updated 5/18/2010 11:20:52 AM ET 2010-05-18T15:20:52

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Rep. Ed Markey, David Corn

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

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

you be talking about tomorrow?

As the former chief of gas and oil leases in the Gulf quits the

MMS, the new B.P. siphon system has cut the oil spill by nearly 2

percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We should be able to get more than 1,000

barrels a day.

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OLBERMANN:  Out of an estimated 50,000 barrels a day.  It‘s a

straw in a swimming pool, a bendy straw in a swimming pool.

Why won‘t B.P. bring in outside scientists?  With Congressman Ed

Markey.  When does the government cut out B.P. altogether?  With David

Corn.

Only James Bond did a better job of beating Specter—Joe Biden

in Pennsylvania on the eve of the Democratic senatorial primary, not

campaigning.

Richard Wolffe on Arlen Specter, Blanche Lincoln and the rest.

The Alter tapes—

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We had gallows

humor the day after the election, when Axelrod said, you know, I really

feel bad that we‘ve done this to you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The interviews and the interviewer behind Jonathan

Alter‘s book “The Promise.”  And the stunner: everybody in the White

House wanted to skip health care reform except for one guy.

“Tea Time”: and the state of Hawaii can now legally ignore

requests for copies of the president‘s birth certificate.  The birthers

might now have to find jobs.

And the crackpots crack further.  Lonesome Rhodes is having

static visions again, burning bushes, hearing voices, seeing a finger—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  It is God‘s finger that wrote the

Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  This is God‘s

country.  These are God‘s rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That finger is not the finger you think it is.

And little “Miss Bendy Straws” endorses racial profiling and

hatred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  It‘s time for Americans

across this great country to stand up and say, “We‘re all Arizonians

now.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, actually, Arizona says it‘s time for Americans in

this great country to stand up and say: “No, really, we‘re Americans. 

We have papers.”

That woman is an idiot.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  If you thought pit bulls were tough—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Finally, from the great undulating blob of oil in the Gulf of

Mexico tonight—a glimmer.  The removal of a large deposit of gunk,

part of a year‘s long buildup, specifically the retirement of a

government regulator whose previous failures are estimated to have cost

the taxpayers $10 billion.

The other good news—in our fifth story tonight—B.P. 

succeeding in getting a mile-long pipe into the gushing hole.  B.P. is

now pumping the oil to a collection ship on the surface at a rate of

1,000 barrels a day—nearly, 2 percent of the estimated best case

scenario that the spill is gushing at least 50,000 barrels a day.

A research ship this weekend is reporting an unknown number of

oil plumes far beneath the surface.  One estimated it 10 miles long,

three miles wide and 300 feet thick.  Computer models estimating that

oil is already in or about to be in the current known as “The Loop,”

which would take it to the Florida Keys and more of the Atlantic Coast.

In testimony today, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano

defended the administration‘s response to the spill, saying chemical

dispersants have been approved to break up the plumes.

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JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  The EPA has

approved the undersea use of dispersants.  As I mentioned in my

statement, this is very novel.  It‘s being done in a very controlled way

because every time we do something like that you have to—you know,

you have you to explore kind of the environmental tradeoffs that are

being made.  But EPA has a very rigorous protocol for how that will be

done, and the continuous monitoring that will happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This, as Louisiana officials complain the

administration ignored their questions about the dispersants and those

tradeoffs -- 436,000 gallons of dispersants already dumped into the

gulf; another 800,000 on order.  It‘s the same dispersant used on the

Valdez spill after which cleanup workers reported heart problems,

including liver and kidney disorders.

The dispersant, Corexit, sold by a company whose board members

include members of Exxon‘s board and B.P.  The environmental news site,

Green Wire, reporting, despite Napolitano‘s assurances about EPA rigor,

that B.P., free to choose any approved dispersant, went with Corexit—

that Corexit with an X—despite the fact that most other approved

dispersants were both less toxic and more effective on southern

Louisiana crude, 100 percent effective in some cases compared to about

60 percent for Corexit.

The Transocean, operator of the rig, announcing Friday $1 billion

in dividends for its investors and now being sued by shareholders who

claim that the company knew about the failures by the blowout preventer

prior to last month‘s failure but covered them up.  One whistleblower

telling “60 Minutes” that a chunk of this blowout preventer‘s part of

this rubber seal was sheared off in an accident four weeks before the

blowout and nothing was done about it.

As we mentioned, the man in charge of offshore leasing at MMS,

the Minerals Management Service, Chrys Oynes, we learned today

submitting his resignation just after the explosion.  Oynes appointed to

the post by then MMS director Johnnie Burton in 2007, promoted by

Burton, a Wyoming oil acquaintance of Vice President Cheney, despite or

because of the fact that on his watch, MMS leases and let oil companies

walk off with $10 billion in taxpayer money.

