updated 4/23/2010 9:57:26 AM ET 2010-04-23T13:57:26

Guest: Michael Moore, David Corn, Joe Romm               

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)              

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories

will you be talking about tomorrow?

President Obama takes the fight for financial reform straight to the

belly of the beast.  To the financial industry, he says—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Unless your business

model depends on bilking people, there‘s little to fear from these new

rules.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And to obstructionist members of the GOP—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  What‘s not legitimate is to suggest that somehow the

legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts,

as some have claimed.  That makes for a good sound bite but it‘s not

factually accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Our special guest tonight: Michael Moore on the fight to

fix Wall Street.

And health insurance shocker.  “Reuters” reports that WellPoint had a

computer program designed to dump insurance policies of women just

diagnosed with breast cancer.

Michael Moore will take on that as well, and the Republican notion of

bartering for health care with chickens.

The tea party probably won‘t make it as a viable independent party,

but as the future militant wing of the GOP—why not?  That is not an

allegation from the left.  It comes from the mind of Newt Gingrich.  Wait

until Sarah Palin gets ahold of him.

Dick Cheney steps into the GOP Senate primary mess in Florida by

attacking Governor Crist.  Is Cheney making it easier for him to bolt the

party?

And an unlikely hero who saved the planet.  The U.S. military is

leading the way to end our dependence on fossil fuels.  Happy Earth Day!

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from Los Angeles.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in

for Keith Olbermann.

President Obama today faced the titans of Wall Street, including the

head of Goldman Sachs, and asked them to join him in fixing their broken

system.

But in our fifth story tonight: The real face-off is now slated for

Monday night on the floor of the United States Senate.  That‘s when

Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled debate to begin on financial

reform, giving Republicans 96 hours to figure out who among them is really

ready to say: no, America does not need to reform Wall Street.

President Obama today took on two of the storylines Republicans have

advanced about the Democratic bills, sometimes even before the bills were

written.  First, the Republican claim that the Senate bill includes future

bailouts for the banks, encouraging them to take more risks.  In fact, the

bill forces the banks to create a fund that would be used for liquidating

banks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  What‘s not legitimate is to suggest that somehow the

legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts,

as some have claimed.  That makes for a good sound bite, but it‘s not

factually accurate.  It is not true.

In fact, the system as it stands—

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  -- the system as it stands is what led to a series of massive

costly taxpayer bailouts.  And it‘s only with reform that we can avoid a

similar outcome in the future.  In other words, a vote for reform is a vote

to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts.  That‘s the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  President Obama also addressed the other Republican

argument, a perennial, that creating new regulations to replace the ones

that were removed over the past several decades will tie the hands of

American innovation.  But as President Obama acknowledged, Wall Street

innovation has centered on creating new ways of making money rather than

making new things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  This is not about stifling competition, stifling innovation—

it‘s just the opposite.  With a dedicated agency, setting ground rules and

looking out for ordinary people in our financial system, we will empower

consumers with clear and concise information when they‘re making financial

decisions.  So, instead of competing to offer confusing products, companies

will compete the old-fashioned way, by offering better products.  And that

will mean more choices for consumers, more opportunities for businesses and

more stability in our financial system.

And unless your business model depends on bilking people, there‘s

little to fear from these new rules.  So—

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  President Obama had another point to make about the

hysterical fears that Democratic lawmaking will somehow destroy Wall

Street.  He quoted from an article about a previous president‘s attempt to

change the rules on Wall Street.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and

Wall Street.  We will rise, or we will fall together as one nation.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  And that is why I urge all of you to join me.  I urge all of

you to join me, to join those seeking to pass these common sense reforms. 

For those of you in the financial industry, I urge you to join me not only

because it is the interest of your industry, but also because it‘s in the

interest of your country.

Thank you so much.  God bless you and God bless the United States of

America.  Thank you.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s bring in documentarian Michael Moore, whose most

recent film is “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

Thanks for your time tonight, Michael.

Michael, I want to start with a clip from “Capitalism” in which you

visit Goldman Sachs, whose CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, was actually in the

audience today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  We‘re here to get the money back for the

American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I understand, sir, but you can‘t come in here.

