updated 8/24/2010 11:21:03 AM ET 2010-08-24T15:21:03

Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Bobby Ghosh, David Cay Johnston, Patti Lovera

           

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The Park 51 community center—yesterday, the site of heated protests for and against.  Now the husband and wife behind the planned center speak out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAISY KHAN, IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF‘S WIFE:  This is like a metastasized anti-Semitism.  It‘s not even Islamophobia.  It‘s beyond Islamophobia.  It‘s hate of Muslims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The spiritual father of the Tea Party Movement calls the demagogues on the right for their unprincipled position on the New York Islamic center—this, while video of Glenn Beck defending Islam surfaces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  Radicalized Islam is evil.  They are—they‘re hijacking a beautiful religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Price-less, the Senate minority leader‘s new rules in arguing for an extension of the Bush tax cuts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  You‘re talking about current tax policy.  Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, “paid for”?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Because it‘s your party, Senator, that‘s screaming about the deficit.

Shell shock, as the incredible, inedible egg recall expands—can the agencies in charge of regulating the food industry keep us safe?

And our exclusive investigation: How secretively Muslim is our president?

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ramadan Karim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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O‘DONNELL:  Good evening.  From Los Angeles, I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

The spiritual father of the Tea Party, libertarian congressman and sometime presidential candidate, Ron Paul, has weighed in on the controversy over the proposed construction of an Islamic center with prayer room two blocks from where the towers once stood.

And on our fifth story tonight—Mr. Paul plainly, powerfully does the following: one, defending the right to build the center there.  Two, dismantles the so-called sensitivity argument.  And three, reveals what he thinks is the true motive of the Republican mosque opponents.

Mr. Paul issued a statement on his Web site.  The headline, “Ron Paul to Sunshine Patriots: Stop Your Demagogy About the NYC Mosque.”

Mr. Paul has previously drawn Republican anger for standing up against the war in Iraq, U.S. torture, and infringement on personal liberties in the name of safety.  But this time—well, you just have to hear this.

Quote, “The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate raises the question of just why and driven by whom?  In my opinion, it has come from the neoconservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.  They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill-conceived preventative wars.  They just want everybody to be sensitive and force through public pressure cancellation of the mosque construction.  This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.  Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the First Amendment principle of defending controversial speech.  But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam, the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.”

This is all he says about hate and Islamophobia.  And right on queue came yesterday‘s protest against the proposed Muslim center, a black man wearing a cap was targeted by protestors and called a coward, someone shouting, “He must have voted for Obama.”  Someone else, quote, “We‘re against the Muslims, not each other.”  The man it turned out was not a Muslim.

And five years after 9/11, Glenn Beck now railing against the center on FOX News once appeared with the center‘s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, on ABC News and spoke to Rauf in a way that suggested Rauf was part of the solution, not part of the problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  It is important for all of us to look evil in the eye and crush it.  Radicalized Islam is evil.  They are—they‘re hijacking a beautiful religion.  I do believe there is a cancer that is radicalized Islam, and it must be cut out or it‘s going to kill all of us, including the good Muslims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  With us tonight on this issue is MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Lacewell, also contributing writer at TheGrio.com and “The Nation” and professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Thanks for joining us tonight, Melissa.

First, let‘s start with the phrase Glenn Beck used, “good Muslim.”  We‘ve gone pretty far down the road once we start talking about good Muslims instead of talking about people who happen to be Muslim who do the good or bad things, haven‘t we?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  So, you know, let‘s pause and I‘ll do my professorial thing and assign everyone a little reading.  Everyone should read the book “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim.”  It‘s maybe three or four years old now.  But it certainly would speak directly to these issues.

But, you know, when I hear good Muslim, it resonates with me with a history of similar kinds of terms.  Good Negro, nice girl.  Both of those terms—when people were called good Negroes, or good colored folks or were called nice girls or good women, as compared to for example, feminists or civil rights workers—it was a way of suggesting that a person from a group that is an outsider group, when they conform to the interests of the state, are necessarily defined as good.

And the reason we want to be careful about that is not only as you say that individuals should be judged based on their actions and not on their identity, but also because as soon as you do that, you make it impossible for that person to then act as a bridge to the very community to which you‘re hoping to speak.  So, if you call someone, for example, a good Negro, it‘s pretty easy for those in the civil rights movement to say that person is no longer relevant to us.  We don‘t want to work with them in terms of building, you know, these bridges.

