updated 3/26/2010 11:13:07 AM ET 2010-03-26T15:13:07

Guest: Rep. Harry Mitchell, Marcelas Owens, David Corn

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

will you be talking about tomorrow?

In the face of death threats and anger after the health care vote,

Republican Congressman Eric Cantor steps up to the mikes, ignores his

party‘s months of lies, and actually blames Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP:  By ratcheting up the

rhetoric, some will only inflame these situations to dangerous levels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Tonight, we‘ll talk to Representative Harry Mitchell, a

Democrat of Arizona, a man on Sarah Palin‘s target list, who is now

receiving phone calls like this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  You are always going to have to look over

your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shoulder, because people in your district hate

your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) face.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  What reactions like that do to our democracy?  With

Melissa Harris Lacewell.

President Obama goes to Iowa to explain the health reform law and

tells the GOP: Go for it.  Take the side of the insurance companies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If they want to have

that fight, we can have it—because I don‘t believe that the American

people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver‘s seat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  This, as the final votes are cast in the Senate and the

House.

A witness to history -- 11-year-old Marcelas Owens by the president‘s

side for the historic signing—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  He and I made sure to coordinate our ties.  Yes, it looks

good.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Marcelas joins us to talk about the day he saw history

being written.

And a dark day for David Frum, after saying this about his fellow

Republicans—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID FRUM, CONSERVATIVE JOURNALIST:  We went the radical way looking

for Waterloo, and it looks like we arrived at Waterloo

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  His Republican think-tank has fired him.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FRUM:  Are they going to repeal this?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

for Keith Olbermann.

It is a page straight out of the Karl Rove playbook: attack your

opponent for your own weakness.  As in draft dodger Dick Cheney attacks war

hero John Kerry for being soft on defense of the country.

Today, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor apparently consulted the Rove

playbook before he accused Democrats of fanning the flames of violence in

the wake of the health care reform vote.  Not to be outdone, Karl Rove

himself said more or less the same thing.

New threats today against Democratic lawmakers, most notably in New

York, where FBI hazmat crews responded to a call from Anthony Weiner‘s

office after the congressman received a letter containing a suspicious

white powder.

Congressman Harry Mitchell of Arizona, one of the Democrats caught in

the crosshairs of Sarah Palin‘s target list, has received death threats and

angry phone calls over his health care vote, like this one—

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  Hi, Mr. Mitchell.  For the rest of your

life, with the vote that you cast, you are going to have to look over your

shoulder for as long as you live in this district.  You are always going to

have to look over your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shoulder, because people in your

district hate your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) face.  And don‘t you forget it.

You have just riled up people‘s rage.  We are filled with rage and

hate today towards you.  Hate like we have never, ever felt.

I love my insurance company, and to have you come in between me and my

(EXPLETIVE DELETED) doctor, I cannot tell you how much I wish a panty

bomber would come—would come in and just blow your (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

place up.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The Republicans say that they‘ve been targeted with

threatening phone calls, too, like this one received by Ohio Congresswoman

Jean Schmidt.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER:  You and Boehner (EXPLETIVE DELETED), that

Mitch McConnell, all you racist (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Republicans, why don‘t

y‘all change your party name to racist?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Minority Whip Cantor said that someone fired a shot into

this Richmond campaign office.  The Richmond police investigation indicates

the bullet may have been randomly fired into the sky and as it fell back

down to earth at a sharp angle, the bullet hit the front window of the

building that houses Cantor‘s office.

As we mentioned, Congressman Cantor accused Democrats of using the

recent threats of violence for their own political gain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANTOR:  It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for

political gain.  That is why I have deep concerns that some, DCCC chairman

Chris Van Hollen and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine in particular, are dangerously

fanning the flames by suggesting that these incidents be used as a

political weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  On FOX News, Karl Rove warned Democrats that discussing

threats against them may inflame emotions, that discussing them publicly

can only inspire copycats.  He then discussed the many threats against him

in great detail.

