updated 11/18/2010 5:22:52 PM ET 2010-11-18T22:22:52

Guests: Dave Weigel, Bill Maher, Derrick Pitts, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Neera Tanden

      

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

Cut the defense budget.  John McCain tells the Tea Party: don‘t tread on me.

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SENATOR-ELECT RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  If you‘re serious about the budget, you have to look at the entire budget, military and domestic.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I worry a lot about the rise of protectionism and isolationism in the Republican Party.

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OLBERMANN:  Dude, where‘s my health insurance?  A conservative congressman-elect, a physician from Maryland, outraged that his federal government health care does not kick in for 30 days.  This was his campaign platform:

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REP.-ELECT ANDY HARRIS ®, MARYLAND:  There is no constitutionally mandated role of the federal government in health care.

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OLBERMANN:  Obama 2011.  Use your executive powers, pleads the Center for American Progress.  Or if this was the cover of “Cosmo” -- 30 fun things you can do without the House or Senate.

Bill Maher is here.

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BILL MAHER, TV HOST:  Keith Olbermann is right.

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OLBERMANN:  I‘ve liked bill since 1977.

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MAHER:  What defense spending really is is a giant welfare program. 

A jobs program for defense workers to build crap we don‘t need.

(APPLAUSE)

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OLBERMANN:  Of course, there‘s that trip to Mars, one way.  Go there and stay there.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the prevailing motion will be one of nostalgia for those left behind, combined with a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead!

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OLBERMANN:  Derrick Pitts joins us.

And some people Sister Sarah would like to send to Mars.  FOX News, not knowing they‘re still on, attacks Sarah Palin.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Alexandra Stanley had the best line.  She said the news show is like the “Sound of Music” without the Nazis, without the romance, and without the music.

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OLBERMANN:  Stand by for the decree from her highness.  FOX News is the mainstream media.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  They could refudiate.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Tuesday, November 16th, 721 days until the 2012 presidential elections.

The joke that is bipartisanship tonight took another major credibility hit.  It‘s 493rd of the month.  The big McConnell/Boehner/White House meeting the day after tomorrow postponed at the Republicans‘ request until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  No reason given beyond scheduling conflicts.

But this news does come in concert with a growing sense the Republicans could not be bipartisan by themselves.  If you have two different conservative parties, they not only will eventually clash, they will eventually begin to clash on a daily basis.

Our fifth story—I worry, I worry a lot.  Republican Senator John McCain reacting to Republican Senator-elect Rand Paul on the issue of cutting the bloated defense budget or—as McCain calls it, isolationism.

McCain addressing the Foreign Policy Initiative think tank, not by singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” but answering a question about possibly erosion of Republican support for the misnamed war on terror.  He said isolationism worried him and then he dragged in Mr. Paul of Kentucky.

You may recall that during Paul‘s campaign for office, he was unabashed in touting his ideas about foreign policy.  He doesn‘t really have any.  In July, he told the “National Review,” quote, “I‘m not thinking about Afghanistan; foreign policy is really a complete non-issue.”

Senator McCain now acknowledging that kind of thing scares him.

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MCCAIN:  I worry about—I worry a lot because always, throughout the history of the Republican Party in modern times, there‘s been, obviously, as we know, two wings: The isolationist wing manifested before World War II and at other times; and the—and the international side.  And so, I think there are going to be some tensions within our party.

I don‘t know the incoming Senator Rand Paul—I respect him and I admire his victory.  But already, he has already talked about withdrawals from—or cuts in defense, et cetera, and a number of others are.

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OLBERMANN:  Hey, you kids, get off my defense budget.

Mr. Paul‘s coalition of the cutting entering the Senate includes Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who has criticized Congress for voting for programs the Pentagon does not even want, and Mark Kirk in Illinois, who was called for across-the-board reductions in defense spending.

On the House side, Florida Representative-elect and disgraced former Army Lt. Col. Alan West, who has security clearance on loan from God, telling ABC News today you have to cut defense spending.

Back to McCain, the ranking member on armed services acknowledges there should be some defense cuts to the defense cuts, but he wants to emphasize he‘s really worried about Rand Paul‘s foreign policy.

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MCCAIN:  There‘s no doubt that this new group of Republicans have come in with a commitment to take a meat ax to spending.  I‘m not sure that you could say, OK, everything in defense is sacrosanct while the rest of these cuts in education, social programs, et cetera, are taking place.  So, I worry a lot about the rise of protectionism and isolationism in the Republican Party.

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OLBERMANN:  We‘re joined now by the Democratic congressman from New York, Anthony Weiner.

Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Big picture first.  Boehner and McConnell postponed this big bipartisan shindig with the president.  It goes from Thursday to two weeks from today.

Does it mean anything?