So, if you label people things like “good Muslim,” by which you mean someone who agrees with me, Glenn Beck, you make it impossible for him to do the work of building the bridge.

O‘DONNELL:  And isn‘t there a presumption in the cultural semantics of the phrasing like “good Muslim” or “good Negro,” that those people are not normally good?  And if you‘re talking about—if you‘re talking about one that is good, you must specify that, because that‘s the exception.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Yes.  Absolutely.  I mean, it‘s a bit—it‘s a bit like suggesting that there‘s an oxymoron there and therefore it‘s worth, you know, pointing out, like a—like a reasonable conservative, like Ron Paul, who has been this week.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Melissa, the ugliest scene from the protest yesterday, the black man wearing a tight cap, assumed to be a Muslim, besieged by a mob—what did you see in that scene?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, again, this is emblematic of what many Muslims in America will tell you occurred in the weeks and months and years following 9/11.  Now, overall, I think our nation did a generally good job about not sort of creating a set of policies that pushed out our Muslim brothers and sisters.

But there were always these individual acts of hate that occurred, and often, these individual acts of hate were against people who were misidentified as Muslims.  So, for example, people who were Sikh—and people don‘t know very much about the distinctions between these religious cultures, you know, they were misidentified and victimized by hate speech or hate crime.

So, what I see there is emblematic of that kind of thing.  And it‘s also very scary.  It is precisely the opposite of where I‘d hoped we‘d be going as a nation after the 2008 election.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, it seems to have fallen to Republican gadfly Ron Paul to make the clearest, unequivocal statement any politician has made who has spoken on this subject.  What do you make of Congressman Paul‘s statement, and why is he alone, so seemingly fearless in the face of this controversy?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  I got to say, you know, rare is the day where, you know, I‘m really cheering a Ron Paul blog, but I got to say I was when I was reading this.  And I was laughing, thinking about the facts that I still carry in my purse a copy of the Constitution that Ron Paul handed to me on a Manchester, New Hampshire, street corner during the 2008 primaries.

You know—and I‘ll say that the thing about Paul here is that he is doing precisely the opposite of Beck.  He is calling Americans to our highest and best ideals.  And the point about America‘s best ideals isn‘t that we all agree on one set of policies or one ideological position.  It‘s not that we will all become progressive, but rather that what we agree on is a set of precepts about how we engage one another in our social, political and economic world.

Now, you know, I‘m more interested in some issues of egalitarianism and justice, and Ron Paul is more interested in issues fundamentally of liberty.  But those two—that concern about justice and about liberty, about equality and freedom, those are the core American principles.  And when you call Americans back to that instead of appealing to the very lowest common denominators of ethnic anxiety and racial and religious hate, that‘s when you end up with an American public discourse that can be about ideas, can be about real policy, and no longer has to be about this sort of fearmongering and stereotyping.

O‘DONNELL:  MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Lacewell, also contributor at TheGrio.com and “The Nation” and, of course, professor at Princeton University—thanks for your time tonight, Melissa.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Always nice to talk to you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s turn to Bobby Ghosh, deputy international editor for “TIME” magazine, who has covered this issue for “TIME.”

Bobby, what do Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich do now, now that Ron Paul has used a conservative property rights argument on them?

BOBBY GHOSH, TIME MAGAZINE:  You‘d think that this would give them pause, Lawrence.  But my suspicion is that they will be looking at the polling numbers and they will feel confident that they represent a very large chunk of America when they speak against Islam the way they‘ve done.

Our polling showing that four out of 10 Americans regard Islam in a negative light; four out of 10 Americans don‘t believe as Glenn Beck apparently does that Islam is a beautiful religion; 25 percent of Americans say American Muslims are not patriotic.  Those are the kinds of people I think the likes of Gingrich and Palin are appealing to.  That is—that is their vote bank, if you like.

O‘DONNELL:  You know, to the polls—Ron Paul specifically addressed the polls in his statement saying that they are absolutely irrelevant.  He said, “Majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators.  Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society protecting liberty.”

How do people, like Newt Gingrich, who claim to be historians, who claim not know something about our history not know that?

GHOSH:  I don‘t think that he doesn‘t know that.  I think he‘s making a calculation based on a very narrow window.  He‘s looking at an election two months from now, and then perhaps he‘s thinking about what he wants to do for a presidential run.

