Guests: Markos Moulitsas, David Weigel, Mark Potok, Wendell Potter,
HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
Bad day at Searchlight: Sarah Palin‘s anti-Harry Reid Tea Party stop
in Nevada draws only 9,000 -- most of them out-of-staters who can‘t vote
against Harry Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: This B.S. is coming out of
the lame-stream media lately—with the accusation that it is a group like
this that is inciting violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That would be a reference to this—her “reload” tweet.
Yet an Arizona anti-immigrant group uses “locked, loaded and ready,”
its members decide to show up with guns. Its horrified president, fearing
violence, shuts the group down.
Not Hutaree—nine charged in the Midwest. A Christian militia
group‘s plot to kill policemen, then kill people at the funeral, all part
of their defense against the anti-Christ—whom the Harris Poll shows 20
percent of Republicans believe could be this president.
Revenge of the insurance cartel. They think the bill means they do
not have to cover children with preexisting conditions. Our special guest,
industry whistleblower, Wendell Potter.
The president and recess: The recess appointments—that and the
flying trip to Afghanistan to visit troops are resurgence of strength from
the Oval Office.
“Worsts”: What was Billo doing on that flight with that copy of
And the call for Michael Steele to resign after the revelation of a
Republican National Committee visit to L.A. in February, 9,000 bucks
dropped at the Beverly Hills hotel, you say? Another $6,500 at the Four
Seasons, you say? Nearly $2,000 more spent at Voyeur West Hollywood, you
say? A nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian bondage
sex, you say? Don‘t order the haddock.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) a whole lot.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. I‘m Keith Olbermann, filling
in for Keith Olbermann.
And now what organizers call the “Conservative Woodstock” belongs to
the ages, the Tea Party showdown in Searchlight drew nearly 2.5 percent as
many participants as the real one, and content-wise, matching in two
respects only, what one blogger called three mind-numbing hours just to get
the small crowd out of the parking lot and the fact that it was almost as
difficult to understand what Sarah Palin was saying in Nevada as it was to
understand 41 years ago what Joe Cocker was singing in Upstate New York. I
need someone to love.
Bad P.A. system, helicopters, wind, members of the Tea Party movement
beginning a three-week, 44-city bus tour to end on Tax Return Day, April
15th, in Washington, with the purported aim of unseating Democrats in
Congress. The string of rallies kicking off in Harry Reid‘s hometown, the
majority leader now engaged in a tight race to keep his Senate seat.
The headline speaker herself no stranger to big hair, targeting the
Democratic leader of the Senate with her best Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Searchlight, I hope that when he does come back home, I hope
that he‘ll open up the floor to questions so that you can start asking him
and shedding a little bit of light on Harry Reid, ask him a thing or two
about, like—when does early voting begin and who else is running for his
seat? And in these upcoming elections, we‘re saying that big government,
big debt, Obama/Pelosi/Reid spending spree is over. You‘re fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Except, of course, half-Governor Palin of Alaska will not
get to say on whether Senator Reid is returned to the Senate, nor will she
get to vote against Speaker Pelosi, who represents some place in
California. Neither will the vast majority of the demonstrators on the Tea
Party Express bus tour who will be merely dropping in on the districts and
lawmakers they aim to protest. At the 9,000 in Searchlight, Senator Reid
who was campaigning in nearby Las Vegas is saying in a statement,
“Ultimately, this election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from
other states who parachute in one day to have a tea party.”
What half-Governor Palin has been highlighting November‘s midterm
elections dovetails nicely with other talking points that her recent use of
crosshairs and other hunting rhetoric to target Democratic lawmakers has
been misinterpreted by the quote, “lame-stream media,” and it is not meant
to incite violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Now, when we talk—when we talk about fighting for our
country, let‘s clear the air right now on what—what it is that we are
talking about. We‘re not inciting violence. Don‘t get sucked in to the
lame-stream media‘s lies about conservative Americans standing up for
freedom as inciting violence. Violence isn‘t the answer. It‘s a bunch of
bunk what the media is trying to feed you. Don‘t let them divert attention
from the debate.
Media, you guys ginning up an issue like that, making it sound like
it‘s a crowd like this of patriotic Americans who are inciting violence,
it‘s not true. It‘s a bunch of bunk and we ask for some fair and some
balanced reporting coming from you, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A subtle plug for the half-governor‘s new employers whom
she hasn‘t quit on yet.
But Mrs. Palin‘s claims of ginning up and bunk might ring less false
if it were only Democratic lawmakers now being targeted. The FBI today is
charging a 38-year-old Philadelphia man named Norman Leboon with
threatening the life of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and his family in a
YouTube video, that has since obviously, been taken down. No harm came to
the Virginia Republican nor his family as a result of those threats.
