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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Wendell Potter, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Michael Musto


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

The Max Tax: The Baucus compromise—insurance premiums for middle-class families to be deducted directly from their paychecks, 13 percent off the top right to the insurance companies.  The Republicans reject it.  The Democrats can‘t possibly survive by supporting it.

The insurance companies?  They love it.  Their stocks all rose 2 percent to 3 percent today.

This is the compromise?  This is insane.


SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA:  It is balanced, a common-sense bill that can pass the Senate.


OLBERMANN:  Pass the Senate?  Senator Baucus, after this turkey, you‘ll be lucky if they let you keep your Senate parking spot.

Carter and courage: The former president elaborates on his comments about racism being at the core of some of the rage against the president.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  There is an inherent feeling among many people in this country that an African-American ought not to be president.


OLBERMANN:  And he gets the “all too predictable” reactionary blowback from the racists he‘s talking about.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  Jimmy Carter is the nation‘s hemorrhoid folks.


OLBERMANN:  Well, I got to defer to him here, the nation‘s (BLEEP) hole would know about the nation‘s hemorrhoid.

Lynched him in effigy, portrayed him as a witch doctor, called his family ghetto trash, no—no racism here.

Sarah Palin‘s new career, public speaking—advertised as “known for

the meteoritic rise that captured the hearts and minds of a global

audience.”  But they left out, “I‘m not the only male in America who when

Palin dropped her first wink sat up a little straighter on the couch and

said, ‘Hey!  I think she just winked at me!‘”

And, from the university of I don‘t remember—meltdown.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  Does sacred honor—does sacred honor even exist in Washington anymore?  Joseph McCarthy was a powerful senator surrounded by the trappings of power.


OLBERMANN:  The over-under on him is next Tuesday.

And “Worsts”: Congressman Joe Wilson wasn‘t an immigration lawyer?


REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  I‘m for immigration, legal immigration.  I‘ve been an immigration attorney.

You lie!


OLBERMANN:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Joe, who‘s the nut that hollered out “You lie”?



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

If it were up to Senator Max Baucus, middle-class families would be forced—literally forced to pay far more on health care than they already do right now.  Thirteen percent of what they make could be deducted directly from their paychecks and main lined to insurance companies, the so-called “Max Tax.”  It would be handed over to the very industry that has given the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee $3 million in campaign donations, and that 13 percent payroll reduction does not count co-pays and deductibles.  See a doctor for any reason or get sick, and you can expect to pay nearly $12,000 a year more.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Only $3 million to Chairman Baucus in exchange for a bill in which the health insurance industry‘s guaranteed to make billions upon billions?  We know what you are, Senator Baucus, we‘re now arguing about the price.

Mr. Baucus today releasing his version of the health care reform bill that would give coverage to 30 million Americans who currently do not have any, first, by extending Medicaid, the state federal insurance program for the poor; next, by providing government subsidies to modest-income families and individuals to help them buy over-the-counter coverage.  Only those who make less than 300 percent of the poverty level would fall into either of those categories.  That means any individual making more than $32,500 or any family of four making more than $66,150 is on their own subject to the “Max Tax” of 13 percent for families $66,700 or $66,000, that is $700 a month they‘d have to pay if the families do not buy that insurance at that rate, they would be fined nearly half that amount.

Some other nuggets in the Baucus bill—private insurers would be allowed to charge older individuals up to five times as much for coverage.  You heard that right—five times.  Forget about “pulling the plug on grandma,” Max Baucus wants to help the insurance industry steal her purse.

Also, in the bill, anyone with preexisting conditions would go into a high-risk pool, but the provision says they would need to be uninsured for six months before they could even gain access to that pool—exactly what you want for those who already sick.

And yet, the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee continue to distance themselves from the mess they helped to create here.  Olympia Snowe of Maine, the most important vote in the history of the world apparently, today calling the bill “a first step,” but adding that “a number of issues still need to be addressed.”

Mike Enzi of Wyoming saying in a statement, quote, “The proposal released today still spends too much and it does too little to cut health care costs for those with health insurance.”

Democrats on the committee not liking it much better than that—including, obviously, the lack of the public option.


SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), FINANCE COMMITTEE:  There‘s got to be some discipline that other insurance companies that make them take seriously, not just competing with each other, but competing with somebody who—because they‘re non-profit and don‘t have, you know, a marble headquarters and don‘t have to report to Wall Street and don‘t have to please their shareholders because they don‘t have any—that they can offer premiums of lower prices.  Now, will that mean they put private insurance industry out of business?  Of course, it doesn‘t.


OLBERMANN:  The bill pleasing no one but the insurance companies. 

They rallied today on Wall Street after Chairman Baucus revealed his bill.  Health Net up 3 percent; United Health Group, 2.7; Humana, 2.6; WellPoint 1.7; Aetna, 1.6.

Baucus himself apparently is not aware of the provisions in his own bill.


BAUCUS:  Millions of Americans to date simply cannot afford quality health insurance.  That‘s why it‘s time to act and that‘s why this is our moment in history.  This is our chance to reform health care in America.  Our mark insures choice and competition in the health insurance market, so every American can find quality, affordable coverage that cannot be taken away.


OLBERMANN:  Taken away?  The price will be taken out of your paycheck.

Time now to call on our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Individual mandates, no public option, squeeze the middle class, cost them more for health care than they‘re paying now—did Senator Baucus kill off reform or did he just kill off his own political career today?

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re mad at him in the Senate, at the highest levels of the Democratic leadership for a couple of reasons.  First of all, they gave him a lot—a lot of time on the full (INAUDIBLE) to get Republican support.  I‘m told that this bill, such as it is, Baucus could have unveiled two months ago and it would have been exactly what it was today.

Now, people don‘t like it now, they wouldn‘t have liked it then, but he could‘ve short-circuited his own process by two months.  Instead, he spent all of this time behind closed doors negotiating with people who didn‘t want to negotiate and ended up with the mess that you just described.

OLBERMANN:  Democrats don‘t like it as you suggest and they‘re angry at him.  Republicans were never going to support it in the first place, as you just noted.  How can the White House possibly stand even next to it, let alone behind it?

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘re not exactly full-throated in their enthusiasm for sure.  I mean—but you have to step back and look at it from their perspective, in that they are looking at the long haul here, they want to get something out of committee to match or change the other bill in the Senate from the so-called health committee, which is a more liberal bill that has a public option, so they can have more tools to sort of deal with as they come to conference.

But the problem, Keith, is that this particular bill may not get out of its own committee.  By my count, there are at least two, maybe three or four Democrats who will vote against it.  If that happens, this is a double waste of time because there‘ll be no other bill beside the more liberal Senate bill from the health committee.

OLBERMANN:  What is the premise from Baucus‘ point of view?  Is it the idea that he has to come up with something that pleases the insurance companies because—and the whole health sector—because such a large percentage of his fund-raising as a small state senator comes from that, and he has to put up this fight on their behalf, and then produce something so ridiculous that it‘s necessarily going to fold and lead the way for something else that might actually reform health care?  What is—what is the thought process?

FINEMAN:  Well, you‘re giving them way too much credit here or maybe him.


FINEMAN:  I think that he‘s probably thinking and I haven‘t spoken to him today, so I don‘t know.  But he‘s probably thinking, “I‘m sacrificing here”—I‘m just saying what‘s probably going on in his mind—“I‘m sacrificing here to help ensure that moderate bill will come out of the Senate.”  Because talking to Senate leaders, they forget about the Republicans.  They now claim to be worried about being able to get 50 or 51 Democratic votes for any kind of reform plan at all, even without the public option.

In other words, things have slid so far, Keith, that if the Democratic leadership is to be believed, you know, even—what they‘re looking at it might not be conservative enough to get 50 Democrat—even 50 Democratic votes, which is shocking to me, but that seems to be where we are.

OLBERMANN:  Are the Democratic senators prepared for the angry villagers with the—with the, you know, the proverbial pitch forks and flaming torches?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think they should be, Keith, because there‘s weird disconnect going on.  On the Hill today, for example, more stories about how messed up the health care system is, how people aren‘t getting coverage, how the cost of health care went up by 3 ½ percent last year compared to 1 ½ percent drop in the overall cost of living.  It‘s clearly not working properly.  It clearly needs to be reformed, and yet the Congress seems to be moving backwards, not forwards at this point.

OLBERMANN:  I‘d like the senators to come with me the next time I go see my dad in the hospital right now.  I don‘t mean to exploit his situation for any other purpose than to just say, welcome—welcome to the world the way it actually is right at this moment.  They have no earthly clue.

Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek” who does—great thanks as always, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on what‘s in the Baucus bill, let‘s turn to a veteran of the insurance industry, Wendell Potter, former communications director at CIGNA, now senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Much thanks again for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  We anticipated the Baucus bill would be bad.  It would be difficult to swallow.  But a bill that actually makes health care more expensive for the middle-class and essentially taxes them off the start 13 percent, and then starts talking about what you‘re actually paying to see a doctor.  How could it possibly be this stunningly awful?

POTTER:  You know, I can‘t imagine.  I read the framework of the bill before this was released.  And that was about enough.  But to see what it really looks like—I got an e-mail from a medical director who I used to work with, who said that Karen Ignani must be doing a jiggity jig when she saw this.  Karen is the head of the trade group for the health insurance companies.  It really is just an absolute gift to the health insurance industry.

OLBERMANN:  Was this bill more or less written by the insurance lobby? 

Or did somebody just anticipate their needs and decide to double them?

POTTER:  You know, that‘s a good point.  It looked at first like it might have been written by the lobbyist and the lawyers for the health insurance industry, but I don‘t think they would have been quite this audacious to expect something like this.

OLBERMANN:  If you don‘t hand over—if you‘re in the 60,000 plus, four-member family group, and you don‘t hand over your 13 percent, the government could fine you $3,800 under Baucus‘ plan.  You got no public option to turn to.  You have no leverage to negotiate a lower price on any of this.

Is this not exactly the opposite of the premise of the choices that President Obama discussed just last week, let alone in the entire build-up to this?

POTTER:  Oh, absolutely the opposite.  And the president during his joint—his address to the joint session that he wanted to make sure that no family would have to go bankrupt or lose their homes because of high medical expenses.  This would guarantee that more and more of us would be in that boat.  It‘s just absolutely ludicrous to think that this could be something that the president would sign.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You could go out of—you could go bankrupt without seeing the doctor.


OLBERMANN:  There‘s enough—that‘s enough of the margin at $68,000 income for a four-member family, take $13,000 off the top or just the fine, that $3,800 is often make or break for a family with that kind of income in this kind of America.

POTTER:  Right.  It is.  And another thing to keep in mind too, is that people who really can‘t afford those premiums will get subsidies from taxpayers‘ dollars that will go straight into the insurance companies, as well.  So, they win, win, win and we lose, lose, lose.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  To sum it up—lawmakers seem to be looking for a bill that maintains massive profits for the insurance industry that offers choice, but doesn‘t offer a public option, that creates state exchanges that are not government-run, that cost the government nothing while bringing down the deficits, and does not negatively impact working families.  Anthony Weiner called the possibility of bipartisanship on health care reform like children looking for a unicorn.  This bill, this super idea, this is a unicorn, isn‘t it?

POTTER:  It‘s a unicorn, but I want to make one more point.  The House side and a lot of Democrats are very supportive of a public option.  It is not dead.  I‘ve talked to many members of Congress this week, including senators.  And I think this—there may be so much outrage and pushback to this bill that it may give the public option a new lease on life.

OLBERMANN:  You almost wonder if there isn‘t some—and again, Howard Fineman said I was giving them too much credit—if somebody in the Democratic Party wasn‘t saying, let‘s put up the worst possible bill and the recoil from that, the way the pendulum swings back will get us something decent.  I imagine in some work of fiction that might be true.  It can‘t possibly be true here, can it?

POTTER:  I don‘t know, but this is certainly the worst-case scenario. 

So, surely, we can come up with something better than this.

OLBERMANN:  Seriously.  Wendell Potter, insurance industry whistleblower, former head of P.R. for CIGNA—once again, great thanks for your insight, sir.

POTTER:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So much irrationality about health care reform, irrationality that twists to people who would most benefit from the most reform into its biggest unthinking detractors.  Main lines back to one of the several kinds of racism has been posed by many for many months—last night a former president, native southerner gave voice to that sentiment.  Tonight, we‘ll review at least three dozen incidents that prove Jimmy Carter correct and we‘ll review the irrational response to President Carter‘s comments spit with the kind of vile and hate these people have lately reserved for the current president.