I think no sane person can be unaware of the great sweep of history and how over the centuries time and time again hate speech has taken a very small leap from speech to violence.  But also, unfortunately, throughout history, there have been people who thought they could tame this monster or make it work to their advantage, and I suspect that people like Gingrich are doing that now.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, does Ron Paul‘s statement indicate a possible split in the Tea Party Movement, between libertarians, like Ron Paul, and conservative so-called “values voters” that Gingrich is trying to lead?

GHOSH:  I think they‘ve always been—I think, you know, we make a mistake when we regard the Tea Party as one homogenous, monolithic group.  There have always been differences.  I‘ve been quite astonished since our cover story on Islamophobia in “TIME” magazine this week, we‘ve—I have people who identify themselves as Tea Party members say to me that they are in favor of the mosque.

And, clearly, Ron Paul is taking a similar line.

Whereas, there are people from the Tea Party who in Temecula, California, brought dogs against a protest against Friday prayers, showing a sort of a very deep-seated anger and hatred.  So, I suspect that we will discover going forward that this—that this group, the tea partiers, are capable of more than one single thought.

O‘DONNELL:  Sometimes in these kinds of movements there is that moment, there is that image that changes the dynamics going forward.  I‘ll never forget in Boston during the school busing crisis, some white protestors attacked a black man with an American flag, actually trying to stab him with the point of an American flagpole.  From that point forward, the protest in Boston was viewed totally differently, and you can trace Boston‘s finding its way out of that controversy from that moment forward.

And I wonder if yesterday when they—you know, when after this black man on the presumption that he was a Muslim simply because of his headwear and because he didn‘t look like the rest of them—is that the kind of ugly moment that can make people involved in this step back and say, “Wait, we‘ve gone too far”?

GHOSH:  One can only hope, Lawrence.  One can hope.  And, you know, from your lips to God‘s ears as they say.

The trouble is the kinds of people who bring dogs to a Friday prayer, knowing full well how that will be perceived—it seems to me that those kinds of people are not likely to be—their sentiments are not likely to be turned by what we‘ve seen in that video, especially not while they have people like Gingrich and Palin and others who are—who are egging them on, who are championing their cause.  That—I hope people take pause and step back and re-examine their positions, but my suspicion is that is not what will happen.

O‘DONNELL:  Bobby Ghosh of “TIME” magazine—thanks for your analysis tonight.

GHOSH:  Anytime.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, the faux logic behind extending the Bush tax cuts because they still exist this year.  They don‘t need to be paid for if we extend them.

Plus, the recall expands to half a billion eggs in 22 states as confusion reigns over who, if anyone, is ultimately responsible for food safety in America.

And we‘ll bring you the special COUNTDOWN investigation into when President Obama began his quest to be a secret Muslim.

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O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: when facts don‘t matter.  Why Republicans crying about cutting the deficit think they can justify keeping the Bush tax cuts without paying for them.  If you can understand that, you need to run for office.  And there are new questions about the food safety system or lack thereof in America as a record egg recall expands to 22 states.

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O‘DONNELL:  In our fourth story tonight: following up on the House Republican leader John Boehner‘s epic flight from relentless questioning of David Gregory, yesterday, it was Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who refused to say how he would pay for renewing the Bush tax cuts, which would cost the U.S. treasury $3.2 trillion.

But in his repeated dodging, McConnell added a new wrinkle, suggesting that you don‘t have to pay for them because they‘re already in place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  What are you prepared to do to pay for an extension of tax cuts for everybody?

MCCONNELL:  This has been tax law in America for almost 10 years now, existing tax law.  I think it is outrageous to suggest that raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a good idea.

GREGORY:  Point taken.  But, Senator, my question is—

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL:  - to have that debate—

GREGORY:  -- how do you pay for an extension of tax cuts because if you‘re concerned, as Republicans say they are, about cutting spending and the deficit, you have to acknowledge that tax cuts are not paid for?

MCCONNELL:  What are you talking about, paid for?  This is existing tax policy been in place for 10 years.  What they‘re talking about is raising taxes.  That is not a responsible thing to do.

GREGORY:  But it‘s still borrowed money.  The CBO, Senator, this week, made it very clear that the long-term picture for the economy, for the deficit, is very dark if you extend the Bush era tax cuts without somehow paying for them.