You will recall last week, in an unrelated incident, evidently, a
bullet that had been randomly fired up into the air broke a window, on its
way down, of a Richmond building that houses one of Mr. Cantor‘s campaign
Time now to turn to Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of
DailyKos.com, and author of “Taking on the System.”
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILYKOS.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To sum up the Republicans in the recent days and the weeks
over the weekend—particularly, there‘s lots of anger out there among
Americans, lots and lots, and lots and lots and lots and lots of it. But
to suggest that to continually mention that anger and feeding it might be
the same as inciting some of those people to act upon their anger, that
that‘s all bad journalism is—seems to be the latest line here.
So, if you report irresponsible rhetoric, that‘s far more
irresponsible than if you exploit and expound irresponsible rhetoric.
MOULITSAS: Yes, that‘s pretty absurd, obviously.
I think the problem for Republicans and conservatives is that they
don‘t want the world to see what their so-called populist uprising really
is all about. When people get a really good look and they see the
violence, they see the hatred, the bigotry, the sexism, racism, it
obviously reflects very poorly on Republicans. So, they‘d rather that the
media not report on them so that they can continue to rile them up in
private and secretly, as opposed to out in the public where everybody can
OLBERMANN: Why then did they not take advantage of a freebie? I
mean, last week, when the Republicans—and the Democrats wanted the
Republicans to stand with them on Capitol Hill at one news conference to
denounce violence, the Republicans chose not to. Even being anti-violence
is now a partisan issue?
MOULITSAS: Yes, I mean, this is how crazy Washington, D.C., has
gotten these days. I think bottom line is—again, is that if Republicans
were to call out this sort of violent extremism that they would actually be
calling out the significant and key portion of their base, and then they‘d
have Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and those guys would
come down on them. So they‘re afraid to criticize their base, because that
base has some really strong and powerful supporters in the conservative
So, that‘s why they‘ve sort of, I think, have to keep their mouth
shut, even though people on our side of the aisle, you know, progressives,
we condemn all violence against whoever it may be directed at. I think
it‘s all bad for politics. It‘s not good for our democracy, and I wish it
would all end.
OLBERMANN: Agreed. Amen. It has no point directed in any direction,
and nor does the threat of it, nor does even the suggestion of it, nor does
the implication of fear about it.
But this—there is a political context for this. And when it turns
out the congressman, that the minority whip, Mr. Cantor, has been targeted
is that a political vindication for him? Or is it more vindication for
the Democrats and the media, that the problem actually exists and it exists
in a bipartisan way despite Mrs. Palin‘s attempt to dismiss as ginned up
MOULITSAS: There is some bipartisanship. I mean, this guy who
threatened Cantor also threatened Barack Obama and he actually also
threatened the pig from “Babe,” right? So, he‘s not even bipartisan. I
think he transcends partisanship. I mean, this guy, I guess, threatens
But—I mean, bottom line is that there‘s a party that fetishizes
guns, that celebrates militarism and aggressiveness, and we all know which
party that is. So, it‘s hard for the Republicans to back down from that
because it is, to the core, the essence of who they are.
OLBERMANN: That begs the question, after 9,000, the rocking crowd of
9,000 at Woodstock, the conservative 2010 version, we know, again, what the
Tea Party is against—socialism, taxes, Barack Obama, big government,
anything with -ism on it, botulism. Do we yet have any idea what they‘re
MOULITSAS: It‘s a very confusing and difficult thing to try to figure
out. I‘m sure they‘re for the rapture. I‘m assuming that. And I think—
they say that they‘re for freedom, and I think the way they define freedom
is the freedom of insurance companies to abuse and exploit their customers
and a freedom of millionaires not to have to pay taxes, and the freedom of
them not to use those government services, which news reports now say they
all use, like unemployment benefits, disability benefits and so on.
So—but beyond that, you‘ve got me. My guess is as good as yours.
OLBERMANN: Markos Moulitsas of “Daily Kos”—as always, great
thanks. Good to talk to you, sir.
MOULITSAS: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Sex scandals are nothing new for a Republican Party that
purports, when it‘s daylight, to place family values above all others. But
it is still not every day that the Republican National Committee is caught
using party funds to reimburse a political official for the four-figure tab
he rang up at a lesbian and bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood.
“Waiter, this steak tastes like leather.” “Sir, everything here
tastes like leather.”
Just the latest scandal threatening to end the whip-sought tenure of
Michael Steele as GOP chairman, filings with the Federal Election
Commission showing that nearly $2,000 in RNC money was used to pay back
Eric Brown, a California-based political consultant who charged the
committee for his night out at Voyeur, a risque nightclub in West L.A.
It is not clear who at the RNC reimbursed Brown or who from the
committee might have been with him at the club, but it has been enough to
instigate outrage. One conservative women‘s group that contributes to the
RNC asking party leadership for answers: Did you really swill drinks, ogle
young girls and plan business at this establishment? Please explain.”
