Guests: Chris Hayes, Howard Dean, David Corn, Dr. H. Clarke Romans
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The House GOP move to repeal health care reform? Even though support among Republicans for repealing health care reform plummets, from 61 percent to 49 percent.
And after promising to make the cuts the Republicans pass on writing the budget, they want the president to do it. That way they can yell at him and call him names and blame him for any cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Now, we also understand that we as Republicans do not control this federal government, the other party does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Except all spending originates in the House.
Chris Hayes on the politics, Howard Dean on health care reform‘s new popularity among Republican voters.
Smiling, massaging her husband‘s neck, tolerating anesthesia and minor surgery. Next in the come back of Gabrielle Giffords?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, NEUROSURGEON: The day she leaves this hospital, that‘s her graduation. Then she moves on to rehabilitation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Jared Loughner and mental health. Rudy‘s got a suggestion
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER NYC MAYOR: We‘re making a big mistake here not changing our procedures with regard to mental illness and then some form of involuntary appraisal of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “You‘re dead,” Tucson shooting victim James Eric Fuller to Tea Partier Trent Humphries. I apologize.
And former President Clinton today warning against the real danger of violent rhetoric: “We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can be read, heard or seen by those who understand exactly what we mean and by those whose inner demons take them to a very different place.”
Yet nine days after, only Senator McCain and I have taken any personal responsibility for troubling rhetoric. Tonight, a “Special Comment.”
All the news and commentary—now on COUTNDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, January 17th, 659 days until the 2012 presidential election.
With Congress back to work, House Republicans are ready to govern and take ownership of their own policies by passing a health care repeal that has no chance of advancing beyond that symbolic vote, and which has lost a remarkable amount of support among Republican voters, and by finally cutting spending—but not until President Obama submits his ideas on how to do that first.
In our fifth story: Republicans are ready, set—go ahead, Mr.
President, you first.
The House Republican leader, Mr. Cantor, possibly trying to redefine his party‘s new majority during the annual GOP retreat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: Now, we also understand that we as Republicans do not control this federal government. The other party does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And if that seems like a statement of the obvious rather than a careful reduction of expectations, compare to what Congressman Cantor had to say in May of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: You know, there‘s a mentality in this town that we just got to keep spending and we can never start cutting, and we‘re trying to change the culture here, Bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And there‘s Mr. Cantor 11 days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: And from the fiscal standpoint, we‘re going to go about reducing discretionary spending across the board to ‘08 levels. We‘re going to save the taxpayers money. Each and every week, we‘ve committed to bringing a bill to the floor that reduces spending, that actually changes the culture here in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Except, you know, now or now-ish.
Cantor‘s GOP colleague, Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey, more direct, suggesting that Republicans shouldn‘t do anything until after the president‘s State of the Union address. Quoting, “He should be coming to us at that point in time with his proposal, his agenda, as to how we get to living within our means.” Translation: Let‘s blame the cuts on that guy.
Even the former head of the Republican Governors Association, Haley Barbour, trying to have it both ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: Democrats control the Senate, they control the presidency. So, we‘re not running the government. We‘re not going to be able to. But we can try to stop bad things.
I say “we,” meaning the House Republicans can try to stop bad things from going through, to limit or eliminate the funding of bad policies. But, you know, we can‘t pass laws unless the president agrees to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or maybe it‘s because spending cuts have actual consequences—that frank assessment from nine-term Congressman Steven LaTourette, the Republican of Ohio. Quoting, “Back in Ohio, almost everybody says, ‘Oh, you‘ve got to cut spending.‘ But then they say, ‘Oh, I didn‘t know you meant my spending.‘ And there‘s going to be a lot about that.”
As to the GOP promises to repeal health care, it‘s a bit more complicated, part symbolism, part theater, part brinkmanship. This debate on the House‘s repeal to begin tomorrow, Boehner recently employing phrases like “job-crushing” and “job-destroying” to describe the Democrats so-called “spending spree.” The health care bill still employs the phrase “job-killing,” we‘re digressing here.
Then again so do Republicans since their repeal will get nowhere in the Senate, so much for the symbolism.
As to the theater, Republicans plan on passing a vaguely-worded resolution on how they will replace the health care law, Affordable Care Act, with something else. But the Republican controlled committees charged with developing that something else health care plan will also be searching for ways to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. For example, a proposal by Congressman John Carter to officially oppose a regulation on the medical loss ratio. That quite simply is a consumer-friendly rule requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of every premium dollar on actual health care service. Congressman Carter says it will, quote-unquote, “wreck” the insurance market.
