updated 11/9/2010 10:52:35 AM ET 2010-11-09T15:52:35

Guest Host: Thomas Roberts

Guests: Dave Weigel, Lee Cowan, David Cay Johnston, Chris Kofinis, Sam Seder, Bob Cavnar

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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THOMAS ROBERTS, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Compromise on tax cuts—or digging in?

And a warning about bankrupting the country from an unlikely source:

former Reagan Budget Director David Stockman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID STOCKMAN, FORMER REAGAN BUDGET DIRECTOR:  They don‘t need a tax cut.  They don‘t deserve it.  And therefore, what we have to do is focus on Main Street, and that means getting our house in order fiscally, not tax cuts that we can‘t afford.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Our guest: David Cay Johnston.

Iced tea?  One of the most vocal candidates in the Tea Party movement who‘ve won a Senate race less than one week ago says he will against raising the debt ceiling, but only because he knows it will actually pass despite his vote.

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SEN-ELECT RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  I don‘t believe I will vote to raise the debt ceiling now.  I think that we need to send a message.  We need to send a strong message that—

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS:  The government would default, then.

PAUL:  Well, only if we won the vote would they default.

AMANPOUR:  So, you think it won‘t pass?

PAUL:  I think it‘s unlikely.  There are people who vote against the debt ceiling every time to send the message that adding more debt is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS:  The president at home, his midterm election post-mortem, the message that Republicans say he should be getting and message that he says he got.

Plus, president on comprise:

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I couldn‘t get the kind of cooperation from Republicans that I had hoped for.  And that was costly partly because it created the kind of partisanship and bickering that really turned people off.

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ROBERTS:  The president was surprised by the high political cost health care reform.

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OBAMA:  It‘s a huge, big complicated system.  I made the decision to go ahead and do it and it proved as costly politically as we expected—probably actually a little more costly than we expected politically.

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ROBERTS:  The president abroad in India.  Indian officials tried to big foot U.S. reporters as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs literally used his big foot to save the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  That whole group is going in with me.

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ROBERTS:  The spill and the story that will not recede.  Preliminary findings released today by the independent commission investigating the cause of the worse offshore oil spill in U.S. history—with Bob Cavnar.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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ROBERTS:  Hi, everybody, good evening from New York.  This is Monday, November the 8th, 729 days until the 2012 presidential elections.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, filling in for Keith Olbermann.  Keith will be back tomorrow.

Well, we start with a battle facing a lame duck Congress, a battle that will affect every American starting January 1st and generations of Americans not yet born.

Our fifth story tonight: New hints from the Republicans that they might block an extension of middle class tax cuts now so that they can try to extend tax cuts even on income above a quarter million, after they take office in January.

In an interview that aired last night, President Obama suggested that he is open to compromise but stood by his opposition to a permanent extension of Bush tax cuts on income over a quarter million, which would cost $700 billion in the first 10 years alone, plus interest.

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OBAMA:  What I don‘t think makes sense is for us to borrow $700 billion to pay for that.  And we don‘t have the money.  I mean, everybody‘s already talking about our debt and our deficit.  Why would we want to add to it?  Now, having said all that—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Republicans want everybody to get it.

OBAMA:  -- I understand—I understand the Republicans have a different view.  And so we are going to have to have a negotiation.  And I am open to, you know, finding a way in which, you know, they can meet their principles and I can meet mine.

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ROBERTS:  Republicans meanwhile shot down talk of compromise, expected House majority leader, Eric Cantor, flat out rejected the compromise, most often mentioned, permanently extending tax cuts for the middle class, while temporarily extending tax cuts on income above a quarter million.

And multiple news outlets reported that Republicans are considering, in fact, letting the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone to strengthen their hand fighting next year for tax cuts for the rich.  Quote, “GOP aides said that the tax cut debate might spill over into next year.”  “Some House Republicans appear willing to oppose any resolution before year end, placing their new majority in position to pass an extension of the tax cuts immediately upon taking power.”

Quoting an unnamed Republican House aide, “They might blame GOP obstructionism.  But, you know, people are going to start missing a lot of their money—or money in their weekly paychecks in January, and there‘s only going to be one person in the White House.”

Democrat have begun pointing out that the Republican alternative deep spending cuts will force Americans to do without things like 2,700 FBI agents, health research, and preschool for poor kids.  And in sharp contrast to the Republican talking point, the tax cuts for the richest Americans are really for small business—job creators, a talking point our next guest helped COUNTDOWN debunked, revealing the massive corporations that qualify as small businesses.

And one of those small businesses, Koch Industries argues on the Web site of its front group, Americans for Prosperity, to, quote, “Class-warfare, tax-the-rich ideas were decisively rejected in a national election.”

Among those who would beg to differ, former Reagan budget director, David Stockman.  Sitting next to the number three House Republican Mike Pence yesterday, Stockman who ushered in Reagan‘s massive tax cuts which Reagan later scaled back, forcefully dissected Pence‘s claims that the top tax cut benefit Main Street job creators.

