Guests: Bobby Ghosh, Steve Clemons, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Bill Maher, Tess
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Chaos in Freedom Square: Iran‘s supreme leader directs the Guardian Council to investigate charges that the presidential election there was fixed; tens of thousands violate warnings and protests in the streets; at least one dead from gunfire from forces supporting the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Here: The same right-wingers—who last week said it did not matter who was elected and blamed Obama—now say, if it was fixed, it was fixed because of Obama‘s policies.
Bobby Ghosh of “Time” magazine on the latest of the politics there;
Steve Clemons of the New American Foundation on the latest of the politics here.
Leon Panetta calls out the chicken hawk. “It‘s almost as if,” he tells “The New Yorker,” “Dick Cheney is wishing this country is being attacked again in order to make his point. I think that‘s dangerous politics.” “It wasn‘t quite that tough,” Panetta now says, “he was using the subjunctive test, a conditional. It‘s almost as if.”
The president versus the American Medical Association—at the convention of the American Medical Association.
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PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of G.M.—paying more, getting less and going broke.
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OLBERMANN: And Bill Maher versus the president about health care.
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BILL MAHER, TV TALK SHOW HOST: I‘m glad Obama is president, but the audacity of hope part is over. Right now, I‘m hoping for a little more audacity.
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OLBERMANN: Our special guest, Bill Maher.
Flight 1549: They all survived. But can they survive the battle with the airline‘s insurance company? AIG does not want to pay for more than three psychological counseling sessions for a mother and her 4-year-old. The mother, Tess Sosa, joins us.
And yes, that is AIG—the same insurance company you and I bailed out last year.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re going to be in the Hudson.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Imagine a four-candidate election in which no matter what else happened—John McCain was alleged to have lost his hometown of Phoenix, and George Bush was said to have been trounced in Crawford, Texas, and Barack Obama was purported to have been blown out in Chicago. Substitute those names for the three opposition candidates in Iran and you begin to get a true sense of the election aftermath in Tehran.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: That picture only complete, however, once you factor in today‘s body count.
Security forces opening fire on the crowd in Tehran‘s Azadi or Freedom Square at a rally where hundreds of thousands were protesting against the results of last week‘s presidential election. At least one man was killed, the photo too graphic to show you without your consent in advance. We can show you images of more who were seriously wounded.
Earlier, the demonstrators having chanted slogans favorable to Mir Hossein Mousavi, a leading reformist opposition candidate, who at point addressed the masses today, many of them wearing the green color of Mousavi‘s campaign, shouting, “Mousavi, we support you, we will die but retrieve our votes”; and holding up signs, some written in English reading, “Where is my vote?” Election results claiming a staggering blow out for the incumbent president, Ahmadinejad, 24 million votes against 13 million for Mousavi or 63 percent to 34 percent.
As we mentioned, not one of the three challengers winning his home district—ostensibly, not even close. Mousavi is supposedly receiving under 29 percent in his hometown. The third place finisher, Karobi, receiving less than 23 percent in his. And perhaps, most remarkable, the last place candidate, Rezai, apparently garnering less than 1 percent in his hometown.
Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight.com comparing third place finisher Karobi‘s results in the last Iranian elections to the purported election results that had been released in the wake of the 2009 vote. In 2005, an election that Ahmadinejad won, mind you, Karobi still managed to defeat Ahmadinejad in 11 provinces—as shown there in the blue; Ahmadinejad, obviously, in red in that graphic.
Now, here are the ostensible results in those same 11 provinces today. Not even mirror images of each other, almost cartoon-like. Ahmadinejad is now allegedly trouncing Karobi in those provinces where he essentially got no votes.
Iran‘s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, is ordering the nation‘s top judicial body to investigate whether or not the election was fixed. Only a day ago, however, the ayatollah had given his blessing to these election results.
At the White House, President Obama is saying, while deeply troubled by the violence, that it is up to Iran to determine its own leaders.
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OBAMA: It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran‘s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran. Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I‘ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent—all those are universal values and need to be respected.
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OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to “Time” magazine senior editor, Bobby Ghosh.
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir
BOBBY GHOSH, TIME: Any time, Keith.
OLBERMANN: President Obama and the U.S., have they done—have we done all that we can do without being seen as intervening or even interfering?
GHOSH: I think, given the circumstances, the president has played it exactly right. He cannot afford to be seen as criticizing the election too hard, because that would—that would make things even more difficult for Mousavi, who would then be branded as an American stool pigeon.
I think, at the moment, the best the administration can do is express concern about the violence, but then keep its distance about the actual politics that‘s playing out.
