updated 4/6/2010 11:15:07 AM ET 2010-04-06T15:15:07

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Sam Stein, Rep. Alan Grayson, Kelly Tilghman

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KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Here goes the judge?  As Supreme Court Justice Stevens mulls retirement, the Republicans might filibuster even Stevens.

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SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA:  I think the president will nominate a qualified person.  I hope, however, he does not nominate an overly ideological person.  That will be the test.

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OLBERMANN:  Meaning what?  No liberals or moderates?  The sometimes rumored SCOTUS nominee says to Justice Stevens: wait until next year, after the elections.

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SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  After a year passes, there‘s a much better chance we could come to a consensus.

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OLBERMANN:  Like you came to a consensus on the expiration of unemployment benefits?  Bunning and Coburn forced it, it happened.  Today, they blame the Democrats?

Bondage club-gate.  Today, Michael Steele says he‘s under pressure because he‘s African-American.  The same guy who criticized the president for saying some of the criticism he got was because he‘s African-American.

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MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  Barack Obama has a slimmer margin.  We all—a lot of folks do.  I mean, it‘s a different role for, you know, for me to play and others to play.  And that‘s just the reality of it.

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OLBERMANN:  Line of the day: Robert Gibbs, quote, “I think Michael Steele‘s problem isn‘t the race card, it‘s the credit card.”

The Florida urologist who puts politics ahead of patients, who says if you voted for Obama you should go see a different doctor.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was just fun for me.  It‘s like a provocative billboard.

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OLBERMANN:  Not fun for a would-be patient who complains to the authorities.  Congressman Alan Grayson facilitates.  He‘s our special guest.

“Worsts”: Lonesome Roads Beck compares what he‘s doing to what Rosa Parks did.  Seriously.

And the Tiger Woods apology tour, stop number two.  Do you believe people actually choose which words they use subconsciously with an eye towards their other meanings?

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TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER:  The galleries couldn‘t be nicer.  I mean, it was just incredible.  And the encouragement I got, and it just—it blew me away.

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OLBERMANN:  Uh-oh!

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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WOODS:  I‘m actually going to try and obviously not get as hot when I play.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The fate of Washington, D.C., this summer, our national discourse, and potentially the outcome of November elections lies tonight, at least partially, in the hands of a man who turns 90 years old in 15 days, and whether or not he‘s going to retire.

Our fifth story tonight: Justice John Paul Stevens, the man who led the Supreme Court‘s opposition to the Bush/Cheney attack on civil liberties at Guantanamo Bay in U.S. courtrooms and within secret holding cells around the world, now says he is deciding whether to retire this year or next—opening a gap on the increasingly divided court and sparking a nomination battle in the increasingly divided Senate.

Justice Stevens lived through prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II and watched Babe Ruth‘s famous alleged called shot from behind third base at Wrigley Field.  Appointed by President Ford, confirmed 98-zip by the Senate, Stevens is considered by today‘s right wing as a liberal, having used his position as senior justice to marshal support for gay rights, abortion rights, and due process in the war against terror.

Now suffering from nothing worse than a little arthritis, but with his 90th birthday on the 20th of this month, Stevens is considering when to step down—a departure bigger than just one man.

“The New Yorker” writing, quote, “When Stevens leaves, the Supreme Court will be just another place where Democrats and Republicans fight.”

Indeed, his departure is likely to spark just a fight like that.  Democratic Senator Arlen Specter sending a not-so-subtle plea yesterday to Stevens yesterday, asking Stevens to help Democrats avoid a nomination battle—a battle Republican Senator Jon Kyl did not exactly rule out.

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SPECTER:  I hope, to begin a little earlier, that Justice Stevens does not retire this year.  I think the gridlock in the Senate might well produce a filibuster which would tie up the Senate on a Supreme Court nominee.  I think if a year passes, there‘s a much better chance we could come to a consensus.

KYL:  If he doesn‘t nominate someone who is overly ideological, I don‘t think you may see Republicans voting against the nominee, but I don‘t think you‘ll see them engage in a filibuster.

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OLBERMANN:  Of course, that depends on what the definition of ideological is.

The newspaper “Roll Call” reports that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is using the Easter break to decide whether his party should go obstructionist on the looming fight over financial regulations.  “Roll Call” reporting that if the White House insists on what the GOP considers over-regulating Wall Street, McConnell wants a united front in opposition, even though some Republicans fear Democrats are hoping for the fight.  This after Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, expressed confidence yesterday that Democrats can still pick up some Republican support.

And “The Los Angeles Times” reported that President Obama hopes to avoid another divisive, bruising partisan battle—at least until after the November elections.  That strategy however is apparently side-lining only immigration and climate change.  Not Wall Street, nor are Republicans waiting for Mr. Obama or Mr. McConnell to set the strategy or Wall Street.

