updated 3/25/2010 1:30:42 PM ET 2010-03-25T17:30:42

Guests: Rep. Barney Frank, Mark Potok, Eric Burns, David Corn, Richard

Wolffe.

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

will you be talking about tomorrow?

The health care reform backlash.  Now that it‘s law, there is

bipartisan agreement that the overreaction to it is dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

               

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  The violence and threats

are unacceptable.  It is not the American way.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER:  Democracy cannot survive

unless we have a civil society in which debate is open and free and

unfettered by threats.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O‘DONNELL:  At least 10 Democrats faced threats; a brother of one

congressman has his home vandalized.  Tonight, reaction from Congressman

Barney Frank, and a look at how the rhetoric over health care has sent some

protesters over the edge.

Now, the FOX noise machine tries to ignore health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  While everybody else focuses on health

care, I want to look to the future.  I want to tell you what‘s coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Hey, Glenn, why don‘t you and your network focus on just

telling the truth?

Tonight, how the wingnut media helped stoke the violent reaction to

reform.

The reconciliation roadblocks—the Democrats call out the

Republicans for their final day of obstructionist tactics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You might call this the Republican version of

March Madness.  They know it‘s going to end.  They just want to drag it

out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The latest from Capitol Hill as the voting on a flood of

amendments is underway in the Senate—where health care reform is still a

big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.

And the look ahead to 2010.  The GOP is ready with the slogans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  I think the slogan will

be “repeal and replace.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  But who‘s going to tell Republican Chuck Grassley to stop

bragging about helping write the bill?

And “Yes, we can” get some makeover.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, we can.

BOEHNER:  Hell, no, you can‘t!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  I must be confused.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

for Keith Olbermann.

If you believe in democracy, you have to live with its outcomes, even

when you disagree with them.  This week, a president who was elected on a

mandate of change signed into law a major health care reform bill that was

passed by a majority of the House and 60 percent of the Senate.

In the wake of that passage, acts of vandalism and threats of violence

have escalated against House members.  It began with the racial epithets

and homophobic slurs hurled at members of the House during Saturday‘s tea

party protests on Capitol Hill and continued when Republican Randy

Neugebauer yelled “baby killer” at Democrat Bart Stupak on the House floor.

It is now getting worse.  Congressman Stupak says he has received

death threats after voting for health care reform, that callers have left

him messages saying, “You‘re dead.  We know where you live.  We‘ll get

you.”  That‘s the worst of it.

Today, the Michigan Democrat released some of the other messages he‘s

been getting at home that have kept his wife from answering the phone.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER:  Congressman Stupak, you baby killing

(EXPLETIVE DELETED).  I hope you bleed out your (EXPLETIVE DELETED), got

cancer and die, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  There are millions of people across the

country who wish you ill.  And all of those thoughts projected on you will

materialize into something that‘s not very good for you.

(END AUDIO CLIPS)

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Stupak, a former police officer, told

“Politico” he‘s not fazed by any of the threats.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, chairman of

the rules committee, received a death threat targeted at her children at

her campaign office in Niagara Falls, New York.

A brick was also hurled through the window of a Democratic Party

headquarters in Rochester, New York.

And in Virginia, the older brother of Congressman Tom Perriello had

his home address published by two Danville tea party activists who thought

it was the congressman‘s address.  Tuesday night, his brother and his

family smelled gas and discovered that the gas line had been cut.  In their

mail, they found a threatening letter addressed to the congressman.

Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner both explained and denounced

the threats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  There are a lot of angry Americans and they‘re angry over

this health care bill.  They‘re angry about the fact that the Democrats

here in Washington aren‘t listening to them.

But I‘ve got to tell you that violence and threats are unacceptable. 

It is not the American way.  Yes, I know there‘s anger.  But let‘s take

that anger and go out and register people to vote.  Go volunteer on a

political campaign and let‘s do it the right way.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  OK.

BOEHNER:  I‘m concerned about the amount of violence and anger that‘s

out there, but it‘s unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Any possible link between people‘s anger and the lies and

rhetoric from the minority leader himself and others on the right are

seemingly lost on Mr. Boehner.