If we are to presume that Rove‘s theory of the case applies to him,

too, then he obviously was using his own, unverifiable death threat stories

to seek political advantage in the subject of the day.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Boehner, in a fit of sanity, called on

dissatisfied voters to find other ways to make their voices heard, telling

them to volunteer on political campaigns or register people to vote.  But

when Congressman Boehner was asked whether his invoking the term Armageddon

to describe health care reform might have helped to incite the threats, he

disavowed any responsibility and claims that Armageddon is just a word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  There have been a lot of

words said in this political debate, and many political debates in this

institution over the last 220 years.  But, the fact is, is that this bill,

in my view, is really going to harm our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We are joined now by Congressman Harry Mitchell, Democrat

of Arizona, target of the Sarah Palin hit list and recipient of that

threatening voicemail message we played earlier.

Congressman, that message you received seems to encapsulate some of

the misinformation about the health care debate.  For example, the caller

seems to think that you want to come between her and her F-ing doctor. 

What would you like to explain to that caller that she doesn‘t seem to

understand about the health care bill?

REP. HARRY MITCHELL (D), ARIZONA:  Well, first of all, I think it‘s

important to keep in mind that rhetoric like this, it‘s been inflamed

because of the issue of health care, really has no place in civil discourse

about an issue that has created so much—so much emotion and passion.

You know, I taught high school government for 28 years.  And many

times students come to me and ask how I like where I am.  And I‘ve been

apologizing to them lately by telling them it‘s not the way I taught it.

This, what‘s going on, the lack of civility is not the American way. 

And I think that we‘ve got to get back to discussing these issues by

issues, and certainly not by the rhetoric that we‘ve been hearing.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Mitchell, how does it make you feel getting

phone calls like that?  Have you gotten phone calms like that before in

your career?

MITCHELL:  Well, I have had calls similar to this.  But, one of the

things that was important, when we came to this Congress, the Capitol

Police told us, when we get certain kinds of calls that may be threatening

or just irresponsible, that we should call the Capitol Police.  And we‘ve

done that and they have it all under control.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, it took the Republicans a while, 24 hours, to

actually denounce violence in all forms against any lawmakers.  Is that a

little too slow, when you‘re sitting there getting these kinds of calls,

waiting for your colleagues across the aisle to speak up about this?

MITCHELL:  Well, what‘s important is that we calm down.  And that we

take a look at these issues as issues.  And again, this thing has really

created a great deal of emotion and rhetoric that is not part of the way we

try to solve problems in our democracy.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, there was—there was some protesting in the gallery

in the House over the weekend.  There were Republican members of the House

on the House floor cheering the protesters who were violating the rules

that are maintained in the gallery about the audience behavior.

Does that provide for you any sense of linkage between what—the

Republican rhetoric, the Republican behavior, officials of the party, and

this kind of reaction that you‘re getting on your phone lines?

MITCHELL:  You know, both sides need to take a step back—both sides

because it‘s not serving either side any good.  And we certainly are not

doing it in a way that makes the United States a different type of

government from the rest of the world.  And we‘ve got to get back to

civility.

               

And again, I have been part of competitive districts, in competitive

races all my life.  And I think when we get back to campaigning again, the

fact that I go back every weekend, the fact that I was born and raised in

this district, the fact I taught school there, I think we‘ll find that

we‘re going to do OK in this race.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman Harry Mitchell, Democrat of Arizona—thanks

for your time tonight.  I know you have to rush back to House floor right

now to vote on what turns out to be the real final passage vote of the

health care reform bill.  Thank you for your time tonight.

MITCHELL:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  For more, let‘s turn to Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate

professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University,

columnist for “The Nation” and an MSNBC contributor.

Professor, after tea party protesters shouted racist slurs at African-

American members of Congress over the weekend, Andrew Breitbart claimed

that Congressional Black Caucus members were, his words, searching for

racism by walking through the tea party crowd.

What is missing in Andrew Breitbart‘s education that would allow him

to see that event that way?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  That‘s quite a way to

phrase that question.

Let me just say that, you know, if you are operating in a social

movement that has serious policy goals, then one of the things that you do

as a social movement is to train the members of that movement not to behave

in ways that will distract from your goals.  So, think about Martin Luther

King and the movement for nonviolent direct action in the U.S. South

against segregation.  Dr. King understood that people‘s natural reaction

was to defend themselves when attacked.  So, they carefully trained the

people who went out in these massive demonstrations that no matter what

happened, no matter what kind of violence they experienced, they were to

behave in a nonviolent, but directly resisting way.

