updated 4/2/2010 9:35:57 AM ET 2010-04-02T13:35:57

Guest: David Weigel, Karen Finney, Chris Hayes, David Corn

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)             

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you

be talking about tomorrow?

The health care reform truth and reconciliation tour, day two.  The

president gets a giggle at the expense of the so-called objective media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The nation is still

divided on health care reform.  Polls haven‘t changed yet.  Well, yes, it

just happened last week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The slow anguish demise of the latest conservative nut

group, the repealers.  They are backing slowly away.

Senator Richard Burr—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  It may not be total repeal at

the end of the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What makes you think that, Senator?  Not expecting to win

26 Senate seats and 113 more in the House so you have a veto-proof majority

to repeal anything?

The continuing fallout from bondage-gate.  From the head of the Family

Research Council, “I‘ve hinted at this before, but now I am saying it:

Don‘t give money to the RNC.”

And that fake census-looking fundraising letter from the Republican

National Committee in January?  The hotline phone number on it was a sex

hotline phone number.  You know, this could be their new strategy.

Wall Street versus Main Street.  Good news, 2009 income, up to

$25,300,000,000.  For the whole country?  No, for the top 25 hedge fund

managers—including a David Tepper who earned $4 billion by himself, but

he‘s worth every million of it, because he bought the stocks cheap of the

banks you and I bailed out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was willing to go in at the bottom and say, I

don‘t think Armageddon is around the corner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And “Worsts”: Limbaugh‘s startling admission—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I was not wrong, I was just

uninformed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Uh-huh?

And Blanche Lincoln reminding Arkansans she voted—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Against the public option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And in another advertisement insisting she also—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stood with our president to pass health care

reform.  She never abandoned our president nor you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How many Blanche Lincolns are running for the Senate?

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS:  I answer to Arkansas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Having Republicans campaign on repealing health care reform is such an

unworkable idea that even Republicans themselves have sat up and taken

notice.  As the president again urged them to try it anyway, even though it

would require them to gain a record 113 seats in the House and 26 more in

the Senate this November to get one sentence repealed over an Obama veto,

the new group, the “repealers,” have started to back away from quixotic

concept.

But in our fifth story tonight: one senator today is joining the ranks

of Republicans who say, well, of course, we can‘t repeal the entire bill,

that will bring about the end of freedom as we know it.  Sure, some parts

of it are good, but vote for us because we‘re going to tinker around the

edges.

Hundreds of people have began lining up in Portland, Maine, on Tuesday

night for tickets to see the president today, waiting hours in the rain,

almost all of them supporters, not just of Obama, but of health care reform

as well.

And in his second health care speech on the road since passing the

reform bill, the president today tried to have it both ways a little bit,

ridiculing Republicans because their predictions of doom have not yet come

to pass, even as he relied on the fact that the law‘s new provisions are

only starting to take effect, to ridicule pundits who say the polls show

not much change since passage.

That, Mr. Obama said, will change as small business owners start

calculating a new tax credit, effective immediately, that will reimburse

them about one-third of the cost of employee health insurance.  And if

Republicans want to campaign on increasing taxes for small business owners,

Mr. Obama seemed to be OK with that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Now that it‘s passed, they‘re already promising we‘re going to

repeal it.  They‘re going to run on a platform of repeal in November.  And

my attitude is, go for it.  You try to repeal it.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  I want—I want these members of Congress to come to

Washington—to come out of Washington, come here to Maine, and tell Mr. 

Milliken there, you know what, we‘re going to take away your tax credits,

essentially raise your taxes.  If you want to—if they want to do that,

be my guest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Maine‘s Republican senators, most notably, Olympia Snowe,

were invited today but did not attend.  And although Republicans before the

law‘s passage warned wavering Democrats that the GOP would campaign, would

crusade on nothing less than the repeal of this apocalyptic freedom-ending

bill, raising money and tea party temperatures in the process—more and

more Republicans now are paving a way for a retreat from that prospect.

John Cornyn, who chairs the party‘s Senate campaign committee,

predicted three weeks ago candidates would and should run on repeal. 

Today, telling the “Associated Press,” “Candidates are going to test the

winds in their own states, in some places, the health care bill is more

popular than others.”

Already testing that wind apparently, North Carolina‘s Richard Burr,

telling the Raleigh radio show “News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon” in an

interview airing this Sunday that repeal might actually be just a series of

fixes.  And in an exclusive excerpt provided to COUNTDOWN, talking about,

yes, how great parts of the bill are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURR:  Oh, I think that there certainly are some good things in here. 

I think that the massive insurance reforms had bipartisan support.  Well,

I‘ve said I‘d repeal the bill just as long as we were committed to replace

it with something that we thought the policy was right.  It may not be

total repeal at the end of the day.  It may be a series of fixes over the

course of the—this bill getting enacted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Burr clarifying to the newspaper, “The News and

Observer” that he is not backing down on repeal.  To quote him, “But that

is not going to stop us in the interim from making incremental changes.”

