August 14, 2009
Guests: Howard Dean, Chris Kofinis, Margaret Carlson
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The president steps in front of the unscreened town hallers to whom he explains that they and the nation are being held hostage by insurance companies who are bankrupting families.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY RATHIE, WELDER: I also get my news from the cable networks because I don't like the spin that comes from them other places.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, you got to be-you got to be careful about them cable networks, though.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or with senators-Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota talks sabotage, says he can kill the essence of reform, the public option.
Speaking of killing-the catfight between Specter and Grassley on Twitter. Specter tells Grassley to stop scaring people with terms like "death panels." Grassley says he never said "death panels."
True. Grassley only said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: You have every right to fear. We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The grandma plug pullers and death panels are both alive and well, thanks to original death eater Sarah Palin. She boasts she got the death panels removed.
But payback is the proverbial "B" word. Beck humiliated at Congressman Rick Larsen's town hall in Washington State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICK LARSEN (D), WASHINGTON: I've got facts at my side and you've got Glenn Beck on your side. It's just not going to play out that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As a dozen advertisers cancel on Beck, Comedy Central catches him in a bit of a contradiction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, TV HOST: You're about to lose the best health care system in the world. Getting well in this country can actually almost kill you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "Worsts": The Minneapolis newspaper praises Michelle Bachmann's son for going into Teach for America, says he's a "smart, caring kid" who must have been "well-raised." So she declares the paper has done a hit job on him.
And Karl Rove on "Family Guy"? And Joe the plumber, the standup comedian? How will we know when his act is over?
All that and more-now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH WURZELBACHER, JOE THE PLUMBER: All this love in the room and everything-I'm horny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
After weeks of fearmongering, shouting lies, death threats, and more in our fifth story today: The president came face-to-face with a real American who challenged him on health care reform. The stage had been set for a couple days with a group affiliated with the tea party offshoot Americans for Prosperity whipping up opposition to greet Mr. Obama when he arrived for today's town hall in Belgrade, Montana.
"It will be important to see Montanans come out in force to say no to government health care," a member of Patients First told "The Associated Press" yesterday. Some 1,300 people got inside after "first come, first serve" ticket give-out at two city halls.
One of those people, a welder named Randy Rathie, had driven almost all the way across Montana to get tickets so he could confront President Obama.
Here's what happened when a real, working Joe from a state that represents the real America expressed his real concerns about real health care reform to his president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATHIE: My name is Randy Rathie. I'm from Ekalaka, Montana. As you can see, I'm a proud NRA member.
OBAMA: There you go.
RATHIE: I believe in our Constitution, and it's a very important thing. I always get my news from the cable networks because I don't like the spin that comes from them other places.
OBAMA: Oh, you got to be-you got to be careful about them cable networks, though. But that's OK. Go ahead. Go on with your question.
RATHIE: Max Baucus, our senator, has been locked up in a dark room there for months now, trying to come up with some money to pay for these programs. And we keep getting the bull. That's all we get, is bull.
You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this. You're saving here. You're saving over there. You're going to take a little money here, you're going to take a little money there. But you have no money.
The only way you're going to get that money is to raise our taxes. You said you wouldn't. Max Baucus says he doesn't want to put a bill out that will, but that's the only way you can do that.
OBAMA: Well, I'm happy to answer the question.
RATHIE: OK. Thank you.
OBAMA: Look, you are absolutely right that I can't cover another 46 million people for free. Two-thirds of the money we can obtain just from eliminating waste and inefficiencies. And the Congressional Budget Office has agreed with that. This is not something I'm just making up. Republicans don't dispute it. And then the other third we would have to find additional revenue but it wouldn't come on the backs of the middle-class.
Randy, I appreciate your question. The respectful way you asked it. And, by the way, I believe in the Constitution, too. So thank you very much.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That's right. No death panel crap. No fear of a public option. The Montana audience clapped at the mention of the public option, just a reasonable question about how to pay for it and a respectful exchange on both sides based in facts, just like in real America.
A point driven home by the last president who tried to do something about health care, other than raise the deficit and give billions to big pharma, President Clinton speaking to the Netroots Nation convention, urging progressive bloggers and online activists to get behind health care reform.
Mr. Clinton saying, quote, "No matter how low they drive support for this with misinformation, the minute the president signs the health care reform bill, his approval will go up. Secondly, within a year when all those bad things they say will happen don't happen and all the good things happen, approval will explode. They know they have no choice to beat, chance to beat health care this time unless they can mortify with rigid fears some moderate, conservative Democrats."
We're looking at you Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
At a town hall yesterday, he told about a hundred people, he will not vote for any plan with a public option-a vital, perhaps the vital component to the president's plan. Conrad, important at this stage of the game for his role on the finance committee working with ranking Republican Chuck Grassley about whom more in a moment.
