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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, August 10, 2009

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Scott Horton


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

Sarah Palin urges restraint by people like Sarah Palin.  “My parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama‘s death panel.”  That was Friday.  This is today: “We must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment.”  Yes, that sled dog train has already pulled out of the station, missy.

And though on the crazy “death panel” claim Palin is bailing, Glenn Beck says, “I think it‘s true.”

And Newt Gingrich goes right off the end of the pier with him.


NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  If you‘re asking us to trust turning power over to the government when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.


OLBERMANN:  Lawrence O‘Donnell on a paranoia too far.  Senator Bernie Sanders on the decreasing benefits of pursuing bipartisanship with people who are going to try to kill what you want to share with them.

Drop in the bucket: The attorney general‘s torture prosecution as limited as it can get, not the torturers, not their bosses, not the politicians, not their legal enablers—just anybody who went beyond what they were told was legal even if it sure as hell wasn‘t legal.

Sanford and sunny vacations: The governor wanted state employees to use both sides of a post-it before throwing it away.  Had the state pay for his trips out of town—his non-hiking the Appalachian Trail trips?

And rage without reason: Do not condemn most of these people.  They know not what they do.  These people—they know.  The incitement to violence from the manipulators of the far-right and the one document from which they preach and try to terrify.  Tonight—a “Special Comment.”

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Here‘s the pretzel into which the blatant lies of the right and the insurance industry have twisted themselves and their yelling, lemming brigades.  They want to use civility to attack death panels.  They would rather commit a form of real life de facto suicide by lack of health care coverage than accept the reality that euthanasia is not part of health care reform.  And the poster figure for opposing socialist health care is now asking that his health care be paid by others.

Our fifth story tonight: The spiral of the information and of deliberate almost religiously fierce refusal to believe the truth rather than subscribe to the absurd continues to climb upwards.

After kicking off the weekend weaponizing a new lie about health care, about which more in a moment, that Mr. Obama wants death panels to force euthanasia, former Governor Palin of Alaska has suddenly thrown it into reverse.  Quote, “We must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment.”  She then writes, quote, “Such tactics diminish our nation‘s civil discourse.”

But, for whose benefit?  Our nation‘s?  No.  Quote, “Our nation‘s civil discourse which we need now more than ever to make elected officials to hear what we are saying.”

But the Palin partial pullback comes too late.  House Republican Leader John Boehner hearing only Friday‘s shriek, not Sunday‘s asterisk, parroting the first, warning of government-encouraged euthanasia, as did other Republican insurance agents.


GINGRICH:  We know people have said routinely, well, you‘re going to have to make decisions.  You‘re going to have to decide.  Communal standards, historically, is a very dangerous concept.


GINGRICH:  But, the bill‘s—the bill‘s 1,000 pages of setting up mechanisms.  It sets up 45 different agencies.  It has all sorts of panels.  You‘re asking us to trust turning power over to the government when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.


OLBERMANN:  Republican Congressman Jack Kingston calls the death panels quote, “a scare tactic.”  The American Association of Retired Persons calls it a gross and even cruel distortion. revealing the source of it, pharmaceutical shell Betsy McCaughey, who you will also remember, created a lie that the stimulus bill would tell your doctors what to do, which you may have noticed has not happened.

But our next example suggests Republicans believe the best health care plan is simply this: laughter is the best medicine.  Meet Kenneth Gladney, a tea partier who claims he was injured during a scuffle after he showed up to protest health care reform at a Missouri town hall last Thursday.  The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reports that Gladney is out of work, has no health insurance, is now seeking donations to cover his health care.

A pleasure to be joined here at the desk by MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell, contributor at “Huffington Post,” former chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee.

Good evening, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Last time McCaughey raised the alarm about page 442 of the stimulus, now it‘s 425 of the health care reform act, which quotes now, “an explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services.”

In other words, Medicare is now going to cover that conversation with the doctor about hospice care, DNR, living wills, things like that, even if they‘re not immediate concerns, even if they‘re not on the death bed.

Is there any way that John Boehner could‘ve known that McCaughey might twist something so good into something so bad?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Betsy has a 15-year history here.  She‘s at a career of attacking any kind of reform in health care.  She did it when Hillary Clinton‘s plan was moving.

Boehner is not known as one of the better fact checkers in the House of Representatives.  So, pulling one over on him isn‘t hard.

Keith, I think they‘re in a difficult area here.  The United States of America knows that there is a real issue here.  You and I have both this year dealt with end-of-life issues involving parents.  This is something every family in the country goes through at some point in time.