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REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  I don‘t know anybody back in Indiana in the city or on the farm who thinks raising taxes on their small business owner boss is going to put them back to work or get them back to full time.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS:  We‘ve got one—time for—

(CROSSTALK)

STOCKMAN:  Two years after the crisis on Wall Street, it has been announced that bonuses this year will be $144 billion, the highest in history.  That‘s whose going to get this tax cut on the top, you know, 2 percent of the population.  They don‘t need a tax cut.  They don‘t deserve it.  And, therefore, what we have to do is focus on Main Street, and that means getting our house in order fiscally, not tax cuts that we can‘t afford.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  With us once again on this fight is David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter, now a columnist with “Tax Notes,” author of “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You with the Bill,” and a professor at Syracuse University of Law.

David, great to have with us, and bear with me, I‘m not in full voice tonight as I have a cold that is kicking my butt.  Just so you know.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, TAX NOTES:  OK.

ROBERTS:  David, Stockman‘s opposition is not just to the tax cuts for the rich.  He opposes extending any of the tax cuts.  So, explain this argument for us.

JOHNSTON:  Well, Stockman‘s argument essentially is, as we keep spending more than we‘re levying and this has been a phenomena starting in 1980 that‘s become quite large, except for the last years of the Clinton administration—as we spend more than we levy, we keep owing more and more in interest.

This year, the interest on the federal debt, not all of which was paid in cash, was equal to all the income taxes we all paid through the middle of June.  Now, if interest rates go back up, and some day they will, that‘s going to be very expensive.  In fact, if interest rates were back at the level they were when President Bush took office, you would be paying income taxes until after Thanksgiving just to pay interest on the national debt.  Or the equivalent of all the interest on the national get.

ROBERTS:  All right. You know, we hear a lot about -

JOHNSTON:  So, here‘s our—here‘s our—

ROBERTS:  Go ahead.

JOHNSTON:  Well, so, his argument is, we need to get spending in line with what we levy, and in the long run, he‘s correct about that.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, David, explain, we keep—we continue to hear a lot about the tax cuts for the rich costing $700 billion over 10 years, staggering figure.  But the next generation of taxpayers will actually pick up a far bigger tab than that if these cuts are permanent, isn‘t that right?

JOHNSTON:  Absolutely.  We will continue—because we‘re in a society where the people at the very top income has been exploding, and the bottom 90 percent have been stagnant, we face a situation in which, in the future, we will have this larger and larger burden bearing down on us, unless we start to come to grips with it.  And people at the very top tend to save their tax savings, not spend it.  And that‘s inherently anti-stimulus, anti-growth in the economy, in the short run.

ROBERTS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about this burden, dollars and cents wise.  What kind of chunk are we actually talking about in people‘s paychecks if Republicans block that extension of the middle class tax cuts?

JOHNSTON:  Well, remember, the president wants to maintain the cuts for everyone on their first quarter million dollars of taxable income.  That‘s a lot more than total income.  You can make a lot more than that to have $250,000 in taxable income.

So, if you are in the bottom fifth of Americans, the poor, your taxes are going to go up an infinitesimal tiny amount.  If you‘re in the middle class group that is now benefiting from having a $1,000 per child tax credit if you‘re a parent with teenager or younger children, or you‘re in the 15 percent tax bracket, your taxes would go, in the 10 percent bracket, your taxes would go up because we get rid of that.

But we‘re talking here, if all the tax cuts are repealed about hundreds of dollars a year for people right at the very middle, whereas at the top, we‘re talking about huge numbers.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, at the top, we‘re talking about these tax cuts for the rich were not implemented as job creators as many people tried to frame the narrative.  But if Republicans are willing to borrow $700 million to create jobs, there are other tax policies that would do better at creating jobs, don‘t you degree?

JOHNSTON:  Well, spending policies, yes.  The Congressional Budget Office did a study of 11 possible options to the tax cuts.  They found tax cuts were the worst possible option.  You got a return of about 10 cents to 40 cents for each dollar you spent, whereas if you spent the money in other ways, you could as much as $1.50.

And let me give you an idea of how much this tax cut is for people at the top.  Even President Obama would continue on average a $60,000 a year tax cut for the top 1 percent of Americans—these are people whose average income is $8 million a year.  The Republicans want them to save $370,000.  That‘s enough money to give every college student in America $6,000 a year to pay their tuition.

ROBERTS:  Wow.  An impressive number, staggering figures.

David Cay Johnston, professor at Syracuse University School of Law and author of “Free Lunch,” and also a columnist for “Tax Notes”—David, thanks for bearing with me through this scratchy voice segment.  I appreciate it.

JOHNSTON:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Now, let‘s turn to Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis.

Chris, thank you for your time tonight.

