Guests: Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Ezra Klein, Joshua Green, Bill Maher.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories
will you be talking about tomorrow?
On the road again: President Obama continues his final push for health
care reform, this time in St. Louis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for talk is
over. It‘s time to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: As next week‘s White House-imposed deadline to pass reform
draws near, will the president‘s 11th hour sales pitch work? And will the
House meet the looming deadline?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: That‘s our objective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Lynn
Woolsey, joins us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Are you gay?
FMR. REP. ERIC MASSA (D), NEW YORK: Well, here‘s that answer, I‘m not
going to answer that. In year 2010? Why don‘t you ask my wife, ask my
friends, ask the 10,000 sailors I served with in the Navy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Turns out someone did. Eric Massa‘s naval colleagues go
on the record. They claim Massa groped, harassed, and made unwanted
advances during his time in the service.
We‘ll talk to the man who broke the story, Josh Green of “The
Spending time with “Real Time‘s” Bill Maher. We‘ll talk Massa, tickle
fights, and a sex term that Bill Maher has never heard of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, TV HOST: I‘ve never heard this term “snorkeling.” Tell
me what snorkeling is. I mean, it does sound dirty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Plus, the continued crumbling of Eric Massa‘s media tour.
The more he tries to set the record straight, the less straight it gets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MASSA: I groped a male staffer. Yes, I did. Not only did I grope
him, I tickled him until he couldn‘t breathe, and then four guys jumped on
top of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MASSA: It‘s the whole schmizol (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in
for Keith Olbermann.
One week from tomorrow is the deadline President Obama set for the
House to pass the Senate health care bill and send it to him for his
Today, President Obama flew to Missouri to press his case for exactly
that, and it will not be his last trip to stump for the health care bill,
with more stops due next week. But today, he was at St. Charles High
School in St. Louis, traveling there with Missouri Senator Claire
McCaskill, who is not up for re-election and likely glad of that, but still
got all the boosting President Obama could muster, especially when he
announced that he is supporting a Republican idea to have more outside
auditors pore over Medicare and Medicaid payments and give them a finder‘s
fee for waste and fraud that they find—a pilot program that has already
recovered almost $1 billion in three states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Earlier today, with Claire looking over my shoulder, one of
our auditors-in-chief, I signed an order calling on all federal agencies to
launch these kinds of audits all across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—according to
“Politico”—told the White House that she was not happy about the
president‘s March 18th deadline for passing the Senate bill, she told
reporters today, she is pretty close to bringing the bill to the floor for
a vote and said, “Decision time is here”—a sentiment echoed by the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I believe that Congress owes the American people a final up or
down vote on health care reform.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: The time for talk is over. It‘s time to vote!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: It‘s time to vote! Tired of talking about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: President Obama addressed head-on Senate Republican Leader
Mitch McConnell‘s recent warnings that Republican congressional candidates
will make political hay out of health care reform this November if
Democrats vote for it. The president laughed at the notion that the
Republican was offering sincere political advice to Democrats, but also
admitted that he could not actually say whether McConnell is wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I heard the Republican leader of the Senate the other day.
He‘s warning Democrats: you better be careful about voting for this, it
could hurt you.
I don‘t know how sincere the Republican leader is about the best
interests of Democrats.
OBAMA: He‘s been very generous with advice.
You know what, here‘s the bottom line, St. Charles—I don‘t know how
the politics play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: For the state of play in the House, joining us tonight is
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman, thank you for your time tonight. And let me start by
asking you whether President Obama‘s campaigning, his speech-making out
there on the road, is moving wavering House Democrats to yes?
REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D-CA), PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS CO-CHAIR: Well, I think
the entire debate that‘s been going on for, what, a year or so, has reached
a point where we‘re glad to hear the president speak out and say what‘s on
his mind and what he wants us to do and get the country revved up. But I
don‘t think it‘s going to change a lot of minds. I think what he‘s saying
is, let‘s get this done and let‘s get it done now, is exactly the right
O‘DONNELL: There are reports today that Republican leadership plans
to use every vote you cast against you, especially the vote for the Senate
bill, which includes the special Senate vote-buying deals for Nebraska,
How will House Democrats respond to those attacks?
WOOLSEY: Well, I think the House Democrats have to trust that the
people that they represent, the people of this country understand that
we‘re going to vote for something and then we‘re going to fix it in the
very next vote. And the people of this country, they aren‘t dumb. I mean,
they know what‘s going on. And if we just explain it to them, I think
we‘ll come out ahead—because, you see, over 30 million people will have
health insurance that don‘t have it now, once we‘ve completed this.