WEINER:  Well, perhaps.  I mean, the hard truth about the Republicans that got elected, is they came in with a series of things that they are against.  And now, when it‘s their turn to kind of talk about what they‘re here to do, they seem to be befuddled both internally and talking to anyone else.  I think, most likely, they didn‘t want to sit down at the White House because they don‘t know what they believe yet.

And that‘s going it be a problem with them when it‘s time to govern.  And I think a lot of the people that turn to them for change are going to find out they really bought a pig and a poke.

OLBERMANN:  Well, to that point—cutting the Pentagon in these opposing messages from Senator-elect Paul and Senator McCain—and Mr.  McCain notwithstanding—do you think this is one issue that there actually might be some compromise on and that something might actually get done in terms of at least taking the Pentagon off the list of sacred cows?

WEINER:  Well, perhaps.  Remember, we‘ve had three days with three kind of almost examples of schizophrenia among the Republican Party.  First, they say they want to extend the Bush tax cuts but they want to cut the deficit.  That‘s in conflict.

Next, they said we want to cut earmarks, but we don‘t trust the president to do the spending either.  So, I don‘t know who‘s supposed to make these allocations if not Congress and not the president.

And, now today, they‘re fighting about whether you should be cutting defense.

I think there absolutely is a lot of room where a lot of Democrats, you look at agriculture policy, look at defense policy, where many of us believe that these programs are functionally written to make them uncuttable because they impact so many people‘s districts.  I think we can get those things done.

But first things first, the Republicans seem unable, even in these early first days when they‘re in their euphoria, to come up with anything resembling a platform for how they‘re going to govern the next couple years.

OLBERMANN:  You just touched on the problem that seems to be at the core of this with the Pentagon.  This procurement process, where the manufacturing jobs and other jobs are in, as you said, varied districts and nobody wants to cut those jobs because it affects varied districts.

Is there—is there a way out of just that that might, itself, reduce some of the extra spending in the Pentagon?

WEINER:  Well, perhaps.  I mean, I‘ve always marveled at the idea the number of members of Congress who don‘t get money from these defense contractors still is larger than those that do.

I think that we do have an opportunity now, if there really is going to be this effort to really look at every line of the budget, I think we should not be buying things the Department of Defense says.  As a matter of fact they don‘t want.  We do that all the time in Congress.  And I think that‘s something Democrats and Republicans can agree upon.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ve seen Republicans, when in control of Congress and the White House and did not cut defense.  Obviously, they increased it with the war of choice.  If you—do you think if all the Democrats tomorrow announced we‘re in favor of cutting the Pentagon budget by 3 percent, that all the Republicans would line up, even the ones who campaigned on the same idea, would line up against you, just because you came out and said that?

WEINER:  Perhaps.  I mean, I don‘t really know.  It‘s difficult to say.

I mean, our members of Congress who got elected from these defense districts, are they really going to say no to their own sacred cows?  I mean, maybe that happens.

I‘m not sure what the correct policy is here.  Maybe someone is supposed to advocate for their home district.

But what is important is that we‘re learning that none of these things got hashed out traditionally when they do get hashed out, which is during elections and campaigns.  A lot of these guys are already starting to contradict themselves the moment they get to town because, frankly, they came in on this effort of just saying, we‘re going to be opposed to everything that goes on in Washington.  Well, now, I got news for them.  They are Washington.

OLBERMANN:  From the Capitol, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner—as always, great, thanks.  Have a good evening.

WEINER:  It‘s a pleasure.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And then there‘s the case of the gentlemen from Maryland who will join Congressman Weiner in the House of Representatives come January.  Part of Republican Representative-elect Andy Harris‘ campaign platform was that he was four square against health care reform.  Yesterday, during his freshman orientation, Harris threw a fit because he would have to wait to receive his government-subsidized health insurance.

According to “Politico,” Harris, who‘s a doctor, was incredulous that he would be sworn in on January 3rd, but because of federal law, his government-subsidized health insurance wouldn‘t kick in until February.

According to a congressional staffer who witnessed the blowup, “He stood up and asked the two ladies who are answering questions why if had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care.  Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap.”

Buying health insurance from the government?  Especially when there‘s some sort of gap in your work insurance?

Hey, Congressman-elect, you might be on to something here.  You could call it—the public option.

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HARRIS:  This is one place where I disagree with our congressman.  He said public option was kind of a good idea.  I think it was a terrible idea.

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OLBERMANN:  Except for him.  Harris, ousting Maryland‘s Frank Kratovil on essentially a one-issue campaign, anti-health care reform, insisting there was nothing that authorized the government to be involved in it.

But back to the important issue, his health care and his hissy fit because he‘s not getting it fast enough.  “This is the only employer I‘ve ever worked for where you don‘t get coverage the first day you‘re employed,” he also reported said.