We‘re now joined by Congressman Ed Markey, the Democrat of

Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy

Independence and Global Warming.

Great thanks for your time tonight, Congressman.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  We asked B.P. on Friday whether or not they had the

backup devices that are acoustic switches on the two relief wells that

they were putting into that site, and whether the blowout preventers on

those rigs had been checked out by government regulators so the same

thing didn‘t happen all over again.  And the answer we got from B.P. 

was: “We don‘t know.”

How are you doing getting your information from them?

MARKEY:  Well, as we know, B.P. certified last summer that they

could handle a spill 50 times greater than the one they claim is

happening right now.  And so, in answer to your question, I think it‘s

pretty clear they‘re making it up.  When you talk about shooting golf

balls down to clog up this hole, when you talk about nylons and hair to

sop up the oil, it‘s pretty clear that they spent a lot of money on new

drills, but they didn‘t spend a lot of money in dealing with what

happens if those drills don‘t work.

OLBERMANN:  This issue of the dispersants—why is the EPA

letting B.P. chose dispersants made by a company that they have a tie to

and, obviously, that presents at least the appearance of a conflict of

interest, especially when the local officials are having their questions

about the efficacy and the safety of the dispersant?

MARKEY:  Well, I wrote a letter to the EPA today on the issue of

the dispersants.  We have to learn a lot more about this science

experiment which is being conducted in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are in

all new territory, and I think that the American people have to know a

lot more about it.

And I‘m going to make sure that Congress gets the answers early

on before we go too far down this track of shooting these chemicals into

the water, which could have long-term catastrophic consequences that

invoke the law of unattended consequences.  We just don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Markey, why exactly do we need B.P. to

get anything done here?  Seems they‘ve done enough.  Why not just bring

in people to estimate the size and the location of the plumes and attend

to them and then hand B.P. a bill afterwards?  Why is B.P. running the

show?

MARKEY:  My opinion, I think that we should have independent

people in.  I think that there are experts from Woods Hole to MIT, to

Cal Tech down in the universities in the Gulf Region who are ready,

willing and able to move in, and give the long-term scientific expertise

to solve these problems.

But so far, B.P. is pretending that this is just one big

privatized program that doesn‘t need outside help.  But I think the

evidence is clear that they don‘t know what they‘re doing.  And I think

the quicker we get in the independent scientists is, the quicker we‘re

going to bring an end to this catastrophe.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re assuming it can‘t be a coincidence that Mr. 

Oynes is out and we find out about this now and he resigned right after

the explosion on this rig.  He‘d been promoted after he told

investigators he did not remember the oil companies telling—

themselves telling him about the $10 billion mistake—the taxpayer

money that they got in addition to what they deserved.

Why was he, in your opinion, still running things a year and a

half after the president had put in former Senator Salazar to clean

things up at that administration?

MARKEY:  Well, a lot of the decisions, as you‘re putting out,

were made during the Bush administration or during the time that

President Obama was putting his own people over there right up through

last July.  So, unfortunately, we‘re still living with the consequences

of decisions that were made by Bush appointees right up through the

middle of last year when President Obama was finally able to put his own

people in.  And his resignation is just an indication of how cozy the

cooperation was between the Bush administration and the oil industry.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Ed Markey, the Democrat of Massachusetts

great thanks for your time tonight and good luck as you pursue this,

sir.

      

MARKEY:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to David Corn, the Washington bureau

chief for “Mother Jones” magazine, columnist of PoliticsDaily.com.

David, good evening.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES” MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What should we conclude from the latitude that the

administration continues to extend to B.P. during this crisis?

CORN:  Well, I think one thing that we can conclude is that the

federal government is just not equipped to deal with the disaster of

this magnitude.  Robert Gibbs told us in the press room a couple days

ago: listen, if we had some super secret submarine that we—the

federal government, that we could take down to the bottom of the ocean

floor and fix this, we would.

This—you know, this is, as you‘ve noted already, a problem of

regulatory laxness in the administration‘s past.  The whole point is,

this is where the phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a—you

know, a pound of cure.”  The federal government‘s responsibility is to

make sure that corporations, if they‘re going to engage in these

endeavors, do it responsibly and correctly.

But as we know, the regulations for offshore drilling have not

been changed since 1978.  And so, regulations that were written to

basically govern drilling a couple miles out and a couple hundred feet

of water have nothing to do with what happens when you get 42 miles out

and you go 1,000 -- go a mile deep.

So, that‘s been the big government failure.  And I think now, the

Obama administration feels probably a bit impotent in terms of doing the

actual work of the cleanup.  There aren‘t a lot of people out there who

know how to get to the bottom of the ocean floor.

OLBERMANN:  Well, then, that begs the question about how we‘re

allowing—as a government or as a people, how we‘re allowing a system

to be in place in which there is no independent corrective.  Is that—

I mean, don‘t have you to essentially shut down nearly all offshore

drilling at least at that depth without some sort of new system?