MCCONNELL:  Look, what we‘re talking about here is tax increases in the middle of a recession.  We‘re going to have the third year in a row under this administration of an annual deficit of more than $1 trillion.  That is not because we are taxing too little, David.  It‘s because we‘re spending too much.

GREGORY:  But, Senator, with respect you‘re being unresponsive to a question, which is: are tax cuts paid for going forward or is it borrowed money at a time when you and other Republican leaders say we must get serious about the deficit?  It‘s a straightforward question.

MCCONNELL:  Yes, I know.  And I gave you a straightforward answer.  What we‘re talking about here is raising taxes in the middle of what most Americans think is a recession.

GREGORY:  Senator, I—

MCCONNELL:  This administration is extraordinarily anti-business and raising taxes in the middle of the recession is not the way to go.

GREGORY:  For a final time, I‘ll go back to my question, which is the extension of the tax cuts will cost $3.2 trillion—that‘s borrowed money that adds to the deficit.  Do you have a plan to pay for that extension?

MCCONNELL:  You‘re talking about current tax policy.  Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, “paid for”?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O‘DONNELL:  Of course, the tax hike already scheduled for next year was written into law 10 years ago by Republicans when they deliberated limited the cuts to 10 years—which they had to do because Senate rules required them to pay for them if they lasted more than 10 years.

And, in fact, Senator McConnell has suggested how he would pay for tax cuts for the rich.  He voted early this month for a bill that would, quote, “decrease spending as appropriate to offset such permanent tax cut extension.”  How?  By cutting from finance committee spending, which means cutting Social Security and Medicare, the only things in finance committee jurisdiction that could be cut to pay for the tax cuts—a tax cut that would make the rich richer and could actually make it harder for small businesses to hire, because increasing the deficit could, as it has in the past, raise interest rates, making it tougher for small businesses to borrow.

We‘re joined tonight by David Cay Johnston the author of “Free Lunch,” a columnist for “Tax Notes” and professor at Syracuse University College of Law.

David, good evening.

Unpack for us what Senator McConnell is talking about.  He is saying, “You don‘t have to do anything to pay for these things because they are already in place, but as I‘ve just tried to explain, the law that is in place already requires a tax increase for next year.  So, he‘s trying to play some kind of semantic game here, isn‘t he?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, “FREE LUNCH”:  Absolutely.  You know, I sort of wonder if Senator McConnell got through grade school math.

But why not accept his argument on face value?  This is what the law has been for 10 years.  And the law says that on December 31st, tax rates change.  That‘s what he voted for.  That‘s what he supported.

This was done through reconciliation so they could ram this through back in 2001, and it makes perfect sense then—if you follow his logic—to stay with what the tax law says.  After all, the Republicans are often telling us we don‘t need more laws.

The reality is that if we don‘t adjust for what we‘ve done over the last 10 years, it‘s going to damage our society.  A little number for you, Lawrence, all the Bush tax cuts were financed with borrowed money, 100 percent borrowed money -- $2.4 trillion of borrowed money since 2001.  And the interest alone on that equaled all the income taxes that you and I and everyone else in America paid in January and February of this year.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, some analysts say that the tax cuts, if they were extended, could hurt small businesses by making it tougher for them to borrow money.  This is actually something we heard a lot about in the early ‘90s during the debate over raising taxes to what became the Clinton rates.  Can you explain for the audience the connection between the deficit and interest rates?

JOHNSTON:  Sure.  At the moment, while we‘re running large deficits, interest rates are actually falling.  The federal government is borrowing money today at less than half the rate that it was paying in the year 2000.

But if we keep borrowing and we do not have a strong economic recovery, there will, undoubtedly, become a point when interest rates will begin to go up.  When that happens, the theory is, it will be more difficult for small businesses to borrow.  They‘ll have to pay more in interest.

The contrary argument is what we need, what small businesses need, is demand.  They need customers buying their products.  And so, the practice that McConnell wants to follow will actually hurt small businesses because they‘re not going to get the demand they need that will produce the profits that will encourage them to invest to borrow more money in the future.

O‘DONNELL:  You know, I‘ve never heard Republicans talk about rich people.  I only hear them talk about small businesses as if that‘s the only thing they represent in the tax code.  And most small business owners are not in the top tax bracket.  So, why do Republicans continue to base their arguments on kind of nothing but small business and helping small business?