Others now asking not for an explanation but for a resignation from
Let‘s turn to our David Weigel, senior reporter for “The Washington
Independent.” He‘ll soon be blogging for “The Washington Post.”
David, good evening.
DAVID WEIGEL, THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: Thank you. Good to be
OLBERMANN: A bondage-themed strip club. Somebody thought they could
expend nearly $2,000 at a bondage-themed strip club and get away with it?
I mean, does the place at least a nice salad bar?
WEIGEL: I‘m not sure. I‘m willing to conduct field research, I
think, if the RNC will pay me.
But no, this isn‘t supposed to happen. I think that goes without
saying—but I‘ve talked to people who have done—they‘ve done contract
work for the RNC or worked at the RNC and tried to get a sense of how this
would work. And they‘re—you‘re not supposed to submit an expense report
this big as a contractor and raise no eyebrows, just get the thing
approved. It was a huge snafu, at the some level.
And the RNC has stumbled a bit, I think, in not explaining why this
happened, instead going after the source, which is actually Tucker
OLBERMANN: So, this is the party that, as I suggest, uses family
values as a brand name. And it seems that, once again, they‘ve gotten
caught with their hand in the cookie jar. But how many times do they have
to get caught with the hand in the cookie jar before the conservative base
that actually believes something, whether you agree with them or not, they
have core beliefs—at what point do they give up on them or realize
they‘re being taken by these people?
WEIGEL: Well, there‘s a lot of forgiveness there. There‘s a lot—
there‘s a lot of cheek-turning in the Republican base. But there‘s also—
I think the decrease in the importance of the Republican National Committee
to conservative activists. I mean, this weekend, it‘s turned out we might
have seen a 72-hour torch passing between activists wanting to spend their
money on groups like the Tea Party Express and activists wanting to spend
their money on the RNC.
Let‘s keep in mind, Steele‘s in trouble as much as he is, not just
because of gaffes and things like that, but because February was probably
the best month for Republicans in four or five years, and they only raised
about as much money as the Democrats did, about $7.5 million. These
activists are already going elsewhere.
OLBERMANN: So, to just use one definition of the relevancy of cheek-
turning here in this particular story, Mr. Steele‘s epitaph has been
written countless times in the last year and a half.
OLBERMANN: But, is—are the people who are supporting him actually
going to turn that metaphoric cheek once again? Can he actually survive
WEIGEL: I bet on him surviving. I mean, I‘ve talked to some people
who are critical openly of Michael Steele frequently, and they‘re the sort
of people who actually leaked half of this story about the rumors of him
wanting a private jet, rumors of him wanting various and sundry expensive
things. It‘s just not feasible to push the guy out this close to an
I mean, people laugh when they talk about him running for re-election
for the presidential cycle, but not losing out immediately. There‘s just
more focus on why this happened lower in the RNC. You‘re not supposed to
make this many mistakes in an election year. You‘re supposed to be
operating 100 percent and they‘re getting snowed again in the time that
should be very good for them, politically—that‘s very good for Sarah
Palin, very good for the tea parties—the RNC can‘t quite make all its
OLBERMANN: Well, you‘ve cut to the chase in this, I think, David, and
this begs my last question. This delicate kind of—I used Escher analogy
a lot, but it looks like an M.C. Escher drawing, the staircases are going
up and down at the same time.
OLBERMANN: This delicate M.C. Escher interaction between the
Republican Party and tea people really is—there‘s kind of suspicious
tolerance one to the other, is this the sort of thing though that sends tea
party people really off the cliff and they start waving, you know,
information like $2,000 at the place where they turn the cheek and $43,000
at an annual meeting in Hawaii that doesn‘t include the airfare, and
$30,000 on private planes and limousines just in February? Is this the
thing that splits them again?
WEIGEL: I think it just amplifies and accelerates what‘s already
going on. Tea Party activists are finding their own candidates.
Conservative activists are finding their own candidates.
People like, Jim DeMint, has his own Senate conservatives fund which
is competing with the official Republican Senatorial Committee. If you
check out blogs, you talk to people at tea parties, they‘re very
uninterested in what these Washington, D.C. committees are doing. You see
people coming back with their hat in hand rather than leading this people.
OLBERMANN: David Weigel of “The Washington Independent,” soon to be
blogging with “The Post”—great thanks.
OLBERMANN: Congratulations on that. All the best.
WEIGEL: Thank you. Good to see you back.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
There is more over-the-top hyperbolic hypocrisy tonight, the story of
Bill O‘Reilly, the plane and the “Playboy.”
Unfortunately, it is hardly all laughs. The right wing militias, the
idea of which the right wing mocked, one was stopped apparently within
weeks of a terrorist attack in this country on the premise that the
government was the enemy and the police were the weapons of the anti-
Christ. More in a moment.