OLBERMANN: The ayatollah‘s concern about this and call for a real investigation—is that a real call for a real investigation or are such things just not done?
GHOSH: Well, I would be—I would be very surprised if there was a real investigation, especially since Ayatollah Khamenei has already declared this election as a divine assessment of the situation and essentially has given blessings to President Ahmadinejad to have another term. More likely, you will see a process, some sort of a whitewash take place.
A great deal will depend on what happens in the streets over the next few days. If the protests continue, if they escalate, if there‘s more violence, then there might be pressure on the ayatollah to do more than just issue a whitewash.
OLBERMANN: Well, then, the question becomes, in your assessment, will they, in fact, escalate on the streets? Will there be more protests? And what could the ayatollah do short of overturning that outcome?
GHOSH: Well, at the moment, the protests today were able to take place because there was not a great deal of effort by the administration, by the Republican Guard, by the hardcore loyalists to Ahmadinejad to stop the protests. It remains to be seen whether over the next few days, they begin to crackdown.
If that happens, I think—we‘ve seen protests in Tehran before, in previous years, they‘ve gone on for a couple days and then the Basijs, these loyalists of Ahmadinejad, they crackdown hard and people essentially then go home. If that process continues, sort of repeats itself, then this could die down in four or five days. But if it continues, if there continues to be a Tiananmen Square-type demonstration, I think the supreme leader will be forced to make some kind of concession.
It‘s not very clear what it is, having already spoken his mind about Ahmadinejad, he can‘t now step back. But perhaps, he could insist that Ahmadinejad carry out some of the promises that Mousavi himself brought to the election campaign. And perhaps—but it‘s a very big “if.”
And frankly, I wouldn‘t go quite that far. My suspicion is that, in the next few days, this will die down because of some very heavy-handed crackdown by the administration.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll hope there‘s some sort of other divine assessment here that prevents that from happening. In any even, Bobby Ghosh of “Time” magazine, providing us with superb insight on the situation in Iran—our great thanks for it, sir.
GHOSH: Any time, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Last week, when it appeared Ahmadinejad might lose what had been forecast to be a close election at minimum, most neoconservatives in this country then claimed that the results of Iran‘s vote would not matter, because that country‘s supreme leader is the ayatollah, not its president, and President Obama was wasting everybody‘s time encouraging democracy in Iran.
But now that Ahmadinejad seems to be stealing this vote, many of those same neocons have a new claim, now blaming the election fraud on President Obama. Why? Because apparently, only President Bush‘s foreign policy approach prevented Ahmadinejad from rigging his re-election.
To quote former Pentagon official, Frank Gaffney, “These people are thugs and they have been emboldened by our weakness.”
Some, apparently, having failed to wait for the vote not to be counted, before weighing in, to now hilarious results. At 11:55 a.m.
Friday, Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer having e-mailed
“Washington Post” reporter Glenn Kessler, appearing to credit his former
boss with the reform movement‘s success. Quoting Fleischer, Friday
morning, “One of the reasons there is a substantial reform movement in Iran
particularly among its young people—is because of George W. Bush‘s top policies.” Italics, Mr. Fleischer.
And yes, he cites the Iraq war as having a positive effect, quote, “Shiites in particular, see Shiites in Iraq having more freedoms than they do Bush‘s tough policies have helped give rise to reformists and I think we‘re witnessing that today.”
The final result was 63-32.
Also, time now to bring in Steve Clemons, senior fellow of the New American Foundation and publisher of the foreign policy blog, TheWashingtonNote.com.
Thanks again for your time, Steve.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, whether or not the forces of reform succeed in Iran, Ari Fleischer has concluded George W. Bush brought it all about, all thanks to the bonanza known as the war in Iraq? Is anybody, you know, buying that? That the harsh rhetoric that isolated Iran under the Bush administration actually led to the call for change by Iran citizens, that Iran didn‘t answer?
CLEMONS: Well, I think some of the right-wing blogs here are looking into this. But, I find it odd that Frank Gaffney, John Bolton, Ari Fleischer, are of the sort that they need to make all these foreign affairs issues about us, about George W. Bush, about Obama.
What‘s going on in Iran and what‘s unfolding quite dramatically is about the Iranians and what their own hopes are. There‘s no one—particularly air Fleischer, whose comments are just frankly ridiculous—who would have thought that Mr. Mousavi would have be a reformer in this sense.