The Democratic leadership says there have been threats to about 10

Democratic lawmakers.  The FBI announced it is investigating.  What the

bureau might be able to do about the threat to democracy is less clear.

The House majority leader sees the threat this way—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOYER:  Our democracy is about participation.  Our democracy is about

differing and debate, and animated debate, and passionate debate.  But it

is not about violence.  Democracy cannot survive unless we have a civil

society in which debate is open and free and unfettered by threats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The latest development tonight, Congressman Stupak and Jim

Clyburn both received faxes each, had a drawing of a noose on it.

Time now to call in Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of

Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Congressman, after this weekend of protests which you‘ve described as

a mass hysteria and compared it to the Salem witch trials—in your 29

years in the House, is this about as rough as it gets?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Unfortunately, yes.  And let me

throw in one other thing, and the Republican leadership finally decided to

say no, although they still are ambivalent about it, saying, well, yes,

this angry and people aren‘t listening to you.

Well, obviously, we are listening.  But they mean is what you said

early on.  They lost the vote.  And in a democracy, when you lose a vote,

that‘s not a justification for violent threatening behavior.

But on Sunday morning, a couple people violated the most basic rule of

a parliamentary democracy.  They began disrupting the proceedings of the

House of Representatives from the gallery.  Two of the officials went to

throw them out.  These aren‘t cops, these are civilian ushers.

It‘s a very dangerous place with a steep pitch and sort of wrestling

people who are trying to resist this.  It‘s not a fun thing.

To my disgust, dozens of Republicans of the House stood up and egged

on the protesters.  Here were people violently resisting law enforcement

people trying to preserve fundamental order in a parliamentary assembly and

they were being cheered on by the Republicans.

I‘ve never seen this.  I‘ve never the kind vituperation that was being

expressed by people outside and obviously, people—look, under the First

Amendment, you have the right to be a jerk.  In fact, the First Amendment

protects jerks, because if you‘re a nice person, nobody will try to shut

you up.  So, no one is talking about their legal right to behave in such a

terrible fashion, although the threats and spitting obviously go beyond

that.  But you had the Republicans all day Sunday cheering them on.

And finally, because the political reaction was so negative, you have

John Boehner denouncing it.  Earlier, the reaction was to say these were

isolated incidents.  As I said to one friend, yes, you know, what‘s 40 or

50 isolated incidents in a day?

O‘DONNELL:  Now, we saw Congressman Bart Stupak kind of shrug off

getting death threats.  I saw you shrug off the things that were yelled at

you over the weekend, speaking to Rachel Maddow on this network.  You just

shrugged these things off.

How do you do that?  I don‘t think there‘s any viewers out there

watching this who can imagine getting death threats or getting yelled at

the way you‘ve been yelled, called the names you‘ve been called, and just

shrugging it off and walking into work.  How do you guys do that?

FRANK:  Well, a couple of things.  First of all, I—I have to say,

maybe I‘m luckier than some of my colleagues.  I don‘t get death threats so

much.  I get after death threats.  That is people tell what‘s going to

happen to me after I die and I‘m frankly un-persuaded that they‘re going to

have a lot to do with that.

But yes, I got to understand them.  My partner, Jim Ready, is a guy

who is new to politics through our connection, and he—we had a weekend

plan, but because of the votes, he came down to join me for the weekend and

accompanied me.  And, you know, I saw through his reaction he‘s not used to

having people yelling homophobic threats and other vicious kind of “I hate

you, you should die,” and it is very troubling.  I guess, we just kind of

get used to it.

And in some ways, frankly, when you‘re in this business, I hate to say

that, I wish I had done it, but it did occur to me, knowing politics as I

do and knowing the American people as I think I do—at least a very large

percentage of them—I knew this was going to backfire on them.  I knew

that the average American was going to be angry at this, especially when it

was the Republicans egging it on.

And let me throw in something I talked about before—John Boehner

goes to the American bankers last Wednesday—and this is part of this

bullying approach—and says to the bankers, “Don‘t worry, I will protect

you against regulation.”  Not, “I‘ll make it better.”  Not, “I‘ll try and

improve the package.”  “I‘ll try and kill the whole thing.  I‘ll leave you

free to do all the things you‘ve done before,” to these bankers and other

financial institutions.