We‘ll get to the repealers in a moment.  First, the president‘s side

of this, let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, the author

of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Why Maine?  Meaning both your speculation as to why Maine

and is there an official explanation?

WOLFFE:  There is an official explanation and it‘s not because of the

votes, even if the president does call it the great state of Maine.  What

you are seeing from White House officials is they talk first of all about

the number of small businesses in Maine—of course, this was technically

about small businesses, on the economy, and also in terms of the benefits

in health care.  And they also mention the independent streak that you see

in voters in Maine.

And here‘s where you get into the speculation, because there is no

more independent streak or at least no more visible inland streak on the

national stage than the two senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia

Snowe, and the president went out of his way to talk about Olympia Snowe as

his friend, having incorporated Republican ideas into health care.  Susan

Collins, important too, because she‘s one of a handful of Republicans who

is willing to talk about energy and climate change.  So these two votes are

still in the president‘s mind.  And if not in the president‘s mind, then he

wants to look like he is reasonable and has his own independent streak.

OLBERMANN:  The—so, in other words, what he‘s doing now is not as

much about health care as it is about the next vote?  Or how does this

factor in with both of these Maine senators and also to some degree doing

this with Chuck Grassley of Iowa?

WOLFFE:  Well, you‘re right to mention Chuck Grassley, because they

held out for Chuck Grassley, and obviously, it was a stalling tactic.  It

didn‘t work.  You can talk about whether it was disingenuous or not, but it

was a red herring in that the sense that you could ever get that kind of

vote for health care.

But Susan Collins, when it comes to energy and climate change, is one

of a half dozen Republicans who are in the cabinet room before the health

care vote, ready to deal in terms of something on energy and climate

change.  That‘s the big golden prize out there before the midterm elections

that the president still thinks he can do something big in terms of a

comprehensive piece of legislation.  So, Susan Collins is important for

that.

               

But more broadly, they want to remind voters that this was a middle of

the road, a centrist position in their minds on health care.  So, to

repackage this, at least in terms of taking on Republican ideas and

reaching out to independent voters, it‘s still part of the sales pitch he

has to do.

OLBERMANN:  He did—there was something very, very interesting about

that sales pitch as we noted earlier.  It was sort of two points with the

truth stuck somewhere in the middle.  Republicans are crazy because the

doomsday scenarios have not materialized yet.  But people who think there

should have been good things by now that should have materialized are also

crazy.

Where—did he note that beforehand?  Is it a distinction without a

difference or what?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s easy to ridicule people in this town, especially

if they go out talking about a socialist takeover and dictatorship and

Armageddon.  And let‘s face it—the media has been breathless and

overblown, too.

So, this is part of a traditional strategy.  It‘s a lawyer‘s trick but

it‘s also something that‘s very characteristic for him, where he goes out

and says, “I‘m the only reasonable person here.  I‘m the great hope that

this country can find any kind of common sense and go middle ground here.” 

Whether or not it works, whether he can cut through the media on the one

side and the onslaught from Republicans on the other, it remains to be

seen.  It didn‘t work so well in health care.

But, you know, he has fun with it.  He looks like he‘s not playing

politics even as he‘s kind of playing politics.

OLBERMANN:  And that is useful in terms of both explaining what has

been passed and making that a positive in terms of the midterms?

WOLFFE:  Yes, because until now, it‘s all been about the sausage-

making.  It‘s been about the process.  And what he will now talk about is

the real stuff, what is actually changing.  This is going to occupy his

officials for many years.

But he‘s also got to tell people, this is the change as it‘s

happening.  Not the back room discussions, the negotiations, but going into

the midterms, there have been reforms.  This is how small businesses will

benefit.  You‘ve got to show something for the record of being in

Washington for two years, and this is it.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe—as always, great

thanks for your time.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As promised, the discussion of repealers.  Let‘s turn to

David Weigel, senior reporter for “The Washington Independent,” soon to

join the blogging ranks of “The Washington Post.”

David, good evening.

DAVID WEIGEL, THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT:  Good evening.  Thank you,

Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right. What do you make of Senator Burr‘s new battle

cry there?  Nothing‘s going to stop us from making incremental changes—

incremental changes!

WEIGEL:  Incremental change we can believe it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, exactly.

WEIGEL:  It‘s not a very good battle cry.

OLBERMANN:  No.

WEIGEL:  I think you just—you did your best Spartacus right there,

but it is not something you can give a reporter when they follow up and ask

you what repeal means, which is the problem here.  No campaigns can‘t be

conducted on Twitter, they can‘t be conducted in press releases. 

Eventually, voters are going to ask you, reporters are going to ask you,

what it means if you say you‘re going to repeal everything, and that‘s just

not holding up.  They‘re finding that out two weeks after they passed this

bill.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not missing anything in this equation, am I?  I mean,

to repeal apocalypse now, or to make incremental changes or to change an

“if” to a “but” on page 449, the Republicans would have to take both houses

of Congress and get veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress this

fall.  Otherwise, this is all a farce, isn‘t it?

