updated 4/19/2010 12:26:14 PM ET 2010-04-19T16:26:14

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Eric Burns, Chris Hayes, Nathan Kottkamp

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

The day that Democrats shoved back.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes, taxes.  You would think they would be saying, “Thank you.”

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  That‘s what you‘d think.

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OLBERMANN:  And Bill Clinton flattens Michele Bachmann for this—

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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  We‘re on to this gangster government.

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OLBERMANN:  “Unthinking angry words like those,” Mr. Clinton says, remind him of the anti-government tone that preceded Oklahoma City.

Remembering what massage pollster Frank Luntz did to health care reform, Democrats will attack him and his credibility personally on financial reform.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  This bill not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts to Wall Street banks, it institutionalized them.

ANNOUNCER:  Republicans seem to be taking a page out of a recent strategy memo by pollster Frank Luntz.

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OLBERMANN:  Retreat.  Why FOX News bailed out of a broadcast of a tea party for which it was raising money?  Ethics?  Or not just enough of a cut at the ticket prices?

OLBERMANN:  National Health Care Day: Two years since a governor signed a proclamation encouraging all in the state to create end-of-life health care directives—one year since the same governor started calling having insurance pay for doctors to explain those directives to you “death panels.”

Happy anniversary, Governor.  How‘s that whole hippocrity fraudy thing working out for you?

Kiss your ass goodbye.  The real impact of the Icelandic eruption, John Cleese takes a taxi from Oslo to Brussels.  Your cost, $5,100.

“Worsts”: Limbaugh lies about union workers at the Upper Big Branch mine disaster again.

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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  At some point, you are going to learn, if you go up against me on a challenge of fact, you are going to be wrong.  Just that simple.

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OLBERMANN:  Except this time, when the facts have caught him red-handed.

And Friday‘s with Thurber: four of the fables of the master, including “The Very Proper Gander.”

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

After tea partiers held hundreds of rallies yesterday, Tax Day, focusing on President Obama‘s tax policies, the president replied to them last night.

In our fifth story tonight, his immediate message was essentially:

you‘re welcome.  His long-term message, concurrent with one from a presidential predecessor and another from a campaign committee: Democrats are now mad as hell and they‘re not going to take this anymore.

This president was speaking in Democratic fundraiser in Florida on the day Americans‘ tax returns are due and on the day tea parties around the country lashed into the president for raising taxes—which he has not done—even conservative think tanks acknowledging that taxes are at their lowest levels in decades.

As the president reminded them last night, he has lowered taxes for just about everyone—except, of course, rich people—which would tell you something about who‘s behind the tea parties.

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OBAMA:  Since today happens to be Tax Day, I should just point out that one-third of the Recovery Act went to tax cuts—tax cuts that strengthened the cornerstone of the American Dream: working for a living, earning an education, owning a home, raising a family.  We cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans, just like I promised we would on the campaign.

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OBAMA:  That made a difference for 7 million families in Florida alone.  We cut taxes on small business.  We cut taxes for students and parents paying for college.  We cut taxes for first-time home buyers, more than 128,000 here in Florida.  In all, we passed 25 different tax cuts last year.

And one thing we haven‘t done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year—another promise that we kept.

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OBAMA:  So I—I‘ve been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes, taxes.  You would think they would be saying, “Thank you.”

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OBAMA:  That‘s what you‘d think.

(CHEERING)

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OLBERMANN:  One of the speakers at the capital‘s tea party rally yesterday, Republican Congress Michele Bachmann, did not say, “Thank you,” although her sentence essentially ended with the word of something “you.”  She referred to the duly-elected government of the United States as, quote, “the gangster government.”

In an interview with “The New York Times” later that day, former President Clinton responded to Bachmann‘s remarks.  “They are not gangsters,” Mr. Clinton said, “they were elected.  They are not doing anything they were not elected to do.”

Mr. Clinton referred to Ms. Bachmann‘s remarks while making a bigger point about political speech, quoting again, “You can attack the politics, criticize their policies, don‘t demonize them and don‘t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Mr. Clinton was speaking on the eve of his keynote address today for a symposium marking the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing which targeted a government building which housed a day care center and which was committed by anti-government terrorist in 1995, after several years of right wing-attacks depicting the Clinton administration as un-American and a threat to traditional American values.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also, of course, author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  Are these Clinton and Obama push-backs utterly coincidental or is there some sort of sense of Democratic leaders finally drawing a rhetorical line in the sand?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think there are couple of things going.  First of all, in the White House you‘ve got a distinctly, more confident, more robust approach, having come through the travails of health care and taking the fight to Republicans.  So, with the economy taking a decisive turn for the better and within their view, their political fortunes having turned, they think they‘ve got a record to run on, and they have enjoyed taking this fight and challenging Republicans at every turn.  Now, we‘re seeing that with financial reform.