And then he says, referring to the people who work for us on Capitol

Hill—who are very hard working, decent people—“And don‘t let these

little punk staffers take advantage of you.”

Now, what struck me is the Massachusetts legislature recently passed a

bill, unanimously, Republicans and Democrats, to try and control bullying

at junior high school and even in elementary school and high school.  And

that‘s a serious problem, when they single-out people who seem to be

different.  Well, it doesn‘t do much good for us to pass any bullying

legislation and then have young people turn on the television and see

bullying tactics being egged on by the Republican leadership.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Frank, a quick one before you go, I have to

ask you this.  I remember vividly—vividly—in the 1990s when Dick

Armey called you a name that you heard yelled at you today.  Dick Armey is

now a favorite speaker at tea party events.  I don‘t think that is just a

coincidence.  Do you?

FRANK:  No, I think that there‘s anger there—look, I think there

are people there who long for the good old days when black people, frankly,

weren‘t given full equal rights.  Some of them go that far back. 

Certainly, there are people that don‘t think gay men and women should be

able to walk around without being embarrassed and ashamed.

I‘m sure the fact that I was walking with Jim, and I‘m a member of

Congress, bothered people, and I think it is the attitude that they‘ve

heard from some of right-wing leader that‘s egged it on.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, I admire your

courage in getting up and going to work every day at this point.

FRANK:  Thank you very much, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  For more, let‘s turn to Mark Potok, director of the

intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mark, Minority Leader Boehner made a statement in which he talked

about the anger and he said it was unacceptable.  But it doesn‘t seem to

occur to him that he might have any role in the fiery rhetoric he‘s used—

the angry rhetoric he‘s used in provoking some of these people in the

crowd.

Is Boehner missing something here?  Or am I kind of overworking the

connection?

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER:  I think that what he had to

say was a day late and a dollar short.  You know, I would like to know

where the so-called responsible leaders of the party were, you know, when

Sarah Palin claimed that the president was setting up death panels to

murder our grandparents.  I‘d like to know where they were when

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was suggesting that the president was

setting up political reeducation camps to turn our children into Marxist

robots.  You know, I‘d like to know where they were when Steve King was

suggesting that the person who flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin

was essentially just identified, or had the IRS been eliminated, this would

never have been a problem.

I mean, I just think we‘ve heard an enormous amount of vitriol,

defamatory conspiracy theories and propaganda from people who are in a

position to lead and to know better.  So, it just seems to me these people

very largely have been trying to ride the tiger of this populist rebellion

and in doing that, they‘ve come more and more to look like the tiger.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, you‘ve tracked this kind of phenomenon in the past. 

And I‘m wondering where you think we are in this one.  I mean, Barney Frank

and I in the 1970s in Boston both bore close witness to a much violent

political outbreak over school bussing.  That turned out to be a phase that

the city went through, got behind, got it behind them and the city has

moved on.

What is this?  Is this the beginning of something?  Or is this a phase

that is going just to peter out after we stop talking about health care

reform?

POTOK:  Well, my own sort of comparative experience is living through

the militia movement of the 1990s and covering that very closely.  I think

that we are at a very similar place, the same kind of white hot heat, rage

out there.

The difference is that it‘s much more widespread, that we‘ve seen it

in all kinds of groups.  We‘ve seen it spreading through the tea parties,

and we have seen it, frankly, aided and abetted by certain political

figures, particularly in the Republican Party.

So, I think that we‘re at a very scary moment, and this kind of

protestations from John Boehner and others today really do seem like they

have come a good year late.

O‘DONNELL:  Mark—

POTOK:  We just haven‘t heard much from these people until now.

O‘DONNELL:  Mark, we now have an assortment of groups organizing a

planned Second Amendment march, which is a massive gun rally on Washington

next month.  They have chosen the date of April 19th for this event, which

is a particularly troubling date in the history of American political

terrorism.

You want to explain that?

POTOK:  Sure.  I mean, April 19th, of course, in 1993 was the day in

which the Waco siege ended, which led a lot of people into the militias and

into a kind of furious rage against the government.  Ultimately, of course,

April 19th, two years later, 1995, was the day on which Timothy McVeigh

murdered 168 people in the Oklahoma City federal building.

