updated 3/29/2010 10:34:46 AM ET 2010-03-29T14:34:46

Guest: Ezra Klein, Margaret Carlson, Jonathan Alter, Nicole Lamoureaux

               

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

               

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

will you be talking about tomorrow?

Back to the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  It‘s time to kick it old

school again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Sarah Palin and John McCain together for the first time

since their failed campaign.  And the ex-governor once again demonstrates

her dedication to reading everything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  By the way, I see today that Fidel Castro likes Obamacare, but

we don‘t like Obamacare.  Doesn‘t that kind of tell you something?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  It tells John McCain to push his “repeal and replace”

campaign, even though a fellow Arizona Republican calls it a waste of time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  It‘s going to be repealed and

replaced, and it‘s going to be done soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Republican repeal pledge

with Ezra Klein and Richard Wolffe.

Back on the Hill, Nancy Pelosi sends the House reconciliation bill to

the White House—as Democrats suddenly gain momentum going into the fall.

And the need for affordable health care continues.  Tonight, a new

free clinic update.

And a post-Cold War update: the U.S. and Russia agree to reduce long-

range nuclear warhead stockpiles, but the president must get bipartisan

support to pass the arms control treaty in the Senate.  Cue the Republican

response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE:  Shall we play a game?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And going to outer space on a shoestring budget—a man,

a plan, and 750 bucks yields some out-of-this-world amateur photos.  Just

ask the vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is a big

(EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  We might as well call it like we see it, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

for Keith Olbermann.

The Republican Party has proclaimed that in the wake of health care

reform, it no longer wants to be the “party of no.”  GOP members now intend

to become, and these are their words, the “party of hell no.”  John

Boehner‘s rant against health care reform has been remixed and otherwise

mocked this week, but to many on the right, the minority leader accurately

summed up the anger of his party‘s base.

This afternoon in Tucson, at John McCain and Sarah Palin‘s first rally

together since the 2008 presidential election, McCain‘s former running mate

was there to help him win re-election to the Senate.  He is facing a tough

primary challenge on his right from former congressman and Jack Abramoff

buddy, J.D. Hayworth, who says McCain is too moderate for Arizona

Republicans.

With that in mind, the 2008 ticket pushed the new unofficial GOP

slogan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PALIN:  You know, we‘re being accused of being the “party of no”

because we oppose some of the things that the administration‘s doing.  The

Louisiana governor says, “Well, no, we‘re not the ‘party of no,‘ we‘re the

‘party of hell no.‘”

(CHEERING)

MCCAIN:  As Sarah said, yes, we‘re the “party of no,” on this—on

this bill, “hell no.”

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O‘DONNELL:  For the party of no‘s 2008 nominees, a simple “no” is not

enough when it comes to Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PALIN:  Now, when it came to Obamacare, when it came to Obamacare—

(BOOS)

PALIN:  Hey.  By the way, I see today that Fidel Castro likes

Obamacare, but we don‘t like Obamacare.  Doesn‘t that kind of tell you

something?

MCCAIN:  It‘s historic that it is also the first time that on a pure

partisan basis, a major piece of legislation has been passed, and it‘s

going to be historic because it‘s going to be repealed and replaced, and

it‘s going to be done soon.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O‘DONNELL:  Former Governor Palin also dismissed the idea that

opponents of health care reform have been reacting violently, calling the

entire controversy the creation of—you guessed it—the mainstream

media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Here in the news report lately, kind of this ginned up

controversy about us, common sense conservatives, inciting violence because

we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration.

(BOOS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We do it with our votes!

PALIN:  Amen, brother.  That‘s what you do it with—with your vote.

(CHEERING)

PALIN:  You got it right.

We know violence isn‘t the answer.  When we take up our arms, we‘re

talking about our vote.  We‘re talking about being involved in a contested

primary like this and picking the right candidate, too, John McCain.  We

thank you for that.

But this B.S. coming from the lame-stream media lately about this—

about inciting violence, don‘t let—don‘t let the conversation be

diverted.  Don‘t let a distraction like that get you off-track.  Keep

fighting hard for these candidates who are all about the common sense

conservative solutions that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Palin essentially said that tea partiers are lovers, not

haters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  In respect to the tea party movement, beautiful movement—

you know what?  Everybody here today supporting John McCain, we‘re all a

part of that tea party movement—because I have had the privilege of

traveling around the U.S. and meeting with everyday Americans who are that

great tea party movement, and folks always ask me about my friend John

McCain everywhere I go.  And first, you know, you‘ve got to think about it. 