Which must be troubling for people in his district who don‘t get any coverage any days that they‘re employed.

Let‘s turn to “Slate” political reporter, MSNBC contributor, Dave Weigel.

Good evening, Dave.

DAVE WEIGEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Is this is enough of a microcosm?  I mean, government health care is evil; I want my government health care right now.  Is it enough of a Tea Party microcosm to put up a statue of Congressman-elect Harris?  And if so, how tall?

WEIGEL:  Well, whoever leaked this to Glenn Thrush of “Politico” knew what they were doing.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEIGEL:  This is—this is a live grenade coming at a Republican who some Republicans were hopeful would become a credible spokesman on health care.  And he‘s tried to spin this.  I mean, his latest spin which he told a Baltimore station tonight was that he was making a point about how ironic it is that everyone‘s required to buy health care because of this health care law, but the government employees don‘t have it for a month, which doesn‘t really -- 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEIGEL:  -- the reason why he felt angry.

No, but—you know, he—Republicans like to put up these guys who have experience in the medical field as spokesmen on this.  And he went from—he canceled an interview with the “Baltimore Sun” that he had scheduled.  He‘s dialed this back because it really did seem to everyone who wasn‘t there, which is all of us, like a tantrum that was hypocritical tantrum.

OLBERMANN:  The thankfulness that Harris should actually be expressing in here, statistic from the Kaiser Family Foundation—it did an annual survey of employer provided health benefits.  Seventy-four percent of covered workers face a waiting period before coverage is available.  The average waiting period is 2.2 months.

So, he‘s actually coming out pretty well in that part of the equation.  Do we know—are there any Tea Partiers who have put their health insurance where their mouths were during the campaign?  Has anybody refused, anybody stand up at this meeting and go, this doesn‘t apply to me because I have to have principles because I said there‘s no government health care, I‘m not going to take this?

WEIGEL:  Well, no, not really.  I mean, Congressman Weiner was making good points earlier that this wasn‘t really vetted in every single campaign.  It was—what they were running on was so anti-Obama policy, so pro-repeal, that they didn‘t really go much further in explaining this.

And they‘re going to try and dismiss this as a gotcha, which it, you know, it feels like.  Definitely, somebody they‘re nailing him on this.

But this is a problem, though, a lot of Democrats see with the incoming Republicans.  They don‘t really tie their theory of policy to the way this stuff works.  And they claim Democrats don‘t, but you know, look at unemployment benefits.  It‘s considered a punch line to Republicans that extending unemployment benefits will do anything but make somebody a permanent serf of the state who just lives off government benefits.  And we know that that‘s not something that people who have been in a tough time for six or seven months and who need that money believe.

We—you know, in terms of what they want to do on—or what they say we should have done on TARP or things like that.  They say everything would have worked out great if we just let the banks collapse.  And they‘re against—

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEIGEL:  Things like that.  I mean, they ran as populists, but a certain kind of populist.  They said all these problems are Obama‘s fault and it‘s tougher to defend what they believe when real issues come up like this.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any indication that, as you described, Doctor-elect Harris here, his reaction to the reaction to this—any suggestion that this has struck him?  Because I was suddenly thinking of the scene from “Citizen Kane” where the corrupt politician says to Orson Welles, I say this is going it be a lesson to you, but you‘re going to need more than one lesson, you‘re going to get more than one lesson.

Does Congressman-elect Harris have any idea what this meant symbolically to people who have been fighting for health care or health care reform?

WEIGEL:  No.  I think the lesson he‘s going to take from it is he shouldn‘t trust reporters.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

WEIGEL:  You know, he—this—Harris, some background, ran for Congress in 2008 and knocked off an incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest, who was more liberal.  Gilchrest then endorsed Kratovil, the Democrat, who held this seat.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WEIGEL:  And I thought that because he was a proto-Tea Partier.  He was one of the guys who ran and—with the backing of Club for Growth, actually, and said, if you compromise on anything, you don‘t deserve to be in politics.  If you don‘t apply this very short litmus test on every issue and vote against things, then you are doing your country a disservice.

So, this is his first—you know, he‘s going to have harder tests than this, you know?  Come January, when they start voting on taxes, when they vote on health care repeal, and when they vote on the debt ceiling, for example, they‘re going to test whether this stuff works.  And so far, you know, he‘s had trouble explaining how this blanket policy works in practice.

OLBERMANN:  He‘s going to need more than one lesson.  He‘s going to get more than one lesson.

MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel—as always, thank you, Dave.

WEIGEL:  Thank you.  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  It‘s good to see you.

How to succeed in the White House without really trying to appease Congress.  Thirty things President Obama can do with his executive powers.

And—Bill Maher.