So, you know, it‘s a remarkable thing.  Something interesting to say

about that is that some of these people will be going to Virginia armed at

a kind of subsidiary rally.

O‘DONNELL:  Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center—thank you

very much for your time tonight.

POTOK:  Thank you for having me.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: How did FOX News cover the historic bill

signing yesterday?  Well, they ignored it.  Except Glenn Beck, talking

about needing a hug and then wondered allowed about maybe on picking up a

gun.

And in D.C., the vote-a-rama is underway on the Senate floor.  So far,

the Democrats have been successful in blocking all Republican changes to

the reconciliation fix.  We‘ll have the latest from Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The media‘s role in whipping up the violent

reaction to the health care debate.  FOX News led the lying campaign, and

then once reform became law, went out of its way to ignore it and move on -

leaving angry, misinformed viewers in the dust.

               

And why was Glenn Beck talking about spanking, hugs and guns?

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  A funny thing happened on the day after the house passed a

landmark health care reform bill.  Almost instantaneously, people seemed to

start liking it more.  Whether that‘s because the public tends to side with

winners, or because the right-wing noise machine sputtered, or because

every mainstream news organization‘s treatment of the bill‘s passage

included all the good things in the bill, we may never know.

But now, what does FOX News and Glenn Beck and the right-wing noise

machine do with their coverage of a health care reform bill that is

actually the law of the land?

It was a banner day for Democrats, not just because of the image of

their president signing the health care reform bill on page one of every

newspaper in the land, the first major polling taken entirely after the

House vote seemed to be moving their way.

Before passage, 45 percent said the bill should pass, 48 percent said

no.  But after passage, 50 percent were pleased or enthusiastic about it,

while 42 percent were angry or disappointed.  Further, 49 percent said it

was a good thing for the country, while 40 percent said it was a bad thing.

As for FOX News coverage of the signing ceremony, it was almost

comical.  This was the bill that FOX News convinced its viewers was the

worst thing that Congress could do to America.  And on the day it was

signed into law, Megyn Kelly spent about 23 seconds on it.  That was

typically of the day‘s coverage over at FOX.

And Glenn Beck yesterday barely mentioned the health care bill for the

first 45 minutes of his show.  When he finally got around on it, he somehow

compared the bill‘s passage to a child being spanked by its mother, and

then he made a strange Beckian reference to picking up a gun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  Haven‘t we just been spanked?  Hasn‘t most of the country—

doesn‘t most of the country feel like they‘ve been spanked over the heads

with health care?  You bet.  I do, you do.  A lot of people do.

Some people are celebrating.  A lot of people don‘t.  If you loved us,

what would you do?  You would hug us.  But they‘re not.  They‘re going for

illegal immigration.

What is it that these evolutionaries want?  You pick up a gun?  Have

you ever thought of that?  These people have, because possibly, maybe the

question should be asked—maybe they‘re tired of evolution, and maybe

they are waiting for revolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in the president of Media Matters, Eric Burns.

Good evening, Eric.

Listen, I need help here—

ERIC BURNS, MEDIA MATTERS:  Yes, sir.

O‘DONNELL:  -- because I‘m not a frequent Beck watcher.  I can‘t quite

tell.  What is he asking for there?  Which does he want more—to be

spanked or to be hugged?  What‘s going on there?

BURNS:  Well, I can tell you, Lawrence, he certainly needs a good

spanking.  That‘s one thing I know for sure.

You know, look, one of Glenn Beck‘s stated goals is the destruction of

the entire progressive movement.  And in that clip, as I understand it, he

was alluding to progressive leaders that he were—he was suggesting may

pick up a gun.

And this is very common language for Glenn Beck.  It‘s a very common

kind of, you know, violent-type rhetoric that he employs to try to, you

know, discredit progressives, Democrats, and anyone that really doesn‘t

share his political viewpoint—something that we see often on his show.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Can you walk me through the gun piece again? 

Because I really mean it.  I‘m not kidding around.

BURNS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  I do not understand what it is he‘s trying to say.  He‘s

clearly trying to say something.  He says, “You pick up a gun.  Have you

ever thought of that?  These people have.”