CORN:  Yes.  I think at this point in time, you have to shut it

down and have you to say: Listen, you guys out there who are doing this

drilling, do you have any idea how to handle this problem?  Or, what I

like to see in any review, the other 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 problems of this

type that could also go wrong in an operation of this sort.

It‘s quite clear that MMS, you know, never thought along those

lines, and you had—you know, this happened through Republican and

Democratic administrations.  You know, it was Clinton years, the Bush

years, the Reagan years, and now, it‘s Obama‘s responsibility as he

tries to, you know, do whatever he can to force B.P. or anybody else to

do the cleanup to make sure that we‘re not put into this position again.

OLBERMANN:  But once again, you just hit another key here: B.P. 

forced to do the cleanup.  This is not a company—

CORN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  This is not like a company that just had a really bad

bit of luck for the first time in its history.  It‘s a criminal history

here.  It goes from price manipulation -- 

CORN:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  -- to the safety violations in and after Texas City -

which we‘re showing here—the refinery fire there.

      

Can you think of another set of circumstances in which the

criminals get to clean up after and investigate what might turn out to

be the latest crime?  I mean, how often do we let the murderers draw the

chalk lines around their own victims?

CORN:  Listen, we see this again and again in corporate America. 

Companies that have deadly explosions, petrochemical companies, nuclear

power utilities that have safety mishaps or near-accidents, you know,

they may pay a fine, they may get a slap on the wrist from regulators,

but they‘re allowed to stay in business.  And even, better yet, the

people in charge of those companies, the actual individuals, don‘t see

personal liability in most instances.

So, we have a system that‘s really easy for corporations who are

engaged in very dangerous work to game and to sort of—they can pursue

their profits.  They get to keep them.  They pay maybe little taxes. 

They try to avoid that.  But if something goes wrong, we all pay the

real price.

OLBERMANN:  David Corn of “Mother Jones” and PoliticsDaily.com—

as always, David, great thanks.

CORN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Sestak, 42, Specter 41 -- the president not providing

a last-minute miracle of a campaign appearance for the senior senator

from Pennsylvania, but did he did record a robocall for him.  And for

Senator Lincoln on the eve of her primary?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Do you believe in signs, switching parties a year

before the election and slipping a couple of times and implying you were

still in your old party, and then the day of your primary, your new

party‘s president will fly over your state but he will not land long

enough to just say, vote for this guy.  Bad signs.  Primary eve with

Richard Wolffe.

The colloquy is on tape and in Jonathan Alter‘s new book, “I

begged him not to do this,” says one key adviser about health care.  “I

think we can get it done,” said the title character.

Bad time for tea party, bad time for birthers.  The Republican

governor of Hawaii signs a law allowing her state to ignore them. 

Damned liberal power structure.

And, “We are all Arizonians,” says little Miss Bendy Straws. 

Yes?  Well, then, show me your papers, please.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tomorrow, Democrats in Pennsylvania will decide if

Senator Arlen Specter is their kind of Democrat or whether they even see

him as a Democrat at all.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The five-term formerly

Republican senator is even with his primary opponent, Congressman Joe

Sestak.

In Arkansas, Senator Blanche Lincoln is about to discover if her

tepid and highly conditional support of health care reform, among other

issues, will end her senatorial career.

In Pennsylvania, with the primary election tomorrow, Congressman

Sestak leads Senator Specter 42 to 41.  In the latest Quinnipiac Poll,

it‘s a statistical tie, obviously, 16 percent undecided.

Senator Specter is still struggling to portray himself as a

Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I had a clear shot at re-

election.  If I had stayed with the obstructionist Republican Caucus, I

would have been re-elected easily, especially in an out-year when the

party out of power is favored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nevertheless, Congressman Sestak has drawn even with

Specter in part by featuring Specter‘s own words from April of last year

in a political advertisement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Joe

Sestak, the Democrat.  I authorize this message.

SPECTER:  My change in party will enable me to be re-elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  President Obama meantime did not campaign for Senator

Specter although Specter‘s campaign confirms the president has recorded

a robocall on Specter‘s behalf that went out to 100,000 homes.  The

White House is reportedly privately bracing for Specter to lose,

according to CBS‘ Bob Schieffer, via Greg Sargent.

Vice President Biden did not campaign for Specter in the final

stretch either, although the vice president has done radio interviews on

his behalf.

Another Democratic primary tomorrow, this one in Arkansas, will

determine whether or not Senator Lincoln will be denied another term by

the voters of her own party.  The senator needs to surpass 50 percent to

avoid a runoff.  But against two other Democratic primary opponents, she

has been polling only in the high 40s.

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also

the author of “Renegade: The Making of a President.”

Richard, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN:  When Senator Specter switched from the Republicans to

the Democrats, he expected support from the Democratic establishment. 