In fact, just in the middle of the election when Ari Fleischer‘s friends at AIPAC thought that Mr. Mousavi might win, they began sending e-mails saying, reminding us that he had been prime minister when the A.Q. Khan deal was done. So, you can‘t have it both ways, and that‘s what they‘re trying to do.
OLBERMANN: Frank Gaffney and others—that includes Richard Perle—having argued that it was only President Bush‘s hard line policies that were keeping Ahmadinejad in check and keeping him from stealing re-election -- is there anyone in this equation for the fact that the Iranian election calendar fell in such a way that Ahmadinejad was not up for re-election during the Bush administration?
CLEMONS: Well, I think they got an easy out to see what might have happened. Listen, you know, what I think is really important for Americans to understand is that we all sit and we critique for many years, during President Bush‘s term and under President Obama, too, wondering and knowing that the kind of democracy that Iran has is not our kind of democracy. But there is a system of checks and balances in Iran. There is a theocracy that actually keeps things unfair and unfree in my view.
But nonetheless, Iranians believe they‘ve got a social contract with their supreme leader that gives them certain types of political choice. And that‘s now been undermined. In the Iranian narrative, the United States has always been a sort of villain for having undone their democracy in 1953 and helped over throw Mohammad Mosaddeq. And now, they see their own government as having undone some of their own democratic choice and democratic voice.
And it‘s important to play that out. We‘re not part of this equation. We need to see what happens when they consolidate it. But we‘re just—we‘re just not in this equation and we need to remove ourselves and stop being pretentious on the sidelines.
OLBERMANN: Bobby Ghosh‘s theory there that under the right circumstances, if there‘s just enough protest and violence, henceforth, but not too much, that the Ayatollah .
OLBERMANN: . Khamenei‘s reaction this might be not to overturn the election—that seems to be an implausible outcome—but to come up with some sort of compromise that might lead to some significant reform. Do you buy that argument? And do you have any idea what that moderation might look like?
CLEMONS: I buy the notion that Bobby said that the Iranians have a choice here, which is very interesting, that the supreme leader could look magnanimous using the bulldog they have, President Ahmadinejad, the bulldog negotiating for the deals that the Iranians seem to want with the west, to the United states and others, and that they can use this populist harsh guy in a way to achieve those. It‘s not too dissimilar from Barack Obama using people that are in his team of rivals to try and achieve end.
So, that‘s possible, there‘s a giant gaping hole in Iranian society today and the supreme leader is going to either need to either crush it or to deal with it, and engage it somewhat, and to somewhat modify a hybrid position. But I don‘t think he‘s going to admit much fallibility in his choice of leader. What he may use the bulldog and soften him a bit with some of the things he wants.
OLBERMANN: Steve Clemons, author of the foreign policy blog “The Washington Note”—again, thank you for your insight throughout this crisis.
CLEMONS: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The CIA has been trying to figure out Iran with mixed result since long before the coup of 1953. Now, the agency‘s director has addressed an individual more controversial than any Iranian politician or ayatollah, somebody he says sounds almost as if he‘s wishing that this country would be attacked again in order to make his point. Who would that be, according to the director of central intelligence? Former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The winner of the first Aaron Burr Award is—that and that late news of a late night apology from David Letterman to the Palin family.
OLBERMANN: The CIA Director Panetta thinks Dick Cheney is hoping for an attack on the U.S. “Of course not,” says the CIA. “Kind of,” says Panetta. Bill Maher joins us.
His battle is joined -- 15 years after Democrats lost the first round over health care reform, is it time for the president to be able to win without any GOP support? And if you do not think our current health care system needs any help, remember the plane that landed on the Hudson? We will hear from the survivor of that flight about the hell she has gone through—not because of the hero crew and rescuers but because of the airline‘s insurance company.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Though he made a token effort of walking some of it back, CIA Director Leon Panetta is—for the most part—standing behind what he said about Dick Cheney and the comments that came out over the weekend. It is what nearly all of us have thought, who have heard the ex-vice president‘s ghoulish criticisms of the Obama administration and national security.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: If Cheney is not hoping for a terrorist attack here just to prove he‘s right, isn‘t he acting way too close to it?
On May 21sT, Mr. Cheney said on a speech to the American Enterprise Institute that America was less safe because of President Obama‘s war policies.
Mr. Panetta responding to the Cheney speech, said this later that day to a reporter from “The New Yorker” magazine, “I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue. It‘s almost a little bit gallows politics. When you read behind it, it‘s almost as if he‘s wishing that this country would be attacked again in order to make his point. I think that‘s dangerous politics.”