O‘DONNELL: And so, is the explanation going to be, “I voted for it
before I voted against it”?
WOOLSEY: I guess that‘s what it is. What I‘m saying is, I will vote
for the Senate bill, knowing we‘re going to fix it at the very next vote.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Speaker Pelosi said today that you‘re pretty close to
getting the Senate bill on the floor. Does that mean you‘re also pretty
close to getting the guarantees you need from the Senate, about them
passing a corrective package in reconciliation? And what kind of
guarantees do you need?
WOOLSEY: Well, actually, we need an agreement between the speaker and
the leader that what we want to see in the reconciliation package will be
what is in it. And there will be no going back on their word. And I
believe that once they tell us this is it, this is what we‘re going to
agree to, they will stay with it.
O‘DONNELL: Is all the controversy now in the Senate about the Senate
parliamentarian throwing some scares into the House of Representatives,
meaning that in the Senate, in reconciliation, the parliamentarian there
can rule certain provisions out of order, and then to keep them in the
bill, it takes 60 votes in the Senate to do that—which the Democrats
obviously don‘t have. And so, are House members starting to get worried
that they might be able to pass the version of the reconciliation bill that
they want, but the Senate—because of the parliamentarian there—will
not be able to pass the same reconciliation bill?
WOOLSEY: Well, of course, that‘s a concern. Whoever thought—first
of all, it takes 60 votes to make a majority instead of 50, and then if one
person can stand up in the Senate and stop everything, and now the
parliamentarian can have more power than the whole House of
Representatives? I‘m totally furious over the fact that that‘s supposed to
be a democracy. I—we have to do something about all of that. But, yes,
it is a concern.
O‘DONNELL: Well, “The Huffington Post” today quoted union leaders now
saying that they will go after Democrats who stand in the way of health
care reform. But with Democrats poised to lose seats in the upcoming
election, can your party allow its allies in labor to attack any House
WOOLSEY: Well, I would hope they wouldn‘t. But I would also hope
that the great majority of Democrats are going to understand that we either
pass health care reform or we stand with the Republicans and defeat it.
And as soon as we pass it, we can get going to fix it, to make it even
better. So, I think we‘ll be pretty pleased that Democrats are going to
understand this when we get down to the final votes.
O‘DONNELL: Now, as the head of the Progressive Caucus, does it
surprise you that one of the most notable progressives in the House, Dennis
Kucinich, on this show, this week has said that he will vote against the
Senate bill. That it is not a progressive‘s bill. That it does not meet
his standards. That it does not deliver—he delivered a point-by-point
attack, basically, on the Democratic talking points on this bill.
Does he represent one vote? And are you completely counting him out
at this stage?
WOOLSEY: Dennis represents Dennis. He ran for president. He‘s a
unique, independent human being. But we aren‘t—the Progressive Caucus
isn‘t waiting to see what Dennis Kucinich is going to do before we decide
what we‘re going to do, as individuals and as a caucus.
O‘DONNELL: Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the House
Progressive Caucus—thank you for your time tonight.
WOOLSEY: Thank you for having me.
O‘DONNELL: Now, let‘s bring in Ezra Klein, who covers domestic and
economic policy for “The Washington Post” and is a columnist now at
Ezra, welcome back.
Senator Kent Conrad said today that it would be difficult to give the
House any kind of guarantee that the Senate would pass a companion
reconciliation bill if the House passes the Senate bill. Was that a
setback for fast-tracking the Senate bill through the House next week?
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: You know, it all depends by what you
think Kent Conrad means by “difficult.” A lot of difficult things so far
have been completed. What the House—what people think the House is
probably going to get is a letter signed by the correct number of senators
saying, “Look, we‘re going to do this.” But, you know, this gets to a real
fundamental problem in the process right now, which is when these two wings
of the same party don‘t trust one another enough to sort of say, “OK, we‘re
going to hold hands at the same time and jump.”
O‘DONNELL: Now, speaking of Senate votes, the president went from the
speech today to a fundraiser for Senator McCaskill. Is this plane ride
today and this speech all about just getting Claire McCaskill‘s vote for
the reconciliation bill?
KLEIN: You know, I would be surprised to see Senator McCaskill off
the reconciliation bill. But I think everything the president‘s doing now
is sort of all of it, right? He‘s trying to get the votes. He‘s trying to
shore up the base. He‘s trying to get the folks who are running in the
midterms a little bit more campaign money so they win.
It‘s part of a big, complex game. It‘s a lot bigger than health care
reform at this point. So, I think you‘re seeing—you‘re seeing the
campaign move out.
