Guest: Josh Green, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
The momentum at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For a long time, our
student loan system has worked for banks and financial institutions.
Today, we‘re finally making our student loan system work for students and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the other momentum the president still seeks—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I will continually reach out to Republicans. I will continue
to incorporate their ideas even when they don‘t vote for the ideas that I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president on the bipartisan unicorn in the White House
Rose Garden and on the Tea Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There‘s still going be a group at their core that question my
legitimacy. That group we‘re probably not going to convince.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Cornyn memo on health care reform. The “party of no”
becomes the “party of no, we thought of it.”
Another Hutaree domestic terrorism arrest—as the right wingers
insist they are the real victims here, and we ask: Whatever did happen to
all those left wing militias?
She‘s back. More correctly, baaack! The candidate who brought you
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: FCINO, fiscal conservative in name only.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: California Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina‘s special message
for Passover. Oh, boy!
And brand new umbrage, Michael Musto on the brand spanking new
umbrage. The Republican National Committee fires a flunky over the 2,000
bucks spent at a Hollywood bondage-themed simulated less --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strip club.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California strip club.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sort of racy club—a strip club, I guess
you could call it.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: I guess you couldn‘t call it that. The latest outrages
from the club. “We are most certainly not a strip club,” says its director
of special events. “We cater to a high-end, A-list clientele with live art
installations with a voyeuristic theme.” High-end, did you say?
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: No photos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Just as sweeping and just as fiercely lobbied against as the health
care reform bill in which it was included, the revamping of the student
loan program signed into law today by President Obama, representing perhaps
the biggest achievement in making college in this country affordable since
the passage of the G.I. Bill and the president giving his first sit-down
interview since health care reform became a law, and insisting in that
interview that those reforms were centrist and middle-of-the-road and that
he was still seeking bipartisanship. Much of that interview in a moment.
More history today made out of a community college in Virginia,
today‘s signing of the health care reconciliation bill, also doing away
with a 45-year-old program that guaranteed federal subsidies to private
banks to get them to lend money to students while the government still
assumed all of the risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For almost two decades, we‘ve been trying to fix a sweetheart
deal in federal law that essentially gave billions of dollars to banks to
act as unnecessary middlemen in administering student loans. So, these—
those are—those are billions of dollars that could have been spent
helping more of our students attend and complete college. By cutting out
the middleman, we‘ll save American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Starting this summer, those guaranteed loans will be
offered directly by the Department of Education—leading Republicans to
call that another government takeover. Never mind that those federal
subsidies have been government money all along. The kind of logic that has
led some of opponents of health care reform to declare, keep your
government hands off my health care—a steady diet of such rhetoric
having been fed to the right wing base by Republican lawmakers in Congress.
In his first interview since health care‘s passage with the “Today
Show‘s” Matt Lauer, it was pointed out to the president that last year at
this time, he was promising bipartisan leadership and to change the tone in
Washington. Instead, it was premised, he signed into law health care
reform that did not receive a single Republican vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think that the Republican Party made a calculated decision,
a political decision that they would not support whatever we did. All
right? There was a quote by a well-known Republican senator who said this
is going to be Obama‘s Waterloo. This is—we‘re going to bring him down
just—the same way that we brought down Bill Clinton, by making sure that
health care fails.
And I think that‘s unfortunate because when you actually look at the
bill itself, it incorporates all sorts of Republican ideas. I mean, a lot
of commentators have said, you know, this is sort of similar to the bill
that Mitt Romney, the Republican governor and now presidential candidate,
passed in Massachusetts. A lot of the ideas in terms of the exchange, just
being able to pool and improve the purchasing power of individuals in the
insurance market, that originated from the Heritage Foundation.
MATT LAUER, TODAY SHOW: So, you‘re saying it‘s all politics. It‘s
not about the inner workings of the bill; it‘s all politics.
OBAMA: I will say that any objective observer looking at this bill
would say that this is a middle-of-the road, centrist approach to providing
coverage to people and making sure that we‘re also reducing costs. And so
I—I am frustrated that Republicans who I think had an opportunity to
help shape this bill declined that opportunity. That‘s not to say that on
specific provisions, there might be legitimate concerns that they had,
philosophical concerns that they had. Some of them, I think, sincerely
believed that we should do more on this aspect of the bill or that aspect.
But the overall architecture of it was actually something that was right
down the middle.