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OLBERMANN:  How to get things done without Congress.  The head of the Center for American Progress on 30 things the president can just do.  Why didn‘t they give him the list two years ago?

“Real Time” is on its break until January.  So, its host some real time for us tonight.

If you ever wondered if they are true believers or just water carriers over at FOX—wait until you hear what they said about her when they thought the mics were off.  They‘re water carriers.

And back to this one-way trip to Mars stuff with Derrick Pitts with the Franklin Institute and an announcement on the vote about “Worst Persons.”  Get me my space modulator.

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OLBERMANN:  As President Obama calls for more bipartisanship in the post-shellacking era of his presidency, a progressive group tries to stop the broken record and offers the president some advice—screw all that, you‘re the chief executive, you have executive powers, use them.

Our fourth story: a how-to blueprint for what the president can do without Congress.  One of its chief architects will join me.

Progress not positioning is the counsel given by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta and his progressive group, the amply-named Center for American Progress—Podesta and his team issuing a report today identifying 30 specific areas where Mr. Obama could act over the next two years.  The best part, no congressional consult required.  The president can use his authority by issuing executive orders, use rule making, agency management and diplomacy to further his agenda.

Among the group‘s specific recommendations, use the EPA to lower greenhouse gas pollution and use commander-in-chief authority to stop the enforcement of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

The center‘s report pointing to another Democratic president facing similar Republican opposition in the latter half of his first term: Bill Clinton.  President Clinton used executive powers to establish significant protection for medical privacy.  He put more than 1 million welfare recipients into the workforce through the creation of the Welfare to Work program.  He also protected more open land than any president since Theodore Roosevelt.

Ironic then that de facto leader of the Republican insurgency during the Clinton years is now offering advice to President Obama.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sitting down with Christian Broadcasting Network, giving special Newt-ian dispensation to the president saying: go on, take the rest of the year off.

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NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  I think it would be really healthy for him if he could take off from Thanksgiving through most of December and really think—I mean, you know, walk on the beach or walk in the woods, or whatever he likes doing with.  Get away from the daily business.

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OLBERMANN:  That guy doesn‘t think anybody knows how full of it he really is.

Joining me now is a former adviser to the Obama administration, current chief operating officer at the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden.

Thanks for some of your time tonight.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve been inside this administration.  If the president didn‘t want to really go and throw his legal weight around before, why would you think he‘s going to do it now?

TANDEN:  Well, look, I think it was totally appropriate for the president to spend the first two years when he had Democratic congressional supermajorities to pass legislation—legislation like health care reform, financial regulatory reform, or to actually make change for the American people.

Now, he faces congressional gridlock.  And I think it‘s important for him and the country to recognize that gridlock in Congress doesn‘t mean that the government stands still.  It‘s critical for him to keep on pushing for progressive change with all the authority that he can—that he has at his disposal.

OLBERMANN:  The administration‘s use of federal agencies, prospectively—has the president used them effectively so far?

TANDEN:  Well, I think he‘s used them to some degree.  But there has obviously been a lot of focus at the White House dealing with the Congress.  And I think, you know, there‘s a lot of authority with the cabinet secretaries and it‘s important for the president to use his whole team, not everything should be on his shoulders.  There are more than—there‘s more than one messenger in this administration.

It‘s important for the president to use all of his cabinet secretaries to make change on behalf for the American people.

OLBERMANN:  There was a lot of talk and a lot of reporting about Mr.  Bush before he left office, placing these burrows, the burrowing of people into federal agencies to create the situation where they could slow things down during the Obama administration.

Is that still a concern?  Is it related to this?  Or has this administration been able to weed out the burrowers?

TANDEN:  I think that there was a lot of concern about, you know, very ideological lawyers at Justice and elsewhere, really trying to promote kind of a conservative agenda.  But I think over the two years, there‘s been a natural attrition.  There‘s been a big changeover in political leadership.

You know, I think the Republicans in the last two years have been doing everything they can to thwart getting the right people in the right jobs by obstructing normal—the normal nomination process.  But still, I think over the course of the last two years, you know, it‘s really—the president has most of his team in place in the agencies and it‘s important to—you know, to really let them flex their muscles by acting in the rule-making and elsewhere, to make positive policy where they can.

OLBERMANN:  So, the overall argument in these 30 proposals is that sort of Republican opposition be damned, change doesn‘t have to be small-balled even with the House being transferred to the Republican Party?  Meaningful reform obviously can still happen.  What is your expectation?  Do you have any—is there any ping bouncing back to you that suggests they‘re actually going to do this?

