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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, September 32009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Jonathan Cohn, Mark Leibovich



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

The president prepares to sell out the public option to buy the vote of Olympia Snowe—and one or two others if they‘re lucky—by deferring a government alternative to private insurance until later, or until things get worse, or both.

Clarence Page broke the story here last night.  The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus then let the cat out of the bag—

Congressman Grijalva says the White House has called health care reform advocacy organizations and told them, quote, “they will cease supporting the public option portion of the upcoming health care reform legislation.”

The caucus now writes Obama saying, “We get no public option.  You get none of our 83 votes.”

Gene Robinson on the administration putting politics ahead of people;

Jonathan Cohn on the pretzel logic that the public option can be delayed until it gets worse—when they already are worse; Lawrence O‘Donnell on the shame that Democrats would pander to get support from the Neanderthals -- like the one shouting down the wheelchair-bound woman at a town hall in Jersey.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please hear this voice of the disabled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ask the question!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know how a handicapped woman in a chair has more rights than I do.


OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s not called rights.  That‘s called courtesy.  Respect for her condition, compassion, humanity.  Why did the Republicans kill Americans‘ humanity towards each other?

“Worsts”: Tuesday, Fredo backs the Holder torture investigation.  Today, Fredo opposes the Holder torture investigation.  Did somebody waterboard Fredo?

And Glenn Beck stars as Nicolas Cage in “National Treasure III: The Search for Curly‘s Gold.”  He has discovered that the G.E. Building is, in fact, one giant symbol of communism—or is it fascism?


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  And it‘s where the concerts are.  There‘s this man and this man.  Well, let‘s see.  He‘s holding a hammer and there‘s weed over there.  What‘s this?  This is a sickle.

Gee, the hammer and the sickle.  Where has anyone seen that before? 

Oh, you know what?  Show it—this is it.  This is from Moscow.


OLBERMANN:  What Glenn has not told you—but we will—are the horrible truths of the symbols of his building.  The building he doest not know sits under—an NBC earth station!

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


BECK:  The headquarters of NBC.  What?



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

There seems little doubt at this hour the White House is preparing to

sell out all or most of the following: a public option, a national health

care exchange, no discrimination against those with pre-existing

conditions, and credits for small businesses to help make health care

affordable.  All those things are part of the health care plan outlined by

Max Baucus, outlined by Max Baucus as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee on November 12th, 2008.  The same Max Baucus, gang leader of the “gang of six” who said today, quote, “I‘m not sure if the public option is going to survive, frankly.”


In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: 83 progressives making clear this afternoon that health care reform will not survive in the House without the public option, and Speaker Pelosi then joined them.

David Axelrod saying today that the president hopes to have a health care reform bill passed within the next month.

One camp inside the White House said to be arguing for what could be called “universal light,” finding some sort of way to preserve a universal plan of some kind; another camp inside the White House instead believing that the bill needs to be scaled back significantly in order to ensure its passage that covering 20 million new Americans might not be as good as covering 40 million would be, but it‘s better than covering none at all.

As the “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page first reported on this newshour last night, the White House is now viewing only one member the Senate Finance “gang of six,” Maine Republican Olympia Snowe as having any chance of reaching a health care compromise and such a compromise would seem to come at an incredibly high cost.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said to be pushing Snowe‘s idea of a public option trigger which would keep government-run health care only as a fallback option, to be triggered only if private insurance costs do not drop far enough, or if too few Americans are added to the rolls of the insured.

What the White House would gain in one moderate Republican, it would lose in an entire liberal caucus.  As we mentioned, the House Progressive Caucus sending a letter to the president in which its 83 members will not vote for any bill that does not include a robust public option.  Quote, “We cannot vote for anything less.”  Like in 84 votes, Speaker Pelosi tonight backing up the progressive caucus, adding in a statement, quote, “A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House.”

As for another member of that “gang of six,” Senator Enzi, prevaricating as much as ever—at a rally in Wyoming Tuesday, Senator Enzi saying of the health care reform bill, quote, “I‘m pretty sure it‘s going to fail.”  The senator later tried to take that back in written statement.

But Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, a lobbyist funded Astroturf group that organized that rally told Greg Sargent of “The Plum Line” blog that Senator Enzi left him with little doubt that he had declared his blanket opposition to the “gang of six” compromise proposal.

Lots to talk about thus with our own Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, associate editor of the “Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Well, sacrificing at least 84 members of the House, including the speaker, to win the support of one Maine Republican.  I don‘t understand that math.  Can you explain it?

ROBINSON:  No.  And I did pretty well in math in school.  I don‘t—I don‘t get it either.  It‘s like they give you two equations and you‘re supposed to solve for both X and Y.  But with these two equations, you can‘t get both X and Y.  They‘re not part of the same system.  It—you‘ve got to do one or the other, it seems to me, but I don‘t—I don‘t see how it makes sense if you can get a bill through the Senate, but all of a sudden, you can‘t get it through the House.