WEIGEL:  That‘s right.  And you‘ve seen a few Republican senators,

Republican Senate candidates, admit this already and get flak for it.  Mike

Castle in Delaware admitted this, Mark Kirk admitted this, Bob Corker

admitted this, and you just saw Richard Burr—they are taking so much

heat from the base that they keep rolling back.

But there‘s really nothing that they can do except admit the reality,

that they‘re not going to have—they can‘t go to the country, say they‘re

going to repeal this, and then win power and fail to do so.  They‘re going

to begin the next Congress if they take power, failing on something.  And

that‘s what tea party activists and conservatives will tell you, they gave

up on Republicans because they couldn‘t enact their promises the last time

they were in Congress.

OLBERMANN:  But isn‘t that the other, perhaps the one we‘re ignoring,

but it‘s still hanging out there, to these tea partiers, the unanswered

question.  Health care reform was sold to them as the apocalypse, the end

of freedom, the end of America, the pulling of the plug for granny, death

panels for everybody else—and yet, there hasn‘t been any Republican who

has proposed repealing any of those things.  They‘ve not put it at all in

those terms.  I mean, the Burr version of this is essentially tweaks.

WEIGEL:  They haven‘t.  And you can‘t really promise to repeal

something that‘s not going to exist.  That‘s the problem.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEIGEL:  This is—one of the White House‘s fairy tales that actually

got borne out is that now that the bill is passed, Republicans are focusing

on things like companies that say they‘re going to suffer when this goes

through.  And that is not quite as scary as tying down grandmother and

making her, you know, take the quite (INAUDIBLE) or something.  It‘s not

something that they can campaign against anymore.

So, they‘re fighting around the edges.  It‘s really the first time in

months that Republicans are unable to come up with a coherent message of

what they‘re going to do if voters trust them, how they‘re going to stop

Barack Obama.  It‘s—you‘re finding them move their way through a forest

they don‘t understand, and that‘s really strange.  We‘re used to these

people being on message.

OLBERMANN:  And the other part of the equation—do the tea partiers

see at all yet how they have been played here?  That they got whipped into

a fearful frenzy for one absolute purpose, which was to protect insurance

companies?

WEIGEL:  No.  The tea partiers are expecting repeal.  And this is why

Republicans are in such a bind right now is because you can‘t go back to a

town hall.  You can‘t go to campaign appearance and deny that you‘re going

to repeal this.

You saw John McCain in his campaign appearance with Sarah Palin

promise that they‘re going to repeal the bill.  He knows that can‘t happen. 

They‘re just going to be on this movie script (ph) of getting tripped up,

I‘m afraid.

Now, and that‘s why they‘re going to move on and I think tea parties

are going to have to move on to the next thing that the administration

decides to do.  They‘re already building their arguments against financial

reform.  But that‘s the perfect example.

The Chamber of Commerce admitted today in a memo that they can‘t

really campaign on repealing health care reform.  They are going to

campaign against financial reform.  And I think you‘re going to get a sense

of to what degree tea parties were interested in health care as the, you

know, Reichstag fire that was going to destroy America, and what—to what

degree they‘re going to follow the next bouncing the ball that Republican

leaders, people like Dick Armey, tell them to follow.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  And become a cliche and lose their novelty and

their coverage.

David Weigel of “The Washington Independent”—great thanks, David.

WEIGEL:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Conveniently, the GOP can always count on its

fundamentalist base.  Oh, they did?  One of the leaders of the

fundamentalist base were so offended by the 2 grand the RNC spent at the

Club Voyeur in West Hollywood that he‘s telling that base not to donate

anymore money to the RNC.  And this was before it turned out that a

Republican fundraising letter includes a hotline phone number that connects

you with a different kind of hotline.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If the Family Research Council didn‘t like the Republican

National Committee‘s spending money at a lesbian bondage-themed night club,

wait until they find out that the phone number on a fundraising mailer is

for a sex hotline.

His name is Dave.  He‘s a hedge fund manager.  And thanks in part to

the stocks he bought in the banks we bailed out, he made $4 billion last

year.

And it‘s surprising to hear this—Limbaugh admits he‘s uninformed.

And, first, there was the insulting campaign commercial in which

Senator Blanche Lincoln insisted she fought against health care reform. 

Now, there‘s the new insulting campaign commercial which Senator Blanche

Lincoln insisted she fought for health care reform and never abandoned the

president.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A hat trick of new troubles for the Republican National

Committee and its chairman, Michael Steele, in the wake of bondage-gate.

As in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: A leading social conservative

tells followers to stop donating to the RNC, Sister Sarah asks to have her

name removed from a party fundraiser, and as if reimbursing a political

consultant for his visit to a bondage-themed strip club have not been

problematic enough, a simple typo on a new RNC fundraising letter now

directing would-be donors to dial into a phone sex line.  Maybe it wasn‘t a

typo.

The head of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, is asking

followers in a news letter not to give money to the Republican National

Committee—echoing that sentiment earlier today on this network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  The RNC is tone-deaf to the

concerns of so many social conservatives to whom they look to for financial

support.  At a time when the Republicans are complaining about the spending

in Washington by Democrats—look, if you can‘t run a party, you certainly

can‘t run a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, they ran a nice party there in Hollywood.