On the issue of unemployment benefits, Senator Bunning is not only once again blocking their extension, he and Senator Tom Coburn are now blaming Democrats for this because Democrats refused their demand to use stimulus money to pay for it.

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, also, of course, national affairs columnist for “Newsweek” magazine.

Jon, good evening.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  This premise that was posited in “The New Yorker” piece, that Justice Stevens‘ departure means more than just the loss of one vote.  Explain that.

ALTER:  Well, first of all, Justice Stevens is the great intellect on the court in our generation.  He makes, say, Scalia look like a pygmy, intellectually, despite all the fireworks that Scalia gives off.  Stevens was an appointee of Republican Gerald Ford.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

ALTER:  But he‘s always been a moderate who has tried to interpret the law, which is his job, in an intellectually honest way.  And you do get the sense that this idea of trying to sort of build majorities across ideological lines on the court is becoming a thing of the past.  There are some very talented justices still on the court, but they don‘t have Stevens‘ ability to work with people—I don‘t want to say both sides of the aisle, because they don‘t have an aisle at the court—but on the different ideological extremes of the court to bring them together as Stevens has done in many, many cases over the years.

OLBERMANN:  Specter‘s appeal to Stevens to wait until after the election.  Is that to wait until after the election or just that things will be calmer somehow politically in the country in 2011 than they are in 2010?

ALTER:  Well, it‘s the latter.  I happen to think Senator Specter is mistaken about this, because, you know, the Democrats are only, as we all know, only one vote shy of having a filibuster-proof majority.  After the midterm elections, they might be a few votes shy.  And should the Republicans filibuster, as they‘re threatening to do, it would be easier to get a nominee, like Stevens, to replace him on the court before the midterms.  It would be easier to survive a filibuster before the midterms.

OLBERMANN:  Can the Republicans as easily filibuster as might be theorized in these times, isn‘t there some—anything left from, say, Gerald Ford remaining proud of this appointment until the day he died, that he thought it was one of the great things he did during his brief presidency?  Isn‘t there some residual effect from that this Republican Party has to honor about that Republican Party?

ALTER:  Well, if he appoints—if President Obama appoints somebody who Justice Stevens believes is in his mold, then it would be a little bit harder from—for some of the more reasonable Republicans in the Senate to oppose it.  And I think it would be quite difficult for them to successfully filibuster somebody that President Obama names.  If you look at the short lists that have been put together, I think any of those nominees would be able to survive a filibuster.

OLBERMANN:  And Kyl‘s remarks, they want judicial restraint, that

means Citizens United, or it means no Democrat, or no one with any liberal

what does it mean?

      

ALTER:  He‘s just trying to fire a shot across Obama‘s bow, saying, don‘t nominate somebody too liberal.  But they‘re so hypocritical now.

Remember, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said when he was at his confirmation hearings, “I‘m only calling balls and strikes.  I‘m just interpreting the law.”  For a generation, they‘ve been saying they don‘t want to legislate from the bench.

Now, they are the hypocrisy court.  The majority—the Republican majority is the hypocrisy court.  They‘ve completely turned on a dime.  They now believe in judicial activism.

So, pretty much anything that they would try to say—any argument they would try to have against an Obama nominee would be intellectually empty, because the argument that they‘ve been making against liberals is completely bankrupt after these recent very activist, conservative decisions.

OLBERMANN:  So, given how true that is, we can expect them not to do that.

MSNBC political analyst Jon Alter, of “Newsweek”—great thanks as always for coming in.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And we‘ll turn now to Sam Stein, political reporter of “The Huffington Post.”

For the big picture—and where are we now in terms of big picture, this report about postponing all contentiousness, except Wall Street, until after the midterms.  Is the White House really backing down on some of its big stuff, and are Republicans really considering cooperating on some of the other stuff?

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  It‘s all up in the air right now.  But, you know, I would contend that financial regulatory reform is a big deal.  On the topics of immigration and energy, it does look like, reading the tea leaves, like those are going to be postponed.

And you talk to some people in the party, including prominent strategists like Stan Greenberg and James Carville, and they‘re sort of upset about this.  They think immigration would be a great issue for the Obama administration to push right now, particularly because it would help the base, make the Hispanic community grateful for some of the slight that happened during the health care reform process, but also because it divides the GOP terribly along very profound fault lines.

But, you know, the Obama administration went through a bruising health care battle.  I don‘t know if they really want to get into it again on another major legislative initiative.  And so, once we hit the summer, it could all be about 2010.

OLBERMANN:  If the White House really is dropping or is postponing climate change, immigration reform or anything else, how much is it risking losing some base energy for November?  For as much as they could come out and say, well, here‘s what—here‘s what health care reform was, whatever they got in terms of economic or Wall Street reform, here‘s what that is.  At least the former is in the minds of the voters, already done.

