updated 11/11/2010 11:35:07 AM ET 2010-11-11T16:35:07

Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Joe Romm, David Corn, Howard Kurtz, Greg

Mitchell

           

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

“What a crazy proposal, what a crazy proposal,” the unnamed Democratic source to “The Huffington Post,” after the chairs of the Obama debt commission recommend cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare, cutting student loan subsidies, cutting the Commerce Department, cutting the Small Business Administration, cutting bone.

Oh, increasing one thing: the retirement age—first to 68, then to 69.

The madness of the deficit reduction committee with Congressman Anthony Weiner and Howard Fineman.

The hallucinations of the House Energy Committee.  Is this your new chairman, Mr. BP?

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REP. JOE BARTON ®, TEXAS:  I apologize—amounts to a shake down. 

So I apologize.

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OLBERMANN:  Or is this your new chairman, Mr. Bible Authority?

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REP. JOHN SHIMKUS ®, ILLINOIS:  “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

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OLBERMANN:  Do we need a missile defense system against God in case he changes his mind, Congressman?

GOP circular firing squad: Senator Collins attacks Palin.  Senator-elect Paul attacks earmarks.  Senator McConnell defends them.

Congressman-elect West‘s new chief of staff, the radio radical who wants to hang illegal immigrants.  She might be a bit of a problem, says the House Committee on Conduct.

So, should news people donate to political campaigns?  We‘ll ask Greg Mitchell and Howard Kurtz.  I will donate equally to their campaigns.

And look who stole puppet theater.

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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  There is the puppet master here.  There‘s the stage.  There‘s the audience.  There are the strings to each puppet.  And then there‘s the story.

UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER:  Oh, Mr. Tracy (ph), how terrible.  What could have happened?

UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER:  Thunderbird I from base, Thunderbird I from base, repeat.  Can you hear me?

(INAUDIBLE)

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OLBERMANN:  All the news, commentary, and puppets—now on COUNTDOWN.

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UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER:  Thunderbirds are go.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Wednesday, November 10th, 727 days until the 2012 presidential elections.

But it is far from clear that President Obama would want to run on the recommendations released this afternoon from his hand-picked chairman of a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which he created as an end-run around congressional inability to curb out-of-control debt.

And in our fifth story tonight: those two chairmen recommend that the solution to America‘s debt caused by a bogus war, a decade of Bush tax cuts for the rich, soaring profit-taking by health care and insurance companies, and the deep recession caused by letting banks bet our money on the global casino, the solution to all that is to make working Americans work harder and longer and for less.

The chairman, former Senator Alan Simpson, and former Clinton chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, called today‘s draft a starting point for discussion.  Simpson joking that he and Bowles have ticked off just about everybody with skin in this game—which is everyone—because if they get their way, you won‘t have any skin left.

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ALAN SIMPSON, DEBT COMMISSION CO-CHAIR:  So we present this only as a guide and a directive of where we could or should go.  And Erskine and I have been told where to go many times during this exercise.  I can tell you how many times I‘ve been told exactly where to go.

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OLBERMANN:  One more time, coming up shortly.

Bowles, following with a considerably more somber preface to their plan.

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ERSKINE BOWLES, DEBT COMMISSION CO-CHAIR:  We‘re on the most predictable path towards an economic crisis that I can imagine.  The path we‘re on today is not sustainable, and I don‘t know a soul on this commission or anywhere else in the Congress that believes it is.  The arithmetic is compelling.  This debt is like a cancer that will truly destroy this country from within if we don‘t fix it.

And we can‘t grow ourselves out of this problem.  We could have double-digit growth for decades and not solve this problem.  We can‘t tax our way out of this problem, and we can‘t cut our way out of this problem.  It‘s going to take some combination thereof.

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OLBERMANN:  Among the recommended cuts, military cuts, a 15 percent cut in arms purchases, which would save $20 billion in 2015, reducing the number of U.S. personnel stationed in Asia and Europe by one third.  Nothing about how many in Afghanistan.

The rich and well-off would take some hits-ish.  Dividends and capital gains would be taxed as regular old income, instead of the 15 percent rate the wealthy pay now and they can‘t find a loophole.  The chairman recommended raising the cap on Social Security taxes, which now do not apply on income above $106,000.  And Social Security would be means tested, reducing benefits for the rich.

And the rest of the country—today‘s kids will have to work until the age of 69 to collect Social Security.  Their benefits no longer pegged to wages, but inflation, which tends to be lower.  They won‘t have the office of safe and drug-free schools anymore.  And if they make it to college, they will now have to pay interest on their student loans while they‘re still in school.

Today‘s working Americans will have to pay more for gas, 18 cents per gallon.  Medicaid co-pays would go up.  Medicare would cut benefits and home health care.

And the plan would also limit your ability to sue for malpractice.

Airline tickets would cost more, because the plan lets airlines pass new airline fees on to you.