This party, this Republican Party has an excessive interest in end-of-life, as they showed with Terri Schiavo.  Now, they‘re back.  They‘re now back selling something in the same territory.  It is completely fraudulent.

It means nothing—nothing to Newt Gingrich when George Stephanopoulos says to him, “It is not in the bill.”  There is no pause.  He keeps talking.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Somebody thought it at some point.  Therefore, I can be opposed to it and make you afraid of it.

So, Palin, Boehner, and Gingrich basically lying—deceiving Americans into blocking a new law that will help everybody who doesn‘t have, I guess, money and insurance stocks.

O‘DONNELL:  You know, there‘s no kind of legislation that‘s easier to lie about than health care reform.  If we‘re talking about raising the top income tax rate, you know it doesn‘t affect you, they can‘t tell you it affects you.  You know, it‘s very simple.  Everyone knows who it hits and who it doesn‘t.

This is much more complex.  You can tell almost any story you want.  It‘s the media‘s job to check.  There‘s great piece in the “New York Times” today by Robert Pear, who‘s been on this beat for decades in terms of separating fact from fiction, and what‘s actually in this legislation.  That‘s the kind of thing people have to look for.

OLBERMANN:  GOP, and we‘ll use this term again, insurance agents trying to whip up opposition in advance of the Obama town hall on this subject tomorrow.  Is it—will it be more respectful because the president is there or less so?

O‘DONNELL:  We can expect a little more decorum.  I expect the president to go anecdotally.  If you want to talk about end-of-life, he‘s got an end-of-life story to tell about his mother.  His mother fighting with insurance companies to get coverage for what she needs as she‘s living this life.  And that‘s something that New Hampshire citizens are going to listen to.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re about to have Senator Sanders on after you, on this same question.  When the GOP goes to—essentially has no limits, there is no at the final moment, they have no shame on this.  They will turn something as generous—given the fact it‘s politicians behind it—as generous as reimbursing you for that end-of-life conversation into euthanasia, death panels, they‘re going to kill my kid.  Does that not render Democratic pursuit of bipartisanship on this issue both politically and patriotically a nonstarter?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, you know, you pursue bipartisanship as far as you can.  We‘re stuck in the Senate Finance Committee right now.  I used to work there.

Senate Finance Committee has a long tradition of bipartisan legislating.  It also has a tradition of legislating in a single-party way.  We did it in 1993 on the biggest tax increase in history.  No Republican votes.

In fact, Bob Dole said to me one day, “You will get no Republican votes.”  That‘s what I call bipartisanship.  Bob Dole was telling me the second most valuable thing he could tell me.

You know, if he told me you‘d get three, four Republican votes, that‘d be nice.


O‘DONNELL:  But he told me, forget about us, concentrate on your Dems.  You won‘t get it with us.  He was very helpful.  We did it the way we had to do it.

There comes a time when Chairman Baucus is going to just say, “All right, guys, we‘re taking a vote,” and that time is somewhere soon after they return on September 15th.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, as we say at ESPN, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

MSNBC political analyst and “Huffington Post” contributor, Lawrence O‘Donnell—thanks for coming in.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As promised, joining us again, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, member of two committees at the heart of health care: budget, and health, education, labor and pensions.

Thanks again for your time, Senator.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First, anything the government can do for this, Mr.  Gladney, the injured town hall protester who has no insurance?  Is there any sort of, you know, legislation in the works that might cover this poor man‘s situation?

SANDERS:  Well, there you go.  Maybe we should join the rest of the industrialized world and make sure that all of our citizens have health care as a right, not leave 46 million uninsured.

OLBERMANN:  To the issue that I just raised with Lawrence about bipartisanship.  Mr. Boehner in the House picks up on this McCaughey-Palin lie and he warns about a treacherous path towards government-encouraged euthanasia.

How are Democrats, anything but at best—I‘ll use this combination

irresponsible at worst, unpatriotic for giving that party more say than utterly necessary than what they have already in many amendments of this bill in health care reform.  Is it time to just cut bait?


SANDERS:  Well, I thought, you know, for many months now, you really do not have any Republican in the Senate, and very few in the House who was serious about addressing the health care crisis in this country.  Eighteen thousand people a year die because they don‘t have access to a doctor.  One million people go bankrupt.  Costs are soaring.

If we do not get a handle on this, within 10 years, people are going to be paying 50 percent of their income in health care.  And Republicans are saying, “No, no, no.”

My view is that there are 60 members of the Democratic Caucus—

Senator Kennedy is ill—I think you‘ve got 59 of them to line up and say, “We are going to oppose Republican filibusters,” you try to get another Republican on board and I think we can, and you go forward with something that‘s strong.