Meantime, the Affordable Care Act is gaining support even among Republicans. Forty-nine percent of Republican voters support all out repeal in a poll completed a week ago. That represent as drop from the 61 percent of Republicans who supported repeal just after the November elections.
On that note, let‘s bring in the former government of Vermont, former chairman to the DNC, Governor Howard Dean, also a consultant to McKenna, Long & Aldridge, consultant to Democracy of America, contributor to CNBC.
And we get it all out of the way again, Governor. Thank you for your time.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let‘s start there with health care repeal. If it got through the House, it gets vetoed—I mean, it got through the Senate somehow, it gets vetoed by the president. So, what is the point of view here? Why is this being done even from the Republican mindset?
DEAN: Well, the Republicans really are playing to their base. The sad part about this is it looks like the Republicans of 2010 are exactly the same as the Republicans of 2000 to 2006. Spend, spend, spend and no guts. Don‘t cut anything. Don‘t rock the boat.
I will be fascinated to see if there‘s not a Tea Party rebellion. Otherwise, you got to come to the conclusion as a Tea Party rebellion was sort of a fraud also. These guys are clearly not serious about controlling spending. If they were, they would be truthful about how much money it‘s going to cost to repeal health care, which they‘re denying as well.
This is politics as usual in Washington, Keith.
OLBERMANN: But what‘s the other point? If that poll number is correct, if support among ordinary Republicans for repeal was 61 percent right after the election, and it‘s down to 49 percent in a span of two months, why do it?
DEAN: The heated rhetoric has dissipated some. But they do it because they are afraid of their base. They have a virulently militant base, some of whom really believe this ought to be repealed. Not very big number as you point out.
There are problems—they‘ve huge problem now. They can‘t get a majority in the Senate in 2010 if they behave like this and they certainly can‘t get elected—get a president elected if they don‘t stand up for anything and they appear to be taking the path of too many politicians of both parties have taken over the years, which is not stand for anything. Say one thing and when you get elected run for the hills and that‘s just what they‘re doing.
OLBERMANN: All right. Select out these issues of Republican versus Democrat and all the rest of it, what‘s going to happen next. Tell me what it means for the Republican support for repealing health care to have dropped from 61 percent to 49 percent in two months.
DEAN: Well, people are discovering there are actually some things in this bill that do good. And a lot of these folks now have their kids are insured again because they can keep them on their policies up until 26. They can‘t be denied health insurance again because—now because if they have a pre-existing condition, the insurance companies can‘t refuse to give it to them. So, now, some of the things that the Obama administration talked about have actually happened to middle class people and middle class people, whether the Republicans or Democrats, are suddenly discovering that this bill does some good and that‘s not what they were led to believe by the right wing.
OLBERMANN: So, what do the Democrats do as the Republicans enact this kabuki theater? What‘s the best strategy?
DEAN: I think just tell the truth and move on. What people really want is jobs. They‘d like to put the fighting of the last two years behind them and start to work on the economy. And I think that‘s a good idea, and I think that‘s probably what the president is going to talk about during the State of the Union address.
OLBERMANN: Is there some sense all of this on the part of the Republicans is a warm up act for whatever it is when they come up with spending cuts, because this would somehow soften up the possibility of underfunding implementation of health care reform?
DEAN: Well, I think it‘s pretty clear they‘re not going to come up with any spending cuts. I was shocked when I saw that Eric Cantor interview. What happened to the bravado of all these guys? I mean, they just turned into nothing and blew away in the wind. This is a relatively useless majority.
Unfortunately, our majority wasn‘t strong as it should have been on things like health care. But this majority also seems to be, before they have a year in office, squandering whatever they got elected to do by the American people, and they‘re going to just be seen as another set of politicians that was in there. And that‘s not going to help them much in 2012.
OLBERMANN: Yes, when we‘re sitting here at six months reminiscing about the strong days of leadership under the Democrats in the House and Senate of 2009 --
DEAN: That‘s right. That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: -- well, you know, that will just tell you the way the direction of the political scene is going.
DEAN: Nancy Pelosi is looking pretty good right now.
OLBERMANN: Well, she does anyway, but that‘s another story.
DEAN: That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: Governor Dean, as always, great thanks.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to the Washington editor of “The Nation,” MSNBC contributor, Chris Hayes.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Well, broaden out first before we get back into health care reform.
Waiting for the president to propose spending and cuts—as Howard Dean just said—what happened to those Republican promises of, you know, we‘re not only going cut spending, we‘re going to cut spending every week, we‘re going to do it on Thursday about 2:00, give us to 3:00 if lunch goes long?