Unemployment will go up with the elimination of nearly half a million jobs, federal and contracted, over the next 10 years.

The Small Business Administration will get folded into the Commerce Department and then it would get cut by 10 percent.

Veterans would have to fork over a co-pay to the V.A.

Corporations, meanwhile, would get a tax cut, down from 35 percent to 26 percent.  The rich people who own corporations would not have their top rate returned to the 39 percent it was under Clinton, but under one scheme, they would get it cut down to 23 percent.

President Obama declined to comment on the plan‘s specifics.  Good move.

Speaker Pelosi called it, quote, “unacceptable.”

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said, quote, “The chairman of the deficit commission just told working Americans to drop dead.”

Somewhere within that range tonight, I suspect, Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Democrat of New York, who joins us here.

Good to see you, sir.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  It is wrong.

OLBERMANN:  Is anybody going to like this plan?  Anybody?

WEINER:  Well, what‘s infuriating, putting aside the content, (INAUDIBLE) plan to reduce the deficit so much, a plan to reduce seniors and reduce the middle class and reduce everyone else.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEINER:  What is truly going to me, and I saw this about six months ago, is this is now President Obama‘s commission that is going to propose, essentially, eliminating Social Security COLAs, cutting Medicaid, cutting the home mortgage deduction, which for middle class families is really the only big one that they get any break on, and instead of waiting and seeing what Republicans is going to offer, which is to privatize Social Security, slash Medicare, and the like.

So, this is very bad.  I mean, look, I don‘t mind a discussion about how we‘re going to cut deficits, but, you know, that Alan Simpson came up with a plan to reduce Social Security—well, that should shock anybody.

OLBERMANN:  His point that this is a good place—a starting point for discussion.  It sounds more like it‘s a good starting point for revolution.

What does he expect to have happen as a result of this?

WEINER:  Well, I don‘t—I don‘t quite understand either.  I mean, one thing is for sure, is that we know, for example, we know certain things about the deficit.  And you pointed out, two-thirds of the deficit are in two places.  The wars and the big Bush tax cut.

So, we‘re in a conversation now about how we‘re going to deal with that latter thing.  And for one, I think we should extend the tax cuts for the middle class.  But the problem that we have here is no one seems is to be standing up for these fundamental Democratic principles, Social Security, Medicare and the like.

The president—the Democratic president of the United States appoints a commission that came up with this very predictable thing.  Someone should be standing up, and I think the president should do it, and say, leave the Democratic principles that are improving the lives of the middle class families, we‘re not going to eliminate them.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to talk to Howard Fineman in a moment about what the White House felt about this, which is apparently a big surprise to them, too.

But explain—just summarize the problem that may not be as obvious to people about the idea of cutting Social Security as a function of bringing down the debt.

WEINER:  Well, first of all, Social Security ultimately is a safety net program that worked.  It‘s worked every month.  And frankly, the problems that it faces, it‘s true.  In about 21 years from now, we are going to start having a problem about more money coming in—going out than coming in.  A modest change will be able to deal with that.

This notion that Social Security COLAs, cost of living adjustment should be slashed—well, that is the one hedge we have against seniors falling into poverty—below the poverty line.  The problem is—and then with Medicare, Medicare, the changes they‘re making in the V.A., co-payments for veterans, it‘s just about all of these programs that are the last remaining programs to help people stay in the middle class—

OLBERMANN:  Right.

WEINER:  -- they want to slash them.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have an overall solution that can stand up against something like this, as it‘s proposed?

WEINER:  Well, you know, the thing about this is that a lot of this is not dissimilar from the plan that Paul Ryan put out, and the Republicans ran alternately from and towards.

I mean, I think that the Republicans now are in a position of having to make a proposal here.  Let‘s see what they come up with.

So far, we know that their original opening is $1 trillion additional in the deficit for the Bush tax cuts.  That‘s their opening.  We know that they believe in privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher system.

So, a lot of these proposals are actually the Republican proposals. 

But now, they can wear it in the cloak of a bipartisan commission instead. 

Uh-huh, Democrats don‘t support this plan.

OLBERMANN:  Does the president need to make that clear?

WEINER:  I think he should quickly.  Frankly, I don‘t know why he appointed this commission.  He‘s the president of the United States.

We you know, we‘re Democrats, we believe in certain things.  We believe of protecting Social Security, protecting Medicare.  The home interest deduction is a middle class tax cut, we support that.  I don‘t know why you propose a commission that you knew is going to come out with stuff like this.  I think someone is going to stand up for these programs and the president should do it.

OLBERMANN:  Is it possible that this is the crazy plan and whatever he then comes up will look much more sane by contrast?

WEINER: Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Is that the premise?

WEINER:  I don‘t—I don‘t know.  I mean, if you look at what the Republicans are talking about doing when they take power, a lot of it is to do these things.  And now, it‘s almost like we‘re giving some air cover to do it.