STEIN:  Yes.  I mean, I think that, going back to the immigration issue, during the last days of health care debate, a bunch of Hispanic lawmakers were very upset with the White House, threatening to vote against the bill.  And, essentially, they met at the White House and they talked to the president and they were given something to the form of an implicit agreement that immigration would be tackled within the next year.  Now, if it doesn‘t happen before 2010, it will happen shortly thereafter.

But, yes, there‘s a real issue here, a real concern that the base won‘t be motivated.  And when you look at energy legislation, the president has laid out at least two cases in which he‘s already turned against the base.  It‘s on nuclear energy and on offshore drilling.  Both of which have angered the environmentalist community.

So, you know, there‘s concerns among people there won‘t be as much energy for 2010, which is already an election year that should historically favor the Republicans.

OLBERMANN:  And about the Republicans and this latest effort by Bunning and Coburn—

STEIN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  -- and the results of this, each of them went out on to that platform and got the platform sawed off behind them by other Republicans.

Why are they doing it now?  And how do they convince people if they can‘t convince leadership in their own party that they‘re not doing this, so this is the Democrats‘ fault?

STEIN:  Well, you know, it actually has been sort of fascinating to watch.  In some respects, the Republican leadership has gotten more and more comfortable with the stance they‘re taking.  And one of the things they‘re arguing is that, well, anything spent on unemployment benefits should be dipped from the stimulus funds.

Well, philosophically, that sort of counterintuitive.  The unemployment benefits are, in fact, a form of stimulus.  And to take them out of the stimulus funds would be a disservice to the entire package.

You know, Harry Reid‘s office told me today that they were looking far and wide for a 60th vote so that they could do this through regular order.  They couldn‘t find one up until to the point of recess.  So, they had to go to recess without these unemployment benefits extended.

They‘re flabbergasted.  They think it‘s terrible politics.  But also, keep in mind, tax cuts, they‘re not paid for it.  But marginal unemployment benefits, insurance extension has to be paid for?  It‘s just terrible politics.

And, you know, it‘s awful that it went to this point and 200,000 people might lose their unemployment benefits now.  But I don‘t understand the GOP‘s card is here.

OLBERMANN:  And what is Christina Romer‘s card out of the White House about picking up Republican support for Wall Street reform?  Does that suggest that whatever is passed, the White House will capitulate and leave enough loopholes that we‘re going to have a repeat of 2008 and the meltdown then?

STEIN:  Well, the devils are always in the details.  I mean, they‘re clear the White House is engaged on this one right now.  I know that the “Roll Call” story said that Mitch McConnell was sort of kibitzing with other Republicans about what to do on this.

I think this one is actually a really tough one for Republicans to vote against, at least some of them.  I might be totally naive in three weeks or totally naive, but, you know, the tea party crowd which they‘ve saddled up to, they are as much anti-Wall Street as anyone else.  And for the Republican Party to turn around and defeat reforms that are tough on the banking community, tough on the financial community and then expect the tea party crowd to be all A-OK with it would seem sort of counterintuitive again.

So, I would suspect that the White House knows it has one or two moderate Republicans that it can turn to for a semi-serious, comprehensive financial regulatory reform bill.

OLBERMANN:  Sam Stein of “Huffington Post”—great thanks as always, Sam.

STEIN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  RNC chairman has belittled Obama, Carter and Harry Reid for playing the sort of race card and insisted he never did it himself, except apparently for today.

First, the latest from West Virginia, where at least six miners are dead, 21 others unaccounted for, one in intensive care, after another underground explosion.

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OLBERMANN:  The breaking news at this hour: at about 3:00 p.m.  Eastern this afternoon, the mine country in Raleigh County, West Virginia, shook with an all-too-familiar sound.  At least six miners are dead, 21 more unaccounted for and one is in intensive care at a hospital nearby after an underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine near the town of Montcoal, West Virginia.

At this point, even camera crews have not reached the area, and obviously, we‘re relying on visual aids and graphics of this sort.  The plant‘s owner, Massey Energy, providing no details about the explosion, except to say that five trained rescue teams from its company and a second company were now on the scene trying to get to these trapped miners, believed to be trapped miners.

The Upper Big Branch, just 100 miles from the scene of the 2006 disaster at the Sago Mine, offers some hope of recovery if there has been survival after the explosion.  It has caches of extra oxygen and airtight so-called refuge chambers along emergency escape routes that could keep trapped miners, if there are trapped miners alive, could keep them alive for as long as four days.

Details are obviously, as we said, limited at this hour, as are the illustrations.  We will bring them to you as they become available throughout the night here on MSNBC.

COUNTDOWN continues.

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OLBERMANN:  The latest from West Virginia, seven now confirmed dead at the disaster at Montcoal, West Virginia, at the mine explosion there, and 19 now reported missing.  We‘ll continue to update you as further developments warrant.

