Guests: Howard Fineman, Jeanne Reinman, Robert Reich, Matt Taibbi, Chris Calabrese
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Republicans kill off the extension of unemployment insurance.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bill has not passed.
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OLBERMANN: Mr. Boustany of Louisiana—
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REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY ®, LOUISIANA: Join us in voting down this unpaid for bill.
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OLBERMANN: The Democrats vow to try again at the end of the month and underscore the truth about the recipient.
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REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: On the campaign trail, Republicans called the unemployed lazy. Boy, you haven‘t met an unemployed person or you would never say that a second time to him.
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OLBERMANN: Tax cuts. Steny Hoyer tells House Democrats they will get to vote this year on extending just the middle class cuts. Nancy Pelosi and the Harry Reid tell the White House: we need you to lead on tax cuts.
GOP congressmen seek to eliminate ethics—well, eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics. No, eliminate ethics.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO: I‘m here to tell you tonight that our new majority will be prepared to do things differently.
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OLBERMANN: With Matt Taibbi.
Murdoch‘s minion—Jon Stewart is hateful and crazy, and National Public Radio is the Nazis. Glad to see the tone improved.
No touching. The California county D.A. who says he will prosecutor any TSA screener who goes too far.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted.
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OLBERMANN: And for those who still think this is like a police pat-down—
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TSA AGENT: I‘m going to place my hand on your hip, the other on your inner thigh. Slowly go up and slide down.
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OLBERMANN: The TSA versus the USA over TNA now featuring the ACLU.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there‘s no reason for it.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, November 18th, 719 days until the 2012 presidential elections—seven days until Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas season and just 12 days until unemployment insurance begins to expire for Americans who have been out of work for more than six months.
Eight hundred thousand Americans will stop receiving unemployment insurance benefits in the first week of December alone, another 1.2 million for the remainder of that month, 3 million more during January and February, 5 million Americans—plus spouses, children and other dependents on the line—if Congress does not renew these benefits which would cost for one year about $65 billion, approximately the same as the one year cost of renewing the Bush tax cuts on household incomes above a quarter million dollars.
And on our fifth story tonight, when Democrats brought just a three-month extension of unemployment benefits to the floor today, the party that supports an infinite extension of Bush tax cuts for the rich said no.
Republican Congressman Charles Boustany of Louisiana said his party does in fact want to extend benefits to the unemployed. You will note however that Mr. Boustany, who is worth half a million dollars, follows his expression of sympathy with a “but”—
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BOUSTANY: Both Republicans and Democrats support helping long term unemployed. The chairman of the committee expressed a great deal of empathy in his opening statement. We share that empathy. Every one of our congressional offices has dealt with families dealing with this tragedy of unemployment. But—
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OLBERMANN: But what? Ten thousand eight hundred unemployed Louisianans will lose their benefits next month unless Congress does something this month. And Congress is gone next week for Thanksgiving.
So, what is the “but” that forced Republicans to block this benefits right before Christmas? As Congressman Boustany, who wanted to be a “lord,” explained, the party that is hell bent on borrowing more than $700 billion to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires knows that it would be wrong to borrow $12 billion to get middle class Americans through Christmas.
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BOUSTANY: The American people know it isn‘t right to add these costs to our already-overdrawn national credit card. They want—we all want to help those in need. But the American people also know someone has to pay when government spends money. And it shouldn‘t be our children and our grandchildren.
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OLBERMANN: In fact, extending unemployment benefits during a recession has been a bipartisan tradition for the last half century—if only because the cost of doing so does not get passed on to the next generation. Why not? Because unemployment benefits stimulate economic growth, helping to keep the middle class, two out of three of America‘s unemployed in the middle class and they fuel spending by the jobless—literally creating jobs.
The Economic Policy Institute estimating that depending on the length of it, extending these benefits could generate the equivalence of more than 700,000 full-time jobs.
So, why did most vote representatives vote against it today?
They didn‘t. Democrats brought it to the floor under a procedure known as “suspension of the rules.” The only way to hold a straight up-or-down vote without Republicans adding bill-killing amendments to it. This requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass -- 258 voted for it, including 21 Republicans; 154 voted against it, including 11 Democrats. So, it didn‘t pass.
And just for context, Mr. Boustany is not by a long shot the richest member of Congress to have voted against benefits for the jobless. Coming up, we‘ll tell you how many became millionaires and got richer even while the nation suffered to the great recession.
Right now, however, we‘re joined by one of those people 800,000 people identified by “The Huffington Post” as being about to lose their unemployment benefits come December 1st, Jean Reinman of Greenville, South Carolina.