OLBERMANN: To resume, a group stopped within a month of its first dry
run from attacking Americans, specifically law enforcement offices, in
hopes of inspiring a revolt against the government of the United States.
Foreigners, religious zealots? You‘re half correct. A right wing
Christian militia in the Midwest believing that the government represents
Details and implications with Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law
Center—next here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: They convince themselves they were preparing to fight the
anti-Christ and to do battle with the enemy. According to the Christian
militia group, Hutaree, the enemy is anyone working for the government.
While according to a Harris Poll, nearly a quarter of Republicans, the
anti-Christ might be the current president.
The FBI arresting eight over the weekend, five in southern Michigan,
three in Ohio and Indiana, one person still at large—all nine of them
members of this Christian militia group Hutaree, indicted on multiple
charges, including seditious conspiracy, sedition, and attempted use of
weapons of mass destruction. Court documents revealing Hutaree members
were plotting to kill a police officer, and then bomb the officer‘s funeral
procession in order to kill others.
“The New York Times” reporting that group members considered local and
state police as foot soldiers for the federal government, which they viewed
as the enemy. Federal agents say the group was preparing to take some type
of action next month. The group‘s own Web site more specific, revealing a
training exercise were planned for the 24th of April.
Under surveillance for over a year, and with the Web site noting it is
preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ
alive, court documents fleshed out the madness, quoting, “It is believed by
the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more
widespread uprising against the government.”
“TPM” reporting, the group was preparing to fight the anti-Christ
because, quote, “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the
sword and stay alive using equipment.”
Joining me now, as promised, Mark Potok, the director of the
intelligence project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, pleasure to see you,
Keith. Glad to see you back.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
This predates health care reform, predates the presidency—what is
the provenance of this group? Do you know?
POTOK: Well, apparently, they started way back in 2008. They were
very little noticed initially. We caught wind of them in early 2009 and
actually have them listed as, you know, one of many, many militia groups
that appeared recently. You know, they really look like they essentially
are a family, and some friends—although they also have what is
apparently a very small chapter in Utah that I‘m guessing was not involved
You know, it‘s a strange group, as you‘ve suggested already. It
sounds very similar to other militia groups in its sort of identification
of the government as an evil entity in all of this. But as you say, they
don‘t target the so-called “new world order.” They target the anti-Christ,
which, I guess, is a Christian millennial version of what the new world
order will be when the day comes.
OLBERMANN: All this, of course, obviously, making everyone think back
to the Homeland Security Department report that was released last April
that warned of this type of extremism and its growth, and it was mocked by
the right wing, saying that this is just an attempt to put down
conservative political values.
But—I mean, how many times have we seen in the last year that this
report was, if anything, understating the reality out there?
POTOK: I think that‘s precisely right, and that‘s really what we said
at the time.
You know, the reality was that the infamous DHS report of last April
was spot on. It had a very good analysis of what was going on. They very
much mirrored our own completely independent findings down here, and it was
vilified by groups like the American Legion and other right wing groupings.
You know, the shame of it, really, from my point of view, is that the
secretary of DHS essentially apologized for it, and repudiated it. And
there—when you actually read the report, there was nothing in there that
was tendentious that identified conservatives as potential Timothy McVeighs
or any of the rhetoric. You know, the fact is, it was a sober, straight
ahead assessment of what was going on and we‘re seeing precisely what was
essentially predicted in that report now.
OLBERMANN: And you‘re reporting, your group said that in the last
year, the militias and other similar-type groups are up by 244 percent.
The numbers, the sheer amount of material they have available to them—
have we ever seen anything like it before in this country?
POTOK: I really haven‘t. It‘s not—the militias, the growth of the
militias and related patriot groups is explosive in the last year. In
addition to that, we had a huge growth, some 80 percent in the number of
the very hard-line anti-immigration groups, the Minutemen and so on. And
we have record numbers of hate groups.
So, you put all that together, and what we really saw was about a 40
percent increase in the number of these groups. So, they all add up to
something like 1,700 groups, you know—and that doesn‘t even tell the
whole story, because we see a great deal of the rhetoric and ideology, in
many cases, conspiracy theories and streaks of racism of these groups
entering larger formations like the tea parties. I think that‘s very
OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea—is there a number to put on what
kind of overlap there are between these nut groups like the one, the
Hutaree, and the ordinary people who may not have anything like this in
mind, who are in groups like the Tea Party? What‘s that—when those two
circles overlap? What size is the overlap?
POTOK: Well, I‘d say two things. First of all, undoubtedly, the vast
majority of people actually in militia groups do not contemplate the mass
murder of police officers. That‘s fairly unusual, even for these nutty
You know, the overlap with the tea parties is hard to measure. But
what we know is a whole number of things. We know that the tea parties and
many of their leaders and participants have adopted a lot of the
There‘s a secret plan by Mexico to invade the country. There may be a
string of FEMA concentration camps out there that the government is
preparing for good, patriotic Americans. We see, for instance, coming
April 19th, very major second amendment rally in Washington, a gun rights
rally, that there will be a major leaders from various patriot groups like
Richard Mack, a former sheriff from Arizona who is part of the oath
So, there‘s really a great deal of overlap and I think you hear it in
much of the rhetoric of the Tea Party leaders.