OLBERMANN:  Different factions inside the White House said to be fighting over this future of health care reform: those who support the universal plan of some kind and those who think they have to scale this back to secure passage.  Does it mean, in fact, that the president has until the start of the speech next Wednesday to decide which side he is actually on?

ROBINSON:  I suspect he knows which side he‘s on.  He has until the start of the speech to tell us.  And, you know, look, he is—politically, you can argue, you know, between a rock and a hard place, and another rock and maybe a gorilla in terms of trying to thread all of these varying constituencies and get this bill passed.  And maybe months from now, we will think this was a brilliant strategy of letting Congress fight it out and then coming in at the end to save the day, and wrap it all up.

At the moment, you‘d have to say it‘s questionable at best, and you‘d have to wonder what would have happened if he had been more definitive about what he wanted to see in a bill from the beginning.

OLBERMANN:  If the president turns this in its final stages into a purely political calculation, “I can‘t get a good bill passed so I‘ll pass a bad bill,” is he not going to inherent the wind by going from both directions at once, and won‘t the Republicans realize they can get away with this town hall-style blackmail against this president forever, knowing that it works against him while progressives will just write him off as another politician?

ROBINSON:  Sure.  You know, the center is a dangerous place to be these days.  And, look, I do think that that calculation is fairly easy for the White House to make, though.  I think they have to believe that getting a bill is always better than getting no bill.  And the challenge for them is to get a bill that is acceptable, that is not actually a bad bill.

So, if you give up the public option, you‘ve got to get universality and you probably got to get more than is on the table right now.  So, you have to make the equation work out some kind of way that looks like health care reform.

OLBERMANN: But what about the risk of passing some sort of interim measure here?  And we hear Congressman Grijalva who‘s the co-chair of the progressive caucus, having released a statement last night about grave concerns about these contacts supposedly from the administration to health care reform advocacy organizations that they‘re going to cease supporting the public option.

What good does it profit a man to win a bill and lose the base of his party?

ROBINSON:  In the medium term and in long run, it doesn‘t strike me as a great idea.  I mean, look—you could say, OK, this is the best bill we can get.  Is the liberal progressive caucus going to thwart what is possible in search of the perfect?

And so, you could put them in that position.  You could maybe wrestle them into going along with what they consider a bad bill, but there‘s a lot else on the table.  He‘s—our involvement in Afghanistan is deepening.  We‘re talking about Iraq.  We‘re talking about Guantanamo.

We‘re talking about a lot of issues on which the progressive caucus is going have a lot to say, and I don‘t think you want them to be in a foul mood.

OLBERMANN:  No—no, no.  Because if he‘s compromise and everything so far, and as self-defeating as it might be, the progressive caucus and progressives would abandon him, if necessary, if this would be the policy of this administration into 2012.  If it‘s necessary to find somebody else to run against him, I think they‘d do it no matter how destructive that might seem at face value.

ROBINSON:  I think that is—that is possible.  We are a more polarized nation right now, and I think—I think searching for a mythical center, a mythical compromise between doing something and doing nothing, there‘s nothing in the middle there, you know?


ROBINSON:  You‘re either going to do something or you‘re not—or you‘re not.


ROBINSON:  And I think you‘ve got to choose.

OLBERMANN:  The middle has been nothing all this time.  This is just different variants of it.

Gene Robinson of MSNBC and “The Washington Post”—as always, thank you, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on this idea of the trigger option from Senator Snowe, let‘s turn to Jonathan Cohn of the “New Republic, author of “Sick:

The Untold Story of America‘s Health Care Crisis and the People Who Pay the Price.”  And Jonathan is in London tonight looking at British national health there and whether or not it lives down to the standards that Republicans have been talking about.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Under this Snowe trigger—only within a defined period, possibly years from now.  It would only happen if private health care does not meet certain affordability and accessibility standards by a certain date.  Does that sound viable to you?

COHN:  On paper, in theory, is it viable?  Sure.  I mean, you know, you could draw very high standards, and, in fact, you know, I‘m here in Europe.  There are countries in Europe where they run private insurance like a public utility, and, you know, you could set really high standards and you could set a trigger so that, you know, that in effect private insurance did perform that level.

But will it?  You know, that‘s another question.  I mean, let‘s face it, the reason we‘re doing this is to satisfy people who don‘t like the public option.  So, I‘m a little skeptical that, in fact, they‘re going to write the rules in such a way we really get these privates plans doing what we want to do.

OLBERMANN:  For instance, if you said, all right, we‘re going to have these triggers take place in 2011 -- wouldn‘t the insurance industry and the entire health sector simply spend all the money it had to get the Republicans in charge of Congress in 2010 and bail out of the whole project altogether?