Meanwhile, another Democrat from real America revealed just how committed Mr. Obama is to enacting real health care reform. Iowa's Congressman Leonard Boswell at his own town hall recounting a discussion he had with Mr. Obama in February.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. LEONARD BOSWELL (D), IOWA: We talked about some of these things, you know, whether energy or health care or whatever. And the president, "I'm not going to kick the can down the road." He said that. And I said, "Well, that's something I'm kind of used to from southern Iowa. I know about kicking the can down the road."
And he said, "No." He said, "If it makes me a one-term president, I -
we're going to take it on because the country is in need of us taking this on." I respected that very much.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Returning to our program once again on this issue, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, himself, of course, a physician and former chair of the Democratic Party, now serves as an independent consultant at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, providing guidance to clients particularly in the areas of health care and alternative energy resources.
Thanks for your time again tonight, Governor.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: All right. Can you explain or refute-whichever is appropriate-Mr. Clinton's prediction that enacting health care reform will ultimately benefit Mr. Obama and presumably Democrats in terms of popularity and electability in the mid-terms next year?
DEAN: Everybody likes a winner and I think his-I think President Clinton's political instincts are rarely wrong. And I think he's right in this case.
You know, I thought that guy from Montana did America a great favor. I've been doing book signings and speeches around the country over the last few months, and particularly in the last few weeks, and we-you know, a lot of conservatives will come but they don't behave like the people that the tea baggers and the right wing get out. They're real Americans. They have questions.
It's a legitimate question to ask how we're going to pay for that. And he deserves a legitimate answer. That's what's going to kill the Republican Party. People want civil dialogue and, you know, the Republicans apparently don't care about civil dialogue and they don't seem to care about any dialogue.
I commend that guy from Montana. He's like a lot of Vermonters I know. They just want answers. They're not looking to embarrass anybody. They just want answers.
OLBERMANN: With open access "first come, first serve," what do you make of the fact that's exactly what he got? He got skeptical questions-the president did-but even in Montana, we didn't get one of the right-wing fearmongers about the wildest thing that was done was the reading of the preamble to the Constitution. It was basically Americans sharing real experiences.
Was that grown-ups talking to grown-ups-or why was that different than these things we've seen on the congressional and senatorial town hall level?
DEAN: I think because it wasn't orchestrated and because people really want to-they want to hear from their president, they want to hear from these Congress people.
I think the biggest problem the Republican Party is going to have is their image now of people who shout all the time. And Real America is not like that, whether they're conservative or liberal.
OLBERMANN: Back to Mr. Clinton for a moment-does he, in fact, have a role to play here either with progressives or the blue dogs or possibly both?
DEAN: You know, I think the blue dogs have, in general, been constructive. The blue dogs have not turned their back on the public option. I'm incredibly disappointed with Kent Conrad who I consider to be a good friend.
The public option is the only reform left in this bill. If you don't have public option, it's not worth passing this bill. It's just very expensive.
You got to give Americans a choice, Kent-and you ought to give Americans a choice. You know, I don't understand why Kent-why you think that you ought to be able to make the choice for the American people. Let them make their own choices about this. They'll do the right thing just like that guy in Montana. They'll do the right thing.
OLBERMANN: Where is that going to end up? I mean, this is-you suggested yesterday when Chuck Grassley was already claiming that the end-of-life consultation reimbursements were gone.
DEAN: Chuck voted for that, you know, in 2003.
OLBERMANN: Yes, of course.
DEAN: Chuck Grassley voted for that in 2003. It exists today in the Medicare bill. That exists today.
DEAN: The so-called "death panels" today in the Medicare, and part of that is because Chuck Grassley voted for it. That is a ridiculous controversy.
OLBERMANN: But they all-and almost, everybody who has voiced this came out on the other side of it at some point earlier in their careers, which makes it more ridiculous.
DEAN: You know what's next, Keith? What's next is, over the weekend, we're going to hear about it-or maybe later-we're going to hear about taking people's children and indoctrinating them. Based on a program that we actually use in Vermont to reduce child abuse and reduce foster care placements and keep families together, I think these people are going over the edge. I really do.
OLBERMANN: I hate to spring this on you but Michele Bachmann already said that with.
DEAN: Is that right?
OLBERMANN: . with AmeriCorps.
DEAN: I rest my case.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I mean, your prediction has already come true in 30 seconds after you made it.
But one last point here about what Kent Conrad said. Is he going to prove to be wrong on this? Is that-whether he decides to vote for the public option or not, is the public option going to be in the bill or not?
DEAN: It will be in the bill because, at the end of the day, the Republicans-essentially, Senator Grassley said this yesterday-are not interested in being part this of at all. They're just stalling. Senator Grassley turned his back on any kind of compromise yesterday and pressured by his own party, because I think if he actually left to his own devices, would work something out.