MOORE:  Can‘t you just take the bag?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

MOORE:  Can‘t you take it up there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely not.

MOORE:  Fill it up.  I‘ve got more bags.  $10 billion probably won‘t

fit in here.

You‘re using the money to bail out companies, you know, all this—

this is our money and—oh, this is a police officer.  I wanted to make a

citizens arrest of the CEO, Mr. Blankfein.  And you‘re here, so maybe you

can help me.

These guys have broken so many laws, you know?  This is—this is

money.  It‘s theft.  It‘s fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  So, Michael, when the president was referring today to

people whose business model is bilking people, who might he possibly have

been referring to?  Anyone in the audience?

MOORE:  It was very strange for him to invite the chief bilker to sit

there in the front row.  It‘s a—and it was a great speech.  And I think

it set the right tone here for the week.

But it is—it‘s a little ironic to ask the people who have committed

the crime—it‘d be like asking a mugger to say, I‘d like to urge you to

join me in calling the police and that if we call the police together, this

will help muggers everywhere.  I mean—and that‘s exactly what these

people have done.  They‘ve mugged the American people.  Millions are out of

work; millions have lost their homes.  And yet, some of them still roam

free on the streets here of New York City.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael, you know, I‘ve watched the credits roll in your

documentaries.  You‘ve got a good crew working for you.  But I don‘t think

it‘s as big as the Justice Department or the SEC.  How did you figure out a

couple of years ahead of them that Goldman Sachs just might be up to

something illegal?

MOORE:  That‘s a—that‘s a good question, because I convinced my

high school guidance counselor to get me out of economics class, so I

didn‘t have to take it.  And so—I think it was pretty evident to a lot

of people who just have basic common sense and have lived through this. 

And, of course, I lived in Michigan.  So, I have been a witness—personal

witness—to many lives being destroyed by this economy.  An economy that

wasn‘t going to sustain itself, that was essentially a house of cards ready

to fall.

And I and others were saying that, you know, for a number of years. 

But, you know, who are we?  We‘re just the people who predicted that there

weren‘t going to be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or that G.M. might

fail some day.  So, I don‘t know—I don‘t have a good answer to that

question.

But I do think what‘s interesting is that John Paulson, the

billionaire hedge fund guy who is implicated in the charges, the SEC

charges against Goldman Sachs the last week, that within the year of this

fraud taking place, John Paulson hired Alan Greenspan to be part of his

hedge fund deal.

This stuff—this stuff here is so interconnected, the way that

Goldman Sachs, even with the Obama administration, as you know, Goldman

Sachs was his number one private contributor in his election.  There‘s

three or four former Goldman executives working in the Obama

administration, the chief assistant—Timothy Geithner is a former Goldman

guy.  The undersecretary of state for the economy is a former Goldman guy.

So, it goes on and on like this.

The way that they still—and I—at first, I thought the speech

today was going to be Obama like a parent scolding the child sitting there

in the front row, but I think that maybe it‘s the other way around.  Maybe

it was the child yelling at the parents.  The parents still call the shots

here.  Their money is what controls all of this.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he‘s not the first Democratic president to take this

on.  As you know, as well as anyone, that President Franklin Roosevelt went

after Wall Street.  He had a totally different style.  He merrily went to

war with them.

MOORE:  Oh, yes.

O‘DONNELL:  He referred to them the enemy, went to war with them.  And

let‘s remember, he was coming to the presidency after being governor of New

York.  He knew these people.

MOORE:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  He knew what they were up to.

MOORE:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  And he did not try to get them to come along with him—

MOORE:  Oh, no.

O‘DONNELL:  -- and agree to hold hands and fix this thing.

MOORE:  Of course, not because, again, you know, these Wall Street

guys, these hot shots down there, they like to refer to themselves as

sharks or predators.  So, you would never invite a predator to go along

with you.

Roosevelt gave a great speech just down the street here in Madison

Square Garden in 1936 where he basically put it on the line to Wall Street. 

He said, government organized—government by organized money is just as

evil as government by organized mob.  And he told—he told the bankers

and the Wall Street people that he wanted historians to record his term as

president as the president who became the master on behalf of the American

people, the master of Wall Street and these banks, not the other way around

where we all work for them and, in many cases, lose our jobs, our homes and

any number of things because of this incredible crime that‘s been

committed.