Meantime, he wanted an apology from Majority Leader Reid for mentioning slavery during the health care debate.  He criticized former President Carter for suggesting some opposition to the current president stems from racism.  He criticized the current president himself for suggesting the same thing.  And when he would not condemn Glenn Beck‘s charge that Mr. Obama was racist, he said he himself does not play the race card.

Ironic then, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Republican National Committee chair, Michael Steele, has today done just that.  At this hour, word that the party‘s chief of staff has resigned.

This morning, Mr. Steele telling ABC he‘s very angry about the behavior stemming from an RNC political consultant‘s visit to a lesbian bondage-themed strip club, then suggesting some of the criticism aimed his way was over his skin color.

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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS:  We‘ve got a lot of questions on my blog for you this morning.

STEELE:  Sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  One came in from Marion (ph).  He asks, “Do you feel that as an African-American, you have a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would?”

STEELE:  The honest answer is yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Why is that?

STEELE:  It just is.  It‘s the—Barack Obama has a slimmer margin.  We all—a lot of folks do.  It means a different role for, you know, for me to play and others to play.  And that‘s just the reality of it.  I mean, that—but you take that as part of—part of the nature of it.

It‘s not—it‘s more because you‘re not someone that they know.  I‘m not a Washington insider, even though I grew up here in D.C.  My view on politics is much more grassroots-oriented.  It‘s not old boy network-oriented.  So, I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street wise, if you will.

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OLBERMAN:  Harkening back to the club escapades and the billing and repaying of that billing thereof, Mr. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, reacted thusly, “I think that is a very silly comment to make.  I think Michael Steele‘s problem isn‘t the race card, it‘s the credit card.”

That point, news that Mr. Steele has hired a former lobbyist to be his fundraising aide, “Politics Daily” reporting Neil Alpert misused substantial amounts of funds at a previous group.  Mr. Alpert, a former chair of two D.C. area baseball groups, one a political action committee, the other a nonprofit, was ordered by the city government to repay nearly $70,000 in unauthorized expenses and unaccounted funds, as well as fined $4,000.

And on the heels of Mr. Alpert‘s arrival comes the resignation of two key RNC players, Chief of Staff Ken McKay, as well as a top fundraiser named Sam Fox.  A Republican source is telling “Politico,” Mr. Fox had lost confidence in Mr. Steele and was deeply troubled by the pattern of self-inflicted wounds and missteps.

Joining me now, MSNBC‘s Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associated professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Professor, good evening.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Thanks.  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Let me start big, big picture here.  In a weird way, has Michael Steele become good for the Republican Party because the more time its critics spend talking about him, the less time they‘re talking about the more substantive problems with the GOP?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  I mean, sure.  You know, sex is easier to talk about, liquor and drugs and, you know, whatever else are always easier than policy and substance and that whole lawmaking part.

You know, there‘s actually an interesting parallel here to another moment for the GOP in its battle against Barack Obama.  And that is the choice of Sarah Palin as the vice presidential candidate.

You know, I often will give public lectures and people will say to me, “Wasn‘t that a terrible choice, Sarah Palin for vice president?  Hasn‘t it been a terrible thing for the RNC?”  And I always say, no, no, no, it was a brilliant strategic choice brilliantly because the Democratic Party was coming out of a unifying and nearly perfect convention in Denver, they needed something that would really turn the media conversation.  The choice of Sarah Palin, even with the seeming scandal of her daughter‘s out of wedlock pregnancy was perfect for moving media attention.

So, although this may not have been strategically planned, it certainly might be used strategically by the GOP to distract from things like the health care reform, major education reform, the things that the Obama administration is moving forward on and get us talking about the more titillating topics of how the RNC is using its credit card.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  This sub-issue that Mr. Steele addressed because of a viewer comment on ABC—it‘s ludicrous for me to be telling you that race is not just a pervasive issue in this country, but it‘s also this fluid issue.  A lot of people have a lot of valid perceptions about when it does and does not apply to a given situation.

But is there not one rule about it?  And did Mr. Steele violate that rule—if you say don‘t play the race card, then don‘t play the race card?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Oh, if only race was easy that we could boil it down to one rule.  But I do think that the question you‘re asking here is a key and central one that we are grappling with in America, and that is: how do we figure out what this mysterious race card is?

You know, I‘m black, and yet, when I was born I wasn‘t like given, I don‘t know, maybe 10 race cards that I could deploy in order to get out of jail free whenever I wanted.  But that seems to be how Michael Steele is using it here.  We need to be really careful, because there have been, again, other moments when conservative African-Americans have attempted to use race to explain the negative situation in which they find themselves.

The key example here would be Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings, saying that what was going on was a high-tech lynching.  And what we saw was a dramatic increase among African-American supporters when he described what he was experiencing as a lynching—even though as a matter of history, no black man has ever been lynched by a white man for something that he allegedly did to a black woman.