And so, this is going to be left up to the Democratic Caucus to do, and the majority of Democrats believe you have to have real reform, which includes the public option.
OLBERMANN: Howard Dean, former governor, former presidential candidate, and one correct prediction already in the books for tonight-great thanks again for your time, sir.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: All right. There is, of course, precedent for the health care battle. The stimulus bill as well saw the president fighting hard for Republican support just to end up with them throwing the stimulus his face even after he traded away some components progressives predicted would prove imperative.
Progressives such as Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who warned a larger stimulus was needed and today, recalled his warning last year that Republicans would oppose him, lie about him no matter what he did at seeking their support-the president seeking their support, of course, was quixotic. He urged Mr. Obama to start voicing outrage at the lies propagated even by a so-called moderate Republicans.
At this point, let's turn to MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also, of course, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and associate editor of "The Washington Post."
Gene, thanks for your time tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Here's that fundamental question. It was great to see a president as respectful and is setting a tone for respect with people at town halls who didn't necessarily want to buy into what he was-what he is selling.
But there seems to be that reference is still there also for Republicans in terms of making concessions to them at least on this bill-
Republicans who will not vote for this even if it includes all the concessions they demand. If they strip the public option out of this, if it takes $4 next year out of the insurance industry, Republicans will all vote against this.
ROBINSON: Yes, yes. So it does raise the question: what is the point? I mean, why make further concessions to the Republicans when you know that they're in the end not going to vote for it? And I think that's not only a legitimate question, but I think it's a question that answers itself, frankly.
You-if you move toward the center-I'm not sure there is really a center of this debate-but if you move toward the right at all, you're trying to get that middle that's, you know, perhaps conflicted. Your reassuring people that this isn't some sort of radical change, it's going to upset their lives and take away the insurance they already have.
But beyond reassuring people of that, you know, giving up the public option for example to Republicans who are not going to vote for it in the end, I think, is folly and it makes the whole exercise not worthwhile.
OLBERMANN: Well, hopefully on that point, Howard Dean is 100 percent correct. But ultimately, if he's not, even only 99 percent correct, what are voters-what are the people who are facing ordeals, like Mr. Obama's mother faced in his childhood, what are they going to get or what they're going to lose from his quest for Republican votes that aren't there?
ROBINSON: Well, if you look at what a health care reform package might have been and maybe, you know-maybe, you know, politics is the art of the possible, but let's imagine you could have had a bill where you could negotiate prices with big pharma to get drug prices down. You could have had a bill that was much tougher on the insurance companies and you certainly can have one, I hope still can have one with a public option.
People, like the president's mother who went through that ordeal at the end of her life, you know, I think, lose a lot if they lose what's left of genuine reform in the bill, which is-as Governor Dean said-essentially, the public option and some of the other reforms about preexisting conditions and the like.
OLBERMANN: You heard Governor Dean about Senator Conrad. On the subject of the blue dogs, presumably, some of the point of quoting Republicans is to keep pressure on the blue dogs, keep them in line rather than just telling the blue dogs-why not just tell the blue dogs, "You want the benefits of the majority party, you vote with the majority of the majority party on what is the majority of the policy that they were elected to enact or else"?
ROBINSON: Right. That works for me.
ROBINSON: You know, I mean-look, you know, here-this is a big piece of social legislation. Well, who was good-you know, who was good at getting through big pieces of social legislation? Well, LBJ, for example. And he was Mr. Senate. He knew how to corral and coerce and cajole a majority in that fractious body and it wasn't all by being nice and it wasn't all by abandoning positions. It was sometimes by putting your arm around a senator and saying, "Look, you are going to vote my way or the highway."
OLBERMANN: Is this happening-and we don't know about it? Because Paul Krugman wrote that the Obama White House has this "deer in the headlights" response to the wave of the whipped up hate on the right. Is the deer actually staring into the lights or just passed them? Does the deer have another car that we don't even see in this picture? What's going on?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, we kind of have been through this drill before. I mean, there have been times in the past when I certainly-and I believe you, too-we've sat there and said, "Gee, you know, shouldn't the president be more forceful? Shouldn't he be attacking and this and that?" And he doesn't and, you know, it tends to work out pretty well for him.
So, I won't speak for you, but in the past.
ROBINSON: . I was wrong during the campaign.
I think this is a somewhat different situation. I think he's not trying to charm large members of the public. He's up against special interests that are impervious to his charms. And so, I think it requires a tougher approach.
OLBERMANN: Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of "The Washington Post" also of MSNBC-have a great weekend, Gene. Thanks very much.
ROBINSON: You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It was Governor Dean who yesterday suggested Senator Grassley was a little early on his boasting about removing reimbursements for end-of-life counseling from the bill. What in sports we used to call premature jocularity.
And Senator Grassley gets into a Twitter fight with Senator Specter.