Mr. Cheney hit back immediately at Mr. Panetta, “I hope my old friend Leon was mis-quoted. The important thing is whether or not the Obama administration will continue policies that have kept us safe for the last eight years.”
Director Panetta, speaking through a CIA spokesman, backpedaling a bit on the director‘s remarks, “The director does not believe the former vice president wants an attack. He did not say that.”
Most telling in all of this is the audible silence from the GOP leadership, only Congressman Pete Hoekstra and Senator John McCain had anything to say. Hoekstra calling Panetta‘s remarks outrageous and McCain adding, “Never did it cross my mind that Cheney would ever want an attack on the United States. It‘s unfair, and I think that Mr. Panetta should retract and retract immediately.”
HuffingtonPost.com contributor, MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, joins us now from Los Angeles.
Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Cheney attacked the administration on this for weeks. And before that, he attacked the Obama transition team. And before that, it was the Obama campaign. And before that, it was just any Democrat he could think of. Now, Leon Panetta takes him on.
Why him? Why now?
O‘DONNELL: Well, this interview was conducted the day that Dick Cheney gave the speech. Leon Panetta was just returning from attending President Obama‘s speech had preceded the Cheney speech. I, for one, shared what is apparently Leon Panetta‘s outrage at that Cheney speech. And I had a chance on this network to make that very clear that day.
And so, what Leon Panetta said is—he was struggling, I think, as many of us were with, in a sense, the shock of that speech. What is this man trying to say? What does he actually want?
And Panetta says it is almost—and he uses the word “almost” twice -
and he says it‘s a little bit like—he uses conditional phrasing like that which are very clear to me—where he‘s saying you‘re get a feeling in here that the only thing that could prove the vice president is right is another attack on this country, if you would take that as proof. And so, Panetta was doing that thought exercise live with a reporter having just returned from listening to that speech. Maybe if he had a day to think about it, he would have found something less controversial to say about it.
But it‘s a very understandable reaction from where I‘m sitting.
OLBERMANN: Does the walk-back sound a little odd? The CIA spokesperson said he meant it in a subjunctive case, it‘s almost as if what Cheney wants—meaning, he doesn‘t think that‘s what Cheney wants. Did somebody in the White House tell him walk it back a little bit or is this really clever way kind of, the way the Republicans always said afterwards, “Well, I didn‘t mean to imply there was any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda”?
O‘DONNELL: I think this is very different from the Republican model on that. This is—this is stressing what he actually said. They didn‘t walk back or take back a single word. They simply stressed, as I‘ve just done that, word “almost,” which appears a couple times. Almost—if I‘m almost dead, I‘m not dead.
O‘DONNELL: And so, “almost” is one of our most important words. And they‘re just stressing that it‘s present there and Panetta didn‘t say it as an exact description of the vice president‘s motivation. He said it, I think, as a mystified listener or reader of that speech saying, “What is it that‘s going through this guy‘s mind?”
OLBERMANN: Given the fact that everything that the Obama administration has done or everything that has happened since the inauguration—including weather and traffic conditions—has been somehow worthy of GOP mention by somebody. Is it surprising that there‘s nothing in this from Michael Steele or anybody else coming out and defending Cheney other than those brief remarks from McCain and Hoekstra?
O‘DONNELL: This is surprising. And if there‘s any coherent strategy to it, then it must mean that they are looking at the defense of Cheney as a loser in terms of a public argument here. And I think that would be a very wise choice.
I think they‘re better off, actually, concentrating on what CBO had to say about Ted Kennedy‘s health care bill today. That‘s a much more productive area of criticism for them. It‘s real governing. It‘s about the future. And it‘s not about, you know, cantankerous Dick Cheney right or wrong.
OLBERMANN: From CBO to CBS, we‘re hearing tonight that David Letterman, on this topic that was so big last week, is going to make a really lengthy apology to the Palin family on the show that is broadcast tonight. I wanted to get your reaction to it. Let me just read a little part about this.
He said, he saw something on TV—saw Mark Shields about the joke. He said, “Oh, boy, I‘m beginning to understand what the problem is here, it‘s the perception rather than the intent. It doesn‘t make any difference what my intent was, it‘s the perception. I take full blame for that. I told a bad joke, a told a joke that was beyond flawed. My intent is completely meaningless compared to perception.
And since it was a joke, I totally feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. I would like to apologize especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who‘s outraged by the joke. I‘m sorry about it and I‘ll try to do better in the future.”
After something like that is broadcast tonight, is there anything left to this stuff?
O‘DONNELL: I don‘t think there is. I think this should be and sounds like the final word on it. And this really is David Letterman. I have a lot of friends of mine who have worked for him over the years. I don‘t know him personally. But this is my understanding of him.