You know, the more that this stuff gets talked about, this notion of eliminating the Social Security cost of living adjustment, making kids pay back their college loans, if you just think about, they all fall into the same category.  It‘s the few government programs that the middle class really catches a break from.  Those are the targets today.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, great thanks for coming in.

WEINER:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Now, let‘s turn, as I said, to MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also a senior political editor of “The Huffington Post.”

Good evening, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.  A belated welcome back.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, kindly.

The release of this draft was not expected.  Do you know why we got it today?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it was probably shock there beyond the part of the two co-chairs.  It was a complete surprise to other members of the commission and to the White House.  My colleague Sam Stein and I at the “Huffington Post” were over interviewing David Axelrod just a couple of hours ago over at the White House.

And he said to us that he basically didn‘t know that they were going to do this until virtually minutes before they did, less than an hour before they did it.

So, if this was the president‘s commission, as Congressman Weiner said, the leaders of the president‘s commission were just surprise the heck out of the president and the White House.

OLBERMANN:  Well, the lack of an official from the White House is understandable.  Is there an unofficial comment at this point, besides, wow, we‘re surprised?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, I think they‘re being interestingly cautious?  I think it‘s fascinating that, you know, Nancy Pelosi came right out and said this is unacceptable.  Rich Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO said the same thing.  Congressman Weiner just pretty much said the same thing.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  But the silence from the White House admittedly, the president‘s abroad, conducting foreign policy, but the silence from inside the White House, also the weariness there, I think is very telling.  I think they don‘t want to denounce a process that as the congressman pointed out, they started.  And they‘re going to have to live with the conversation that takes place over the next few weeks.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that does underscore a real box that the president put himself into, and not for the first time.  I mean, what can they do at this point?  Do they shelve the commission?  Do they summon Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles to the White House and go, you‘re fired?  I mean, what possible reaction can they have?

FINEMAN:  Well, ironically enough, they may end up hoping that the commission doesn‘t end up agreeing on anything.  I think what the two chairs were trying to do here was be the bad cops.  I agree with that interpretation.  That‘s what people close to the commission and the commission staff have told me—kind of shock therapy, as I say.

But they‘re not going to be able to get anywhere near the 14 votes they would need for anything like the plan that they put forth, especially because of the severe cuts in terms of social programs.  You can argue about changing the tax code radically.  First of all, that‘s not going to happen to begin, but the cuts that the Democrats will fight tooth and nail are probably what makes this impossible.  One member of the commission, a Democrat, already said she would have nothing to do with it.

So, they‘re not going to get the 14 votes they need.  I suppose the White House could say, that we‘ve kind of shook things up, got a lot of things on the table.  But as the congressman says, most of the things on the table are going to be unpalatable to the Democratic Party.

And some of them, if you believe the president‘s rhetoric from the 2008 presidential campaign, are things that should be unacceptable to him.  For example, he said in June of 2008, in North Carolina, “I will not raise the retirement age.”  That‘s Barack Obama candidate speaking.

But today, it‘s not exactly clear, yet, where the White House stands on that or any of the other issues that these guys put on the table today.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know how many times I‘ve asked this question about different issues, but I‘m going to have to ask it about this one again.

FINEMAN:  Yes?

OLBERMANN:  Is there any—was there any sense in the White House that perhaps the problem—did Mr. Axelrod betray this in the slightest—that perhaps the problem was once again going for, as Congressman Weiner suggested, going for bipartisanship first, rather than staking out the Democratic position and going for bipartisanship after the Republicans come up with crazy ideas like these?

FINEMAN:  Well, put it this way, and you can read all about it in tomorrow‘s “Huffington Post,” but I think—I think it‘s fair to say that the administration is trying to figure out how to honor the wishes of the people for bipartisan cooperation here in Washington, while at the same time dealing with a Republican leadership that clearly doesn‘t want any.  And if this commission is part of that equation, what they‘ve put out so far just aids the Republican end of the poker game, and not necessarily the president‘s.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman, who you can read on, let me say it for you this time, “The Huffington Post.”  There‘ll be an update every 32 seconds.

And by the way, remember who broke your records at “The Huffington Post” for traffic the other day.

FINEMAN:  I am sure.  By a lot.

OLBERMANN:  You‘re welcome.  Thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  So, that was fun.

Who would you rather have now as chairman of the House Energy Committee, while we‘re talking about the future?  The guy who apologized to BP or the guy who believes climate change can‘t happen because God promised Noah he would not hit the reset button on the planet again after floody thing?  Next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  So, who‘s going to run the House Energy Committee now?  The guy who believes God will eliminate climate change or the guy who believes BP will eliminate climate change?

The GOP fight against earmarks, except for its Senate leader—he‘s fighting for earmarks.

When we do puppet theater, it‘s because we lost video.  He does puppet theater, it‘s because he lost his mind.  He goes all Wayland Flowers and Madame on us—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  As far as the House chairmanships go, House Energy and Commerce is a big one.  Not only does that committee chair get to drive the bus on things like interstate commerce and health policy, but also energy regulation and national energy policy and he gets subpoena power.