Now, the fact that these tea party members are allowing elements of

their community to be shouting racist and homophobic things to duly-elected

leaders who are walking through on their way to work is an indication that

they are not behaving like a responsible social movement.  They‘re behaving

more like a flash mob where everybody gets together and says what they want

to say.  Now, they certainly have the right to do that in a democracy, but

it does mean we don‘t have to take them very seriously as a social movement

if they can‘t even bother to train themselves and their participants to be

disciplined and focused on the policy issues that they care about.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, looking back on Martin Luther King‘s movement, he was

at a certain point in the—as the movement matured, criticized by others

who actually wanted to be much more confrontational and, in some cases,

were willing to be violent in their protests.  But Martin Luther King

stayed the course that he had set out on of pure pacifist resistance to

this authority that was oppressing his people.

What are the lessons that we have from the past about how this

movement—if it is to be taken seriously, the so-called tea party

movement, let‘s just call it an anti-tax movement—how should they be—

what lessons should they be looking at in history in order to find an

effective way to move forward?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, now, you‘ve put me in a strange position to

making me a consultant to the tea party movement at this point.

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  I have another question for you if you just

want to skip that one and let them figure it out themselves.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  No, but let me just say this—you know, as

citizens in a democracy, we should never be afraid of the expression of

ideas.  Now, I think this is the really critical distinction that we need

to make about these threatening phone calls, these acts of potential

violence or of actual vandalism.

The point is never that we want to constrain ideas.  It is much more

dangerous in a democracy to say that people don‘t have a right to speak

their mind, even if their mind is against the policies of the government. 

Instead, what we have to recognize is that our founders also believe that

we have a responsibility as citizens in a democracy to engage each other in

ways that actually preserves our union, so that we can be always in dissent

and disagreement but also concerned about preserving the value that is our

country itself.

O‘DONNELL:  If you were to consult with, let‘s say, the leadership of

the House of Representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, and try to

suggest to them ways that they could put this stuff behind them and get

these kinds of crowds under control, assuming Republicans and Democrats

were willing to have this discussion in goodwill.  What would you advise

them to do?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I mean, certainly a bipartisan press

conference is the first and sort of—sort of most basic level thing that

needs to happen here.

Listen, as a country, the United States, one of the things that we

have done is hold responsible all of world Islam for a very small portion

of sort of fanatic Islam in the world that is part of world terrorist

movements.  And yet, we have said as a country, listen, we expect all

people of the Muslim faith to be responsible for making sure that they are

expressing their religious ideas in a way that is certain not to create

terrorist actions against other nations.

I think we need to hold ourselves accountable in precisely the same

way.  This is probably just a small sliver of the individuals who are angry

with the health care reform passage on more substantive levels, but those

who have substantive disagreements have a responsibility when they are part

of a movement where these sorts of potentially exceptionally dangerous,

violent, even, you know, possibly sort of terrorist kinds of actions—we

have a responsibility to pull that and tamp that down.  And that

responsibility is bipartisan, and the leaders need to begin by standing up

in front of the cameras together and saying, we may disagree, but we are

part of one nation.

O‘DONNELL:  And before we go, do you see any linkage between what

you‘ve heard from Republican rhetoric—and let‘s for the moment leave out

Limbaugh and the commentators—but actually elected officials in

Washington, their rhetoric and some of the activities that we‘ve seen over

the weekend and since the vote in the House?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  You know, we have sort of a tradition in the House

in particular, not so much in the Senate, of, you know, some kind of unruly

and sometimes, you know, kind of crazy behavior on the floor.  And that—

that‘s part of the colorfulness of our democratic institutions.

But in this particular environment, it is simply irresponsible to use

language that sounds secessionist.  And that is what a lot of this language

has sounded.  This notion that we don‘t have to follow the rules set out by

the federal government, that states should just sort of go rogue in the way

that Sarah Palin did, that they should sue the federal government—this

is language that brings us back to a time that is far more, sort of, out of

concern about the capacity to preserve our union.