Thanks for your time tonight.
JEANNE REINMAN, LOSING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Thank you for letting me come on, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ms. Reinman, you work in computer-aided design. And then the company for which you work began to lay people off. And you‘ve been out since May 1st of 2009. How have you been getting by since then?
REINMAN: Primarily—I had some savings and I had some money in 401(k). And I paid my house payment with that. And the unemployment benefits I‘ve received have been—you know, they‘ve been pretty much paying everything else, you know?
OLBERMANN: The Democrats are saying that they plan to take another shot at passing this in the final two days of November after they come back from the Thanksgiving break. What happens if what happens today or happened today happens again if Republicans block this measure? How do you get through Christmas?
REINMAN: I have no idea. I have no idea. And I‘m not even as bad off as some people are. You know, I really feel sorry for people with children. I mean, what do you tell your kids? That you can‘t afford to have Santa Claus come?
OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea what happens next year? I mean, presumably, at some point, the savings is gone. What goes next—there‘s no mortgage payment possible?
REINMAN: Well, actually, I‘ve been making the mortgage payment out of the unemployment. The savings are pretty much gone. So, I‘m in a pretty, you know, precarious situation right now. And I‘m not even as bad off as a lot of people are.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans have been arguing that unemployment
benefits give people incentive not to find work. And the congressman in
your own district, Bob Inglis, voted against these benefits. Do you have -
you have the national stage here, at least a small corner of it. What‘s your response to them and to Mr. Inglis and the argument that we shouldn‘t and can‘t borrow money to pay for these benefits?
REINMAN: My unemployment benefits are just very—maybe a third of what I earned when I was working. You know, I don‘t really like living like this. Well—I‘m sorry.
OLBERMANN: No, no.
REINMAN: I don‘t like living like this. I think it‘s terrible that this gets kicked around all the time. I mean, what we‘ve been through the last few months. You know, you go out and you start looking at the jobs and you‘ll see there‘s really not much demand for anything.
You know, people think, well, I‘ll go in the medical field and that way I‘ll be guaranteed a job. Well, I have a cousin who‘s a registered nurse who got laid off. You know, people aren‘t going to the doctor like they did when they had health insurance.
OLBERMANN: Is this to your mind the country you thought you were living in where the argument is being made—
OLBERMANN: Go ahead.
REINMAN: Absolutely not. I mean, I can‘t believe that—you know, that there‘s even any discussion about, you know, renewing unemployment benefits when there are so many people out of work. And I think there‘s, what, 8.5 million who are drawing unemployment right now. And that doesn‘t include, you know, the 99ers, the people who fell off the rolls a while back, just because they‘re not drawing unemployment that they have jobs.
OLBERMANN: And 5 million more by the 1st of March fall off the rolls unless something is done about this, and we know we‘re the two parties stand on it.
OLBERMANN: Jeanne Reinman of Greenville, South Carolina—we know it‘s to some degree an invasion and we are deeply indebted to you for your time and being honest about this situation with us. And I guess all we can do at this point here is wish you luck going forward.
REINMAN: Thank you. I appreciate that.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. Good luck.
In the year and a half that Jeanne watched her savings and retirement drain away, the members of Congress now blocking her unemployment saw their net worth increase dramatically. In 2008 through the end of 2009, their wealth growing by an average of 16 percent. This is according to a new study by the Center of Responsive Politics.
While Americans lost their jobs, their home and their savings, watching retirement and their kids‘ college education fade from possibility, Congress watched its number of millionaires increase, 49 percent, nearly half of them -- 261 out of 535 are now millionaires, compared to 1 percent of America. Fifty-five of them, more than 10 percent, are now worth $10 million—eight of those worth at least 100 million.
The median wealth of every member of Congress last year was $911,150. Individual congressional wealth leaped, more than $100,000 in just one year. It was just $785,000 in 2008.
The richest of them all, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California with a network of $303 million.
As I sit her wondering what kind of nation we want to live in, let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also senior political editor of “The Huffington Post.”
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We have a political party demanding that we borrow money to pay tax cuts on household income above a quarter million, while it is at the same refusing to borrow a lot less money so that middle class Americans who can‘t find work can keep their homes and just barely keep their heads above water.
Can you put that into context with the findings of this new study on congressional wealth?
FINEMAN: Well, Keith, the members of Congress don‘t have to suffer in silence on national television the way Ms. Reinman just did when you asked her that question. I thought the most eloquent thing she said was what see didn‘t say when she couldn‘t speak because of the embarrassment and confusion of being an educated middle class person who now finds herself in the situation she‘s in. And that‘s what makes the contrast so excruciating.