COHN:  I think chances are very good that the campaign to repeal the public plan would begin—repeal the trigger would begin on the very next day after the trigger came into existence.

OLBERMANN:  What about this idea that it‘s state-by-state triggers? 

That this would provide something?  But, would it be providing the kind of

buying power that Medicare has right now?  Would it be sufficient even as a

as a theory?


COHN:  Well, it certainly wouldn‘t be as powerful as Medicare.  I mean, a big plus of the public plan is that it has national scope.  If do you it state-by-state, it won‘t have national scope.  So, obviously, if do you it that way, you are talking about a weaker option.  I think there‘s just no two ways about it—and, again, that‘s what the people who don‘t like the public plan, this is what they want to the do.  They want a weaker option.

OLBERMANN:  One faction in the White House—this is said to be led by Mr. Emanuel arguing that any relate care reform is better than no reform at all.  The bottom line: reform without a public option in it, is it still reform?

COHN:  I do think it is.  I mean, I think, you know, you said earlier there‘s good reform and there‘s bad reform.  I would say there‘s a lot of middle ground in there.  There are reforms that are somewhat good.  There are reforms that are not so good, and it really depends on the details.

A public option to me is a very important part of it.  I‘d like to see a public option in there.  If it‘s not in there, simply though, I think it‘s all the more important to make sure the other elements of reform—is this a plan that will get help to a lot of people quickly?  And does this bill—the structures, the regulations, the market, et cetera, so that later on you can build on it and really get to the place you want with a true universal health system where everybody has affordable health care?

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Cohn, author of “Sick” up late with us tonight in London—great thanks for your time tonight.

COHN:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  And “sick” is also the right word for some of the conduct at the town halls.  A woman in a wheelchair in New Jersey, with two incurable autoimmune diseases, heckled as she pleads for help.  Politics aside, how did the humanity get sucked out of the health care reform equation?  When did some people get twisted that they seek protection in the loving arms of a series of gigantic corporations that are dedicated to squeezing every last penny out of them?

Mass hysteria fueled by the commentary of hysterics—and not just about health care.  Tonight, we have a man on national television explaining apparently with utter conviction that this place, Rockefeller Center in New York is a hot bed of communism because of its wall decorations.  He is apparently blissfully unaware of the connection between his own studio, his own office, and Rockefeller Center.  FNC—Fox News communists?


OLBERMANN:  Amazing, terrifying truth of the town halls.  People are screaming at a disabled, at the afflicted, at the sick.  Others are defending an industry dedicated to charging them as much as possible in premiums and paying them back as little as possible in reimbursements.  When did America start putting corporate profits ahead of humanity?

And the madness of Glenn Beck, like Nicolas Cage in “National Treasure,” he alone has figured out that Rockefeller Center is filled with communist symbols, or fascist symbols, or something—we‘re not really sure which.  What he doesn‘t know about is the connection between his studio and Rockefeller Center.  We‘ll explain it to him later on COUNTDOWN.  Whew!


OLBERMANN:  Somebody were to parody the truly ugly behavior at some of these health care town halls, it might read like this: Today, an angry mob heckled a woman in a wheelchair, a woman who has not one but two incurable autoimmune diseases.  In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Sadly, no parody required.  This actually happened.

In Red Bank, New Jersey, at a health care town hall meeting, Congressman Frank Pallone presiding, and the woman in the wheelchair attempted to preface her question by describing her current predicament.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was diagnosed with two incurable autoimmune diseases.  I live in fear every day that I will lose my home.  Not because I took on some irresponsible mortgage, no.  I worked hard my whole life.  Is it OK for one of my medications, it‘s $389 every two weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What‘s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I‘m afraid I might not be able to afford my property taxes and I‘ll lose my home.  Please hear this voice of the disabled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ask the question!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t let the insurance lobby win this fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know how a handicapped woman in a chair has more rights than I do.


OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  Side with the insurance company, idiot. 

They always look out for you, don‘t they?

That example now added to the other list of other town hall atrocities, like RNC Chair Michael Steele after a woman said that her mother had died of cancer, told that woman she made great TV and to enjoy it, and as we showed you last night.  Like Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, who, after a woman with child spoke of not having health care told that woman to grow—be a grown-up and go buy some insurance.  Like the crowd that booed the memory of Senator Kennedy just six day after he died.

And if you think that all conservatives are congratulating themselves with this inhuman distraction, you would be wrong.  At least a few of them think it prevents honest policy debate, apart from the lack of humanity.

For example, the president of the research group is saying, quote, “Part of the problem on the Republican side is an unwillingness to say, let‘s find a right way to do this and let‘s go ahead even if all the special interests don‘t like what we‘re doing.  I think the critics have approached this in the wrong way; saying there‘s going to be a death panel is not the right way.”