TANDEN:  We very much expect that the president and his—and Pete Rouse, his chief of staff, and others in the White House are thinking through exactly how they can use the cabinet more effectively, use the agencies to do this.  You know, it‘s really—if all the American people see is gridlock over the next two years and there‘s no effective movement forward on the problems people face, and the president isn‘t doing everything he can to really push the ball forward and try to solve people‘s problems with any—every piece of authority he has, then I think we‘re all going to—you know, everyone in Washington is going to pay the price for that.

And at the very least, the president has to keep trying, no matter how much obstruction he faces, to make change for people, or people will get more dispirited and more cynical, and that really only helps the other side.

OLBERMANN:  Neera Tanden, chief operation officer of the Center of American Progress - thank you.

TANDEN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Bill Maher on the midterms, the Obama-terms and media terms.

And the final verdict is in on “Worst Persons.”

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OLBERMANN:  Bill Maher, the final vote on “Worsts Persons” and the secret FOX tapes.  What they say about Sarah Palin when they think they‘re not on the air.

First, the sanity break, and the tweet of the day from Leigh Taylor Champlin.  “Please don‘t mention Wills and Kate tonight.  There are so many more truly important things to talk about.  Pretty please?”  Why would I mention Maury Wills and Kate Gosselin?

Let‘s play “Oddball.”  Are they dating?

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OLBERMANN:  We begin on the Internets, where ever since this video appeared last summer, people have been looking for ways to spice up the old wedding entrance.  These two next contestants make their entrance into the reception having decided to try the piggyback routine.  Down goes the wedding party!

Perhaps they should have saved the drinks for after their entrance.  Well, they‘re just following the old tradition.  Something old, something new, something borrowed and be black and blue.

Now to China, for the quarterfinal match in the Asian Games.  Uzbekistan keeper, borrowed the phrase (ph) with the whiff leaving Qatar‘s Fahad Khalfan with an easy—somehow he missed the entire—missed the freaking net.  He hit the post, he hit the post.

Qatar ended up losing the match one-nil, making Khalfan‘s miss even more important.  But in his defense, he is a soccer player, and thus he‘s not used to seeing a ball go into a goal.

Finally, to Mexico City, and it‘s finally happened.  Bulls are evolving.  They‘re now trying to kill off the market for bull fighting by killing off the spectators and the participants.  Bring them all on.  The gate was eventually opened and the bull returned to the ring to finish out the match.  That is the biggest load of bull I‘ve seen flying since Sarah Palin debuted her TV series.  Hey-oh!

Time marches on. 

Bill Maher next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Our third story tonight, these are the quiet times for my next guest.  Bill Maher will be appearing at the Civic Center in Peoria, Illinois on December 3rd.  And you can spare us both the will it play in Peoria jokes.  And it‘s the Star Plaza Theater in Merilville (ph), Indiana on December 4th, on the 10th the Brady Theater in Tulsa, and the Silver Legacy in Reno on December 11th.  Third Peoria, fourth Merilville, 10th Tulsa, 11th Reno. 

Mr. Maher has survived another first half of a he season on the television, from fake joints smoked to that little reminder that it‘s always worth it to keep the tapes of those old, old shows of yours, because you never know what parts may be useful later on.  Much, much later on.  The battle that is “Realtime With Bill Maher” begins anew on HBO on January 14th

Right now, Bill Maher is here and I welcome him, with a reminder that not only are the tapes of the old Christine O‘Donnell interviews useful, but so are tapes of old Robert Klein interviews from 1977.  Good evening, sir. 

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  Keith, what a yeoman you are to do all those plugs for me.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s only the first and second times.  We‘ll get to the third set of plugs later in the show.  Christine O‘Donnell is a wonderful place to start.  Do you take any comfort in the fact that America did not elect her or Angle in Nevada or, in fact, did not elect a majority of the Tea Partiers? 

MAHER:  Well, I‘m a cockeyed optimist, Keith, so of course I take a lot of comfort in that.  Yes, I think America did draw a line.  And when the nuts started falling out of the nut bag this year, they said, yeah, even us, the electorate of America, the crack baby that we are, is going to say enough is enough. 

They did it, by the way, also I think with campaign ads.  You can say almost anything in a campaign ad.  But they did not like Alan Grayson calling his opponent Taliban Dan.  They didn‘t like the Aqua Buddha of Rand Paul‘s opponent. 

But yeah, I thought—you mentioned Sharron Angle.  I thought that was a good race to kind of be the epitome for what was going on in America.  Here you had Harry Reid who, of course, we all know is very uninspiring, dusty, old Harry Reid.  He looks like the druggist in a Frank Capper movie. 

But you know what, he was a guy who got a lot done in the Senate, as opposed to the crazy lady with 20 dead cats in the basement.  That was the choice.  And it was that close?  So yeah, I take some comfort, but not a lot. 

