interests opposed to

changing the system they profit from so handsomely and their allies in the

conservative movement have found new actors to sit at a fictional kitchen

table and talk smack about how dangerous it would be to reform health care

this time.

Here they are.  They‘re the new Harry and Louise, and this time, the

reason they say changing the health care system is so scary is because—

you guessed it—health care reform is really a secret plot to kill old

people, and to try to make people have more abortions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They won‘t pay for my surgery.  What are we

going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But, honey, you can‘t live this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And to think that Planned Parenthood is included

in the government-run health care plan and spending tax dollars on

abortions.  They won‘t pay for my surgery, but we‘re forced to pay for

abortions.

ANNOUNCER:  Our greatest generation denied care.  Our future

generation denied life.  Call your senator.  Stop the government takeover

of health care.

Family Research Council Action is responsible for the content of

this advertisement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You got that?  The real agenda lurking behind health care

reform is a secret plot to kill old people and to promote abortion.  That

ad was just released by the conservative group the Family Research Council.

Now, you know about the conspiracy theory that the president

secretly isn‘t really the president because he secretly is foreign.  Those

conspiracists are called birthers, right?  Christopher Beam at Slate.com

has christened the “health care reform as a secret plot to kill old people”

conspiracists as the “deathers,” which is sort of brilliant.

The deathers‘ theory is being advanced not only by far right

advocacy groups like the Family Research Council.  It‘s also being advanced

in Congress by Republicans like Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  It will not put seniors in

a position of being put to death by their government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The deathers‘ theory is also being advanced by Republicans

like Congressman Louie Gohmert on talk radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS:  We‘ve been battling this socialist

health care, the nationalization of health care, that is going to

absolutely kill senior citizens.  They‘ll put them on lists and force them

to die early.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The deathers theory is also being advanced, as of today, on

the editorial page of the conservative newspaper, “The Washington Times.” 

It should probably be noted that the editorial cites as its sources right-

wing talk show host Mark Levin, the Red State blog, and FOXNews.com.

But as the deathers theory leeches from the wingnut fringe into the

mainstream of efforts to stop health care reform, consider where it

started.  Consider its source.

When you start digging, it turns out that this theory all traces

back to a single person—a person named Betsy McCaughey.  She‘s a

director of a medical device company called Cantel Medical Corporation. 

She‘s also a former director of a biotech company called Genta.  She‘s also

a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank funded

by some of the biggest pharmaceutical giants in the country.

Betsy McCaughey is the person who started the whole conspiracy

theory that the government promoting people getting living wills—which

the government has done for 20 years—is somehow now a secret plot to

kill old people.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BETSY MCCAUGHEY, HUDSON INSTITUTE:  Congress would make it mandatory

absolutely require—that every five years, people in Medicare have a

required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life

sooner.

      

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Wrong.  Not true.  Not in the bill.  Not there.  Totally

false.

But nevertheless, Ms. McCaughey has seeded that idea on the

editorial page of “The New York Post” and in talk radio interviews with

hosts like Fred Thompson, and that‘s been enough for it to take root on the

right.

Now, Betsy McCaughey has done this before.  In 1994, she wrote an

attack on the Bill Clinton health care reform proposal in a magazine called

“The New Republic.”  That article was so riddled with errors that the

magazine ultimately distanced themselves from it, even though they

published it in the first place.  But that didn‘t stop the opponents of

health care reform back then from citing her disproven attacks over and

over and over again.  And so far, nothing is stopping the opponents of

health care reform now from doing the same thing.

The deathers theory is everywhere on the right.  It‘s on the House

floor.  It‘s on talk radio.  It‘s in TV ads and it is a script, a nonsense,

totally made up, totally disprovable script written by the corporate

interests who have wanted to block health care reform forever because

they‘re making a mint off of the way it is now.

Welcome back to 1993.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  This is a special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, “To

Health in a Handbasket.”

