Guest: David Weigel, Karen Finney, Chris Hayes, David Corn
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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)
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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—
WEIGEL: Incremental change we can believe it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly.
WEIGEL: It‘s not a very good battle cry.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
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
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
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
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
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.
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?
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.
OLBERMANN: “Worsts” ahead and the many faces of Senator Blanche
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
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
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 HAYES, “THE NATION”: Thank you, Keith. Quite a few. I come
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
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
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.
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)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that‘s tonight‘s comment.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>