We talked at length about what the deal might have been, and for the

most part, he got the support and they got what they need from him,

particularly in health care.  But President Obama hasn‘t actually

campaigned for Specter and will be flying over the state on primary day

-- that doesn‘t sound like that‘s a full deal there.

WOLFFE:  Yes, you know how hard it is to schedule a stop just

across the state line.

Look, here‘s the deal: The White House feels very ambivalent. 

It‘s not usual, by the way, for White Houses of any color to get

involved in a state—a party primary.  So, not that unusual.  What was

actually unusual was hearing the vice president say he was going to show

up and do something for Specter and then a few days later it turns out

he‘s not going to make it, either.

But, in the end, there is this ambivalence in the White House and

that‘s because they still need Specter‘s vote.  They understand the

polls—just like everyone else—Specter is looking in a much worse

situation than Sestak when you put him up against the Republican, Pat

Toomey.  So, in the end, they don‘t care which one of these candidates

wins, they want to hold on to the seat.

And, frankly, both of these individuals have what they say in

polite political circles, an independent mind.  But to you and I, it

just means that they‘re difficult to work with.

OLBERMANN:  How situation—how dire is that situation for

Specter at the moment?  Would a high turnout in a closed primary benefit

Specter or would it benefit Sestak?

WOLFFE:  Well, let‘s just be honest here.  It‘s going to be a low

turnout and there are two schools of thought here.  One low turnout

should help Sestak in the sense that he has an edge in enthusiasm.  If

there‘s an enthusiastic turnout, generally, people want to kick out the

bums—in this case, the bum is the Republican-turned-Democrat,

whatever you want to call him, that‘s Arlen Specter.

On the other side, there are folks on in the White House who say

the party machine in Pennsylvania is behind Specter.  And nobody, at

least of all folks in the White House, vote against or would bet against

the machine of people like Ed Rendell, because they know two years ago

when Rendell swung behind Hillary Clinton, they were toast as well.

OLBERMANN:  Now, it‘s kind of a different situation in Arkansas

with Senator Lincoln.  Her problems: organized labor, many other

progressive elements in the state aligned against her sufficiently to

dethrone her or just to force her into a runoff?

WOLFFE:  It looks like they‘re going to damage her.  I mean,

remember, the labor folks are campaigning essentially on the single

issue of Employee Free Choice, sometimes known as “card check.” 

Obviously, progressives don‘t like her position on the public option,

but she‘s also got conservative Democrats and there are still plenty of

them in Arkansas, who don‘t like her ultimate vote for health care

reform.

So, it looks like she‘s going to be weakened and challenged, but

she has run a campaign which, frankly again, the White House does not

particularly enjoy, where she‘s taking potshots at them, at Washington

in general.  But she is—she seems to be navigating the path to being

bloodied and bruised but ultimately a survivor.

OLBERMANN:  The Republican side of this, in Kentucky—the

establishment or more establishments, the choice is Trey Grayson,

probably going to lose despite Mitch McConnell‘s endorsement, support. 

And the theme of the Republican primaries has largely been establishment

versus tea party.  Is there some sort of ideological fight in the

Democratic primaries that‘s even close to the level on the Republican

side or are these spot for spot kind of dustups?

WOLFFE:  There is an ideological edge but it‘s nothing the same. 

The remarkable irony here is that Mitch McConnell can have such success

at keeping discipline with his Republican Caucus in Washington.  And

yet, in his home state, his leadership is challenged to the point where,

really, his candidate is doomed right now.

You know, this is a failure of his leadership.  It shows that the

point we‘ve been making all through this year on this show, that the tea

party is a danger to the Republican establishment is true.  These guys

are taking down incumbents of all types.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC analyst, Richard Wolffe, the author of

“Renegade”—as always, Richard, thanks for your time tonight.  Have a

good night.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Recent history rewritten—only one White House

figure supported pushing for health care reform in 2009, and 2010.  Want

to take a guess which one?  Want to guess as to who led the opposition

inside the White House?  Jonathan Alter with explosive details from his

new book, “The Promise”—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Jon Alter‘s “The Promise” and his promise to play for

you some of the interviews on which his new book about the president‘s

first year is based.

First, the tweet of the Day from Anitajac, “OK, try to get Sarah

Palin for your show?  What I wouldn‘t pay for that.  I‘ve asked Rachel

to do it as well.”  OK, Ms. Palin says she‘ll do it, as long as it‘s not

on MSNBC and as long as it is on FOX.  As long as it‘s not me or Rachel,

as long as it‘s Hannity and as long as she can edit out anything she

doesn‘t like.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

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OLBERMANN:  We begin in Tokyo at the wedding of Satoko Inoue and

Tomohiro Shibata, officiated by a robot.  That‘s the I-Fairy robot to be

exact.  Do you male carbon-based life—OK.  Take this female carbon

based life form.