JOHNSTON:  Well, you know, it‘s like their claim that the estate tax is destroying the family farm when they haven‘t produced a single example - - a single example to back up their case.  The fact is, most of these small businesses they‘re talking about are actually doctors, lawyers.  It‘s very interesting to think the Republicans want lawyers to get a tax cut—and professional corporations, movie stars.  They‘re the ones that will be hit by this, other than executives who are highly paid.

And we‘re talking about a tiny, tiny percentage of the public here that‘s involved in this, about 2 percent of people make more than $250,000 a year, and a fraction of them get some of their income, like I do and you probably do, from business activities that they‘re involved in.  It‘s not their principal source of income.

But it sounds appealing to people and avoiding dealing with what they‘re really trying to do and that is redistribute wealth upward.

O‘DONNELL:  So, David, before we leave this, I just want to go over this point for our audience so they understand it going forward.  Yes, the Bush tax cuts are—to use Mitch McConnell‘s phrase—in place.  They are in place for the year 2010, and they have been in place for this decade.  They are, by law, not in place for the tax year 2011.

And in order to put them in place, they would have to be legislated into place.  And if you do that, you‘ll be required under the budget rules to pay for it by cutting other spending.  Is that an accurate summary of where we stand?

JOHNSTON:  Exactly correct, Lawrence.  And if the Republicans had thought this was such a great idea in 2001 and when they had control of the house, the Senate, and the White House, why didn‘t they get these tax cuts made permanent?  Because the responsible Republicans recognized that this is bad economic policy.

And what is their proposed way to pay for this?  Well, they want to

pay for it at the costs of people down at the bottom of the income ladder -

not providing adequate medical care for older people, cutting programs like food stamps for people who are out of work through no fault of their own, reducing Social Security—anything they can do at the bottom, that‘s not on the table.  About if it‘s at the top, we don‘t have to pay for that.

           

O‘DONNELL:  Syracuse University professor, David Cay Johnston—thanks for guiding us through the tax code tonight, David.

JOHNSTON:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: you would think the power to force a food recall would be in the hands of the Food and Drug Administration, and you would be wrong.

And stay tuned, because COUNTDOWN‘s exclusive look at how President Obama hid his faith from everyone, even himself.  That‘s still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  With 1,300 people sickened by Salmonella, the number of eggs recalled reaches half a billion.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, now federal authorities say it all could have been prevented if new FDA safety rules had been put into effect earlier.  FDA investigators traced the outbreak to two Iowa farms.  Those farms shipping the potentially tainted eggs to 22 states as far back as mid-May. 

But a voluntary recall wasn‘t announced until this month.  Both egg farms were owned or supplied with chickens and feed by Iowa businessman Jack DeCoster.  Mr. DeCoster‘s farms racking up a long list of health, safety, animal cruelty and pollution violations over the years. 

But the FDA says inspectors never visited the DeCoster farm at the center of the investigation because of weak accountability standards.  As of now, the FDA doesn‘t have the power to mandate a recall.  Legislation that would give the FDA more authority has been stalled in Congress for almost a year.  And stricter regulation, first developed during the Clinton administration, was shelved during the Bush administration amid industry concerns, as “the Des Moines Register” reports. 

In July of 2009, the FDA finally implemented tougher rules, but gave farms one year to comply.  The new regulations, many of which long fought by the industry, require that farms test eggs in facilities regularly for Salmonella, ensure chicks are free from infection, protect feed and water from contamination, require farms to refrigerate eggs, and allow the FDA to inspect farms. 

The head of the FDA today described the agency‘s lack of preventive authority. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARGARET HAMBURG, FDA:  We need additional resources.  We need additional authorities.  We need greater abilities to trace back products to their source so that we can identify how the contamination occurred and what products are at risk.  We need better abilities and authorities to put in place these preventive controls and hold companies accountable.  And we need to be able to more routinely review records and work with companies to make sure that the food supply is safe. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now is Patty Lovera, the assistant director of Food and Water Watch.  Thanks for your time tonight, Patty.  First, a basic consumer question.  If someone is going out to the store tonight to buy eggs, how can people avoid the dangerous eggs? 

PATTY LOVERA, FOOD AND WATER WATCH:  Well, hopefully at this point there‘s been enough publicity that supermarkets have gotten these recalled eggs off the shelves.  But there‘s also a list.  There‘s a website that the industry has put up, and lots of media are putting up lists of the recalled brands.  And so people should take a look at that list to see if the brands that they normally buy are on there.  Then there‘s codes to look for to let you know what dates and what plants eggs come from.  And the list will tell you if they‘re part of the recall. 