OLBERMANN:  Jimmy Carter tells the truth about some, not all, but some of the rabid rage against President Obama and is thus the recipient of the automatic blowback from those whose livelihoods depend on enabling the ragers to tell themselves it is not racism that they feel.  Tonight, at least 37 instances which prove President Carter to be correct.

Later, meltdown.  “Lonesome Roads” says he should be compared to Murrow, not Joe McCarthy.  Then he misquotes what he thinks Murrow said, only it wasn‘t even Murrow who said it.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Few former presidents have continued to actively serve this country—regardless of political orientation, years in the White House tend to be one of the ultimate sacrifices.  Yet this week, a former chief executive may have tendered as great a service to this nation as anyone in our past.  “Inclination to racism in this country still exists,” said the 39th president, crystallizing a whispered fear, “and it has again, bubbled up to the surface.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The right issues its predictable response, calling this president a Kenyan, a Muslim, comparing him to Hitler, depicting him as the homicidal joker or a witch doctor—all the while pretending to be talking about health care reform.

President Jimmy Carter‘s remarks to “NBC Nightly News” bringing the discussion of racism to the center of this nation‘s discourse.  He repeated some of those sentiments at a town hall at the Carter Center in Atlanta.


CARTER:   There is an inherent feeling among many people in this country that an African-American ought not to be president and ought not to be given the same respect as if here were white.  And the outburst that we see that set a lot of the language, the signs that I saw on television last night, we should bury Obama with Kennedy, for instance, and Obama is a Nazi.  Those kinds of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate over whether we should have a national program in health care or not.


OLBERMANN:  The race to deny it‘s about racism led by the always ironic RNC Chairman Michael “This isn‘t about race it‘s about policy” Steele, offering this pearl of wisdom on former President Carter.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  I think the president, with all due respect, is just plain wrong, and quite frankly, ignorant as to matters of race if he thinks that that we heard in that chamber that evening was somehow stoked by or stems from racism.  I think—I think it‘s unnecessary.  I think it colors, if you will, this debate on health care in a very unfortunate way.


OLBERMANN:  He made a pun.

In a written statement, Mr. Steele went on to note, “This is a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift the attention away from the president‘s wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose.”  Mr. Steele is also calling on the president to repudiate President Carter‘s comments.

Meanwhile, the White House responding that the president does not believe that the criticism on health care is racially motivated.  Commentary the morning after was putrid and impersonal, and in some cases, naive.


GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST:  It‘s not just former President Jimmy Carter saying this, it‘s many members of Congress, and other people—columnists here in the U.S.—who are now race-baiting this whole topic.  So it appears that this issue is not going to go away.

LIMBAUGH:  Jimmy Carter is a nation‘s hemorrhoid, folks, and we don‘t have a tube of Prep H big enough to deal with it.


OLBERMANN:  As suggested earlier, we will defer to Mr. Limbaugh as an expert on that issue of anatomy.  Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor at Princeton University will join us.  We‘re having technical issues.  We‘re going to take a quick break and come back and join here in the moment.


OLBERMANN:  Technical issues fixed.  Time now to call in Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Our apologies for that problem, Professor.  Thanks for your time.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR:  No problem, I‘ll just have to start taking that train ride into New York and sitting at the table.


OLBERMANN:  Back to President Carter, his remarks, the reaction to them today.  The president grew up in the Jim Crow South.  Is there something to be said about any southern man aged 80 or above making these comments, whether he‘s a former president or not?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I think there‘s something very powerful

whenever white men—particularly southern white men of a particular age -

make this argument.  In fact, you know, a big thank you to you and to President Carter, to people like the scholar Tim Wise and others who as white men have been very clear and very consistent about saying this is not about white versus blacks or browns.  This is about an impulse towards racism versus an impulse towards anti-racism.


And I think saying anti-racism really matters because it‘s not just a matter of being sort of neutral.  It‘s a matter of actively pushing back against the forces in our country which are old, which are ugly, and which require us to call them out, call them by name, and root them—root them out of the contemporary discourse.

OLBERMANN:  You praised a speech about—by President Johnson about the protests in Selma and in doing so, you wrote, “Racist attacks against the black president are tantamount to hollering fire in a crowded theater.”  Is that not what President Carter was getting at?  And is that not also what the right does not understand about this whole debate—that there really isn‘t a little racism under these circumstances?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Yes, I think what‘s critical here is that clearly people who are against health care reform are against health care reform.  If we had Hillary Clinton as president, if we had John Edwards as president, there would be efforts against these presidents.