The members of Congress are insulated in many, many ways here. Even though they‘re supposed to represent the people, I think the month they get here, or even before they come here, given what it takes to run for office now—don‘t forget, a lot of them are self funders now.
FINEMAN: It‘s their money. They get here and that keeps them even farther away from the people.
OLBERMANN: Do they not get they don‘t look like America? I mean, are they pushing for the tax cuts for $250,000 and up because it benefits them?
FINEMAN: No. I don‘t think in most cases it‘s that. But I think they‘re definitely cut off here, Keith. It‘s the nature of politics today which, as I said, favors wealthy people who run, number one. Number two, the Washington area is not like the rest of America.
FINEMAN: A new Forbes study showed that nine of the wealthiest 14 counties in America are in the Washington metropolitan area.
Then when you‘re in Congress, you have platinum level health care. You have great pensions. You have a very good salary. You‘re a member of the investor class, not the working class. And you‘re divorce not even from—not just from people on the shop floor or people who are poor.
You are now disengaged from middle class America. That‘s what‘s so stark about this gulf. It‘s not between the richest and the poorest. This is not your grandfather‘s depression with the soup lines or your father‘s recession of 25 years ago. This is a thing where the gulf is between the leaders and the led, between the wealthy in Congress and between middle class people that they used to be part of.
OLBERMANN: What happens now? I mean, do Democrats cave on these Bush tax cuts for the rich in order to extend the unemployment benefits? And how does the GOP justify borrowing twice as much for that?
FINEMAN: Well, first of all, the problem is that the White House sort of pre-caved.
FINEMAN: They signaled their willingness a while back to accept something short of a permanent extension of tax cuts on the wealthy. And once they did that, that empowered the Republicans to think they could roll through this thing without any compromise whatsoever.
And the situation of this lame duck here is it‘s becoming far more of a defining period of Congress for President Obama and for the Democrats than they ever figured it would be. And the Republicans are in no mood to compromise. The Republicans are willing to take the bet that Barack Obama and the Democrats aren‘t going to want to risk abolishing the tax cuts for even, at least temporarily in some kind of crisis, than to take the Republicans on in this situation.
So, I don‘t know that that‘s how the unemployment benefits will be extended. I couldn‘t say for sure that that‘s a deal that will be made because I don‘t think the Republicans are going to be in any mood to do it.
OLBERMANN: They don‘t live in this world. They don‘t live in this country. I think we‘d be better off in they didn‘t live in this country. But that‘s my opinion not Howard Fineman‘s—senior political editor of “The Huffington Post.” Thank you, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Those tax cuts again—stunningly mixed messages on them from the Dems. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid demand leadership against tax cuts for millionaires from the White House, while the majority leader is telling his members you will get a chance to vote on tax cuts only for the middle class before the end of the year. Next.
OLBERMANN: He tells House Democrats they will get to vote this year on extending just the tax cuts for the middle class. His leaders tell the White House we need you to lead on this topic.
His new transparent way in Washington includes making the Office of Congressional Ethics thin enough to see through.
I‘m glad the appeal to change the tone has resonated. Roger Ailes has called him hateful and, quote, “crazy.”
And all hands. This story is not going away. The ACLU involved and maybe a district attorney in California. Copping a feel is not counterterrorism.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: With the public still firmly in support of their view on the issue, Democrats may be slouching toward holding a simple up-or-down vote on tax cuts for the middle class.
But in our fourth story: Nothing is ever simple and some Democratic congressional leaders are frustrated that the president has not set a clear strategy on tax cuts in the face of a unified GOP.
But today, the number two Democratic leader in the House, Steny Hoyer, informed his colleagues in a caucus meeting that there would be a vote on extending just the tax cuts for the middle class. This according to several unnamed House Democratic aides speaking to NBC News.
And today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he would like to see both the Democratic and the Republican version of extending the Bush tax cuts go up for a vote—and he at least sounded like the better of the two would prevail.
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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The question is: do I think I have the president‘s backing for middle income tax cut only? And I say yes.
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OLBERMANN: But according to “Politico,” Mr. Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have asked President Obama to adopt a tougher bargaining position with the GOP.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was more blunt. Quoting him, “The White House needs to stand firm and say we‘re not giving tax cuts to millionaires in this country. Every day, we hear a little differently.”
But in a meeting today at the White House, the president asked Democratic leaders to come up with their respective compromise plans before those leaders go into the November 30th White House meeting, the ones the Republicans postponed, according to “Politico.”