The RNC now is planning a four-day fundraiser in New Orleans under the

title “Pachyderms on the Pontchartrain,” “The GOP Goes Marching In,” time

to coincide with next month‘s gathering held by the Southern Republican

Leadership Conference—what the RNC no doubt hopes is one big pool of

potential donors.

One SRLC participant however not be on hand to help, the half governor

of Alaska, Sarah Palin, asking the RNC to take her name off fundraiser

invite.  She also will not speak.

Adding insult to injury, “Politico” is also reporting that the

fundraising mailer sent out by the RNC in January, the one that looks

suspiciously like a census form, has an even bigger surprise contained

within.  When one recipient called the number listed on that form to

complain, the caller was offered, quote, “live, one-on-one talk with a

nasty girl who will do anything you want for just $2.99 per minute.”  Well,

explains that $2,000 bill at the club in L.A.

Under the circumstances and a leadership like that, a group of former

RNC chairs now assembling a kind of shadow RNC to help raise money for GOP

candidates.  “The Wall Street Journal” reporting the group, calling itself

American Crossroads, hopes to draw donations from corporations and wealthy

Republicans alike.  It will be run by former RNC chair, Mike Duncan, and

former co-chair, Jo Ann Davidson, and informally advise by yet another

former chair, Ed Gillespie and by Karl Rove.

Joining me now, the former communications director for the DNC,

Democratic strategist Karen Finney.

Karen, good evening.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, now, there‘s a shadow RNC doing the job that the RNC

is supposed to be doing?  I mean, is Michael Steele made out of Teflon?

FINNEY:  Well, you know, there‘s part of me that certainly hopes so,

because, you know, he is the gift that keeps on giving.  But in all truth,

probably he is, because it takes—there are 168 members of the Republican

National Committee, and they elect their chairman.  And it would take a

two-thirds vote essentially to remove him.

I don‘t see that happening.  There‘s not talk of that happening.  So,

it looks like we‘re going to have Michael Steele here to stay for some time

now.

OLBERMANN:  Is it simply the math that explains why to this point no

prominent Republican official has called for him to resign?

FINNEY:  Well, no.  Here‘s the—you know, in addition to the math

and some of the logistical issues, what some Republicans will admit

privately is that the fact that he is an African-American at a time when

the base of the Republican Party is dwindling and we know that you cannot

win a national election without a broad coalition of voters, they‘re a

little worried about what kind of signal that would send if they were to,

you know, move in and remove him.

At the same time, though, you know, there continues to be this sort of

crisis of confidence in his ability to actually lead the party.  I mean,

you know, the job of the chairman is to raise money to win elections.  How

do you go to a donor and say, “Hey, I need you to write a big check so that

I can ride on a jet”?

OLBERMANN:  Or cover the next expenses on our next trip to West

Hollywood.

FINNEY:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  But the reaction from the RNC was quite naturally, and if

it had been a DNC, there would have been a similar version of this to some

degree, but it was to try to get us to stop talking about this and just

look at what the Democrats had done, and the RNC released some figures of

what the DNC spends on hotels, at fundraisers, and oddly enough, there were

no, you know, strip clubs, themes or otherwise.

FINNEY:  How shocking.

OLBERMANN:  Well, you know, there weren‘t on the list here.  But I

mean, whether or not there are some at some point, I imagine a Democrat has

walked into a strip club, it sounds like the start of a joke, but I‘m sure

it‘s happened at some point.

FINNEY:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Is it—is it in this context, is this perhaps not even

more egregious than the actual issue of spending money at this club?

FINNEY:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  The RNC sort of missing the point of what the conservative

base and the former chairs are so upset about and why this thing is

particularly newsworthy?  It‘s not the fact they went to hotels or had

private jets—it‘s this bizarre specific, right?

FINNEY:  Well, it‘s a couple things.  Right.  It‘s the fact that there

have been a number of these things.  I mean, you‘re right.  People do

stupid things all the time.  So, the fact that some kids went to a strip

club, that‘s dumb.

But the reason we‘re having this conversation now is that there‘s

been, you know, incident after incident that has really questioned Steele‘s

leadership.  And more importantly, you know, the way I look at what‘s going

on here, in addition to just the—you know, spending like drunken

sailors, literally, what we‘re talking about here is a man who doesn‘t seem

to have respect for their donors.  I mean, again, you‘re raising money to

win elections.  You‘re not raising money to ride in jets.

I mean, I can tell you, Keith, that as a compromise with Governor Dean

when he was chairman, because he was so conscientious about the fact that

in raising people‘s money, that was a promise that that money was going to

go to things that would elect Democrats, the compromise when we were in New

York was that we could ride the subway instead of walking, and I‘m actually

not kidding.  I have, you know, the broken shoes to prove it—because

there was the feeling that, you know, we‘re supposed to be raising money to

elect Democrats, not to redo an office and, you know, not to ride in jets.