LAUER: Let‘s talk about where we are politically right now. And I
don‘t have to tell you that this passage of this bill and turning it into
law has left this country as politically divided as I think it has been in
a long time. You might be able to cite some other examples, but the
vitriol, the rhetoric, the sniping, the threats—how are you possibly
going to continue with any kind of legislative agenda when your opponents
have said to you, “I‘m not going to cooperate with this president, with
these Democrats, unless it‘s a matter of national security”? How do you
OBAMA: Yes. Well, first of all, I think that a lot of the rhetoric
has been overheated and overblown. And this is what happens in Washington
when you have a big debate. Suddenly, the passage of this bill is
Armageddon. And as I pointed out, the next day after I signed it, I looked
around and no asteroids have hit the planet and no cracks appeared in the
This is a bill that is going to help a lot of people and help to lower
costs of health care. But it‘s not a radical departure from what we‘ve
done in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president carefully dividing the members of the Tea
Party movement into those who have legitimate concerns about his
administration or reform or both, and the birthers who are still
questioning his American citizenship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We saw some of it leading up to my election where there are
some folks who just, you know, weren‘t sure whether I was born in the
United States, whether I was a socialist. Right? So there‘s that segment
of it, which I think is just dug in ideologically, and that strain has
existed in American politics for a long time.
Then I think there‘s a broader circle around that core group of people
who are legitimately concerned about the deficit, who are legitimately
concerned that the federal government may be taking on too much. And last
year, a bunch of the emergency measures we had to take in terms of dealing
with the bank crisis, bailing out the auto industry, fed that sense that
things were out of control.
My hope is that as we move forward and we‘re tackling things like the
deficit and posing a freeze on domestic spending and taking steps that show
we are sincere about dealing with our long-term problems that some of that
group will dissipate.
There‘s still going to be a group at their core that question my
legitimacy or question the Democratic Party generally or question people
who they consider to be against them in some way. And that group we‘re
probably not going to convince.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It is remarkable to hear anyone speak with some detachment
about the kind of insults and innuendo and outright lies that the president
has faced. Some of it from that faction of the Tea Party he mentioned,
some of it, sadly, from sitting members of Congress.
As if one were really needed, a reminder now of just some what has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: We‘re asking Republicans if they believe Barack Obama was
born in the United States.
REPORTER: It doesn‘t matter to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘re all going to find out.
REPORTER: What do you believe personally?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘d like to see the documents.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: We should not have a government
program that determines you are going to pull the plug on grandma.
REPORTER: Do you think he‘s a terrorist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he is a one man terror cell.
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: If we‘re able to stop Obama on
this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.
REP. JEFF FORTENBERRY ®, NEBRASKA: Do you have some evidence that
he is or is not?
REPORTER: Chris Matthews held up his birth certificate on “HARDBALL”
the other night.
REP. GREG HARPER ®, MISSISSIPPI: Well, obviously, the Constitution
speaks for itself that those requirements need to be met. It will be up to
others to look into that.
REPORTER: So, you won‘t say whether or not you believe he was born in
the United States?
HARPER: I‘ll say we have requirements for that and that‘s up for
others to determine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a process that was going through and I
think that process—
REPORTER: You refuse to say what you believe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just told you what I believe.
REPORTER: He‘s a terrorist?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). It‘s just the bloodline.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: We are about 24 hours from
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Isn‘t it Armageddon with a “G”?
Finally, on a lighter note, the health care reform debate claiming one
victim inside the White House. Last year, the president correctly
predicted the winner of the men‘s NCAA basketball tournament. This year,
he will have done nothing of the sort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUER: How does your bracket look first of all?
OBAMA: It is completely blown up. It is a sign that I was paying
singular focus on health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And it all started when he picked Wisconsin to beat
Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, national affairs columnist
for “Newsweek” magazine.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president says he‘s still going to reach out to
Republicans, still going to incorporate their ideas, whether or not they
give him support on the measures that contain those ideas.
Is this stoicism or is this actually a credo? And if it‘s a credo,
what is the credo?
ALTER: The credo is, as his hero Abraham Lincoln said, look for the
better angels of our nature. You try to reach out. You get credit for
You know, a lot of liberals want him to deck somebody. They want the
satisfaction of seeing him put somebody on the canvass, you know? But
that‘s not really a good way to govern. You want to stay above the fray if
Now, there are times that you do need to—you do need to come down
and throw some punches. And you saw him in the last six, eight months
throw a lot of punches at the insurance industry. But it doesn‘t do him
any good to attack Republicans or respond in kind to Republicans that he
may need on other votes.
OLBERMANN: I mean—I‘m sorry. Go ahead.
ALTER: No. That‘s it.