OLBERMANN: You certainly hear it. You‘re right.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center—again, great thanks
for your time.
POTOK: And thank you.
OLBERMANN: Incredibly, one right-wing fringe group has done the right
thing, though its motive for doing so may be questioned. Practical
evidence that if you tell right wing whack jobs to show up, quote, “locked,
loaded and ready,” they will bring their guns. The surprise is what the
leader of their group did then—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: “Worsts”: and I am ready to run against Scott Brown. I
own my own barn coat.
First, one of our random gratuitous plugs; tomorrow is the publication
date of what might be the best baseball book written in 40 years. It‘s
called “The Bullpen Gospels,” and its by Dirk Hayhurst, a relief pitcher of
the Toronto Bluejays. Hayhurst has written about something larger than
sports. It‘s about what happens when your dreams about your intended
profession, whatever it is, run into the reality that at times everything
is a job.
One prominent baseball writer, Jason Stark, says it‘s so well done he
fears for his own job. It‘s already been compared, seriously, to J.D.
Salinger‘s “Catcher in the Rye” and Jim Bouton‘s “Ball Four.” And neither
comparison is hyperbole. “The Bullpen Gospels” by Dirk Hayhurst, in
bookstores tomorrow, you will not regret it. Let‘s play Oddball.
Also in sports, in Abetsburg (ph), British Columbia, which has a minor
league hockey team—or at least it did. The play by play on what
happened to this coach, courtesy of Canada‘s CBC Sports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Playfair (ph) is getting a penalty. Jim Playfair
just broke a stick over the ice. He has lost his mind. Jim Playfair is
throwing the stick on the ice. Unbelievable. He‘s throwing his jacket
off. Jim Playfair is going nuts on Jamie Kolharsky (ph) right now.
And he‘s going to break a second stick. He‘s on the top of the bench
and Jim Playfair once again throws another stick on the ice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And here comes the underwear. Now, coach, a good
craftsman never blames his tools.
And here‘s a surprise, six days after the president signed the health
care reform bill, a spokesman for the health insurance industry insists the
bill does not require that insurers offer coverage to children with
preexisting conditions. There‘s something to be proud of. Wendell Potter
OLBERMANN: The health insurance industry tonight is insisting it does
not have to start offering coverage to children with preexisting medical
conditions. Without apparent awareness of the evident irony, a spokesman
is claiming, quote, “the fine print of the health reform bill gives them an
escape clause.” Perhaps the only surprise is they waited a week to start
this. Wendell Potter in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever
from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As of, says an insurance spokesman, four years from now.
In other words, tough luck, kids, keep suffering. An attorney for both
employers and insurance companies by the names of William G Shiffbauer (ph)
today telling the “New York Times,” quote, “the fine print differs from the
larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to
cover preexisting conditions for children covered by the policy. But it
does not have to sell to somebody with a preexisting condition, and the
insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”
The Department of Health and Human Services last week insisted that
because of the new law, children can not be denied coverage, though they
intend to offer regulations next month that would clarify any ambiguity.
As for the implementation of the rest of the bill, in large part that
falls to a nonprofit regulatory group called the NAIC, the National
Association of Insurance Commissioners. More than 50 NAIC members, one
from each state, territory and the District of Columbia, will take the
framework provided by the president‘s bill and help individual states
institute programs like insurance exchanges.
The NAIC met in Denver this weekend to figure out its course of action
for the new law. Not coincidentally, they were joined by 1,700 insurance
company executives who put in their two cents.
As promised, here now is Wendell Potter, former executive for Cigna,
currently senior fellow on health care for the Center of Media and
Democracy, and we should also mention now also a consumer liaison for the
aforementioned NAIC. Wendell, good evening.
WENDELL POTTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY: Hi, Chris—Keith.
How are you?
OLBERMANN: Good to see you, sir. Is Mr. Shiffbauer right, no
insurance for kids with preexisting conditions mandated until 2014?
POTTER: Well, that‘s certainly his interpretation. And I‘m sure as
someone—I know that he has written legislative language before. He,
representing his clients, has been looking for loopholes in this
legislation. And I think he‘s found one that really could indeed be, as
he‘s described, the insurance companies, if they do sell insurance
companies to—insurance policies to families, they then cannot exclude
coverage for preexisting conditions. But by his interpretation, they don‘t
have to sell the policies at all.