The bride works for a company that makes the I-Fairy.  You might

want to repackage that idea for the name of the thing.  Since she

planned the wedding, she picked the officiant, the I-Fairy, which

normally serves as a visitors‘ guide at museums, conflicting the story

sufficiently, it was reprogrammed to lead the couple as they changed

their wedding vows after a rumba served as the ring bearer.

When the ceremony was over, the couple and their families retire

to the reception hall.  The robot was not invited.

Nor was the dancing dog—which partied outside with some sweet

techno beats.  Or perhaps the noise was so loud he couldn‘t hold still.

Actually, this video has nothing to do with the I-Fairy.  It‘s

just a dog getting down.  Who can‘t get behind that?  And that‘s exactly

enough.

Jonathan Alter and his new book “The Promise,” the tapes from it,

and the rather jarring account from the president on what the plans were

had his inauguration been attacked.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A president who sternly dressed down military

leaders who were testing him, a president who, contrary to the portrayal

of the opposition, said, quote, “what I have no interest in doing is

running GM,” and a president who, in pushing for health care reform,

when it seemed most at peril, did not ignore the remarkable fact of his

own election, quoting, “My name is Barack Hussein Obama and I‘m sitting

here.  So yes, I‘m feeling pretty lucky.” 

Our third story tonight, Jonathan Alter joins me to talk about his

new book, “The Promise.”  That feeling lucky moment for the president

coming after week during August of last year in which White House Chief

of Staff Rahm Emanuel tried to convince him to settle for a severely

scaled down version of the health care plan.  Emanuel telling Alter,

quote, “I begged him not to do this.  The president told advisers,

quote, I think we can get it done.” 

And in the potentially higher stakes theater of war, the president

felt manipulated.  Quoting the book, “in the first week of October 2009,

Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen

were summoned to the Oval Office.  In a cold fury, Obama said he wanted

to know, here and now, if the Pentagon would be on board with any

presidential decision and could faithfully implement it.” 

As for the entirety of the mess that Obama inherited from his

predecessor, the president was candid in his interview with Jon for the

book. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I said during the

transition that my political capital would go down pretty rapidly.  I

actually think that it has held up better than I expected.  We had

gallows humor the day after the election when Axelrod said, “you know, I

really feel bad that we‘ve done this to you.”   

JONATHAN ALTER, AUTHOR, “THE PROMISE”:  You talked about being a

one-term president before the election. 

OBAMA:  We knew we were going to have this huge mess to clean up,

and it was going to require really difficult decisions.  So the fact

that my political capital got spent down fairly quickly—I mean, even

the decision before I was elected for me to lobby Congress to free up

the second tranche of Tarp, which at that point everybody knew was

political suicide—but as I said, we had no idea whether or not you

were going to see successive collapses of other major financial

institutions that would require intervention. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, “Newsweek Magazine‘s” national affairs

columnist, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, and author of “The

Promise, President Obama Year One.”  Good evening, Jon. 

ALTER:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The health care reform thing first, the exchange

between the president and Rahm Emanuel.  But besides that, essentially

everybody in the White House was lined up against doing this last year

and this year? 

ALTER:  This was one of the most stunning things that I found, was

at the beginning in 2009, Vice President Biden said, don‘t do this now. 

We‘ve got to prevent a Depression first.  The people will understand. 

Rahm Emanuel, as you saw, said, “I begged the president not to do this.” 

That‘s what he told me. 

The Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina

Roemer, argued against it.  Chuck Schumer on the Hill and others argued

against it.  They said, Mr. President, you only promised in the campaign

to do this by the end of your first four years.  You don‘t have to do it

now. 

And Obama proceeded essentially alone.  I asked him, why?  Why did

you do this in year one?  He said, I told Nancy Pelosi that I‘d go down

ten to 15 points in the polls, as he did, and I might be a one-term

president, but we had to do this.  And he said if we didn‘t do it now,

it wouldn‘t happen.  And he had said to himself on election night in

November 2008, if I can do one thing for the average person, what would

it be.  And his answer, even though he hadn‘t campaigned on it that

much, was health care. 

OLBERMANN:  The impression I got when I talked to him last year was

that there had been something of a learning curve in a hurry about the

idea that the Republicans would not engage him, in any good faith way,

on this particular issue, in fact on almost all issues, including the

desperate nature of the economy.  Was there—does he feel that there

was a learning curve?  And does he feel that because he was essentially

on his own in the White House, that perhaps these two factors may have

reduced his ability to get a stronger package? 

ALTER:  Well, he wouldn‘t quite cop to that.  And what I tried to

do in the book is take you behind that closed door of the Oval Office,

into the Situation Room.  And I talked to a lot of aides and other

people who dealt with him to get what he said when the cameras were off. 