I just—I can‘t believe that nobody‘s been arrested yet.  And I‘m

glad that the SEC filed those civil charges.  But hopefully, the criminal

charges are coming, you know, somewhere down the pike.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael, what do you make of the transparency issue? 

There‘s a lot of talk about let‘s make all of this transparent.  But, with

some of these things, like derivatives—so what if they‘re transparent?

MOORE:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  Can—I mean, can you stare at a derivative and figure

out its value, even if it is transparent?

MOORE:  No.  And the average person definitely can‘t do that.  You

need an engineering degree from MIT essentially to figure it out.  And I

don‘t even know if that will do you any good.

But, no, this whole thing about we‘re all just going to make it all

transparent, well, yes, but you‘re still allowing the same bad thing to

exist.  If you still allow the derivatives and the credit default swaps to

continue—which is what‘s going on now.  I mean, they‘re back at it in

record form, which is, of course, as many economists will tell you, is

going to lead us to another crash, that‘s down the road, not much is being

done about that.  No one‘s really talking about it.

Even this bill—I mean, it‘s great that Democrats have got this

bill, but it‘s a—it‘s a weak bill.  It‘s like the health care bill.  I

mean, it will be good for some things, but it doesn‘t have any real teeth

to it.  It doesn‘t have any real power to frighten these people to obey the

law.

And I think that unless the Sherrod Brown amendment, you know, the

Brown and Ted Kaufman, the senator from Delaware—they‘re offering an

amendment.  And I hope that that is brought to the floor because that will

really put some teeth on it.  It‘ll at least put a cap on the size of these

banks so they won‘t allow—they won‘t be allowed to be, you know, too-

big-to-fail from that point on.

But the current bill doesn‘t say that.  It‘s still going to allow them

to be too-big-to-fail.  And, frankly, I agree with the economist, Simon

Johnson, who says that these banks should be broken up into about 28

different banks.  That would—that would protect us.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael, I always find—in a normal universe, I find it

to be a legitimate question about whether government can get something more

right than, say, the private sector.  Let‘s just, for the moment, think

about, well, OK, the size of banks.  What are the odds of government being

able to measure that and get that more right than the private sector would

do?  But as I say, that would be my question in a normal universe.

My question now is: whatever government does, whatever it does on Wall

Street, can it possibly mismanage Wall Street worse than Wall Street has

already done itself?

MOORE:  Yes, that‘s an excellent point.  What I think—I think what

can prevent that from happening, that mismanagement—and again, this

isn‘t really in the bill right now, there‘s no agency that‘s going to be

the watchdog over Wall Street and these banks to make sure that they do

obey the law.  They‘ve got it set up that way, and that‘s why, you know—

I mean, the stock market went up after Obama‘s speech today.  They weren‘t

too worried about what was going to happen.  And in fact, I think they were

kind of happy that there wasn‘t going to be any real enforcement, any real

teeth in this.

And they‘re just going to go about their merry way like they are right

now.  The story in “USA Today” today that pointed out how the bailed out

banks are not only—give more compensation in bonuses than the non-bailed

out banks, they‘re also the banks handing out the fewest loans to Americans

who need them right now.

So, our tax dollars have helped them, they have not turned around and

helped the American people who need that money for a home, to start a

business, to sustain a business, all these things that—unless President

Obama really takes this thing like President Roosevelt did, we‘re going to

see another crash, and they‘re going to get away with another crime.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael, you didn‘t take your high school economics

course, but you‘ve done an awful lot of homework on this subject in the

last few years.

Looking at the history of our economies, both here in the United

States and internationally, in the wave of regulation that started in the

20th century, what has happened to capitalism?  Did regulation in Europe

and in the United States stifle the growth of wealth in the capitalist

system?

MOORE:  No, actually, when there was regulation and when there were

rules, that‘s when we had the greatest expansion of our economy, especially

after World War II, and there were very strong restrictions on banks.  I

mean, Keith has had Elizabeth Warren on this show, and she makes the point

very clearly that from the time that those laws were put in place during

the Depression by Roosevelt and the Congress, up until the ‘80s when we had

the savings and loan crisis, when Reagan started removing the regulations -

for all those years, there was never one huge banking mess or huge

failure where the economy was going to collapse.  Those regulations worked

very well.