OLBERMANN: Since the Health and Human Services Department can write
the clarifying code without another one of these 12-month-long political
fist-fights and dust-ups over it, and since this particular point, as
Senator Rockefeller put it, makes the insurers look deplorable and
outrageous, why did Shiffbauer say this? What advantage does he bring to
the insurance industry? If this is good PR, I‘m missing something.
POTTER: I think sometimes spokes people for the insurance industry
slip up and say things that are candid and accurate. And I think this is
an example of that. It was notable that no one from one of the big trade
associations was quoted in the article as saying this. And that is
something I think that is important.
I, frankly, think that the—these two big trade associations that
represent insurers, America‘s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross
Blue Shield Association, should write a letter to the president and to
Congress stating that their members will abide by the intent of Congress.
I think that‘s important, because the insurance companies follow a lot of
the recommendations of the trade association. So that‘s what I would
expect these big insurance trade associations to do.
OLBERMANN: When one of the trade associations said it would not fund
any of these fanciful efforts to repeal health care reform, it was
suggested that maybe they were responding to this political defeat and some
constraint of their own business by making some small, even though it was
self-aggrandizing, effort to be good citizens. Do you see any evidence of
POTTER: No, I don‘t. They said the same thing many years ago during
the Clinton reform debate. And they said this on May the 5th, 2009, when
the president had his health care reform summit, that Mr. President, we
will be here working with you in Congress to pass meaningful health care
reform. They were trying to fight it. So you can‘t really believe these
OLBERMANN: I mentioned the National Association of Insurance
Commissioners, and its having asked you to join as liaison. In the week of
its meeting in Denver, what kind of impact will big insurance have on the
law as it begins to be implemented, do you think?
POTTER: Significant influence. As you‘ve mentioned, there were 1,700
representatives of the insurance industry at that meeting. It‘s like
Congress. They‘re lobbying the NAIC just as they lobbied Congress, trying
to influence the writing of the regulations. And they promised to be there
to help them.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. Wendell Potter, now to be a representative of
consumer interest within the National Association of Insurance
Commissioners, great thanks as always for your time.
POTTER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The quick unannounced visit to the troops, the stack of
recess appointments. When Bush did them, the far right cheered, stood up.
When Obama did them over the weekend, not so much.
And I think Rachel‘s been real nice about this Scott Brown crap. Me?
I won‘t be, in worst persons ahead.
And when she joins you at the top of the hour, if the Republican
National Committee dropped two large at a ladies bondage club in L.A., what
else is the RNC spending its money on?
OLBERMANN: Worst persons ahead. First, tonight‘s quick comment.
It‘s the standard liberal clap trap, somebody on the far, far right goes
way too far with their new language of violence, especially gun violence,
and then the immediate outcry that we have to back away from the edge of
this cliff, because whether or not meant is metaphor, there are sickos out
there who will happily take it literally.
It is almost a catechism by now, except that in Arizona both parts in
the play have now been performed by the same person. Her name is Carmen
Mercer (ph), and she is—or was the president of the MCDC, the Minuteman
Civil Defense Corps. Its anti-immigration members stand watch on the U.S.
border. Cynics say they stand around.
Anyway, 13 days ago, they got an e-mail from Ms. Mercer urging a
change in their own rules that would permit them to not just report
illegals and international drug carriers but to track them. Angry over a
claim that the border was now secure and, of course, angry over health care
reform, Ms. Mercer urged her membership to go to the border to protest.
“You are strongly encouraged,” she wrote, “to exercise your rights and duty
as an American citizen to carry a long arm and if challenged use it to
defend the United States and America.” She added the volunteers should
come “locked, loaded and ready.”
Guess what happened next? Carmen Mercer suddenly found out that a
surprisingly large number of her e-mail correspondents took her literally.
“People are ready to come locked and loaded and that‘s not what we‘re all
about,” she now says. “It only takes one bad apple to destroy everything
we‘ve done for the last eight years.”
Apparently Ms. Mercer misunderstood her membership. When she said
locked, loaded and ready, she did not think that would translate to bring
your guns to a bunch of nut bags looking to shoot people who do not look
like them, as Minuteman member allegedly did last year, killing an
immigrant and his nine-year-old daughter. Ms. Mercer thought they‘d get
the subtle imagery she obviously intended.
To her credit, when the scales suddenly fell from her eyes, she did
something unexpected. On Friday, Carmen Mercer and her board of directors
voted to dissolve the Minuteman Corporation, because, for whichever reason,
people taking locked, loaded and ready literally was way too much for her.
Perhaps there is a lesson in this for a much more high profile
agitator who does not understand the stupidity of her own supporters, and
who recently advised them “don‘t retreat, instead reload.”
OLBERMANN: The word we love to hear in childhood becomes the word we
love to hear again in adulthood, recess. The Obama recess appointments and
what they say about a president finally giving up looking for bipartisan
love in all the wrong places. That‘s next, but first tonight‘s worst
person in the world.