Let‘s turn now to “Huffington Post” contributor and MSNBC political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Thinking of that woman in the wheelchair in Red Bank, New Jersey.  To paraphrase a line from a different time and a different place, at long last have they no sense of decency?

O‘DONNELL:  I have seen nothing like it, Keith.  In all of my experience in these kinds of situations, I‘ve been out on the road with senators and in town hall meetings starting 20 years ago.  I have never seen anything like the behavior that that woman had to suffer.

I have an explanation for a lot of things that are going on here.  I have an explanation for a lot of the policy elements that are going on here and a lot of the politics.  I have no explanation for what you just saw.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Broaden it out a little bit.  Let‘s assume we just had some drunks or we have some—I don‘t know what—people who don‘t like women and some women who don‘t like women, or whatever these people might, what their problems are might be, or they‘re escapees from some sort of half-way house.  No offense to half-way houses.

But what perverse force has turned people at events like this—not into necessarily heckling people in wheelchairs, but just in that lesser charge about defending insurance companies, which almost makes as little sense, when you think about it.

O‘DONNELL:  This is just blind political rate hatred.  This is just “I hate the politics of those people on the other side.  I hate the politics of the Democrats.  I hate the politics of the liberals.  So whatever they say, I am opposed to, and I don‘t pause and check my own interests while I do that.”

But, you know, this defense of insurance companies—I‘m afraid to say—is perversely widespread, because the bill‘s being considered in the Congress now, preserve the insurance companies position in this industry and the insurance companies position in the health care field is the problem.  They are the ones who take out this massive amount of money for administration costs, for advertising costs, that is not used in any useful way in health care.

And so, the bills that are being considered now preserve their position, force people to become their customers.  You can see why the members of the House are outraged—on the liberal side of the House—that there‘s the possibility of dropping the public option because they‘ve already compromised enormously.


O‘DONNELL:  . by giving up their position in terms of Medicare for all.  And now, they‘re being asked to compromise even further on an insurance—a pro-insurance company bill.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It‘s a Democratic president who is now backing if he does drop the public option—at this point backing an almost entirely Republican bill.

The “New York Times” piece to which I refer and quoted Mr. Goodman in, many conservatives concerned, real policy totally obscured by nonsense death panels and paranoia.  Does that, perhaps, leave some sort of crack in the door here open for actual reformers to reshape the debate along natural policy lines—like how health care reform would actually help as many people as possible?

O‘DONNELL:  We are going to get to a policy debate.  I‘m not sure how many people are going to watch it, but when the finance committee in the Senate eventually gets to what they call a markup, where amendments will be offered by Republicans and so forth—at least on C-SPAN, there will be a real policy debate.  These will not be frivolous amendments.  They‘ll be real things and they‘ll have real differences and we‘ll work—we‘ll see those differences play out.

And I think some will like the Republican amendments and then some people will like some of the Democratic amendments if they watch this, and also when we get to the Senate floor.  On the Senate floor, it will be a real debate.  It will be a relevant debate.  It will happen through the process of amendment, and that‘s where we‘re going to see the real debate.

But all these fireworks prior to that is setting the boundaries of the debate in the certain sense.  And if the public option is gone—as it looks like it‘s going to be—by the time we get to the Senate floor, then what you‘re going sow see is an attack on the employer mandate.


O‘DONNELL:  And they will—I believe the Republicans will successfully strip out the employer mandate.  They will successfully strip out many other elements of this bill, so that the question you raise tonight, Keith, which has now become, as of September, the most important question is: Is it worth it to pass a bad bill?  Is the product you‘re looking at in the end a bad bill?

That is a crucial decision to make, and the White House seems to be saying there‘s no such thing as a bad bill.  There‘s a quote in the “New York Times” today where a White House official, unnamed, says, he—meaning the president—he will do almost anything to get a deal.  What is almost?

OLBERMANN:  Lose the re-nomination for president in 2012?

Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post”—thank you kindly, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t care if that is my favorite brew.  I keep telling you, lady, I no longer want one of the beers you just got, and hid there.  No.  No, thank you.

And part Professor Erwin Curry (ph), part Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” but mostly completely unaware of an even more horrible truth, about the building in which he works.  Glenn Beck and the communist symbols inside the G.E. Building deconstructed ahead—only on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Ahead: Glenn Beck discovers the secret, horrible communist truths about the G.E. Building over there and all of Rockefeller Center.  And we‘ll tell him an awful communist truth he doesn‘t know about the FOX News building and Rockefeller Center.

First, let‘s play “Oddball.”

Those are kind of the same thing though.  We begin in Zachary, Louisiana.  Time to check the “Oddball” police blotter, and, boy, do we have a doozy.