HAYES: Well, I thought it was a hilariously and refreshingly honest comment by Steve LaTourette about basically—the fact that is always this: people dislike spending in the abstract and they like it in the concrete, right? They don‘t like government spending as sort of abstract behemoth that‘s out there and, you know, we‘re wasting money left and right.
But when it comes to programs that people actually use, they really don‘t want to see them cut. And so, squaring the circle is always a difficulty and the way that Republicans have squared the circle in the past is increase spending to the constituencies that vote for them and decrease them for constituencies that vote for Democrats. And I think that‘s probably what we‘re going to see them do this time.
OLBERMANN: Is that strategy of let‘s, you know, you go first, Mr. President—is that—the whole point of that to get him to make the first proposal and then howl about it and then cut his proposal and then claim victory over him? Is that the goal?
HAYES: Well—I mean, it would be preposterously disingenuous,
right, if they
HAYES: I know, exactly. I‘m about to say, it would be preposterously disingenuous for them to sort of bait the president to spending cuts and then attack them for spending cuts. But let us recall that the number one top line attack on the president‘s health care bill in the 2010 midterms was cuts to Medicare. These were the—these were the—remember this is the great Tea Party insurgency, right, that wants to see smaller government and the number one distillation of their problem with the president‘s bill was cuts to Medicare.
So, yes, if they can bait the president into proposals to cut things that their constituency likes, there‘s no question they will mercilessly go after him.
OLBERMANN: Is it even broader than that? Could Republicans have studied the coalition in Britain and how it has been brutalized by the public there for making these budget cuts even though it was necessary to make it happen? Republicans trying to hope to avoid that by making the president go first and then in some way blaming all cuts no matter, who they were directed at, on the president? Is that what we‘re hearing in these sound bites—particularly that stuff from Cantor about, “We‘re not running the government”?
HAYES: Yes. I think that‘s part of it. I think part of it is trying to sort of figure out what this middle path is going to be. But I think actually, a bigger part of it is trying to sort of ratchet down expectations particularly for the base.
I mean, basically, my understanding of how Republicans are entering this session is, OK, Tea Party, OK, base we‘re going give you the health care repeal bill, we talked about that, isn‘t that nice, boom, we passed it. It‘s going to sit on the desk.
Eventually, they‘re going to have to pass a budget and they‘re going to have to raise the debt ceiling. Those two things are going to happen, right? And when those two things happen, this insurgent conservative movement that voted them in is most likely going to be extremely unhappy with the results of it. I mean, it‘s very hard to see them coming to some agreement that the most extreme members of the caucus are happy with.
So, what I think they are trying to communicate is they are already trying to ratchet down expectations and they‘re going to punk the right-wing on what they do and I think they are just sort of trying to telegraph it as much as possible.
OLBERMANN: All right. They always do. All right.
One quick question about health care reform and the poll numbers for the president have been moving up incrementally. Does that help the polling on health care or is it just the advantages of health care reform are now beginning to be visible?
HAYES: You know, it‘s really hard to disaggregate those two. My sense is that the raw numbers of people that have been helped in, say, particularly when you‘re looking at a week, right, a week difference between 49 and 61 --
HAYES: -- it‘s hard to possibly come up with a count where, you know, enough people got new benefits, that that actually brought those numbers down.
I think what you‘re seeing is two things: one is, there was a lot of fatigue with the health care fight as a political fight. And I‘m not sure that your average sort of independent, non—not super partisan voter is that excited about refighting the health care battle. So, I think there‘s this kind of inclination on the part of the populace to sort of let sleeping dogs lie in terms of the health care bill.
But I also think the economy is not doing well in a lot of respects, but it‘s also not tanking. It‘s reached this strange sort of limbo and what we‘ve seen the president‘s approval ratings have plateaued in around the same way.
OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes of “The Nation” and MSNBC—great thanks and great thanks for pinch-hitting last week.
HAYES: You bet, Keith. Thanks a lot.
OLBERMANN: Gabby Giffords‘ health, it continues to improve.
The fight over mental health and involuntary commitment and the discourse over our rhetorical health, or more correctly, why there hasn‘t been very much? “Special Comment” on the last nine days—tonight on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: For the ninth straight day, more good news about the health of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
He misses the point. He sees as the solution of a mental health aspect: involuntary commitment.
Well, today, he hits the nail on the head on the danger of violent rhetoric heard by the unstable.
So, why is the list of those that have taken personal responsibility for any inappropriate rhetoric still limited to this man and me? Tonight, my “Special Comment.
OLBERMANN: Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of Gabrielle Giffords, might have hoped somebody would be worried enough about his stresses to give him a 10-minute neck massage this weekend. He could not have imagined that that person would have been his wife.