In the fourth story: the Republican fight to claim that gavel is getting ugly as to two distinguished themselves from the pack—Joe Barton of Texas, who infamously apologized to BP for putting our water in the way of their oil, and John Shimkus of Illinois who is not concerned with man-made global warming, because only God can destroy the candidate.

“Politico” writing today that the third candidate, seemingly more moderate Michigan congressman, Fred Upton, is being attacked, presumably by one of his Republican rivals, we don‘t know who, an unsigned 22-page analysis of Upton‘s voting record appeared out of nowhere on Monday.  The charge, that Upton is a, quote, “part-time Republican,” because of his votes for things like TARP and SCHIP.

Barton, who is term-limited but seeking a waiver in order to claim the committee chair, denies he‘s the source of that document.  But according to an anonymous House GOP staffer, quote, “This has become Barton‘s mission, to take out Fred Upton.”  Take out.

Barton‘s mission in July, apologizing to BP‘s CEO Tony Hayward over the $20 billion relief fund set up for the victims of the Gulf‘s spill disaster.

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BARTON:  I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.  So I apologize.

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OLBERMANN:  And yet, he didn‘t move away.

So, if not Barton or Upton, what about Illinois Congressman Shimkus who is not afraid to ask the tough questions about carbon emissions.  Here comes the science.

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SHIMKUS:  So, if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?  Today, we have about 338 parts per million in the atmosphere.  I think in the age of the dinosaurs, where we had more flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million.  There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon.

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OLBERMANN:  The Shimkus solution to global warming: pollute more and the dinosaurs might come back.  Then we‘ll live in the “Land of the Lost” (INAUDIBLE) with and Marshall, Will and Holly.

It‘s not clear how much Mr. Shimkus clears his dinosaur reanimation progress with the dinosaur free bible, but that did not stop him from citing the good book as evidence to refute global warming at a hearing last year.

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SHIMKUS:  I want to start with Genesis 8, verse 21 and 22.  “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.  As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  I believe that‘s the infallible word of God and that‘s the way it‘s going to be for his creation.

The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over.  Man will not destroy this earth.  This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.

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OLBERMANN:  So, if Mr. Upton and Mr. Shimkus get the chairmanship of that committee, it would be God‘s will.

Joining me now, Joe Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, also editor of ClimateProgress.org, and author of “Straight Up:

America‘s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on the Status Quo, Media, Politicians and Clean Energy Solutions.”

Good evening, Joe.

JOE ROMM, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Your blog is reporting today on the third man in this brawl, the guy being painted as the moderate.  What‘s the latest on Congressman Upton?

ROMM:  Yes, well, of course, in the GOP, moderate is a relative term, you know, compared to the BP apologist.

You know, Barton has definitely been going after this Congressman Upton as a part-time Republican.  But I think it‘s still safe to say that he is a full-time extremist.  He said he wants to repeal the health care bill.  He said he wants to hold hearings into climate science.  He started just to prove how, you know, extreme he is, he started quoting Glenn Beck conspiracy theories.

So, you know, it‘s all relative.  I think the interesting thing is that Barton has really, you know, started beating him up with these secret memos.  I think—I think Barton missed the special episode of “Glee” about bullying.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the dinosaur stuff—is there a way to measure how off-base John Shimkus is, even for those who have both faith and belief in science and evolution and sort of the history of the planet?

ROMM:  Well, it is pretty scary that somebody would, as you see in a House hearing, say that he knows that global warming can‘t harm us, can‘t cause sea level rise, because God said he wouldn‘t cause anymore floods.  So, no, I think Shimkus is about as extreme as you‘d get.  And as you say, he sort of mixed his metaphors.

I don‘t know how you believe in dinosaurs and the Bible.  They don‘t -

you know, dinosaurs are like, you know, tens—hundreds of millions of years ago and the Bible is like 6,000-year-old planet.

           

So, you get these people who are beyond rational.  They just sort of grasp at whatever little anecdote or argument that they‘ve heard to justify their extreme, you know, pro-pollution policies.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and the theology doesn‘t even hold up, because if God said was that he wouldn‘t cause anymore floods, that covered a lot of other possibilities for floods, other than ones caused by a deity.

But lastly, fast forward two years, whoever gets this, unless there‘s some fourth candidate who has like a fully functioning brain—does Republican control of this committee mean legislatively and in terms of where we are, as a nation on climate change, does it mean we‘re not anywhere on climate change?

ROMM:  Yes, I mean, the House, obviously, this committee passed out a climate and clean energy jobs bill.  This committee is going to go after the science.  I mean, it‘s going to be, you know, the Bible doesn‘t say anything about how mercury and lead harm us.  It doesn‘t say anything about greenhouse gases.

So, if you‘re going by that view of things, you‘re not going to take any action.  And, of course, they get large amounts of funding from big oil.