O‘DONNELL:  Those new FDA rules don‘t actually seem all that strict.  Is this the story that‘s finally going to open up legislators‘ eyes to what we really need in food regulation? 

LOVERA:  Well, I mean, we‘ve had a lot of historic recalls over the last few years.  We keep having very large recalls.  One of the things I think that‘s interesting about them, and that hopefully we‘re starting to learn is that as we have changed our food system, and we have bigger facilities, fewer companies that are just much, much larger, it matters more and more what they do.  They‘re making the decisions.  We‘re not making the decisions. 

So we hope that we learned something from recalls of this size.  But we hope that we also, in addition to looking at food safety regulation, also look at some of these issues of mergers and consolidation, and why we have so few firms producing so much food. 

O‘DONNELL:  Does it all come down to cost—a cost benefit analysis of the regulation versus how much of a burden they‘re imposing on the producers of food?  Is that where the difficulty comes, is the question of cost to the food suppliers? 

LOVERA:  Like any policy issue, I think a lot of the fights and the conversations are about cost.  Some of it is just that these are big institutions to turn around.  We‘re talking about the FDA or the USDA.  A lot of them have different—the FDA, for example, has a history of not being very hands-on.  They don‘t have a history of going out and inspecting.  And this is a change.  This is a serious culture change for that agency to get that authority and to use it. 

So with these new rules on Salmonella in eggs, we need to see what they do with these new rules and if they actually get out there and enforce them. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, the FDA predicts there will probably be more eggs recalled.  And now we have some members of Congress launching an investigation.  What do you think a Congressional investigation will find? 

LOVERA:  Well, I hope that they look at why we‘re producing half of the eggs in this country in just five states, you know, why we have such big operations that when something goes wrong with them, we‘re talking about half a billion eggs when one plant or two plants have a problem.  We do absolutely need to be talking about what these food safety regulations are.  But we also need to talking about what types of practices are we using to raise chickens, how big are these operations? 

These are not what any of us think of when we think about a family farm.  They probably don‘t really look like the picture on the package.  These are industrialized operations with millions of birds. 

O‘DONNELL:  Does the Obama administration approach food safety differently from the Bush administration? 

LOVERA:  We‘ve seen a lot more attention to it.  There was a huge backlog of things to do.  This Salmonella rule in eggs was one example.  It had been sitting there waiting and waiting to get finalized.  That did get finalized.  So that‘s finally in effect.  We‘ve seen a little bit more progress and more attention paid to these structural issues in the industry.  There‘s actually some hearings that the USDA and the Justice Department are doing together to examine if there‘s enough competition in agriculture, if we have enough players left in these markets.  That‘s never happened before. 

So that‘s encouraging, but then we need to see what they do with what they find out, what do they do with that information from these investigations and actions do they take. 

O‘DONNELL:  Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch, thanks for joining us. 

LOVERA:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, the COUNTDOWN exclusive investigation into the president‘s religious faith.  Our researchers have discovered he is not the first president to embrace Islam.  There is another. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she and Eugene Robinson break down the travel tips given to Maine Tea Partiers heading do Glenn Beck‘s weekend rally.  Not only do they help Tea Partiers navigate that pesky public transportation thing, they will help D.C. people avoid the Tea Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  This shocking news from the world of golf: Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren are no longer married officially.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the divorce was granted today by a circuit court judge in Florida.  Financial terms of the divorce were not announced, but “People Magazine” estimated that Nordegren would walk away with somewhere between 100 and 500 million dollars. 

The divorce comes nine months after the car crash which changed Tiger‘s image forever.  Back in December, Apple Daily, the Taiwanese newspaper, illustrated the events of the crash as they believe they unfolded.  This was their report in their own words. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He was in and out of consciousness, with lacerations to his upper and lower lip, with a little bit of blood in his mouth. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What did he say? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing, he was mumbling. 

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Tiger received 164 dollar traffic tickets for the crash. 

Today his bill was a bit higher. 