Surveillance cameras catching our perp in the act taking a 20-pound case of beer out of a cooler, shoving the said case under her muumuu and with the case of beer wedged between her legs, our criminal swipe a few sodas and then waddles out of the store.

Wait until you tell the kids at school you‘ve seen this happen.

Police identified beer bandit as 42-year-old Lisa Newsome.  She‘s not denying it.  In fact, police captain David McDavid said Newsome wanted to demonstrate how she pulled off such a stunt and, quote, “I told her, no thanks, I wasn‘t into that.”

Well, that‘s a relief.  As an encore, she‘ll be performing the shoplifting technique on the next episode of “America‘s Got Talent.”

To Prattville, Alabama, where reports of paranormal is sweeping this town.  Behold the magic broom.  Christy Burdett says she was cleaning up her shop when she discovered the broom standing upright on its bristles with no visible means of support.  Ms. Burdett says she brushed it off at first but realizing she needed to get a handle on the situation, scrubbed her eye—ha, ha, ha, and looked again to be floored by the—all right, that‘s enough of this.

The site has attracted hundreds of curious onlookers, although broom industry insiders have no comment and there‘s nothing from Prattville‘s mayor and Mr. H. Potter.

The memoir of the late Senator Kennedy revealed a little early, including the story of the day, a meeting with President Reagan about exporting shoes and textiles, turned into half an hour about Reagan‘s days as a shoe salesman.

And selling something else entirely.  Glenn Beck is bat crap crazy.


OLBERMANN:  Teddy Kennedy had more than a front row seat for history.  He was also back stage making history over the course of ten U.S.  presidencies.

Tonight our third story: his memoirs to be published post-mortem will pull back the curtain on much of that history, rewriting it and our understanding of it; revealing, according to the “New York Times,” which obtained the book early that his father urged the sons to compete with one another fueling Teddy‘s feeling of inadequacy about his brothers.

Revealing how devastated Bobby was by Jack‘s assassination to the point that the family worried about Bobby‘s mental state.  Revealing that after that first assassination Teddy accepted and always accepted the Warren Commission conclusions that Lee Harvey Oswald and Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed JFK.

Kennedy also wrote of later presidents: Ronald Reagan who spent the entire time in a meeting, devoted to imported shoes and textiles talking about his own time as a shoe salesman and also about the shoes on Senator Kennedy‘s the feet.

And Bill Clinton whose failure with First Lady Hillary to enact comprehensive health care reform came as a disappointment to Senator Kennedy, though he did not blame them, calling Mr. Clinton to offer his support after Mr. Clinton admitted to his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Kennedy writing about his own his failing “I have the enjoyed the company of women, I have enjoyed a stiff drink or two or three and I‘ve relished the smooth taste of a good wine.  At times I‘ve enjoyed these pleasures too much.

I‘ve heard details about my exploits as a hell-raiser—some accurate, some with a wisp of truth to them and some so outrageous that I can‘t imagine how anyone could really believe them.”

Confessing that his hell-raising his quote, “bachelor life style made him the wrong person.”  Questioned Clarence Thomas about his own alleged sexual harassment; “Some people makes mistakes and try to learn from them and do better” he wrote.  “Our sins don‘t define the whole picture of who we are.”

With us tonight one the reporters who‘s contributed to the “New York Times” piece on this book, it‘s national political correspondent Mark Leibovich.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  One sin looms overall when it comes to the late Senator Kennedy.  What does he say in his book about Chappaquiddick?

LEIBOVICH:  Well, what‘s struck me about Chappaquiddick is that he talked about it in terms of atonement.  Almost as if all of the works he did subsequent to that night, you know, 40 years ago or so, have been almost to atone for the ultimate sin, which is being responsible for the life of someone else.

He goes over a lot of the details, he doesn‘t by his own admission remember much and I don‘t think—I mean, I think I don‘t think there‘ll be any startling revelations for those who have pored through the 20 or so books that have written about Chappaquiddick.

But I was more struck by the tone.  This is has been a verboten topic in the Kennedy world for many, many, many years.  And the fact that he would be so reflective about it but also, I mean obviously very remorseful as you would expect, but also talking in terms of living the rest of his life almost as if to atone for it.  He said atonement into the lifelong process.

It was striking that he chose to say that in that part of the book.

OLBERMANN:  Another subject obviously not necessarily beyond the pale, but certainly a most difficult one to bring up at any point was touched on in your story; about what Senator Kennedy wrote to the judge who was hearing the case of Sirhan Sirhan who assassinated Bobby Kennedy.

What did Senator Kennedy say in that letter?

LEIBOVICH:  He—I mean, I hadn‘t known this.  When Ted Kennedy had written, had handwritten a letter to the Los Angeles District Attorney who was prosecuting Sirhan Sirhan saying that Bobby Kennedy would not approve of the taking of someone else‘s life, even for someone who took his own.