There is another thing going on, it is true, that the—for people who lived in the Clinton era, inside the Clinton administration, obviously, especially, President Clinton, there are parallels going on.  They notice them all the time.  Not just because of health care, not just because of the economy.  But because of this inchoate sense of anger out there, this cultural dislocation that President Clinton was talking about.

So, there are parallels with the culture, with the politics.  But I also think there is a new sense of vigor from this White House.

OLBERMANN:  To President Obama‘s point, taxes are lower.  Why aren‘t tea partiers saying, “Thank you, this is what we wanted”?

WOLFFE:  Well, there‘s nothing that rational about this group of people.  I mean, if you look at “The New York Times” poll of these folks, most of them say the amount of tax they pay is fair.  And this is from an anti-tax group.  They want smaller government but their kids go to public school and they support Social Security and Medicare.

This is not rational.  It is only unified by its hatred of Barack Obama.  Nine out of 10 of them disapprove of Barack Obama.

So, it really doesn‘t matter what the reality is.  It‘s not about rational logic.  It‘s about the hatred of the president, who they see as illegitimate, non-American and some kind of foreign entity.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  A variation of what they said about President Clinton before the Murrah Building blew up.

WOLFFE:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  If actually lowering taxes does not make even these Americans realize, you know, their taxes are lower—how are Democrats going to change that by November?

WOLFFE:  Well, for this 18 percent of the population in a tax—in the tea party, there‘s nothing you can really do.  They are suffering Obama derangement syndrome.  There‘s nothing you can do about that.

But for the rest of the population, for that 82 percent—for a start, the president, the White House, needs to be more robust about saying, about talking about that tax record.  Not just on Tax Day but every day.  Message repetition and discipline has got to be a part of this as they move into campaign mode for the midterms.

I do think this debate though goes beyond taxes, where people are angry, where they‘re feeling dislocated, it‘s attached to the economy.  The economy is turning.  They need to go out and explain that to people, because we are seeing evidence of that, anecdotally, and in the statistics.

OLBERMANN:  And also in poll numbers that indicate more people than previously believe that it‘s getting better, which half of the problem with the economy.

WOLFFE:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  Most of the members of these tea parties are older—which would seem to suggest they should remember that the same anti-government stuff was hurled at Clinton while the country was prospering in way it‘s had not previously under Clinton.  Is there—the tenet of this group which is, “I want something for nothing and I don‘t want anybody else to have anything,” is it that overpowering where it gets—I know, you keep saying it‘s not rational—but there‘s got to be some self-rationalization in here?

WOLFFE:  Well, I do think there is this fear and the idea that the country is changing in ways that aren‘t expected.  Clinton—President Clinton was very eloquent about this.  The culture is changing and it‘s personified by having, frankly, an African-American president.  The values that people grew up with, the expectations, whether it‘s a job in their own lives or what Washington would behave like or look like, these are all changing.

It‘s not going to be easy to keep those people on board or happy.  But having economic security, having a social welfare system that they can rely on, whether it is Social Security that they say they like or a health care system that can look after them, whether or not they can afford insurance now, these things are important stories to tell to those folks to reassure them that actually the country is on the right track.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, great thanks for your time tonight.  Have a good weekend, please.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Richard.

Of course, as the media are reporting today, you simply can‘t trust the tea party—oh, wait, that‘s not the media, that‘s FOX News saying that.  After more than a year of promoting the tea parties, the “Palin network” no longer trusts them.  It began when Sean Hannity agreed to appear to a Cincinnati tea party event urging viewers to buy tickets for 20 to 100 bucks each.

The more you spent, the closer you got to sit next to Sean.  Proceeds to benefit or proceeds to benefit the tea party.

News organization raising money for political party, journalism watch dogs called foul on this, and at last night‘s event, no Hannity.

The Cincinnati tea party writes on its Web site, quote, “FOX News producers on-site informed the Cincinnati tea party senior leadership that Mr. Hannity had to rush home for a personal emergency.  The Cincinnati tea party expressed a statement of support and concern to Hannity and family.  We believe them,” said the party founder.

But, there was Hannity on TV last night in New York.  He seems OK.  The “Los Angeles Times” reporting that furious FOX News executives canceled his appearance at the event, quote, “FOX News never agreed to allow the Cincinnati tea party organizers to use Sean Hannity‘s television program to profit from,” your move tea party.  Quote, “Despite knowing clearly that this was not true, FOX caved.”