               

And once they were removed, by Republicans and Democrats—well, we

saw the results of this, and they‘re still going to not have the old rules

back in place.  That‘s what has to go back in place.  That‘s why the

Sherrod Brown amendment has to be put on this Democratic Party bill.

O‘DONNELL:  Michael Moore, please stand by.  There is much more for us

to discuss tonight, including the latest black mark against health

insurance company, WellPoint.  A “Reuters” exclusive reports WellPoint had

software that would flag policies for cancellation if a woman was diagnosed

with breast cancer.

And later, the Newt Gingrich conundrum.  Last week, he said he was a

tea partier.  Last night, he said the tea party was going to be the

militant wing of the GOP.  That‘s your cue, Sarah Palin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: Michael Moore returns to talk health care,

including the alarming story about WellPoint and the Republican idea of

bartering for health care with chickens.

And later, Newt Gingrich calls tea party followers “the future

militant arm of the Republican Party,” and that‘s not sitting well with the

tea party.  Good luck with that 2012 campaign, Newt.  That‘s next.

This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s the kind of thing that the health care reform law was

supposed to fix: a major insurance carrier sets up a computer algorithm so

it can find and then drop policy holders recently diagnosed with breast

cancer.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: State and federal regulators

are now saying what COUNTDOWN viewers already know—that the Obama health

care law lacks the enforcement powers either to stop or even substantially

reduce such a practice.

Tens of thousands of Americans have lost their health insurance after

being diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions that require

expensive treatments.  The practice is known as rescission.  And last year,

congressional committee said that WellPoint is one of the worst offenders. 

In an exclusive report by investigative journalist Murray Waas, “Reuters”

disclosed that WellPoint has been targeting women with breast cancer,

dropping their policies for what the company claims is either erroneous or

flimsy information.

WellPoint would not comment on the breast cancer cases specifically,

but said in a statement that rescission investigations are triggered

because of various criteria, including certain types of medical claims. 

The company also said it changed its rescission practices to ensure they

are handled properly back in 2006.

Health care is another of many topics that filmmaker Michael Moore has

tackled.

Michael Moore, thanks for staying with us—from New York tonight. 

Michael—

MOORE:  Do you like my wardrobe change?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, very good, very good.

In the 2007 documentary you did, “SiCKO”—

MOORE:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- you showed—you went to great lengths to show what

insurance companies will do when you actually—as a customer and patient,

when you actually start costing them money.

MOORE:  They‘re supposed to.  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  This doesn‘t surprise you at all.

MOORE:  Oh, no.  No, in fact, they‘re supposed to do it.  They‘re

legally required.  They have a fiduciary responsibility, according to our

laws, to maximize profits for their shareholders.  So, they‘re legally

required to do whatever, whatever they can do, to make as much money as

possible for their shareholders.

Well, the way you make money with an insurance company is—if you‘re

an insurance company, you try to pay out as few claims as possible.  And

so, they have entire departments dedicated to finding any loophole or

anything they can do.

And this is—this is one of the sickest stories, because they

literally developed a software program that would—that would

specifically flag any woman who‘s diagnosed with breast cancer, or any

problem.  It could be breast cancer, it was flagged.  Then they have a

whole team of people then that start to look for ways to drop this woman.

They don‘t really want to come out and say it‘s—you know, we‘re

getting rid of her because she has breast cancer.  You know, it‘s kind of

crass.  So they go about looking for some mistake she made in her

application form, maybe a preexisting condition that she had that she

didn‘t report, something like that.  That‘s what they do.

They‘re in the business to make money.  That‘s how they make their

money and that won‘t change—even very much under this new health care

bill because, as you said, there‘s no real enforcement power and there‘s no

real fine.  Last time I was here, I pointed out to you that if the

insurance company is caught denying somebody because of a preexisting

condition or throwing them off the rolls because they get sick, their fine

according to this new law—is $100 a day.

               

$100, that‘s their—now, do you think they‘re going to take the

fine?  Or do you think they‘re going to pay out thousands of dollars to

help you if you have cancer?