He circulated copies to his own family, he said they all agreed.  Ultimately he sent a copy to the judge.  He said that the judge disregarded this.  And in the end, the California Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional and he was spared in 1972.

But again, I mean, I think the death penalty was a much more palpable issue during that time.  And he talked about it in terms of the Catholic ethic of life and just believing that this isn‘t what Bobby would have wanted.

Another story that involves Robert Kennedy suggests one of these tantalizing ultimate routes for history in which President Johnson might have sent Bobby Kennedy to negotiate a peace in Vietnam?  Can you flesh that one out for us?

LEIBOVICH:  Yes, I mean, the book, first of all chocablocked (ph) with little anecdotes of—especially and what I‘ve found the most interesting is meeting with the President, particularly the Democratic presidents, Lyndon Johnson.

When he—he told of a story in which Bobby Kennedy, who‘d become an increasingly vocal anti-war voice within the Democratic Party, came back from Vietnam and essentially made an offer to the President.

And said, look, President Johnson, if you were to give me the portfolio to be a special envoy to the North Vietnamese, I will engage in shuttle diplomacy.  I will try to forge a secret peace treaty.  I will not run for President.

Now, he didn‘t say that explicitly, but according to Ted Kennedy, it was obvious that he would not be a rival to Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 presidential race, which is something that President Johnson was increasingly worried about.

Ultimately, President Johnson did not take the offer at face value.  There‘s obviously a long history of distress between the Kennedy‘s and the Johnsons—the Johnsons and President Johnson and particularly Bobby.

So that never got off the ground, but, again, I mean, history could have been completely different as you said.


Lastly, there‘s a source close to the Kennedy family that told NBC News today that your coverage—paper‘s coverage was based on a hasty read, has missed the core of the book and much of the news in it.  What news might you have missed and what do you suppose that core is that they suggest you‘ve missed?

LEIBOVICH:  Well, I wouldn‘t presume to know.  I mean, I would say that I mean, I certainly plead guilty and I think my colleagues certainly plead guilty on giving this a hasty read.  I mean, we got a copy of the book late yesterday.  We all took portions of it.

We did the best we could and we wrote what we thought was as full a distillation as we could of the book in the time we had.  I wouldn‘t presume to say that reading a 2,000-word newspaper story would suffice for a 500-plus page memoir.

But you know, we‘re in the information business.  We get a copy of the book and we did the best we could.

OLBERMANN:  And it‘s now 57 consecutive important books that get leaked somehow early.  It‘s amazing.  Mark Leibovich of the “New York Times,” many thanks.

LEIBOVICH:  Right, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Well, he caught us.

The GE building and the whole Rockefeller center complex—communist.  The buildings themselves are communists.  In “Worsts,” no, this time he‘s the victim; victim of the Fox out of Business Network.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Governor Jindal‘s helicopter jaunts to far flung churches throughout Louisiana on the taxpayers‘ dime; a prominent cleric says the governor needs to reimburse those taxpayers.  He‘ll join her at the top of the hour.


OLBERMANN:  Fox decides to sic broadcasting great Don Imus on a network averaging just 21,000 viewers after two years on the air.  Fredo (ph) gets the Time/Ridge 180 degree about-face award disavows his own approval of the torturing investigation and also the worst, let me defend Glenn Beck.

Then we‘ll take Glenn Beck apart for this paranoid beautiful mind connection dots that aren‘t there to support the conclusion that the GE building is a giant communist pro-Obama totem pole.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC and they‘re watching you.


OLBERMANN:  Glenn Beck proves the GE building is actually one giant communist symbol or fascist—I don‘t know.  We‘ll deconstruct and reveal the horrible truth of who actually built the building in which he broadcasts.  That‘s next.

First, on COUNTDOWN, the number two story today.  The bronze to Rupert Murdoch who has just ended the career of the venerable broadcaster Don Imus whose new radio show after the old one kind of went down in a hand basket will now become his new TV show after that old boy kind of went down in a hand basket on the Fox Business Network.

Thus will Mr. Imus be suggested to the worst start-up in the history of American cable?  He will join the channel in October ten days before it‘s second anniversary.  After nearly 23 months on the air, Fox Business is averaging 21,000 viewers; less than one-tenth the average at CNBC.

In other words, more people have seen the Lochness Monster.

The runner-up tonight: whoever started a false Internet rumor about Glenn Beck from Fox asking in question form whether or not he had once committed a crime?  The spreading of the rumor always couched as, “Did Glenn Beck blank ?”

It‘s something of a morality claim, make Beck prove he‘s innocent the way Beck has tried to make so many others prove they didn‘t do something.  And just because you‘re imitating what Beck mistakenly believes is acceptable does not make it acceptable.