MADDOW:  The desperate fight to stop health reform from happening

has been paved with some really bad behavior.  With vigor and venom

generally reserved for the tragic results of ill-advised elective foreign

wars, some Americans confronted their elected representatives about the

possibility of reforming our lousy system—a system which is much less

effective than it is expensive.  The summer of town hall rudeness took

plight during the August recess for the House and Senate, and as

grassrootsy and as spontaneous as it was all supposed to seem, we

discovered that not all groundswell movements spring from real roots.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  As of Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives is

officially on recess.  And they are on recess for the rest of August.  And

while that sounds like an awesome summer vacation, what it means for House

members is as tradition dictates—they go home to their districts and

they meet with their constituents about all the hot issues on the political

stove right now.  Hottest among them of course is health care reform.

Now, whatever the political issues are this recess happens every

year, and the meetings with constituents thing happens every year.  What‘s

different about this year?  Well, I‘ll let you judge for yourself.  To my

mind, this is not your typical meeting with constituents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What government agency has the government taken

over and it‘s run beautifully and made money?

REP. TIM BISHOP (D), NEW YORK:  Sir, we are not talking—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, no, please tell me, please tell me. 

I‘ve asked you a question, please answer it.

BISHOP:  OK, if you would stop talking, I‘d be happy to answer it.

The overwhelming weight of the evidence, the scientific evidence, is

that global warming is real.  No one is talking about the government taking

over health care.

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t pull the wool over our eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Answer the question!

BISHOP:  I‘m trying to!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop of New York being shouted

down and overwhelmed by a belligerent, organized crowd of hecklers that had

no interest in letting him get a word out as he attempted to answer their

questions.  This could just be a one-off thing.  This could just be a one-

off experience of badly behaved constituents somewhere, mad at their

congressman about something or other.

It turns out this was not at all a one-off bad meeting.  It turns

out this is happening around the country.  Here‘s Texas Democratic

Congressman Lloyd Doggett—yes, there are still elected Democrats in

Texas.  Here‘s Congressman Doggett facing a similar scene at a town hall

event over the weekend.  This one took place at a grocery store in Austin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD:  Just say no!  Just say no!  Just say no!  Just say no!  Just

say no!  Just say no!  Just say no!  Just say no!  Just say no!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What you may or may not be able to make out there is the

crowd yelling “just say no, just say no,” they‘re holding signs depicting

Congressman Doggett as the devil and there‘s one sign that reads “No

government counselor in my home.”

The U.S. Senate doesn‘t take its recess for another week, but

Democratic Senator Arlen Specter got a taste of what his time off might be

like at recess during a town hall event that he held in Philly yesterday

with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY:  I am not a

member of Congress.  Have never been one—that‘s just a fact.  I‘m just -

I‘m just telling you.  My observation is I have never seen members of

Congress work harder on—it is unacceptable to me for somebody to—

      

(INAUDIBLE)

SEBELIUS:  Reform our health care system and stop this system that

we have now where insurance companies basically get to pick and choose.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We actually had to narrow down the pile of footage that we

had like this from just the last few days in order to figure out what to

show in the time we had available on the show. 

We could have spent the entire hour just showing tape like this.  But

the more time you spend looking into this seemingly organic outrage at

these town hall meetings, the more clear it is that this isn‘t organic at

all. 

This is orchestrated outrage.  There is a script for this stuff

written that was before these events happened and that appears to be

instructions to people to shut down these efforts at civic discourse. 

The Web site “Think Progress” obtained a leaked memo from a group that

calls itself “Right Principles.”  The three-page memo details how

protesters should behave at town hall events under the heading “Inside the

Hall.” 

It says, quote, “You need to rock the boat early in the

representative‘s presentation.  Watch for an opportunity to yell out and

challenge the representative‘s statements early.  If he blames Bush for

something, or offers other excuses, call him on it.  Yell back.  And have

someone else follow up with a shout out.  The goal is to rattle him.” 

Also, quote, when the formal Q and A session begins, get all your

hands up and keep them up.  The balance of the group should applaud when

the question is asked, further the representative on the defensive.” 