The issue is not whether we go forward bipartisan or partisan, the issue is, are you going to have legislation that addresses the very serious crisis facing the American people, our economy, in terms of health care?  And I think we‘ve got to stay united in going forward, and make it clear to the American people that the Republicans are the “party of do nothing-ism,” and because of them, it is very hard to move forward.

OLBERMANN:  But you and I and presumably the viewer are seeing this in the context you just described.  What would you say assuming if they are not programmed to shout over you when you open your mouth?  What would you say to the people who have been showing up at these health care town halls and forums, and are repeating lies that they perceive as dire threats?

Their perceptions are sincere even if the information is completely out of line with the truth.  But they are saying these things that are fed to them by the Sarah Palins and the John Boehners and the Glenn Becks.

How would you answer them that might cut through this, you know, fear-supporting mechanism that the Republicans have put in place?

SANDERS:  Well, this has been a longstanding problem with the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, not all Republicans.  I mean, remember, John Kerry, quote-unquote, “lied about his war record.”  We have to go into Iraq because Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.  Obama wants to kill the old people.

I mean, all these are absolutely irrational, they‘re horrendous lies.  I think the best that we can do is one-on-one explain to working families all over this country that if we do not get our act together in terms of health care, if we don‘t join the rest of the world in guaranteeing health care to all people, if we don‘t control costs, it will be devastating not only to people in an individual way, but it‘ll be devastating to the economy of our country.

But bottom line is—I think we do have to cut bait, we have to say to the Republicans, “You want to be the party of obstructionism, go for it, we‘re going to go forward and we‘re going to move in terms of health care for all.”

OLBERMANN:  Last point, Senator, should the majority of Americans who want this health care reform hold out hope that Democrats have sort of briar-patched Republicans into revealing extremism here?  Or that this is all political theater to set up real reform coming out of the conference committees when the chambers actually meet to resolve differences in the bills?

SANDERS:  Well, I think—you know, frankly, the Democrats have not handled this as clearly and effectively as they might have.  But I think the Republicans are really backing themselves into a wall and becoming a party increasingly of right-wing extremism, which is out of touch with the vast majority of the people.

I mean, the bottom line here, Keith, is that almost everybody in America knows that we need to move forward in terms of health care reform.  It is unsustainable.  And to have Republicans telling us that we should not do anything makes very little sense, I think, to the average American.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont with us again on this topic—thank you, again, sir.

SANDERS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And now we wait on the one health care town hall which the stakes might be even higher, and so might the warped nature of the protest.  It will be in Portsmouth in New Hampshire tomorrow.  And it will feature the man who some see as the author of that, which is protested, but which many of the protestors seem to really be focused on, whether they know it or not, whether they have reached the point organically or not, President Obama himself on the eve of that town hall.  It is not the protestors who want not answers but silence who deserve our criticism or wrath, it is their puppeteers.  Tonight—a “Special Comment.”


OLBERMANN:  The good news is: we appear to be on the verge of a special torture prosecutor.  The bad new is: he apparently will not investigate torturers or those who ordered torture, or those who tried to legalize it, or those who politicized it.  Maybe later we can get a special prosecutor to look into who neutered this special prosecutor.

And then on the eve of the Obama town hall on health care reform, a “Special Comment,” the manipulation of, the lying to, the hurting of people with legitimate fears but illegitimate information.  When they all yell “fire” in the crowded theater.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  It might be just enough to satisfy no one and accomplish nothing.  The target, not the creators, not the enablers, nor the long line of official who could have resigned rather than execute an illegal policy which included waterboarding.  No, in our fourth story in THE COUNTDOWN:

Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly ready to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogation abuses by those who exceeded what were to begin with wildly unlawful parameters.

An investigation is all but certain, according to unnamed justice officials speaking with “The L.A. Times,” a prosecutor will chosen from a short list assembled at Mr. Holder‘s request.  However, the inquiry will be narrow, focusing only on those operatives who went beyond authorized techniques.  Thus, only excessive use of waterboarding might be pursued since that technique was authorized by patently indefensible 2002 Justice Department memos  Other previously undisclosed abuses might be pursued as well, like the CIA operative who reportedly brought a gun into an interrogation room, or when a prisoner was threatened with being buried alive.

In 2007, a CIA paramilitary contractor used a flashlight to beat an Afghan detainee, who later died, the only instance thus far resulting in prosecution.

A special prosecutor‘s investigation would ostensibly not address officials who actually created the policies, and prosecution of low-level offenders could be difficult because of poor evidence and untested legalities.  A director of Human Rights Watch saying, quote, “An investigation that focuses on low-ranking operators would be, I think, worse than nothing at all.”