But our winner, former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; Tuesday, he stunned the nation by talking to “Washington Times” that he concurred with the decision of his successor, Eric Holder, to investigate tortured detainees by the CIA and others during the Bush administration.

“We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists.  And if people go beyond that I think it is legitimate to question and examine that conduct to ensure people are held accountable for their actions even if it‘s action prosecuting the war on terror.”

That was Tuesday.  This is Thursday.  Apparently Wednesday somebody got to Fredo and straightened him out right quick.  In a the second interview with the “Washington Times,” Fredo disagreed with Fredo.

“I don‘t support the investigation by the department because this is a matter that has already been reviewed thoroughly and because I believe that another investigation is going to harm our intelligence—stop that—gathering capabilities—ow, don‘t hit me—and that‘s a concern that‘s shared by—ow—intelligence officials and so for those reasons I respectfully disagree with the decision.

Mr. Gonzales was notorious for repeating himself virtually word for word and inflection for inflection during testimony to different Congressional committees.  The one time he would have been applauded for lip-synching what he‘d ready said he broke like a plastic knife.

Maybe one of his old Bush colleagues threatened to send him to Gitmo.  Alberto Gonzales, you can now add backtracking hypocrite to his resume, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”


OLBERMANN:  Finally, tonight as promised.  Our number one story and the jig is up.  I work in—MSNBC comes to you from—NBC and GE are headquartered at a communist, fascist, progressive building—an evil, mind-controlling, symbol-ridden, living, breathing evil building.  I know this is true because Glenn Beck has telled (ph) me so. 


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  America, I want to talk to you a little about propaganda that you see maybe every day—at least people here in New York and they have no idea what they‘re even looking at—Rockefeller had Standard Oil.  That‘s how he made all of his money.

Well, Standard Oil had this big Gothic building downtown in New York and they wanted to change it and update it.  And there was no real American architect in New York City, in the whole world.  They decided to do something completely different.  Streamline.  Different.


OLBERMANN:  And except, sparky, Rockefeller Center was not built as an updated Rockefeller Standard Oil building.  There‘s never been a Standard Oil office in Rockefeller Center.  The Rockefellers didn‘t even want it to call it Rockefeller Center, but do go on.

The psychiatrists in the audience are all saying this is fascinating. 

Let me grab a prescription pad.


BECK:  This is Rockefeller Plaza.  Here is the door frame of this building, this where the concerts are.  There‘s this man and this man.  Well, let‘s see.  He‘s holding a hammer and there‘s weed over there.


OLBERMANN:  There‘s weed over there?  I‘ve been coming here for 30 years I never knew there was weed over here.


BECK:  He‘s holding a hammer and there‘s weed over there, so this must be the worker.  Can you show me this guy?  This must be the worker yes, because he has the hammer here—the worker.


OLBERMANN:  Maybe he‘s MC Hammer, or maybe it‘s an old ad for Arm & Hammer baking soda.


BECK:  To show you the front of the building 636 Fifth Avenue.  This, I walked by this the other day with my wife and I stopped there and I showed her all of this stuff.  And it drives me nuts that nobody knows what this is.


OLBERMANN:  Do you know what that is?  At 636 Fifth Avenue?  That‘s the clothing store Faconnable, that‘s what that is.  So these are French communists.

We rejoin Glenn Beck already in progress.


BECK:  Well, let‘s show you his hand.  This man‘s strong hand is holding on to the reins tightly here, holding back the engines of industry, being led into the bright future of tomorrow by a young boy.  Who is this?  Who is this?


OLBERMANN:  Is it Mickey Mantle?


BECK:  This is the strong leader taking that, using that industry and those machines to lead us into the bright—into the bright future led by our children.

Gee, who‘s having indoctrination next week?  Ok, that‘s right.  The president; completely unrelated.  This represents at the time this was made, Mussolini.  This was Mussolini.


OLBERMANN:  Well, so it‘s Mussolini and it‘s Obama and it was carved into the side of this Communist building that I work in 30 years before Obama was even born.


BECK:  This is actually sitting on my desk.  I keep this on my desk to remind myself that very beautiful things can come from really ugly places.  There it is, made in the USSR.

What is this?  This is actually an image made of this—this man beating the plow, beating the sword into a plowshare.  That sits here in New York City.

It was a—it was a gift from the former Soviet Union.  It sits behind this building, the United Nations, which happens to sit on land donated to the United States and the world by Rockefeller.  Oh, my gosh.


OLBERMANN:  Oh, my gosh, you guys.  Glenn‘s about to tell us that the map to the secret treasure is on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

But wait, wait, wait.  What was that about the prototype on your desk?


BECK:  I keep this on my desk to remind myself that very beautiful things can come from really ugly places.  Show the other side.  There it is, made in the USSR.