As a percentage of the number of voters who called tax cuts the highest priority for the new Congress is actually lower than the number of people who voted for Christine O‘Donnell, just 19 percent.  So, why is either party making it such a priority?

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, there‘s a kind of a political kabuki dance going on here.  On the Republican side, you‘re clearly seeing kind of the beginnings of their 2012 strategy, where they‘re trying to box the president and the Democrats in to basically support, you know, no compromise, which then leads to all the tax cuts expiring, then they can go out there and say, you see, the Democrats raised all your taxes.

And the White House is clearly trying to fight for that middle class tax cut for the 95 percent of Americans and they don‘t want to extend it for the top 5 percent.

So, you have these two sides that are playing this very difficult political game.  And I think what the Republicans just don‘t seem to understand is this is the exact wrong message from this election.  What the message is, I saw it from Tuesday—Tuesday‘s election—was the voters want both sides to actually figure out how to deal together, how to compromise, how to negotiate, not these endless political games.  So, the Republicans, I think, are playing a dangerous game, if they try to stalemate their way into this.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, as you say, a lot of finger-pointing going on.  President Obama gets no credit for cutting tax alone.  So, what chance does he have of actually of getting credit for cutting taxes the Republicans push him to cut?

KOFINIS:  Well, I don‘t think we‘re going to see the Republicans sharing credit with President Obama or Democrats if we extend the tax cuts across the board.  It‘s just not going to happen.

Again, this is a political game that is being played out and, unfortunately, probably at the worst possible time.  I think what is going to end up happening here, and I hope that reason is growing to win out, and both sides are going to figure out that you can‘t continue down this road, and I think you‘re going to probably end up seeing some kind of an extension.

But what is amazing to see is the Republicans just a few months ago were talking about a two-year extension of the tax cuts.  And now, it‘s we want a permanent extension of all the tax cuts.  It shows you how political this thing has become for them.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, you know, it really didn‘t take long, but Americans for Prosperity now claims the election was this grassroots repudiation of taxing the rich.  From your purview, you‘re saying it‘s something else.  You‘re saying it‘s the Dems and Republicans need to work together?  That‘s the mandate coming from the people?

KOFINIS:  Yes.  I mean, I‘m not sure what exit polls they were reading at.  They think this was about tax cuts.  This election was the furthest thing from a referendum on tax cuts.  I think it was a referendum, if you will, or a frustration and anger amongst the American electorate towards both sides.  I mean, one of the interesting statistics in the exit polls is that Democrats are still more popular than Republicans.

But there clearly is, I think, a message that was being sent that we want you guys to work together, figure out how to make government function.

I think if the Republicans go down this road, where they have a political leverage over Democrats because of their wins on Election Day, I think they actually are going to be cutting off their nose to spite their face.  It would be the worst possible outcome.  They‘re not going to listen to me, but the reality is, they should listen to the American people and what the message they sent is not this message.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, walk down this road with me.  Supposed the Republicans block middle class tax cuts during the lame duck Congress and supposed Democrats or even the president blocked tax cuts for everyone because it includes the rich next year—will anyone really care in 2012, if there‘s a booming economy, putting more money in people‘s pockets, than the tax cuts would have by that period of time?

KOFINIS:  No, I mean, the simple answer to that is, listen, it‘s a pretty simple equation when you‘re talking about the reelection of an incumbent president.  If the economy is booming, if we have—you know, the recession is really over, unemployment is falling, President Obama‘s going to walk to reelection.  It‘s exactly what happened in ‘83 and ‘84 when Ronald Reagan was re-elected.  Everyone thought he was dead in ‘82, and he won a landslide victory in ‘84.

The concern here is, and this is I think is the valid one, if we‘re kind of stuck in this kind of purgatory, no man‘s land, where the economy is kind of growing, but not.  And these become really dangerous political footballs for all sides.  And this is why this is kind of a game of chicken that both Republicans and Democrats are playing right now.

ROBERTS:  Right.

KOFINIS:  But this is not a smart strategy.  I think we‘re going to end up seeing, I hope, is a reasonable compromise that understands the fiscal reality we now live in.

ROBERTS:  Who‘s going to blink first, we‘ll all wait and see.

Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis—Chris, thank you.

KOFINIS:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Government spending, including those pesky earmarks—

Senator Jim DeMint appears to be a true believer in ending them.  But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell—not so much.  And this Tea Party favorite, Senator-elect Rand Paul, only willing to take a stand when it doesn‘t upset the GOP establishment.  Next.

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ROBERTS:  Tea Party equivocation, Senator-elect Rand Paul says he is willing to cast what amounts to a protest vote on the debt ceiling, particularly since that vote won‘t have any real effect.  And Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, suddenly gets wishy-washy on earmarks.

The president of the United States on a historic election—the one that shifted more than 60 House seat to the Republicans.  But what exactly was the true message?