We‘re all that tea party movement.

Back then in 1773, remember, it was the freedom fighters and those who

protested tyranny and big government—throwing the tea in the harbor and

saying, you know, we‘re going to tell big government, intrusive government,

“No more.”  And that‘s what we‘re doing today.  And when you think about

that first tea party, shoot, some may claim that John was there at that

first tea party movement.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And then things took a sudden turn toward the truth with

Senator McCain reminding everyone of some of the reasons Republicans lost

control of the House and Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  And I‘d like to give you old school straight talk.  We

Republicans blew it.  We blew it when we let the Abramoff corruption come

in and we blew it when the out-of-control spending took place, and we blew

it when we didn‘t pay for the programs that we sponsored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Of course, McCain harps on former lobbyist Jack Abramoff

who now makes home in a federal prison because McCain‘s opponent, J.D. 

Hayworth used to pal around with Abramoff.

But we‘ll take political honesty any way we can get it, including from

the senior senator from Arizona, Republican Jon Kyl, who actually admitted

what everyone already knows, that health—that the health care law cannot

be repealed outright as long as there‘s a Democrat in the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA:  Our view is that we should repeal and

replace the bill with the solutions that we think actually work. 

Obviously, the president will not sign a repeal bill that the Congress

passes, so that‘s more of a symbol.

JIM LEHRER, PBS:  You‘re not in favor of a massive attempt to repeal

the whole bill right now?

KYL:  Oh, I‘d love to see the bill repealed right now.  The problem is

--

               

LEHRER:  Sure, but I mean, you‘re not—yes—

KYL:  No.  Barack Obama is president.  He would never sign a repeal

law.  We don‘t have the votes to get it passed right now.  We‘re not going

to waste our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Time now to call in Ezra Klein, a columnist for “Newsweek”

who covers domestic and economic issues for the “Washington Post.”

Ezra, I‘ve been listening carefully to the “repeal and replace” gang,

and I‘m waiting to hear what the “replace” is.  Have they said anything

about what they would replace this bill with?

EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST:  No. I think “repeal” didn‘t poll as well

as they might have been hoping, but “replace” hasn‘t had much to fill in so

far.  The closest we came today was Paul Ryan—excuse me, I have

something in my throat.  The closest we came today is Paul Ryan on a “New

York Times” op-ed page where he said he‘d like to see the employer tax

break, it‘s actually from employer-base insurance, repealed or ended.

The problem is, of course, that is sort of in the plan with the excise

tax.  So, even the bits of it that they think they would like to bring in

after they—after they take all of it out, they‘re there, too.

O‘DONNELL:  Ezra, get a sip of water as I try to lengthen this

question for you.

KLEIN:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s talk about the prospects of repeal.  I can‘t—I

haven‘t been able to think of an example today of a program like this that

has become law—something this big that‘s become the law of the land, and

was then repealed.  I mean—and after a campaign, after people running on

a campaign to get elected to repeal it.  I guess you could say this

prohibition, you could say FDR ran on prohibition, but that was a very

simple thing to repeal compared to this.

Anything you can think of that‘s a parallel here?

KLEIN:  Well, what people bring up is the Medicare catastrophic bill

in ‘89.

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s so small though.

KLEIN:  It is very small.  And also, it was a two-party move right

there.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

KLEIN:  It was Reagan and the Democrats.  So, nobody was defending it.

There‘s nothing really similar.  And if you remember, there was some

repeal rhetoric from Democrats coming out in the Bush era.  There was a lot

of repeal rhetoric around No Child Left Behind, a law still, and a lot

repeal rhetoric about—and this I think is important too—the Medicare

prescription drug benefit, which just got strengthened in the law.

The history of these social programs in America is not that they get

repealed, is it that they become firm parts of our social infrastructure

and get improved and expanded over time.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Jon Kyl‘s reality note must have been embracing for

the “repeal and replace” gang.  Why did he ruin their fun by pointing out

that President Obama will just veto any attempt on repeal?  Was that—was

that Jim Lehrer‘s interviewing skills bearing down on him and forcing the

truth out of him finally?

KLEIN:  A little bit of it.  You can see sometimes with some of these

Senate Republicans who, you know, are the big kids on campus.  They can

feel themselves getting painted into a corner they don‘t quite want to be

in.  And you‘ll see them sort of try to feint their way out of it.  So

when, later, they don‘t repeal this thing, they can say why they didn‘t.

But you can—you can sense him getting the pressure to do—to

engage in a long, futile struggle for something they don‘t actually think

they can accomplish and don‘t really think they should waste their time on,

and they don‘t quite know how to resist that pressure.  So, they try, when

pressed on it, to create little escape hatches here and there.