Help us, Chris Wallace.  Who can we trust?

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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  I don‘t know that Sean‘s in trouble, but I think that there‘s—people are looking at FOX, you know, how do we avoid being taken advantage of.

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OLBERMANN:  Maybe the real problem is that a very senior FOX executive was asked about the tea party just 10 days ago and had this to say.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your business network host David Asman told viewers they needed to visit the tea party Web site to buy merchandise, and your network had graphics saying “FOX Day Tea Parties.”  Is it appropriate for a news network to engage in that much politics?

RUPERT MURDOCH, CEO, NEWS CORP:  No, I don‘t think we should be supporting the tea party or any other party.  But I‘d like to investigate what you‘re saying before I condemn anyone.

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OLBERMANN:  Investigation underway, sleuth.

Let‘s bring in Eric Burns, president of MediaMatters.org.

Thanks for your time tonight.

ERIC BURNS, MEDIAMATTERS.ORG:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Are you happy now?  I mean, I can‘t believe you just—you split up the FOX and the tea party romance.

BRYNES:  Well, Keith, look, I have no doubt that they‘re going to be back together tomorrow morning.  I mean, this is a long and deep relationship that‘s very serious.  You know, FOX has invested an enormous amount of time and money in the tea party movement.  Essentially, they did all but create the tea party movement to begin with.

They‘ve run over 100 promotional spots on FOX News, touting tea party events.  They‘ve lent their talent out over the last year to host tea party rallies.  They‘ve even sponsored tea party rallies.

So, this is a very, very deep relationship.  And I‘m sure they‘re going to get past this one.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they‘re America‘s sweethearts.  I guess they‘ll get back together again.  FOX makes these tea parties a hell of a lot more money with the cheerleading though than it could be with ticket sales.  Why is that not a problem for FOX or for Mr. Murdoch?

BURNS:  Well, you know, it should be a problem for FOX and it should be a problem for Mr. Murdoch.  It hasn‘t been, I think, because Americans have largely become desensitized to what we‘re seeing from FOX News, just the unprecedented, you know, politicization of our news media.  FOX is, you know, it‘s operating as a political campaign, not as a news organization.

And so, you know, as you look at this, I think what‘s happening now is in the wake of Murdoch‘s comments last week or my colleague, Ari Rabin-Havt, in the question put to Mr. Murdoch, there‘s been a lot more heat from the media on FOX and their relationship with the tea party.  And FOX really needs to maintain this illusion of journalistic credibility to be able to continue to operate as a 24/7 political campaign that uses fear tactics, that deliberately lies to their viewers and the American people.

So, for them, you know, I think it‘s just—it‘s an important business decision.  That, and I think Hannity embarrassed the boss.

OLBERMANN:  So, is FOX right in suggesting that somehow they didn‘t know what Hannity was doing, they were taken advantage of by the tea party?  And if the tea parties and its members realize FOX will lie about them, might it just—might that little spark-jump from one synapse to another and turns out FOX will lie about anyone that would be clear to even people in tea parties?

BURNS:  Well, look, I think we both know that it‘s absurd to think that FOX really believes that they were lied to by the tea party organizers because, as I‘ve said before, they‘ve been so deeply in bed with the tea party group since the very, very beginning.

But I do think there is an opportunity here for well-meaning individual who‘s have been wrapped up in the tea party movement and the tea party protests to really look at this and step back and see that, you know, it‘s actually FOX that‘s the enemy.  It‘s FOX that will throw their friends under the bus, that will lie—because we know this is what they do.  It‘s a core part of their business model.  It‘s how they shape the political environment, through fear and dishonesty.

And, you know, I‘m not going to hold out hope, but you never know.  Wouldn‘t it be a great day in America if folks in the tea party did wake up and realize that FOX—they‘re not their friends.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a great day for America, everybody.  Well, that‘s somebody else‘s show.

Last point, did Mr. Murdoch ever get back to you at “Media Matters” about that last question your colleague asked?

BURNS:  Well, I‘ll tell you, we didn‘t wait for him to get back to us.  We sent him a letter offering our help with the investigation.  We even, Keith, actually conducted some of the investigation ourselves and sent them a packet of information highlighting FOX‘s long and deep involvement with the tea party movement.

We faxed it to him.  We e-mailed it to him.  We sent it to him by courier.  I don‘t think we‘ve done carrier pigeon yet, but we have yet to get a response.  I‘m not holding my breath.