Coming up, the COUNTDOWN special investigation into how President Obama manages to hide his secret Muslim self in plain sight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Last week on this broadcast, we told you about two separate polls showing that an increasing number of Americans believe the president of the United States actually practices Islam.  On CNN, the Evangelist Franklin Graham explained the confusion. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, EVANGELIST:  I think the president‘s problem is that he was born a Muslim.  His father was a Muslim.  The seed of Islam is passed through the father, like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Graham explained that the president later renounced his Islamic seed before it could germinate.  But in our number one story, we don‘t have the luxury of taking the president‘s own word on his own religious beliefs.  In response to Mr. Graham, COUNTDOWN launched a special investigation revealing not only proof of Obama‘s secret true religion, but also how he has executed an ingenious long-term plan to conceal that faith. 

Here‘s Keith Olbermann with his updated report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The Muslim seeded toddler engineered the divorce of his own parents to prevent people from learning that his father was Muslim.  In his book, Obama claims that by then his father was no longer Muslim, instead portraying him as something much more popular with Americans: an Atheist. 

Obama still claims not to know whether his grandfather was Sunni or Shiite, but he sure looks sunny.  To keep appearances, Obama cleverly violated his Islamic faith whenever he could, fooling everyone by never going to Mecca, breaking the fast of Ramadan, eating pork, and drinking alcohol, having a Christian wedding, baptizing his children, worshipping at Christian churches for decades. 

He only faces Mecca from way downtown.  Bang goes the dynamite.  He even sent his daughters to a school, a fancy Washington school that was really a madrassa, a fancy Washington madrassa.  He never had a beard, except for the Jewish people he cleverly picked out to carry out his secret Muslim agenda, his white house chief of staff, and Supreme Court justice. 

The plan was working perfectly.  But there were clues for those willing to do the incredibly hard work of seeing them.  As a radical Muslim youth, he ran an Islamic journal whose Arabic name translates as “Harvard Law Review.”  Islam permits men to take a number of wives, and that‘s exactly what Barack Obama did.  The number he picked was one.  And a woman with an Arabic name, Michelle Robinson, who insists on wearing a burqa. 

His favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, who just happen to play in the same division as the Milwaukee Bucks, whose arena just happened to be known as the Mecca.  Coincidence? 

What about his legislative agenda.  He openly practices Chicago-style politics, just like the Taliban does, extending benefits for the unemployed, including Muslims.  Expanding health care for all, including every single Muslim in the country, unless already covered by an employer health care plan. 

To this day, President Obama continues to refuse to bomb not just one but many Muslim countries.  He even refuses to close his secret tropical paradise safe haven for Muslims, just 90 miles from America‘s shores.  Obama nearly let the cat out of the bag on several occasions, openly attacking a long-time Christian leader, thanking his co-conspirators for keeping his secret . 

OBAMA:  John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. 

OLBERMANN:  Outlining his dream of an Islamic America. 

OBAMA:  We‘d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. 

OLBERMANN:  And bragging about how much he‘s done already. 

OBAMA:  We are no longer a Christian nation.  There is a mosque in every state in our union. 

OLBERMANN:  If few seem to care that Obama is America‘s first secret Muslim president, it might be due to the popularity of America‘s first openly Muslim president, who won America‘s heart by turning the White House into a virtual mosque. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is the fifth year in a row that it‘s been my honor to host an iftar in the state dining room. 

OLBERMANN:  Revealing how he came to embrace Allah.

BUSH:  The revelation of God‘s word to the Prophet Mohammed in the form of the Koran. 

OLBERMAN:  Using the English word for Allah, God, he talked about the Bush family holidays. 

BUSH:  Ramadan is a time of heart-felt prayer and togetherness. 

OLBERMANN:  Explained how Islam helps America flew through tough times. 

BUSH:  It‘s a national and Islamic obligation to assist one‘s neighbors when they are in need. 

OLBERMANN:  And outlined his master plan to make America nor Islamic. 

BUSH:  I‘ve encouraged American families to host exchange students from the Muslim world.  I‘ve asked young Americans to study the language and customs of the broader Middle East. 

OLBERMANN:  After getting rid of all the White House Bibles, he proudly announced their replacement. 

BUSH:  For the first time in our nation‘s history, we‘ve added a Koran to the White House library. 

OLBERMANN:  So, the big mystery is not President Obama‘s secret Islamic faith, but why he won‘t simply admit to being the second Muslim commander in chief of the United States of Mecca. 

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE: 

BUSH:  Islam is peace. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s COUNTDOWN from Los Angeles.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann tonight.  My new show premieres Monday, September 27th.

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