And one side note to that is Missouri‘s an important state, right?
So, there are a lot of House members in Missouri. There‘s a lot you could
be doing by trying to jump into that media market, beyond senator
McCaskill. But McCaskill may be the safest way to do it.
O‘DONNELL: Now, I‘m having trouble thinking of a legislative campaign
where speech-making made any difference at all. In fact, you can normally
when the Clintons tried this, you could track that the popularity of the
bill declined with every speech that Bill or Hillary Clinton gave. We saw
a similar pattern last year, 2009, on this. The same thing happened with
George W. Bush when he was trying to sell Social Security reform. The more
he talked about it, the more the popularity went down.
Is there—is there any—I can‘t—can you think of a campaign
where this kind of external speech-making around the country, in the final
closing stages of getting legislative votes on the Hill, where those
speeches made any difference?
KLEIN: I cannot. I mean, I‘d say two things about this. One is that
you actually see tightening in the polls on health care reform, which has
really surprised me. I thought things were pretty cemented. But in the
last week or so, actually past the summit, you‘ve seen the support go up a
bit and the opposition go down a bit. So, that‘s one data point.
The other is that a lot of this speech-making is trying to control the
media. It isn‘t just trying to move people. At this point, people, you
know, aren‘t going to move that often. But it‘s trying to make sure that
the president is in the headlines, that the process isn‘t dominating
everything, that it‘s not all sort of what did Kent Conrad say today and
what did Mitch McConnell say he was going to do, you know, to try to derail
the reconciliation process.
So, again, there are—it‘s a really multilayered game that
everybody‘s playing right now, and quite a bit of the time, things don‘t
mean or are not meant to deal what they seem to mean or seem to be meant to
O‘DONNELL: Now, Republicans are playing a mind game on House
Democrats. It‘s a very easy one to play. They‘re trying to make House
Democrats doubt that the Senate can pass a reconciliation bill, to correct
all the bad things that they‘re being asked to vote for in the Senate bill.
And trying to get House members to doubt that the Senate will do what it‘s
supposed to do has always been a very, very easy thing to do.
Is that strategy working for Republicans in the House right now?
KLEIN: It‘s a great example of the multilayered game, right? So,
Mitch McConnell‘s argument is that, oh, House Democrats, you don‘t want to
pass this bill, because if you pass this bill and the Senate doesn‘t move,
you‘ll be in much worse shape. And yet, Mitch McConnell isn‘t trying to
help the Democrats pass a bill, which in theory would make the House
Democrats in much worse shape, thus helping Mitch McConnell‘s Republicans
in the next election.
So, I think House Democrats are going to get a sense that maybe Mitch
McConnell does not speak in their best interest, or at least it is not
clear that he really believes his strategic advice he‘s offering to them.
Is he going to be effective in getting them to doubt it? Probably, but
they‘re doubting it already. Their question is, whether or not Democrats
in the Senate can work against that and give them enough assurances for
them to take up baby step forward.
But so far as Mitch McConnell‘s advice goes, he‘s not acting like
somebody who thinks Democrats would be worse off if this bill passes.
O‘DONNELL: Well, in a little-noticed move that I wrote about in “The
Huffington Post,” he entered in a unanimous consent agreement with Harry
Reid on getting that bill passed by Christmas Eve, which in that unanimous
consent agreement, made it impossible for them to pass any Republican
amendments, which he was very, very conscious of when he made that
But as we get to the finish line, Ezra, do you imagine Nancy Pelosi‘s
going to be willing to take this bill to the floor without having the
votes, coming in with her vote count being in the low 200s, she needs 10
more and she takes it to the floor to try to put the pressure on them for
the final closing vote?
KLEIN: Nancy Pelosi, to my knowledge, has never lost a vote. And I
don‘t know if that‘s because she‘s incredibly good at whipping votes when
she gets a close one on to the floor, if she‘s great at twisting those arms
at the final minute, or if she doesn‘t move until she has the votes.
Somebody very smart said to me the other day, you know, when anybody is
asked, do they have the votes, she says no, you know they have the votes
when Nancy Pelosi takes a vote.
So, I think that when you see this go to the floor, Nancy Pelosi has a
pretty good idea she can win. If they didn‘t think they could win, if they
thought they were going to suffer this massive blow to their prestige and
to their party, they would be trying to let it die quietly while they move
O‘DONNELL: Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek”—
thank you very much for your time tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: last night, former Congressman Eric Massa said
the men he served with in the Navy would tell us the truth. So, we‘ll see
how that‘s working out for him.