So, in that case, it was a—it was a poor use historically, reasonably, in terms of what we were looking at.  In this case, we similarly have to say that what Michael Steele is talking about, you know, that he‘s being persecuted or that he has a slimmer area to make mistakes in, I think that‘s not accurate.  That‘s a bit like Tiger Woods saying that his scandal broke because of race.

OLBERMANN:  Given the paucity of African-American representation in the party‘s—certainly in the party‘s management or officialdom, can the argument be made that the reverse is of what Mr. Steele is true, that he may have a wider margin for error?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  I think that we could hypothesize that—which is to say that there are some, you know, very talented African-American politicos who look at the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  And they see that in the Democratic Party, the line to leadership is pretty long, and in fact many older civil rights black leaders won‘t move out of the way to provide young black leaders an opportunity to lead.

And they look over in the Republican line and they think, man, that line is moving much faster, it‘s much shorter.  It is a much less diverse party.  So, if I‘m willing to be part of the Republican Party, if my views fit there, then in fact I might find myself in leadership more quickly.  And might, in fact, because the party needs desperately to have diversity, to be part of the American story, then in fact they might have wider latitude for these sorts of misbehaviors.

OLBERMANN:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell of MSBNC and more prominently, of Princeton University—great thanks as always.

HARRIS-LACEWEL:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  The Tiger Woods news conference, the Florida doctor who doesn‘t want to treat you if you voted for Obama, our guest, Congressman Alan Grayson.  And one of the funniest moments of honesty in the history of television sports.

The latter is next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  The latest on the world‘s worst doctor with our special guest, Congressman Alan Grayson. 

First, on this date in various years of the 20th century were born Spencer Tracey, Betty Davis, Gregory Peck and Melvin Douglas, to say nothing of Frank Gorshin (ph), who could do impressions of all four of them.  Let‘s play Oddball.

All you need to know about this clip from Sky Sports in England is the following.  One, the studio anchor is Jeff Stehling (ph), and the analyst at the game is named Chris Camara (ph).  Two, when a player is thrown out of a soccer game, he is given a red card and his team has to play one man short.  Three, in England, in America, in English, in Swahili, never sportscaster ever gives the honest answer, I don‘t know. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Up to Fraton (ph) park where there‘s been a red card, but for who, Chris? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, Jeff.  I must have missed that.  Red card? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you not been watching?  I haven‘t.  I don‘t know where that‘s come from, Chris.  I have no idea what has happened there.  What‘s happened, Chris? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  The rain must have gotten in me eyes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chris, let me tell you, according to our sources, Anthony Vandenbor (ph) has been sent off for his second bookable offense.  Get your fingers up.  Count the number of Portsmouth players that are on the field. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, you‘re right.  I saw him go off, and I thought they were bringing a sub on, Jeff.

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OLBERMANN:  And what‘s this?  I don‘t know.  Looks like a night out in L.A. with the Republican National Committee.  We are in the Bocklovis (ph), the Czech Republic, and this is a tradition the day after Easter.  The men lightly spank the women with little whips in this 100-year-old festivity.  Does it hurt?  Reportedly no.  Czechs point out that the name for the lash comes from the Czech word for rejuvenate.  I didn‘t know Tiger Woods had been to the Czech Republic.

Back to Bedford, in england, and indoor skydiving.  The competition known as the Body Flight World Challenge.  Participants test their flying and diving skills in a vertical indoor wind tunnel, 16 feet in diameter.  Flight area of 26 feet.  In other words, a perfect simulation of the real thing. 

Yet, more than 80 teams competed, including many top international sky divers.  A French team won the four way event.  A British team won the two-person event.  While the Czechs tried to spank each other mid flight and had to leave.

Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel on the Tiger Woods news conference. 

Next, Congressman Alan Grayson.

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OLBERMANN:  “The New York Times” has a story that has just broken on its website that merits further analysis, which we may or may not have time to do in this hour.  The headline perhaps answers a lot of the questions that itself creates.  “Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms.”

And to read the first paragraph is easier than summarizing it.  “President Obama said Monday that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons, even in self-defense, carving out an exception for outliers, quoting the president, outliers like Iran and North Korea.  This part of his approach to nuclear security.  The day before releasing a formal new strategy,” which obviously would be tomorrow. 

The times qualifies this as “a sharp shift from those adapted”—the strategy at least—“by his predecessors, and seeks to revamp the nation‘s nuclear posture for a new age in which rogue states and terrorist organizations are greater threats than traditional powers, like Russia and China.”

As we attempt to cover further the reaction to that in the half hour to come, let‘s turn it over to the story of the Florida doctor who was telling Obama supporters to go elsewhere for urologic treatment.  He is now saying his sign to that affect was just fun and provocative, and is also using his new found platform to parrot falsehoods about the health care reform. 