And the president in India and the press secretary who‘s willing to get his foot—yes, his foot—jammed in a door.

And the disaster that still represents questions without adequate answers, but at least for today getting closer to the real truth.  The Gulf oil spill report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Welcome back.

It is still two months until the new Tea Party members of Congress get sworn in.  But less than a week after their electoral victories, there are signs that the GOP is already balking at honoring Tea Party principles.

And in our fourth story tonight: There are signs the Tea Party is balking at honoring Tea Party principles.  One favorite Tea Party target is earmarks, budget lines, budget lines written by individual members of Congress, usually to fund individual projects in their own districts.

The Tea Party is against them is because they increase government spending.

Now, the newspaper “Roll Call” reported today that Tea Party patron, Senator Jim DeMint, will now force his GOP colleagues to stop all Republican earmarking, pushing for a ban in close door meeting set for next week.

After Tuesday‘s resounding message from the American people, who could possibly object?  Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.  McConnell yesterday told Bob Schieffer of CBS that he would consider such a ban, but that ending earmarks is not only complicated, it does not work, because it will not actually save money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS:  Would you be for or against a moratorium on earmarks?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER:  Well, I have voted for that on the floor of the Senate a couple times because it would apply to the entire Senate.  We‘ll have a debate about whether or not we want to apply something only to Republicans, and not Democrats—as you can see it‘s a lot more complicated than it appears.

SCHIEFFER:  But—I mean, if it was for everybody, if it was for all members of all parties, let‘s just stop earmarks, you would be for that or against it?

MCCONNELL:  I‘d be willing to consider it.  The problem is, it doesn‘t save any money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  And how much gratitude does the GOP establishment have toward Tea Party queen Sarah Palin for all the seats she won for them with her endorsements and fundraising?

Well, here‘s what Spencer Bachus, the expected new chair of the House Financial Services Committee said just two days after the election as reported yesterday by a local newspaper in his district, quote, “The Senate would be Republican today except for states like Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware.  Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate.”

And what about one of the Palinites who won, how was Kentucky Senator-elect Rand Paul doing on Tea Party principles?  With the issue of America‘s debt ceiling looming, what will Paul do to block Congress from raising that ceiling?

Well, as it turns out, even though individual senators can filibuster or put holds on things, which individual Republicans have done on issues that matter to them, when it comes to raising the debt ceiling above its current $13.7 trillion, Paul is only going to cast a vote against it.  And even that, only because he knows it will pass anyway.  His vote is just to send a message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR:  One of the emergencies is going to be voting to lift the debt ceiling.  Would you do that?

PAUL:  I don‘t believe I will vote to raise the debt ceiling.  I think we need to send a message.  We need to send a strong message that—

AMANPOUR:  Government would default, then.

PAUL:  Well, only if we won the vote would they default.

AMANPOUR:  So, you think it won‘t pass?

PAUL:  I think it‘s unlikely.  There are people who vote against the debt ceiling every time to send the message that adding more debt is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  We‘re joined now by MSNBC contributor, Dave Weigel, also a political reporter for Slate.com.

Dave, good to have you here.

What‘s the Tea Party party line when Mitch McConnell blows the cover off the whole earmarks issue that they don‘t actually move the needle on the budget reduction?

DAVE WEIGEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  The Tea Party line is: what are you doing?  This is not why we voted for you.

Earmarks are one thing.  There is sympathy in the Tea Party movement and a lot of conservative writers have written eloquently about this, for this idea that earmarks are just moving around the money that the government is going to spend anyway.  What they‘re interested in are really deep cuts, really deep—really key fights on entitlements, key fights on the debt.

I think there‘s much more worry in the Tea Party movement about Republicans blinking and going along with raising the debt ceiling or making vague promises of cutting entitlements without forcing a doomsday, which is what they wanted.  I mean, they feel Americans confronted the welfare state as it exists and they want to get rid of it.  If they don‘t get that pretty soon, we‘re going to see a crisis of faith because that‘s what they—that‘s what they really put their lives on hold for two years for.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, Dave, Rand Paul, for example—since it‘s cool for him to vote against raising the debt ceiling, because it won‘t actually win and caused the U.S. to default, now, some members always get to vote against it as a symbolic measure anyway.  You know, that‘s happened before.

But does that sound more like the Tea Party or the Grand Old Party?

WEIGEL:  Well, that‘s what Republicans used to do.  And by used, I mean, a year—within this year.  I mean, in 2010, all the House Republicans voted against raising the debt ceiling because being in the minority is not fun, but it‘s responsibility free.  And you can make a statement like that, and promise your base that when you‘re in power, trust us, it‘s going to be like this all the time.  It‘s going to be fantastic.

The promise of Rand Paul was that, like his father who‘s often the lone vote against everything in the House, he was going to be the lone vote, but he‘d have the power of a senator to stop everything and slow everything down.