It‘s even possible that some of the things that we see—let‘s take George W. Bush.  One of the most famous images that went around with Bush was an image of Bush turned into a chimpanzee and it was kind of George W.  Bush is a dumb monkey, right?  That was, you know, bad and awful thing to say about your president, but it wasn‘t racialized.

If you take President Obama and turn him into an ape or a monkey, then what happens as you carry the whole history of race, racism, and the things that turned and thought of black people as apes, as monkeys, as animals.  So, you‘ve got to recognize that you exist within historical framework.  And you have to say, OK, I have a point to get across, but I‘m not allowed to do it in a way that reduces public discourse to the ugly history of American racism.

OLBERMANN:  To deny that this is extant and in play, is it—as I suggested earlier—because people‘s livelihoods depend on enabling their viewers or their listeners to remain in the dial over what they might actually feel, or is it something else?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I think, you know, to go back to this notion of feeling that racism is about like I have this negative feeling in my stomach and I have to have it about all black people or brown people—that‘s not racism, right?  Racism is about deploying particular strategies against either an individual or a group that leads to greater inequality.

And in this case, we have, you know, the reality that you have an African-American president that many of those who are most critical and most vocal are white people in a party that at one point made a choice to use race as a wedge issue in order to gain a foothold in the American South, which was the former Confederacy and which has an ugly racial history.  That is the history of the Republican Party.  They have a particular requirement to be careful on race because it was through race that they first gained power 40 years ago.

OLBERMANN:  Previously, on many topics, this president has taken a minor controversy and turned it into something worth contemplating, worth analyzing, particularly on the issue of race itself.  Is he missing an opportunity to take what seems like a central controversy and turn it into the same kind of thing by reacting the way he did to President Carter?  To say through a spokesman that the White House doesn‘t believe racism is a significant factor here?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Yes, I mean, I guess I understand that the president is trying to pass health care.  But there are these moments—you know, I‘ve heard people say maybe what President Obama is doing is the rope-a-dope strategy of Muhammad Ali, laying back and taking the body blows to tire out the opposition so he can come out with a knockout.

But one of the things that was true about Muhammad Ali, is that when he saw racism, he always spoke to it.  He always said it.  It was part of what we loved about his brashness.  I wish it was a little bit more Muhammad Ali in Barack Obama today.

OLBERMANN:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton—great thanks and great thanks for your patience.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Limbaugh is in the right neighborhood, you would have to have had your head up your backside to have missed the blatant racism and the blatant racism of the last year and a half directed against the president.  We‘ll checklist the sorry spectacle, the number reaches 37.

And the most recent component, Congressman “You lie” Wilson who insisted he was once an immigration lawyer.  It looks like he lied about that.  Only in America!


OLBERMANN:  We‘re going again, what was said by former President Jimmy Carter; quote, “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact he is a black man.” 

President Carter placed that claim in context, context of the nation‘s long historical struggle with racism, and his own personal experience, his own witness.  In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the acrid cutting context. 

The problem with claiming that Congressman Joe Wilson‘s outburst might have been racially tinged is not that it‘s such a stretch, but rather that it fuels the false equivalency.  If you say any criticism of Obama is racial, your words will be twisted into all criticism of Obama is racial.  And if deniers can then prove one instance isn‘t racial, they will exaggerate that loan proof into proof that all criticism isn‘t racial. 

Was this poster of the president at a tea party in Brighton, Michigan not racist?  The kind of poster that showed up in various town hall meetings, with the 9/12 protests serving as a road rage conventions.  The most blatant examples were there, along with the heavily coded ones.  The president as the devil, the president as the blood-sucking alien, the president as undocumented worker, the president as Hitler. 

And if you think that illusions to violence are not racially motivated, you may soon reconsider.  The relationship between hate on the ground and hate from the airwaves of right wing bloviators is complicated, a symbiotic, increasingly dangerous one-upsmanship.  But when Rush Limbaugh says, quote, “in Obama‘s America, the white kids now get to beat up the black kid with the black kids cheering.”  -- or “white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering,” basing it on a school bus incident which police determined was not over race, but over an argument over who got to sit where. 