And I doubt it will work.  I‘m surprised to hear the depth of that

rhetoric coming from, you know, folks like McCain, who know how this—who

know how this goes.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, there‘s a much quieter liberal repeal movement that‘s

been identified on this network.  Two liberal New York congressmen have

already said to me on the air that they want to repeal the tax on health

care plans that actually goes into effect two years after an eight-year

Obama presidency, and then they would obviously be joined by Republicans on

repealing a tax part of the bill.

Do you think that pieces of the bill like that are more vulnerable to

repeal than the overall bill?

KLEIN:  Certainly, pieces of it are more vulnerable to repeal and to

reform.  I think you and I may disagree on this.  I think the excise tax,

which is the Cadillac plan tax there, is quite likely to go into effect.  I

think that when it comes down to it, you‘re talking five, seven, eight

years in the future, the deficit problem is still bad, still need 60 votes

to get anything done like that.  I don‘t see where those votes come from

and I don‘t see where you get those offsets.

And I think what you‘ll basically have here is it‘s a semi-perfect

situation for politicians where money gets saved and it‘s not really their

fault.  Somebody passed it back in the past and the work is already done. 

So, when they try to be responsible, this tends to be the easiest way for

them to do it.  Let something that‘s already happened keep going and begin

working.

O‘DONNELL:  Ezra Klein of the “Washington Post” and “Newsweek”—

thank you very much for your time and your guidance on health care all

year.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  For more on John McCain and Sarah Palin, let‘s turn to

MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, author of “Renegade: The Making of

a President.”

Richard, she may not have helped him with independent swing voters

during the 2008 general election, but do you think Sarah Palin helped him

today when he needed it in a primary contest coming from his right with

congressman—former Congressman J.D. Hayworth?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Lawrence, I think

endorsements are of questionable value at most times.  But in this case,

Sarah Palin could have added extra donors to John McCain.  She could have

added some extra organizers and volunteers on the ground for him.

But this is where I think she is the anti-endorsement.  She is the

mirror image of what an endorsement is.  Normally, you‘d have an upstart,

unknown candidate getting some validation from a more seasoned politician,

someone who can vouch for their character and responsibility of a

candidate.

In this case, Sarah Palin is the newcomer, and John McCain is the guy

with the record.  And so what you end up with is Palin making these

inappropriate jokes about his age, and also making him look needy.  In the

end, the contrast between the two of them—him going to her at this point

actually weakens him; it doesn‘t strengthen him.  And that‘s why even more

than a normal endorsement, I think this one can hurt him.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, McCain has not been a right-wing Republican over the

course of his career.  He‘s disappointed conservatives many times,

including on the Bush tax cuts which he did not vote for.  These tea

partiers are, among other things, extreme anti-tax people.

Are they going to buy McCain‘s sudden conversion?

WOLFFE:  Well, there is the credibility issue here.  He has changed

his voting record significantly over the last year to become more

conservative.  But there‘s something interesting in what Palin said,

because the slogans of 2008 were still rattling around there.  She talked

about being a maverick, that he is essential maverick.  That‘s his brand

and she‘s right about that.

The problem is that being a maverick for him meant bucking his party. 

That‘s how he challenged Barack Obama.  He said, you never stood up to your

own party.  Well, John McCain the maverick has stood up to his party on a

whole bunch of things that his party, and particularly now, the tea party,

actually supports—tax cuts being one of them.

But if he was true to his brand, he‘d just stand up to his party right

now on health care and now, he‘s pandering.  I think the credibility

question is a tough one for him.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, when Palin was on the ticket, they had a lot of

trouble according to reports in disciplining her as a candidate and getting

her to give the speeches they wanted her to give.  Today‘s speech was

interesting.  I imagine now McCain has absolutely no power to try to check

the text of her speech ahead of time, and approve and disapprove.

The passage that interested me the most in that territory is when she

basically says everyone here is part of the tea party.  We are all part of

the tea party, including herself and John McCain—and making that choice,

Richard, on the heels of these demonstrations, these protests by the tea

partiers in Washington, where they are spewing racist epithets, anti-gay

epithets, that‘s the time when Sarah Palin decides to declare John McCain

and herself to be members of the tea party.

What do you think McCain was thinking at that moment?

WOLFFE:  By the looks of it, he had his hearing aid off because he

wasn‘t paying much attention.  Look, this is all a figment of our

imagination.  So, yes, you can kind of have to set that aside.  That‘s the

least of what Sarah Palin said.