Our fourth story tonight: Gabby Giffords well enough tonight to be off a ventilator and instead on a tracheal breathing tube, and having suffered no apparent setback despite minor surgery to remove chips of bone from just above her right eye, surgery that required anesthesia. The next step, her doctors say, is leaving the hospital, possibly within days to begin her long-term rehab and recovery center.
Mark Kelly also says she‘s smiling at him. She has sight apparently good, it‘s not yet exactly clear how much.
On the massage point, Kelly telling ABC News, quote, “I keep telling her, I‘m like, ‘Gabby, you‘re in ICU, you know, you don‘t need to be doing this.‘ But she can do it.”
Her condition now upgraded from critical to serious. The condition of our national discourse is still too soon to tell.
Shooting victim James Eric Fuller apologizing today for his outburst Saturday at which he told Tucson Tea Party cofounder Trent Humphries, quote, “You‘re dead.” Fuller arrested after the incident, and rightly so, involuntary committed to a hospital for mental health evaluation. He gave a letter to the “Associated Press” via his girlfriend, calling his outburst, quote, “misplaced outrage.”
Humphries today telling “Talking Points Memo” he‘s not sure if Fuller is a threat to the community or not, but he is concerned is getting Fuller treatment for mental illness if he needs it.
And today on this Martin Luther King Day, two former national leaders spoke about rhetorical violence. Former Vice President Cheney telling NBC News, quote, “Certainly, there‘s nothing wrong with and I wouldn‘t be critical about people who were saying, ‘Look, we need to be careful about our rhetoric. We need to treat one another with respect during the course of our political debates.” Mr. Cheney, however, resisting the notion that violent rhetoric could fuel violent action.
Not so former President Clinton. In a statement on MLK Day, saying, quote, “We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can be read, heard or seen by those who understand exactly what we mean and by those whose inner demons take them to a different place.”
A new poll taken after the shooting showing only a handful of Americans, 5 percent or 6 percent, calling violence against the current U.S. government justified, but 13 percent of the Tea Party says it is.
Let‘s turn now to David Corn, Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones” magazine, columnist to PoliticsDaily.com.
David, good evening.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. We‘re going to talk about that mental health issue later at length in the news hour, but President Clinton‘s statement today was I thought very important, very precise. He made a big distinction. He said it was wrong to suggest that any political figure ever intended their words to incite something like that shooting last Saturday, but he said quite plainly, you have to judge the impact of your words on those who might be unstable or who otherwise might be hearing what they want to hear other than what you‘re saying.
This suggests there is daylight between Mr. Clinton‘s position on causality and President Obama‘s, correct?
CORN: I think there‘s a little. I don‘t want to slice it too thin. I think, you know, the former president got it right today. But I also think that President Obama is president of all Americans. Even those who believe he‘s a secret socialist Muslim born in Kenya who wants to purposely destroy the United States.
So, I think trying to hit a different note on his part, rising above the fray, and being particularly careful not to point fingers in this particular instance serves him. One thing that he said in Tucson which he didn‘t get a lot of attention was that said that the debate not just had to be reasonable and respectful, the political discourse have to be honest. And I really think that‘s a role that he can play.
We‘ve seen in the past two years, Republicans say the jobs bill—or excuse me—the recovery package created no new jobs. They‘re talking about death panels. They said he palled around with terrorists. They said things that were really not true.
And I would hope that, you know, when the time is right, it might be campaign season, it might be in the next two years, that President Obama is going to be very forceful in making sure things like that do not take root in the public discourse.
OLBERMANN: The possibility of daylight between viewpoints on the other side of the equation, is the interview that Mr. Cheney with Jamie Gangel, the NBC Interview that‘s going to run tomorrow on “The Today Show” that, quote, “perhaps we should avoid things like targets on Web sites,” which is obviously referring to the Palin crosshairs map and other crosshairs maps.
Is there a split here between the unapologetic Tea Party of apocalyptic rhetoric and the Republicans who just want to use the Tea Party energy to lower taxes for the rich? Is this another—is this an unexpected schism?
CORN: Well, I don‘t know if you can call it a schism when you have the tail wagging the dog.
CORN: And that‘s what you have here—the Tea Party is the tail wagging the Republican Party dog. And I still go back to the fall of 2009 when there was a rally of Tea Partiers against the health care bill that was organized and sort of unseen by Republican leaders, including John Boehner when the crowd starts chanting “Nazis, Nazis” in reference to the Democrats in support of the bill.
Now, at that point in time, there should be a line—there should be a schism between Republican leaders who have some responsibility for a respectful and responsible debate and their followers who they can at least admonish and say, let‘s keep on policy terms. Because once you start calling people Nazis, once you call them terrorists, whether or not you tell people that there are Second Amendment remedies, it certainly sets the tone that these are people who almost don‘t deserve to live.