The not too bright pusher of the "death panel's" lie is now boasting that she has, in turn, killed them off. Sarah Palin celebrates her part in terrifying the unthinking people she was supposed to protect.
And another expert in that field learns the meaning of the phrase from Shakespeare's "Hamlet": 'tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petard. The explosive expert blown up by his own bomb-or to play out the pun on the French word "petard," his own gas. Glenn Beck loses more advertisers as he discovers organized political uprisings disguised as organic grassroots protests cut both ways.
OLBERMANN: The original death eater boasts of her success after the announcement about getting death panels pulled out of the House health care reform bill, except the announcement was about the Senate reform bill and it hasn't happened yet. This while Senators Grassley and Specter have a Twitter war over whether Grassley is himself a death eater or just a grandma plug puller.
Later, Lou Dobbs denies he ever called Howard Dean a blood-sucking liberal. Excuse me. Excuse me. If you'll permit me, I called him a blood-sucking leftist.
That's much better.
"Worst Persons" is ahead on COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Nothing like a huge fight over something that does not exist. And when speaking about the actual thing about which you created the fictional thing not even getting the sequence of events on that right either.
So, in our fourth story on THE COUNTDOWN: Former Governor Sarah Palin gives herself a Facebook high five for killing the so-called "death panel" and Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Arlen Specter are having a death panel fight via Twitter.
Palin first-writing on her Facebook page, yes, she wrote this. "I joined millions of Americans in expressing appreciation for the Senate Finance Committee's decision to remove the provision in the pending health care bill that authorizes end-of-life consultations, Section 1233 of H.R. 3200."
Of course, Congress has been in recess the past week, so nothing has been dropped in any bill yet. Palin may have been confused also about that Senate and House thing that said H.R. 3200 which would mean House of Representatives. She might have been confused because Senator Grassley recently said that, quote, "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted." But that was the Senate version of the bill.
We need to show that animated thing about how a bill becomes law because clearly the governor doesn't know. Hi. I'm a bill. Hi. I'm a Sarah Palin.
If Senator Grassley was key in keeping that out of the bill, that would have happened well before Palin's death panel nonsense back before both houses-I've lost you, haven't I, Sarah?
Meantime, Senator Grassley who has a penchant for bitter tweeting has found some new source material-a tweet from Senator Specter. "Called Senator Grassley to tell him to stop spreading myths about health care reform and imaginary death panels. Had to leave a message for now. I will talk to him soon."
So, Senator Grassley twitted or tweeted back. "Specter got it all wrong that I've ever used words death boards. Even liberal press never accused me of that, so change your last tweet, Arlen."
Sure, Senator Grassley, but you did say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRASSLEY: There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life. And, you know, I don't have any problems with things like living wills, but they ought to be done within the family. We should not have-we should not have a-we should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So Grassley is not technically a death eater. He would instead be technically a grandma plug puller.
Let's call in Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Grassley first. And it would be merely absurd if this were not so maddening. I mean, he's been fueling death panel fear and now he's trying to mince words with Senator Specter. But Grassley is the kind of GOP lead negotiator the Democrats are supposed to trust in this?
KOFINIS: It is kind of ironic that the senator that's leading the bipartisan effort to get a health care reform bill seems to be unleashing partisan attacks full of falsehoods. I mean, it's just that I think it's a terrible statement and I-listen, worst-case scenario exposes this as a much parsing process amongst some of the Republicans, particularly Senator Grassley, in terms of what their real agenda may be-which is to either stop or fundamentally reshape health care reform. At a minimum, it's just toxic to the whole process.
If you're actually, you know, serious about pursuing a bipartisan effort, the last thing you should be doing is spreading outright lies.
OLBERMANN: More outright hypocrisy on this. Many Republicans-
Grassley, John Boehner-supported end-of-life counseling in 2003 as part of the Medicare prescription drug bill as reported by "Time"-which Governor Dean mentioned earlier. The evidence of the phoniness of this is mounting. At some point, doesn't that pile of evidence get so big that it falls on the people who have been putting this nonsense out?
KOFINIS: I think it does, but I think, you know, if we kind of step back and look at this from, you know, 20,000 feet, if you will, it kind of exposes what the strategy here is. I think what's clear between the town halls and the legislative strategy-the strategy of the Republicans is what I will call "the screaming at the ref."
They know that health care reform bill is going to pass sometime in September or October. The whole idea of spreading these lies, of doing these town halls, is to basically shape the final bill in their favor. And this is where I think-the dangerous part about this is not letting the Democrats and ourselves get play into this and basically exposing for what it is. They know that this train has left the station.
But, to some extent if they continue to pursue this type of strategy, we've seen it, it has had an impact. I think the strategy here is to counter it by not basically screaming, one, screaming back.
KOFINIS: But, two, screaming the facts. And I think you saw that today with President Obama's town hall.