The bronze to Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. His people not
only have not apologized for making up a rumor that the Democrats in
Massachusetts had approached Rachel Maddow to run against him. They will
not even acknowledge that it‘s not true. And they‘re still trying to funds
raise off it. And now they dragged me into this.
Brown adviser Eric Fehrnstrom lies, quote, “it was an open secret that
the Democrats were trying to recruit Rachel Maddow to run against Scott
Brown in 2012. Now that she said no, I‘m sure they‘ll scurry around
looking for someone else. Maybe Keith Olbermann‘s available.”
Hey, I can run against Scott Brown. I‘m fully qualified to run
against Scott Brown. I lived in Massachusetts. This was in 1984. So it
puts me about 26 years behind the times there, which is still closer than
the senator is. I was once named “Playgirl‘s” sexiest newscaster, almost
like “Cosmo.” I worked at WCBB in Boston, where his wife works. Most
importantly, I own a barn coat. See?
Our runner-up, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. She‘s
again protesting the big conspiracy that only she can see. Backing off
calls for insurrections, though, and investigations to instead suggestion
noise-makers. Quote, “with everybody within us, we need to literally start
banging garbage lids together.” “We need to literally start banging
garbage lids together to create enough noise so that our neighbors and our
co-workers realize where the time clock is at this point, because the
second hand is banging up against 11:59.” There‘s a lot of banging up
going on here. Has she been at that club in West Hollywood? “against the
11:59 on the clock of freedom, when it comes to health care. We cannot
rest. We can‘t take our marbles and go home.”
All right, the joke about Ms. Bachmann and her marbles is too easy to
say out loud. In fact, I think this is the best idea she‘s ever had. It
befits her level of expertise, garbage cans.
But our winner, Bill O‘Reilly, who—now I have been away for a
while, so I forget who some of these folks are. He‘s apparently one of
those trained seals over at Fox News. Is that right? Over the weekend,
Mr. O‘Reilly once again spoke to the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, a
terrific group that tries to support rape victims, to which I‘ve donated.
He speaks to them, even though he publicly blamed a rape and murder victim,
an 18-year-old girl, for her own demise in August 2006, because, as he
noted, she was wearing a halter top and a miniskirt.
But that hypocrisy is pretty far back in the O‘Reilly ledger. This is
about what he did after the fund-raiser on his trip back to New York
Saturday morning, apparently, Delta from Palm Beach to Laguardia, flight—
I have it here somewhere -- 2270. Every week or so, Mr. O‘Reilly goes on
TV and decries the waning morals of this nation, especially the willingness
of women to appear in bikinis or less, or their appearance in commercials
He underscores how offensive this is by naturally showing several
minutes of the women in bikinis or less on TV. This, he proudly announces,
is him just looking out for the folks, especially those poor exploited
women. Well, according to a fellow passenger on Delta, after Mr. O‘Reilly
greeted his fans and settled into his seat, he pulled out from a leather
portfolio a copy of “Playboy Magazine,” which he proceeded to peruse for
much of the flight, in plain sight of passengers nearby, including
As the old saying goes, he wasn‘t reading the articles. Bill
O‘Reilly, maybe he was bringing it back for one of his producers, if you
know what I mean, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: When Mitt Romney now campaigns against health care reform,
four years after he passed stronger reform in Massachusetts, you already
know that this time of the twenty teens is, for the GOP, the decade of
denial. But to rip a president for an unannounced visit to troops in
Afghanistan and for a series of Congressional recess appointments to get
around roadblocks by the minority party, when their last president
basically did only those two things, that‘s not denial, it‘s dementia.
What does it mean for the president who did the things the Republicans
used to hail as decisive, patriotic and manly? Just one day after Congress
left for its Spring recess, President Obama bypassed the Senate
confirmation process and installed 15 appointees, including one nominee
cheered by labor unions, but attacked as a radical by Republican, Craig
Becker, for the National Labor Relations Board. The other appointments
were not controversial. And the nominees had been waiting, on average,
seven months to be confirmed, according to White House senior adviser David
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, WHITE SENIOR ADVISER: We are in a position where the
Republican party has taken a position where they‘re going to try and slow
and block progress on all fronts, whether it‘s legislation or appointments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had also
made 15 recess appointments, and he was to make 171 recess appointments
over two terms, though 72 were for part-time positions. Of course
Republicans still are crying foul. Senator Lamar Alexander saying, quote,
“what the president has done is throw fuel on the fire at a time when the
debate on politics is angry to begin with.” Like he made it angry to begin
Senator Lindsey Graham predicting that, quote, “this is going to make
There could be no debate, however, about the commander in chief
visiting the troops in Afghanistan. The president having arrived in that
war Zone Sunday night in the first visit of his presidency. He spoke
before a lively crowd of 2,500 troops and later met with the Afghan
president, Mr. Karzai and the cabinet, urging that government to take more
action on civilian fronts, including its anti-corruption efforts.