And I‘ve heard that over the weekend, he did have time to think about this. He‘s a father himself. He had some cool time to think about it. And he could have left it where he had left it. He could have left it getting laughs at his original version of an apology and just leave it there.
But I think, both as a father and a responsible guy, having had a weekend to think about this, he decided he wanted to go to this extra point of clarification of a serious apology.
And, you know, actually, Keith, in the last couple days, from a lot of professional comedy writers, I‘ve heard more analysis of that particular joke than any that‘s ever written. And there‘s a large group out there who say, “Hey, it was a bad joke, it had a wrong concept in it, it was a bad joke.” And these are Letterman supporters and former Letterman writers, many of them.
And so, I think Dave reached a point that makes perfect sense. And I think he‘s making perfect sense in what he has to say tonight.
OLBERMANN: Any chance, briefly, that the Palins try to outclass him and just say, “Accepted”?
O‘DONNELL: Boy, if there‘s anyone in Alaska who can make them, you know, handle one of these things correctly, we haven‘t found that person yet. So, let‘s see what happens. That is the suspense here. If David Letterman does something completely reasonable, what is the Palin reaction? I have no ability to predict that.
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes you do.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O‘Donnell of “Huffington Post” and MSNBC, and so do I, we‘ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out. Thank you kindly, sir.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It‘s the classic age-old story, boy meets dog, boy flushes dog down toilet. You have to wonder what the dog might have been chasing when the kid said, “Fetch.” The dog is OK.
And Worst Persons: Did “The Wall Street Journal” really just do this? If you‘re going to imply George W. Bush as a backdoor socialist, I‘m going to have to ask you to step outside.
OLBERMANN: Two of the great landmark moments of modern music occurred on this date, June 15th. In 1956, 15-year-old John Lennon‘s first group, the Quarrymen, performed at a church dinner, which is when Lennon met a 13-year-old named Paul McCartney.
And on June 15th, 1969, almost of equal importance, CBS premiered it‘s new summer replacement series, “Hee Haw” with Roy Clark and Buck Owens, and especially, those effers, Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps.
I‘m Buck, I‘m Roy. Let‘s go play Oddball.
I don‘t really do a Roy Clark impression.
We begin in North Hill (ph), Middlesex in the U.K, where Dino the cocker spaniel is stuck in a sewer pipe. And how did the puppy get stuck in the plumbing? Our affiliated British network, ITV, spoke with the culprit, the dog‘s 4-year-old Daniel Blair (ph).
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you thought it was cats that have nine live, you haven‘t met this little puppy here. When he got a little bit dirty, Daniel here, decided to give him a wash, didn‘t you, Daniel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you put him down the toilet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your mommy got a little bit concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That‘s a microphone, Daniel. Don‘t flush it. We don‘t have the money to replace it. Boy puts dog in toilet, boy flushes toilet, the plumber use a camera to locate the dog and retrieve the no longer quite as golden pooch. The relieved family would name the puppy Dino, after the plumbing company that performed the rescue. They could have also gone with the name of Steve Martin‘s dog from “The Jerk.” But probably not.
To Chicago, another toilet rescue story. Playing the roll of Rod Blagojevich in Saturday‘s second city production of “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” was Rod Blagojevich. The satirical play, of course, a spoof of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It portrays Blagojevich as greedy, tactless and hair obsessed. Of course, it‘s based on the events leading up to his ouster from office.
It‘s not clear how much Blagojevich got for the appearance. You better believe he was paid to play. This play will continue to run in August. But the former governor‘s run ended after he sold his role to his under study for cab fare and a tuna fish sandwich.
Finally, to the Internets, where we find evidence of Zinedine Zidane‘s head-butting craze. Continuing on the soccer pitch, not sure exactly where this is, when it‘s from, but this time the head butt was between player and coach. If you believe their Blagojevich-like acting, there were no survivors.
President Obama brings his vision for health care reform to the nation‘s biggest lobbying group for doctors. The GOP already has its diagnosis, and the prescription is fear. Bill Maher joins us to say just do it already.
And the plane that landed in the Hudson. The passengers went through hell. Now they‘re back on solid ground and in the loving hands of the AIG Insurance Company.
OLBERMANN: The bogeyman of health care reform 2009 has been identified by the GOP, nothing less than a Trojan Horse, bringing in socialized medicine. Here we go. In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, President Obama addressed the latest fear mongering today, but the question must be and has been raised, do Democrats even need to compromise with the party of no at all? Bill Maher joins us in a moment.