You know, there is something that John McCain has to confront if he‘s

going to be a tea party candidate which is that he‘s one of the most

loathed figures for tea party folks precisely because he reaches across the

party lines so often.  You know, the maverick status of him doesn‘t sit

well with a movement of people that is trying to be even more partisan and

try and block everything that Democrats want.  There‘s just a basic

contradiction there.  And Palin and McCain together kind of exposes it.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the crowds were big in the presidential election when

it was McCain and Palin and they got an OK crowd today.  I actually wasn‘t

that impressed with the size of the crowd.  They roped off some of the room

to make the crowd look bigger than it actually was.

But without Palin, what kind of draw is John McCain going to be on the

campaign trail in a state that is, by this time, very used to seeing him,

you know, and doesn‘t feel like they have to go out of their way to see

him?

WOLFFE:  Well, crowd size is one of—is one problem he has.  People

know who he is, and whether he has momentum is something you can kind of

measure with the crowd.  But if this is an anti-incumbent time, which it

seems to be, then having someone who is a senator of many years standing,

running at a time like this with a long record is more of a problem than

the size of his crowd.

O‘DONNELL:  Was this a difficult decision for Sarah Palin to go back

and do this for John McCain when John McCain seems like the old politics of

the Republican Party and that the tea party is the future that Sarah Palin

seems to be aiming for?

WOLFFE:  I think her future seems to be aiming for reality TV and

making lots of money.  Ands so, the political decision isn‘t really, I

think, the critical assumption for her.  To be honest, she has actually

been loyal to him.  And the finger-pointing, the back-biting that‘s been

going on, including from her, has been leveled at his staff.  She has been

pretty kind to him.

So, it doesn‘t surprise me that she was out there, but I also don‘t

think she‘s serious about a career in politics.

O‘DONNELL:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and veteran of 2008 campaign trail

thank you very much for your time tonight.

               

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: what a difference a week makes, with health

care reform now law and Democrats re-energized, what‘s next on Capitol

Hill?

And later, President Obama announces a deal with Russia to cut back on

nuclear weapons.  With GOP senators vowing to not cooperate on anything, is

there a chance they won‘t ratify the treaty?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Democrats on Capitol Hill finally embrace their

majority status.  With health care now on the record books, what‘s next?

And there‘s a free health care clinic in Atlanta tomorrow.  We‘ll

bring you a last-minute plea for help.

And later, a British man puts NASA to shame with his own ingenious way

of taking pictures from outer space.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Democratic reaction to passage of health care reform is

obviously miles away from Republican reaction.  But it is also light-years

away from where the Democrats were just a week ago.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over today‘s enrollment ceremony

for the reconciliation bill before sending it to the president for his

signature.  In her remarks today, Speaker Pelosi read from a letter she had

read last night—a letter she said illustrates the day‘s importance and

why every day mattered in this fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Cindy Mercer Jones

Wynne wrote, “My beautiful daughter Courtney Leigh Huber, 23 years old,

died January 5th, 2010, just a matter of weeks ago.  She was an insulin-

dependent diabetic who was kicked off her father‘s insurance the day she

graduated college.  She wasn‘t able to find a job that provided insurance

or even a reasonable income to buy her medical supplies.

I helped her financially as much as I could, but being a teacher and

single mother of five, my income was also limited.  To try to conserve her

insulin, she attempted to wean herself off her nighttime insulin dosage,

resulting in ketoacidosis.  She slipped into a coma and never woke up.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Despite polls showing signs of growing public approval for

health care reform, the Democratic Party is apparently not forgetting which

Democrats jumped ship on this issue.

Congressman Michael Arcuri, Marion Berry, Daniel Lipinski, Stephen

Lynch and Zach Space all voted “no” this week after voting “yes” last year. 

And now, “Politico” reports that White House aides say, President Obama and

Vice President Biden will, quote, “have to focus on our friends during

campaign season,” according to an unnamed senior White House official.

Blanche Lincoln, meanwhile, one of the three Democrat senators who

flipped from “yes” to “no,” now finds herself below 50 percent against a

Democratic primary challenger who supported both the reconciliation bill

and the public option, and also finds herself at war with the unions who

wanted her to support the reconciliation fix this week.  Lincoln is

reportedly now attacking her primary challenger for his backing from

Washington unions—despite the fact she not only used to have their

support, but tried to win it again this year, filling out a lengthy AFL-CIO

questionnaire to win them over.