I think they‘re probably going to take the fine, and then there‘s no

police action on the part of the American people.  There‘s just no

regulatory, no committee, no nothing that‘s going to go after them when

they do this.

And can I point something else out, Larry?  The $100 a day thing—if

you have a copy of the health care bill, you can‘t find that in the bill. 

It‘s so hidden, the way they put it in there.  I mean, my team of

researchers spent a couple weeks on it and they found where this actually

is going to be just $100 a day.  But it‘s not there.  It‘s hidden.

And, in fact, if anybody is watching this, if you want to just—get

the bill online, see if you can find where that is.  If you can actually

find it and break the code of this bill—you know, send me a thing on

Twitter and I‘ll send you—I‘ll come over and wash your car.

O‘DONNELL:  OK, bloggers.  Michael‘s given you your assignment for the

night.

Michael, to go back to your point, I think it‘s the crucial point

here.  The insurance company is doing what it‘s supposed to do in a

capitalist system.  This is where we have to crosscut between your movie

“SiCKO” and “Capitalism.”

And I have always felt that we shouldn‘t be putting insurance

companies in this position.  We shouldn‘t have people sitting in those

cubicles out there in the Midwest in these different office towers trying

to cut people out of their health insurance because the government should

be the first provider of this kind of service in this kind of service and

these kinds of situations.  This is the argument for single-payer health

care.

MOORE:  That‘s right.

O‘DONNELL:  This is the argument for Medicare for all—is that the

insurance companies are indeed doing exactly what they‘re supposed to do,

and the new law leaves the insurance companies in place to continue to do

it.

MOORE:  Right.

I think that, you know, 100 or 200 years from now when historians or

anthropologists dig us up, they‘re not going to understand why we allowed

companies to make a profit off someone who got sick.  They‘re just—

they‘re not going to understand.  They‘re going to—how cruel were these

people?  And they were like the richest country on earth at the time, and

they allowed some of their people to make a profit off others when they

fell ill.  They won‘t understand it.

We‘re going to look as crazy and demented as we look back on, you

know, hundreds of years ago when people did cruel things or when they put

leeches on their bodies to heal themselves or whatever.  We thought they

were crazy.  Well, that‘s what they‘re going to think of us, that we allow

this to continue.

Here‘s how President Obama can fix this—and everybody watching

should write to their member of Congress or senator and to President Obama

and say: look, you do have the authority to write the regulations, to

actually write how this health care bill is enforced and he can—he can

do—and believe me, if you remember, George W. Bush did this quite often

he can write and do executive orders to issue some of the regulations

that need to put some real teeth into the health care bill so that the

WellPoints and these other insurance companies aren‘t able to punish you

because you come down with breast cancer.

               

I mean, it‘s up to our president and our Congress at this point to

rectify this.

O‘DONNELL:  And, Michael, we have a new Republican idea this week

coming out of the Nevada Senate campaign.  Harry Reid‘s Republican opponent

in Nevada says that if you‘re having trouble affording health care it is

perfectly reasonable to barter with your doctor.  She actually specifically

suggested you could possibly bring a chicken for your doctor.  She was

offered an opportunity—repeated opportunities—to back down, to say—

MOORE:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- well, I didn‘t mean it literally.  She means it

literally.  She is, I guess, showing us the Wild West idea about what

health care reform should be—go back to a barter system.

MOORE:  Well, you know, I think if we go to chickens in order to pay

the doctor, who‘s going to want to go to the doctor‘s office when it‘s full

of chickens?  I mean, I don‘t know if you‘ve ever cleaned out a chicken

coop, but, man, that‘s the last thing you want are a lot of chickens

around.

So this—this actually, Larry, proves something very fundamental

about our two parties.  Say what you want about the Democrats—they‘re a

bunch of wimps, they don‘t have courage of their convictions.  Yes, they

can be bought, by big corporations and lobbyists, too—just like the

Republicans.

But the one thing that they‘re not—the Democrats—the one thing

they‘re not is completely crazy.

The ideas like this just make you want to go, what has happened?  I

mean, I used to know, really—nice, smart, good Republicans.  What has

happened?  This is so ultimately bizarre, and I just hope they keep coming

up with more ideas like that so the American people are reminded just how

bad we had it for those eight years in the first part of this decade, and

we certainly don‘t want to go back to that.