And Florida Congressman Alan Grayson is trying to facilitate a would-be protest about the doctors prioritizing politics over care.  The congressman joins us in a moment. 

You‘ll recall that Dr. Jack Cassell posted this sign on his office door, “if you voted for Obama, seek urologic care elsewhere.  Changes to your health care begin right now, not in four years.”  Dr. Cassell‘s claim that he does not literally deny people care is, at least, misleading, since at least one patient reports seeing the sign and going elsewhere.  The doctor admits that other patients have complained to him about the sign. 

Now, in speaking about the supposed horrors of the health reform law, Dr. Cassell‘s lies go unchallenged, at least over at Fox News. 

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DR. JACK CASSELL, DENIED OBAMA VOTERS HEALTH CARE:  Well, as of this next year, Medicare cuts are going to be huge.  Did you have—did you realize that hospice, you know, which is the end of life caring—that that‘s going to be totally cut in 2012?  I mean, not only do they want you to die at a younger age, as they—as they basically ratchet down care, but they want you to die a slow and painful death as well.  I mean, it‘s horrible. 

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OLBERMANN:  I hope he‘s better at urological practice than he is about truth.  In fact, the health care law does not eliminate reimbursement for hospice providers, as detailed by Media Matters, and health care analysts have noted that hospice was not even a major target of cuts, and hospice care membership organizations expressed support for health care reform provisions. 

Joining me now, as promised, Congressman Alan Grayson, who represents Florida‘s eighth district.  Congressman, good evening. 

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Tell us, please, about your constituent, what happened to him, and what you‘re trying to do about it? 

GRAYSON:  It‘s exactly what you described.  He walked up to the door, saw the sign, was horrified and turned away.  I‘m sure as others did as well.  I‘m horrified. 

OLBERMANN:  Where do you go on this?  Obviously, he didn‘t break a law, did he? 

GRAYSON:  Well, it‘s a clear violation of the AMA Code of Ethics.  It‘s also a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.  I think, more fundamentally, it‘s cruel.  It‘s just cruel.  It‘s inhuman to treat another person like that.  When you walk up to his office with cancer, you shouldn‘t have to worry about your voter registration. 

OLBERMANN:  So is the path through the American Medical Association, through the licensing board in Florida?  Where do you go with this, do you know? 

GRAYSON:  The licensing board in Florida. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Are there sanctions?  Is there a way to reprimand him?  I presume you don‘t take a doctor‘s license away for something like this. 

GRAYSON:  Well, listen, I think that‘s for them to decide.  We have to establish a clear line here, because what he‘s trying to do is tear up the social contract.  In the same way that these right-wing doctors only want to treat right-wing patients, soon the right-wing garbage collectors will only start picking up right-wing garbage.  There‘ no end to this once you start it.  We‘ve got to stop it. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, on the other hand, on that point, we don‘t‘ have enough then.  We don‘t have enough garbage collectors.  Dr. Cassell has actually said this quote: “Obama-care fatally compromises my ability or any doctor‘s ability to uphold the Hippocratic Oath.”  Between that and what he said about hospice care, what do you think of his tack in taking advantage of this new platform he‘s gotten? 

GRAYSON:  It‘s worse than that.  He told a local Fox station he was against health care reform because it means no old people will be able to go to nursing homes anymore.  That‘s how wrong headed he is.  He‘s got plenty of opinions, not many facts at all.  And he‘s using his opinions to try to deny care to other people. 

Think about it.  He says that he‘s concerned that the Obama health care plan is going to be end up denying care to his patients, so he‘s going to deny care to his patients.  What‘s the sense in that? 

OLBERMANN:  Goodness, it simplifies it, doesn‘t it, when you put it in those terms?  Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, good enough to spend a few minutes with us on this Dr. Cassell, thanks for your time again tonight. 

GRAYSON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘re going to switch back briefly to the subject of when U.S. use of nuclear arms would be approved under new rules that are about to be announced tomorrow by the president. 

Jonathan Alter, who was with us before in person, joins us now by phone.  Jon, is this familiar to you?  Is this a surprise.  The headline certainly would be a surprise, I think, to somebody just tripping over this. 

ALTER:  It is a surprise, because he has not, until now, actually directly renounced long-standing nuclear doctrine.  So this is a departure.  But it is not a surprise in that he has scheduled a conference, a big global conference for later this month in Washington, and asked all the members of the international community to come with specific proposals of what they would do to move toward a nuclear-free world. 

And so if he‘s asking other nations to take dramatic action, either to secure loose nuclear weapons or to change their nuclear doctrine, he felt like he needed to start with the United States doing so.  So, in that sense, it‘s very much in keeping with the new nuclear posture that he began to outline in an important speech he gave in Prague last year. 

OLBERMANN:  One premise here that I think mitigates, to some degree, that headline, which I imagine is going to have the right wing insane by this time tomorrow.  Deeper in the article, David Sanger and Peter Baker write, “for the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attack the U.S.  with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyber-attack.” 