OLBERMANN: Let me read something from the—from the Lauer
interview, another quote that pertains to this. “If you look,” the
president said, “at historically what happens is that a party that‘s out of
power often times in those first few years of being out of power end up
reacting very negatively. Their base ends up being very agitated and it
may take the next election or the next presidential election before things
Have we been misunderstanding his bipartisan message, his—you know,
looking for that unicorn in the garden—in the Rose Garden, that it‘s not
bipartisanship now, it‘s hoping that things can calm down in the next two
to four years so that you get bipartisanship at some later sanguine moment
in American history?
ALTER: I mean, I just think he‘s wrong and he underestimated the
amount of venom.
OLBERMANN: But is that what he thinks he‘s doing now?
ALTER: He thinks—yes. He‘s still hoping since he ran on this
bridging the red/blue divide. That is how he got into national politics
with that famous speech in 2004 at the Democratic convention where, you
know, he said, “We‘re not a red and blue nation. We‘re one nation.”
That‘s how we got Barack Obama.
So, since that‘s what brought him to the dance, he doesn‘t want to
give up on that idea yet. But what—everything we‘ve seen from this
Republican Party suggests that it‘s become an extraordinarily reactionary
party, an extreme party. You know, the members of Congress that you just
showed who don‘t believe he was born in the country, nobody has heard of
those guys. But it was actually the leadership, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay,
who—this year, they are retired now, but they‘ve been out peddling this.
So, it‘s the leadership of that party that—with very, very few
exceptions—hold these very extreme views.
And I think it‘s the greatest disappointment in his presidency. When
I interviewed him not too long ago, he said that he really expected,
perhaps naively—that‘s my word, not his—
ALTER: -- that when he got to Washington, the other party would have
some interest in governance. And it turned out they had—they really did
not have a shred of responsibility when it came to governing this country.
OLBERMANN: Does he think—and was it reflected in recent
development, the end game of the health care reform thing, the recess
appointments over the weekend—has it been reflected that he has gone
from this idea that politics are still, at some degree, results-driven.
OK, you didn‘t like the health care reform bill, wait until you see what
happens in reality. Some of you will come around and support us, from the
Republican Party. Well, that‘s probably gone. We‘re probably post-
bipartisan era at the moment.
But, does he still this as something if you go over the heads of the
opposing party and go right to their supporters and say, look, this is what
it just did for you, we just put this much in your pocket, he can still get
X amount of support no matter what the leadership does and how abstinent
and obstructionalist they might be?
ALTER: Absolutely. And if he can go over the heads of the—
remember, a lot of these leaders of the Republican Party have been selected
in super low turnout Republican primaries. So, they don‘t even really
represent the people of their districts.
There‘s a lot of moderate Republicans out there. Some of them may
even be watching tonight. You know, people of goodwill in the Republican
Party who feel like the Republican Party has left them, has taken the sharp
veer right and he can appeal to them.
And as far as some others who have been very concerned about this
bill, seniors for instance, they don‘t know it yet, but later this year,
seniors are going to get a $250 check in the mail as a drug rebate to help
pay for their prescription drug costs. That‘s going to change some of
their views about this. They‘re going to find out that this donut hole,
which they understand what it is—
ALTER: -- that they start paying a lot more for prescription drug
over a certain threshold, that‘s now has been closed by law, which is going
to save them thousands of dollars. When that starts to kind of sink in,
then I think you‘re going to see a lot of independents and Republicans who
change their mind about this bill.
OLBERMANN: How did the banks and the Republicans let the student loan
thing sweep by? Because that just cut, he just put a hole in the banks.
ALTER: Yes. This was maybe the most inspired move of the last six
weeks. Congressman George Miller deserves a lot of the credit for it.
Basically, there was this indefensible system where the government was
backing these loans but the banks were taking a big chunk. You had
Republicans and some Democrats who are defending that ridiculous status
quo, even though $68 billion has been saved by the taxpayers, and it was
central to the deal for reconciliation for health care, because it brought
down the cost of the health care bill and that‘s one of the only reasons it
scored properly at the Congressional Budget Office was because of the
student loan deal.
So, not only does it greatly expand student loans, helps students,
great for education and the future of the country, but without it, we
probably wouldn‘t have had the health care deal.
OLBERMANN: And it also turns up quickly in practical realities of day
to day life in this country.
Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—great thanks.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I reference this just now, the Republicans are changing
tact on health care reform—the internal memo from Senator Cornyn of
Texas directing the “party of no” to respond to it by claiming partial
credit for it.
Also, the woman who brought you the worst campaign commercial in
political history is back with a special message for Passover, and only one
word correctly applies—oy.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans will simultaneously campaign this fall in
a promise to repeal health care reform and to take credit for health care
The right says it‘s victimized just as much by threats of violence
from the left. So, as another arrest is made in the Hutaree Christian
militia case, whatever happened to all those left wing militias?