And yes, I do, in fact, hear in the voice of that caller who was

saying, you know, “I love my insurance company, you‘re coming between me

and my doctor,” that is an active case of misinformation.  And what I heard

there was fear—and that fear has been planted and it has been stoked and

the Republican leadership needs to take responsibility for it.

O‘DONNELL:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University—thanks

for conducting another class for us here tonight.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: President Obama goes to Iowa and becomes

cheerleader-in-chief for the health reform law, and tells Republicans if

they want to run on the idea of repealing reform, go right ahead.

And later, David Frum said the health care debacle will be the

Republican‘s Waterloo, not the president‘s.  Now, David Frum is out of a

job at this conservative think-tank.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: As the final votes are cast tonight for the

reconciliation fix, President Obama tells the GOP to bring it on.  If you

want to repeal reform and take the side of the insurance industry, he‘s

ready to have that fight.

That and the latest news from Capitol Hill—next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  First, Republicans predicted the end of freedom if health

care passed, then the end of Democrats, and then, the end of democracy if

Democrats used a reconciliation bill to fix the Senate bill.  Well, today

the reconciliation fix passed the Senate with a simple majority vote. 

Democrats got 56 yeas, and all Republicans voted nay, along with Democrats

Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who had to spoil

the original Senate bill with a special deal for his state which was

repealed by today‘s fix.

Democrat Michael Bennet and others on record supporting the public

option did not seek to put it in the reconciliation bill, even though

Republicans did succeed in sending it back to the House one last time for a

pro forma vote by getting the parliamentarian to strip out some language

related to student loans.

Here then in the final class of COUNTDOWN‘s year-long tutorial on

reconciliation is an example of the legislative changes Republicans

succeeded in making to health care reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA:  D, by striking subparagraph E,

and E, by redesignating subparagraph F as subparagraph E.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Don‘t try passing reconciliation bills at home, kids.

Not surprisingly, on his road trip to explain the new law, President

Obama couldn‘t resist revisiting Republicans‘ apocalyptic predictions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If you turn on the news, you‘ll see the same folks are still

shouting about there‘s going to be an end of the world because this bill

passed.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  And I‘m not exaggerating.  Leaders of the Republican Party,

they call the passage of this bill, Armageddon—Armageddon, end of

freedom as we know it.

And so, after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were

--

               

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  -- any asteroids falling or—

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  -- some cracks opening up in the earth.

It turned out it was a nice day.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  Birds were chirping, folks were strolling down the Mall. 

People still have their doctors.

From this day forward, all of the cynics, all of the naysayers,

they‘re going to have to confront the reality of what this reform is and

what it isn‘t.  They‘ll have to finally acknowledge this isn‘t a government

takeover of our health care system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman,

also senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for “Newsweek”

magazine.

Howard, the bill has gone back to the House because of that little

change that Kent Conrad mentioned, along with one other.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  And going back to the House, having the bill go back to

the House from the Senate, last weekend seemed like every House Democrat‘s

worst nightmare, but now, no one seems to care.

FINEMAN:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  They‘re going to be voting possibly as we speak.

FINEMAN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  What happened?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  They‘re going to vote I think within a few minutes.  I

don‘t think they‘ve started yet, but it could be any minute.

A few things happened.  First of all, these are very small changes,

technical changes in actually the education part of the bill, not the—

not the health care part of the fix-it bill.

The other thing happened—that‘s happened, Lawrence, is that the

fight‘s over.  I mean, 95 percent of the change is in the main bill that

was already voted on and signed into law by the president.  People are

exhausted.  They‘re tired.  It‘s been a year, year and a half.

And I also think the Republicans are confused and divided.  I think

all the overheated rhetoric and all the tea party stuff—you know, the

fight‘s gone out of them for now.  They‘ll be back, but for now, the

fight‘s gone out.

O‘DONNELL:  And it seems that the bill-signing strategy turned out to

be brilliant.  There was some thought earlier on last week that when they

passed that Senate bill in the House, that‘s the ugly bill.  That‘s the

bill with the Nebraska deal in it—

FINEMAN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  -- and the things they don‘t want to talk about.  Maybe

the president will just sign that in the middle of the night with no

cameras.