Let‘s bring in “Huffington Post” contributor and MSNBC political
analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell. Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “HUFFINGTON POST”: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Every presidency gets around to recess appointments, but
there‘s still this tone to them, this quality that is perhaps described by
the phrase in your face. Was this an intentional display? Or did they
just desperately need these guys.
O‘DONNELL: It‘s always an intentional display. And the Republicans
saw this coming. They actually tried to prevent the Senate from going into
recess last week with some parliamentary maneuver that were hopeless, and
they knew they were hopeless. They knew this was coming. The number was
very carefully chosen, 15, to match exactly the number President Bush had
at this point in his presidency.
And there are many messages in this, Keith, including a message to
lobbyists and a message to Republicans out there with things like financial
regulation coming along. Don‘t rely on the Republicans to be able to stop
what President Obama is trying to do. That didn‘t work out very well for
people who were hoping Republicans would stop health care reform. And now
he‘s showing once again that he‘s prepared to jam things through, using
whatever procedures are necessary to jam things through.
There‘s a big message in this, especially coming off the health care
win. And there are Republicans in the Senate who are wondering what this
might mean to them in terms of how they want to line up in future
OLBERMANN: The Afghanistan trip, was this also planned in some
respect for its political impact? Or was this just something he needed to
do, because obviously Karzai, and particularly Karzai‘s cabinet‘s reaction
to this push by this country to go anti-corruption in their own country, is
a critical element to President Obama. So how much of that was—the
timing was politically oriented and how much was he was just going to do it
O‘DONNELL: You know, the timing doesn‘t appear to have been very
politically oriented. There were plans to try to do this before that were
inhibited by weather. They have to know they have the right weather that
enables them to fly in and fly out. And the truth of it is, any
presidential trip to Afghanistan is going to have political overtones to
it, and is going to have political ramifications back here.
The fact it‘s coming off of a very big win is important to the
president. Imagine if he were flying into Afghanistan having lost the
health care reform vote. We would have had a very different sense of what
that meeting would be like. And for Karzai, it would be a different
meeting. He could be looking at this president and thinking, I only have
to answer to him for another three years. I don‘t think that‘s the way
Karzai could look at this president arriving when he did.
OLBERMANN: What do people here have to adjust their thinking,
particularly those who attacked this president as vacillating, or staying
aloof from everything, or not particularly interested in what was happening
in Afghanistan, or not capable of getting a health care bill passed? With
the perspective of a week since the passage of the bill, how has this
impacted what‘s coming ahead in politics in this country?
O‘DONNELL: I think it double underlines something that the White
House has been saying all along, which is we can walk and chew gum at the
same time. They have been insisting throughout the year long health care
crusade that, yes, they are taking care of all the other business they are
charged with taking care of. And this president clearly spent a great deal
of time during the health care crusade deliberating over what he should do
with troop levels in Afghanistan, deliberated over it longer than he had
planned to deliberate over it, for that matter.
And so this just, I think, makes it very clear to the electorate that,
yes, this is a president, like others before him—but this is definitely
a president who can do more than one thing at a time, handle more than one
very high pressure situation at a time.
OLBERMANN: He has pretty much dared Republicans to run on this
cockamamie repeal idea?
O‘DONNELL: Yes, they are going to run on it. Knowing that they are
going to run on it, you might as well then dare them to run on it. We‘ve
seen what the Obama talking points are. Do you really want to repeal
availability of insurance for people with preexisting conditions? And down
the list of all the good things that are in the bill.
The Republican attempt to be would come back and say, well, I want to
get rid of a couple of other things maybe on the tax side or something like
that. But knowing that they‘re going to run on repeal, knowing that Sarah
Palin is going to be screaming about repeal, it‘s very smart for the White
House to get out there and say, yes, come on, bring it on, we‘re ready to
have that fight. They have to have that fight. President Obama has tried
to show, in many different venues, Democratic candidates how to make this
argument against repeal. He‘s been trying to show them how to do that all
year, in fact.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O‘Donnell, of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post” and
this program, and particularly on the last point, great thanks for all your
help over the last few weeks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Keith, I want to thank you for training a staff there that
has made it possible for even an amateur to come in and do a reasonable
facsimile of COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann. But it is great to see
COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann again.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. And, you know, now, they‘re all going to
hit me real hard when I go back to office after you said that. Thanks.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s “COUNTDOWN” for this, the 2,544th day since the
previous president declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith
Olbermann and we‘ll see you tomorrow night.
And now, more on the jaw-dropper of the day, if the Republican
National Committee spent 2 grand on a visit to an L.A. lady‘s bondage club,
where else they did spend money? And if they went to that club, they
couldn‘t find a better Senate candidate than Carly Fiorina?
Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2010 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.