Two months removed from her red-eyed, devil wolf in sheep‘s clothing
ad, Carly Fiorina is back with a special message for Passover.
And more complains about the 2 grand the Republican Party spent at a
simulated lesbian bondage-themed strip club. It is not, say the outraged
proprietors, a strip club.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: A memo from the senator who used to lead GOP campaign
efforts for the Senate in which he urges Republican candidates to take
credit for key parts of health care reform. This while other Republicans
will run this summer and fall on a promise to repeal health care reform
over a presidential veto merely by gaining a record 113 seats in the House
and 26 more in the Senate.
Also tonight, the latest polling on repeal misses the point entirely
and the insurance industry has just blinked in a standoff over covering
children with pre-existing conditions.
First, since he did so well for them on the stimulus, they were
against it before they were for it, the National Republican Senatorial
Committee chairman, Senator John Cornyn, a memo to GOP candidates urging
them to take credit for the popular things in the bill and decry the other
stuff, like the means to pay for it.
Quoting, “On the trail, it‘s critical that we remind people of the
fact that it was Republicans who fought to force insurance companies to
compete with one another over state lines for Americans‘ business. It was
Republicans who fought for policies that protected Americans with pre-
existing conditions and it was Republicans who proposed health care reforms
that didn‘t cut Medicare by $500 million and raised Americans‘ taxes by
$400 million. It‘s Republicans who continue to believe that we should
focus on reforms which actually lower health care costs for Americans,
first and foremost.” Even though all of them did vote against every part
This tactic echoes the shtick from Senator Grassley last week, taking
credit for certain elements of the bill even though he voted against the
bill. And last summer, he was one of those propagating “the death panels
are in the bill” lie.
Meantime, a day after the health insurance industry attorney insisted
it did not have to start offering coverage for children with pre-existing
medical conditions for four years, the industry backed down. Karen
Ignagni, president of America‘s Health Insurance Plans, AHIP, saying that
the industry intends to fully comply—this in a letter to Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Ms. Sebelius has stated her intention to create new regulations that
would remove any doubt about coverage for kids with preexisting conditions.
As for that new poll, the trumpeted headline, 47 percent of respondents
favoring repeal, ignored, 50 percent do not. That would be more. Of that
50 percent more than half want more reform and more government involvement
in health care.
Let‘s get back to Mr. Cornyn‘s memo and turn to the senior editor of
“The Atlantic” magazine, Josh Green.
Josh, thanks for your time tonight.
JOSH GREEN, THE ATLANTIC: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, the Republican line will be: give us credit for the
good stuff in the bill even though we all, each and every one of us, voted
GREEN: That looks like what the strategy is going to be. But
actually, the dilemma is broader than that, because if you look at the new
law, it‘s based on a central set of principles that were first introduced
by Republicans in the early 1990s to compete with Hillary Care. So, the
problem Republicans are facing with Cornyn‘s new memo is that they were for
a lot of these reforms before they were against it before they are for them
again now. So, it‘s sort of difficult to follow, you know, where the
strategy is going to come from.
OLBERMANN: How well will, whatever that strategy turns out to be,
work when the Republican down the street meanwhile is promising to repeal
the whole thing?
GREEN: Well, it‘s going to be a problem. And we‘re already seeing
this with Mark Kirk, who is a Republican Illinois—Republican Senate
candidate from Illinois, who ran on an issue of repeal in the Republican
primary, you know, in order to, I think, appeal to tea partiers and to the
hard right. As recently as two weeks ago, he was—he was talking about
repealing it if he made it to the Senate. Now, he stopped saying that. He
won‘t answer questions about repeal.
And so, I think that sort of points out the difficulty of, you know,
if you pander to kind of a hard right constituency, it leaves you in a
really difficult place in the general election because a lot of people,
older folks, who hear repeal, you know, aren‘t going to parse your talking
points and think about, will you repeal this, you won‘t repeal that,
they‘re just going to hear the word repeal and be worried that you‘re going
to take away their health care.
OLBERMANN: This, I think, goes back to the point that David Frum was
making last week before he got himself fired by conservatives everywhere,
that there was no backup plan. There was no strategy in case they didn‘t
succeed in tying up health care forever or defeating it. Clearly, there
was none because they came up with these two totally self-contradictory,
mutually exclusive ideas. There was no backup plan for the Republicans?