I mean, if he doesn‘t live up to that, and Republicans end up, you know, basically caving on raising the debt ceiling—you know, it‘s a betrayal of the same way that they view the vote on TARP as a betrayal.  Similar thing happened, they were completely two different things, but it was similar in that Republicans who believe in free markets were told they didn‘t vote for TARP, the economy was going to collapse.  They caved, they voted for TARP.  Same thing here—Tea Partiers believe if we hadn‘t voted for TARP, the banks would have collapsed but America would have been all right.

A lot of them will say, if we don‘t raise the debt ceiling it will be tough but we‘ll get out of it.  And they don‘t want to see Republicans fall for what they see as the establishment‘s argument that America couldn‘t survive a crisis if we don‘t raise the debt ceiling.  Now, there‘s going to be a lot of people yelling at Rand Paul to vote the right way.

ROBERTS:  Right.

WEIGEL:  And so far, he is saying—well, he‘s bending is what‘s happening.

ROBERTS:  All right.  Well, let‘s go over this.  What is the hardcore, purist Tea Party line on the debt ceiling?  I mean, would a Tea Party hard-liner block increasing the debt ceiling if it did actually cause a default?

WEIGEL:  Well, listen to the way I guess Tom Coburn talks about it, and Jim DeMint even talks about.  When they‘ve been asked this week, they said they will oppose raising the debt ceiling unless we start to really cut entitlements (INAUDIBLE) put up a figure above $300 billion—sorry, cut spending generally.  And that, I think it starts to be acceptable.

I mean, Tea Partiers are almost in the same place that, you know, liberal Democrats were in 2007.  They voted for Democrats.  Democrats said they would defund the Iraq war.  They didn‘t but they gave it the old college try and the base seemed to be OK with that.  That‘s the Republican hope here, if they promise the Tea Partiers that they did as much as they could with the system we have, then—and they started to make deep cuts.  Maybe if they can point to some cut they‘re going to make, then Tea Partiers would be OK with it.

But so far, they haven‘t named anything.  You‘ve been noticing in these interviews, when the screws have gotten turned, and (INAUDIBLE) asked what they want to cut, not only can they not name, they start talking about things that would increase the deficit.  We‘re talking about increasing funding to Medicare, you know, the infamous $500 billion Medicare cut being reversed.  We‘re talking about tax cuts.

So, this is so far—I mean, Republicans are disappointing the Tea Partiers quite honestly.

ROBERTS:  All right.  Dave Weigel, MSNBC contributor, we‘re going to have to leave it there.  But, Dave, great to have you with us.  Thanks.

WEIGEL:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  What the president says he was too busy and too focused to do as well as he would like that.

Plus, the political cost of health care reform, and what the president sees as the road ahead.

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  It‘s time now for a brief sanity break.  But first, a big day for the board game industry.  Milton Bradley, the game maker, not the baseball player, was born on this day in 1836, and best known for Battleship and Twister.  The first game he created was the Checkered Game of Life, later shortened to the Game of Life and finally, simply, Life.  Bradley died in 1911, but not before becoming a millionaire tycoon and moving into millionaire acres. 

Let‘s go.  Let‘s play Oddball. 

We begin on the Internet, with the Oddball cute video of the day.  You must see this.  Presenting the dreaming puppy with his own stuffed animal.  Who knows what this dozerman-pincher is dreaming about.  Could be chasing a squirrel, winning the Iditerod or simply running after some sausages.  We just will never know. 

But we do know that this napador retriever is absolutely adorable.  So dream on, little buddy, dream on.  He even has little stuffed animal.

Over to Paris, where it is time to check in on the world of fashion.  It‘s the International Hair Dressing Trade Show, if you didn‘t know.  Also known as the Lady Gaga wannabe show.  Five hundred thousand salon owners gathered to see who could blow it to be the best.  Wait, was that Winona Ryder from “Beatlejuice”?  Maybe “Edward Scissor Hands”  Was she in that movie?

Anyway, the show tried to focus on products that were more neutral and natural and less damaging to the hair.  Though, from the looks of it, they could have focused on hairstyles that were less damaging to the eyes.  Somehow they got to get the frizz out.

Finally, we spin the wheel to California and for everyone‘s favorite spin-off of Hangman, “Wheel of Fortune,” with what could be a record for the fastest solving of a puzzle in the show‘s history. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  can I solve? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is a prize puzzle. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “I‘ve Got a Good Feeling About This.” 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Did you see that?  She‘s got an L, the letter L, and an apostrophe and she solves the whole darn thing.  I‘m not sure if this was luck, cheating, or if she had eye piece; someone feeding her the puzzle prices.  Whatever, she could just be the best puzzle solver in the world.  But she later credited the apostrophe for being the entire key to figuring that all out.  Isn‘t that incredible?  Congratulations to her.  Win 900 bucks, though.