FINEMAN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  It turned out they took that bill and made that bill the

big signing ceremony, which does seem to have made everything that‘s

happened afterwards just to be an epilogue.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, I think that‘s right.  And also, substantively,

Lawrence, 90 percent of the changes in the health care system, or 95

percent, are in that main bill.  So, it turns out that was a smart thing to

do.  And it has changed the atmosphere.  Everything now seems like, you

know, just the asterisk at the end of the game.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, one of the things that was going on while

reconciliation was approaching in the Senate was senators were signing up,

they were signing pledges to support putting the public option in the

reconciliation bill, if that was something that they felt could work at

that moment.  The reason they gave for not doing it was: we don‘t want to

change anything in the bill and have to send it back to the House.

Now, today something did change in the bill.  It was going to go—

have to go back to the House, but they still didn‘t try to put the public

option in the reconciliation bill.

FINEMAN:  No.

O‘DONNELL:  What happened there?  Was that—was the public option

always something of a mirage in this thing and it was never going to find

its way into reconciliation?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Frankly, I think so.  I think Rahm Emanuel and I guess

the president decided that many months ago, Lawrence.  You know, Rahm was

going around town saying, the public option—we don‘t have to have the

public option.  That‘s many months ago.

In the same psychology of “it‘s over so let‘s get out of town,” you

know, applies here.  I talked to a top Democratic leader just a few hours

ago about this.  I said, hey, isn‘t—might there be a public option move

here at the last minute?  He said, the people who think that must be

smoking something.  It‘s not going to happen.

Lawrence, this is a bill that reorders the health care industry.  And

in certain respects, it‘s reform.  But it‘s not the big, sweeping, public

option, let alone single-payer people that a lot of progressives wanted. 

That was never going to happen.

This is a down-the-middle bill, a big bill, but a down-the-middle bill

that really preserves the industry.  It changes the industry, but it

preserves the doctors, the hospitals, the health care insurance companies,

you know, the big pharma, they‘re, if anything, bigger players than they

were a week ago.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, I‘m going to let

you go back to watch the House proceedings.

FINEMAN:  Either that or the NCAA basketball tournament.

O‘DONNELL:  There you go.  Thanks for your time, Howard.

FINEMAN:  OK.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, one 11-year-old boy in the front row of

history.  Our special guest tonight, Marcelas Owens, on being the

president‘s—being at the president‘s right hand and what it meant to him

to be there.

And the giant presence missing in that room—today, the Senate paid

tribute to the leadership of Ted Kennedy.  We‘ll show you that moving

moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  John Boehner calls congressional staffers punks.  But

members of Congress know better.  They know they are completely dependent

on their staffers.  That literally nothing, absolutely nothing, would ever

get done in Congress without the staff. 

Congressmen don‘t write the bills, the staff does.  Senators don‘t

pass the bills without their staffs telling them how. 

Today, just before the final vote on the reconciliation bill, the

Senate said thank you. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These staffs have worked, on both sides, minority

and majority, weekend after weekend after weekend, night after night after

night.  Especially my staff director Mary Nailer along with Bill Dofter,

the finance committee, John Rider, Joel freeman.  My counsel Joe Gaeta. 

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER:  Randy Deval, Colb Greenwald,

Kate Leon.  They left their families at home.  She left her baby at home. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I want to sing about one person.  And that one

person is sitting next to me.  Her name is Liz Fowler.  In many ways she

typifies, she represents all of the people who have worked so hard to make

this bill such a great accomplishment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, plenty of staffers eventually walk across the street

and cash in their experience for lobbying money.  But sitting on the Senate

floor today were people who have made a career of service to this country

and have steadfastly refused to walk across that street, even though

millions of dollars are waiting for them on the other side. 

You know anyone who‘s turned down millions of dollars?  I do.  I know

many.  And it may surprise you to learn they all work for you. 

After thanking the staff, there was just one more point of order

before the vote.  As Chris Dodd noted today, it has been exactly 200 days

since the death of health care reform‘s greatest advocate, Senator Ted

Kennedy. 