And later, Bill Maher joins us to discuss the unraveling of
Congressman Massa, including exactly what kind of snorkeling did that guy
do in the Navy.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: if you thought former Congressman Eric Massa
was a little inappropriate in some of his answers to Glenn Beck last night,
wait until you hear what Massa‘s former Navy bunkmates have to say about
him. And then you‘re going to hear what HBO‘s Bill Maher has to say about
that. That‘s ahead. This is COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: It turns out tickle fights and naked shower fights were
just the tip of the iceberg. Now, the Eric Massa story gets even stranger
but only at the former congressman‘s request.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It may be silly, but I guess we have to ask it. Are you—are
MASSA: Well, here‘s that answer, I‘m not going to answer that. In
year 2010? Why don‘t you ask my wife, ask my friends, ask the 10,000
sailors I served with in the Navy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Unfortunately for Eric Massa, one reporter has done just
that. And a few of those sailors have come forward.
Joshua Green of “The Atlantic” has spoken with some of the former
congressman‘s naval shipmates—those men telling him, among other things,
that Massa was notorious for making unwanted advances towards subordinates.
One of Massa‘s Navy shipmates, Peter Clarke, told Green about an
incident involving Massa and his friend, Stuart Borsch. “Stuart‘s at the
edge of the bed and Massa starts massaging him. Massa said, you‘ll have to
get one of my special massages. He called them Massa massages.”
Clarke told Green that Massa‘s roommate, Tom Maxfield was also touched
by Massa. “Tom lived on the upper bunk. When you‘re on ship, you‘re
almost exhausted 24-7, so a lot of times you sleep with your uniform on.
Tom and Massa shared a stateroom together. Massa climbed up on the top of
his bunk, which is hard to do—you never crawl up on somebody else‘s
bunk. He wakes up to Massa undoing his pants and trying to snorkel him.”
COUNTDOWN researchers have found several definitions for this kind of
snorkeling on UrbanDictionary.com. So, take your pick.
Stuart Borsch, the purported recipient of an unwanted Massa massage
did not address that specific incident with Green, but confirmed that he
was groped by Massa. “In 1990, aboard the USSA Jouett, I was awakened when
a senior officer, Lieutenant Commander Massa, seemed to be groping me. I
was a lieutenant at the time. I believe he may have been drinking. I
shouted at him and he left. I mentioned the incident to several other
officers. I did not officially report it.”
One of Massa‘s shipmates, Ron Moss, describing Massa as “a cocky guy,
competent, but he saw himself as a future admiral. It doesn‘t surprise me
he wound up in Congress.”
Joining me now is Josh Green, senior editor for “The Atlantic.”
Josh Green, did any of these Navy men report any of these incidents at
JOSHUA GREEN, THE ATLANTIC: Not at the time. They talked about it
amongst themselves. But Massa was the third in charge of these ships. So,
this was, you know, a senior officer and they fear retaliation. I mean,
Massa was thought of as a guy who was kind of on the fast-track to be
admiral, you know, difficult to go up against that sort of thing and report
it. There‘s an obvious, you know, stigma with this sort of thing.
And so, no, it wasn‘t—it wasn‘t reported at the time.
O‘DONNELL: And, of course, it‘s the Navy. So, you know, you can‘t
report every one of those things on a ship. Now, Massa has invited your
research yesterday by talking about, you know, all these guys in the Navy,
they can vouch for me.
How hard was it for you to find people to not exactly vouch for him?
GREEN: Well, not very hard. I mean, you know, the tip came from
Massa himself. You know, we found some people who had been his shipmates.
I talked to them.
It turned out, you know, there‘d been the same pattern of abuse
towards subordinates that we read about, you know, Massa engaging in in
Congress. They came forward and they went on the record. They gave, you
know, statements. They corroborated each other‘s stories and it‘s pretty
clear that this is something that was going on in the Navy with Massa as
long as 20 years ago.
O‘DONNELL: Now, you also found that people in the Congress were not
exactly shocked by this, that there were rumors, there was talk, there were
people who had a feeling that this kind of thing was going on.
GREEN: Yes. I mean, you know, one of these sailors had talked to,
you know, former Democratic chief of staff, had warned him that, you know,
Massa was a bad guy. But I don‘t think anybody had a real full
understanding of just how kind of, you know, freaky Massa was when it came
to some of his proclivities and practices towards subordinates.
So—but, you know, doing the reporting today, I talked to, you know,
a lot of former staffers of his, you know, a lot of former Navy shipmates,
and it is pretty remarkable, you know, the pattern of behavior, the extent
of it, and really the fact that it hasn‘t become public before now.
