updated 3/30/2010 8:59:03 AM ET 2010-03-30T12:59:03

Guests: Markos Moulitsas, David Weigel, Mark Potok, Wendell Potter,

Lawrence O‘Donnell>

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.

And?

(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

“Playboy”?

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)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(CHEERING)

(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

offices.

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

see it.

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

media.

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

and bunk?

               

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

everybody.

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

actually for?

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

Chairman Steele.

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

here.

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

Carlson‘s newspaper.

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.

WEIGEL:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  But, is—are the people who are supporting him actually

going to turn that metaphoric cheek once again?  Can he actually survive

this scandal?

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

election.

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

engines hum.

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.

WEIGEL:  Right.

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.

WEIGEL:  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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

the anti-Christ.

Details and implications with Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law

Center—next here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

in this.

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

clear.

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

groups.

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

conspiracy-oriented rhetoric.

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

keeper‘s organization.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

that? 

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

guys. 

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?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

or videos. 

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

children. 

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Axelrod. 

(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

with. 

Senator Lindsey Graham predicting that, quote, “this is going to make

problems worse.” 

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

legislative battles. 

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

anyway? 

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. 

Take care.

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

BE UPDATED.

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