Today, before the American Medical Association, a sometime critic, the president‘s 54-minute speech on health care reform was both policy and politics.
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OBAMA: Each time an uninsured American steps foot into an emergency room with no way to reimburse the hospital for care, the cost is handed over to every American family as a bill of about 1,000 dollars. It‘s reflected in higher taxes, higher premiums and higher health care costs. It‘s a hidden tax, a hidden bill that will be cut as we insure all Americans.
So when you hear the naysayers claim I‘m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: they‘re not telling the truth. What I am trying to do—what I am trying to do and what a public option will help do is put affordable health care within reach for millions of Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The so-called public health insurance option would give consumers a choice other than private insurance. But it is the great demon, according to the GOP, a trick on the way to a scary single-payer system. The Senate Finance Committee‘s ranking Republican, Charles Tweeter Grassley, portraying it as the main problem for Democratic Chairman Max Baucus. Quoting, “the biggest challenge he has in his own caucus is that a large share of Senate Democrats really want the government to run everything.”
On the House side, Congressman Eric Cantor expected to unveil the GOP alternative in outline form on Wednesday. More deja vu all over again. All of it more evidence that Democrats should take seriously the suggestion of former DNC Chair Howard Dean, who says there should be no compromise of the public option.
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HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIR: This is a compromise that‘s designed to deal with problems in the Senate. But it doesn‘t deal with problems in America. I think it‘s time for the Senate to stop playing politics, do what has to be done. If the Republicans don‘t want to get on board, and certainly have never done—look, Republicans were all against Medicare when we put that in. If the Republicans don‘t want to get on board, we can do this without the Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Since the battle may again be won by 30 second TV ads, one connected to the DNC is ready to roll. It cites a recent poll, 62 percent of Americans supporting a major overhaul of health care, and another new poll finding 73 percent of Americans do want that choice between private and public insurance.
Let‘s bring in the host of HBO‘s “Realtime With Bill Maher,” Bill Maher, who will be performing at the Orleans Showroom in Las Vegas July 3rd through July 5th, even though that has little to do with this topic. Good evening, Bill.
BILL MAHER, “REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER”: You don‘t know about that.
They both have to do with gambling.
OLBERMANN: An excellent point to start with. The overall picture here, health care again, Republican opposition again. Democrats at risk of caving again. Is that the natural follow?
MAHER: Yes. As you were just saying—or maybe it was Howard Dean who was just saying. I don‘t know why they need to get the Republicans on board. It‘s probably more the Democrats who are the problem. When I heard the president get that round of applause before the AMA, that‘s when I knew we were in trouble.
The AMA is a lobbying group. It‘s out for money like every lobbying group. People think of it as your friendly doctors. It‘s really not. It‘s a lobbying group. And when he said, I‘m not out to install government-run health care plans—why not? Maybe our health care situation in this country would be as good as, you know, Costa Rica‘s or Morocco‘s.
OLBERMANN: Yes, he was speaking to the second most powerful union in America, behind the Baseball Players Association. But when he spoke out for the public option today, while he did that and seemed to take a little bite, a little nibble out of the AMA, do you really think he may, particularly the president—may be willing to take an unnecessary compromise on this just for some premise of bipartisanship or other reasons? What do you think?
MAHER: I don‘t know if it‘s bipartisanship I‘m so concerned with, as caving in to corporations and lobbyists. I mean, the track record so far is not good. You know, we did an editorial on our show Friday night that was pretty hard-hitting about Obama not putting it on the line and standing up to the energy companies, the health care industry, the banks.
And previously when I had criticized Obama in front of my—you‘ve been on our show—very liberal southern California audience, they were booing me. My crowd in my studio booing me, which is fine.
But on Friday night, I was expecting the boos and they weren‘t booing anymore. They were cheering. I think they‘re getting to the point where they‘re realizing, yes, we still like Obama. He‘s our guy. We‘re glad he‘s president, but where is the beef? And it‘s easy to make speeches. What‘s hard to do is stand up against corporations. Corporations and their incredible strength are what have ruined this country so far. And this president we thought might be the one to stand up to them. I‘m losing hope. I still have audacity, but my hope is fading.
OLBERMANN: When you consider this, I mean, it‘s 20 years of, well, Democrats will eventually get some sort of health care plan, nearly 20 years. Generation haves grown up in this country hearing only, well, the Democrats will get this done. Well, not now because something else has gone wrong. It would seem there‘s very little being required of the Democrats right now, and this would be the time to act even if it is essentially by the fiat of the people who won the elections.