Who‘s giving these rent-a-mob instructions like this?  That memo was

written by a man named Bob MacGuffie.  Bob MacGuffie is affiliated with an

organization called Freedom Works.  Freedom Works is a Washington, D.C.

lobbying firm run by former Republican majority leader, Dick Armey. 

Corporate lobbyists are organizing far-right hooligan tactics to

disrupt civic meetings about health care reform.  This is the organized use

of intimidation as a political tool in the United States.  And I don‘t mean

intimidation euphemistically.  I mean literal intimidation. 

New York Congressman Tim Bishop, who we showed you earlier - he ended

up having to be escorted to his car by five police officers for his own

safety after his town hall event was over. 

And this type of harassment is not just reserved for elected

officials.  Check out what happened at a Syracuse, New York town hall

meeting when a man who supports a single-payer health care system stood up

at one of these events to ask why his Congressman wasn‘t supporting single

payer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s cheaper.  It would cover everyone.  We have 45

million people who are insured, Congressman.  Ninety people who have signed

on in the United States Congress - 90 people. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sit down.  Sit down.  Sit down. 

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why won‘t you cosponsor HR-676 single-payer universal

health care? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  This type of tactic, this type of intimidation is a deliberate

choice and it appears to be stoked and organized by corporate lobbyists. 

And it is not something that is happening in a vacuum. 

Let me give you another example of what‘s being passed off as politics

right now by lobbying interests on the political right.  When the Climate

Change Bill came before the House last month, a Democratic Congressman

named Tom Perriello of Virginia received a letter purportedly from a

nonprofit Hispanic group in his district. 

And the letter urged him to oppose the cap-and-trade legislation.  He

received similar letters from what were purportedly his local branches at

the NAACP.  Only, these letters weren‘t actually from that Hispanic group

in his district or the NAACP. 

A Republican lobbying firm in Washington has admitted to impersonating

those local nonprofits and sending Congressman Perriello fake letters to

get him to oppose the climate change legislation.  Congress is now

investigating this incident. 

This is a lobbying firm.  This is the establishment.  This isn‘t a

lone nut job passing himself off as a group he doesn‘t belong to.  This is

well-paid lobbyists doing this as a strategy. 

It‘s the same thing with the deathers.  The scare-your-grandmother

myth that the whole point of health care reform is secretly to kill old

people.  This patently, patently false rumor about health care reform as

we‘ve talked about earlier on this show was started by a woman who sits on

the board of directors of one of the nation‘s biggest medical device

companies. 

Everybody says oh, politics - it‘s isn‘t bean bag, right?  Obviously

this is not bean bag.  But this isn‘t hardball either.  No offense to

Chris.  This just isn‘t even politics.  This is orchestrated mob mentality

intimidation.  This is called hooliganism. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  As the prospects for health reform in America this past year have

flowed and ebbed and ebbed and flowed, three prime guaranteed to enrage

immovable facts of our current system have kept would be reformers

motivated - the cost of private health insurance, the callousness of the

big insurance companies toward their customers and the country and the

executive compensation packages for CEOs and bigwig executives at those

companies, even as they provide worse and worse service to fewer and fewer

Americans.

Those things have been very motivating.  In recent weeks, when

momentum behind health reform was starting to wane, fresh, new data came to

light that was frankly consistent with all the old data.  But it was a

great reminder of what was wrong with the system in the first place, why it

need to be fixed in the first place. 

And back came the momentum, and when the momentum came back, the

momentum for reform came back, so did the antireform forces.  Even the

deathers came back, though this time they came back with a twist.  Check it

out. 

Before the summer of the screaming town hall, before death panels and

fake grassroots anti-health reform bus tours, outrage in the country before

all of that was fueling the movement for health reform. 

That outrage was aimed at the insurance industry for jacking up rates

and denying people coverage and dropping sick people from their rolls. 

Prepared to return to that quaint time, because thanks to a report out

today from the advocacy group, Health Care for America Now, we have just

learned that the five largest for profit insurers in this country made a

combined $12.2 billion last year. 