We need science-based regulations to protect our children from pollutants and create a clean energy jobs economy for the future.

OLBERMANN:  Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress—as always, great thanks for your time tonight.

ROMM:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Did you know that a secret cabal of puppets, including Barack Obama, John McCain, and me are running this country, thanks to the string-pulling of George Soros?  It‘s true.  I heard it on Glenn Beck—quit it!

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OLBERMANN:  She advocated hanging illegal immigrants, now she‘s headed to Washington to be the chief of staff for the man who may turn out to be the craziest congressman of all time.  Or does it prove maybe she‘s not headed to Washington.

First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day from InfinityLtd.  That‘s Eric Bowman.  “Welcome back.  Is Dubya‘s book stocked under true crime or fiction?”  Children‘s.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Ireland with the world‘s most popular sport, America‘s sixth most popular sport.  A good piece of goal keeping to make the save and the goalie attempts to clear the zone with a kick.  And suddenly, goal!  A brilliant although entirely inadvertent header by the defender sneaks past his own goalkeeper.  If you‘re scoring at home, or even if you‘re alone, that‘s an assist for the keeper, and a concussion for the defender shown.  Ouch. 

Springfield, Ohio, hello!  Oddball‘s continuing coverage of things blowing up, and boom goes the dynamite.  Something seems to be wrong.  Normally, the thingy falls down.  Uh-oh.  Apparently only one side of the explosives fired, causing the controlled explosion to become not so controlled, knocked down the power lines, 4,000 people without any.  No injuries reported.  Fox says a new star for its show, “When Structures Go Bad.”  Timber.

Finally, we stay in Ohio for a drink.  Welcome to Luke‘s Bar and Grill in Boston.  Clientele is a little horny.  I‘m talking about the deer.  Either lost or thirsty, it burst through a window, knocking over tables and chairs.  The deer struggled to gain its footing on the floor, which appears to be made out of a former bowling alley.  The owner of the bar eventually able to leave a door open and the deer walked out. 

No, they didn‘t give him a chaser.  The bar has since taken down its advertisement which read, “two beers for a buck.”

Time marches on!

How many senators from Kentucky, two?  How many different opinions about earmarks from them?  So many that no man can say. 

And late-breaking news of Michele Bachmann dropping out of a critical House leadership race, next.

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OLBERMANN:  Discretion can be the better part of valor, even if you‘re Michele Bachmann.  Her bid to usurp the fourth ranking spot in the GOP House leadership, conference chair, was spat at by the old guard.  Developing tonight, she took the spit. 

MinnesotaPost.com reporting Bachmann has just dropped out of the race for the position, which will presumably now go to Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling. 

Meanwhile, as Tea Party king-maker Senator Jim DeMint prepares his pupils for their first purity test, Mitch McConnell is quietly working to ensure they all flunk.  But in our third story, it may not matter what McConnell does.  As one Tea Party leader warns, senators who plead the fifth on an upcoming vote on earmarks will face primary challenges.  Silence is guilt.

“Politico” reporting that Senator Minority Leader McConnell is efforting a defeat of the DeMint plan to ban the earmarks.  McConnell, a member of the Appropriations Committee, is reportedly encouraging colleagues to consider their options before siding with the DeMint plan, which the GOP conference will vote on next Tuesday. 

DeMint releasing a list of ten senators and senators-elect who are in favor of it.  And while McConnell has not publicly opposed DeMint‘s proposal, his surrogates are out there defending their constitutional right to appropriate funds.  Like Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma outlining McConnell argument, if Congress can‘t earmark, then the guy in the White House gets the money. 

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SEN. JIM INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  IF we don‘t do it, then the president does it.  When you eliminate an earmark, you don‘t save a nickel.  That‘s why President Obama is all for McCain and DeMint‘s ear—ban on earmarks. 

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OLBERMANN:  Every time an earmark dies—but Inhofe is careful not to place blame on the Tea Party. 

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INHOFE:  The problem is the public has been brainwashed into thinking that—and a lot of these are the very liberal members of Congress—into thinking that earmarks somehow are all bad. 

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OLBERMANN:  Uh-huh, how‘d that happen?  Mark Meckler of Tea Party Patriots fired off a warning shot regarding support of earmarks.  “If that‘s what they‘re going to do, then a lot will see themselves facing primary challenges.”  Meanwhile, a junior senator B. from Kentucky, Rand Paul, is defending his position on earmarks.  If only he could remember exactly what it was. 

“The Wall Street Journal” reported that after campaigning against them, Senator Elect Paul was for them.  Now Paul says he‘s against them. 

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RAND PAUL ®, SENATOR ELECT FROM KENTUCKY:  I never, ever said I would earmark, and I will not use the earmark, no matter what the Republican caucus says.  I will advocate for things that Kentucky needs through the committee process, where we deliberate on what are the most important projects, and also in the context of a balanced budget.  But that‘s not earmarking.  And I won‘t do earmarking. 