MAHER: Exactly. That‘s one of the points I was making on our show Friday is, if not now, when? First of all, historically, presidents have to do it, have to make their hay in the first year or two. If he doesn‘t act boldly, I think he‘s probably going to lose the mid-term elections and then have less Democratic support than he even has now.
The Republican party is at its weakest point. If he can‘t shove progressive legislation down their throats now, I don‘t know when it‘s going to happen. I was saying that what he needs to do is get a little George Bush in him personality-wise. Bush, as we all know, had horrible ideas about pretty much everything. But he was pretty good about when he wanted to get something to be done, he got it done.
Nobody was looking to go to war in Iraq, which was a horrible idea. Yet, he pushed that through. And I think Obama needs a little of that, a little of, I‘m going to get this done; I don‘t care who is with me; I don‘t care who I‘m going to upset; I don‘t care what kind of popularity I‘m going to lose over this. But I‘m going to push this through and I‘m going to do it now. I‘m going to do it in full measure.
I really haven‘t seen that from this president on the issues that matter the most, which are I think how to deal with the banks and Wall Street, energy legislation and health care.
OLBERMANN: The last president thought 2004 was a mandate. It looks like this president is not sure that 2008 was a mandate.
MAHER: Right. I mean if Bush could go to war in Iraq when nobody was thinking about it, how come this president can‘t get through something like health care reform in a way that the people really want, when people are actually for it? Again, this speech to the AMA, nice speech, but he did leave out an important part, that the AMA has been the major stumbling block to all the health care reform we‘ve tried in this century. They were the ones who stopped universal health care going into Social Security under Roosevelt. They fought tooth and nail against Medicare in the ‘60s.
Remember, they hired Ronald Reagan to record an album talking about the horrible specter of socialized medicine, which makes it sound like Stalin himself is going to put on the rubber glove and give you a prostate exam.
They fought Clinton‘s plan. They‘re not your friendly doctors. They‘re a union, like you say, and a powerful one. They‘re not your friends.
OLBERMANN: At the current cost of prostate exams, a lot of people wouldn‘t mind Stalin stopping by. Bill Maher, the host of “Realtime” on HBO. Always a pleasure, sir. Thanks once again.
MAHER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take car. Captain Sullenberger saved their lives. He could not save them from what is happening now. No amount of heroic flying could save them from the American insurance industry.
Did you know when you say neo-con, you are secretly being anti-Semitic. So says Jonah Goldberg, one of tonight‘s worst persons.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest is Howard Dean on the administration‘s surprising defense on the Defense of Marriage Act, and it‘s still more surprising and disturbing terminology.
OLBERMANN: They were able to walk away from a stricken plane that had to touch down in the Hudson River. But now, to get psychological help in recovering from that trauma, the Sosa family has to face a seemingly bigger threat, trying to deal with the AIG Insurance Company. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to the “Wall Street Journal” and writer Jonathan Weisman. A little historical revisionism that may have backfired: “President Barack Obama‘s chief economist on Friday defended White House economic policies against criticism that they amounted to a kind of back door socialism,” he wrote. “While Mr. Summers‘ speech was billed as a prelude to next week‘s efforts on financial market regulation, most of it was devoted to defending the administration‘s aggressive economic policies. Those policies have seen the government take control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and insurer American International Group, inc.”
See how the journal just slipped its readers the old rubber peach? Talk about a speech by Larry Summers, Larry Summers of the Obama administration, the Obama administration, the government, the government, which is taking control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG Insurance. Except the Obama administration didn‘t take control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG Insurance; the Bush administration did. All of that was last Fall. But the journal was saying taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG was back door socialism—didn‘t the journal just call President Bush a back door socialist.
The silver to Jonah Goldberg of the “National Review,” defending the far right, despite its enabling of such terrorists as Scott Roeder and James Von Brunn, writing that perhaps the left is responsible for Von Brunn because, quote, “after all, for years, mainstream liberalism and other outposts of paranoid Bush hatred have portrayed neo-conservatives, usually code for conservative Jews and other supporters of Israel, as an alien, pernicious cabal.”
I have been hearing and using the term neo-conservative for nearly a decade now. This is the first time I have ever heard it associated with any religious or ethnic group. The thought never occurred to me until Mr. Goldberg raised it. Nor did the religions of any of the people described by the term. Neo-cons, whatever their faith, are not judged by that, nor referred to by it. Neo-con may indeed by code, but for belligerents, pig headedness, stupidity, wasteful, indifference to human life, and, especially as Mr. Goldberg‘s qualifications for the title, paranoid.