Let‘s turn to a lawyer who specializes in arm conflict and human rights and also serves as a contributing editor of “Harper‘s” magazine, Scott Horton.

Mr. Horton, thanks for your time again tonight.


OLBERMANN:  I realize that legalities don‘t often overlap with the actual known universe.  But can anybody seriously try to differentiate between excessive waterboarding and regular-type waterboarding?

HORTON:  No, not at all.  In fact, if you‘ve been following this story, you know that these memoranda were not written to give legal advice, they were written as get-out-of-jail-free passes.  And what Holder seems to be doing here is recognizing exactly that function.

OLBERMANN:  Is it—could we have an Archibald Cox in the works?  In a sense of special prosecutors have certainly been known to go well beyond their original mandate, even bizarrely so, sometimes in Cox‘ case, certainly admirably so—is it possible once unleashed, this could lead somewhere worthwhile and maybe even a backdoor form of prosecution of this is worthwhile?

HORTON:  That‘s what we have to hope for here.


HORTON:  In fact, the regulations here say that the attorney general will appoint a special prosecutor and will describe the essential facts of an underlying crime.  The special prosecutor is supposed to investigate that crime, not specific people.  And in this case, the crime would start with things that went on in an interrogation room.

But as Congress enacted the anti-torture statute, it‘s chargeable as a conspiracy.  So, it‘s not just the people in the room who will be the subject of the investigation.  It would include the enablers and that‘s going to include a large number of senior people at the Department of Justice as well as at the National Security Council.

So, I think a rigorous special prosecutor taking his job seriously would have to look at—look at their conduct, look at the memo writers, look at the decisions taken at the top of that pyramid.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Because if you are prosecuting variances from what was thought to be legal at the time, you have to establish what was thought to be legal at the time and how we got there.

HORTON:  That‘s exactly right.

OLBERMANN:  It has been reported for quite a while now that this attorney general was reluctant to pursue this at all.  We reread a still classified report from the CIA‘s inspector general from 2004.  He got other materials, and felt he had no choice.

If it really turned him around, if it changed his mind because his duty is to follow the law, how could he also ignore those who created the unlawful policy, the overarching issue?  How does—how do those two that would seem to be mutually exclusive to a non-lawyer?

HORTON:  Well, that‘s exactly correct.  It‘s really—it would not be appropriate.  Indeed, if we‘re dealing with a fact situation where the appointment of a special prosecutor is appropriate, then Eric Holder should get out of the way.  He should appoint the special prosecutor.  The special prosecutor should study the crime and follow the factual trail wherever it goes.

And all of these efforts to put blinders on what the special prosecutor does are really unfortunate and inappropriate.

OLBERMANN:  Scott Horton, lawyer and contributing editor to “Harper‘s” magazine—again, thanks for your time tonight.

HORTON:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know what this next gentleman is doing, but my intuition is—he‘s doing it incorrectly.

Speaking of which, there‘s the gang at cluster “FOX and Friends” who have decided it‘s OK to say the speaker of the House called people un-American when she did not.  The lies and distortions that make the “Worst Persons in the World” possible each and every night—ahead.

Yes, keep looking at me.  I‘m talking about you guys.


OLBERMANN:  Coming up: A “Special Comment” on the town hall protests and the agitators who are replacing information with fear and discourse with threat.

First, 34 years ago today, David Frost concluded an almost unprecedented series of negotiations with the man who would resign the American presidency just a year and a day earlier.  Richard Nixon charged Frost $600,000 for a series of interviews that would not be broadcast for two years.  However, despite what the recent exciting movie about the interviews suggest, the cost to anybody actually trying to watch those interviews are worse.  Yet listen to them on radio stations like mine was far, far higher.  And they were horribly, painfully, dull.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”


OLBERMANN:  I would have rather seen 13 hours of this from Jabalpur, India.  Indian army stuntman Jitendra has set out to accomplish the impossible.  He‘s attempting to ride a moving motorcycle while standing atop a 15-foot ladder for eight hours in a row.

Donald Rumsfeld there was not impressed.  The old record is eight hours but interrupted by short breaks.  Jitendra said he wanted to set the record to bring glory to his Indian army daredevil team, plus he was worried that he was losing his cool.

No, I may have—I may have that mixed up with that shark episode of happy days.  Anyway, he broke the record.  So, congratulations.  And bye!