But it just so happens that the public still agrees with Democrats on this. Thirty-nine percent favor the extension of middle class tax cuts and only middle class tax cuts. Just 23 percent favoring the GOP position of extending all tax cuts permanently.
Meantime, in advocating for even more tax cuts after the extension of all the Bush tax cuts, Congressman Mike Pence somehow managed to admit that the Bush tax cuts actually did not work.
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REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: Jim DeMint and I are offering legislation on Capitol Hill to say, look, let‘s make all the current tax rates permanent and then let‘s start to work from there, toward putting in place the kind of policies that will really get this economy moving again. You know, I think it‘s fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth, we‘d have a growing economy. It‘s not working now, but at least get some certainty there and then we‘ll fight for more tax relief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you‘re not willing to compromise? You‘re not willing to say—
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OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn to former labor secretary under President Clinton, now professor of public policy at U.C.-Berkeley, Robert Reich, also author of “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America‘s Future.”
Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Progressives, the ones in the House, have been pushing for a vote on the middle class cuts and only those cuts, daring Republicans to vote against it. Why is this seemingly such a difficult concept for Democrats to rally around?
REICH: Well, I think some Democrats, Keith, are worried about being labeled a tax increaser or maybe class warriors or something. You know, they‘re very intimidated by the Republican machine, the FOX News machine.
That‘s not all Democrats, mind you. But there is a kind of an intimidation factor among the Democrats, particularly after what happened a couple of weeks ago in the midterms.
There is also—let‘s face it—another factor and that is that some Democrats are dependent and are drinking of the same trough in terms of campaign contributions as the Republicans with regard to rich people who are making campaign contributions to both sides.
OLBERMANN: But if the Republicans are in sort of the third stage of class warfare, just—you know, just shy of actual gunfire, if their members in the House and the Senate are in the tax bracket that would be most benefited by the upper class tax cuts on which they are voting, surely the issue of class warfare, to use that phrase, that war already started.
Why won‘t the Democrats admit that and participate and fire back?
REICH: Well, they should—obviously, they should. And I hope they have the courage of their conviction. They haven‘t had it before, Keith. But this is their last chance. I mean, this is the lame duck Congress.
You know, pretty soon, come January, the Republicans are going to be in charge. And so, if the Democrats and the Obama administration wants to make it very clear to the public leading up to 2012 who they stand for, who the Democrats stand for and who the Republicans stand for, this is the showdown. I mean, they‘ve got to say, middle class tax cuts, yes—but no tax cuts for people at the very top.
OLBERMANN: The Senate is obviously more complicated in part because of some of the Democratic senators who want all the tax cuts extended temporarily. Is that division in that party exactly what could prevent the clean vote on this and assure some sort of compromise with Republicans no matter how bad the compromise might actually be?
REICH: Yes, Keith, it might. We‘ve seen this before. This is not a new phenomenon. And we saw you it with health care and the public option. We saw it with financial reform and the refusal of certain Democrats in the Senate to go along with any cap on the size of big banks.
You know, Senate Democrats don‘t like to stay disciplined like Senate Republicans. I mean, perhaps it‘s in the genes. Maybe authoritarian personalities drift to the Republican Party and a thousand flowers bloom personalities to the Democratic Party. I don‘t know what it is. But Democrats—Senate Democrats have a very hard time voting together.
OLBERMANN: I would direct you to the book “Conservatives without Conscience” by John Dean to answer your question. The short version of the book is yes.
Following what Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid were suggesting, having obviously served in the administration of another Democratic president—do you think that this one needs to take a more rigid stance on this, even at this late hour? That some kind position from President Obama could make some sort of a difference?
REICH: I do, Keith. I wouldn‘t say rigid stance. I think a bold stance. And I think the president does need to define very clearly what he stands for here and he‘s going to say we‘re not going to have tax breaks for people at the very top. You know, the top 1 percent is taking home a quarter of all income right now. That top 1 percent got the lion‘s share of the Bush tax cuts, to begin with. And if we give them a tax break, it‘s going to blow a big hole in the budget deficit. Why are we going to this whole budget deficit exercise? Why are we in danger of not extending unemployment insurance? Well, we cannot afford to get a tax cut to people at the top.
And the president‘s got to make that very, very clear because there is confusion right now in the ranks as to what he believes.
OLBERMANN: The former labor secretary, Robert Reich—as always, it‘s an education. Thanks for your time, sir.
REICH: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Republicans‘ circular firing squad. The Ohio Tea Party versus John Boehner on his bid to hamstring or destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics.