BURNS:  Yes, and he‘s talking about—on the chalkboard, he had the

Founding Fathers on one side and some progressive leaders on the one side. 

I believe one of them was Andy Stern of SEIU.

And his point was to try to obviously drive a wedge between those two

crowds of folks and say these people have thought about it—meaning, the

progressive leaders and the progressive movement have thought about picking

up a gun.  But that, of course, you know, the Founding Fathers—the

implication is that the Founding Fathers never would.  Of course, if he

knew his history better, they were the ones that did in the revolution.

But, yes, really, this is—this is just a continuing part of Glenn

Beck‘s ongoing campaign to destroy the progressive movement, and frankly,

I‘m concerned, perhaps even incite a revolution in this country, Lawrence. 

It‘s not far from anything he said in the past.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, look—I mean, this is a country that has all too

regularly had shots taken at its president, including President Reagan, one

of the gods of FOX News.  You know, what is it—what is it that allows

them at that network to be so casual about references to taking up a gun

when discussing opposition to politicians?  I mean, this is such an obvious

thing to stay away from.

Roger Ailes, who runs that network worked for Ronald Reagan, saw

Ronald Reagan get shot at, get shot, almost taken out.

What‘s—what are they missing—what don‘t they get about what‘s

wrong with this?

BURNS:  Well, Lawrence, they‘re not a news network.  They‘re a

political operation, and a fearsome one at that, because they‘re a

multibillion dollar corporation.  They have absolutely no accountability to

anybody but advertising dollars.  So, folks like Glenn Beck are free to get

up and say whatever kind of incendiary garbage that he wants and he does it

every single night.

I mean, this is extreme and certainly alarming, but it‘s not out of

character from what we‘ve seen from Glenn Beck over the last year and a

half.  And it ought to explain to a lot of folks why there are so many

confused, angry tea partiers out there who really have been lied to and

misled and don‘t really understand what this health care debate has been

about, because they spend a lot of time watching Glenn Beck.

O‘DONNELL:  Quickly, Eric, before you go.  A prediction, if it‘s

possible in a crazy place like FOX—but are they going to run away from

or just give up on health care next week and try to find some other

bogeyman?  Have they worn themselves out on that subject or they‘ll keep at

it?

BURNS:  No, they‘re keeping at it.  I mean, they spent—I think they

did 10 interviews with Republican attorneys general in the last three days

to try to push this legislative attack on the new health care reform bill. 

They‘re digging all in.  And I‘ll tell you, Sarah Palin posted on Facebook

just today, “Don‘t retreat, reload.”

O‘DONNELL:  Well, let‘s just hope they can get those angry protesters

focusing on court process as a challenge, instead of, you know, throwing

bricks at people‘s offices.

Eric Burns of Media Matters—thank you very much for joining us on

this.

BURNS:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The Republicans‘ efforts to block the

reconciliation fix.  One Democrat calls it the GOP‘s version of March

Madness.  We‘ll have the latest on the votes and the rhetoric the GOP wants

to sell for the midterm elections.

And later, the Internet sensation that was “Yes, we can” video gets a

face-lift and Minority Leader John Boehner isn‘t going to like it one bit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  It was the bill that would kill America, right after it

killed your grandma.  Obama-care was health care reform that would create

death panels deciding who lived, who died.  It would mean a government

takeover of health care, Washington bureaucrats over-ruling your doctor

about medical decisions.  So why, now that Republicans have had two days to

offer amendments to change the new health care law, have none of them

offered an amendment to kill the death panels?  Or the government takeover

of health care? 

We will get to Republican efforts to repeal the whole thing presently. 

But today the focus is on the reconciliation bill of fixes to the new

health care law.  And today, for pretty much the first time, when they know

it‘s all over, some Republicans actually managed to offer clear, cogent

criticisms on substantive matters of policy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE ®, MAINE:  Taken together, Mr. President, this is

a grand total of 210 billion dollars in Medicare taxes, and more taxes.  So

we went in the Finance Committee from zero to the Senate passed bill that

became law yesterday to 87 billion, and now the bill pending before the

Senate, we‘ve got a grand total of 210 billion dollars in Medicare taxes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And Republican Senator Tom Coburn offered an amendment

tailor-made for campaign season, putting Democrats in the position today of

appearing to defend government funding of erectile dysfunction medicine for

sex offenders. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  This amendment will prohibit

prescriptions for recreational drugs for rapists and child molesters. 