To Beijing and the salon hairstylist and artist Hong Chin, who does not let anything go to waste after he puts down the Flowbee.  Some shops throw away the hair that falls on the floor during a haircut.  Mr. Chin uses it to build sculptures.  Behold the gate to the heavenly piece.  The famous building in Tiananmen Square, whereas here, Tiananmen hair.

The edifice was built in honor of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Communist China.  Mr. Chin used red dye for some of the building‘s walls.  He also does a brisk walk-in clown business.  So, he‘s got that going for him.  He has plans to build more communist buildings this year and he‘s also collecting dandruff to create a snowy winter scene -- and I made that last part up.

And then back to Heinola, Finland, for the world‘s sauna championships.  A hundred forty men and women from 20 countries showed up to sit down.  The goal: to see how long you can last in 230-degree temperatures.  It was an upset on the women‘s side.  The Russian Tatyana Arkhipenko, in the blue there, stole the crown from the home country, besting the other women with the time of three minutes and nine seconds; on the men‘s side, at 3:46, former pro-wrestler Rick Flair.

No, he didn‘t charge taxpayers for his trips with that hazy lazy, like kind of crazy, like South American way, but the domestic vacations for the senator, you betcha.

And after you have screamed “fire” in the crowded theater, Governor, the follow-up shout of “I may have been mistaken” is not usually heard.  The culpability of Sarah Palin and others like her for terrorizing misinformation hoisted upon the protestors at the health care reform town halls.

A “Special Comment” ahead—here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  He once boasted about sleeping on an office cot to save money.  He‘s criticized other state officials for their travel expenses.  “Time Magazine” reports him so thrifty that he wanted employees to use both sides of a Post-It before throwing it away.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has the state pick up the tab for his out-of-town trips, the non-Appalachian trail hiking kind, to attend political events, to get his hair cut, to attend his kids‘ soccer game, to travel to the family—

Wait a minute, to get his haircut?  The Associated Press reporting Mr.  Sanford‘s use of state planes for personal and political trips a direct conflict with South Carolina law.  A few examples, March 2005: he flew a state plane from Colombia to his beach house, where the governor had an appointment to see a dentist. 

In March of the following year, another state plane shuttled Sanford from Myrtle Beach back to the state capital for personal time at his favorite discount hair salon.  The guy from Tiananmen Square.  Thrifty, indeed.  Explain where he got that haircut.

Five out of the last six Thanksgivings, the Sanfords used state aircraft to fly from the family plantation to the capital for the lighting of the state Christmas tree.  The governor‘s spokesman says the report is, quote, cherry picking, and “the governor‘s schedule is not reflective of everything he‘s necessarily doing on a given day.” 

Well, we know that. 

Meanwhile, the chairman of the state legislative committee investigating the governor‘s international trip says Sanford broke the law, charging the state for commercial business class flights when state law dictates to travel economy, if possible.  But as Senator Lindsey Graham suggested back in June, Mr. Sanford‘s record as governor should not be judged on how he conducts state business, instead on how he handles things with the Misses.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I think if Mark can reconcile with Jenny—and that‘s not going to be easy—that he can finish his last 18 months.  He‘s had a good reform agenda.  And I do believe that if he can reconcile with his family and if he‘s willing to try, that the people of South Carolina would be willing to give him a second chance. 


OLBERMANN:  Unless Jenny is your nickname for all of the voters of the state, forget it.  On Friday, Jenny moved out of the governor‘s mansion.  She and the kids will now reside at the family‘s ocean front cottage for the duration of the school year, no doubt to get closer to the governor‘s barber. 

No word yet on another chance for Governor Sanford, or another goal to meet from Senator Graham.

About an ex-governor; When Sarah Palin dials back her own rhetoric, you know how insane the rhetoric was.  Death panels you say?  Too late, we say.  Special comment ahead. 

And the man who now devotes half his air time to comparing the current administration to Nazis pauses briefly to blame the speaker of the House for mentioning swastikas.  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, why authorities are alarmed at the number of jailhouse visitors coming to see the accused assassin of Dr. George Tiller, Scott Roeder.


OLBERMANN:  If the protests at the health care reform town hall seem without reason to you, seem irrational, they are not.  They are the logical outcome of people fearful, highly suggestible, easily led, being told it is not health care reform, but mandatory abortions and access to their checking accounts and death panels.  A special comment of the real villains of those town halls next. 

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Matsihiro Matsumoto (ph), an office worker in Japan.  He was a little late today and needed an excuse for his boss.  So he pushed the emergency stop button at a railroad crossing in Kyoto, Japan, delaying the train for four minutes, and the ones behind it for similar amounts of time.  Mr. Matsumoto‘s job.  He works in the railroad office.  He commutes there by train.  Police think he might be responsible for the six other times that somebody has pressed that emergency button and they have arrested him.  The amount of time he was late was four minutes. 