The president is going to reach out to Republicans.  Has he done it before?  Yes.  And will he try to do it again?  Yes, he will.  Sam Seder joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  The president says he shouldn‘t have counted on Republican cooperation over health care.  He shouldn‘t have let them win the message wars.  In our third story, he vows to do better going-forward by doing the exact same thing. 

In an interview with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes,” the president citing the economy as main reason for Democratic losses last Tuesday.  Even so, Mr. Obama acknowledging his lack of message bearing some responsibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I think that over the course two years, we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn‘t just legislation, that it‘s a matter of persuading people and giving them confidence and bringing them together and setting a tone.  We haven‘t always been successful with that, and I take personal responsibility for that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Speaking to his administration‘s signature accomplishment, health care, Mr. Obama pointed out that overhauling the system is complicated and previous administrations have fallen short of reform.  Yet Mr. Obama was caught off guard by the legislation‘s high political price. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I made the decision to go ahead and do it.  And it proved as costly politically as we expected—probably actually a little more costly than we expected politically. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Mr. Obamas placing the blame on Republican obstructionism, which turned the public against reform and the process. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I couldn‘t get the kind of cooperation from Republicans that I had hoped for.  We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn‘t that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans, including the Republican governor in Massachusetts, who‘s now running for president, that we would be able to find some common ground there, and we just couldn‘t. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Even so, the president says he will continue to try to work together with Republicans, praising John Boehner and Mitch McConnell‘s political skills in organizing an effective opposition to his agenda.  Mr.  Obama suggesting that he was the one that had perhaps fallen short. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Part of my promise to the American people when I was elected was to maintain the kind of tone that says we can disagree without being disagreeable.  And I think over the course two years there have been times where I slipped on that commitment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Republicans have not slipped on their commitment to repeal health care.  Senator Jim DeMint laying out a plan to defund the law, which he believes can be achieved now that the GOP controls the House. 

Meanwhile, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty focusing on his own presidential ambitions, more direct in his criticism.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA:  I think Obama-care is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country.  I‘m doing everything I can in Minnesota to stop, delay or avoid its implementation in my state, including signing an executive order saying we‘re not going to participate unless required by law or approved by me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Joining me now is political satirist and host of “The Majority Report,” which streams live at Majority.FM, weekdays, Sam Seder, who also has his own site, SamSeder.com.  Sam, good evening.  Great to have you with us. 

SAM SEDER, SAMSEDER.COM:  Thanks. 

ROBERTS:  First to the Republicans latest strategy in fighting health care reform.  So Pawlenty has accepted 270 million in federal money from Minnesota‘s Medicaid program.  His state has received over 11 million dollars through the Affordable Care Act.  So does he have a bit of a problem here?  And how can he paint himself as the anti-Mitt Romney? 

SEDER:  He would have a little bit of a problem in terms of hypocrisy if the media cared about such things.  But they‘ve shown, in general, over and over again, that they don‘t.  The Republicans ran on this notion of the deficit was going to bring about Armageddon.  And, of course, all of their proposals, to the extent that they‘ve actually detailed any, about what they want to repeal with health care, will increase the deficit. 

So he should have a problem with his hypocrisy, but it doesn‘t seem like he will.  And frankly, you know, I don‘t know that there‘s enough entities out there that will hold them to account for these positions. 

ROBERTS:  Sam, I just asked you about it.  You think other people aren‘t talking about this enough? 

SEDER:  Yeah, I think you‘re right.  This is one of the few places, frankly, on this network where you‘ll hear this type of criticism of the Republicans.  They‘re completely devoid of any capacity to actually govern.  They can run this way.  And they probably will disappoint the Tea Partiers.  But I don‘t know if they‘ll pay the political price, because, frankly, they‘re much better at spinning it I think than the Democrats are. 

ROBERTS:  You don‘t think if they could go ahead and repeal health care, that it wouldn‘t backfire on certain Republicans? 

SEDER:  I don‘t even think they really want to repeal health care.  I think, at the end of the day, they‘re going to talk about it, and they‘re going to make an argument in two years that the Democrats have obstructed them, and they‘re going to basically school the Democrats on how to make it appear as if they‘re being obstructed from their agenda.  They‘re going to go back to their Tea Partiers.  And the Tea Partiers are going to vote for them again. 

(INAUDIBLE) -- we need more people, more legislators to actually overturn this thing.  And frankly, at the end of the day, I don‘t think they want to.  I think that the corporate task masters know that there has to be some form of reform, and this was about as good as they can get, while still having so much skin in the game.  So I think the Republicans are just doing this rhetorically. 

ROBERTS:  As we talk about the big word, obstructionism; the president acknowledges the Republicans were key in obstructing health care and it‘s debate.  So why do you think he‘s still willing to compromise with them on other issues?  No choice? 