OLBERMANN:  How, Bill, how are Republicans getting away with spinning November 2nd as this landslide?  They have done a wonderful job of convincing their own people that they swept the Democrats out.  They didn‘t even take the Senate under what were probably the most adverse circumstances Democrats could have created for themselves. 

MAHER:  Yes, but they didn‘t take the Senate because they had people like Christine O‘Donnell, as you well know, and have pointed out.  If it wasn‘t for those crazy Tea Baggers in a couple of races, they would have. 

I mean, let‘s not kid ourselves.  It was a gigantic victory for the

Republicans, but they shouldn‘t kid themselves either.  People weren‘t

really voting for them.  People were just voting against the Democrats.  I

think I saw a poll right before the election that said, Congressional

Republicans, their disapproval rating was like 63 percent.  And Republican

and Democrat disapproval was like 60 percent. 

           

Only Democrats could lose in a popularity contest to someone less popular than they are.  But yeah, I don‘t—yeah? 

OLBERMANN:  That takes us back to the White House.  When you heard the president say, yesterday, that he wants to work harder at bipartisanship in the next two years, were you as encouraged as I was? 

MAHER:  Yeah, no.  I don‘t understand why he sticks with that.  You know, I—I have not doubted him up until this last season, post-election, when he did not seem to get mad.  He seemed to be beaten.  He looked like Johnny Fontaine in the “Godfather” when the Godfather has to say, you can act like a man. 

You know, bipartisanship, I think, is one of those things that is so highly overrated.  It‘s one of those things when a pollster asks people, what‘s the problem in Washington; do you think there should be more bipartisanship?  Of course there should. 

I don‘t think people care.  I think people want people to get something done, especially the people who voted for Barack Obama.  We would like to see something get done.  I thought at this point in his tenure I would be making jokes about our first black president and what a gangster he is.  You know?  And how he‘s—instead, we got, like, another in a long line of those Democrats, like Al Gore and Dukakis, who just look wimpy. 

He looks like when they ask Dukakis, what would you do if someone raped your wife?  He said, I would put out a five-point plan or whatever he said. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You just said you had not given up on him.  Do you think the president still has greatness in him?  That comes with a corollary question, which would be, if he does have greatness in him, is he ever going to share that greatness with the rest of us?  

MAHER:  Yes, I think he‘s, you know, highly intelligent.  Of course we don‘t know everything he knows and what he has to deal with.  I don‘t think his lack of greatness is in what he wants to do and where he wants to move the country.  Actually, as we do know, although it‘s not widely reported in the mainstream media, this was one of the most successful Congresses in like 40 years, probably since LBJ. 

The problem is they don‘t tell people about it.  I was watching this -

you know, “60 Minutes” has done a couple pieces in the last month or so about the recession and how it‘s affecting people.  I saw this woman literally in tears telling Scott Pelly (ph), I think it was, that she doesn‘t know if she can afford to keep her kid in college, with the tears coming down.  I thought, you know, instead of crying, read, find out.  There actually is one party that has been addressing that issue. 

           

You know, it‘s not just, oh, they all don‘t do anything in Washington. 

One side is trying a little harder than the other. 

OLBERMANN:  To that point, is the following a fair statement, do you think, and if so, why is it true, or not true—that Republicans and conservatives are actually better at getting done what they want to get done or what they were elected to get done.  Whether or not it‘s good or bad for the country, that they‘re better at it than Democrats are. 

MAHER:  Way better.  Way better.  Democrats used to be good at it.  If you look at all the ways in which they moved the country forward, from the New Deal onward, civil rights and Social Security and Medicare, all those programs—and by the way, implemented quickly.  You know, 11 months after I think it was they passed Medicare, people were enjoying the benefits, as opposed to what we do now, kick it down the road to 2018 or whenever this stuff starts. 

But yes, they—because they kept their people in line, and they knew how to twist arms and do those things that FDR and LBJ used to be good at.  We don‘t have Democrats like that anymore.  So what we have is, you know, one side which, as you know—you and I think are on the same page.  There is—false equivalency is a sin in this country.  To pretend that both sides have moderates, they don‘t. 

There are no moderates on the Republican side.  There are no Republican senators who will argue that global warming is a hoax anymore, for example.  You know, at some point the left moved to the center; the right moved into a mental hospital.  And there is no middle anymore.  The right keeps—the Republicans keep staking out turf further and further to the right and then demand that the Democrats meet them in the middle, except that it‘s not the middle anymore. 

That‘s why health care is so watered down, because it‘s really Bob Dole‘s old Republican plan from 1994.  But somehow that got to be the middle now.  Same thing with cap and trade. 

OLBERMANN:  Right.  The middle is the near right.  You mentioned false equivalence.  I‘m not fishing for either compliments nor reassurance here.  But I don‘t know that I‘ve ever heard this from you at any length.  Give me your assessment of television news and its effect on American politics today. 