Our runners-up tonight, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade of “Fox and Friends,” on, what else, the town halls and the “USA Today” op ed today this morning by Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Hoyer.  Carlson, “Nancy Pelosi says anyone who speaks out is Un-American.” 

Kilmeade, “Un-American?  I thought that was all part of the debate.” 

Doocy “what they write is these disruptions are because opponents are afraid not just of differing views, but of the facts themselves.  They‘re drowning out opposing views.  And that is simply un-American.” 

Of course, that is not what they wrote.  They didn‘t write they are simply un-American, as in opponents of reform.  They wrote drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.  Drowning out opposing views or supporting views.  You know why they have three hosts on Cluster “Fox and Friends?”  That‘s so if one of them starts to think or go off the talking points, the other two can smother them before the viewers notices. 

But our winner, Boss Limbaugh, host of the new let‘s compare everybody to the Hitler radio show.  Actually, he‘s saying he never compared Obama to Hitler or the government to the Nazis.  He didn‘t start it.  “When the speaker of the House of Representatives, third in line to the presidency, accused Americans at town hall meetings of being Nazi sympathizers, when she started it, I pushed back twice as hard.  Anybody have a problem with that?” 

Yes, everybody does because Nancy Pelosi didn‘t say that either.  She complained that Swastikas and similar symbols were being carried to these town halls by whomever for whatever purpose.  She never said Americans at town hall meetings were like Nazi sympathizers. 

Limbaugh, of course, compared health reform to Nazi health care, compared administration logo to the ornamental Swastika of the Nazis, said the regimes were similar because Hitler had a labor czar and Obama had a corporate bail out czar.  So who started comparing whom to the Nazi sympathizers?  Donald Rumsfeld, American Legion Speech, Salt Lake City, August 29, 2006.  Boss Limbaugh—come on, Boss.  You must remember Don Rumsfeld—today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on this terrible moment in American history, and those unfortunate and irresponsible Americans who have brought us to it.

“The America I know and love,” the quitter governor of Alaska Sarah Palin began, “is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama‘s ‘death panel‘ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,‘ whether they are worthy of health care.  Such a system is downright evil.”

Of course it is, Ms.  Palin, and that is why it does not exist, has not existed, and would never, under this president, nor any other president, ever exist, in this country.

There is no ‘death panel.‘ There is no judgment based on societal productivity.  There is no worthiness test. 

But there is downright evil, and Ms.  Palin, you just served its cause.  You shouted “fire” in a crowded theater—a hot one—and then today tried to roll it back with “no, no, sorry, not fire, I meant flashlights.”

Too little, too late, too obvious.  Madam, you are a clear and present danger to the safety and security of this nation.  Whether the ‘death panel‘ is something you dreamed, or something you dreamed-up, whether it is the product of a low intellect and a fevered imagination, or the product of a high intelligence and a sober ability to exploit people, you should be ashamed of yourself for having introduced it into the public discourse, and it should debar you, for all time, from any position of responsibility or trust in the governance of this nation or any of its states or municipalities.

But it will not.  Because a percentage of America does not want explanations nor serious conversation.  It wants panic and the guilty thrill of chaos and an excuse to bash skulls and hang people in effigy.  Or not in effigy. 

Ms. Palin, what, in spirit, is the difference between this monstrous image of a congressman hanged in effigy and the indefensible smile of pride on the idiot‘s face.  And this image with not one murderer in the mob even feeling the need to hide his face for fear of justice that would never come? 

They are both, to use your phrase, “Death Panels.”  Ms. Palin, you might as well have declared that the government is being run by a coven of witches with fake Kenyan birth certificates.

And you might as well have told the vast unthinking throng that mistakes your ability to wink for leadership, that they should start shooting at Democrats.  There would be no need to tell them to bring guns.  Others have done that.  Somebody left his at an Arizona Town Hall.

And incidentally, Madam, you have forfeited your right to be taken

seriously the next time you claim offense at somebody mentioning your

children.  You have just exploited your youngest child, dangled him in

front of a mindless mob, as surely as if you were Michael Jackson.  You

have used this innocent infant as an excuse to pander to the worst and

least of us in this nation.  You have used him to create the false image of

‘death panels.‘

The only ‘death panels,‘ Ms. Palin, are the figurative ones you have inspired with such irresponsible, dangerous, facile, vile, hate speech.  The death of common sense.  The death of logic.  The death, perhaps, of Democracy, at the hands of mob rule. 