And some of them admitted we should have said to Baucus earlier, “it‘s

over, Max,” and tried to move the bill.  They also completely messed up

the messaging. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

ALTER:  They had, as Valerie Jarrett conceded—and the president

did concede on this—the wrong vocabulary all year long on framing it. 

They completely mishandled seniors, who were sort of scared by this,

even though this was a good thing for them, and they‘ve been loyal to

the Democratic party in the past.  So there were plenty of mistakes. 

And I tried to paint a full picture, not just health care, but on all

the various issues that he confronted. 

OLBERMANN:  To one of those, the military leaders—the story in

here about the military leaders testing the president on Afghanistan. 

You have no doubts in your mind that it was a test and the response was

a passing grade on the president‘s part? 

ALTER:  He pushed back hard.  Now, Joe Biden wanted him to fire

somebody over this, because essentially what you had was in the middle

of the process, before they had decided what to do in Afghanistan, you

had the Pentagon essentially out there—you know, McChrystal and

others giving speeches saying it has to be 80,000 open-ended

counterinsurgency commitment.  And that they couldn‘t support Biden if

the president opted to go with the Biden plan, a much reduced plan. 

That‘s essentially insubordination, Keith.  He comes back.  He

pushes back very hard and says, you‘re doing a great disservice to the

men and women in uniform.  I want to know here and now that this

behavior will change.  They gave him those assurances.  So, I had—and

then there was another confrontation with General Petraeus inside the

Situation Room. 

So, I talked to a tremendous number of people who were at these

meetings, some of them larger meetings, some of them quite small, to

paint a picture of what was described to me as the sharpest

confrontation between a president and the military since Truman fired

MacArthur in 1951. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  This, fortunately, is almost anecdotal in the

book, but obviously it‘s your Harrison Ford stars in “Air Force One”

moment.  Back to Inauguration and reports, as there always are now, the

possibility of a terrorist attack.  There were plans and there was a

debate over what the plans should be if something would happen during

the speech? 

ALTER:  There were meeting between the outgoing Bush folks and the

incoming Obama National Security team because of what was considered to

be a very serious al Qaeda-connected threat coming out of Kenya, of all

places, where Obama‘s father was from.  And Obama canceled some of his

rehearsals for his Inaugural. 

But Hillary Clinton first raised the point that you‘re not

suggesting that we would interrupt the swearing in of the president,

even if a bomb goes off.  That‘s just not possible.  We will not let

terrorists disrupt this Inauguration, and Obama agreed. 

OLBERMANN:  She put it more colorfully than that, didn‘t she,

according to your book? 

ALTER:  She essentially said that, you know, even if something went

off—she was a little bit almost sarcastic about the idea of—

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, that‘s going to happen? 

ALTER:  Yeah, that‘s going to happen.  We‘re really going to cancel

this thing?  And it turned out that the threat receded by the time of

the inauguration. 

OLBERMANN:  A quick point about her.  I get rather the impression

that they now—many people went into this about her being secretary of

state like, uh-oh, and now everybody‘s saying it‘s one of the best

decision that she and he made.  Correct? 

ALTER:  Yes.  And at the beginning, and not surprisingly, quite a

number of the Obama advisers were against it.  They raised all kinds of

objections.  There had been very hard feelings left over from the

campaign.  And finally Obama said, look, she‘s the best qualified, and

kind of put an end to it. 

And I go through—the transition was tumultuous.  They went

there, as one person put it, from singing Kumbaya to the theme song from

“Jaws” by the end of the transition.  They excluded Joe Biden from a lot

of the personnel meetings because of his big mouth.  But later, he

really earned the president‘s trust and he was very important in those

Afghanistan deliberations. 

OLBERMANN:  The book is “The Promise, President Obama Year One.” 

It‘s in bookstores tomorrow.  Congratulations on a great read, Jon, and

thanks for sharing it with us beforehand. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Take care.  The man who throws the word “Nazi” around

like it was a super ball announces he‘s sick and tired of being called a

Nazi.  Well, I can‘t speak to tired, Glenn. 

Worst, good for the people of Nashville not being all pushy and

uppity during their disaster, he says, you know, the way people were in

other cities. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she will be

joined by Governor Ed Rendell to talk about the Arizona immigration law

and how immigration never has worked as an election issue for the GOP.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Lonesome Rhodes insisting America should say our family

doesn‘t accept stuff we didn‘t earn, as he accepts an honorary degree,

ahead.  First, no, that‘s not your water coming to a boil.  It‘s our

nightly checkup on the something for nothing crowd.  It‘s Tea Time. 

The shark is jumped slowly.  The wheels wobble for a long time

before coming off.  Orly Tates reports that she and Michele Bachmann

both spoke at a Tea Party event Friday in California.  Look, there‘s

even a picture.  Cheese for brains. 