O‘DONNELL:  And now we know what Harry Reid has really been up against

in Nevada, which, to my eye, makes his work this year all the more heroic

in trying to push forward something that in his state was never popular,

and in his state—a state where you can get away with, apparently, at

this point, political statement s like bring a chicken to your doctor to

pay for your medical bill. 

MOORE:  I just don‘t know what to say.  The last thing you want to do

is actually have to barter with your doctor.  Imagine this: you‘re going in

for a really important operation, and you have to—like you‘re going to

bargain him down.  And let‘s say you get a good deal.  How is he going to

feel going into the operating room? 

I want that guy to be really happy.  I don‘t want to have to have just

gone through some serious negotiating—negotiation with him or to have

filled up his office with a bunch of chickens. 

O‘DONNELL:  Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, and friend of

COUNTDOWN, thank you very much for co-hosting the first half of the show

tonight. 

MOORE:  Thank you very much for having me on.  I appreciate it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Newt Gingrich says the Tea Party doesn‘t have a

future as a third party, but it does as the militant wing of the GOP. 

Well, that settles that, then. 

And the future of energy consumption, how the U.S. military is leading

the U.S. away from fossil fuels.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  When Bill Clinton compared today‘s political climate with

the political climate around the time of the Oklahoma City bombing,

conservatives accused the former president of trying to smear Tea Party

protests.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, we patiently await what

those same conservatives will say about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

categorizing the Tea Party as potentially, quote, “militant,” end quote. 

Speaking at a trade event in central Pennsylvania, Mr. Gingrich called

the Tea Party movement “a natural expression of frustration with

Republicans and anger at Democrats.  But it is more likely to end up as the

militant wing of the Republican party, rather than an independent or third

party.”

Not all in the crowd agreed with Mr. Gingrich‘s description.  Tea

Party supporter Susan Livermore telling the “York Dispatch, “I wouldn‘t use

the word militant.” 

Also at odds with Newt Gingrich Gingrich‘s choice of words?  Newt

Gingrich.  Just last week, Gingrich spent Tax Day with Tea Partiers in

Austin, Texas.  There, he praised the movement as crucial to taking back

the White House and Congress.  He told attendees they were serving their

country through patriotism, right before signing the Tea Party pledge,

Contract From America. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: I‘m going to sign this myself as a

Tea Partier.  I think every one of you should feel comfortable saying to

the news media, saying to elected officials, we are American citizens, and

we have the right to gather, and we have the right to petition.  That was

the base on which America grew. 

And anybody who lacks respect for that should automatically be

defeated as being totally out of touch with the spirit that made America

great. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The perfect time to bring in the D.C. bureau chief for

“Mother Jones,” and columnist for “Politics Daily,” David Corn. 

David, so last week, Newt‘s calling himself a Tea Partier.  This week,

he dismisses the movement as a militant fringe.  So which Newt is right? 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, I‘m not sure when he called it

militant that was an insult.  I think there‘s always been a split

personality within Newt Gingrich, between the Newt that wants to see

himself as a statesman, and the Newt that wants to see himself as a bomb

thrower, which is how you recall he came to power back in the late ‘80s and

early ‘90s. 

So—but the important thing you hear is that he‘s talking about the

Tea Party as an extension of the Republican party, which polls show it is. 

O‘DONNELL:  And how is this likely to play with Tea Party operatives? 

Do they want to be seen, or at least temporarily, anyway, as more

independent of the Republican Party?  Does this get Newt in trouble with

the Tea Party movement? 

CORN:  Well, there was an interesting piece in “Politico” today that

made a somewhat obvious point that poll after poll after poll show that the

Tea Party folks are basically just Republicans.  You know, they identify as

Republicans or independents who lean Republican; 70 percent of them voted

for John McCain. 

So this isn‘t a third party, independent force rising out of the

ether, or descending from the ether.  It is basically ticked off

Republicans.  They‘re ticked off mainly at Obama.  And  they‘re ticked off

a little bit at the Republican party for not having defeated Obama.  So in

that way, there‘s not a lot of, I think, debate over whether they‘re going

to be Republicans or not, because I think, already, they are. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now does this put Newt in a crossfire with Sarah Palin? 