That alteration is definitionally, unadulterated racism.  More on Limbaugh in a moment. 

But that same story about a fight on a bus was prominently played on Matt Drudge‘s website, surrounded by anti-Obama headlines.  Context is key.  But context is hardly necessary to reveal the obvious. 

When the president‘s environmental adviser, Van Jones, resigned, it was in part because this man stirred up accusations of Mr. Jones‘ otherness.  Of course, Glenn Beck had been, as he still is, losing advertisers because of the efforts by the organization Mr. Jones co-founded, Color of Change. 

Advertisers objecting to Mr. Beck having said he thought Obama is, quote, “a guy who has a deep-seeded hatred for white people or the white culture.  This guy is, I believe, a racist.” 

Mr. Limbaugh picked up where Beck left off, pointing out that Van Jones is Obama. just as Obama is William Ayers, which is a racist double dip.  Black president is the same as other troublesome black men.  Black president is dangerous just like a domestic terrorist.

So when Bill O‘Reilly tops his show just last night with yet another segment on Acorn, he continues in the tradition of right wing pundits and politicians who have taken isolated cases of abuse to portray Acorn as a collection of criminally minded African-Americans, with the president as Acorn‘s poster child. 

Bringing us back to Mr. Limbaugh, whose consistent mission has been to denigrate Obama the candidate, Obama the president, in overtly racist terms.  Calling him half-rican-American and playing a song, “Barack the Magic Negro” during the presidential campaign.  Whatever its origins, the song is on its face racist. 

Late in that same campaign, a local McCain campaign volunteer falsely claimed that she had been robbed and pinned to the ground by a black man, 6‘4, with a knife, who then scratched the letter B into her face.  She did it to herself, backwards, in the mirror. 

A campaign in which Obama as monkey, brandished by a McCain supporter, was a near footnote to the far more dangerous theme.  Then candidate Sarah Palin taking up the William Ayers story and turning it into this. 


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country. 


OLBERMANN:  And while we literally do not have the time here to recount all the fear-driven nonsense stirred up during that campaign, it easily led to instances like this one. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can‘t trust Obama.  I have read about him, and he‘s not—he‘s not—he‘s an Arab.  He‘s not? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  No, ma‘am.  No, ma‘am. 


OLBERMANN:  So when calls to kill him rang out at some GOP rally, who could legitimately claim that it had to be isolated from that context? 

Meantime, rumors about the other side and its racism never proved true, but spread, like the false accusation that Michelle Obama had used the word whitey.  Thus the pain this “New Yorker” cover stirred, because it was so accurately and painfully, if satirically, representational of much of what was going on back then. 

And after the election, the White House watermelon picture e-mailed by the mayor of Los Alamitos, and the “New York Post” dead monkey cartoon, both of the piece.

Then there were the under-reported incidents.  Immediately following the election of the first African American president, in Durham, North Carolina, police officers investigated for making racial slurs on their MySpace pages.  Dozens of incidents of alleged hate crimes by ordinary citizens across the country. 

And at a Maine convenience store, a betting pool on when Obama might be assassinated.  At North Carolina State University, the spray painting of kill that racist expletive deleted.

It is sickening, but it is just a sampling.  And it shares the same obvious under-current.  Just as the brandishing of the Confederate Flag during the campaign is mirrored by the Confederate Flag at the recent 9/12 protests.  Just as the South Shall Rise Again sentiment associated with states‘ rights finds its way to flirtations with succession, as in Texas, with Rick Perry as governor. 

That ample and ugly context constantly supplemented by the most foul refreshers built for consumption, like Limbaugh wondering, quote, “if Obama‘s brother is still in the hut,” end quote.

Set against that, are we to believe that the birther movement can be separated from racism?  That the wild fear mongering of the deathers does not play on racist fears of a black man‘s otherness, and his stereotype proclivity to violence? 

Thus, the first time a president in history was heckled at a joint session of Congress by a man who had maligned Strom Thurmond‘s mixed-race daughter.  And yet Mr. Wilson‘s defenders wonder why anyone might think his outburst was even slightly racially motivated. 

And contemporaneously, they will still assert that Mr. Wilson‘s derision was an aberration, though they brought signs in its anticipation. 