O‘DONNELL: And there‘s absolutely no bubble around him that protects
him from this kind of information, protects us from getting this kind of
information, in any way. I mean, it seemed like—I mean, you did the
real work of the reporting, but you didn‘t have to go through 1,000 Navy
sailors to find somebody who could tell you something.
GREEN: Well, he didn‘t make it very hard.
GREEN: You know, he gave me the lead on Glenn Beck last night. So,
you know, it‘s just a matter of picking up the phone.
O‘DONNELL: Now, when the congressman resigns, there‘s no longer an
ethics committee investigation of the congressman. But there are staff
members involved in that investigation who may still be on the House
Is that a way to keep some form of this investigation alive by finding
out what their stories are?
GREEN: I don‘t know. I just—the news just broke a couple of hours
ago that the House Ethics Committee was going to close down the
investigation of Massa, but I don‘t know yet if it‘s going to continue into
staffers and to what other people knew at the time. You know, if there‘s
going to be any sort of criminal investigation, naval investigation, that
sort of thing. I think that remains to be seen.
O‘DONNELL: And how do Democrats think this is playing for them as
they try to get serious and approach a final vote on health care reform?
GREEN: You know, I—I think it‘s pretty toxic. I mean, I think,
Massa sort of followed the Mark Sanford “school of crisis management,”
where he‘s going out and talked and talked and dug himself in deeper and
deeper. You know, at this point, it appears, you know, more or less like
sort of a lunatic. So, he‘s kind of off, you know, doing his own thing.
I don‘t know that this hurts Democrats or Republicans, particularly.
I mean, his story at this point is pretty focused on, you know, Massa
himself. And, you know, he seems to be wanting to become sort of a
Republican darling at this point—you know, talking about Rush Limbaugh,
going on Glenn Beck‘s show.
So, it‘s not really clear who has ownership of Massa as a political
entity, but, you know, his early claims that, you know, he was being—you
know, this was being forced upon him. He was being set up because of his
vote on health care—you know, I think that‘s been pretty definitively
knocked down at this point.
O‘DONNELL: Josh Green of “The Atlantic”—thanks for doing the hard
work of finding more people to tell more crazy stories about Congressman
GREEN: Good to be with you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Even before these latest allegations, Congressman Massa‘s
many interviews have had the media groping for answers. Thing highlights
and the lowlights—ahead.
And coming up next: in the middle of a sex scandal, who better to
guide us through it than Bill Maher? My interview with Bill—next on
O‘DONNELL: There is a strange, winding road that leads from former
Congressman Eric Massa to health care reform, to why President Obama should
quit smoking. And in a moment, Bill Maher obligingly leads us down that
road. First, a reminder that former Congressman Massa had truly outdone
himself with that Glenn Beck interview, right up until the Larry King
interview. And, of course, as if that weren‘t enough, there were today‘s
revelations about Massa, the Navy, and snorkeling like you‘ve never
To analyze all of this, earlier today, I spoke with Bill Maher, the
host of HBO‘s “Realtime With Bill Maher.”
O‘DONNELL: Bill, Bill, Bill, just pardon the expression, but thank
god you‘re here tonight. With this Eric Massa thing breaking, Howard
Fineman just wasn‘t feeling gay enough to talk about it tonight. And you
saw Larry King last night, right? You saw the big interview?
BILL MAHER, “REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER”: I saw part of it, yeah.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think, you know, the dean of TV interviewing,
Larry King, has reset the table for how this stuff is supposed to work. So
my first question to you is, are you gay?
MAHER: If I was, I would be better looking. I wish I was gay. I
wish I was the kind of guy that at least people sometimes mistake for gay.
But I have no doubt about this Eric Massa. I would just like to know
I would be very curious—I would love to be a fly on the wall in that
congressional steam room, and see how many closet cases there are in this
Congress. I don‘t—I think the Vatican has less repressed homosexuals
than the United States Congress.
O‘DONNELL: It was amazing to listen to, wasn‘t it? He somehow made
taking showers naked sound really gay.
MAHER: Yeah. You know, there‘s something going on in the Navy. Now,
look, I‘m not trying to knock the Navy or any military branch. They
certainly do things that I haven‘t done for my country, and they have my
utmost respect. But, you know, why did the Village People sing “In the
There just seems to be a lot going on when you‘re on a ship, you‘re on
the water, you‘re away from home for a long period of time. I think
there‘s a mentality a little like prison, maybe, where—you know, where
we‘re not gay, we‘re just having sex with men because we‘re away from home
for a long time.