MAHER:  Well, gee, you could write a whole book on that.  I mean, since people have stopped reading in general, for good or bad, we‘re stuck with it.  That‘s how people get their news.  I think you mentioned Christine O‘Donnell there at the top.  I think I read that that was the most reported story of the entire midterm elections, was Christine O‘Donnell.  That‘s pretty sad. 

But, you know, I think the place where you go—where I go for in-depth coverage is opinion news.  When I say opinion news, people like you and Rachel and Lawrence O‘Donnell and Chris Matthews.  You know, they have -- you guys have the time to really go into depth on an issue.  So I think that does perform a service, as long as you stick to the facts. 

You guys care about the facts.  I know the conservatives would disagree.  But the truth is—and here‘s the false equivalency part—one side in our great national debate just makes crap up, as you well know.  When I covered this issue on our show—and you know, we are a little incestuous lately, let‘s be honest, in our opinion news, comedy, whatever it is business we‘re in, because there was Jon Stewart‘s thing.  Then you comment.  Then I took your side in that.  Then Jon said something about me.  And I said something about Rachel about him.  It‘s all gotten a little crazy.

But basically what I was saying was you were right about that.  You and Glenn Beck are not the same.  One of you, you, tries to stick to the facts.  The other one is very close to playing with his poop. 

OLBERMANN:  And beautifully phrased that was.  Bill Maher, Peoria on the third, Merilville on the fourth, Tulsa on the 10th, Reno on the 11th.  Attend all four and you get a free package of Pop Tarts and Spam.  Bill, great thanks.  I hope to see you in the new year in your place. 

MAHER:  OK.  You will.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘re all set.  Thanks, Bill.

The dangers of forgetting the mike remains open even when you don‘t think you‘re on.  What Fox News really thinks about the half governor.  You may be surprised. 

And the big announcement on the future of worst persons in the world, if it has a future.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  That woman is an idiot.  No, that‘s not me saying it, not this time.  It‘s not an exact quote, but close enough.  Our number two story tonight, what they say at Fox News about Sarah Palin when they think they‘re not being recorded. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZ TROTTA, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Alexandra Stanley had the best line.  She said the new show was like the “Sound of Music” without the Nazis, without the romance and without the music. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That is the voice of Liz Trotta, former news reporter, now a participant in a show called “Fox News Watch”—at least for now—and somebody at Fox let that off air tape lose on the Internet.  And this one from disgraced ex-“New York Times” reporter Judith Miller. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDITH MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Oh, the “Washington Post” hated it too, though.  Did you see his review? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it was—

MILLER:  He said the count sound of a voice when warning you to heed the bears will actually scare the bears. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not exactly as if they had been nice to the half governor on the air either. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROTTA:  The more you see her, the less you like her.  And overexposure is something the Democrats have to pray for. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give her something on the Cartoon Network. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  “Fox News Watch” used to be a genuinely good journalism watchdog program until Roger Ailes discovered it was—you know, was fair.  And two and a half years ago, they swapped out the cast, including host Eric Burns.  Given that Mrs. Palin is now employed by Fox News, one expects there might be another change in personnel, and presumably involves Miss Trotta and Miss Miller.

A change in personnel that could also be very well accomplished by using bears. 

Two tickets to paradise.  Not paradise, Mars.  They‘re only one way. 

Derrick Pitts next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The subject of getting to Mars has always been subsidiary to the assumption that anybody worth seeing on Mars would try to get here first, to, you know, kill us and eat us.  This was reinforced by the fact that the first six attempts to send unmanned probes there failed utterly.  Two American ships never got out of Earth‘s orbit.  Three Russian ships never got off the ground.  A third disintegrated in the atmosphere.  And a fourth got to Mars and kept right on going. 

Our number one story, as we mentioned last night, a great bold new idea has been proposed, one which we will run past our friend Derrick Pitts presently.  Go there and don‘t come back. 

Writing in the “Journal of Cosmology” for its special Mars number, an expert in eco-hydro geology at Washington State and a physicist at Arizona State suggests the quickest way to get to Mars is not to bother buying a round trip ticket.  “The astronauts would go to mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives as trailblazers of a permanent human Mars colony,” writes Dirk Schultz Makuch (ph) and Paul Davies (ph). 

President Obama announced plans for NASA to get to Mars by 2035.  But the scientists write we can‘t wait that long, that we have to get private investment involved to begin scoping out Mars as a possible escape destination, if and when we ruin the ecology here or get hit by a really big asteroid, or maybe the plans leak out for that invasion by Venus in 2012. 

Sorry, I wasn‘t supposed to mention that.  Sorry, Venusian overlords. 