OLBERMANN: John Boehner double-teamed. The Tea Party is mad at him, so too supporters of ethics in Congress, if any. That‘s next.
Frist, the sanity break and the tweet of the day again by now, he‘s a complete ringer. But it‘s just too good to pass off. Andy Borowitz at the Borowitz Report: “Chilean miners to appear on CNN. Why would they want to go down into yet another deep hole?”
To get some time away from the spotlight?
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: Buenos Aires, ola! Where we wander into the upper house of the Argentinean parliament, lawmaker Carlos Kunkel is in the process of giving a speech. The fellow lawmaker Graciela Camano decides to give a clever retort, using her hand of God. Pow! Right in the kisser! Ms. Camano later explained herself by saying, he wore me out because I‘ve been putting up with him all year long. He kept shouting without making a single proposal. Don‘t anyone introduce her to John Boehner.
Dateline, Decatur, Alabama, with a scofflaw on the move. A runaway cow was spotted steering its way through the streets. Confused residents looked on as the animal hoofed it up and down-the-roaded. It took a little work, but this doggy was eventually rounded up. The cow was returned to its owner. And when the owner was informed that it was his cow had had escaped, he was in utter disbelief.
To the Internets, the wonderful world of infomercial. The video itself is in Spanish. So I‘ll provide a colloquial translation. Hey wow, cool. Look at this awesome, unbreakable piece of cookware. Here, I‘ll prove how totally indestructible it is by throwing it to the ground. And watch this.
And boom goes the dynamite. We can‘t do this all day. Quick, go to the next product.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that horse. The bushy tail, the big teeth, the hooves. My producer just told me this isn‘t a horse. It‘s a butterfly.
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OLBERMANN: Where is that slap chop guy when you need him? That‘s right, on production.
Time marches on.
We know this much: he is not going to be reported to the House Ethics Office. John Boehner tries to dismantle it. The Tea Party of his own state attacks him. Matt Taibbi watches with calm amusement next.
OLBERMANN: To hear John Boehner tell it, he‘s had it with business as usual in Washington. Reform and change are good. Earmarks are out. Transparency is in. So, in our third story, his most recent maneuvering couldn‘t be more clear. Mr. Boehner and the GOP leadership determining whether to make an independent agency on ethics disappear. How‘s that for transparency?
The Office of Congressional Ethics facing the Republican chopping block. The agency charged with vetting ethics complaints and referring cases in need of further investigation to the bipartisan House Ethics Committee. Brendon Buck, spokesman for the Majority Transition Office, telling the” National Journal” that Mr. Boehner will, quote, take a look at current ethics rules. Don‘t hold your breath. Ethics have, quote, “really not been the focus of our transition efforts.” You say more than you know, sir.
Curious, considering two members of the GOP transition team were previously investigated by the very agency we‘re talking about. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, John Campbell of California. Hensarling, the GOP conference chair designate, was cleared of all charges. While Campbell is still under investigation by the Ethics Committee.
The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which has been working with GOP leaders on transparency, believes the leadership, quote, won‘t vote publicly to kill the OCE, but will simply quietly defund it next year. The office was first proposed by Speaker Pelosi as a way to drain the swamp following the fall-out after the conviction of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Mr. Boehner voted against the office‘s creation in 2008, has repeatedly question its worth. But one group is now questioning Boehner, the Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of Tea Party groups. President Chris Littleton telling “The Hill” newspaper, if they move in the opposite direction of transparency that this office provides, I think we will be very upset about that. Symbolically, it‘s a huge problem for them. They should be as transparent as they can be. Any opposition to that would be inappropriate on their part.”
Here with me now, contributing editor for “Rolling Stone,” author of the new book “Griftopia,” Matt Taibbi. Good to see you, Matt.
MATT TAIBBI, “ROLLING STONE”: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The agency is independent. It recommended further investigation for Charlie Rangel. The Ethics Committee recommended censure today for Charlie Rangel. Why get rid of a system that may not be perfect, but at least throws a road block in the way of lack of ethics.
TAIBBI: There is no reason to get rid of this agency. They‘re—actually, you couldn‘t even imagine something that would be more in line with what the Tea Party is all about. It‘s an independently funded agency. You have to be a private citizen in order to serve on the OCE. In reality, if they were actually real about any of these ethics issues, they not only wouldn‘t kill this agency, they would enhance it by giving it subpoena power.
So the fact that they‘re even considering getting rid of it tells you an awful lot about the divide in the Republican party. There‘s really going to be this sort of bureaucratic self defense that Boehner is going to be trying to push, while the Tea Party is going to be firmly in favor of more transparency.