I mean, some of these things that this man describes, you know, it
just—it‘s always reminiscent, these guys who are repressed homosexuals,
of this idea that somehow it‘s just sinning. You know, this is what the
Evangelical Christians always say. Well, I‘m not homosexual, it was just
sinning, as if all of us men are looking to do the same thing, but we just
don‘t because it‘s sinning.
You know, that story he told about being at the wedding and the guy
comes up to him and says, you know, you really should be hitting on the
bridesmaid. Now, you know, I could think of a lot of things that I would
say or a person in that position might say. Like, well, I‘m in Congress;
maybe I shouldn‘t be hitting on women at a wedding when I‘m married, things
like that. But one thing I just wouldn‘t say, that would never cross my
mind to say another man is, I really should be doing you, and then tussle
You know, the other one where he comes in on the guy on the ship and
he‘s masturbating and slaps him on the leg and says, can I help you with
that? Again, something I never really would do. Doesn‘t cross my mind,
because I‘m not a sinner. See, Lawrence, I‘m not a sinner.
O‘DONNELL: I get it. Now there‘s more news today from the Navy,
Bill. It turns out that one of the guys on the ship with him says that
Massa was known for giving Massa massages, and the occasional groping here
and there. And then they talked about this thing—again, it‘s a Navy
thing—which they call snorkeling. It has to do with bunk beds and the
guy in the upper bunk. But when you were in the Navy, did they do that?
Can you explain that to us?
MAHER: Well, I was not in the Navy, and I was in college when the
record came out from the Village People. I didn‘t even really catch on to
the reference there. I had to be a little older before I got it. I‘ve
never heard this term snorkeling.
O‘DONNELL: No, no, wait a minute. We have to stop. There‘s a sexual
term that Bill Maher has never heard before today?
MAHER: And I believe I coined Dirty Sanchez.
O‘DONNELL: You did.
MAHER: No, I‘ve never—I‘ve never heard snorkeling. And I didn‘t
read the story today. So I‘d really appreciate being enlightened, if you
could tell me what snorkeling is. I mean, it does sound dirty. Right away
O‘DONNELL: All we really know, Bill—
MAHER: Yeah, go ahead.
O‘DONNELL: -- is that it involves a guy in a top bunk and a guy in a
bottom bunk, and probably some symbolic form of snorkeling, as opposed to
an actual snorkel going into anyone‘s mouth.
MAHER: I‘m just glad there are no glass coffee tables on submarines.
That‘s all I‘ll say. Between this and Tea Bagging, it kind of reminds me
of when Clinton was being impeached, remember, and the Republicans were
saying all sorts of things like, gosh, it‘s terrible; kids can‘t watch TV
nowadays without parents having to explain to them these horrible, sexual
acts. Well, it‘s kind of like that again. What does junior say? Mommy,
you told me to watch the news. What happens when you‘re Tea Bagging and
you want to snorkel? God, what sort of thing is—
O‘DONNELL: I am not sure that can be done. But we‘ll need someone in
the Navy to tell us whether it can. But one of the guys in the Navy also
said today, who served in the Navy with Massa said today—and this is a
quote. He said, “it doesn‘t surprise me that he wound up in Congress.”
Now, isn‘t that Congress‘ problem, that America isn‘t surprised he
ended up in Congress either? This is the kind of guy they think ends up in
Congress. And that‘s one of the problems when Congress asks Americans if
they wouldn‘t mind Congress tampering with the health care system.
MAHER: Right. Well, of course, you know, we always laugh at the
politicians, and we should. I‘m glad we have them, especially as a
comedian. It‘s great fodder. This is why it was so amusing to me when
people said, when Bush was leaving office, do you think comedy will be able
to continue? Yes, I think it will be able to continue, because there‘s
this endless supply of people like Eric Massa.
But, you know, you kind of have to look at the people themselves.
They vote for people like that, because what is their criteria when they
get in the booth? It‘s very rarely to elect the smartest guy. They elect
just this unending parade of creeps and ignoramuses. I know. You know,
because you talk to them all the time. Most people don‘t talk to their
congressmen. I talk to people who come on this show. And there are some
people who are very bright, but there are some people you go, wow, there‘s
just nothing going on above the neck, is there? You won this office
because you spouted some platitudes somebody wrote on a card; you wore a
flag pin; you said the right thing; you didn‘t step in any of the ditches
that they laid out for you; you didn‘t touch a third rail; and that‘s why
you‘re in Congress, but you‘re an idiot.