As promised, joining me to discuss the benefits and the tax implications of leaving all these schmos here and living by yourself on Mars with a few friends is Derrick Pitts, the planetarium director at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  Derrick, good evening. 

DERRICK PITTS, FRANKLIN INSTITUTE PLANETARIUM DIRECTOR:  Hi, Keith. 

Can I suggest who the first person should be to go? 

OLBERMANN:  Sure. 

PITTS:  I wouldn‘t bother.  It wouldn‘t be good. 

OLBERMANN:  The comparison that the guys who wrote this thing made was a a one way ticket to Mars is no measure outlandish than a one-way ticket to America was in like 1620.  Something tells me, as a laymen, that that might be an oversimplification.  Do you think so?

PITTS:  OK, sure.  It is a bit of an over-simplification because it‘s a much more complicated endeavor to really make this work.  And there are many more of us on the planet who would be deeply invested on what happens to a person that makes such a trip. 

But if you actually put all the pieces together and think about it, just a little bit off target, then you come to this idea that it‘s very much like what explorers did 500 to 1,000 years ago.  They sail off across the ocean and we didn‘t know if they were coming back or not. 

OLBERMANN:  But didn‘t they—weren‘t they sure wherever they were going, there was probably going to be water and air? 

PITTS:  Well, that‘s true.  In this case, there‘s nothing like that there.  You‘d either have to take it all with you.  Or actually, Keith, there were some ideas put forth in the mid 1970s by an engineer named Robert Zubrin (ph), who thought we could send everything we needed to establish a colony ahead of when the people get there, so that when the people get there, all of their supplies would be there. 

So if we combine these two, we might have something with hopes that on the back end, somebody figures out a way to get that return ticket working. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but the premise right now is you only send guys, and you only send guys in their 60s, and they‘re not coming back, and you only choose those because all the radiation would destroy the reproductive systems in younger people anyway.  They sure are making this sound attractive, aren‘t they? 

PITTS:  I think they are making it sound attractive.  And I think what we‘re actually seeing here, to be truthful, is a new enthusiasm for this idea of actually doing human exploration beyond Earth.  With the advent of new ways of getting to space via commercial launch vehicles systems and things of that sort, it begins to open the doors in a way that haven‘t been opened before when we look at the national space programs, which are bogged down in problems of red tape through Congress and the expenses of a very, very expensive sort of overburden of the organization, itself. 

But when we start to break it down and strip away all that stuff, it starts to make us look at these new possibilities. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, well, look at the new possibility and tell me -

I‘m not suggesting you‘re a candidate based on their description here. 

But would you go? 

PITTS:  Hmmm, what a good question that is.  The answer is I think I‘d be better off just managing things from this end. 

OLBERMANN:  Philadelphia‘s complex enough for you.  You don‘t need Mars.  Two reactions to this.  ABC got ahold of Edgar Mitchell, who went to the Moon On Apollo 14, and he said this is premature; we aren‘t ready for this yet.  The NASA spokesman, Michael Browkis (ph), said we want our people back. 

Apart from the how can we miss you if you won‘t go away quality of this, one thing I‘m not getting, what is the advantage of a series of one-way trips?  Is it just a question of cost or what? 

PITTS:  It is a question of cost.  This is how this is being looked at right now, is that, you know, the biggest part of the expense is how do we maintain a colony there and how do we get the people back?  That‘s the big part of this.  We can shoot people out there, but once we get them there it‘s the return trip that‘s always the problem. 

And how long they have to remain there.  How do we maintain their existence?  So that is the hefty part.  Again, looking at this realistically, I don‘t think it‘s something that—you know, that we‘re going to seriously consider immediately.  I think the idea is to try to exhaust every other possibility for how to get people back before we resort to the one-way trip. 

And gosh, who really would want to step up for that?  Although if you were the first one, you could become quite famous. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, a statue for you, after you go crazy from being alone up there.  Last point, is there—before the Martian land prices go up, is there a realistic chance of establishing human life there under controlled circumstances?  How controlled would they have to be?  Indoors only? 

PITTS:  Well, you know, the environment is much better than the environment on the Moon, for example.  The—at least on Mars you have—you have some atmosphere there on Mars.  And there‘s all the resources of the minerals that are there on Mars.  And there is water there as well. 

So it‘s possible that something could happen.  We‘re talking about somewhere down the road far into the future.  But I think we need to move away from the idea that we‘re going to be sending millions of people to Mars once we ruin Earth.  I think that‘s not a realistic consideration. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, there goes my plan for a vacation or two. 

PITTS:  I was going to invite you next summer to go with me, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you very much.  I don‘t like radiation.  The planetarium director of the Franklin Institute, Derrick Pitts.  As always, a pleasure, sir. 

PITTS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s November 16th, 14 days since the Republicans took control of the House.  Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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