This afternoon, the Senate honored Ted Kennedy‘s memory and his

dedication to health care reform, in particular, by observing a moment of

silence, which COUNTDOWN now brings you in its entirety. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  I think it would be very appropriate right now to have a minute

of silence for our departed friend, one of the great senators in the

history of this country, Ted Kennedy.  And I would ask the chair to direct

that minute of silence. 

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  The chair will without objection

direct the moment of silence. 

Majority Leader is recognized. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And then history marched on. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Ahead on COUNTDOWN, Republicans went after an 11-year-old

boy who dared to support health care reform.  He stood his ground, and

tonight we‘ll meet him.  Marcelas Owens. 

Plus, the Republican former speech writer for George W. Bush who dared

to call the Republican Party on its botched handling of health care reform. 

Guess what happened to him today? 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the Pentagon says it

is relaxing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” but don‘t tell that to Dan Choi.  He‘s

been through the process and he‘ll give Rachel his reaction to the new

policy coming up on the “RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  His was the firsthand President Obama shook after signing

the biggest social reform legislation this country has seen in nearly half

a century.  Surrounded by members of Congress, some of whom have been

championing the cause for decades, he had just witnessed the strokes of 22

pens make health care reform the law of the land. 

History was written, and 11-year-old Marcelas Owens was part of it. 

He‘s been sharing his mother‘s story since he was 7.  Unemployed and

uninsured, Tiffany Owens lost her battle with pulmonary hypertension at the

age of 27.  Her son fought on, speaking about health care reformat

meetings, at rallies, beginning the week after his mother died. 

His work did not go unnoticed.  President Obama, paying tribute to the

brave fifth grader from Seattle on Tuesday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m signing it for 11-

year-old Marcelas Owens. 

Marcelas lost his mom to an illness.  So in her memory, he has told

her story across America so that no other children have to go through what

his family‘s experienced. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, as promised, it is my great pleasure to

present health care activist Marcelas Owens. 

Marcelas, good evening.  Thank you for joining us tonight. 

MARCELAS OWENS, HEALTH CARE ACTIVIST:  It‘s good to be on the show. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, I know you got into this, I‘ve read, and I‘ve heard

you talk about getting into this because of what happened to your mother. 

But you got into it before President Obama did. 

You got into it a few years ago.  And how did you then come to the

attention eventually to the president? 

OWENS:  I was—wait.  I was doing activist work, and -- 

O‘DONNELL:  Wasn‘t there—was there a meeting where you introduced

yourself to a senator, to Senator Mary, and told her what you‘ve been

doing? 

OWENS:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  And that‘s—and she passed the word along to Washington

that there‘s a pretty extraordinary speaker out here that people should be

hearing from. 

What was it like standing there beside the president?  And I love that

you had matching ties on.  Can you tell me how your ties ended up matching

that day? 

OWENS:  Well, I forgot my shirt and my tie, so one of Barack Obama‘s

workers, I think, went out and bought a shirt and tie, and I think somebody

told him what color tie Barack was wearing, and then we ended up matching. 

And that -- 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, you two looked good—you two looked good together

in those ties. 

You had a meeting with the president in the oval office later that

day.  What happened in that meeting? 

OWENS:  He said that he couldn‘t have done it without everybody who

got involved and that I looked good in the blue tie. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, Marcelas, the first time I was in the oval

office, it was with President Clinton, and I was older than you were.  But

I can‘t remember what anyone said for the first 10 minutes, because I was

so in awe of being in the oval office in the White House. 

What did it feel like for you to be in there with the president? 

OWENS:  It was exciting to be in there with the president because

Barack Obama is one of my African-American heroes. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now have you had any ideas in your travels—in talking

about health care as you‘ve done over the years and then this year getting

involved in actually seeing up-close how a bill becomes a law, something

you‘re going to be studying in high school. 

You already know about, did—have you gotten any ideas about what

you might want to do when you grow up? 

OWENS:  I want to be the president of the United States. 

O‘DONNELL:  That looks like a pretty good job, doesn‘t it? 

OWENS:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  And, Marcelas, how do you go on from that?  How do you go

back to Seattle and live a normal life with your friends and with the kids

your age when you‘re the only kid in town who‘s been standing there beside

the president in his workday when the president is at work, making laws? 