Ms. Tates reveals neither of them talked Birther Talk.  “It is my

ode to the new law just signed in Hawaii,” signed by its right wing

governor, which has really left the Tea Party Birthers feeling like one

of those Apocalyptic cults after the universal expiration date has

passed, again. 

The Hawaii Department of Health says it gets about 50 requests for

President Obama‘s birth certificate per month.  But only four or five

different people send them in per year.  The Freedom of Information Act

provides an out if the state can determine and prove it is just getting

nuisance requests.  Hawaii determined just that.  The Department of

Health there can now simply ignore further requests.  And worst yet,

Governor Linda Lingle, whose political views are not exactly a day at

Waikiki beach from a progressive point of view, say she and the state

health director had both personally viewed Obama‘s certificate of live

birth. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR LINDA LINGLE ®, HAWAII:  The president was, in fact,

born at Kapi‘Olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.  And that‘s just a

fact. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And at that point, somewhere steam started to come off

a Birther who cried, look what you‘ve done.  I‘m melting.  I‘m melting. 

What a world, what a world.  (INAUDIBLE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the next step up from over the top?  Over the

Moon?  Lonesome Rhodes Beck and Little Miss Bendy Straws go over the

Moon.  Our quote and rebut segment next, rapid response, next.  

That‘s next, as I said.  But first, tonight‘s worst persons in the

world. 

The bronze to Chris Myers of Fox Sports, filling in on a radio

program.  Ahem.  Sharing with us what he thought was the best of the

weekend.  “It‘s a great country here.  We have disastrous issues where

people pull themselves together and help themselves.  And I thought the

people in Tennessee, unlike—and I‘m not going to name names—when a

natural disaster hits, people were not standing on a roof top trying to

blame the government.  OK, they helped each other out through this. 

Middle Tennessee, where a lot of hard working, taxpaying, legal American

citizens have been affected by the floods, and they‘re trying to rebuild

their lives, and they‘re helping out.  And I think the people around the

country—of course, this music industry in and around Nashville

helping without making a big deal out of it.  And I think that‘s a good

thing.  I know you will.” 

That‘s a lot of insults against blacks and Hispanics and the people

of New Orleans and a lot of political dribble who‘s biggest test is

usually getting through a 45-second side line report without blinking so

many damn times that his head falls off.  Heart of an assassin, aim of

Squeaky Fromme (ph).

The runner up, Sean Hannity, reporting to you live from the

parallel universe.  Told his sheep, quote, about President Obama, “he‘s

cutting troops‘ pay right now as we speak.  He‘s cutting back on the

military spending now as we speak.  The only area he wants to cut is the

military.” 

In fact, the new Pentagon budget has an increase of 1.4 percent for

troops and an increase of military spending of 3.4 percent.  That‘s 18

billion dollars.  Where did Hannity get his news of military cuts?  His

heiney. 

But our winner, Newt Gingrich, who has another book coming out,

might be a coloring book.   We‘re not sure.  Who got raked over the

coals on Fox?  New Gingrich did.

Chris Wallace, “you also write this—and let‘s put it up on the

screen—quote, ‘the secular socialist machine represents as great a

threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.‘  Mr. 

Speaker, respectfully, isn‘t that wildly over the top?” 

Newt, “no, not if by America you mean—just listen to President

Obama‘s language.  He gets to decide who earns how much.  He gets to

decide when it‘s too much.” 

Wallace, “no, he‘s not.  He‘s said that some Americans earn too

much.”

Look, it‘s one thing for an over-heated carnival clown like Beck to

compare Obama to a Nazi.  But when a former speaker of the House does it

-- admittedly a former speaker of the House who was forced out by his

own party while he was trying to force out the other party‘s president,

and admittedly a former speaker of the House whose poll numbers are as

bad today as they were the day he quit, and admittedly a former speaker

of the House who‘s talked about shredding the First—never mind.  When

a former speaker of the House like that tries to compare Obama to the

Nazis, it‘s just as buffoonish as when the over-heated carnival clown

does it. 

Newt Gingrich, over-heated carnival clown, today‘s worst person in

the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was William Hurt as the character Ned Racine in the

1981 movie “Body Heat” who would unknowingly prophesied the politics of

this nation 29 years hence.  Our number one story, sometimes the spit

comes down so heavy I feel like I should wear a hat.  The half-governor

of Alaska and Lonesome Rhodes Beck both emerged from their caves over

the weekend to hit the nation with double barrels of the kind of corn

clone simplistic brain washing for which they have become infamous. 

Each addressed the National Rifle Association‘s Celebration of American

Values Forum in North Carolina.  Palin also appeared alongside embattled

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, and Beck gave the commencement address at

Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University.  Wearing that backwards.

The sap in the trees rises come spring, and so do the saps in our

national discourse.  Let‘s apply our rapid response system of separating

the wheat from the chaff, content-wise.  Still looking for the first

wheat, by the way.  We start with Sister Sarah doing what she does best,

assuming that the caricatures of reality that exist inside her own brain

are accepted, provable fact. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Some of these anti-hunting

activists are in love with kind of a Disney cartoon version of animals. 