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OLBERMANN:  As for Senator DeMint, he‘s getting criticized by what‘s left of the GOP‘s moderate wing.  This is it, Senator Collins on Maine, blaming DeMint and Sarah Palin for their role in supporting losing Tea Party candidates in Nevada and Delaware.  Quoting her, “they cost us two seats we could have won.”

Collins adding, “if Senator Lisa Murkowski prevails in Alaska, Palin‘s power will be weakened.” 

No matter, plenty of Palin-approved lawmakers will be heading to Washington, including Congressman-elect Allen West of Florida.  Mr. West hiring right-wing radio host Joyce Coffman, on whose show he appeared countless times, to be his chief of staff, in an interesting quid pro quo.  She previously suggested that Jewish people who voted for President Obama did so because they don‘t embrace being Jews anymore.  And she said illegal immigrant should be hanged. 

She will continue to hold a position at her radio station, but not host anymore, just correspondent.  Even so, the council at the House Committee on Conduct tells ThinkProgress.com that the West hiring of Coffman is, quote, “potentially problematic.” 

In addition to being crazy. 

Time now to call in Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones Magazine,” columnist for PoliticsDaily.com, David Corn.  David, good evening. 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE”:  Good to be with you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  First to the earmarks, who has the advantage here, DeMint or McConnell?  And when Inhofe says this is a liberal thing that earmarks are bad, am I misremembering the entirety of human history?  I thought that was a conservative thing. 

CORN:  Well, who has the advantage, the Hatfields or the McCoys?  That‘s how I look at it.  If the issue is preserving a Senate privilege, you usually have to bet on preserving the Senate privilege.  So I think DeMint may be—may have a tough slogging here. 

And you asked about Inhofe, blaming this on liberals.  I remember about a year ago talking to Inhofe about another subject, global warming, and he literally told me that Barbara Streisand and a bunch of Hollywood liberals had cooked up this whole hoax of global warming, and had managed to foolishly lead astray tens of thousands of scientists. 

So I am betting if you asked him who‘s responsible for the Sooners losing to the Aggies last weekend, it was the liberals. 

OLBERMANN:  And Barbara Streisand, oddly, was left out of the list of George Soros controlled puppets that we‘ll get to later on in our program.  This split in the Kentucky delegation, it appears to be split.  I say split, sir.  Senator-elect Paul seems to be wavering on this issue.  Is that some suggestion there that he‘s getting pressure, not just from his Tea Party minders there, but also Mr. McConnell? 

CORN:  Well, the whole relationship between Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell has been interesting, will continue to be interesting.  Let me pose another possibility, as far-fetched as it may sound.  Perhaps Rand Paul has actually looked into the issue and has come to the realization that it‘s bunk.  Earmarks represent one percent of the federal budget.

But I have to agree with Senator Inhofe on this.  And I‘m waiting for the lightning bolt to come down out of the sky.  But he‘s right when he says, if you eliminate earmarks, you don‘t save that money.  Earmarks come about when you have money that‘s already appropriated, going to the agencies.  Congress has already voted for it.  And then the senators and the members of the House come in and they start putting their post-it notes on the money and saying, I want this money to go to this project or that project. 

We have a 10 billion dollar bridge, you know, improvement program.  I want, you know, 50 million of that to go to my bridge, maybe a bridge to nowhere.  So if you say no earmarks, the money still goes out of the federal Treasury to these programs.  And it‘s the federal agencies, meaning Barack Obama, who then get to decide, usually in a rational way, how to spend that money.  So maybe Rand Paul has educated himself. 

OLBERMANN:  What just—speaking of educating themselves, what happened to the Bachmann overdrive to get the fourth spot in the GOP leadership in the House?  I thought she was gung-ho and this was the whole Tea Party revolution.  And suddenly she just gave up.  Did they put a little pressure on her in some fashion? 

CORN:  I can‘t tell you how many political journalists are probably really sad tonight.  That was the only fight to be had.  And you know, the story just broke, so we don‘t have the back story to it yet.  But the question you have to ask yourself is if she‘s not in the leadership, who‘s going to be in charge of carrying out all those anti-American investigations -- 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, really. 

CORN:  -- that she promised to do back here on MSNBC a year or so back? 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, the Susan Collin words about Sarah Palin, celebrity commentator; it‘s a lot easier to charge people up than to actually govern.  What sort of fight does that portend? 

CORN:  I guess if you call her a celebrity commentator, it‘s better than calling her a half-governor.  So I‘m not sure it‘s such an insult. 