GREEN: No. I don‘t think there was. And I mean, seeing Cornyn try
and parse it the way he is in this memo, I think exposes the weakness or
downside of the kind of, you know, “always say no” strategy that
Republicans had used all the way up until health care. If it had fallen
apart, if it hadn‘t passed, you know, then you can sort of say the
president and the Democrats have no accomplishments, they can‘t govern, and
maybe that‘s a winning strategy at the polls.
But now this monumental new law has passed, the only argument that
follows consistently from the Republican strategy is one of outright
appeal. But, you know, as you can see, if you look at the polls—that‘s
probably not going to be a winning strategy at the polls in November if
you‘re a Republican.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of opinion polls as opposed to the voting polls,
is the trend based on that last one from CNN, the 50/47 don‘t repeal, in
fact, 25 percent saying, the whole group, expand—is that suggesting that
the longer the interval becomes since the bill was passed, the more support
the bill gets?
GREEN: I think you can make a good case for that being the
likelihood. I think it‘s too early now for anybody to know for sure how
most voters are going to feel about health care in November. But, you
know, the problem with the strategy of calling at Armageddon, of worrying
about death panels and such, is that, you know, seven, eight, nine months
are going to lapse between now and November. I mean, we are a week into
this new law and the total number of old people killed by death panels is
zero and it‘s still going to be zero in November.
And meanwhile, you know, a lot of, you know, benefits from this bill
are going to become apparent to the public -- $250 checks for seniors to
buy prescription drug, the fact that insurers cannot discriminate based on
pre-existing conditions, the fact that you can stay on your parents health
care until you‘re 26. So, a lot of the benefits are going to expose.
Whereas, a lot of the kind of hyperbole is going to be shown and be found
empty I think.
OLBERMANN: And just remember, as Mr. Boehner said, it‘s Armededdon
(ph), not Armageddon.
Josh Green, senior editor of “The Atlantic”—thank you, Josh.
GREEN: Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Then there is another set of canards, the false
equivalency propagated by the right that they are not only not instigating
violence or the threat of it against the left, ore more importantly,
against the government, but that they, the right, are the true victims here
which does not explain the Hutaree and the latest arrest in that case of
domestic terrorism and which does not explain how the country is seemingly
devoid today of left wing militias.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Is it perception or politics or just reality? Is nearly
all the violent rhetoric and are all the militias coming from the right,
First, wow, that was some plug. Last night, I mentioned the
publication today of Dirk Hayhurst‘s “The Bullpen Gospel,” probably the
best baseball book in 40 years, but far more a story of coming to terms
with life‘s reality. Today, it hit number 12 on the Amazon best sellers
list, number one among all biographies, number one among all sports books.
ESPN‘s Jayson Stark today writes something telling. This, he said,
“friends, is real life inside a baseball dugout laid out for you with
honest, laugh out loud eloquence by a man who has lived that life, has no
problem making relentless fun of himself, and has not just a Rambo-esque
internal thesaurus, but a brilliant way with words.”
Number one sports book. Who is this Oprah Winfrey book woman again?
Let‘s play Oddball.
Houston, hello. The domestic instance of what is a global struggle
between news anchors and gravity. This is the ABC station in Houston,
Texas. Your anchor is Melanie Lawson. You will see her attempt to reach
across the anchor desk to a reporter and then things go horribly wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIE LAWSON, NEWS ANCHOR: Lean over here just a second. Further.
It is time to get your opinion. Oh, well. So much for that. Go on with
the weather. Go on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And so long until tomorrow. This just in, these chairs
have wheels. She was fine and the weather looked good, too.
As I mentioned, this is a global phenomenon. To Helsinki, Finland,
where the anchor chairs also have Finish wheels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And so long until tomorrow. That is Finnish news anchor
Keirstie Alm (ph) putting the sink in Helsinki. The show‘s director, of
course, just lingers and lingers on her and her co-host. Note to my
director, if that happens to me, go to commercial and get a new job.
Finally, to Mexico City, now presenting Mexican prison theater, 11
convicted criminals having the time of their lives. What do you mean he
left the control room? That one might just be—I don‘t know who he is
supposed to be. Anyway, this theater troop is fittingly called the Panic
Cabaret. The inmates are supposed to be liberating themselves by acting
out their own lives. The group will hit the road to obviously rave
reviews, as you saw.
No change gang for this bunch. Don‘t give them razors. What are you
thinking? They will tour other prison facilities. We open at Levinworth
Saturday night. Upon their return, they will begin rehearsing for the next
theater presentation Shakespeare‘s “Richard III.” I‘m not making that up.
The latest arrest in the Hutaree Christian militia terrorism case
begging the question, whatever happened to all those left wing militias?