Nobody can disagree with that.  It‘s not in the bill.  It‘s the current

state.  But if this bill goes through without this amendment, your tax

dollars are going to be paying for Viagra for child molesters.  That‘s

what‘s going to happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And Republican Senator Pat Roberts kept up the anti-tax

chant by getting into the specifics on the law‘s new tax on medical

devices. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT ROBERTS ®, KANSAS:  These excise taxes will not be borne by

the medical device industry, if, in fact, that‘s what the other side wanted

to do that.  Instead, the tax will be passed on to patients in the form of

higher prices and higher insurance premiums.  My colleagues are going to

speak in greater detail about this tax.  But let me just take a moment to

talk about some of the people who will bear the burden and what types of

devices will be taxed. 

People with disabilities, diabetics, amputees, people with cancer,

people with Alzheimer‘s are just some of the folks who will see their tax -

their tax costs go up because of this tax.  My amendment prevents this

new tax from raising the already-high cost for these groups by striking the

tax on medical devices. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Of course, the emergence of some Republican lines of

argument that were at least relevant does not mean the end of silly season. 

Republican Senator John McCain remains dedicated to Palin certified talking

points. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  You can put lipstick on a pig, Mr.

President, but this is still a pig.  The fact is that there are things in

this legislation that are wrong, and there are things that are left out of

this legislation that are wrong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re joined tonight by David Corn, Washington bureau

chief for “Mother Jones Magazine” and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.Com. 

Thanks for your time tonight, David. 

David, the point in running some of that tape about the Republicans is

that they do have some valid arguments, we just haven‘t seen them before. 

Democrats, we know, have good solid responses to all of that.  And we‘ve

been hearing their solid responses all year.  But isn‘t the news of today

that there are some Republicans who can actually talk about this, and they

might not seem particularly sympathetic or open hearted, but they don‘t

sound outright ridiculous? 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, their whole strategy during the

real making of this bill was to take their marbles and go home.  And today

they‘re saying hey, look, look at our marbles.  We have some marbles here. 

Hey, we have some marbles. 

And it‘s a little late on the playground for this.  This is not done

in—you know, in what might come up in a legal dispute under the

terminology good faith.  They had the chance to make all these arguments

before, and Tom Coburn, I‘m sure, if he had gotten aboard and talked about

this Viagra provision, which I guarantee you will be taken care of between

now and November—don‘t worry about those rapists getting Viagra—but

he could have done this while they were putting the bill together, and I‘m

sure the Democrats would have accepted that. 

This is sort of a late, last-minute way of trying to stick it to the

Democrats, because what they‘re really trying to do is cause the senators

to amend the bill.  If they change one comma on this bill, this

reconciliation bill, it has to go back to the House for another vote, and

House Democrats don‘t want to do this.  If Tom Coburn is quite sincere, he

can offer a stand alone bill tomorrow for Viagra.  And I bet you, by the

end of the day, he‘ll have about 98 and 99 co-sponsors. 

So it‘s really gamesmanship.  They‘re doing whatever they can to make

this look—make this difficult for the Democrats, at the end of the day. 

And they‘re just not acting like adults. 

O‘DONNELL:  But they are picking some politically radioactive things,

like this Viagra thing, which is a very, very tough vote for Democrats to

have to cast.  And I‘ve got to say, I have never seen Senate Democratic

discipline like this.  They have been holding together so far with that

solid majority on every single amendment, no matter how tough that

amendment is that comes up on them.  I mean, is this what—

CORN:  It‘s not just Senate discipline.  It‘s Democratic party

discipline. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes. 

CORN:  The senators made a promise to the House Democrats.  You accept

our bill, you vote for our bill, which happened on Sunday night, and we

will vote for the reconciliation bill that you passed on Sunday night, as

well.  And I think any of these things that are difficult—any of the

things that are difficult will be taken care of.  And I—I‘ll bet you on

a 90 percent chance here that come election night, if you and I are on TV,

we won‘t be talking much about Viagra. 