OLBERMANN: But now, a thought just occurs to me. Why would Grassley and Palin be stupid enough to talk about how they killed this thing if it were not solely-I mean, because they haven't, because Congress has been in recess. There's been no alterations of the bill, there won't be until everybody gets back. But could they be doing this, could Palin and Grassley in particular be doing this in hopes of being able to fire this all up again?
And there's our school house rock bill thing trying to explain this to Governor Palin who doesn't that H.R. 3200 is from the House of Representatives. It's not an abbreviation for, you know, Harry Rasmussen or something.
But my point, are they-did they-are they-they've gone through this once, they made this up once and they've declared victory. So now, if it turns out that-through whatever means-the reimbursement of end-of life consultation is back in the final version of the bill, when it's actually voted upon, can't they just say, "Look, we killed this off but the Democrats, they are demanding the death panel. They're putting the death panels back in."
Are they going for two bites of the same apple?
KOFINIS: Listen, here's what I think is clear. There are certain Republicans, in particular Sarah Palin being one-and listen, by the way, you know, don't you get the feeling that Sarah Palin has become the "Joe the plumber" of ex-governors? She doesn't seem to want to ever go away. I mean, it's amazing.
But putting that aside for a second, I mean, it is clear that certain Republicans, like Sarah Palin, have a clear strategy, which is to go out there and spread clear falsehoods and spread this notion that, you know, the public option would bring our health care system to a standstill or to a crisis, like it's not in a crisis.
KOFINIS: And so, I think when you kind of realize what their strategy is, they're going to do this again and again, whether it's-you know, the so-called fake death panels or some other types of provisions or some other type of language, to bring this process, the legislative process to a standstill. And basically build the political pressure against, one, the public option or more significant stronger reform.
And, again, I think this is the challenge for Democrats and for the Obama administration, to not let that happen. I think one strategy, not to go on about it, but, I think, one strategy that I think is really important, if-you know, if we're going to have this debate about public option, then we should have every Republican in the Congress basically make a pledge that they will vote against funding for Medicare, Medicaid.
KOFINIS: . and every veteran's funding-health care funding.
KOFINIS: That is a challenge, I think. We need to put them on the defensive. We need to attack a little bit back.
OLBERMANN: If you-you think nationalized medicine and health care of some form is socialism, let's see you put your money where your mouth is. And, by the way, while we've been talking about this, Sarah Palin called in and asked us to shut up so she can watch the movie.
Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Chris. Have a good weekend.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right.
What's that first rule of show business for W.C. Fields-never work with children or animals? Ask the woman on the left about that. W.C. Fields was a pretty smart fellow, wasn't he?
And never work with both, Glenn Beck loses ConAgra, Roche, Radio Shack
the number of big advertisers who bailed out after he called the president a racist is now over a dozen.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1860 was born Phoebe Anne Mosey (ph), known to history as the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, whose aim was so precise that, while entertaining European royalty in the 1880s, she shot the ash off the cigarette of the German Prince Wilhelm. As was noted, if she had missed hitting him in the ash, and hit him somewhere else, she might have prevented the First World War. Let's play Oddball.
We begin at Wrigley Field, Chicago, where the Chicago Cubs chairman has now apologized to Phillies' center field Shane Victorino for this incident. In the bottom of the fifth inning last night, on a ball hit to deep center, Victorino retreated to the warning track, and as the ball reached his glove, a fan chucked a beer on his head. Right there.
Victorino made the play, but security fingered the wrong guy and ejected the wrong guy. If you look again, it was not the Cubs fan in the Cubs jersey, but the guy in the white shirt a few seats down, who tossed his cold one. He now faces an assault charge. This man, seen in the "Chicago Tribune" graphic has, after a few hours as a fugitive, today turned himself in to the police.
His name, Dr. Richard Kimball, an innocent victim of blind justice, falsely convicted for the murder of his wife, reprieved by fate when a train-
Sorry, they haven't released the guy's name. This is not first time this has happened, not even in Chicago. At the 1959 World Series, Al Smith of the White Sox retreated on a home run by Charlie Neil of the Dodgers, and a fan accidentally bumped his suds, as the ball sailed into the crowd. Smith was soaked. No charges were filed. Oddly enough, the moment was captured by an Associated Press photographer named Charles E. Chuck Knoblauch.
Over to Coat's Bar in Janesville, Wisconsin, and security video of a guy with a blue bandanna over his face, and his hand in his pants pretending, to have a gun, allegedly trying to knock over this bar. This bar filled with 20 off-duty policemen. In fact the whole town was filled with policemen who were there for a charity golf outing.
The robber was quickly subdued by the men in blue, one of whom did not even bother to put down his beer as he did so. Eighteen-year-old Alonzo Ruker (ph) was charged with one count of disorderly conduct and one count of not reading the Janesville, Wisconsin community calendar, shown there.
Why the second Bush administration might have been scarier than the first. John Dean's read on the Cheney revelation promise.