SEDER:  You know, I don‘t know.  There‘s—it‘s almost as if he‘s learned only half the lesson, that he got the politics wrong, but he‘s still talking about that his presidency is to bring people together.  This country is extremely polarized.  Half of the population had a problem with health care.  Although the majority of those people who voted because of health care, actually either were satisfied with it, or wanted it to go further.  So I don‘t understand why he thinks he can compromise with Republicans, unless maybe he‘s not too concerned about what he would be giving away. 

ROBERTS:  Here we have this great president with the great orator that he is, with a messaging problem.  Why can‘t Mr. Obama speak to the Republicans with the kind of forcible language that they go ahead and use on him? 

SEDER:  You know, the thing is he doesn‘t even have to use that type of language.  He could actually just be a little more forceful in espousing what accomplishments he thinks he has achieved.  You listen to that interview on “60 Minutes.” he‘s apologizing throughout the entire thing.  He doesn‘t—he talks about we‘ve accomplished stuff.  Well, lay it out there.  Tell people that their kids are going to lose health care if they‘re under 26 if this gets repealed, et cetera.  Get into the details. 

ROBERTS:  You think he should just talk about the accomplishments and don‘t say, hey, I made a mistake maybe on something? 

SEDER:  Look, it‘s one thing to say that I may have made some mistakes around the edges.  But that shouldn‘t be the main message.  The main message should be that the Republicans are preventing accomplishments that Americans actually want. 

ROBERTS:  Perception is reality.  Sam Seder of SamSeder, many thanks. 

SEDER:  Appreciate it. 

ROBERTS:  The president in India, why it matters and why his press secretary stood up for us, reporters. 

The worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history; the president‘s panel has some answers.  Bob Cavnar joins us. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Elizabeth Warren of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, defending herself and her job from Republican criticism.

(OMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  In our number two story, the president abroad and his effort to connect his travels to job creation back home.  One distraction, though, the attempt by Indian security officials to limit the number of reporters in a meeting between the president and the Indian prime minister.  White House Press Secretary Gibbs insisted that all eight pool reporters be allowed.  And he literally stuck his foot in the door.  And Gibbs prevailed. 

With the rest of the president‘s trip, our correspondent is NBC‘s Lee Cowan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  All the colors of India were on diplomatic display this morning, as the president was welcomed at India‘s Presidential Palace, before he and the First Lady quietly paid their respects at a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.  The White House bills this visit as a job hunting mission.  Today, the president was quick to point to recent trade deals that he says are proof that India is no longer just a destination for U.S. outsourcing. 

OBAMA:  I want to be able to say to the American people, when they ask

me, well, why are you spending time with India, aren‘t they taking our jobs

I want to be able to say, actually, you know what, they just created 50,000 jobs. 

COWAN:  India‘s trillion dollar economy has made it a global power.  Enough that it now owns a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, an idea the president endorsed while addressing India‘s parliament. 

OBAMA:  In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member. 

COWAN:  But dogging him throughout the trip has been Pakistan, U.S.  ally, but a bitter rival of India.  The president called for dialogue between India and Pakistan.  But India‘s prime minister says not until Pakistan cracks down on terrorist safe havens. 

MANMOHAN SINGH, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER:  You cannot simultaneously be talking, and at the same time the terror machine is as active as ever before. 

COWAN:  Experts say the remark was aimed directly at Pakistan. 

TERESITA SCHAFFER, SOUTH ASIA EXPERT:  The Pakistan government is not strong enough to be able to take an agreement with India into the public domain and sell it politically. 

COWAN:  Since his arrival, it‘s been a pretty hectic mix of policy, commerce and culture.  Some the president reveled in, and some not so much.  He was reluctant to take to the dance floor over the weekend.  But First Lady Michelle Obama has been dancing, even hop-scotching her way from one Indian venue to another. 

(on camera):  Next stop, the president‘s boyhood home of Indonesia.  That will be a relatively brief stop, before heading off to Korea and Japan for more economic summits, ones that the president hopes will resonate with recession-weary voters back home. 

Lee Cowan, NBC News, New Delhi. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS:  The BP oil spill and the report that tries to begin answering some of the most important questions; Bob Cavnar next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  It has been almost seven months since 11 rig workers were killed and 200 million barrels of crude began pouring into the Gulf in the wake of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig.  Today, federal investigators, trying to figure out the route cause, have released their preliminary findings.  Now one such finding is that there is, quote, “no evidence at this time to suggest there was a conscious decision to sacrifice safety concerns to save money.” 

In our number one story, oil industry expert Bob Cavnar is here to make sense of that claim.  Today marked the first of two days of public hearings conducted by the National Oil Spill Commission in Washington.  The commission‘s chief counsel, Fred Bartlett, cross examining officials from BP, Transocean and Halliburton.  Last month, the commission revealed that both BP and Halliburton knew the cement mix that they pumped into the undersea Macondo Well was faulty. 