Joining us tonight is Margaret Carlson, Washington editor of “The

Week” magazine and political columnist for “Bloomberg News.

Thanks for your time tonight, Margaret.

Democrats seem to be feeling much, much better this week than last

week.  But are there still some risks for Democrats on the health care

front between now and November?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Well, as far as talking about it, I

don‘t think there‘s that much risk in talking about it, because they‘re

only going to talk about the good parts.  The bad parts are down the road. 

If it increases the deficit, if that tax benefit doesn‘t go through to help

out.

But in the meantime, the preexisting conditions, the not being

dropped, letting junior stay on until he‘s 26, and not throwing grandma

under the bus—all these things are good and are the parts of the bill

that the Republicans certainly aren‘t going to want to be in favor of

repealing.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the White House seems to want someone to think that

they‘re playing very tough with the people who voted against the

reconciliation bill.

CARLSON:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  But they‘re—you know, that they‘re not going to—

they‘re not really going to help any primary challengers against any

incumbent in the House or Senate, are they?

CARLSON:  Well, they—their official rule is they don‘t get involved

in primaries.  Oh, but they do—because they can withhold love from

incumbents that haven‘t done what they want them to do, if they want to

hold a grudge and play it out.  That, you know, those funds don‘t have to

go there, that bridge doesn‘t have to happen.  Instead of Obama visiting

that district, he can just go someplace else in the state.  There are a lot

of ways that the White House can reward and punish—and in this case,

they might punish.

Blanche Lincoln, you know, she was in trouble before.  I don‘t know

that she can be saved.  But her opponent is just on fire.

I mean, he raised $1 million in 36 hours.  MoveOn.org is helping him. 

The unions are helping him.  And by the way, he‘s not even officially for

card check.  The unions are supporting him simply because Blanche Lincoln

voted “no” on health care.

So, there‘s going to be a lot of activity in the primaries of those

Democrats that voted “no,” and in a year, by the way, when incumbents are

in trouble anyway.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes. Lincoln‘s opponents may ironically turn out to be the

first largest beneficiary of the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited

amounts of outside money being spent on the campaigns.

CARLSON:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  But Blanche Lincoln has been endorsed by President Obama. 

And so, what are we really watching here?  What can—does the White House

want Blanche Lincoln to be re-elected or not?

CARLSON:  Well, that was while they were still trying to get her.  I

mean, now that she‘s voted “no,” I don‘t think you‘re going to see a

wholehearted embrace of Blanche Lincoln.  I mean, that would be masochistic

on their part.  That means that there‘s no party discipline, you can do

what you want, even when the chips are down and they‘re desperate to have

you?  Is that the kind of message?

I mean—but Obama is too bipartisan.  Is he now going to become like

too forgiving of Democrats?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, isn‘t there also the question of what can Obama do

to help any of the people in these columns?  I mean, a guy like Steve

Lynch, for example, in south Boston is going to be re-elected.  He doesn‘t

need any help from anybody.  He‘s not in an endangered district.

And then someone like Blanche Lincoln and, by the way, Mark Pryor, the

and by the way, Margaret, just on a side note here, it‘s been

interesting that Pryor, the other senator from Arkansas, voted like Lincoln

on this and we don‘t really hear anything about it.

               

CARLSON:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  There‘s something odd to me.  Why is Blanche Lincoln—

CARLON:  That‘s because we still—

O‘DONNELL:  -- the target of all this energy and Pryor just sits

quietly beside her and no one seems to care about him?

CARLSON:  Well, but that‘s because men still hate some women perhaps,

you know?  This is a female—well, he‘s not up, you know, this time.  So

there‘s not as much interest in what he does.  She‘s the one, as Sarah

Palin would put it, in the crosshairs.

So, there‘s—she‘s just much more vulnerable because of her

favorability rating, and she‘s vulnerable now because she voted “no” and

she‘s not going to be able to excite the people that were unexcited.

O‘DONNELL:  And some of these people actually, in many cases, wouldn‘t

want President Obama to come to their state or district, especially

Arkansas, where he lose by 25 points to McCain in Arkansas?  He can‘t

really help anybody there, could he?

CARLSON:  Well, you know, she doesn‘t have the—you know, her base. 

I mean, he could discretely go to, you know, Democratic dinners and, you

know, not show up at some big rally in the city square.  He could certainly

send some money there.  There are lots of bridges and courthouses.  I mean,

there are other things he can do, and maybe he will.

Maybe that endorsement he gave, maybe he‘s a sap.  Maybe he wants to

help people who voted against him when he really needed them.  But I‘m

Irish.  I would hold that grudge.