Is she warming up her Twitter account to clarify the Tea Party is not at

all militant?  Not in any way? 

CORN:  Listen.  I think that everybody, you know, on the Republican

party who has any idea of running in 2012 -- I don‘t know why Newt thinks

he can, but obviously he likes to at least imagine that he can—you know,

they want to have the Tea Party energy on their side.  It‘s really the only

base in the Republican party left.  I‘m not sure they have that much

energy, but—given the advanced age, the average advanced age of the tea

party types. 

But militant I think can be spun one way or the other.  Were the

people who took arms at Lexington and Concord militants?  You bet you.  You

can bet your chicken on that, Lawrence, if you want to go to the doctor‘s

office.  So I think this is a word game that Newt and Sarah Palin can spin

in whatever direction they want.  And I think a lot of the people I see at

the Tea Party rallies would be happy to be called militants, rebels, you

know, almost treasonous, if the government they‘re overthrowing is that of

Barack Obama. 

O‘DONNELL:  David Corn of “Mother Jones,” thanks for taking a stab at

deconstructing Newt Gingrich. 

CORN:  It‘s tough.  It‘s tough. 

O‘DONNELL:  It is. 

CORN:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Dick Cheney is on the hunt to take out Charlie

Crist in Florida.  But is the Cheney attack only making it easier for

Christ to jump ship and run as an independent? 

And the U.S. military today tested a fighter jet running on biofuel. 

How the armed forces are leading the way for energy independence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  The Dark Knight has made his choice in the Florida

Senatorial Republican Primary.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN,

former Vice President Dick Cheney likes Marco Rubio.  Cheney also takes a

nice, healthy swipe at Rubio‘s rival, Governor Charlie Crist.  And if Crist

really wants to be a senator, he will have better luck running as an

independent, according to the latest poll. 

Finally, what would a GOP segment be without RNC Chairman Michael

Steele, who admitted that there really is no reason for African-Americans

to vote Republican? 

First, the former vice president, who has now endorsed Rubio in that

Republican primary, and in a statement offered his view of Governor Crist. 

“Charlie Crist has shown, time and again, that he cannot be trusted in

Washington to take on the Obama agenda, because, on issue after issue, he

actually supports that agenda.  Lately, it seems Charlie Crist cannot be

trusted even to remain a Republican.  I strongly urge him to either stay in

the Republican primary or drop out of the race.  The only winners from an

independent bid by Crist would be Barack Obama and Harry Reid.” 

And, of course, maybe Charlie Crist.  But there is more evidence that

Governor Crist would fare better as an independent.  In a new Rasmussen

poll, Crist still trails Rubio, but not by much.  Rubio 37 percent, Crist

30 percent, and the Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, 22 percent.  But

Crist was 17 points behind Rubio in the same Rasmussen poll last month. 

So, by that measure, he is gaining real ground.  And a Quinnipiac poll from

last week had Crist ahead in a three-way race with Rubio and Meek. 

Meantime, Chairman Steele went before a group of students at Depaul

University and was asked why an African-American should vote Republican. 

His answer, “you really don‘t have a reason, to be honest.  We haven‘t done

a very good job of really giving you one.  True.  True.  For the last 40

years, 40-plus years, we had a southern strategy that alienated many

minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the south.  Well,

guess what happened in 1992, folks?  Bubba went back home to the Democratic

party and voted for Bill Clinton.”

Ahead on MSNBC, there will be much more on the political admissions of

Michael Steele when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour. 

But up next on COUNTDOWN, same old FA-18, whole new fuel, biofuel. 

The military is leading us into a brave new energy world.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  This year, for the first time, the United States Defense

Department acknowledged a national security threat posed by climate change

and our reliance on fossil fuels.  In our number one story, the good news

on this Earth Day is that unlike Congress, the Pentagon is doing something

about it.  Today saw the Navy‘s inaugural flight of a Green FA-18 Hornet

fueled in part by this: the Camalina Setina (ph) Plant.  It‘s in the

mustard family.  You may recall last month, when President Obama rolled out

his new oil drilling policy at Andrews Air Force Base, he used the hybrid

FA-18 Hornet as his backdrop. 