Despite what the implication would be of the first paragraph or two of this, if, for some reason, nuclear forces were used against the United States, we‘re not saying nuclear force can not be used in retaliation or in defense. 

OLBERMANN:  Right.  So it‘s a partial renouncing of what they call no first use doctrine, not a fully renouncing off first use.  Remember, since the dawn of the nuclear age, when we had a policy of massive retaliation, we have always left on the table the option of using nuclear weapons if we thought it was necessary.  And all this does is says that we will no longer do so, leave that option on the table in all circumstances.  But when it comes to North Korea, Iran and others, we will continue to have the nuclear option on the table. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek,” helping us understand this story just breaking at “the New York Times” regarding limitations that the Obama administration will announce tomorrow.  Thank you again, Jon. 

ALTER:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  One other line from this and then we‘ll move on.  To set an example, “the Times” writes, “the new strategy renounces the development of any new nuclear weapons, over-ruling the initial position of his own defense secretary.”  This will be announced officially tomorrow.  It limits to any attack by a non-nuclear state.  It essentially would prohibit or deny the U.S. the capability to use a nuclear response in the event of a non-nuclear attack from a non-nuclear state that is in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Coming up, we believe there will be media in place by the top of the hour, so Rachel can give you have the latest from the explosion at a coal mine in West Virginia.  Six dead and 21 unaccounted for there.

Ahead of that, worst persons.  You know why Rush Limbaugh flunked out of college?  Math, which he apparently proved again in recounting jobs gains in March.  And Tiger Woods, one of the few golf reporters yet to ask him any tough quest answers whether or not asked him a tough question at his underwhelming news conference today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Here are the updates on the two stories breaking at this hour.  First, the latest report from West Virginia, seven dead and 19 missing in a mine explosion underground at the Massey Energy Plan, the mines there.  There is some hope of recovery there, a rather extensive situation, a series of escape and secure air-tight areas are believed to exist.  If miners survive the explosion, they have up to four days supply of air beneath. 

And “The New York Times” quoting the president as saying he will revise American nuclear policy, and this will be announced formally tomorrow.  Two quotes from the newspaper, “to set an example, the new strategy renounces the development by this country of any new nuclear weapons, over-ruling the initial position of his own defense secretary, and to conclude, for the first time, the U.S. is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attack the United States with biological weapons or chemical weapons, or launch a crippling cyber attack.” 

That from the “New York Times” about the Obama nuclear policy, which will be announced tomorrow.  COUNTDOWN will continue after this with Worst Persons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tiger Woods at his news conference at the masters.  The one golf reporter who has asked him tough questions joins us next.  That‘s next, but first tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to John Avlon, another one of those straight down the middle CNN new hires.  He was a speech writer for Rudy Giuliani, which makes him neutral.  Avlon selects for the dying giant, two, quote, wing-nuts of the week, hyping his book of the same name.  This past week‘s: Code Pink, which tried to make a citizens arrest on Karl Rove, and the Hutaree militia, which, of course, nine members of whom were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy to kill law enforcement officials and set off bombs at their funerals. 

Well, sure, those are the same.  Non-violence, sort of lumpy protests, as opposed to domestic terrorism.  Additional note to the non-partisan Avlon and the real journalists of CNN: the term wing-nut is, by definition, a reference to conservatives.  Even conservatives acknowledge that.  There are no left wing wing nuts.  The left wing equivalent is moon bats.  Thank you. 

The runner-up, Orly Taitz Limbaugh, says last Friday‘s report of job growth was a sham.  Quote, “most of the job growth is Census, temporary people who don‘t have unemployment benefits at all.  Who knew that hiring Census workers could thank the world outlook and cause the oil prices to go up?  That‘s how you have to look at this, oil prices rising because we hired a bunch of temporary Census workers.” 

Total job gains in March, 162,000.  Number of new Census jobs, 48,000.  That‘s 29.6 percent, which is not most.  Mr. Limbaugh flunked out of Southeast Missouri State University after two semesters in summer school.  Could you tell? 

But our winner, Lonesome Roads Beck, with one of those quotes that just speaks for itself: “let me tell you something, you are the key, not me, or people like me, but you and people like you.  Millions of people like you.  They‘re not afraid of me.  They‘re afraid of you.  Just like Gandhi, just like Rosa Parks.  It wasn‘t Rosa Parks, it was the millions of people that were inspired by Rosa Parks‘ non-movement.” 

What you‘re doing can be compared with what Rosa Parks did?  Bert Parks, the guy who used to sing “Here She Is, Miss America,” Bert Parks.  On second thought, I apologize.  That‘s insulting to Bert Parks.  Lonesome Roads Beck, the mind reels, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Four quotes of relevance tonight from Tiger Woods today.  One, “I lied to myself.”  Two, “I fooled myself.”  Three, “I deceived myself.”  And the crowds at his first post-addicted to love practice rounds, quote, “blew me away.”  Ahem. 