In Nigeria, the secretary of state warns of the growing pains of young democracies, like the 2000 election, our 2000 election.
These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world, one serious, two jokes.
Dateline, Columbus Circle, New York City, Number three, best news decision, John Klein, president of CNN, says he will ban radio talk show hosts as guests henceforth, because what they say is, quote, all too predictable. Much of what they add is noise. Should be an industry wide standard.
Dateline Anchorage, number two, best dumb criminal Jarell Paul Arnold. The FBI says Mr. Arnold walked into a bank Friday, asked about the balance in his account. The teller asked for his name, the account number, and his ID, all of which he provided. Only then did Mr. Arnold hand the teller a note saying he had a gun and demanding money. Mr. Arnold is under arrest and presumably still wondering how on Earth they knew it was him.
Dateline, Lake Minowanka (ph) in Bamf National Park, British Columbia, Canada. Number one, best photo from a vacation, Melissa Brandts. That's her in the middle. On the far right is her husband. On the left is a squirrel, or possibly a prairie dog, who jumped into the shot just before the timer went offer on the Brandts' camera. The Brandts submitted the photo to "National Geographic." And then, of course, they grabbed the cute little critter and they ate him.
OLBERMANN: Dick Cheney's ultimate break with George W. Bush, and before that, this nation's gross excesses in national security; the warrantless wiretapping, secret prisons, Gitmo, torture, the resuscitated view that if the president does it, that means it's legal; what if those markers were merely symptoms of a problem?
In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Mr. Cheney's attitude about national security, his inflexible, paranoid, myopic view. John Dean joins me in a moment.
Revisiting the "Washington Post" piece, "John P. Hannah, Cheney's second term national security adviser, said the former vice president is driven now, as before, by the nightmare of a hostile state acquiring nuclear weapons and passing them to terrorists. Aaron Friedberg, another of Cheney's foreign policy advisers, said Cheney believes that many people find it very difficult to hold that idea in their head, really, and conjure with it and see what it implies. These are not small issues, Hannah said. They cut to the very core of who Cheney is. He really feels he has an obligation to save the country from danger."
As promised let's turn to FindLaw.com columnist, author of "Conservatives Without Conscience" and "Worse than Watergate," John Dean. Good evening, John.
JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Cheney has a unique grasp of this. There is exceptionalism at work. Is that how he sees this scenario, from what we can deduce from the Post piece?
DEAN: Well, I think he's always seen himself as rather exceptional, Keith. But his exception is that he has been able to get into big jobs and fail in those jobs. You look at his job as-work as White House chief of staff, you look at his position as the GOP leader in the Congress, you look at his work as secretary of defense, you look at his work at Halliburton, and now you look at his work as vice president; and you will see a steady path of failure.
And the only person that seems to understand this are-those who are not Dick Cheney and his immediate aides, but the rest of the world looks closely at that record.
OLBERMANN: Is he going to paint himself into something of a corner here? To save the world from the vice presidency of the United States is an impossibility. Does he not have to admit in this book, if he is actually going to go there, to use that cliche, that he ran the Bush administration? Isn't he going to have to fess up that he was in charge, at least for the four years, and then Mr. Bush gave up on him, for some reason?
DEAN: Well, I don't think that even if he does say that he was running the White House, for all practical purposes, in the first term, which I think is pretty true, that he saved the world. In fact, he left the world under much rougher shape as a result of his policies. He has become something of the poster boy in his policies for recruiting terrorism, leaving us in much worse condition than before 9/11.
OLBERMANN: Normally, central players won't admit their influence in excessive policy. And the list is extraordinary when you go through it in succession; warrantless wiretaps, Gitmo, torture. But that, too, is apparently going to be turned on its head in this, because Cheney has, what, no apology? He believes nothing is necessary? No explanation is necessary beyond this absolute certitude that he, and he alone, knows the consequences of not breaking 18 laws?
DEAN: It is going to be very interesting to see how he handles this. He is but a self-confessed war criminal, Keith. And I don't think that, at this point, given the fact he has broken the FISA law-he has broken many of our statutes and treaties. He has created this unitary executive theory that he has pushed out. And I don't think that John Yoo and David Addington's legal opinions are going to cut it anymore. So he's going to have some fancy explanations to offer us.
OLBERMANN: Cheney doesn't want to write about personal feelings, as if those were beneath him. But psyche might animate the book, whether he realizes it or not. My unified Dick Cheney theory has always been, somewhere deep inside, he knows he missed 9/11. He knows he missed it while he was too busy looking at Iraq. Therefore, he must believe he alone saved us from worse. And therefore, he must also believe 9/11 had something to do with Iraq. Do you have a unified Dick Cheney theory?