What‘s it like to be around other 11-year-old kids who don‘t have

experiences like that? 

OWENS:  I think it‘s pretty easy because, even though they don‘t know,

you can still talk to them about it and help them learn more about it.  And

everybody‘s interested in what I‘ve been doing. 

O‘DONNELL:  Marcelas, you know it takes hard work to get through

school, and it takes even harder work to get to be president of the United

States.  But if there‘s an 11-year-old in this country who I have to bet on

on getting all the way back to the White House and having that job, you‘re

the guy I‘m going to bet on. 

Marcelas, thank you. 

OWENS:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you very, very much for joining us.  I really

appreciate you doing this, and I know you have homework to do, so get back

to it right now. 

OWENS:  OK. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK. 

Still ahead on COUNTDOWN, the Republican who showed Republicans where

they went wrong on health care reform.  Now one of his patrons is showing

him the door. 

What happened to the former Bush speech writer who dared to say that

Republicans are now working for Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh? 

Up ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Ahead on COUNTDOWN, with the House about to vote final

passage of health care reform, David Frum wrote the speeches President

George W. Bush used to prepare a nation for war in Iraq, but now David Frum

has gone and told the truth about his party and health care. 

Republicans could have scored victories on this very middle-of-the-

road reform, but they blew it because Rush Limbaugh and FOX News are

calling the shots.  So guess what happened to David Frum today? 

That‘s next on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  The House of Representatives now voting on what turns out

to be the real final passage of the reconciliation bill in the House, about

five minutes remaining in the vote. 

We will, in the meantime, discuss what happens when a prominent

Republican tries to tell the truth about his own party‘s failings. 

Former Bush speech writer David Frum has been sharply criticizing the

Republican Party lately.  He said that the passage of the health care

reform bill turned out to be the GOP‘s waterloo.  He said we‘re discovering

we work for FOX News. 

He said that Rush Limbaugh wants the Republican Party to fail and lo

and behold, David Frum today announced his abrupt termination from the

American Enterprise Institute. 

Frum has been a resident fellow at AEI since 2003, but today Frum

posted his final letter to AEI president Arthur Brooks, following Frum‘s

lunch meeting with Mr. Brooks. 

The letter reads, in part, “Effective immediately my position as a

resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated.  I do

regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.” 

And what might be different about this week after Frum‘s seven-year

relationship at AEI?  Frum wrote an opinion piece for CNN in which he

concluded that the waterloo for President Obama predicted by GOP senator

Jim DeMint had indeed arrived for the Republican Party. 

And Frum repeated that charge on this network. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID FRUM, SPEECHWRITER FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH:  In this debate

Republicans have listened to the most radical voices in the party.  No

compromise, hand the president his waterloo. 

If this turns out to be our waterloo today, then there has to be an

accountability moment for that.  Say, this is going to be a much worse

outcome than we could have got if we had negotiated early. 

That was shouted down, we went the radical way, looking for waterloo,

and it looks like we arrived at waterloo. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And listen to what Frum said to ABC‘s Terry Moran,

particularly the first part. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRUM:  Republicans originally thought that FOX worked for us, and now

we‘re discovering we work for FOX.  And that—the balance here has been

completely reversed and the thing that‘s—the thing that sustains a

strong FOX network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican Party. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for

“Mother Jones” magazine and columnist for Politicsdaily.com, David Corn. 

Good evening, David.  The House vote is going on beside us.  Two

minutes, 49 seconds left there at 2:03, as we approach final passage on the

health care reconciliation package. 

David, can you believe that we have heard someone of David Frum‘s

stature saying out loud, in public, Republicans originally thought that FOX

worked for us? 

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE:  Well, you know, I have a news

flash for David, who I like, and that is Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker‘s

father. 

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  I mean, for a long time, you know, you, I, others have been

saying which tail is wagging the dog here?  It was—you know, FOX is

wagging the Republican Party, and time and time again, you know, the—

whether it‘s Glenn Beck or anybody else or—and giving the tea party

folks basically the only platform on the right, they‘ve boxed the

Republican leadership into a corner. 

Not even the leaders, everybody in the Republican Party in Congress. 