And when I see this creep give every possible excuse that he could,
when he was first defending himself, I thought, wow, he goes right down the
list. First, he blames it on health. Then he mentions his family. Then
it‘s the climate in Washington. I thought, OK, are we going to get to
personal responsibility? Are you going to get to that part? And darn it,
if he didn‘t do it. Yes, I disappointed myself, because I‘m usually such
an awesome dude. And I thought, wow, you stuck the landing, dude! You got
every single one of them. Now please go kill yourself.
O‘DONNELL: Bill, when we come back after the break, we‘re going to
talk about serious affairs of state. No tickle fights, none of that stuff.
We‘ll be back with the serious stuff. We‘ll be right back with more Bill
Maher on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: We‘re back with Bill Maher here on COUNTDOWN. Bill, after
my tickle fight last Friday night, as I always do, I watched your show, and
new rules, you turned into a prude, suddenly. You want the president to
quit smoking. You became Mayor Bloomberg on Obama. What‘s the quit
smoking bit with Obama?
MAHER: Well, it was tongue in cheek, Lawrence, as you know. Come on,
do I have to tickle you to get you to laugh at this one? No, what I was—
you know, the point of the rule was that when people quit smoking, they get
angry. And I like my president angry, because, you know, considering how
much in this country people are poisoned, ripped off and lied to, we all
should be angry, but especially that guy, who has to deal with Congress
every day, and trying to get this health care bill through and all that.
And you know, I like him when he‘s out on the stump in sort of a
partisan mode. I think his biggest mistake that he has made in his first
year was to put bipartisanship ahead of fixing the country. He spent all
his political capital on getting three damned votes for that stimulus bill,
instead of coming in with all the energy from the election and saying, you
know what, we‘re in a crisis mode; I won this election by a sizable
mandate; here‘s what we‘re going to do; if you don‘t like it, Republicans,
you can suck on it.
O‘DONNELL: He was back on the road today, Bill, in St. Louis. It was
his 52nd, or maybe 53rd, speech on health care. What more can he do? I
mean, no president‘s ever given more speeches on one legislative subject
like that before.
MAHER: Well, there‘s nothing more he can do, because he‘s sort of
made his bed already with the plan that they have. You know, I mean,
again, I think he made a big mistake from the get-go not supporting a
public option and standing up for that. Because I don‘t believe that this
plan is going to save money the way that he say it will. I think they
wussied out on standing up to the things that were going to be cost
cutting. So I don‘t believe that part of it.
So he‘s stuck with this plan, which I think is—it‘s not a great
plan. I mean, yes, it accomplishes some things. And I guess I would call
it a quarter loaf is better than none.
But we asked this question on the show a couple of weeks ago. You
know, 45,000 people die every year because they don‘t have health care.
Can you imagine if that many people were dying in Iraq or Afghanistan? Why
is the that that‘s an impossibility in the country, that that many people
can die—or in a terrorist attack—but it‘s OK that they die from a
failing medical system?
I don‘t know why they framed the debate the way they did, or rather
that they didn‘t. They should have framed it in a moral sense like that.
And they should have framed it for people who are more selfish thinking,
that this is a—that you are going to go broke.
Democrats need to use fear the way the Republicans use fear. And it‘s
true. I mean, health care costs keep going up. They should have scared
the American people into thinking, look, I know you think you like the plan
you have now, but it‘s going to slowly drown you in debt. He started out
all wrong by saying, if you have—if you like the plan you have, you can
keep it. And everybody went, well, then what‘s the problem? Why are we
spending all this money?
O‘DONNELL: And Bill, I think one of the problems of framing it
morally for them was. at the outset, they gave up the concept of universal
coverage. Their bill, as they‘ve designed it now, in its most optimistic
form, would leave another 15 million, 20 million people without any
insurance at all. And so all those same sob stories will exist after this
bill takes full effect.
So it seems like they couldn‘t really embrace the morality argument
because, in their moral choice, they were leaving out about half the
MAHER: Yeah. They should have started with single payer. I mean,
even if they weren‘t going to get it, it is what most other Western
democracies have. It‘s the one program that makes sense. But, OK, we live
in a country that doesn‘t make sense. But at least start with that.
During the campaign, Obama said, if we were starting from scratch,
single payer would make sense. Well, then, let‘s start from scratch. That
is kind of where we are in this country right now. And if they had started
from that, then the fall-back compromise position would have at least been
the public option.
But they didn‘t even start with the public option. He didn‘t even
defend that. So what you have here is probably more of a Republican plan
than the one that was on the table in ‘93 that the Republicans were
O‘DONNELL: Bill Maher, right again.