It gets worse.  When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, now one-third of Republicans in New Jersey think Obama could be the anti-Christ.  Well, I think one-third of Republicans in New Jersey could be the anti-Christ, so we‘re even. 

Other possibilities, she has finally made her choice of a new career. 

Michael Musto chimes in on Governor Palin.  Ex-governor. 

But my choice, how many factual errors can one man make?  How many sharks can one performer jump?  Worst persons ahead with a classic Becker-head meltdown. 

First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Dateline Shreveport, Louisiana, Number three, best dumb criminal, Daniel Niederhelman of Shreveport.  Impersonating a cop, he pulled over a driver, the city‘s mayor.  Mr. Niederhelman is under arrest. 

Dateline Washington, number two, best flip-flop, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.  Quoting, “these czars are an affront to the Constitution.  They‘re anti-democratic.  They‘re a poor way to manage the government.  And they seem to me to be the principal symptom of this administration‘s eight-month record of too many Washington takeovers.” 

In 2003, Senator Alexander spoke on the floor of the Senate advocating that President Bush appoint a sort of manufacturing jobs czar, and later appoint a new AIDS czar.  The Bush administration, to which Mr. Alexander was slavishly loyal, had 15 or 16 czars.  That statistic is according to Fox News. 

Dateline New York, number one, best gullible news actress.  Speaking of which, Gretchen Carlson of Fox Noise, trying to sell more conspiracy nonsense.  She showed a clip in which an Acorn employee in San Bernardino, California claimed she had killed her ex-husband.  An actor trying to trap her into something says, you killed him emotionally?  And she answers, no, I shot him. 

And the ex-beauty pageant contestant says, seriously, “she killed somebody?  Despite this, some lawmakers want to keep funding the group.”  She had previously noted, “according to Acorn, he‘s still alive.” 

Yes, also according to the San Bernardino Police Department.  Police point out that the woman says the actors trying to entrap her were so bad at it she started playing them.  They also say they investigated and found that her former husbands were all alive and well. 

But Gretchen, why listen to the police when you can listen instead to the all-knowing voices inside your head? 


OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin‘s new career, public speak.  Sorry, public speaking.  And a fabulous meltdown in worst persons.  First, on this date in 1908, my great grandfather officially lost his chance at fortune.  He was a traveling music instructor and instrument craftsman.  And early in the last century, he spent a week at the home of William Durant of Flint, Michigan. 

As Mr. Durant escorted by great grandfather to the train station, Mr.  Durant said he was so grateful for his work, he wanted to offer my great grandfather not his usual fee, but 1,000 dollars in stock in a new company he was going to start.  He ran the Durant Dort Carriage Company, but wanted to branch out into horseless carriages. 

My great grandfather said, gee, thanks, but I put all of my money into the world‘s safest investment, polish national bonds.  Too bad, said Mr.  Durant, it‘s going to be a big hit once we get people past the idea that we‘re just a regional company.  We need a national name.  My great grandfather said, why not National Motors?  Can‘t, Mr. Durant answered, there already is a National Motor Company. 

Well, my great grandfather said, with a laugh, why not something more general.  Why not General Motors?  Very good, Mr. Durant answered.  Oh, look, there‘s your train. 

On September 16th, 1908, Mr. Durant founded General Motors. 

On that note, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the Emily Lutella (ph) of the House.  “We just heard last week that the federal government, now under the Obama administration, is calling for a reordering of America‘s food supply.  What‘s that going to mean?  Now will the White House decide how many calories we consume or what types of foods we consume?” 

She‘s talking about the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which, quote, “sets forth provisions governing the reorganization of food and drug administration field laboratories and district offices.”  So they can better inspect our food, especially the imported food. 

Sorry, Congresswoman Lutella, no dessert czar will be coming to your house to not let you eat cake.  Never mind. 

The runner-up, from the university of I don‘t remember, it‘s Lonesome Roads with today‘s top lie on Fixed News.  This one is too good for me to do the silly voice. 


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Because I ratted out a self-avowed communist in the administration in Van Jones, the same organizations, the same politicians, the same progressive media that are ignoring or standing for Acorn now have called me Joseph McCarthy.  They have such little regard for your intelligence that they don‘t think that you‘re going to figure out that Joseph McCarthy was a powerful senator, surrounded by the trappings of power of the United States government, with the power of subpoena and the power of Congress. 