For those of you keeping track at home that is a 56 percent increase

from 2008, a new profit record set of course in the middle of the worst

economic decline since the Great Depression.  They accomplished this record

feat at least in part by covering 2.7 million fewer people through private

insurance than they did the year before. 

It‘s as if someone has pushed the reset button on the politics of

health reform.  Once again, the country finds itself in a forced

confrontation with the reason that health reform is so needed. 

And again, like we‘re back to I guess last summer again, the right has

responded to the threat that health reform poses to the status quo by

propounding the theory that health reform is really a secret plot to kill

people.  In this case, they say it‘s a secret plot to kill ex-presidents. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Medical rationing is a big concern over the Democrats‘

proposed health reform.  Would President Clinton have been denied his heart

stent procedure under their plan? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Bill Clinton is now home and after undergoing

emergency surgery yesterday, the president has had two stents placed in his

coronary artery.  Amazing.  So if the Democrats‘ health care reform had

gone through, would President Clinton have received the stents? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does President Clinton, or you or I who needs it, get

the stent under the new regimen of health care effectively? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Welcome to the new health reform debate, same as the old health

reform debate, only instead of health reform being a secret plot to kill

old people or a secret plot to kill veterans or a secret plot to kill

Republicans, now health reform is a secret plot to kill Bill Clinton. 

That‘s the story on the right.  The story everywhere else is about

insurance companies like Anthem Blue Cross, the largest insurer in the most

populous state in the country, California, hiking its rates 39 percent

right now, just because - just because they can, even though their parent

company is making billions in profit. 

So far tonight we have documented the origin of various myths and

rumors and campaigns and self-proclaimed movements against health reform. 

But the story of this end game in health reform is incomplete if it does

not shed light on the performance of our elected officials, many of whom

have contradicted themselves and stretched the truth and flat out lied in

an effort to keep things just the way they are, in an effort to stop

reform. 

We will always do all that we can to expose the “audacity of nope”

here on this show.  That effort continues when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Imagine the delight of Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah when “The

Washington Post” agreed to print a string of falsehoods under his byline

without a whiff of resistance, without threat of a correction.  The

venerable, the vulnerable, and the flabbergasting outrage next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It‘s one thing to be against health reform.  Lots of reasons to

say like the current system or not like the proposed fixes or have an idea

you think might be better than the proposed fixes for making the

aforementioned fix. 

That‘s all part of the debate.  Arguments like that are why we have an

oppositional debate-based system of legislating.  It makes us stronger in

the end.  It makes for better policy - opposition, vigorous argument, good. 

Lying?  Bad. 

Lying about what‘s being proposed, lying about how the legislating

process works, even lying about your own record on matters being debated as

part of health reform?  Not OK.  Not helpful. 

Fortunately, there is a price to be paid for such bad behavior.  The

price is that the lies and you, the liar, get made fun of.  Sometimes even

on TV. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera):  Health reform is going to pass.  It‘s going to pass.  It

passed the house already before Christmas.  It passed the Senate on

Christmas Eve with 60 votes.  The next step is to bridge the differences

between the two bills so the president can get something on his desk to

sign. 

In order to do that, two things will happen.  First, the House will

pass the Senate version of the bill and then there will be a small package

of tweaks to that bill that will be passed by the Democrats under majority

rules. 

All appearances are it‘s going to happen.  There are things the

Republicans can do to yell and scream about it.  There are ways they can

try to slow it down.  There are epithets they can scream at it and crowds

to be whipped into blood-thirsty fear about it, but it‘s going to happen. 

All that‘s left is to procedurally see it through and of course, to

pop the popcorn and watch the people opposed to health reform lose their

minds over the fact that this is one that they have lost. 

For example, Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican‘s point person

in the Senate on health reform, has now started denouncing his own proposal

for a mandate that people buy insurance.  It‘s Charles Grassley‘s own idea

which he is now denouncing as unconstitutional.  Senator Grassley taking a

brave stance against himself. 