Tonight‘s worst, the city council of Brooksville, Florida. Over the objection of the mayor, the four council members have approved a dress and appearance policy for city employees. They now cannot display body piercing, except in the ear. All cuts or wounds must be covered. Halter tops and Spandex are no longer permitted. Skirts worn below the waistline to expose the abdomen or back are prohibited. And best of all, underwear must be worn.
The mayor asks, how are we going to enforce that? You can do what Woody Allen did—had his crazy dictator of San Marcos do in the movie “Bananas,” all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half hour. Underwear will now be worn on the outside, so we can check. The city council of Brooksville, Florida, also known as the underwear checkers, today‘s worst persons in the world!
OLBERMANN: The 150 passengers and the hero crew aboard US Airways flight 1549 probably thought they had survived everything. They thought that way until they met AIG Insurance. The number one story, one woman‘s fight against the airline‘s insurance company, and what it won‘t pay for. And yes, it is that AIG.
After the plane made its now infamous landing in the Hudson, one image sticks. As she, Tess Sosa, and her infant were evacuating, Sosa looked back and saw her husband trying to hold her daughter above the freezing water rushing into the plane. Miss Sosa is now seeking therapy for herself and her daughter. The US Airways people say the airline issued each passenger a 5,000 dollar check, pointed out that it had no legal obligation to do so.
Enter the insurer for US Airways, AIG, American International Group, the same failed insurance giant given 170 billion dollars of taxpayer bailout money. Its response to the passengers seeking help paying for psychological counseling in the wake of what was still an awfully traumatic day. Joining me now, the survivor of US Airways Flight 1549, Tess Sosa. Thank you for your time tonight.
TESS SOSA, US AIRWAYS FLIGHT 1549 PASSENGER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: You and your family still obviously would feel trauma from that afternoon. You‘d be probably unusual if you did not. What did AIG tell you when you initially called them about some help with seeking mental health therapy?
SOSA: Honestly, they didn‘t seem privy to the situation at hand, nor at all cognizant of how this was a traumatic event. When I asked a question, they posed a question to me, well, do you have health insurance? Why don‘t you have this covered by your insurance? And that was the initial stage of talks with them.
Thereafter, after some lapse of time waiting for a return call, they did offer three therapy visits a passenger.
OLBERMANN: There‘s not a lot you can get done in three sessions, is there?
SOSA: No. EMDR is effective. But again, in my case, where I had two children and a spouse, I would say I need more therapy.
OLBERMANN: Is this—do you think that this hasn‘t gotten more attention, or that AIG thought they could do this because things actually turned out so well, in terms of the outcome here? People see this as a miracle and happy ending and everybody lived and there were no serious—at least no life threatening injuries.
If there had been something like that, if there had been 90 percent survivor rate or something, do you think there would be a more sympathetic ear from the insurance company, or more of an outrage from the public if they heard of your story?
SOSA: I‘m sorry. Repeat that.
OLBERMANN: Do you think that because there were so many survivors, the trauma is not evident to people. It‘s not evident to the insurance company? It‘s not evident to the public of what you went through?
SOSA: I think a lot of the public are empathetic to what‘s happened to us. But then there are people who don‘t understand. I think unless you‘ve survived a plane crash—our case is a rarity—no one can really assess exactly how traumatic it was for all of us. I assure you we have a group and a lot of passengers on the flight were business travelers. And they‘re traveling as we speak. And all of them are going through difficulties.
My family and I have not flown as of yet. But, yes, there is a sense of this is—this was not—there were no casualties, no injuries, so be happy that you walked away. I think the main point here is, yes, it was traumatic; yes, it was a miracle. As far as AIG is concerned, I don‘t think it‘s a smart move that they don‘t treat this as a special case in terms of it‘s a historic event. Let‘s protect this event and its people—the people that were in it. I think that would have been a very smart move for AIG, in light of the bailout that they got, in light of the bad publicity they got beforehand.
I think it would have shown some corporate accountability on their end to protect and care for us, as an insurer should.
OLBERMANN: Could have turned it around and made it a big event and everybody could have been smiling.
SOSA: It wouldn‘t have taken much. It would have taken a few phone calls. Yes, we‘ll pay for your therapy. How can we help you? Also I just want to add that they continue to change their contact person, which stalls the claims. And it made the passengers feel like we weren‘t really cared about.
OLBERMANN: I can understand how you feel that way. Tess Sosa, survivor of the US Airways crash in the Hudson River. Good luck with this and thanks for coming in.
SOSA: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,237th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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