OLBERMANN: As the final wanted member of the right wing so called
Christian militia group Hutaree was arraigned on charges of seditious
conspiracy, not even an alleged plan to murder policemen and topple the
government was enough to get the bloggers of the far right to fully
repudiate such homegrown terrorism. Twenty one-year-old Joshua Matthew
Stone taken into custody last night following a day long standoff, joining
eight other group members arrested by the FBI over the weekend.
The purported plan, as you know, kill policemen, then bomb the
memorial service, somehow triggering an uprising against the federal
government, and then the Hutaree group would be able to defeat the anti-
Christ. Doesn‘t sound too good when you say it aloud.
On the right wing blogs, mitigation bordering on defense, from “the
timing appears convenient,” to “last time I looked, wanting to start a
civil war, insane as it is, was not a crime,” to “is the administration
taking after Christian militias to get in good with the CAIR and the neo-
Eugene Robinson offering a voice of reason in his “Washington Post”
column, “left wing radicals caused mayhem and took innocent lives. But for
the most part, far left violence in this country has gone the way of the
leisure suit and the AMC Gremlin. By contrast, there has been explosive
growth among the far right militia type groups that identify themselves as
white supremacists, constitutionalists, tax protesters and religious
soldiers determined to kill people to uphold, quote, Christian values. The
danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one
direction, the right, not the left.”
Joining me here in New York, the associate professor of politics and
African American studies at Princeton University, columnist for “The
Nation” magazine and MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Good
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, “THE NATION”: Nice to have you back.
Everyone is thrilled to see you back.
OLBERMANN: I‘m thrilled to be here. Are the militias really as
starkly slanted to the right as Gene suggests in his piece today?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Certainly, there is extremism on both sides.
There‘s simply no doubt about that. If we want a long view of history,
there is certainly extremisms on both sides. On the other hand, there was
an instructive moment with this citizen attempt to arrest Dick Cheney,
which you might call a sort of extremist position on the left. And this
citizen, Canadian citizen, came with a pink fury hat on. There‘s a way in
which when the left comes for you, they come throwing flowers.
And that what happened in this case is not so much the extremism of
views; what we‘re worried about here is the extremism is that is also armed
or that is prepared to come with guns and with bombs.
OLBERMANN: To correct you, Karl Rove, the attempt on Karl Rove.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: I‘m sorry, Karl Rove. They mush.
OLBERMANN: I have never seen them in the same place together. So it
is very possible. That would explain an awful lot, wouldn‘t it. But back
to this point here that certainly in our lives—nobody who lived through
the ‘60s or ‘70s, or has read about them, could not know about the SDS or
the Simbionese Liberation Army, which had these just scatter-brained, ultra
leftist ideas, that basically were excuses to kidnap people and terrorize
them and make money off of it somehow. What did happen to all of the, you
know, armed left wing militias in this country?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: The left got behind gun control is part of it. Part
of what happened is overwhelmingly the ideology became one that—again,
if we think about what happened in the civil rights movement, and the ways
in which it gave way to the Black Power Movement, a movement that talked
about armed self-defense, or a movement that talked about not simply sort
of taking the abuse of the state, but willingly standing up.
And yet what you saw overwhelmingly was the ways in which the right
responds to that. When people on the left speak in that kind of language,
take for example the language of hip-hop, that sometimes talks about
violence against the police, it was immediately overwhelmingly denounced by
people on the left and on the right. You can‘t talk about, even in a
musical form, killing the police. But here we had an actual plot and we
did not see the right come out and be appalled by it.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. Where were they? It is one thing to read
bloggers on right-wing sites saying, you know, the convenience of timing
and wanting a civil war is not necessarily against the law, which I think
you can dispute in many ways. But where were the Republican counter-
terrorists, the people who make their bones off this from leadership
positions? I haven‘t heard a word from Pete King. Hoekstra in Michigan,
who was supposedly being able to run—running for governor was enhanced
by the fact that the underwear bomber was corralled in his state, silent on
this. This is supposed to be their forte. Where is their denunciation or
even comment on this?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Part of it is that the language of terrorism has
gotten wrapped up with a kind of ethnic and racial concept of who a
terrorist can be. Even as long ago as 9/11, 2001, I was saying, wait a
minute, this is not the first act of domestic terrorism. We can look at
the entire history of the Klan in the U.S. South.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: People who were committing acts of terrorism against
American citizens. But we have never used that language to talk about
terrorism. So we have, instead, said that terrorism are these ethnic
others, these people from these other places, who come in and do bad things
to American citizens, rather than being willing to label this sort of
activity as potentially terrorist in its purposes.