The jet, seen here taking off this afternoon at a Naval air station in

Maryland, is powered by a 50/50 blend of jet fuel and biofuel which is

produced by that plant.  The Pentagon expects the jet to perform exactly

the same as a fossil-fueled model.  And today‘s inaugural test flight went

of without a hitch. 

It was not, however, the Pentagon‘s first green test flight.  In

March, the Air Force flew their own hybrid plane, an A-10 Warthog. 

Beyond aircraft, there is also the Pentagon‘s green effort at Nevada‘s

Nellice (ph) Air Force base, which boasts what President Obama has called

the largest solar installation of its kind in the western hemisphere. 

The United States Army says it has plans to buy at least 4,000

electric vehicles in the next three years. 

And back to the Navy, last year, they launched their first hybrid

amphibious assault ship, the USS Macon Island.  Its maiden voyage, from

Mississippi around South America to San Diego, was fueled by gas and

electricity, and saved taxpayers two million dollars. 

Joe Romm is a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress, and

the editor of the blog ClimateProgress.org.  He is also the author of

“Straight Up, America‘s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on the Status Quo,

Media, Politicians, and Clean Energy Solutions.”

Joe, welcome to the show tonight.  How did the Pentagon end up leading

the way in our effort to get this country off fossil fuels? 

JOE ROMM, CENTER FOR AMERICA PROGRESS:  I‘m sure it strikes people as

a little odd, but there‘s three main reasons.  First, they‘re the biggest

energy user in the United States.  And they know that we just can‘t keep

sending a billion dollars a day overseas to buy foreign oil, a lot of it

from countries that don‘t like us.  So number one is, you know, it‘s just

bad national security to be funding our enemies. 

Secondly, you know, the biggest—the most exposed part of our

military on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan are the convoys of gasoline

trucks and diesel trucks.  So they understand that energy wasted at the

front means lives lost. 

And the third reason is the one you alluded to, the climate change. 

The generals have come to understand that one of the biggest sources of war

and strife in the future is going to be global warming causing, you know,

droughts and strife and fights over resources.  So the Pentagon‘s

responsible for, you know, fighting all those wars.  And if we can prevent

them by reducing pollution today, that‘s a big improvement for U.S.

national security. 

O‘DONNELL:  And how much encouragement or resistance is the Pentagon

getting from Congress on this? 

ROMM:  They‘re getting resistance from the usual sources, you know,

the conservative, big oil polluters, like Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. 

He said the only reason they‘re talking about national security and energy

is because they want to get back in the lime light.  But I think everyone

else understands that this is a matter of national security. 

They just did a poll that three out of four veterans of the Afghan and

Iraqi wars support strong action on climate and clean energy.  It‘s just a

matter that makes sense; energy independence, clean air, clean water,

reduce pollution. 

O‘DONNELL:  Is there anything developing technologically in the

military that will have spin-offs that are usable in the private sector? 

ROMM:  Well, you know, remember, the military helped give us the

semiconductor revolution by helping make major purchases.  And NASA bought

solar cells for all the space missions.  So yeah, the military can make a

big difference through large purchases of solar cells, of energy

efficiency, and, as you mentioned in the beginning, the Green Hornet buying

these green fuels can help jump start that market. 

O‘DONNELL:  Just looking forward quickly on what‘s left of the

legislative year in the Congress, what do you see happening on energy

legislation? 

ROMM:  Well, Monday‘s going to be the big day.  Monday is when we are

going to get the bipartisan climate clean energy jobs legislation,

introduced by Senator Kerry, Senator Lieberman and conservative Senator

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  It‘s going to be a bipartisan bill. 

People who want to follow it closely, they can come to my blog

ClimateProgress.org, where I track the matter.  This is going to be the

first piece of legislation in two decades that can reduce pollution and

promote clean energy. 

So it‘s going to be an uphill battle, as I‘m sure you know, to get 60

votes.  But I think it‘s a big deal. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe Romm of ClimateProgress.org and author of “Straight

Up,” thanks very much for your time tonight. 

ROMM:  Thanks for having me, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  That will have to do it for this Burbank edition of

COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann, who will be

back tomorrow.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “THE RACHEL MADDOW

SHOW.”  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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