But I‘ll tell you, Keith, the thing that really kind of disgusts me

right now is I think the media is really lagging behind, having suffered

through all the Democrats in disarray stories and, you know, where‘s the

leadership, what‘s your message kind of shenanigans.  Where is that story

coming now for the Republicans?  Because one of the big problems they have

is, you know, Steele has no relationship really with any of the other

Republican leaders.  He never meets with them, he never talks with them.

So, who is the leader of the party?  What is their message?  Is their

message: go ahead and spend money at strip clubs?  I mean, you know—and

that‘s why they‘re getting all this criticism from within their party.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s the only positive action they‘d taken in the

last year or so other than to try to oppose things.  This was—it

apparently came out in favor of these clubs.

Democratic strategist Karen Finney, former communications director for

the DNC—a pleasure to talk with you.  Great thanks.

FINNEY:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  More politics.  If you thought you couldn‘t get re-elected

without kowtowing to the insurance industries control your state, you‘d put

out a commercial claiming you fought against the hated public option,

right?  But if you thought you couldn‘t get reelected without the

president‘s coattails, you‘d put a commercial claiming you supported health

care reform and you never abandoned the president.  And if you were Senator

Lincoln of Arkansas?  Naturally, you‘d put both commercials.

“Worst Person” ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “Worsts” ahead and the many faces of Senator Blanche

Lincoln.

First on this date in 1957, the BBC startled TV news viewers in

Britain by showing them exclusive film of spaghetti trees in Switzerland. 

The absolute deadpan reporter on the absolute most deadpan of newscasters -

news cast, rather, performed by the absolute most deadpan of news

reporters on the absolute most deadpan of networks -

*

OLBERMANN:  The absolute dead pan report on the absolute most dead pan

of news casters—news casts, rather—performed by the absolute most

dead pan of news reporters on the absolute most dead pan of networks, was

largely believed because, one, pasta was not a popular dish in England at

the time, and, two, no one could believe the BBC would actually pull an

April Fools‘ Day prank. 

Thus it may have been the first April Fools‘ Day joke on TV news,

beginning a tradition culminating in “Sarah Palin‘s Real American Stories.” 

Let‘s play Oddball.

This, incredibly, is for real.  In El Salvador, members of the RNC‘s

Young Eagles program enjoying a group outing far away from the watchful

eyes of Chairman Michael Steele.  No?  Sorry, wrong video. 

In El Salvador, a most solemn holy week ritual.  I don‘t think it‘s

that solemn, actually.  It involves roving gangs of men carrying whips,

dressed up as demons, assaulting curious onlookers.  One lash from a devil

man, one less sin on your soul.  Lord only knows what that guy did wrong. 

But before things got too out of hand, the gentleman with the beard showed

up and made it all better. 

Meanwhile in Chensen (ph), China, the Red Army is preparing its new

recruits for China‘s eventual domination of the globe.  This young man is

learning the grenade toss, which is a crucial skill, because their grenades

explode three and a half seconds after impact.  First, you have to master

the toss.  If it happens to bounce back off the wall and back into your

bunker, run away. 

The trainer later re-enacted how he hoisted the new recruit behind the

wall.  Just in case you thought you had a tough day at work, let‘s see that

one more time.  Boom goes the dynamite. 

Meanwhile, in Qingdao (ph) City, in China, meet the artist in

residence, Shaichang (ph).  This seven-year-old Baluga whale wows the

crowds at the local aquarium with his painting skills.  The little guy

holds a brush in his mouth, nods or wags his head.  A master piece is

created within minutes.  Shaichang also enjoys painting landscapes, is

partial to water colors.  Most love his work, but this whale takes

criticism in stride and just brushes it off.  He can also speak Chinese.

Rush Limbaugh admits he is uninformed.  And how you and I helped a

hedge fund manager make a nice living last year.  We bailed out banks.  He

bought the bank stocks cheap.  And his income for 2009 was four billion

dollars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  While the U.S. economy, or what used to count as the real

U.S. economy, continues to languish with unemployment hovering just under

10 percent officially, never mind those who have given up on finding work,

a new tally today of just how well the shadow economy is doing.  Our third

story tonight, it has been a record year for hedge fund managers, those

highest of the high rollers in the gigantic Wall Street casino that used to

be an actual economy that employed actual people to make actual things. 

Any children or those with weak hearts may want to leave the room, but

according to rankings from “AR Magazine,” in 2009 the top 25 hedge fund

managers collectively made more than 25 billion dollars.  Billion with a B.

At number one, David Tepper, who‘s fees and the increase in his share

of Apaloosa (ph) Management last year alone totalled four billion dollars. 

How did he do it?  With your help, buying up stocks of battered banks, as

well as AIG, essentially betting, correctly, that the government would use

your taxpayer dollars to rescue those companies.  The “Wall Street Journal”

reported last week that that Apaloosa is now under investigation for

potential stock manipulation. 

Still, at least some of those billions in bets come back as tax

revenue, right?  Not quite.  The government taxes hedge fund managers, some

of whose homes you see here, at a lower rate than you pay, because their

money is considered capital gains, while yours is just, you know, what you

work for.  Meaning those 25 hedge fund managers who made 25 billion last

year will pay less in taxes than other Americans who collectively made 25

billion last year, like, for instance, 1,200,000 first-year Privates in the

U.S. Army. 