OLBERMANN: These 13 percent of Tea Partiers statistics from that poll, who feel that violence against this government is justified—how would of they have obtained that belief if not through political rhetoric?
CORN: Well, I think there‘s a feedback loop going on here. These people start off with being anti-government and being paranoid in a lot of ways about the government. The Black Helicopter Gang back in the ‘90s. Well, the Republicans Party members come along, they see this and they start pandering. They say, Michele Bachmann says that there are anti-Americans in the Congress. Sarah Palin on the campaign trail said that Barack Obama didn‘t like America. And they use Second Amendment remedies rhetoric like Sharron Angle did out in Nevada.
And so, this sort of feeds the paranoia and it also reaffirms it. So, it is a cycle in which both parties are responsible. You should expect more of people who take on the mantel of leadership.
OLBERMANN: David Corn, the Washington editor of “Mother Jones”—thanks as always, David.
CORN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The mental health component to all this and Rudy Giuliani‘s push to solve everything by having the government involuntarily commit anybody who acts strangely.
OLBERMANN: Rudy Giuliani solution to the mental health issues of Jared Loughner and the next one? Involuntary commitment for everybody. Careful, Rudy. I mean, no.
First, the much-need humor break. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: We begin in Georgia where last week‘s winter storm had plow crews working overtime. Here we find them hard at work, clearing a parking deck. Well, Mr. Plow, that‘s name. The name again is Mr. Plow.
This could mean only one of two things. Either the mow men are getting ready to strike, or they overloaded the truck and it crashed at the top level of a parking deck. Fortunately, it was the latter and nobody was hurt. The structure was empty at the time. The good news is: there‘s now one less spot he needs to clear during the next storm.
And from the World Wide Web of wickets, the public service announcement of sorts, Oprah may have cornered the market of texting while driving, what about the cause of texting while walking? Release, rotation, splash. Too engrossed on the emoticons on her phone, the text addict fails to avoid the rather large fountain and goes for a brief swim. She seems to recover OK, shaking off the water and walking away. Maybe next time she will find a way watch out for large bodies of water in the mall by seeing if there‘s an app for that.
Time marches on.
Mental health and rhetorical health. And nine days later, how come the only people taking personal responsibility for what they have said be me and John McCain?
OLBERMANN: Those who cross paths with Tucson gunman Jared Lee Loughner say that warning signs were accumulating. But in our third story tonight, are sign and signs alone enough to forcibly remove American citizens from society against their will? Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani trying to turn the Loughner story into an excuse for some kind of round up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: We‘re making a big mistake here not changing our procedures with regard to mental illness and then some form of involuntary appraisal of people who display—situations where teachers have to have guards there to protect themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: After posting an incendiary video about his college on Youtube, Loughner was suspended from campus until he was to receive a mental health evaluation. Instead, he never sought the help and left the school.
Richard Kastigar, a top official in the Pima County Sheriff‘s Office, said that Loughner‘s behavior at his college never violated the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was disruptive in a Pima College classroom. And I personally don‘t want a police state where anybody who is—perhaps has an opinion or stands out in their classroom or does something goofy in their classroom gets arrested and then put in some kind of mental rehab system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On the one hand, the argument that Jared Lee Loughner displayed obvious mental illness, yet was never forced to seek treatment. On the other, that Loughner‘s behavior, however bizarre, should not lead to new restrictions on our fundamental liberties.
Complicating the matter is that funding for behavioral health treatment in Arizona was cut by as much as 50 percent last year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that gutting denied mental health services to nearly 28,000 Arizona residents.
The executive director of the Southern Arizona chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness joins us now, Dr. H. Clarke Romans. Thank you for your time tonight, doctor.
H. CLARKE ROMANS, PHD, NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Glad to be here. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: This fundamental question first of when to intervene; is it actually irrelevant if the funding isn‘t there to do anything with the people with whom you think about intervening?
ROMANS: Well, I think it‘s a checkerboard situation. I think the regulations that are on the books in Arizona can be useful tools for people to help them and help others get help for them. The difficulty with the budget cuts is that oftentimes when people are involuntarily committed, the money may not be there when they get out of the hospital to give them continuation of care.
OLBERMANN: Tell me more about the budget cuts. Give us some sort of perspective. Besides no follow up or limited follow up when people get out of that immediate emergency sort of care, what specifically is not happening?
ROMANS: Well, I would say here in Pima County, beginning as early as January 1st, 2010, some 2,800 people were expelled from the public mental health system because they did not have a serious mental illness diagnosis. That was the first wave.