OLBERMANN: So one of the 757 different Tea Parties will try to primary Boehner in 2012. Great. Good for them. This is one of those moments where you go, there is a purpose to this that does benefit the country, even if it‘s only once in a while. But what‘s the recourse in the meantime? Is there any way to save this outfit?
TAIBBI: No. I don‘t think so. I think here‘s the problem with that:
even if they kick up an enormous storm right now and there‘s a bipartisan outcry from both the left and the right, which could actually happen—I mean, this is an issue where I think you and I would agree with the Tea Party. Even if there‘s an outcry, what will probably happen is they won‘t kill it. They won‘t vote against it. They‘ll just quietly put a pillow over it and defund it sometime later in the year.
So we‘re all going to get a first class education in wagon circling right now. This is—they‘re going to find a way to get rid of this thing or defang it almost no matter what we do.
OLBERMANN: And the other route towards death by a thousand paper cuts is the GOP hand-picking top aides to staff the key committee in Capitol Hill offices, and basically just drawing off the rosters of K Street. That‘s another way also to get around this outfit, because if you‘ve got the professionals who know how to beat ethics raps, you put them anywhere near an ethics committee, guess who‘s going to win.
TAIBBI: Well, yes, absolutely. That‘s absolutely no surprise, because the new House leadership is almost entirely made up of guys who have very, very intimate ties with K Street and lobbyists. Boehner himself goes way back with Steve Clark, Dave Camp goes back Gary Liddle (ph). These are all financial services lobbyists.
I think the reality is that they‘re going to bring in the same old guys who were in place back in—you know, when Tom Delay and Dennis Hastert were running things. It is going to be business as usual again.
OLBERMANN: So is this the first domino in that cascade of a million? Like a trick on the Letterman show, where you just see—all right, there goes the ethics office. What‘s next on the immediate targets of either being blitzed or defunded?
TAIBBI: Well, they made a lot of promises about procedure, specifically with putting cameras in the Rules Committee and making sure that all these bills are available for public perusal for 72 hours before they‘re voted on. I think they‘re going to make a lot of promises there. My sense is they were never actually going to follow through with that. Neither party has ever made good on any promises with regards to reforming any of these procedures. So I just don‘t see that really happening.
OLBERMANN: Great. Just what we need, rich—richer people voting on stuff for the middle class with no one to watchdog them. Fantastic. It sounds like we ought to be standing outside Washington and wearing cloaks and infrared cameras.
TAIBBI: No, absolutely. This is an issue where everybody—I think Tea Party and people on the other side could be getting together. And this is a place where there could be a positive role for movements like that. I just don‘t see real movement happening on this particular issue. Both the Republicans and key groups on the Democratic side have been against this OCE. The Congressional Black Caucus has been in favor of defanging this agency too.
So there are going to be alliances formed in the Congress, powerful alliances to get rid of this thing.
OLBERMANN: You don‘t hit the congressman‘s union like this. Matt Taibbi, contributing editor at “Rolling Stone,” and the book is “Griftopia.” Thank you, Matt.
TAIBBI: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Boehner reappears tonight in Worst Persons. A terrorist going to prison for 20 years, and the speaker-elect is still terrorized by him.
And the description sounds like lap dance rules at strip clubs. As the ACLU and an attorney general move in, are the new aggressive pat-down feel-ups even legal?
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, even as the revived GM goes out on its corporate own, why conservatives still say rescuing it was the wrong thing to do.
OLBERMANN: Do you like your junk photographed or just fondled?
Further push-back against the TSA next.
First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time‘s for today‘s nominees for the worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Bonnie Usher. Charged by police in Manchester, New Hampshire for sticking up a Rite-Aide drug store there. She was identified because of the getaway car in which she was seen pealing out of the pharmacy supermarket. Bonnie Usher was arrested because the car had a vanity license plate which read “B. Usher.”
The silver again to Roger Ailes, part two of an interview on an Internet gossip site. Ailes about Jon Stewart: “he hates conservative views. He hates conservative thoughts. He hates conservative verbiage. He hates conservatives. He‘s crazy. If it wasn‘t polarized, he couldn‘t make a living. He makes a living by attacking conservatives and stirring up a liberal base against it. Loves polarization. He depends on it. Liberals and conservatives are all getting along, how good would that show be? It would be a bomb.”
Thanks to Mr. Ailes for proving my point about false equivalence.
And an aside to Mr. Stewart, Jon, I told you so. I might disagree with you, but I‘d never think you were crazy or hateful. Maher is right. One side sticks to the facts and the other is close to playing with its poop.