I‘m not sure exactly how many Chris Hayes‘ you can buy for 25 billion

dollars, but the one we have tonight is the only one who is the Washington

editor of “The Nation Magazine.”  Great thanks for your time tonight,

Chris. 

CHRIS HAYES, “THE NATION”:  Thank you, Keith.  Quite a few.  I come

pretty cheap. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with the Devil‘s advocate question.  This is

the American at its apex, isn‘t it?  I mean, if there‘s something about

hedge funds, if these are just rich people over-paying their financial

advisers, why should the rest of us still be concerned about them? 

HAYES:  Well, I think there‘s three reasons.  The reason is that when

you have this kind of extreme inequality, what ends up happening is that

middle class goods, that are kind of the pillars of a good middle class

life, particularly housing and higher education, the price of those end up

getting bid up.  Particularly if you live in areas where there‘s a lot of

people in finance, like the New York Metro area, you see that happen. 

The second reason, I think, is that this sort of compensation

structure, in which you get all the upside but you don‘t have any of the

losses on the downside, right—the way that bonuses are structured is if

you have a really good year, you get a big bonus.  If your firm loses a lot

of money, there aren‘t claw back provisions, most likely.  So that

incentivizes a lot of risk taking.  The compensation structure itself was

responsible for a lot of what happened in the financial crisis.

The third thing it just fundamentally vitiates this kind foundational

premise of our whole meritocratic order, which is that people should get

what they deserve, success should be rewarded and failure punished.  And

these are people that are not making this money because they were such

geniuses. 

OLBERMANN:  So that‘s the meritocracy.  What about the comparison part

of this equation, that we as a society—I know this is the oldest

question in the book—but how we value one David Tepper, according to the

calculations that were done by our intern Adam Peck (ph), as much as we

value half a million new teachers? 

HAYES:  Well, it‘s insane.  And I think that what‘s happened is the

financialization of the American economy, which is part of what inflated

this bubble and has wreaked the havoc that has now spread throughout the

real economy—what you have seen is a kind of—the financial economy

cannibalizing the real economy, in so far as you get a situation in which a

lot of the money being made—people like Paul Volcker, people on the

Street will tell you this—the money is being made in ways that are not

socially useful, in fact that are socially harmful.  Right? 

So you have a situation in which value really isn‘t matched to price

in a particularly good way. 

OLBERMANN:  So if there were no hedge funds, if there was no basically

casino money, trillions that change hands in bets every year, that is

dressed up to make it look like it‘s investment, would that wind up back

into the real economy and increasing manufacturing and job creation and so

on? 

HAYES:  Right.  So the way to think about this is it finances an

intermediate good.  What you want a finance sector to do is something

extremely simple; you want it take money from savings and you want it

channel it to investments.  That‘s all.  That‘s all you want it to do. 

Wall Street has not done a very good job at that, it turns out.  We

haven‘t been investing particularly well in the productive aspects of the

real economy.  So, yes, what‘s happened is there‘s been this massive growth

in financialization, at the cost of the thing that we want it to do, which

is to move from savers to investments. 

So yes, I think if we shrink the financial sector, which has to be one

of the primary goals of financial regulation, is to reduce the size of

financial sector, we will see that move into productive investment and

growth in the real economy. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the president making any real headway against the

growing income disparity we‘re talking about here? 

HAYES:  Well, David Leonhardt wrote this piece in “the New York Times”

that got cited a lot, which I personally agree with, which says that the

health care reform is one of the first things to cut against these trends

of inequality that we‘ve seen, income inequality.  It is redistributive. 

We have the Earned Income Tax Credit.

But in order to really rein this in, we need three things: financial

regulation that is serious, that breaks up banks and reduces the size of

the sector.  We need a financial transaction tax, which will tax some of

this money sloshing around in these bets, and will reduce the size of the

sector.  And we also need, you know, general tax reform, so that we tax

people that make that much money at a much higher rate. 

OLBERMANN:  Chris Hayes of “The Nation,” now available for purchase or

possibly rent, as always, great thanks, Chris. 

HAYES:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It is Census Day.  And why as a result, Dickeyville,

Wisconsin, they end up with like 11 congressmen?  Worsts, unless I missed

my guess, it sure sounds like Blanche Lincoln has one campaign commercial

in which she insists she opposed health care reform and another in which

she insists she supported it.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her guest, Eugene

Robinson, on the sentencing hearing for Scott Roeder, the terrorist who

murdered Dr. George Tiller.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Worsts in a moment.  Then the importance of being census-

ized.  First, on April Fools‘ night, tonight‘s comment.  What a perfect day

for this, because it is a sad state of affairs for our nation when such a

moment as this faces us tonight has been realized.  But address this sad

truth we must.  It is a peril from which we cannot fly.  We must face it

from where we stand. 