The second wave came on July 1st of 2010, where people—individuals who did have a serious mental illness diagnosis, but weren‘t poor enough—in other words they didn‘t qualify for Medicaid, called Access here in Arizona—those individuals lost virtually every service that they were getting except generic medications.
So they lost access to their doctor, their case manager, support groups, out patient services, transportation subsidies and eventually housing subsidies. So essentially they were kicked out except generic medication.
OLBERMANN: In an ideal situation, full budgets and such, what could have happened differently with Loughner, other than something that involved him volunteering or agreeing to be treated?
ROMANS: Well, I think that there was enough evidence, at least from what I‘ve read—obviously I don‘t know everything. But there‘s several categories in the Arizona statutes which allow for involuntary commitment. The most obvious one is a danger to self or others. But apparently he didn‘t demonstrate that.
But there are other categories which, I believe, campus officials or campus police could have used. My agency works with law enforcement and with other mental health provider agencies. And people are involuntarily committed on these other categories on a regular basis when the circumstances deem it necessary.
It‘s not an arbitrary process. It‘s a thoughtful process. It‘s a tool that can be used.
OLBERMANN: Is there any way to say how much likelier that another Loughner might be out there because of these budget cuts? Or is that just too simplistic a question?
ROMANS: Well, I think that—the fact that people who are making more—at least for the moment, more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level are now in a category that they have virtually no access to services, to public mental health services. So I think we‘ve raised the barrier considerably higher than it used to be.
So people who, you know, could be unstable are at risk. I mean, the fact is that most people who do have serious mental illnesses go through their life undiagnosed and untreated. Sony of those people could at any time be in a situation where the stress precipitates their symptoms and the services are moving further away from them.
OLBERMANN: H. Clarke Romans, executive director of the Southern Arizona chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
ROMANS: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Nine days later and still almost no one, left or right, is taking responsibility, personal responsibility for any of the violent imagery or rhetoric. My special comment ahead.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest Michael Moore, NRA member, on the need for better gun control laws.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the nine days since Tucson. that awful night, I said this: “We need to put the guns down. Just as importantly we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently. Left, right, middle—politicians and citizens—sane and insane.
“This age in which this country would accept “targeting” of political opponents and putting bulls eyes over their faces, and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows, ended.”
I cited seven examples of violent rhetoric from the right; only one
from the left—my own. Because the point of that Comment, and this one,
was not that the right pulled the trigger in Tucson, but that we as
citizens must stop the next Loughner. And the only way to do this is to
accept personal responsibility and to pledge—again, as I said that night
that “violence, or the threat of violence, have no place in our democracy. And I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence.”
This afternoon, former President Clinton issued a statement honoring what would have been Dr. King‘s 82nd birthday:
“We‘d all do well to heed this message. While no one intends their words or actions to incite the violence we saw in Tucson—and it‘s wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise - we live in a world where what we say and how we say it can be read, heard, or seen by those who understand exactly what we mean and by those whose inner demons take them to a very different place.
“That‘s not an argument against free speech, but a reminder that, as with all freedoms, its use carries with it responsibility. Therefore, we should follow the example Dr. King set and exercise our freedom of speech in ways that both clarify our honest differences and nurture the best of us rather than bring out the worst.”
Yet the response?
To date, only one commentator or politician has expressed the slightest introspection, the slightest self-awareness, the slightest remorse, the slightest ownership, of the existence of the fantasy dream cloud of violent language by which we are now nearly blinded.
“Our political discourse,” John McCain wrote in an otherwise steaming serving of “Washington Post” op-ed partisan flab, “should be more civil than it currently is, and we all, myself included, bear some responsibility for it not being so.”
One individual assumed any personal responsibility for any of it, besides me: John McCain. Not Palin, not Beck. Not Limbaugh, not West. Not Kanjorski, not Malloy. Not O‘Reilly, not Angle. Not Jesse Kelly, not President Obama.
It‘s me and John McCain.
I assume he‘s like me now, not sure whether to laugh, cry, or be proud of that. So what did everybody else say?
They said it was everybody else‘s fault. And they often said it with more violence than before.
In approximate chronological order—
Last Monday, while most on both sides were looking askance at the wealth of bogus documents that now traditionally follow these things, a writer at the discredited Breitbart site posted the headline, “Whoops! This Changes Things - Loughner‘s Hero Was Barack Obama.”
Jim Hoft breathlessly cited a reference on the ‘Free Republic‘ site to a Facebook page supposedly belonging to Jared Lee Loughner, complete with references to the, quote, “racist Tea Party” and, quote, “fight the Right,” and identifying his” heroes” as Obama, Chavez, Che Guevara, and Saul Alinsky.