Today‘s discussion centered on the misreading of a pressure test that happened just hours before the well you see there exploded.  As for trading safety for dollars, Chief Counsel Bartlett says there is no evidence that happened, at least on April 20th

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED BARTLETT, CHIEF COUNSEL, NATIONAL OIL SPILL COMMISSION:  Any time you‘re talking about a million and a half dollars a day, money enters in.  But all I‘m saying is, human beings did not sit there and sell safety down the river for dollars on the rig that night.  That‘s my sole point. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Bartlett says his commission wasn‘t charged with investigating BP‘s corporate culture, only what happened on the day of the blast.  Last month, an investigation by Propublica and PBS‘ “Frontline” explored BP‘s corporate culture and found, quote, “current and former workers and executives said BP reportedly cut corners, let alarm and safety systems languish, and skipped essential maintenance that could have prevented a number of explosions and spills.  Internal BP documents support these claims.”

Today, Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts underscoring those findings, issuing a statement that reads, in part, “BP has a long and sordid history of cutting costs and pushing the limits in search of higher profits.” 

Back to the commission, co-chairman William Reilly, who is a former EPA administrator under the first President Bush, gave “Bloomberg News” his opinion on mitigating future disasters, saying quote, “we need an industry-wide entity, much like exists in the nuclear industry, to raise the bar for safety everywhere, and to get some standard operating procedures that really have bite.” 

All right, as promised, let‘s call in oil and gas industry expert, Bob Cavnar, “Huffington Post” contributor, and author of “Disaster on the Horizon, High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout.” 

Bob, welcome to you.  Clear this all up for us.  The message today was that on April 20th, the exact day of the explosion, no corners were cut?  But corners cut before that on a corporate level.  If so, and if that‘s what they‘re pointing their finger to say, where and by whom? 

BOB CAVNAR, OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY EXPERT:  Thomas, as we all know, BP has a century long history of cost cutting to increase profits.  Mr.  Bartlett may be correct that no decisions were made on April 20th on that evening that we‘re focused on dollars.  But they were facing the problem that they had because of the well design that BP had put in place.  They chose to use a long string design.  A lot of people had disputed whether the blowout actually was caused by that. 

But certainly the long stream design—the running of only one string of pipe from the surface to the bottom, rather than having an extra safety barrier, certainly increased the risk and the complexity of the well. 

ROBERTS:  Let‘s get to the whole goal of the commission that‘s looking over this, and also what you think of the commission, why it was put together, and it‘s effectiveness so far. 

CAVNAR:  You know, the commission is charged with determining the cause of the blowout.  I‘m confused, though, because of the make-up of the commission how they could possibly do that.  There‘s no one on the commission that has actual oil and gas experience.  Some can argue that Mr.  Reilly has oil and gas experience because he sits on the board of Conoco-Phillips.  But beyond that bit of experience, the rest of the commission is made up of politicians and environmentalists and academicians, all of whom are important—I don‘t mean to exclude them.  But certainly having industry experience there should really help.  And they just don‘t have that on the commission.

ROBERTS:  All right.  Let‘s talk about how they‘re gathering their findings.  Today, the chief counsel, Mr. Bartlett was asking—publicly asking for subpoena power to get to the bottom of all this.  So having subpoena power, is that really necessary to get all the real answers? 

CAVNAR:  Absolutely.  They‘re really hamstrung.  And Mr. Bartlett today actually showed some frustration by saying he had a burr under his saddle because they don‘t have subpoena power.  He basically said that they‘re dependent on secondhand reporting as to what happened.  They really can‘t get the people who made those decisions into the commission to actually talk to them. 

So that‘s a real problem, on top of the fact that they don‘t have industry people on the commission.  That coupled with the lack of subpoenas causes them a real problem. 

ROBERTS:  Isn‘t this a real Catch 22?  If they‘re saying that on April 20th, the day of the explosion, no corners were cut, although he‘s publicly asking for subpoena power, should they be making such a broad brush statement right now without having that subpoena power to get to the facts that they want to get? 

CAVNAR:  They are completely dependent upon BP, Transocean, the other companies involved, as well as other industry companies, like Shell and Exxon, for their information.  Without subpoena power, they‘re basically subject to whatever the industry tells them.  And they have no way to measure if what they‘re telling them is absolutely correct. 

So they‘re actually subject to that information.  And, therefore, I think some of their conclusions may not go as far as they should go in this kind of a circumstance. 

ROBERTS:  And this will just continue to go on and on as we try to get answers for this.  I mean, again, you know, 11 oil rig workers were killed and 200 million gallons of crude spilling into the Gulf.  We need answers on that. 

I want to thank you, oil and gas industry expert Bob Cavnar.  Good to have you with us tonight. 

CAVNAR:  Thank you, Thomas. 

ROBERTS:  That‘s going to be COUNTDOWN for Monday, November the 8th.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, just filling in for Keith Olbermann.  Keith is going to be back tomorrow.  And up next is Rachel Maddow.  Rachel, good evening.

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