O‘DONNELL:  This is my first -- 

CORN:  Maybe off camera, but not on camera. 

O‘DONNELL:  This is my first TV discussion of Viagra, and I hope my

last.  Chuck Grassley discovered—and others discovered that there might

be a drafting flaw in the legislation where it‘s intended for members of

Congress and the staff to be subjects to this law and get their insurance

the way everyone else in this law does.  But they notice that it‘d might

not apply to committee staff.  They see it may or might not apply to

executive branch, the president.  And the president, the White House

actually responded to Grassley on this today, in effect, by saying, we will

voluntarily here at the White House submit ourselves to the same process

that everyone out there in the country will be going through as a result of

this bill. 

So there‘s already today been a little give and a little response to

what‘s going on here.  You‘re suggesting—

CORN:  The funny thing about that—I was doing some reporting and

talking to some people in the Senate.  And it turns out that provision of

the bill was written by Tom Coburn. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right. 

CORN:  The Republican senator who‘s introduced the Viagra amendment

and others to slow things down.  So it was really his mistake at the get-

go.  And the White House, they are acting like adults and are saying, we

will stipulate that we will accept this voluntarily. 

O‘DONNELL:  So you think the Senate is going to be able to get some

bills out there that clean up these tough votes later, after all this is

gone? 

CORN:  It looks right now that we‘ll get a vote on reconciliation

either tonight or tomorrow at some point.  And all these difficulties that

the Republicans are trying to throw at them will, indeed, be cleaned up in

the weeks and months ahead. 

O‘DONNELL:  David Corn of “Mother Jones,” thanks for your time

tonight. 

CORN:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, the Republicans‘ circular logic of repeal and

replace.  The GOP plans to campaign on repealing the new health care reform

law that one of their members is now trying to take credit for writing. 

And change has come to that Barack Obama “Yes, We Can” video.  John

Boehner meets Scarlet Johansson and Will.I.Am.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Since the health care bill was signed into law,

Republicans have shifted from shouting “kill the bill” to chanting “repeal

it,” to now promising that for sure in November their slogan will be

“repeal and replace it.”  Meaning, yeah, they will campaign to reform

health care. 

Here was the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday vowing

that Republican opposition to health care reform will not end when the

reconciliation bill is signed into law.  Notice that when he identifies

parts of the law he does not like, he does not mention death panels, the

government takeover of health care, or even the end of freedom. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I can tell you with regard

to the—to the campaign that will continue with the American people, I

think the slogan will be “repeal and replace.”  Repeal and replace. 

No one that I know in the Republican conference in the Senate believes

that no action is appropriate.  We all think there are things that should

be done.  There are a few things in this bill, that I‘m sure the president

will talk about a lot, that are things upon which there would be broad

agreement.  What we intend to talk about are things in which there are not

broad agreement, the massive Medicare cuts, the massive tax increases, made

even more dramatic in this bill that they want to try to pass here in the

Senate this week. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  It is a fascinating strategy.  Republicans are now

campaigning to increase Medicare spending by half a trillion dollars. 

Now, if that‘s not weird enough, Republican Senator Jim Demint is

pushing a bill that would just repeal the bill, all of it.  John Cornyn,

the GOP‘s Senate campaign chief, who told ABC on March 8th his party would

campaign to repeal it, now tells “Huffington Post,” there is non-

controversial stuff, we are not interested in repealing. 

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says, overall, he opposes the new

law, but put out a press release today taking credit for part of it, a part

which actually gives big government more power over tax exempt hospitals. 

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, author of

“Renegade, the Making of the President”  Good evening, Richard. 

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

O‘DONNELL:  A couple weeks ago, the slogan was going to be, repeal it. 

Now the slogan is repeal and replace.  What happened? 

WOLFFE:  Repeal, replace, recycle.  What happened here is that this

turned out to be even more of a Hail Mary for Republicans than it was for

Democrats.  And the problem with the Hail Mary is that you look stupid if

it goes wrong.  In this case, the blocking didn‘t work. 