Mr. Hoft never noticed that on the alleged Loughner Facebook page, the word tyranny is misspelled. So is the name Loughner.
Last Monday, a conservative radio host in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, complained about the coverage of the Giffords shooting by the “New York Times.” Bob Durgin said “somebody ought to burn that paper down. Just go to New York and blow that sucker right out of the water.”
Mr. Durgin‘s supervisor, one R.J. Harris, then improbably claimed “we do not advocate violence, period. That‘s why this whole outcry over the shootings in Tucson being linked to talk radio is just crazy.”
Last Monday, another radio announcer named Rush Limbaugh dismissed Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik as a liberal, even though last August Fox News was proud to host Dupnik, as he rescinded his opposition to the Arizona Papers-Please Law once its racial-profiling was toned down; and the year before Dupnik criticized, quote, “catering to illegals.”
Limbaugh, in fact, blamed Dupnik for the shootings and added, “My guess is the sheriff wouldn‘t mind if the shooter was acquitted.” Mr. Limbaugh also said, quote, “I would wager that the sheriff knew of this shooter long before this event,” which was brave of Mr. Limbaugh, considering the Sheriff had said as much two days previously.
Last Monday, Glenn Beck posted what he claimed was a call for non-violence on his website, alongside an image of him posing with a gun. His pledge was a labyrinthine demand that everyone renounce violence, provided that liberals renounced a 78-year old woman named—named—well, what‘s the difference? She‘s just the latest target of a man enjoying a sequence of paranoid delusions. He‘ll be obsessed with somebody else within the week.
On Tuesday, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York offered a limited, but useful prohibition against carrying weapons within a thousand feet of federally elected officials. But the leader of his party in the House, Speaker Boehner, immediately rejected it, out of hand, without public comment, or any hearing.
On Tuesday, another radio announcer, Mark Levin, wrapped up the case for his audience: “We all know without question that the murderer in Tucson was mentally ill, a liberal pothead and all the rest of it. We know this for a fact.”
On Tuesday, after Mr. Levin and yet another radio announcer, Michael Savage, were decried for using violent rhetoric, Mr. Savage called this a, quote, “blood libel” and threatened to sue, seemingly as much for having been linked to Mr. Levin, as for having been linked to violent rhetoric.
On Tuesday, Congressman West of Florida said he had “no regrets” for any of the violent rhetoric he had used in his campaign. Mr. West did not address why, after the Tucson shootings, this following video of his first choice to be his chief of staff, Joyce Kaufman, had been pulled from Youtube—since, restored.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOYCE KAUFMAN, CHIEF OF STAFF TO REP. MARK WEST: I am convinced that the most important things the Founding Fathers did to insure my First Amendment rights was to give me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don‘t work, bullets will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. West did say he was concerned about “the political opportunism that has come out of this.” He observed that pointing fingers about violent rhetoric was, quote, “kind of deplorable and unconscionable. This is not the time to start looking for, you know, grandstanding and things of that nature.”
On Wednesday, a high school friend of Jared Laughner‘s said, quote, “he did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn‘t listen to political radio.”
Blogger Hoft of the Breitbart site thereupon called for Sheriff Dupnik‘s resignation, ignoring the rather obvious fact that there is a way one can avoid radio or television and still be extremely political. It‘s called “the Internet” and is popular with bloggers, like Mr. Hoft.
Later, a high school girlfriend would say Loughner was “strongly opinionated” and would be set off by “things about the government, things about politics, anything that pretty much had to do with the government.”
On Wednesday, conservative blogger John Hawkins announced this was all a liberal plot. Quote, “Keith Olbermann, Kos, David Brock, all of them are thrilled Gabrielle Giffords was shot. They couldn‘t be happier about it. How about that?”
On Wednesday, former Governor Palin of Alaska seemingly destroyed whatever her career was with an opportunistic video in which she identified the real victim here: herself.
She too invoked a, quote, “blood libel,” possibly as a dog-whistle to the ultra-religious right. And she almost literally said that while her words could not have caused violence, words critical of her words, they could cause violence.
On Wednesday, Arizona Congressman Trent Franks determined that the tragedy was that there just was not enough bullets flying in that Tucson parking lot. “I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person. That‘s all I have to say.”
Representative Franks was apparently unaware that there was “one more gun there that day.” A man named Joe Zamudio was carrying, and walked into the carnage. He saw another man with a gun in his hands, and was, by his own calculation, one second away from drawing his own gun and shooting that man.