OLBERMANN: In previous decades and centuries, it was anarchists,
communists, leftist. We have always found a different word for it, but it
always implies someone external as opposed to someone in the mainstream, as
these people would appear to have been. At least they thought they were.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell from Princeton University and MSNBC, great
thanks. Good to see you.
So, now you know who‘s angry that the Republicans spent two grand at
the lesbian strip club story, the owners of the club. We are not, they
insist, a strip club.
She may have not brought back the FCINO with her, but the woman behind
this ad is back, with a special tone deaf Passover message.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, new problems for the C
Street gang, the good old Family. Rachel will talk to a minister now
accusing that group of conservatives of tax and ethics violations.
OLBERMANN: Worsts and the state that just accidentally authorized
hate crimes against homophobes. You heard me.
First, tonight‘s quick comment. Here we go again, Carly Fiorina. The
fired Hewlett Packard CEO still running for the Republican Senate
nomination in California has put another foot in another mouth. She has
sent this mass e-mail to voters, subject line: “best wishes for a safe and
Paragraph two, “this week, as we break bread and spend time with our
families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks
for our freedom and those who have given up freedom in our names.”
I‘m not even Jewish and even I know it‘s the feast of the unleavened
bread. Celebrants are not breaking bread. And that the primary symbolism
of the holiday is the ritual in which every piece of bread, broken or
otherwise, is purged from the home. Remember Matzoh fleeing from Egypt
before the bread could rise? Passover? China?
A Fiorina spokes woman now explains to the “Los Angeles Times,” quote,
we meant all bread, leavened and unleavened. Matzoh is just unleavened
bread. That is what we meant by that.” Yeah.
The only question is, is that e-mail worse than Carly Fiorina‘s web
ad? You‘ve forgotten it? Oh, no. The web ad? The attack on her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Campbell, is he what he tells us or is he what
he‘s become over the years, a FCINO, fiscal conservative in name only, a
wolf in sheep‘s clothing, a man who literally helped put the state of
California on the path to bankruptcy and higher taxes. Fiscal conservative
or just another same old tale of tax and spend, authored by a career
politician who helped guide us into this fiscal mess in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wait, the sheep in wolf‘s clothing from outer space with
the red eyes. Didn‘t I just see that sheep breaking bread?
OLBERMANN: Hackles continue to be raised about the Republican
National Committee reimbursing two grand in expense at that lesbian bondage
themed club in West Hollywood. The latest to be offended, the executive of
the night club, who says her place has been defamed, that it caters to a
high end A-list clientele, with live art installations, with a voyeuristic
theme. Michael Musto next on the Republican party‘s new role as patron of
the arts, the installation arts.
That‘s next, but first tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Bud Day, Medal of Honor recipient and retired colonel.
He has now endorsed Charlie Crist for the Republican Senate nomination in
Florida, instead of Tea Partier Marco Rubio, saying, quote, “you know, we
just got through electing a politician who can run his mouth at Mach One, a
black one. Now we have an Hispanic who can run his mouth at Mach One.”
He expanded upon Mr. Obama, calling him “the black one with the
reading thing. He can go as fast as the speed of light and has no idea
what he‘s saying. I put Rubio in that same category, except I don‘t know
if he is using one of those readers.”
Colonel Day, of course, appeared in the Swift Boat ads against John
Kerry in 2004. You‘ll remember him. He was the white one with the racism
Runner-up, Ricky Flowers, address not given, who led police in Ohio on
a high-speed chase where he was wanted for failing to signal. It ended at
Garfield Heights, Ohio, with Mr. Flowers ditching the car and scaling a
fence. Unfortunately for Mr. Flowers, the fence was outside the Ohio
Northeast Pre-Release Center for Women. When he landed back on the ground,
he was inside a prison yard surrounded by corrections officers.
But our winner, Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell. Two weeks ago,
that body passed his horrific bigoted bill designed to reduce protections
for gays by enabling Oklahoma law enforcement agencies to ignore the
broader definition of hate crimes passed by the US Congress a few years ago
in the Matthew Shepherd Act on the grounds that it denied Oklahoma churches
the right to preach against homosexuality.
The Oklahoma bill permits prosecutors to ignore Title 18, U.S. Code
Section 245, except the protections for gays are not in Title 18 U.S. Code
Section 245. They are in Title 18, U.S. Code Section 249. So what did
Oklahoma nullify when it‘s Senate attacked Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245?
Title 18 U.S. Code Section 245 protects people against hate crimes based
on, quote, “race, color, religion or national origin.”