And they‘re against harvesting this resource, this wildlife resource,

because they think we‘re killing Bambi‘s mother.  And I don‘t know how

to break this to them without sounding heartless, because I do love

animals, but here is the truth: Bambi‘s mother is dinner. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bambi‘s mother, the other white meat.  After that

warning, she had a few laughs, spent two and a half minutes reading “you

might be a redneck jokes” off her Blackberry.  You thought I was going

to say hand, didn‘t you? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  If you saved a lot of money on your Honeymoon by going

hunting—we did.  It was August.  It was hunting season.  So we did. 

See, I‘m reading these going, what did they open my diaries and read

this? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Wait for the Drudge headline: Palin, they‘re opening my

diaries and reading them.  Back to Mrs. Palin presently.  First, we‘ll

see the NRA‘s other featured speaker, in what appears to have been some

sort of a competition to prove its claim that guns don‘t kill people,

people kill people.  Paranoid people kill people. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The old hatreds are starting to come

back in Europe.  And that‘s not who we are.  And I am sick and tired of

being called a Nazi because that‘s not the right in this country.  The

right in this country is small government.  Naziism is national

socialist worker‘s union.  It‘s giant government. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yell louder and move your hands more if you want to not

be mistaken for a Nazi.  Even at Liberty University, of course, there

was some kid out there in the audience who actually took a history

course, that showed that the Nazis weren‘t some sort of union, and were

as about as socialist as Mary Matalin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  They‘re dividing us.  I‘ve got news for you.  If the people

will pull their heads out of the sand and actually look at the people we

have running our country—these are not Democrats.  These are

revolutionaries.  They are Marxist revolutionaries.  They are not

Democrats.  We need to make sure we reach out to the good Democrats and

say, are you a revolutionary Marxist?  No.  Good, then stand up, man. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Wait.  I‘m confused.  Am I one of the people running

this country or one of the people with their heads in the sand?  Or am I

running this country while my head is in the sand?  Am I supposed to

stand up only if I‘m a Marxist revolutionary?  Or am I supposed to stand

up only if I‘m not a Marxist revolutionary?  Or am I supposed to stand

only if I‘ve had enough of your damn speech? 

Meanwhile, back at the waterworks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  A scripture that changed my life was Ezekiel 33.  “I don‘t

want to be the man who brings the news.  There are many things that I

say that I do not want to say.  But each of us, as we come to the

understanding of what time it is, we have a responsibility, for the

blood of everyone who could have heard our voice will be on our hands.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, verily, at that time, it is written in the Book

of Obadiah (ph), a man shall strike his donkey and his nephew‘s donkey,

and anyone in the vicinity of his nephew or the donkey. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  It is God‘s finger that wrote the Declaration of the

Independence and the Constitution.  This is God‘s country.  These are

God‘s rights.  I have no idea what he wants us to do with them other

than protect them and stand with him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How he sacrificed for your desire to not pay your full

share of taxes.  He did not even make it for himself a holy pen, but

yeah, he did finger-painteth by his instrument, Thomas Jefferson, his

loyal—crap, what do you mean Jefferson was a deist? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  You go to your PTA meetings, when somebody says something

stupid—you go to your softball games, and when your kids win a trophy

for just showing up, you take that trophy and you say our family doesn‘t

accept stuff we didn‘t earn.  This is a loser trophy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, I have you to admit he‘s got a point—wait a

minute.  Hours before that moment—hours before that moment of holier

than thou rapture, what is that that Mr. Beck is receiving at Liberty U

university and crying over?  An honorary doctorate of humanities degree. 

That‘s your cue, Mr. Beck.  That‘s where you‘re supposed to say, our

family doesn‘t accept stuff we didn‘t earn.  This is a loser honorary

degree. 

Finally, as promised, back to the prophet-ess from Alaska.  Another

movie quote applies, adapted from Rodney Dangerfield, offered to either

Mrs. Palin or her host, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona.  “Take it from

me, Thorton Mellon, you want to look smart, you hang out with dumb

people.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA:  Our border is being erased.  And the

president apparently considers it a wonderful opportunity to divide

people along racial lines for his personal political convenience. 

PALIN:  It‘s time for Americans across this great country to stand

up and say, we‘re all Arizonians now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Actually, madam, given who the innocent, fully legal

Americans against whom this law is actually directed are, you call

yourself whatever you want.  The rest of us, the real Americans, it‘s

time for us to stand up and say, we‘re all Hispanic Arizonians now. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

And now to discuss with her guest, Governor Ed Rendell of

Pennsylvania, how immigration never works as an election issue for the

GOP—I sort of get the feeling maybe we shouldn‘t tell them—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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