That‘s when he realized that man had taken the gun away from the shooter. Mr. Zamudio had nearly shot one of the heroes. As Mr. Zamudio put it “I was really lucky.”
On Thursday after President Obama‘s remarks at the Tucson Memorial, Breitbart‘s Mr. Hoft, shaking off his embarrassment over quoting the fake Loughner Facebook page, returned for more. “Oops! It looks like Obama fibbed about Giffords opening her eyes for the first time.”
Then Congresswoman Giffords‘ physicians confirmed, yes, the Gillibrand/Pelosi/Wasserman-Schultz visit was the first time the congresswoman had opened her eyes spontaneously or at length. She had previously only done so, and only done so briefly, when prodded by her doctors.
Doubling down, Hoft then claimed there was an applause sign flashed during the president‘s remarks in Tucson. In fact, it was the closed-captioning on the arena video screen, informing the hearing-challenged that there had been applause.
On Friday, Bill Kelly of the “Washington Times” took to heart the message in Mr. Obama‘s comments to heart. “With the monolith of hooting fans, it wouldn‘t surprise me that Obama supporters were actually bussed in for the memorial. Were they union employees or members of ACORN used to pepper the crowd to ensure conformity?”
Mr. Kelly then used the “blood libel” line himself and added “I‘m not going to have my words, idioms, or expressions censored by the left because they see, in this crisis, a political opportunity to advance their agenda.”
On Friday, the former counsel to President Clinton, Lanny Davis, now reduced to being a paid contributor to Fox News, explained what he took away from this president‘s remarks: that Mr. Obama should now publicly ask me to stop attacking Bill O‘Reilly.
On Friday, Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries explained the Giffords shooting to the English newspaper “The Guardian.” Quote, “it‘s political gamesmanship. The real case is that she had no security whatsoever at this event.”
James Eric Fuller, one of those wounded “at this event,” himself a traumatized Vietnam vet who had also, incredibly, witnessed Kent State, referred to the, quote, “Tea Party crime syndicate” and said that he believed that in the Giffords shooting, it had claimed its, quote, “first target.”
On Saturday, in a decision smacking of the tawdriness of the Maury Povich Show, Mr. Fuller was seated in the first row of an NBC News—ABC News Town Hall in Tucson—with Mr. Humphries of the Tea Party on the stage. When Humphries suggested talk of gun control be deferred until after all the victims were buried, Mr. Fuller stood up and started to shout at Humphries, quote, “you‘re dead.”
Mr. Fuller was, quite appropriately, arrested, and removed for psychological evaluation. He has today apologized, and Mr. Humphries has said he does not feel threatened necessarily, and wants Fuller to get mental help.
On Saturday, Michael Carroll, state assemblyman of the 25th District of New Jersey, wrote an op-ed rebutting President Obama: “An armed populace is the greatest bulwark of freedom,” he wrote. “Our framers understood that, and envisioned a society akin to Switzerland, in which every citizen is armed and responsible for his own defense, and that of the state.”
Assemblyman Carroll not only painted an America with a gun under every bed. He also—of course—compared Obama to the Nazis: “Germany elected Hitler, who seized all private firearms to consolidate his murderous tyranny.”
And lastly, on Saturday, five days after the blogger Hoft scrubbed the post about the fake Facebook Loughner page with “Loughner” misspelled as “Laughner,” Doug Giles of TownHall.com cited it as gospel, as if it hadn‘t been utterly discredited already: “Loughner‘s hero list, according to Facebook, includes Barack Obama.”
Two days later, Giles‘ claim still sits, uncorrected, on that very website.
Nine days have passed, and the willful blindness hasn‘t even slowed down yet. Besides the total absence of even the glimmer of personal responsibility that Senator McCain and I have evinced, we learn from all this that the right lives in a perpetual state of victimhood.
We learn that the right does not even recognize the irony of its claim of being unfairly blamed for the violence of others, when it has spent the last several years doing exactly that to Muslims, particularly American Muslims.
We also learn that the right can simultaneously insist that no political party or inclination can be blamed for Tucson, while it itself blames the Democratic party and the left for Tucson.
We learn that the right does not understand that if you -- if we foment a political environment in which politics are to be settled by violence, or the threat of violence, or in a rhetorical tide of violent imagery, it no longer matters what those politics specifically are, or if the hearer even understands your politics or agrees with your politics. He may hear only the permission to be violent.
And ultimately we learn, especially from Mrs. Palin‘s foolishness, this template of what the right would do in an actual open-and-shut slam dunk case in which a partisan of the right attempted to kill one of the left. The right would blame the victim, blame him or her for not having brought enough security. Or for not having brought a gun.
Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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