But Susan Collins, she should be thankful, in a way, to Sarah Palin.  That

Mod Squad, that very small group of moderate Republican senators, got

bigger because of Sarah Palin.  It‘s the Senate race.  You know, you have -

-

           

Well, I‘m sorry, I missed my point there.  But anyway, it would have been a lot worse, you know, if Angle and others had gotten in.  So my mistake.  But I still think that, you know, Sarah Palin has given the moderates, in some ways, a little more leverage.  And they have Mark Kirk coming in, which is—in Illinois, who‘s going to add to their ranks.  And you know, the balance is even closer now between Ds and Rs.  And the Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, it may be a good season for them. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll find out.  Or Mrs. Palin will get out her tainted cookies.  David Corn of “Mother Jones,” great thanks, David. 

Uh-oh, just uh-oh.  Mr. Beck is talking too his puppets again. 

Unfortunately for the rest of us, they‘re answering him. 

So, donations to political campaigns by news people.  Is this a problem or not? 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the bogus story that a local school board is banning cookies, but Mrs. Palin is running with it as an example of government overreaching.  She also has a gingerbread house.  Look out Hansel.  Look out Gretel!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  PBS just finished showing a brilliant reimagining of Sherlock Holmes as a kind of 21st century misfit savant with no social skills, and a sidekick who is a doctor who suffered wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder while serving in Afghanistan.  But even this pitch-perfect Sherlock played by an actor with the pitch perfect name of Benedict Cumberbatch, still has the dream enemy, the all-encompassing evil doer, the man of whom it can be said, everything is his fault, and he planned it that way, Moriarty. 

But it was in the George C. Scott/Joanne Woodward version of Holmes, a movie they called “They Might Be Giants,” in which the concept of Moriarty was revealed for what it probably really is.  In that interpretation, Moriarty was a figment of Holmes‘ paranoia.  He was necessary to explain a largely random world with which Holmes could not cope because he was psychotic. 

“1984” had its darker version, a kind of Moriarty created by the state so everybody had someone to fear, someone to blame, someone to help keep paranoia alive.  He was named Goldstein. 

And now, in our number two story, televangelist Glenn Beck has found his Moriarty and his Goldstein, his paranoid hearts‘ desire, his man pulling all the strings, George Soros.  Only Mr. Beck does not understand that the term pulling all the strings is meant metaphorically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Hello, America.  There are a few working parts to a puppet show.  There is the puppet master here.  There‘s the stage.  There‘s the audience.  There are the strings. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And then there‘s puppet stage manager who‘s supposed to tell you not to stand behind the freaking puppets or the audience is going to think one of them is talking to you. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  George Soros got rid of all of the corporate money through McCain/Feingold, which then allowed all the 501 C-3s to come in.  This one might help and this one might help and this one might help. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He‘s talking to the puppets!  He‘s playing with puppets!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  The government needs to spend more money to stimulate the economy.  No, no, we need more government intervention.  Those evil rich people won‘t spend their money.  We need more taxes.  All of that.  You know this story line. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This went on for two hours, during which the George Soros puppets were identified as Acorn, the AFL-CIO, the Apollo Alliance, the Department of Energy, the Center for American Progress, Arianna Huffington, Color of Change, Andy Stern, the Yellow Baker Center, Jim Wallace, Media Matters for America, Adelai Parisser (ph), the EPA, John Kerry, MoveOn.org, National Public Radio, La Raza, Rich Trumka, the SEIU, Sojourner, Senator Feingold, Open Society Foundation, Van Jones, the Tides Foundation, People for the American Way, the STS, John McCain, Barack Obama, MSNBC, Woodrow Wilson, Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen, Ongo Bongo (ph), Banana Republic, Huey Lewis and the News, ESPN, and the Chubb Group. 

OK, all the ones after MSNBC I made up.  Then again, all the ones before MSNBC he made up. 

Now, apart from the paranoid psychosis at play here, I would like to ask Mr. Beck to quit working my side of the street and to remind him that we brought puppets to cable news.  So we close with the first edition of Soros Puppets Glenn Beck Left Out Puppet Theater.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And just one final answer to Mr. Beck about puppets from this voice of the puppet master, you do know about the former president who was under the complete control of the British, right? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Damn, those Ruskies have done it again? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s the matter, Mr.  President? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s those damn Commies.  They‘ve come up with another word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Well, should news people donate to political campaigns or not?  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know if you‘ve heard anything about this issue lately, but in our number wound story, apparently there‘s some talk about whether or not people in the news business should be permitted to donate to political campaigns, and if so, how uniformly?  Can I donate?  Can my producer?  My cameraman?  The president of the company that owns the network?

Is it ethical?  Is it ethical to stop a U.S. citizen from donating?  Is it legal?  I think you may have heard about my point of view here.  So let me turn this over to two journalists who will donate their opinions, Greg Mitchell, the former editor and publisher, now media fix blogger for “The Nation.”  Good evening, Greg. 

GREG MITCHELL, “THE NATION”:  Hi, how are you? 

OLBERMANN:  And Howard Kurtz, still of CNN‘s “Reliable Sources,” and himself recently relocated to “The Daily Beast,” as Washington bureau chief.  Howard, good evening. 