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, Margaret Carlson.  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg

News” and “The Week” magazine—thank you for joining us and hold that

grudge, Margaret.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: the United States and Russia agree to reduce

their nuclear arsenals.  It‘s one of President Obama‘s biggest foreign

policy achievements.  Will Senate Republicans try to block ratifying it?

And later, a self-described geek beats NASA at its own game.  He gets

amazing shots of earth on a shoestring budget.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  It is a strange new world when the most interesting

thing about the most comprehensive nuclear arms reduction treaty in two

decades is weather, in the current political environment, it might actually

be difficult to muster these 67 Senate votes necessary to ratify the

treaty. 

The treaty between the United States and Russia announced today by

President Obama would reduce the long-range nuclear arsenals of both

nations by about 30 percent.  The president plans to sign the pact with

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on April 8th

At today‘s news conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was

asked whether Senate ratification of the treaty might actually be an issue,

given the extremely partisan political climate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We‘re confident that we‘ll be

able to make the case for ratification.  In fact, I think if you look at

the last three major nuclear arms treaties, the Sort treaty of 2003, 95 to

zero, Start One Treaty, 1992, 93 to six, the INF treaty, 1988, 93 to five. 

There should be very broad bipartisan support. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Jon Kyl, who is an influential voice among his

Republican colleagues on arms control issues, has withheld judgment on the

treaty until he fully reviews it. 

Let‘s bring in senior editor for “Newsweek” and MSNBC political

analyst Jonathan Alter.  Good evening, Jonathan. 

We heard Secretary Clinton say that in these situations the votes for

these kinds of treaties are normally unanimous or nearly unanimous.  This

doesn‘t feel like normal times for this kind of thing.  What do you see

coming? 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  You know, I honestly don‘t know whether

she‘s right.  I hope she is.  I pray she is. 

I‘m worried, though.  You have John McCain saying he will not be

cooperating with President Obama for the rest of the year.  How far does

that extend?  We don‘t know. 

You have a number of conservative Republican senators who are very

much in the Dick Cheney camp.  And you might remember that during the Bush

administration, Cheney dissed Russia. 

Now, just to give you a little bit of the context here, he wanted to

pick a fight with Russia as if the Cold War was still going on, right?  To

give you have the context, why is this so important at this stage in

history?  And the answer is one word: Iran.  Russia is essential to

containing Iran.  We need them to reprocess Iranian fuel.  So this is

really about Iranian nukes, inspecting Iran. 

And if we can get this treaty through, we‘re on much stronger footing,

with both the United States and Russia reducing arms, to make the case to

Iran and the international community that they also need to let the

inspectors in.  The future of the world—you know, the security of the

world is very much tied up in this treaty, not because of issues between

the United States and Russia, but because of these other issues. 

And so if—you know, if the Republicans object, they will show that

they are completely unserious and irresponsible about international

relations. 

O‘DONNELL:  With the security of the world dependent on a two-thirds

vote in the Senate on the approval of this treaty, let‘s just go back and

consider John McCain.  John McCain would normally be a leader in an area

like this.  He would normally bring senators with him.  Then to his quote,

which is like nothing I‘ve seen a sitting senator say before, “there will

be no cooperation for the rest of the year.”  They, the Democrats, “have

poisoned the well in what they‘ve done and how they‘ve done it.” 

With a statement like that, and with McCain out there desperately

campaigning with Sarah Palin to show what a good right winger he can be

when challenged from his right, what will happen in the Senate if McCain

defects on this treaty?  Will he take people with him? 

ALTER:  Well, I hope not.  You know, he‘s not very popular among his

Republican colleagues.  So it might be that his sitting this one out does

not have serious consequences.  The other senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl,

who just showed, he might be—I think he is much more relevant to this. 

So when he said he wants to take time to read the treaty, I take him at his

word.  And we‘ll see whether he does the right thing. 

But, you know, it‘s hard enough to get 60 votes; 67 votes, it‘s a

steeper hill to climb.  And I understand Secretary Clinton saying, you

know, in the past, in the Bush administration and the—you know, the

Clinton administration before that, these treaties were ratified by

overwhelming margins.  But hypocrisy, flip-flopping on your vote, this is

nothing new.  You had seven senators who sponsored a budget commission

bill, and once the president endorsed that, they not only didn‘t sponsor it

anymore, they were in opposition to their own bill. 

So their ability to say, you know, we voted for old treaties but we‘re

not going to vote for this one because this or that is wrong with it, I

wouldn‘t underestimate this. 