Tonight, I have nothing I feel like complaining about.  So, uh, got a

little extra time tonight.  So, uh, want to—want to see a video of a guy

telling his little boy he‘s not a single lady?   I‘m a single lady

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re not a single lady, buddy.  Yes, you are. 

Yes, you are.  You‘re a single lady.  I‘m just kidding.  You can do it. 

You can do it.  Buddy, I‘m sorry.  I‘m so sorry, buddy.  You‘re a single

lady.  OK? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s tonight‘s comment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A programming tease, tomorrow night, an experimental new

part of this show in which I get to do something I‘ve always wanted to do

on TV, and fulfil one of my father‘s last wishes, and finally inject some

good writing into the show.  That‘s all I‘m saying right now.

Next, census time.  But first, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Dick Morris of Fixed News, had this little exchange with

Eric Bolling on Cluster Fox and Friends.  Bolling, “what you do see on the

other networks, and you see it now—what you also see is when a heckler

is in the audience when Sarah Palin is speaking, and they remove her, boy,

you see a lot of coverage of the heckler being removed, but you don‘t see

it when someone tries to make a citizens arrest with just handcuffs. 

That‘s what they should be seeing.” 

Morris, “this is of a piece with the booing of Anne Coulter up in

Canada, the stuff with Sarah Palin.  You‘re really looking here at a

totalitarian—you can only really call it a Bolshevik left.” 

So when conservatives shout racial and sexual epithets at congressmen

in the middle of Congress, or when Tea Partiers interrupt, boo or threaten

violence, or Palin calls people terrorists, that‘s dandy for Dick Morris. 

I‘d say he put his foot in his mouth, but it‘s other people‘s feet he likes

to put in his mouth. 

The runner up, Orly Taitz Limbaugh.  He shouted down a caller who

dared to correct him about health care reform, when he was wrong about

whether the insurance companies would insure kids with preexisting

conditions.  So he corrected himself?  Well, he thinks he did. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  The health insurance industry

has agreed to comply.  I was not wrong.  I was just uninformed.  But now I

am properly informed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, that‘s a fragile psyche.  However, finally, we agree

on something.  You are uninformed. 

But our winner, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, desperately

trying to stave off the challenge of the state‘s lieutenant governor Bill

Halter in the Democratic primary.  See if you notice any differences in

these two campaign ads of hers.  The first is from about March 4th

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS:  This is why I voted giving against

more money to Wall Street, against the auto company bailout, against the

public option health care plan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And this is her new radio ad in which an announcer claims

--

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Blanche Lincoln, our U.S. senator, stood with our

president to pass health care reform.  And even though the Tea Party and

insurance companies attack Blanche Lincoln, she never abandoned our

president, nor you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, if I didn‘t know any better, I‘d say in the first ad

she has claimed she opposed health care reform, and in the second ad, she‘s

claiming she supported health care reform.  I‘m sure it‘s just a typo. 

Just as I‘m sure it‘s just an accident of, you know, scheduling that the ad

in which she says she never abandoned our president was run on Arkansas

radio stations programming to African-American listeners. 

And for the record, Senator Lincoln threatened to join a Republican

filibuster against health care reform, and she voted against the health

care reform reconciliation bill.  If that isn‘t abandoning this president,

I don‘t know what is.  I used to think she was just a bad senator.  Now I

know the terrible truth.  She‘s a bad liar.  Senator Blanche Lincoln of

Arkansas, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As of today, 52 percent of American households have

returned their Census forms.  So if there are two people in the room

watching this show right now, as far as the federal government is

concerned, approximately one of you does not exist.  In our number one

story, it is National Census Day.  If you are not counted, you do not

count. 

National Census Day rallies were held across the country today in

Florida, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.  The message, answer ten

simple questions, ranging from your name, race to how many people live in

your home, then return your form.  The president last night doing his civic

doing, filling out his mailer on behalf of the Obama family.  If you look

closely, you can see he used the main White House telephone number.  Census

people will use that number to call the president only if he screwed

something up. 

Census data, of course, crucial to determining how congressional seats

are apportioned.  It also determines what share of the hundreds of billions

in annual federal spending a state or district will receive.  So if you‘re

into hospitals, roads, bridges, schools, you should fill it out. 

That said, the import of the process is still lost on many.  Earlier

this month, Republican Ron Paul of Texas was the only member of Congress to

vote against a House Resolution in support of the Census.  Last year, we

told you about Minnesota‘s Michele Bachmann‘s fear that filling out a

Census could get you tossed in an internment camp.  She quit her public

belly aching when she was reminded of the congressional reapportionment

thing, and that under-reporting Minnesotans could mean that her House seat

could disappear. 

The good news for Ms. Bachmann is that Minnesotans are besting the

national return rate average by eight points.  South Dakota is pacing all

states with 62 percent return rate.  Alaska well below at 41.  Meanwhile,

Texas came on strong late at 46 percent, same percentage for New York. 

As for localities, how about Dickeyville, Wisconsin?  Population about

1,000.  According the Census Bureau, 77 percent of Dickeyville‘s residents

have already returned their Census form.  Dickeyville, you say?  Let‘s get

New York going here. 