But I will tell you this, Keith, I do think since FOX is operating as a political operation, we all know that they‘re running the conservative movement and the Republican Party, you know, the press in this country need to treat Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes as politicians, and they need to hold them accountable to that promise.  Rupert Murdoch promised an investigation, and I hope that every member of the U.S. media will actually hold him to that promise and make sure that he actually conducts one—because that will be the best thing we can do for the political discourse in this country.

OLBERMANN:  The investigation, by the way, Rupert is probably handling right now, I know from personal experience, he‘s trying to figure out how he can fire you—even if you don‘t work for him.

Eric Burns, the president of “Media Matters”—good luck with that. 

Great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

BURNS:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The premise of Democratic pushback was not limited to what two presidents said in the last two days, there is the ad pointed directly at the top Republican spinmeister.  What blunts Frank Luntz?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  After how he managed to convince the saps that health care reform that would save them money would actually kill them, the Democrats finally seem to have realized they have to stop this man‘s lies as financial reform looms.

Two years ago today, before her successful career as—whatever the hell she is now—she urged Alaskans to convene what she now claims are death panels.

At a tea party, this man speaks to hundreds, just like he used to on TV, and gets most of his facts wrong just like he used to on TV.

And time tonight for four fables on Friday night with Thurber.

COUNTDOWN continues.

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OLBERMANN:  A year and a half since the onset of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, virtually nothing has been done to prevent a repeat.

In our fourth story: Senate Democrats have a plan they say will fix that.  And today, Republicans, with a little help from pollster Frank Luntz, officially announce their plan: block the Democrats‘ plan.  Remind you of anything?

Senator Chris Dodd says his banking committee bill would put an end to too-big-to-fail banks and would help fill in the regulatory gaps that led to that financial crisis.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claims the bill would do the exact opposite.  And today, he got all 41 Senate Republicans to sign a letter to Harry Reid that says so.  “We are united in our opposition to the partisan legislation reported by the Senate Banking Committee.  As currently constructed, this bill allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks.”

Notably, however, this letter does not threaten a filibuster that would the Dodd bill from the reaching the floor for debate next week.  The letter does, however, contain the fingerprints of Republican pollster Frank Luntz.  It was his group, the Word Doctors, which last year authored the anti-health care reform memo which coached Republicans to fear-monger about rationing and government takeover.

In January, the Word Doctors released another blueprint for defeating financial regulation reform.  The 17-page document instructing Republicans to convince Americans that any Democratic legislation will lead to more bailouts—even though it was the Republicans who supervised the first round of bailouts.

This weekend, it has become apparent that the Republicans are taking the Luntz advice.  The DNC, today, releasing the following n ad linking Leader McConnell‘s rhetoric on the Senate floor to words Frank Luntz instructed him to say.

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MCCONNELL:  This bill not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street banks, it institutionalized them.

ANNOUNCER:  Republicans seem to be taking a page out of a recent strategy memo by pollster Frank Luntz.

MCCONNELL:  Let me say that again.  This bill not only allows—not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts for Wall Street banks, it actually institutionalizes them.

ANNOUNCER:  The single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the big bank bailout.

MCCONNELL:  It‘s a bill that actually guarantees future bailouts of Wall Street banks.

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OLBERMANN:  Another bailout, and call in the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, Chris Hayes.  Or as I know him, Chris L. Hayes on Twitter.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Good evening, Keith.  How are you?

OLBERMANN:  Before the politics, the substance of this, Chris Dodd says the bill, his bill, will end bailouts forever.  And 41 Republicans have today signed this letter that says that Dodd‘s bill will instead cause endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street.

Are either of these somewhat mutually-exclusive statements correct?

HAYES:  I would say neither are in this case.

I mean, first of all, let‘s talk about the Republicans.  It is a staggering act of bad faith to say this institutionalizes bailouts for two reasons.  One is, the status quo is bailouts.  This is the party that engineered the largest bailout in the history of the American republic.

So, we all know exactly what‘s going to happen if something like this happens again under what we have now—which is that the Chamber of Commerce and the financial services roundtable and the big banks are going to go up to Capitol Hill and they‘re going to panic everyone and Glenn Beck is going to get on the air and say we need the bailout.  That‘s an important piece of history for everyone, and the bailout‘s going to pass.  That is the status quo.

Second of all, when you look at the actual substance of the bill, the money that this $50 billion pool of money that‘s going to be used to pay for a, quote, “bailout” is coming from the banks.  It‘s not taxpayer money.  It is taxed off the banks.

In terms of Dodd saying it will end bailouts forever, look, the precedent has been set.  If things get bad enough, what has been clear is that, you know, Congress is going to be there to sort of patch the holes of the leaking ship.  So, I don‘t even think you could say that.