So the religious nuts in Oklahoma who tried to strip the rights from
gays wound up stripping the rights from the religious nuts in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State Senator Steve, “I wonder what hoist on his own petard
means,” Russell, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, a correction. Yesterday, we told you
about an embarrassing Republican National Committee funded visit to a
simulated lesbian bondage themed strip club in West Hollywood. Well, it
turns out it wasn‘t a simulated lesbian bondage themed strip club at all.
It was a simulated lesbian bondage theme art club, according to the lesbian
bondage themed art club‘s management, which is really upset the place was
not recognized for its artistic greatness.
To correct the record, the GOP blew two ground of its donor‘s money on
Yesterday, FEC documents revealed that in February, the Republican
National Committee reimbursed 2,000 dollars to one Erik Brown, California
based political consultant, after Brown took some young Republicans to a
high end LA bar called Voyeur. Today “National Journal‘s” hotline on call
blog reports that Allison Myers, the director of the RNC‘s Young Eagles
Program, approved the pay out to Brown, and has since been terminated.
Today, in an articled titled “A Club With a Hollywood Tint”—that‘s
tint—Sarah Waldman (ph), director of special events at Voyeur,
complained about media depictions of her establishment to the Times.
Quoting Ms. Waldman, “we are most certainly not a strip club. We cater to
a high-end, A-list clientele, with live art installations with a
That live art, according to one viewer, includes the installation of a
half naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling. According to this
image from the Voyeur website, there is also a half naked bartender who
will artfully ignore your requests for extra limes.
Time to now call in our own spoken word artist, Michael Musto of the
“Village Voice,” and his new blog, DailyMusto.com. Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith. I feel sorry for Annette,
the girl she is hanging from. It‘s got to hurt.
OLBERMANN: That is enough for tonight. Don‘t you think? We can‘t
get better than that. Does this place match your definition of an art
club, and therefore, is the GOP supporting the arts?
MUSTO: Yeah. But, then again, I think Planet Hollywood is a museum.
It think this is fantastic. This is a great new direction for the
Republicans. Next, they‘re going to be buying up Maplethorps as if they
were Keen paintings. They‘re going to making Biblical tableau with their
bodily functions. It redefines GOP
MUSTO: Yeah. Go back to the Annette joke.
OLBERMANN: Michael Steele is jeopardy, as usual, as the chairman of
the RNC after that, and he has sort of run away from this story. Would a
better strategy be to embrace this, embrace the arts, or if you are in this
place, let the arts embrace you?
MUSTO: Absolutely, it is great press. Even Jesse James, I hear, is
embracing this. He is saying he was simply embracing the female nude,
every female nude. You know, if high art is up to Jesse‘s level, then I
think it‘s worth pursing. Nazis have nothing to do with this. I‘m talking
about the RNC.
OLBERMANN: Goodness. The Voyeur website claims—let‘s see if I can
say this without just bursting into laughter, “they take their guests to
the edge of corruption with elegance and eroticism.” Have you ever been to
the edge of corruption with elegance and eroticism?
MUSTO: It is fantastic. It‘s in Secaucus. Two drink minimum. No,
Keith. Yes, I have been to the edge of corruption. But it‘s never been
elegant or erotic. Believe me, I‘ve been in squalid, compromising
positions, really filthy stuff. It‘s about as sexy and elegant as a Dustin
Diamond sex tape. In fact, it was a Dustin Diamond sex tape.
OLBERMANN: The location intrigues me, West Hollywood. Wouldn‘t there
be other places in West Hollywood that would have been much more offensive
to Republican donors than this one? Isn‘t this one of the tepid ones?
MUSTO: West Hollywood makes Hell‘s Kitchen look like an enclave of
straight men. There is a bar called the Avi where Liz Taylor wheels in
once a month, and she‘s the only biological female for miles. All the gays
are like, look, papi, it‘s Britney Spears‘ grandmother. There‘s another
bar caller Rage.
Let me not pursue this because you might wrongly think I know all the
bars in West Hollywood.
OLBERMANN: Good. Lastly, at this place, what do you suppose
Republicans spent 2,000 dollars on?
MUSTO: In any art place, you pay for bottle service. You pay for
maybe a lap dance from the Mona Lisa, some—from the Venus de Milo,
though she‘s not big on fingering. Basically, you‘re just paying for an
artistic elevated experience. These people were framed. Get it, they were
framed. Let‘s go back to the Annette joke.
OLBERMANN: I‘m just trying to figure out which direction to go. The
Venus de Milo joke, I‘m not sure if it is more offensive anatomically or --
MUSTO: It is offensive to everybody.
OLBERMANN: Good. Congratulations again on doing that. The one and
only Michael Musto. And the new blog is DailyMusto.com. Thanks, Michael.
That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,525th day since the previous
president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good
night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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