OK, number in the household?  OK, just the me.  Any others?  No, there

weren‘t.  House, apartment, mobile home?  It‘s a mobile home, but they

charge me like it‘s an apartment.  OK, owned by—OK, that‘s me.  Phone

number, we‘ll put that one in later.  Provide information—OK, that‘s

just my initials.  They can work from that.  Here, what‘s his age?  You‘ve

got to ask me that?  And this, and no, not of, no.  Uh-huh.  And I‘m—no,

not—no, none of those, and—person—in the office a lot, I don‘t

think that counts. 

That‘s it, is it?  OK.  And—ta-da!  Time?  Time?  Time?  Take that,

Dickeyville.  By the way, one more note, forms may still be returned

throughout the month of April.  Then the Census people will start calling

you and send a worker to your home or something.  Babies born after

midnight tonight will not be counted for another ten years.  So if you‘re

watching this in a hospital delivery room right now, push. 

Let‘s turn to the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones Magazine,”

columnist for PoliticsDaily.com, David Corn.  David, good evening. 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE”:  Good to be with you.  Good to

share that moment. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  Have you filled yours out? 

CORN:  I have to say my kids were so excited to receive the form, they

ran off with it.  I haven‘t located it yet.  I went online and you can‘t

get one online.  So I still am glad we have a few weeks left to do it late. 

OLBERMANN:  That reminded me of something I was thinking of earlier. 

I remember the 1970 census and the family sat around the dining room table

and it was an event.  We treated this like a big civic opportunity.  To me

obviously, I was 11 years old, so it was the first one I was aware of. 

And it was just a tremendous—I can‘t quite get across the magnitude that

it had for a kid.  You‘re suggesting this is still in effect now. 

CORN:  My kids are so excited, they took it.  I don‘t know where the

form is.  But we‘ll find it. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there—in terms of the congressional seat

reapportionment, who stands to benefit the most from everybody being

counted at this point?  Do we know? 

CORN:  Well, often it‘s growing areas of the country, and that‘s often

it‘s been in the Sunshine Belt, the Sun Belt, where it tends to be

conservatives.  People in Texas, where they‘ve had had low rates of

returns, were very worried.  They‘re expecting to get four new Texas seats

out of this Census.  And those seats will tend to be Republican seats. 

So that‘s one reason why the Republican party, a lot of them ganged up

on Michele Bachmann last year and said, cool it.  We want people to fill

out these forms because we think the areas are growing where we can pick up

some congressional districts. 

OLBERMANN:  I want to show one other thing that maybe explains some of

this drama here.  Take the other camera, Brian, and show this directly. 

What the actual address on the thing.  Census Data Capture Center. 

CORN:  Oh, no!

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a capture center. 

CORN:  What were they thinking, Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  This is not a good name to—

CORN:  What were they thinking? 

OLBERMANN:  Suddenly I understand Michele Bachmann.  I mean, now do we

understand the irrational reaction to taking the Census?  There‘s no

difference about this ones, is there?  From 1791 on? 

CORN:  Well, the key difference between this year‘s census and

previous years in the census is for the first time we now have a socialist

government in power that wants to find ways to send black helicopters to

your house to take away your guns.  So of course they‘re going to use the

Census to do that. 

OLBERMANN:  But now what about the legit version of that, which is who

else might get this info?  Does it wind up at IRS headquarters, if there‘s

some reason somebody doesn‘t want the IRS to know something like this?

Does it put you at the head of the line in the jury pool?  Do we know of

anybody else in the government that has access? 

CORN:  My goodness, wouldn‘t it be just terrible if filling out the

Census helped us pay our taxes and do our civic duty, like sitting on a

jury?  But putting that aside, the information is supposed to be

segregated.  We haven‘t seen it abused in the past.  And people are

worrying about that really should worry more about corporate and private

data collection. 

OLBERMANN:  Right. 

CORN:  They know so much.  They have your social security numbers. 

They have your buying patterns.  They have your phone numbers.  I mean,

you‘re already, you know, stacked and mutilated inside of folders, computer

files, for—throughout corporate America.  So I think worrying about, you

know, this affecting whether you‘re going to be called to a jury pool or

not is really worrying about your privacy long after the horse has gotten

out of the barn. 

OLBERMANN:  Plus, anything they miss they can pick it up on the Bush

wiretaps.  What it‘s designed is to make sure they get your area correct

for your home in the capture center. 

CORN:  I read a fact somewhere that for every Texan who doesn‘t fill

out the form, Texas will lose 12,000 dollars in various federal funding. 

So if you—if you want more money for the rest of the country, then

people should say, Texans, don‘t fill out the form.  If you‘re a Democrat,

you should say, Texans, don‘t fill out the form; we‘ll have fewer

Republican seats in the house.  There‘s no downside to filling out this

form for anybody who cares about funding and representation in their own

localities. 

OLBERMANN:  David Corn of “Mother Jones Magazine,” find that form,

take care.  Thanks a lot. 

CORN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,527th day since the

previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith

Olbermann, from the Census Data Capture Center, good night and good luck.

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

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