But what‘s happening on the Republican end is really, really remarkable bad faith.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any indication that Luntz‘s message regarding endless bailouts is resonating the way some of his health care misstatement did?

HAYES:  Well, I think it‘s really early in this.  And I think there‘s an encouraging aspect of this—which is that unlike death panels, et cetera, and all the craziness that came out in health care, Democrats are pushing back much more ferociously, much more quickly and I think much more effectively.  And I think they also sense that, basically, they have the politics on their side in this contest.

I mean, people don‘t want to be on the side of the Wall Street banks.  And so, they‘re trying to pin their opponents that way.  And it‘s going to be a contest over who is most against the Wall Street banks.

But I—I do wonder how much, you know—it‘s early in this.  And one of the things about the death panels and all that misinformation is that it was—that it kept getting repeated so long by the right-wing noise machine that made it sink in.

OLBERMANN:  But now, that‘s—isn‘t that the essence of this?  Because the president today framed the—in debate again by asking this rhetorical question about Congress: are they going to sides with the special interest and the status quo or are they going to side with the American people?

When opponents of this government, of this president, obviously, will believe anything—they‘re just looking for a rationalization to justify what they want to believe to begin with—

HAYES:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  -- if that‘s the case, what happens if, as seems to be the indication here, both sides are making the same argument and the same claim?  We‘re going to do this and the other side is not?  If both of them say that, is—do they neutralize each other?  What happens?

HAYES:  That‘s what‘s so remarkable about this debate.  I mean, it‘s like we‘re through some post-modern looking glass because actually, the substance here has become completely abstracted.  And I—there‘s a Democratic operative I know who uses the word post-truth politics to describe this dynamic, which I think is quite apt.

Democrats shouldn‘t fool themselves into thinking—and I just saw on the Internet before I came into the studio—that they‘re now talking about, OK, we‘re going to get rid of the $50 billion fund.  In this environment of post-truth politics, policy concessions will not affect the politics.  You‘ll be accused of creating bailouts in perpetuity no matter what the actual policy grounds are.

The reason I think the Democrats have the upper hand is that in this case, they can draw from the sort of store of reputational capital that has been built up in which, I think, people are more inclined to think that in a contest between the two parties about who is most opposed to the bank‘s interests, the Democrats are.  And that might actually, you know, be less true than people quite realize, but I think they actually have that leg up.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Hayes of “The Nation” and lambchop illustrated—have a great weekend.  Take care.

HAYES:  You too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, this Icelandic volcano detonates and you‘re stuck in Norway and you‘re due in Brussels and nobody can fly.  How do you get there?  Our friend John Cleese had a novel solution—next.

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OLBERMANN:  Two years to the day since Sarah Palin encouraged Alaskans to hold what she now calls death panels, April 16th of the year.  Hip, hip, hypocrisy day.  First, Twitter update, caller is 43,900 number of self posted today, none.  In coming tweet of the day, from Atem (ph) Mosque, teabaggers are more educated than an average person, they attended each high school grade twice.  Ouch, babe. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” we begin, we begin with the continuing wrath of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, which is almost onomatopoeic.  But I think it is safe to say the rest of Europe is getting prettied teed off at this thing.  The giant cloud of volcanic ash, creating a non-flying circus if you will, leaving hundreds of thousands of travelers, stranded, tired, and even shagged out after a long squawk including actor, comedian, poet, and friend this news hour, John Cleese, Mr. Cleese visiting Oslo in Norway.  Because he was of course, pining for the fjords.  Now as for an appearance on a talk show “SCOTLAND” where they were pining for the fjords.  His flight back to England canceled, all boats and trains booked.  So he hailed a cab.  And was to be driven 930 miles to Brussels in Belgium.  The tab?  30,000 Norwegian kroner or $5,100 bucks.  And it‘s not over yet, Cleese plans on taking the euro star train from Belgium to arrive in London at some point tomorrow.  Mr. Cleese telling Norway‘s TV too, I will think about a joke you probably already heard, how do you get God to laugh?  Tell him your plans.

To Aces Ballpark in Reno, Nevada in the exhibition game between the triple a Reno Aces and the University of Nevada Wolf Pack.  Between innings, Ace‘s mascot Archie the red guy and Wolf Pack Mascot, Wolfy Junior whiling the dance—oh, you see what‘s going to happen, don‘t you?  Wolfy does the moon walk on the dugout and finishes it in the dugout.  According to the Wolf Pack Facebook page, Wolfy Junior is doing well and is excited for the upcoming football season. 

National health care decoration day two years ago, sister Sarah was insisting they were right for Alaska, now she‘s calling them death panels.  National health care directive day, next.