HOWARD KURTZ, “THE DAILY BEAST”:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start with you, Howard.  Is it yes or no or sometimes?

KUTZ:  It‘s absolutely not, and here is why: I believe you made a serious mistake, Keith, with these Democratic donations.  Beyond the question of whether you knew about the NBC policy, there has to be some kind of line separating journalists—and I know you consider yourself a journalist—from partisan players.  I would put giving money to politicians on the wrong side of that line.  If it‘s not, how about raising money for politicians?  How about advising politicians?  How about writing speeches on the side for politicians? 

At some point, if you cross this line that I‘m talking about, you‘re no longer one of us.  You‘ve become one of them. 

OLBERMANN:  Greg, is the question actually yes or no or is it when? 

MITCHELL:  Well, I think the horse left the barn many, many years ago.  And it really—we‘re focusing on donations now, but it really started several years ago when straight news reporters would start going on cable news, were actually encouraged by their editors to blog, do online chats, express their views and opinions that went far beyond their news articles.  We‘re sort of boiling it down to donations now, but it was actually—it started quite some time ago that reporters were pushed out to give their opinion. 

So this bright line that Howie has talked about and written about really started evaporating a long time ago. 

OLBERMANN:  Now, if it is still there, Howard, how far up the tree does it go?  If you and I and Greg can‘t donate, can our bosses donate?  Can our bosses‘ boss donate?  Can Rupert Murdoch donate?  Because surely, no matter what you might think of what I did, he must have more influence on what appears on TV news than I do.  And if it‘s not Rupert, what about the chairman of GE or of Comcast? 

KURTZ:  Right.  Actually, one of the reasons I think that you kind of left yourself vulnerable, Keith, to charges of hypocrisy is because you have been banging on Fox News over the News Corp donations from Rupert Murdoch or steered by Rupert Murdoch, and people like Sean Hannity, who has raised money for GOP politicians.  And you‘ve kind of described him as a shill for the Republican party. 

Once you get up to the corporate level, where they‘re not meddling with newsroom decisions, whether it‘s Time Warner, General Electric, News Corp, then corporations are going to give money.  They lobby.  They have corporate interests. 

I think that people in the news business, even the commentary business

and you‘re perfectly entitled, as you do every night, to share your views with great passion.  I think those people should not—you know, there may be a debate, as Greg says, over how far they can go in their commentary or their analysis.  I do not think they should write checks to politicians. 

OLBERMANN:  Greg, to your experience, is there a part of a company—another part of a company that puts on a news broadcast or publishes a newspaper that isn‘t involved, to some degree?  Do you know any chairman of the ultimate authorities who don‘t get involved in news decisions in some large sense, at least? 

MITCHELL:  You could probably talk about that better than I could, but, again, in the real world, the owners of companies have an interest.  And again, we‘re talking about a perception.  It‘s the same thing with yourself or other commentators or news people.  Often the debate comes down to, what‘s the perception?  It may not be so bad.  It may not be such a terrible thing, but it‘s the perception.  And certainly when the owners of these companies are donating huge sums, there‘s the perception that they‘re controlling things. 

Also, it comes down to transparency.  You know, so many of the donations, as you found yourself, came out because it was transparent in terms of the Federal Election Commission. 

We don‘t have those same controls. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the larger question, Howard.  Because I‘m technically—I am a small business.  Should I have—the procedure I should have followed would have been to donate my money through my corporation, to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, so nobody would ever have known that I did that.  Does that settle the ethics of the thing, in some way? 

KURTZ:  No, and you knew, as you said last night, that your donations would become public, because you made it in your name.  You made no attempt to hide it.  As a viewer, when I watch you on a COUNTDOWN interview, for example, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, I may think you‘re sympathetic to him.  I may think you don‘t like his Republican opponent.  But I shouldn‘t have to wonder, hey, I wonder if Keith gave money to this guy, as in this case you did.

So I just think you‘re in a different position.  Legally, can you donate?  Every American citizen has the right to donate.  I think we as journalists and even as commentators give up certain rights in order to get the kind of platform that you enjoy.  You can tell us what you think.  You have a lot of influence.  I don‘t think you need to take out your checkbook? 

OLBERMANN:  Again, what should I—or should somebody go the corporate route and keep it quiet?  Is that the answer to this? 

KURTZ:  No, I‘m not a fan of anonymous donations.  And that I think that deepens the problem.  At least we know about your donations.  We didn‘t know about them in real time.  We knew about them pretty quickly, however. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah.  Howard Kurtz of “The Daily Beast” and “Reliable Sources,” and Greg Mitchell of “The Nation,” thank you kindly and we all agree on this.  Thanks, guys. 

That‘s November 10th, eight days since the Republicans took control of the House.  Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

And now to discuss about how Sarah Palin complained about government overreach based on a bogus story about a local school board banning cookies, ladies and gentlemen, here to speak out on behalf of bake sales is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel.

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

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