If someone is hurt at one of these Town Halls, pro-reform, anti-reform, or, most likely, as these things tend to play out in the real life you know so little about, Ms. Palin—if the hurt befalls an innocent bystander—you will have contributed to that harm.

You might very well become, Ms. Palin, the very thing you have sought to create in the lurid imaginations of those spoiling for a fight, waiting for an excuse, looking for a rationalization of their own hatred, their own racism, their own unwillingness to accept Democracy.  You, Ms. Palin, may yet become the de facto chairman of a Death Panel.  Your higher calling, Ms. Palin.  God forgive you, Ms. Palin.

It is hardly all Sarah Palin.  She is, in fact, a relative newcomer to the orgy of fantasized violence and imagined revolution, whose fires have been stoked, for weeks, for months, for years, by Conservatives—but more often by mere mercenaries, men and women who believe nothing, who are in it for the game, or the profit, or the sheer kick of bending masses to their will. 

Glenn Beck, who recoils when somebody actually readies for an attack on one of the “FEMA internment camps” he so cavalierly invented, who so cowers at the thought that he might get blamed, or might lose his precious and well-earned gold, that he actually has to plead with his viewers not to become new Timothy McVeighs.

Glenn Beck, says that and then comes back three days later and jokes about poisoning the Speaker of the House. 

It is irresistible to you, isn‘t it?  It‘s the same thrill of irresponsibility, of caveman thought, of the drug addict who suddenly and joyously cares nothing about self-restraint.  Sobered momentarily into realizing the prospective outline of the horrible shape on the horizon—soldiers wounded, shooter says she was liberating FEMA camp, says she saw Glenn Beck tell her to rise up and fight back—awakened to the idea that words you say on television have consequences which you cannot control, you plead, almost cry, for non-violence.

And yet within 72 hours the thrill again rises up in your blood and you cannot resist it; you must fantasize about murder.  And by the very action of speaking it aloud, you enable others to join you in this neanderthalian ritual of violence to overcome the enemy—whether the enemy is real, or imagined, or whether the enemy really isn‘t an enemy at all, just your neighbor, with a different point of view, who wants to talk about it, who wants to involve you in the decision even though it is his turn to steer and not yours, and even though you both know that some day our system will give you another turn to steer.

But ranting and crying and playing with toys on television does not work, if you are advocating compromise and dialogue and thought.  It works only for a mountebank, making the promise of magic and power with the underlying inherent threat of carnage and chaos. 

And now you add you believe ‘death panels‘ are real.  An idea so insane, which mainlines so directly back to the mercenary fantasies of the pathetic Betsy McCoy, that even Sarah Palin backed quickly away from them.

But what a scare tactic!  The big lie in the flesh.  Your dream come true, which is probably why, Mr. Beck, we have not lately heard much of your “9/12” groups.  Because there you had the germ of an idea, exploitative perhaps, but at its core beneficial, calming, unifying, thoughtful: restore the sense of September 12th, 2001 -- not of dread or threat, but of collaboration, of meeting in the middle, of standing together under one flag and trying to improve the conditions of all Americans.

And then somebody from your 9/12 group told its members they should all go to the Health Care Reform Town Hall in Tampa, and break it up, and shout down anybody who disagreed with them, and scuffle with the police, and demand not discourse, but disaster.  Your work, Mr. Beck.  Your contribution to this.  God forgive you.

There are other instigators free in the land, nearly all of them, in effect, un-true believers.  Men intelligent enough to work their way up the political ladder in this country into the Senate of this nation, and yet suddenly foolish enough, or suddenly opportunistic enough, like Mr. Cornyn of Texas, to float conspiracy theories about the White House using health care reform to try to compile an enemies list, one e-mail address at a time; when four years ago this same Senator was saying that the previous White House‘s pernicious, warrantless, illegal consumption of everybody‘s e-mail address, and everybody‘s e-mail, and everybody‘s websites, was defensible and justifiable because, quote, “none of your civil liberties matter much after you‘re dead.”

And now pushing, is Mr. Cornyn, the supposedly independent analysis of the proposed Health Care reform by “The Lewin Group” that 119 million people would have to change their insurance.  Mr. Cornyn not knowing, or being paid not to know, that “The Lewin Group” is wholly owned by an Insurance Company, the way the Lewin Group gave Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor 60-thousand dollars apiece.  Wholly owned!

Then there are the birthers, laughable from the moment they opened their mouths, proffering a conspiracy that somehow began with the placement of birth notices in two Hawaiian newspapers 48 years ago this month. 