And there‘s senator Lamar Alexander who Senate Republicans have been

trying to elevate into a prominent position on health reform since maybe

Senator Grassley needed some help.  Lamar Alexander is now denouncing the

use of reconciliation to get around the fact that Republicans are

filibustering health reform. 

He‘s denouncing it as a political kamikaze mission, a mission that

should be noted Senator Alexander himself has flown many, many times when

he voted for things under reconciliation rules.  It‘s amazing, actually,

that he‘s still around to be so hypocritical after flying all those

kamikaze missions. 

Then, there is Senator John McCain who is proposing now to change

Senate rules so that no one can use reconciliation rules to get around a

filibuster when they‘re voting on something that involves entitlement

programs like Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security. 

John McCain‘s own record of voting yes on those types of votes that he

now wants to ban is apparently not holding the senator back from taking

this strong stance against his own behavior. 

Lamar Alexander, Chuck Grassley, John McCain - these not newbies. 

These have been senators who have been around the block.  These are guys

who book themselves on the Sunday talk shows instead of the other way

around because they are such respected, respectable members of the

political establishment. 

I thought these were the people we‘re supposed to take seriously and

yet they‘re just trying to get away with really, really blatant hypocrisy

on this subject. 

I don‘t get it.  Do they think they‘re so respected, they‘re so

mainstream that no one is going to fact check them?  They‘re above that or

something? 

Take another example.  Take Senator Orrin Hatch.  Senator Orrin Hatch

of Utah has just published an op-ed in “The Washington Post” that has so

many blatant, outright, laugh-out-loud falsehoods in it that it made me

wonder if maybe there is a deal or something where if you‘re a United

States senator or if you are a United States senator who‘s been in office

for 33 years like Orrin Hatch has, you just don‘t get fact-checked anymore

in “The Washington Post.”

They just agree to let you print whatever you want.  Is that the rule? 

Because if that isn‘t the rule, how else do you explain this?  This is

Orrin Hatch from “The Washington Post,” “This use of reconciliation to jam

through this legislation against the will of the American people would be

unprecedented in scope.  And the havoc wrought would threaten our system of

checks and balances, corrode the legislative process, degrade our system of

government and damage the prospects of bipartisanship.” 

Doesn‘t it sound horrible, this reconciliation thing?  Senator Orrin

Hatch certainly makes it sound awful; Senator Orrin Hatch who voted for a

reconciliation bill in 1989 and in 1995 and in 1996 and in 1997 and, again,

a second time in 1997 and again in 1999 and in 2000, and in 2001, and 2003

and in 2005 and then again in 2005 and then in 2007. 

Now, he says that doing what he‘s done all those times would wreak

havoc.  Orrin Hatch then goes on to admit that, yes, “both parties have

used the process,” he says, “but only when the bills in question stuck

close to dealing with the budget.  In instances in which other substantive

legislation was included, the legislation had significant bipartisan

support.” 

That is a total, utter, complete, 100 percent, unambiguous lie.  It is

a lie.  It is an L-I-E and I do not mean the Long Island Expressway.  It is

not the truth.  Maybe I‘m naive.  I find it hard to believe they think they

can get away with stuff like this. 

In 2003, Republicans used reconciliation to get the Bush tax cuts

passed, the tax cuts that exploded the deficit.  They did not get

significant bipartisan support for that.  They passed it with 50 votes. 

Dick Cheney had to come in as vice president and president of the

Senate to break that tie to give them 51.  Two years later, another

reconciliation vote, this time on Medicaid.  Republicans were only able to

get that one passed using reconciliation, too, because they only got 52

votes for that one. 

Significant bipartisan support - when Orrin Hatch says, “Hey, we never

used reconciliation for big substantive bills when the vote was going to be

close,” when he said it would be unprecedented, he was not telling the

truth.  It is a lie. 

Health reform passed the Senate by 60 votes.  It passed the House by a

majority.  And now, Democrats are going to pass the last fixes to align the

two bills using reconciliation. 

Republicans used reconciliation a lot for major legislation.  They did

it all the time and they‘re now lying about that record.  Orrin Hatch, in

particular, has been there voting with them while they did it just about

every single time. 