O‘DONNELL: That was my interview with legislative policy analyst Bill
Maher of “Realtime” on HBO.
Stand by, there‘s more from Eric Massa. The best of the former
congressman‘s media tour. Every politician‘s worst nightmare is a dream
come true for COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: For the past 24 hours, the twists, turns, and tickles in
the saga of Eric Massa have grabbed a stunned nation‘s attention. A
congressman resigns, allegations of corruption, vicious tickle fights, wet,
naked men, bunkmates breaking the boundaries. Mix in a little Glenn Beck
and Larry King, and this story has it all.
For those of you on another planet since Monday, here‘s all you need
to know, so far, about the Massa disaster.
MASSA: I was set up for this from the very, very beginning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democratic Congressman Eric Massa of New York is
resigning today from Congress, after it was revealed that the House Ethics
Committee is investigating him for allegedly making inappropriate comments
to a male staffer.
MASSA: I grabbed the staffer next to me and said, what I really ought
to be doing is fracking you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s in the Navy. They talk a lot like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of weird things coming from Eric Massa.
MASSA: Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument
with a naked man?
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: There is still something fishy about
why a guy would resign if there‘s only one sexual harassment allegation.
MASSA: I, for the life of me, can‘t figure out why they took all the
shower curtains off the shower stalls in the Congressional showers.
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Massa says a dirty joke and he‘s pushed
out? The Democratic party are out to destroy this man. Everything‘s
starting to come undone. There is something going on, and it is really
bad. The future of the republic is at stake. This is a moment that will
decide the course of this nation, possibly. He‘s going to be with me for a
full hour tomorrow. Someone needs to expose the game, and Massa is doing
MASSA: Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn‘t
breathe and four guys jumped on top me.
My 50th birthday, I grabbed a guy, I tousled his hair. Now they‘re
say I groped a male staffer. Yeah, I did.
BECK: My name is at stake here. Do you realize that my family is at
MASSA: It‘s the whole shmazole (ph).
BECK: Don‘t have tickle fights in the Navy. I‘ve never been in the
Navy. I don‘t know what tickle fights.
MASSA: Let me show you something.
BECK: You‘re going to show me tickle fights?
MASSA: I‘m going to show you a lot more than tickle fights. It looks
like an orgy in Caligula.
BECK: The other part of it is corruption. You tell me something that
I don‘t know about corruption. Name names. Tell America what you know.
You have talked about corruption. What‘s happening? Tell us what you
What specifically did he do?
Tell me something about the unions and how the unions are working.
Any kind of corruption.
Is there arm twisting going on?
What is the White House doing?
Did he threaten, harass, or intimidate? Is there any specific?
MASSA: The most important thing that people can do is to get
involved. I mean, it‘s that simple.
BECK: No, no.
MASSA: And vote.
BECK: You are in—America, I‘m going to shoot straight with you. I
think I‘ve wasted your time.
MASSA: I want to do this interview, one more, and then go away.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Eric Massa, hello. Are you—you are—are
MASSA: Here‘s that answer. I‘m not going to answer that.
KING: At your 50th birthday party, you groped a male staffer.
MASSA: When four guys jump on you to wrestle you, to prove that
you‘re 50 years old, anything can be called anything.
KING: You admitted groping—groping. You groped male staffers?
O‘DONNELL: You said you groped, so—
MASSA: Well, yeah—
KING: So you did grope someone, right? There‘s no other way to
define groping but sexual. Groping is sexual. You said you groped
MASSA: And here you go back to that—
KING: Who was a male.
You‘re both in a gym, right? No women are there. You were nude too,
MASSA: I was in a shower. That‘s generally how I am.
KING: No shower curtain. So he‘s walking around nude. The fact that
he‘s nude is immaterial. The fact that he didn‘t have clothes on and you
were coming out of a shower is immaterial.
MASSA: No, it‘s just—Well, it‘s terribly awkward. I mean, it‘s
terribly awkward. When was the last time you had a political argument with
a naked man?
MASSA: It just doesn‘t work well.
The whole shmazole.
O‘DONNELL: Why do I get the feeling this is not the end of this guy?
The reality shows must be showering him with offers. But that will have to
do it for this Wednesday 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.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Lawrence. I have to tell
you, I watched you—I watched you do COUNTDOWN last night on live TV on
an airplane. I was on one of those planes that shows live TV.
O‘DONNELL: Wow, what a country.
MADDOW: You look even better on the back of an airplane seat than you
do on a regular screen.
O‘DONNELL: Because the screen is so tiny. That‘s why.
MADDOW: But you wear it well, Lawrence. You wear it very well.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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