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OLBERMANN:  Two years ago today, then Governor Sarah Palin urged Alaskans to sign advanced health care declarations.  Last summer when a provision in the health care bill would have helped people get the facts from their doctors about such decisions and coverage from their insurers about such meetings, Palin irresponsibly dubbed it Obama‘s death panel.  On our third story on the “Countdown” today is national health care decisions day and President Obama has now made it easier for gay men and lesbians and others who want to designate as legal surrogates people who are not conventional family members.  The president first, he has directed his secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius to issue new rules to requiring most hospitals to extend visitation rights for the partners of gay men and lesbians and respective patient‘s choice about who he or she designates to make critical health care decisions for them.  The new rules will also apply to widows and widowers.  And members of some religious orders who choose a friend or companion for visitation or as a legal surrogate. 

It was just two years ago that governor Palin marked this day by encouraging people in her state to create their own advanced directives.  But it was former half governor, former presidential candidate Palin who posted on her Facebook page last august quoting, “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or baby with down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama‘s death panel so his bureaucrats can decide based on a subjective judgment of their level of productivity and society, whether they are worthy of health care.  Such a system is downright evil.”  Of course she was right, the America I know and love is not one in which that would happen.  Palin even reveled later in broadening that claim. 

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SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR, ALASKA:  We‘re not going to back off on our criticism of the problems of the health care bill, and one aspect of it is the death panels still, if we have our health care paid for the bureaucracy by the government, we‘re going to be subject to bureaucrats deciding which, panels and commissions, deciding, just like they do overseas, who will be worthy of receiving the health care that government is going to provide.  So that is the death panel that I referred to, and I won‘t back off on criticizing that aspect of the health care bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This woman is an idiot.  I want to address that truth and the realities of the directives with the attorney and chair of national health care decisions day, Nathan Kotthkamp.  Thank you for your time tonight sir.

NATHAN KOTTKAMP, NATIONAL HEALTH CARE DECISION DAY:  Thanks.  It‘s great to be here on this important day. 

OLBERMANN:  It is, it‘s an important day and it‘s an essential issue and two years ago it seems that the then-Governor of Alaska took it seriously.  Are you familiar with the proclamation that she signed two years ago? 

KOTTKAMP:  I sure am.  It‘s actually very similar to the proclamations that were issued with bipartisan support in both Houses of the Congress, and also in several states around the country in addition to Alaska.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve described advanced directives previously in this show, at great length.  Explain them for us in the—in a substantive way.

KOTTKAMP:  Sure.  Advanced directors are documents used to enable individuals to provide their wishes for situations in which they cannot speak for themselves.  And this can be caused by any kinds of things, whether it‘s a sudden illness, a car accident, or some sort of terminal condition.  There‘s two key types of advanced directives.  One is a designation of an agent or someone who literally stands in your shoes and speaks for you when you cannot speak for yourself.  And the other key type is typically called a living will, its a document that provides written instructions, often instructions with respect to end of life care in the event of a terminal condition but provides those in written form.

OLBERMANN:  There was a study, the “New England Journal of Medicine” published earlier in the month, that found that more than 90 percent of adults who had living wills wound up  requesting either limited care or comfort care, palliative care, palliation at the end of life as my father did.  Two percent asked for all care possible and obviously they have the right to do that and I have witnessed firsthand the importance of those distinctions for not only the patient but for the family.  In your experience, in the nuts and bolts, at the bedside, is this an issue, is this a right, is this a system that draws support from people across the political spectrum?  Is it really a divide right when you get to the nitty gritty? 

KOTTKAMP:  No, I really don‘t think there is.  And one of the best examples of that is if you go to nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org and click on participants,  you‘ll see organizations on that are on the far right, far left and everywhere in between.  And I think what we see with this event all across the country is no matter what your ideological perspective is on the meaning of life and end of life issues,  everyone seems to recognize that it‘s important for us to be able to state what our wishes are and then have those wishes be  honored.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Kottkamp, health care reform would have changed this on declarations how?  I mean insurance would have paid for doctor‘s time and insight in these discussions and the people who demonize that somehow got that cut out of health care reform? 

KOTTKAMP:  They did.  There‘s really an unfortunate disconnect.  We‘ve got federal regulations that require hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, inventory surgery centers, even dialysis facilities to raise the copy of advanced directives to provide forms and information for patients but there isn‘t a payment mechanism for those facilities to do it.  And obviously we want patients to be talking about these choices with their physicians and again there‘s no payment mechanism there in those circumstances.  So if we really want these conversations to be enabled we have to put our money where our  mouth is and got to put some reimbursement into the hands of  physicians so they‘ll actually have incentive to have these  conversation. 