DEAN: Well, I sort of do. I've always seen him as sort of doing for George Bush what Machiavelli did for the Prince. And that is to show him how to corrupt power. I don't think Dick Cheney is an evil person. I think he did evil, however. And I'm not sure how he's going to work his way out of this in a memoir. So I'm one of those who's very anxious to see what he has to say.
OLBERMANN: But, Richard Nixon, as you know, tried to work his way out. And I guess to some degree was at least marginally successful in working his way out through a memoir and a rehabilitation campaign. Is that possible with Dick Cheney?
DEAN: I suppose it is. But there are a large segment of the American public who what I would call are authoritarian conservatives. These people, about 25 percent of the American people, like Dick Cheney. And so he will have a big audience for this book.
But that's it. The rest of the people aren't going to buy into this.
OLBERMANN: Except those-unless he reveals that he threw himself on a ticking atomic bomb as it was about to be dropped on-and it blew up underneath him and he was all right.
John Dean, author of "Worse Than Watergate" and "Conservatives Without Conscious"-as ever, those books continue to be relevant. Great thanks, John.
DEAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And if you think Cheney feels liberated to talk the way he wants about George Bush, wait until you hear the secretary of state's remarks about the former president in Nigeria.
And the evidence the National Transportation Safety Board has been hoping somebody had, somebody did have. We will show you the video, obtained exclusively by NBC News, of the helicopter plane crash over New York last Saturday.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she and her special guest, Senator Bernie Sanders, will discuss new details revealed about who these Astroturfers at the town halls actually are.
OLBERMANN: Since Saturday's disastrous direct crash between a small plane and a sight-seeing helicopter over New York's Hudson River, which killed nine, including four members of one family from Italy, the prospective silver lining; the National Transportation Safety Board's guess that there might have been another sightseer in New York harbor on that sunny day with a camera pointed towards the accident.
Tonight, it proves there was. This is not our regular subject matter here, but we're going to show you this in moment, with this warning, that it is as disturbing as you could imagine.
But in that lies its value as a forensic tool, and our reason for showing it. The video has been obtained by exclusively by NBC News. It was recorded by, in a deep and painful irony, another tourist from Italy on a boat near the Statue of Liberty. Here is the videotape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Oh, my god!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As you saw, the helicopter, camera right, the small plane coming in from the left, an instantaneous disaster. There is some inference being made here that the chopper might have been in the plane's blind spot. The pilot unable to see the helicopter because of the wings of his own plane.
Contact was at the helicopter's rotor blades, the worst possible spot. It would have crippled the copter immediately. The video shows it sheered off the plane's right wing. Former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board said that something must have distracted the airplane pilot just long enough that he never realized he had intercepted the helicopter's flight path.
That image will underscore the debate of the wisdom of having pilots over that river as long as they are flying at under 1,100 feet, flying without instructions or guidance from any air traffic controllers.
Hillary Clinton's surprise invoking of the 2000 presidential election coming up. Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Secretary Clinton invokes our 2000 presidential election as a warning to young democracies all around the world. That's next.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Coulter-geist, tried to route the imaginary death panels to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of the White House chief of staff. "Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause.
I'm going to be on the death panel."
She did there make kind of a death threat against Dr. Emanuel. Fortunately, given Ann's overall ineffectiveness, Dr. Emanuel should want to be on the Coulter death list. Hell, I volunteered. This is what Ann learned at the new Cornell.
The runner-up, Congressman Republican John Mica of Florida. He told a Florida radio station, amping up the death panel crap to a new level, quote, "they create a whole new category. They're death counselors. There is authorization for reimbursement for those counselors for Medicare. You have a whole new cottage industry, death counselors."
That's one of these whack job Republicans who claim the bill would fund death eaters, Democratic death eaters.
But our winner, Boss Limbaugh. Comment number one in which he takes umbrage at supposedly being compared to the Nazis, which, incidentally, there's no evidence actually happened. Maybe Rush hallucinated it. "I'm not going to sit here and take it anymore. I'm not going to sit here and sit idly by while a bunch of fascist socialists in this country try to smear and impugn mainstream conservatism, rooted in the founding of this country, with the genocide of six million Jews in World War II. That's what they're trying to do."
That was quote number one. Minutes later, quote number two: "if you want to do a comparison, just take this health care bill. If you want to do a comparison between the people pushing it and the people opposing it to national socialism in Germany, it ain't a contest. The people pushing this health care bill have far more in common with the national socialists of Germany-excepting genocide-than any of us who are opposing health car have."
Let me see if I got this straight; if somebody were to compare Rush Limbaugh to the Nazis, the nationalist socialists, or prominent German politicians for 100 Alex, that would be a crime. He's not going to sit there and take it anymore. But Rush Limbaugh is entitled to compare health care reformers to national socialism, the Nazis, national socialists of Germany, whenever he likes.