And now, Orrin Hatch is lying about that in “THE Washington Post.” 

And “The Washington Post” is just printing the lying.  Who knows, maybe

they‘ll run a correction. 

But meanwhile, Chuck Grassley, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, Orrin

Hatch - all these guys are taking brave, brave stands in public against

their own positions, against their own voting records, against their own

purported beliefs. 

It‘s one thing to not want health reform, to not want the other party

and a president from the other party to get a legislative win.  You don‘t

want them to be seen as addressing the problems of the country with a

policy that might help people. 

It‘s one thing to try to stop it.  It is another thing entirely to

expect us to suspend disbelief while you pretend you‘re doing this for

principled reasons.  At this point, you‘re a guy on a loud speaker scolding

us to keep our voices down. 

You‘re the speed-eating hotdog kid telling us to go vegan.  You‘re a

family values, chastity-lecturing lecher.  You are hypocrites.  You‘re not

making serious arguments and you do not believe what you‘re saying.  It‘s

disproven by your record. 

In the case of Orrin Hatch, you are flat-out lying about the history

of the tactic that Democrats are going to use to pass health reform.  And

that - lying about what‘s been done, lying about the record lying about

this tactic is not actually a substitute for just making an honest argument

against health reform. 

For “The Washington Post” to print something like this is bizarre. 

For these established, supposedly mainstream senators to try to get away

with this is an insult to everyone they‘re addressing and to the media in

particular. 

And for us all to just let this slide and call it politics is to

surrender to cynicism profoundly.  Listen, health reform is going to pass. 

Chuck Grassley, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, you can‘t stop

it.  You can‘t stop health reform.  You tried but you can‘t. 

But you can stop embarrassing yourselves with the blatant hypocrisy

and the lying.  Come on, get serious.  The country needs real debate.  The

country needs real opposition.  The country needs you guys to grow up here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In short order, we expect a shiny new bill to emerge from

Congress.  We expect it to zip 16 blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue to the

White House.  We expect it to receive President Obama‘s signature and we

expect it to become law. 

No one, of course, will be completely satisfied.  Republicans will

scream that the end of the republic is upon us, and possibly the country. 

And our medieval non-system of a health care system will be at least a

little better off for all this trouble. 

Throughout this grueling journey to get this far, the one poor soul

most often overlooked amid the bickering and the politicking has been the

health reform bill itself.  In September, we here on this show visited with

Bill just to see how he was doing. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera):  We have a very special exclusive guest tonight you will not

see anywhere else.  Joining us now is health care reform.  Hi, Bill.  Are

you OK?  I have to say you don‘t actually look very good. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (as Health Care Bill):  I‘ve had a bad August, Rachel. 

People said so many mean things.  I don‘t want to kill old people.  Come

on! 

MADDOW:  Well, things did seem to be going pretty well for you as recently

as July.  You were approved in those three House committees.  You were

approved in one Senate committee before the recess.  You only had one

committee to go.  What happened? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Max Baucus happened.  He thought delaying me would make

Republicans like me better.  Yes, right.  As if. 

MADDOW:  Bill, that cough sounds pretty bad.  Maybe you should get that

looked at. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would, Rachel, but I can‘t afford it.  I‘ve got to

go.  I‘ve got a cracked rib, too.  See you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Are you actually going to make it?  I‘m very worried about this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, Rachel.  You tell me. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Well, I‘m not a doctor.  Wait a minute.  Let me rephrase that. 

Given everything that has happened in the sixty-four-and-a-half years since

comprehensive health reform was first proposed in this country, given the

extraordinary power exerted to oppose health reform down the homestretch in

the last year, no one can say with 100 percent certainty that the Health

Reform Bill is going to survive. 

But given everything, all things considered, I think Bill is doing OK

right now.  We won‘t stop paying attention until we know for sure one way

or the other. 

That does it for our health care retrospective special tonight.  We‘ll

see you again tomorrow night to continue this reporting.  “COUNTDOWN” with

Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a great night.

END

                                                                                                               

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