OLBERMANN:  And conversations, plural, is the key to it as well.  I don‘t know how many I had because the same treatment for my father was a different set of circumstances every day.  We had to go through it every day and see where we were.  So my thanks to you and for all the good work you‘re doing, Nathan Kottkamp, chair of the National Health Care Decisions Day, thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend. 

KOTTKAMP:  Thank you so much.

OLBERMANN:  Fitting, isn‘t it?  One of our four fables from James Thurber which I will read tonight is called “The Very Proper Gander.”

Lou Dobbs in “Worst Persons.”  I know what you‘re saying I didn‘t know he was still alive.  Well, of course, how can you tell? 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Senator Claire McCaskill trying to unravel the boondoggle of military contractor who‘s basically take your money and give our troops nothing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK

OLBERMANN:  While insisting he was not wrong the first time about

unions and the West Virginia mine disaster, he get it‘s wrong again.  And

his competitors in worsts.  Two men fired a combined three times by CNN and

NBC.  And it‘s Thurber night. Stay tuned for four fables, including “The

Very Proper Gander.”     

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The weekly visit with the works of James Thurber brings us among other fables “The Very Proper Gander.”  That‘s next.  But first, tonight‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”  The (inaudible) Tucker Carlson, front man for his website “The Daily Caller” when it launched last year, he said it would be a news site conservative but ideological, kind of a detached version of “Politico” or “Huffington Post,” except that on Wednesday, “The Daily Caller” co-hosted a tea party event.  Tuck‘s partners in that, Grover Norquist‘s of Americans for Tax Reform and the man guilty of the original sin of Astro-turfing Dick Armey and his ironically named Freedom Works.  Poor Tucker.  Fired by CNN, fired by MSNBC, marginalized by FOX news, can‘t even keep a  website going for six months before it becomes just another  shill for the right wing. 

The runner up, Lou Dobbs.  In a fawning interview with “GQ” magazine in which he showed he‘s still at the top of his game, provided the game is senility.  Told by the author he would have to go on MSNBC if he is serious about his presidential aspirations, and if he is, he‘s the only one, Dobbs replied, “Do you think they‘d have the guts to bring an independent on to MSNBC?  Are you kidding me?  Have you looked at their ratings?  If you looked, they‘re scared to death, they have a corporate agenda.  MSNBC is GE‘s gift to the Obama administration.  And please, give us some more defense contracts.  It‘s all good.”

In the last four months of his television career before CNN cancelled him, “LOU DOBBS” xenophobia hour, fired him, here were the ratings, yours 25 to 54 -- Dobbs averaged 163,000 viewers compared to 182,000 watching the rerun of “Hardball” with Chris here on MSNBC compared to 294,000 watching “Countdown” an hour later here on MSNBC.  Lou proving again he is independent.  Independent of facts, independent of viewers, independent of supporters. 

But our winner, Boss Russ H. Limbaugh.  Today he claimed the Icelandic eruption was god protesting health care reform, I‘m worried about Russia‘s synapses.  But maybe worst still, he did it again.  He lied again about the tragedy at the upper big branch mine in West Virginia, blaming it again on unions.  Unions must have frightened him as a child.  There were union worker there‘s so United Mine Workers should have been overseeing their safety.  United Mine Workers of America, there were union workers at that mine and the left is trying to say you can‘t say that Limbaugh, that‘s a nonunion shop.  That SOP, CEO got rid of all the unions.  No, no, he agreed to bring back 85 of them.  You people, it‘s been 21 years, at some point you‘re going to have to learn, pardon me for this sandwich.  If you go up against me on a challenge of fact, you‘re going to be wrong.  It‘s just that simple.  No.  The only thing simple is you lose the challenge of fact.  There were 85 union coal miners  brought back by Massey Energy, the owners of the mine, but not  to the upper big branch mine mining coal in West Virginia, the one that exploded, they  brought them back to another Massey Energy operation, Mammoth Mine in Smithers, West Virginia, 50 miles away.  So Rush was wrong by 50 miles.  That‘s actually real good for him.  Rush “Wrong on the Facts Again” Limbaugh, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We end, as always, with Friday‘s with Thurber, readings from America‘s greatest all around humorist of the 20th century, essayist, playwright and cartoonist, James Thurber.  You missed the first two weeks, this is happening because I read nearly all of Thurber‘s stories to my late father in his hospital room, and he insisted it would be good for the show.  And then it turned out the Thurber family thought so too.  So new context this week, the book from which I read the library of America‘s 1996 “Thurber Writings and Drawings” along with another of the many Thurber titles available appeared on  Amazon‘s movers and shakers lists, indications of book lists suddenly taking off.  Get me, I‘m Oprah Winfrey.  Tonight we have another selection of fables, originally published in “Fables for Our Time,” famous poems illustrated in 1940.  Available again in a perennial library edition from Harper and Row.  Let me begin with one that has long been a particular favorite of James Thurber‘s daughter, Rosemary “The Little Girl and the Wolf.” by James Thurber.