Part two on Ailes is a little more serious. National Public Radio;
“they are,” he says, “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don‘t wanted any other point of view. They don‘t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They‘re basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”
Golly. I wonder where Beck and O‘Reilly get the idea that it‘s OK to call everybody Nazis? By the way, “they are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.” NPR get less than six percent of their money from state and federal government funding. The network about two percent. so don‘t talk about things you don‘t understand, Ailes, like the actual news business.
But our winner, Speaker-elect Boehner and Senator Lindsey Graham, responding to the conviction in a federal court of terror suspect Ahmed Ghailani. Boehner, “the decision by this administration to try terrorists in civilian court was the wrong one from day one. And yesterday‘s acquittal on 284 of 285 charges against Ghailani further proved” (INAUDIBLE).
Ghailani got 20 years. The reason he didn‘t get more, they had to throw out the evidence extracted under torture, just as they would have in a military court. And torture is the Republican idea.
Also if Ghailani had been acquitted on all counts, he still would not have been freed.
Now to Mr. Graham. “While I respect the judgement of the court,” he says, “I‘m deeply disappointed in the verdict. We are at war with al Qaeda. Members of the organization and their associates should be treated as warriors, not common criminals. We put our nation at risk by”—
Two years ago, Senator Graham applauded the conviction of Salim Hamdan, bin Laden‘s driver/bodyguard, in a military trial. And Graham said, “I hope all Americans will as well.” The tribunal gave him only five and a half years.
Speaker elect John Boehner and Senator Lindsey Graham, not reacting to the Ghailani verdict but overreacting, in fact acting all terrorized, today‘s worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: tonight, the junk heard round the world continues to reverberate from sea to shining sea. In Congress, Ron Paul‘s new bill would prevent the TSA from groping airline passengers. In California, one California D.A. is promising criminal prosecution for any TSAS agent who crosses the line. And in our number one story, what about the Israeli model of airport security?
The American Traveler Dignity Act was submitted to the House of Representatives last night. The upshot of Texas Congressman Ron Paul‘s legislation, employees of the federal government are not allowed to see nor touch your stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: If you can‘t grope another person and if you can‘t X-Ray people and endanger them with possible X-Ray, you can‘t take nude photographs of individuals, why do we allow the government to do it? We would go to jail if an individual—he would be immediately arrested if an individual citizen went up and did these things. Yet we just sit there and calmly say, they‘re making us safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In California, San Mateo County, home to San Francisco International Airport, the district attorney‘s office has put the TSA on notice. The incoming D.A. Steve Wagstaffe telling a San Francisco TV station that his office has yet to receive a complaint related to inappropriate touching by airport security. But if it did—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE WAGSTAFFE, IN-COMING CALIFORNIA DISTRIC ATTORNEY: The case would be reviewed. If we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriate, done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But exactly when does a security check turn into molestation? One of the great misunderstandings of this, usually from those who have not been to an airport recently, is that new TSA actions are like police pat-downs or frisks. This is from the tape of the touch my junk passenger. The procedure the TSA agent is warning about him—warning him about is not a frisk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘ll be doing the standard pat-down on you today, using my hands going like this.
Also, we‘re going to be doing a groin check. That means I‘m going to place my hand on your hip, other hand on your inner thigh and slowly go up, and slide down. I‘m going to do that two time in the front and two times in the back. If you‘d like a private screening, we can make that available for you also.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can do that out here. But if you touch my junk, I‘m going to have you arrested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: My hand on your hip. My hand on your inner thigh four times.
Last night, our guest, Isaac Yeffit, the former head of security for El Al Airlines explained all this is useless in terms of counterterrorism, and that none of it is done in Israel. But he didn‘t really explain why. Rafay Selah (ph) did. As the former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority, he helped to design the security at Ben Gurion Airport, widely considered to have the toughest security in the world.
Last December, Mr. Salab described it to the “Toronto Star Newspaper.” First, there are roadside checks outside the airport. Drivers are asked, how are you and where are you coming from. According to Salab, the questions aren‘t important. The way people act when they answer them is.
Travelers are randomly pulled aside to have their luggage scanned.
Inside the airport, a trained interviewer asks, who packed your luggage. According to Salab, the whole time they‘re looking into your eyes, which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not.
It takes 20, 25 seconds. Suspicious packages would not cause an entire airport to be evacuated, just an evacuation of the screening area, which is fortified behind blast-proof glass. One more behavior observation and then it‘s bon voyage, no nudity, no groping.