If you don‘t cater to this audience, you get pummeled.  And as David Frum,

you know, very astutely noted, that has left no room for maneuvering for

the Republican legislators. 

And as you know, having worked on the Hill, if you‘re going to be a

legislator, you need some room.  You can‘t just be at one corner of a big

banquet room and stand there and get anything done. 

And they‘ve just—and FOX and Rush Limbaugh and all these people who

have their own agendas—their agenda is not what‘s best for the country,

it‘s getting eyeballs and listeners and making money, but they really have

tied the hands of the Republican Party, and the Republican Party leaders

have allowed their hands to be tied. 

O‘DONNELL:  David, you know Washington, you know the support system

that exists for people there on each side of the aisle.  What happens to

David Frum in Washington?  We see him losing one position today.  Where

does he have to turn to for a future? 

CORN:  Well, he has—he‘s written books in the past, I‘m sure he‘ll

write books again.  He may—he has plenty of friends around town.  But

Bruce Bartlett who worked for another conservative think tank a few years

ago was fired in 2005 for writing a book that was, you know, partly

critical of George W. Bush and his presidency. 

And he put up a blog today saying, you know what?  There isn‘t a lot

of room in this town these days for people like David and me. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, in pure political terms, should Democrats look at

this today and think, great.  They are—the Republicans are just killing

the people who might—might be able to guide them toward smarter

strategies. 

CORN:  Well, I‘m not sure that David was in that type of leadership

position -- 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Well, by his thinking. 

CORN:  I take your point. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes. 

CORN:  I take your point.  I mean what the Republican Party needs,

what any, I think, strong minority party—any minority party that wants

to become strong needs is the ability to have a good internal debate. 

Doesn‘t mean being wishy-washy.  And eventually you have to make decisions

and plot a course that‘s obvious to voters. 

But you need to be able to at least have a debate and have that

maneuvering room so that there‘s some flexibility.  And that just seems to

be totally gone when you have, you know, John Boehner saying this is—and

others saying this is Armageddon, the health care bill, then what do you

do? 

You have no choice but to, you know, get rid of it.  But if the

American public doesn‘t want—you know if they don‘t want you to get rid

of it, they don‘t believe it‘s Armageddon, you‘re kind of in a pickle.  So

I think, you know, it‘s all about being able to have a good debate which

will make you stronger. 

O‘DONNELL:  David, the clock in the House vote has technically ticked

down to zero.  There are still some votes, as sometimes happens, that

haven‘t taken their position on the board just yet. 

We are seeing the final passage of the health care reform bill,

something that many people thought certainly two months ago was absolutely

impossible. 

What does this mean for the Democrats going forward?  Does this mean

they‘re exhausted?  That‘s it?  They‘ve cast their final vote?  Or do they

wake up tomorrow morning thinking, wow, look how strong we are? 

CORN:  Well, actually I think a bit of both.  I wrote a piece a day or

two back saying that Washington is suffering post health care fatigue

syndrome.  And it‘s an election year and, you know, it‘s hard to do a lot

of heavy lifting in an election year. 

But I think overall they have to feel pretty muscular about this,

particularly about the reaction that‘s come—as far as we can tell, from

the polls. 

O‘DONNELL:  They‘ve just hit the 216 number on the floor, David. 

CORN:  It‘s a big accomplishment.  And not just in political terms.  I

was talking to Nancy Pelosi the other day with a few other columnists.  I

mean, she feels like she‘s done something. 

This is a lifetime achievement for Democrats who wanted a change and

deal with the troubles in our health care system.  It‘s historic.  They

know, you know, Congress has done this.  No other president has done this. 

So I think they have a lot to be proud of. 

What this means going forward, though, will be open to debate, as you

know, things can shift rather quickly. 

O‘DONNELL:  David, history will show that the health care reform bill,

the final passage of the final vote occurred during the final minute of

tonight‘s COUNTDOWN. 

David Corn of “Mother Jones”, thank you for witnessing it with me. 

CORN:  Happy to share that with you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  And that will do it for this historic Thursday, final

passage edition of Countdown.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell in for Keith

Olbermann.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with the “Rachel Maddow Show.”

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

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