One afternoon, a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her  grandmother.  Finally, a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food.  You carrying that basket to your grandmother?  Asked the wolf.  The little girl said, yes, she  was.  So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived.  And the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.  When the little girl opened the door to her grandmother‘s house, she noticed somebody in bed with a night cap and night gown on.  She had approached no nearer than 25 feet from the bed.  When she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf.  For even in a night cap, the wolf does not look anymore like your grandmother than the metro golden lion looks like Calvin Coolidge.  So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

Moral?  It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.  “The Little Girl and the Wolf,” by James Thurber.  We‘ll go to something now a little bit more political from the same book, “The Birds and The Foxes.”

Once upon a time, there was a bird sanctuary in which hundreds of Baltimore orioles lived together happily.  The refuge consisted of a forest, entirely surrounded by a high-wire fence.  It was put up, a pack of foxes who lived nearby protested that it was an arbitrary and unnatural boundary.  However, they did nothing about it at the time, because they were interested in civilizing the geese and ducks on the neighboring farms.  When all the geese and ducks had been civilized and there was nothing else left to eat, the foxes once more turned their attention to the bird sanctuary.  Their leader announced there had once been foxes in the sanctuary but that they had been driven out.  He proclaimed that Baltimore orioles belonged in Baltimore.  He said further more that orioles in the sanctuary were a continuous men us to the peace of the world.  The other animals cautioned the foxes not to disturb the birds in their sanctuary.  So the foxes attacked the sanctuary one night, and tore down the fences that surrounded it.  The orioles rushed out and were instantly killed and eaten by the foxes.  The next day the leader of the foxes, a fox from whom god was receiving daily guidance, got up on the rostrum and addressed  the other foxes.  His message was simple and sublime.  You see before you, he said, another Lincoln.  We have liberated all those birds.

Moral?  Government of the orioles by the foxes and for the foxes must perish from the earth.  “The Birds and The Foxes.” I mentioned this one last week.  Here it is in full.  It is perhaps my favorite of the fables.  “The Bear Who Let It Alone,” by James Thurber.

In the woods of the far west, there one lived a brown bear who could take it or let it alone.  He would go into a bar where they sold Meade, a fermented drink made of honey.  And he would just two drinks then he would put some money on the bar and say, see what the bears in the back room will have.  And he would go home.  But finally he took to drinking by himself most of the day.  He would reel home at night, kick over the umbrella stand,  knock down the bridge lamps and ram his elbows through the  windows.  Then he would collapse on the floor and lie there until he went to sleep.  His wife was greatly distressed.  And his children were very frightened.  At length, the bear saw the error of his ways and began to reform.  In the end he became a famous teetotaler in a persistence temperance lecturer.  He would tell everybody that came to his house about the awful effects of drink and boast about how strong and well he became since he gave up the stuff.  To demonstrate this he would stand on his head and hands and turn cart wheels in the house.  Kicking over the umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming his elbows through the windows.  Then he would lie down on the  floor, tired by his healthful exercise and go to sleep.  His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

Moral?  You might as well fall flat on your face, as lean over too far backward.  And lastly tonight, a little bit from the political end of things, we go to page 15, and the famous “The Very Proper Gander.”

Not so very long ago there was a very fine gander.  He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children.  One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing, remarked, there is a very proper gander.  An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost.  They said something about propaganda, she said.  I‘ve always suspected that, said the rooster and he went around the barn yard the next day  telling everyone the very fine gander was a dangerous bird,  more than likely a hawk in gander‘s clothing.  A small brown hen remembered a time when she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest.  They were up to no good, she said.  A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything.  He said to hell with the flag too, said the duck.  A guinea hen recalled she had once seen somebody that looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great  deal like a bomb.  Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander‘s house approximate he was strutting in his front yard singing to his children and his wife.  There he is, everybody cried.  Hawk lover, unbeliever, flag hater, bomb thrower.  So they drove him out of the country.

Moral?  Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.  “The Very Proper Gander,” by James Thurber. 

That‘s “countdown” with portions written by James Thurber.  The Rachel Maddow show is next.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.  

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

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