O‘DONNELL:  But this has always been the area where they behave like

adults.  So if they change now on this, then it really is a giant change in

the Senate.  Might the game be we can‘t let Obama have another huge victory

like this, a kind of international victory before the November election? 

Let‘s just act on this thing after the November election, whether that be

in a lame duck session or whether that be 2011?  Might that be the game? 

ALTER:  Well, that‘s possible.  Most people in the United States don‘t

care about nuclear arms talks, so I‘m not sure it would be that big a

victory.  It didn‘t get as much play today as it probably should have. 

But I‘ll tell you an ace in the hole that the president has; last

year, he had a meeting at the White House with Henry Kissinger, George

Schulz, Sam Nunn, a quite a number of Republicans and Democrats.  This has

been a bipartisan effort, arms control, over the years.  And if he gets

Henry Kissinger and George Schultz lobbying for him with some of these

Republicans—you know, Kissinger and McCain have a longstanding

relationship.  So we‘ll see. 

O‘DONNELL:  So we‘ll keep our eye on Iran in this deal, as being what

it‘s really about.  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, thank you very

much for your time tonight. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, with health care reform now law, the work isn‘t

over.  People still need urgent care right now.  We‘ll preview tomorrow‘s

free health care clinic in Atlanta. 

And how a weather balloon, a digital camera and duct tape could

actually compete with hundreds of millions of dollars spent by NASA to take

pictures of Earth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  It cost about 450 million dollars to launch a space

shuttle, making the pictures they bring home the most expensive in the

world.  So when someone at NASA stumbled upon some shocking pictures taken

by an amateur British scientist on the Internet, they called the man to ask

him how he took those photos. 

His answer?  A camera, GPS tracking device, and a balloon.  The

budget?  Slightly less than 450 million dollars.  NBC‘s Mike Taibbi has

more. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Thirty eight-year-

old Robert Harrison is a self-confessed computer geek who says it was

boredom that got him thinking a while back about space exploration, photo

exploration, that is. 

ROBERT HARRISON, AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER:  You have a camera, a simple

point and click camera, a Cannon, 50 Quid on eBay. 

TAIBBI:  That‘s about 100 bucks, and about 600 more for a GPS tracking

device duct taped to hold it all together, plus a standard weather balloon

and the helium to fill it.  Then up, up, up and away, above the English

countryside while the camera clicked away automatically, as Harrison

tracked progress from his attic of his Yorkshire home. 

HARRISON:  We‘ve got the bottom part of the UK.  And then France is

underneath the cloud there. 

We can see where the camera is in three dimensional space.  So it‘s

latitude, longitude, as well as altitude. 

TAIBBI:  At 22 miles high, the stratosphere, the edge of space, the

balloon bursts as expected.  With that cheap camera capturing images like

these, a parachute carried it safely back to Earth, where Harrison followed

the GPS signal to find it. 

(on camera):  Harrison may have been the first hobbyist to try weather

balloon photography from near space, but now there are several dozen

enthusiasts going for the same cheap thrill, cheap as in inexpensive, but

useful. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lift off of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

TAIBBI (voice-over):  Pictures like these have often been taken aboard

the Space Shuttle, each mission costing NASA about 400 million dollars.  So

getting images like these for a few hundred dollars is an eye opener. 

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM ASTROPHYSICIST:  If somebody

out of their backyard fancies together a device that can photograph Earth

from above, surely there are government agencies who are going to want to

have access to this. 

TAIBBI:  A team at MIT has gotten their own balloon camera aloft, and

for only 150 bucks.  And they posted a how-to primer for the next explorer,

a bargain basement way to see the truth revealed to real space travelers. 

HARRISON:  I now know the Earth is round and space is indeed black. 

TAIBBI:  With your own photographers as proof.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, it was an historic week in Washington with

health care reform finally becoming law of the land.  But there‘s still an

immediate urgent need for millions of Americans.  We‘ll talk to Nicole

Lamoureaux of the National Association of Free Clinics about the free

clinic to be held in Atlanta tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  It began a year ago, a proposal to overhaul America‘s

health care system.  After months of promises and set backs, attacks from

the right and the left, this week President Obama signed into law the

largest government expansion of health care coverage since Medicare. 

So now what?  As Jonathan Cohn warns in a “New York Times” op-ed,

“much as the Iraq war wasn‘t over when American forces conquered Baghdad,

so health care reform didn‘t end when President Obama signed the bill.  If

carrying out the legislation doesn‘t get the same sustained attention that

passing it did, then this week‘s historic victory will lose much of its

luster.” 