Joining me now, Chris Calabrese, legislative council for the American Civil Liberties Union. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
CHRIS CALABRESE, LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, ACLU: Thank you for having me here.
OLBERMANN: Is the ACLU involved in this in any way yet? And if not, do you anticipate that you will be?
CALABRESE: Well, we have a complaint form up. We‘ve had it up for about two weeks. We‘ve gotten more than 300 complaints. So it‘s clear that people are upset. Whether we‘ll get involved or not, we‘ll have to see what the complaints look like.
OLBERMANN: At this stage, is there any other recourse for people who think they‘ve been violated or even perhaps misled about what this thing constitutes?
CALABRESE: You hate to say it, but the old saw, call your congressman really applies here. I mean, TSA has backed down from doing these things in the past. It‘s clear that Congress is very aware. They‘re getting a lot of complaints. Nobody likes to be groped. And that‘s really what‘s going on here. I think Congress is aware of it. We‘ll see if TSA blinks.
OLBERMANN: There are all sorts of legal terms and sort of vernacular terms. Is groped a legal term at this point? Are you suggesting that you‘ve already looked into what the meaning of this is?
CALABRESE: No, it‘s a vernacular term. I think it‘s the most accurate description of what‘s going on here.
OLBERMANN: The Israeli model that we heard a little bit more detail of tonight; from a civil liberties standpoint, why wouldn‘t the U.S. want to emulate what has been going on at Ben Gurion Airport with obvious 99.999 success rates.
CALABRESE: Well, parts of it we would want to emulate. For example, the focus on intelligence gathering and stopping people before they get to the airport, that‘s something that the president said after the Christmas Bomber, for example, was something where we had fallen down on the job in terms of our intelligence gathering. So that‘s something we would want to focus on.
Some of the more detailed procedures at the Israeli airports, they just don‘t scale up in the United States. We‘re too big and too diverse for some of those procedures.
OLBERMANN: There was a CBS News poll that found that more than 80 percent of Americans right now are OK with the full body scan if it makes flying safer. We know that the body scans are supposed to be deleted after they are used for that individual screening. We also know from this Florida courthouse case that some of them stay in the machine. The number was 35,000 in this one machine.
What does the level of support for the technology tell you about A, what people are willing to trade for supposed safety, and B, how many people haven‘t flown recently?
CALABRESE: That is a key point. But I think that‘s really interesting in that poll is people were willing to trade these things for safety and for security. But the Government Accountability office said after the body scanners were rolled out, that, in fact, TSA didn‘t know that the body scanners would have even caught the Christmas bomber. They didn‘t have evidence of that.
So we‘re trading something, but it‘s not clear what we‘re getting in return.
OLBERMANN: To that point, have you heard anybody say regarding this
what would be done at an American airport if one of these either pat-downs
feel-ups, or the full body scans showed something in say somebody‘s underwear or strapped to their upper thigh? Has there been an explanation of what the safety measure would follow that. It seems to me like it‘s awfully late in the game to be finding anything. You‘re in a crowd people where something terrible could happen and be just as impactful as if it happened on a plane.
CALABRESE: It‘s a great question, because it‘s not clear even with a pat-down that you‘re always going to be able to find things. Imagine if that lump that you feel is actually someone‘s colostomy bag or an elderly citizen‘s adult diapers. I mean, these are terrible—these are humiliating searches. They‘re embarrassing.
And it‘s not clear that they‘re at all thought through. You know, the inspector general of DHS just came out with a report yesterday that said that TSA training procedures for their screeners are completely inadequate, that, you know, people aren‘t not getting training on the job. They‘re not getting training beforehand.
So we‘re unleashing these incredibly invasive gropes without the proper training and we‘re wondering why things are going wrong.
OLBERMANN: And in the testimony yesterday, the TSA administrator, Mr. Pistole, said to the Congress that reasonable people—or the Senate that reasonable can disagree on the balance of safety and intrusion in this new safety. Is there anything to be read between the lines of that new statement?
CALABRESE: I think he should be a little more reasonable. That‘s kind of—
OLBERMANN: A perfect answer to that. Chris Calabrese of the ACLU, great thanks. Let us know if you get involved.
CALABRESE: We will. Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. That‘s November 18th, 16 days since Republicans took control of the House. Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs at the Office of Congressional Ethics?
I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now to discuss why the right still thinks rescuing GM was the wrong thing to do, as we the little bird parents push the GM bird out of the nest and see it soar—sorry—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: I love the idea of General Motors as a tiny baby bird.
OLBERMANN: Yes, like Woodstock of the top of Snoopy‘s—I lost the analogy. I‘m sorry. Take it from here, please.
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