Number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Tiger Woods and what he might think was the last time he‘d have to answer questions about, you know.  Kelly Tilghman, who might be the only reporter to ask him tough questions about that, joins us in a moment.  First, all you really need to know about the news conference is that galleries is golf for crowds. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER:  The galleries just couldn‘t be nicer.  It was just incredible.  And the encouragement that I got—and it was just—it blew me away, to be honest with you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Woods fielded several dozen questions for over 30 minutes.  The names Rachel Uchitel, Holly Sampson, and the term Perkins Waitress were never mentioned.  For the first time, however, Woods was asked about his involvement with a Dr. Anthony Galea (ph), the Canadian medico known for treating several top American athletes, currently under investigation in the U.S. for smuggling Human Growth Hormone allegedly across the border. 

Woods confirmed that his agent has been contacted by authorities investigating that doctor.  He also says he received so called blood spinning treatment from Galea and nothing more. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODS:  He did come to my house.  He never gave me HGH or any Peds.  I‘ve never taken that my entire life.  I‘ve never taken any illegal drug ever. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are a lot of doctors that do blood spinning. 

What was it that prompted you to go to, or have Doctor Galea come to you? 

WOODS:  He‘s worked with so many athletes.  That‘s also one of the reasons I went and saw Dr. Weedon for my eyes.  He‘s done a lot of different athletes.  And there‘s a certain comfort level to that, when a person has worked with athletes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As for what to expect the rest of the Masters week, Woods revealed his wife Elin would not be in attendance at the tournament.  As for golf? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are your expectations for this week? 

WOODS:  Nothing‘s changed, salty.  We‘ll try and go out there and win this thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And how much would you pay in cash to hear a presidential news conference at which the president said, nothing‘s changed, salty. 

The Golf Channel‘s Kelly Tilghman was the first person to interview Tiger Woods, one-on-one, in the wake of the revelation of his personal problems.  She joins us now.  Kelly, thanks for you time tonight.

TILGHMAN:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  You spent time speaking with him in addition to this most recent interview in previous interviews.  You also consider him a friend.  How do you think it went for him today? 

KELLY TILGHMAN, THE GOLF CHANNEL:  I think it went as well as it could have.  I think Tiger Woods walked out of that press room swaying a few opinions, people who were quite hard on him before.  He looked very sincere, very contrite.  I was particularly impressed with the opening statements that he made before ever being asked a question.  There was a point where he talked about touching with the gallery and his fellow players for the fist time, reconnecting that he said blew him away.  There was a point where I thought he was genuinely misty eyed, and I thought he might shed a tear. 

OLBERMANN:  Was that news conference tough enough or was it too tough?  And is there a danger—there is a sense he is being, if not protected, then at least screened by his sport.  Is this just setting him up to be chased for the rest of the year by the TMZs and others by the world? 

TILGHMAN:  I don‘t think this press conference determines that in any way.  I think basically that‘s something he‘s going to have to deal with, regardless of what he said, or any questions he was asked today from the popular media, the pop cultures, if you will.  That‘s going to go on for a long, long time, if not forever, for the rest of his career. 

But as it relates to the sanctuary, for lack of a better word, that a lot of people have said is the press room at Augusta National, I thought the questions were tough on several questions, especially the ones about the Canadian Doctor, Dr. Galea, that you showed just moments ago.  But I knew going in—a lot of people in this industry knew going in that the Masters and the press room there, these people that come year in and year out to this place.  And you knew they were going to be very golf oriented, if not sports oriented questions.  So that was coming, for sure. 

OLBERMANN:  Merge all this together.  What‘s the headline going to be at the end of the Masters?  Is it Tiger Woods is not heckled?  Or Tiger Woods wins?  Or TMZ reporter appears out of the sand trap on 16?  Or what is the headline going to be next week? 

TILGHMAN:  Tiger took his next huge step.  I think this is really big.  It‘s re-entry.  It‘s mainstream.  The world has a chance now to reconnect with him, particularly the media here, but more importantly to him just the fans in general.  You could tell it really meant something to him that they were accepting him at the Masters.  But, Keith, as you well know, regular tour stops are coming and we will probably have some episodes here and there.  But this is certainly a nice way for him to get back into the fray. 

OLBERMANN:  Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel, great thanks for your perspective.  Congratulations on that last interview with him.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

TILGHMAN:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  And that is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,531st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

Now with the president‘s policy on nuclear arms, previewed tonight in the “New York Times,” and before that, on the mine explosion that has left at least seven dead in West Virginia, with varying numbers of the missing and unaccounted for, ranging from 19 to higher than that—the latest number we had is 19.  Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 

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

END   

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