While the current law aims to cover 32 million eventually, most will

not see any changes in their health care until 2014.  And the CBO estimates

that some 23 million Americans will still be without insurance in 2019,

even after major provisions of the law have been in effect for several

years. 

All the more reason for the National Association of Free Clinics to

continue its work.  You, our COUNTDOWN viewers, have given 2.1 million

dollars to the cause, helping 5,300 of your fellow Americans in need in

over five days of clinics.  Your donations will fund one more clinic, a

location and date yet to be announced. 

But through the generosity of other donors, not linked to COUNTDOWN,

there will be another free clinic tomorrow held in Atlanta.  Joining me now

from Atlanta is Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National

Association of Free Clinics.  Good evening, Nicole. 

NICOLE LAMOUREAUX, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FREE CLINICS:  Hello.  How

are you? 

O‘DONNELL:  So even after this legislation‘s been turned into law, you

expect not much change in the people who need your kind of clinic. 

LAMOUREAUX:  That‘s right.  And before I go any farther, the National

Association of Free Clinics would like to offer our condolences to Keith

and his family. 

But you‘re right, we do not see much difference right away.  As you

said, the law will not go into effect until 2014.  So there are people who

need care right now.  And the National Association of Free Clinics and our

members will continue to service those uninsured Americans. 

O‘DONNELL:  How many do you expect at tomorrow‘s clinic in Atlanta? 

LAMOUREAUX:  Well, it‘s been amazing.  We had to shut our phone lines

down at 10:00 a.m. this morning.  We received 200 phone calls a minute. 

And we have 1,700 people already registered for appointments. 

O‘DONNELL:  And do you have everything you need for tomorrow‘s clinic? 

LAMOUREAUX:  We need more doctors.  Quite frankly, the more doctors

that we have, the more people that we can service.  And doctors can contact

FreeClinics.us to help us tomorrow.  And they must be a licensed physician

in the state of Georgia. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, how do the numbers you‘re seeing tomorrow in Atlanta

compare to what you‘ve had at the other clinics prior to the passage of

health care reform? 

LAMOUREAUX:  Well, we have never had to shut down our phone lines

before the end of the day.  So that is a first.  And I think what we‘re

finding is that many Americans still need health care now.  And with the

passage of health care reform this week, it has been elevated in everyone‘s

mind, so they continue to call and ask us to help them.  And that‘s what

we‘re going to be doing here.  So the numbers are dramatically higher than

what we‘ve seen in the past clinics because it‘s right there in the

forefront of everyone‘s mind. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the bill being signed into law with great fanfare, as

it well deserved as a legislative accomplishment, I wonder if that somehow

might take some of the energy out of supporters of your clinics, thinking

that maybe something has changed as of this week, that means that the need

for these clinics isn‘t what it used to be. 

LAMOUREAUX:  Well, I think that is a great point.  And we are

certainly hoping that everyone understands that this bill, as we‘ve said

before, is not in effect, and it starts in 2014.  So between now and 2014,

we continue to see patients who are going to need help.  And then even

after that fact, knowing that there is going to be uninsured Americans that

still have no place to go really concerns us, that people are going to

think it‘s done now. 

In fact, when we‘re talking about people talking about repealing the

law as it is, we know that the fight is far from over. 

O‘DONNELL:  One of the great weaknesses of this bill is the slowness

of its implementation, as we‘ve already been discussing here.  But another

weakness at the other end of it, when it is fully implemented, it will

still leave out possibly 15 million people, possibly more than that, with

absolutely no access to health insurance whatsoever.  So it seems to me,

even when we get to the end of the line of implementation, ten years from

now, there will be 15 million people out there looking for one of these

clinics, aren‘t they? 

LAMOUREAUX:  Yes, they will.  This bill was just a first step.  That‘s

all this bill was, a historic first step, nonetheless, but just a first

step.  There are still going to be people that are going to need care, and

free clinics will be there to help those patients. 

O‘DONNELL:  Nicole Lamoureaux, thanks for your time tonight, and thank

you for expressing your condolences to Keith and his family. 

LAMOUREAUX:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  That will have to do it for this Friday edition of

COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann, who, it is my

honor and pleasure to announce, will be back in this chair on Monday.  Our

MSNBC coverage continues now with “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  Good evening,

Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Let me just

take a second here to tell you how grateful all of us at MSNBC have been to

have you here filling in for Keith while he‘s been away dealing with family

stuff.  You‘ve done a tremendous, tremendous job.  You‘ve just been great

to work with.  Thanks. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you.

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

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