But people who do not want this president to be president will believe anything.  And that is meat for fading commentators like Lou Dobbs, whatever he actually believes.

Because the birther movement touches another essential part of the defective soul: the need for an excuse.  For they need to convince themselves of an immense conspiracy, and place that conviction as a barrier between their actions and the sad reality that they are not the victims of intricate machinations against freedom, but are just garden-variety, ordinary, racists, that they can handle the most limited of integration only in theory.

They will take anything that will let them pretend that.  When they burst into tears and cry that they want their America back, they are not asking for White Power, not asking that somebody make the black man in the White House go away. 

There are other instigators, of course, so obvious, so careless, knowing so well that anybody who desperately wants to believe lies will not even notice the truth standing next to them wearing a big red neon sign.

Like the “just a Mom from a few blocks away” at the Wisconsin town hall, who didn‘t think anybody might Google her name and find out she was really the ex-vice-chairman of the county GOP, and part of the campaign of the Republican who lost to the Democrat whose town hall she was at that moment helping to disrupt. 

Or like the smooth-talking hospital corporate titan, spreading millions around to enable the hate, knowing that none of the haters will ever realize, nor care, that they have become prostitutes for the health care industries.

Like the people who propagated this widely-cut-and-pasted quote “line by line analysis” of the Health Care Reform Act, one that saves right wingers the trouble of actually reading the bill or thinking about it.

This is where the fictions come from: that it‘s funding ACORN, that it guarantees free health care for illegal immigrants, that it mandates abortions, demands euthanasia.  If you read it without knowing the truth, you might shove the right-wingers out of the way at the Town Halls and start screaming yourself!

It seems to have been created by “The Liberty Counsel,” an off-shoot of Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University, a council whose other big policy concern has been the attack on Christmas. 

Maybe there is the most brazen of them all, that man at the Town Hall in Connecticut, carrying the “We don‘t want government run health care” sign, while still wearing his Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield shirt.

You might think it was because he was too stupid to wear something a little less corporately-slavish.  But given what those around him have read, they not only wouldn‘t care, they might even take comfort from that logo; that he could boast, and that they could hate under the auspices of an actual caring, friendly, ruthless insurance company. 

My words, of course, are nothing to Mr. Anthem, or Mr. Cornyn or Mr.  Dobbs or Ms. Blish or Mr. Scott or the others.  This is a job to them.  And since we have placed a price tag on everything in this country, there is no soul-searching involved. 

You have a job.  If it involves stirring up frightened people to defend the corporation against the citizen, well, you have a salary to earn and a family to feed.  The same rationalization that enables mob hit men to sleep at night.

But somewhere in those crowds of genuinely angry and scared people, people who listen to Cornyn or Dobbs, or fantasize with Beck about poisoning their way to a Democrat-free world, or salivate like Pavlovian dogs at the sound of the shrill whistle from Sarah “Death Panel” Palin.  Somewhere in those crowds are some actual people with some actual brains still working and thinking and evaluating. 

For God‘s sake, trust your instinct to think.

There are no death panels.  There could never be.  Were there any steps taken towards them, I and 99.9 percent of the people in this country, from the fiercest liberal to the most apolitical blob, would be standing next to you preventing their creation. 

There are no plans to take your insurance away from you.  There will be no rationing of care.  There will be no Health Choices Commissioner and he will not be able to transfer money electronically out of your bank account.

There will be nobody coming into your house and telling you what to eat. 

There will be no euthanasia. 

And the people to whom you are listening with half an ear are telling you half the truth, on a good day!

The euthanasia scare comes from something as benign as a proposal to let you put in for insurance if you have to consult a doctor about what to do if you or a loved one are fatally ill.  If you are where I was last March—when I sat down with the doctors to talk about my mother: fatally ill, not awake, not aware, the health care reform will now pay you back for the doctor‘s fee for that conversation.  And it will pay, whether you decide to let your loved one go, or you insist to the doctor that they keep that dear one alive at all costs, to treat them for months or years or decades more.

And this part of this bill actually was originally co-sponsored by a Republican congressman.  And from that caring bipartisan starting point, through her own paranoia or for her own political gain, Sarah Palin has invented the boogeyman of “death panels.”

Think, please.  Think before something horrible happens.  As you move to bellow that which you know not to be true, as you try to shout down a Congressman who is there to answer your concerns, as, God forbid, you think there has been enough talking and not enough of something else; think of how Lincoln closed his first Inaugural Address, and remember that wise words stand the test of time.

“If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there is still no single good reason for precipitate action.  Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty. 

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue.  The government will not assail you.  You can have no conflict without being you yourselves the aggressors.  We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”



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