OLBERMANN:  A prototype made in the Soviet Union is sitting on Glenn Beck‘s desk?  Glenn Beck has a Communist paperweight?  Well it‘s probably still broadcasting instructions direct from Joe Stalin into his head?  Glenn Beck is a Soviet agent?


BECK:  All of the images that I‘ve shown you here, thousands of people walk by every single day.  Jack, our sound engineer, how long do you work in that building, Jack?

JACK:  29 years.

BECK:  29 years he‘s been walking by that stuff he said, I never even seen it.  I‘ve never noticed it.  Of course not, until somebody points it out.


OLBERMANN:  Just like now that it‘s all been pointed out to Jack, every time he walks by—Glenn Beck he‘ll think, dude‘s crazy.


BECK:  I‘m trying to show you the things that seem to be hidden but they‘re not.  They are out in plain sight.  Those with eyes will not see and those with ears will not hear.  You‘re awake; you need to see the things that are hidden in plain sight—progressives, fascists, communists.


OLBERMANN:  But they‘re not.  But you know perhaps Glenn is right about all of this.  I mean, let‘s look for these symbols he talked about hidden in plain sight representing those progressive fascist communists and not just at 636 Fifth Avenue.

Where inside it only looks like a Faconnable store, even now French Communists are selling high-end cocktail dresses to Mussolini, MC Hammer and Nelson Rockefeller.

Let‘s go a block to the west—to the left, left, if you will, to 1211 Sixth Avenue and strange hidden symbols on the walls of a building which thousands of ordinary Americans pass by every day.  Yes.  There it is.

The home of such companies as NewsCorp and IIJ America, Internet Initiative Japan, Emperor Hirohito and West LD (INAUDIBLE).  And look at this symbol.  This is—this is the ancient Sanskrit symbol for being left back a year in school.

And this symbol over here, why on the right it‘s a hieroglyph dating back to the fourth century B.C., meaning man functioning despite absence of brain.

But what‘s that on the left?  That‘s—that‘s Alan Colmes.  There‘s no more Alan Colmes.  Why is there still a symbol for Alan Colmes, comrade?

And this—this—this is a pictograph from ancient Crete.  An ancient Cretan pictograph and it translates into English as “We‘ll do it live.”

But nowhere—nowhere among this symbols that are outside the walls of the actual studios of Fox News, nowhere is there a symbol representing Glenn Beck.  Are they not proud of the Glenn Beck?  Will they not acknowledge the truth of the Glenn Beck or is the symbol for the Glenn Beck just not yet back from Photo-mat?

You know what else is at 1211 Sixth Avenue on the roof?  NBC Earth Station; NBC Earth Stations; I work at NBC and that term NBC Earth Stations, that even scares the crap out of me.

NBC and Glenn Beck in the same building, two marionettes, one set of strings, one puppeteer and, and, and, about the symbolism of the address, 1211 Sixth Avenue.  Sixth Avenue is actually called the Avenue of the Americas.

Yes, plural.  Americas, not just the America but all those little irrelevant Americas where the illegal aliens come from.  Renamed “Avenue of the Americas” by the one-worlders after the Second World War.  The philosophers, the internationalists—an address still used to this day at this very hour on the stationery you of this man, Rupert Murdoch.  Rupert Murdoch of the Avenue of the Americas.  Rupert Murdoch, hasta la vista, baby.

And finally, the ultimate awful secret about 1211 Avenue of the Americas, a truth so shocking and horrifying, you must send your children out of the room immediately.  I said immediate.

Look at the Web site for 1211 Avenue of the Americas and behold the horror. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In New York City, it‘s all about location.  And in midtown Manhattan, 1211 Avenue of the Americas is the premier spot.  Located at center of midtown Manhattan this prestigious class A office tower is part of Rockefeller Center. 


OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  Fox News is in Rockefeller Center.  Glenn Beck works in Rockefeller Center.  Glenn beck‘s office building was designed by Wallace K. Harrison.

And who‘s Wallace K. Harrison—the personal architect to the Rockefellers.  Oh my gosh; the architect who designed the United Nations. 


BECK:  Don‘t let any of these people ever tell you anything other than the truth.  And that is, early 20th century progressives and the progressives of today—it makes sense.


OLBERMANN:  It all fits together.  The map to the treasure chest is on the back of Obama‘s birth certificate which is in the FEMA detention camp hidden that‘s inside Glenn Beck‘s brain which is kept in a mayonnaise jar on the porch next to the NBC Earth Station at 1211 Avenue of the Americas.

Don‘t get on that ship, Mr. Beck, to serve men.  It‘s a cookbook.

And now to expand on all this, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Wow.  Keith you know, those with ears will not hear.

OLBERMANN:  No, no, no.  Those that have ears will not see.

MADDOW:  You know, that makes—it all make sense. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, yes. 

MADDOW:  Spectacular.  Thank you very much, Keith; both from the country and from me.



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