But the plan B, what happens after the Hail Mary, is just not credible

either.  They were playing petty politics.  There was all this stuff in the

bill they love, but they just had to stop the whole thing.  Or they didn‘t

really—they were just not being honest about the whole thing in the

first the place. 

So the credibility question has to give way now to what is their

situation?  Really, repeal is the most honest position they could take. 

But they know—you just have to read this morning‘s “USA Today” to

realize that public opinion is much more fluid, was much less settled than

Republicans suggested before.  They‘re having to live with the reality not

just of the bill, but of public opinion, and it‘s not in keeping with what

they said. 

O‘DONNELL:  It seems like they may go after the old Reagan starve the

beast strategy.  And when you look at the tax arguments they were making on

the Senate floor today, it may be that they want to go in there and just

try to repeal some of these taxes one at a time.  Reagan‘s theory on that

being if I take away the money from the government, the government‘s not

going to be able to continue these programs.  Might that be the clues we‘re

getting out of the tax arguments they‘re making today? 

WOLFFE:  Well, first of all, I think a lot of people are going to say,

why weren‘t you involved in this process in the front end when you could

have done something about it?  But if you take the tax situation, which is

a legitimate philosophical position, the question is why do you want to

increase spending as well?  The whole point of starving the beast is to

reduce overall spending. 

So going out there and protecting seniors, quote unquote, doesn‘t

really square, if you‘re talking about Medicare spending, with either

reducing taxes.  But also, let‘s remember, Republicans pulled out of the

Fiscal Responsibility Commission.  So got to be consistent about the

principles they‘re running on here, rather than just being tactical. 

In the end, Republicans have to decide what their strategy is, not

just the day to day, news cycle to news cycle approach, which they‘ve been

taking so far. 

O‘DONNELL:  What about Republican constituencies?  Can they watch the

Republicans suddenly become the party of expanding entitlements, meaning

the party that wants to spend 500 billion more on Medicare, and feel that

that‘s a perfectly reasonable position for them to take? 

WOLFFE:  You know, if you spend any time listening to the base,

listening to conservative talk radio, with all of its dark talk about civil

war and tyranny—that stuff hasn‘t stopped, by the way.  Just because the

members of Congress have stopped talking about it doesn‘t mean to say the

base, the Tea Party folks, the conservative echo chamber has stopped this. 

It hasn‘t.  People are riled up. 

So the idea you‘re going to expand government on one side, or allow

bits of this bill to go through on the other and survive—again, they

don‘t have credibility with their own people, never mind with the

independent voters, who have turned around on this stuff. 

O‘DONNELL:  It doesn‘t seem they had a post game strategy ready to go. 

They feel—it seems they were a team that expected to win, and now that

they didn‘t, I‘m not hearing anything that sounds like a cohesive strategy

coming out of losing this legislative fight. 

WOLFFE:  Well, if they do have a strategy, they‘re doing a great job

of keeping it secret.  I think this is an improvised position.  They‘re all

over the place.  They‘ve got to get it together in time for November,

because opposition just isn‘t going to be good enough beyond their own

base.  Yes, they‘ll turn out 20, 30 percent.  The other side is just as

riled up now.  And independent voters are moving away. 

O‘DONNELL:  MSNBC‘s Richard Wolffe, many thanks. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Over 20 million people have watched the Youtube version of

that Will.I.Am tribute to Barack Obama.  Tonight, “Yes, We Can” gets a

remix featuring House Minority Leader John Boehner.  “Hell no, you can‘t”

is next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  There was a time when Republicans were offended by the

Party of No label.  But at some point during the year-long health care

debate, they began to embrace their obstructionism.  This past Sunday

night, during his final plea to scrap health care reform, Republican Leader

John Boehner gave the Party of No what it wanted to hear. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  Look at how this bill was

written. 

Can you say it was done openly? 

With transparency and accountability? 

Without back room deals and struck behind closed doors, hidden from

the people?  Hell, no, you can‘t. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Democrats say “yes, we can”; Republicans say “hell no, you

can‘t.”  The Internet mash-up was inevitable. 

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, the kids, the kids with the computers.  They do

amazing things.  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. 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

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