Just so we understand each other here. These are Rush Limbaugh's rules; rules you need when you do not have the intellectual or political chops, and are not enough of a grown-up to defend a position without first tilting the playing field entirely in your own direction. This has a name. The name is cowardice. Limbaugh, you are a coward. And you are today's worst person-stop picking on Rush-in the world.
OLBERMANN: It happened at a town hall. All right, let's just discontinue town halls, forever, for everybody. A cautionary tale to fledgling democracies; remember the lessons learned from past elections. You know, like that one time when one guy got more votes, but the other guy got to be president, and the other guy's brother was running the state where the ballots were being questioned? That election?
In our number one story, a slight twist on this. Of course, the town hall was in Nigeria and the person issuing the warning was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton in the midst of an 11 day, seven nation sojourn through Africa, stopping by Abuja, Nigeria for a Q&A session, discussing the developing nation's upcoming elections with a group of civil activists.
The secretary used the 2008 election in this country as an example of how democracy should work. She said, "I know a little bit about running elections, and I have won some elections and I have lost some elections. In my country, the man that I was running against, spent a lot of time and effort to defeat, asked me to join his government. So there is a way to begin to make this transition that will lead to free and fair elections in 2011" in Nigeria.
As it turns out, 2008 was not the only U.S. election that could provide a teachable moment to Nigeria, she thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our democracy is still evolving. We had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state, where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A spokesperson for that man in the middle, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, offering this reaction: "Governor bush is declining to weigh in on these ill-advised comments, but wishing Secretary Clinton a safe and successful trip."
Joining me now, political columnist for "Bloomberg News," Washington editor for "The Week Magazine," Margaret Carlson. Good evening, Margaret.
MARGARET CARLSON, "THE WEEK MAGAZINE": Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Even though former Governor Bush gave a measured response, the right is predictably piling on these comments from Hillary Clinton. Might this be a case of you only get attacked when you speak the truth?
CARLSON: Well, you get attacked in August when you speak at all, it seems. And isn't it curious that in Nigeria, at a town hall, in the land of the prince and princesses who want us to send them 100,000 US so that they might claim their inheritance, that they have town halls where you can actually speak.
That was one of the heartening things about Nigeria. Did you notice, Keith, the body language of Mrs. Clinton in that clip that you showed, in which she kept patting her heart or something. She seemed very nervous as she was making the reference to 2000.
Now, I think it was a bridge too far. If Mrs. Clinton had stopped-
Secretary Clinton had stopped with yes, we have problems of our own, which I think is a good thing, that this president and others have said, listen, America is not perfect; we have our problems; we are trying to take responsibility for them, improve them, make life better here.
I think that's a healing process for this country. However, to name the Bushes, I think, might have been just a bit too much. Leave it at yes, we have problems in our elections. And indeed, we do. Look at Minnesota. How long did it take to name Senator Franken Senator Franken? Months and months and months.
Because the closer the elections are, the more we find out that our electoral system or our system of counting is not perfect. We are not perfect when there is a negligible difference between the two candidates. So, you know-but, however-listen, let's cut her some slack. She was eight time zones away. She had surgery for her elbow. It's probably aching a little. She's tired. She went a little too far.
But, you know, what the right wing does is it goes too far itself.
You can say something about it. But you can count on them to overdo it.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And the other thing is, long-term, why would you want to fight it at this point? Look, the Rutherford B. Hayes election of 1876 is still going to be talked about. It's still talked about now. It's going to be talked about in the future. So is Bush/Gore and Bush v. Gore. It's not going to go away just because the secretary of state does or does not mention it to Nigerians who might, in fact-there's one thing we left out of this equation. Those people at that town hall might really not have known the details of that story. And that, you know-the fact that things might look bad is just as important to tell people, I think, as, you know, whether or not there is something to that connection that she implied.
Is there not sort of pointlessness in the right coming back at her about this?
CARLSON: You know, they might make a small point, but they're making a big point. And so they lose out. It's like people at town halls that compare Obama to Hitler. You may make some point about health care reform, but you go way too far; you're tuned out. Moderate Republicans want to have nothing to do with you, because they just simply don't want to have to answer for the people on the fringe.
And the people making the most fuss here are conservatives who-it's August-and are looking for something. And by the way, the Clintons are just such easy targets. You know, it is irresistible to make something big out of something little that the Clintons might do wrong.
OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" and the "Week Magazine," as always, great thanks.
CARLSON: Good night, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Good night. That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,296th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, and so long until tomorrow.
And now, to discuss more details on the origins of the Astroturf protests with Senator Bernie Sanders, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that. And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Whether or not we are going to get health care reform at last in this country depends now mostly on the United States Senate. The top Republican in the United States Senate on health care reform is this man.
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SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: I think the best thing to do if you want to get people to think about end of life, number one, Jesus Christ is a place to start.
And the physical life, as opposed to your eternal life, it ought to be done within the family, and considered a religious and ethical issue, and not something that politicians deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not something that politicians deal with.
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