The guy who stood against that was alone, while everybody else wet their pants and cowered in fear.  You‘d think the members of the media might remember his name.  It was Edward R. Murrow.  And while I am nowhere near an Edward R. Murrow, never claim to be, let me use the words of finally somebody else that stood up to the power and these senators and said “senator, have you no shame?”


OLBERMANN:  Hey, Ed, you got the quote wrong, and the speaker wrong. 

It wasn‘t “have you no shame?”  It was “have you no sense of decency, sir?”  It wasn‘t Murrow.  It was Joseph Welch, the lawyer representing the Army during the Army McCarthy hearings.  Hadn‘t thought of the McCarthy analogy, Lonesome.  Let‘s take it for a test drive. 


BECK:  And because I ratted out a self-avowed communist in the administration—

JOSEPH MCCARTHY, FMR. SENATOR:  Any man who had been given the honor of being promoted to general and who said, I will protect another general who protects communists, is not fit to wear that uniform, general. 


OLBERMANN:  OK.  And by the way, Glenn, get the blood pressure checked. 

Our winner, Congressman Joe Wilson.  Yes, him. 


OBAMA:  The reforms I‘m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. 



OLBERMANN:  Wilson said the next day, quote, “I‘m for immigration, legal immigration.  I‘ve been an immigration attorney.”

The website TPM Muckraker is now tirelessly trying to vet Congressman Wilson‘s resume on that point.  There‘s always the possibility that he was somehow involved in an immigration case, but no record of that has yet been found.  He was a real estate attorney and a staff judge advocate in the South Carolina Army National Guard.  Another lawyer for Wilson‘s home county says he‘s known him since 1985 and, quote, “Joe‘s never been anything but a real estate attorney.”

A prominent immigration lawyer in South Carolina says he‘s been doing that for 21 years and he‘s never crossed legal paths with Mr. Wilson.  And the American Immigration Lawyers Association says it has searched its data base and nobody from South Carolina named Joe Wilson or using his real name Addison Wilson has ever been a member of its organization. 

So Congressman Wilson, immigration lawyer, eh?  You lie!  Republican Congressman Joe resume padder, you lie, Wilson, today‘s worst person in wrong way Wilson world.


OLBERMANN:  After the only vice presidential debate last year, the “National Review‘s” Rich Lowry blogged the following timeless description of the Republican candidate: “I‘m sure I‘m not the only male in America who when Palin dropped her first wink sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, hey, I think she just winked at me.  And her smile, it was so sparkling.  It was almost mesmerizing.  It sent little star busts through the screen and ricocheted around the living rooms of America.” 

Dear “National Review” forum, I never thought this could happen to me. 

In our Number one story, now she can burst stars all over the country for a couple of bucks a head.  The Washington Speakers Bureau, a group that books appearances for high-profile types, has an online bio page for its new client Sarah Palin.  And it reads like something out of “The Onion.”  “Known for the meteoric rise that captured the hearts and minds of a global audience, Sarah Palin is a ground breaker, who speaks on her vision for energy independence, national security, fiscal responsibility, health care, and small government.” 

It goes on and gets increasingly hilarious.  But let‘s break down that first part.  “Known for the meteoric rise,” then there was the election, the ethics charges, the close, the dead turkeys, the quitting.  In fact, here‘s the other side of the meteoric rise. 

As you saw live here on MSNBC, with Tea Leone.  “Sarah Palin captured the minds and hearts of the global audience.”  Well, Rich Lowry, his heart and his minds not so much maybe. 

“Sarah Palin is a ground breaker who speaks on her vision.”  Vision? 



PALIN:  You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska. 


OLBERMANN:  This thing goes on.  But in summary, you should know that even though she may leave early, Palin will come prepared.  Remember, she does read everything.  Just don‘t ask her to give a speech about the Supreme Court. 


KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with? 

PALIN:  Well, let‘s see. 


OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in the columnist of the “Village Voice,” author of “La Dolce Musto,” Michael Musto.  Good evening, Michael.


OLBERMANN:  The Palin sales pitch from this Washington Speakers Bureau, how did they leave out maverick?  These people are not even trying.

MUSTO:  I know.  I guess that goes without saying, sort of like giant douche nozzle.  I don‘t know, four eyes, whatever label fits her.  Forever 21? 

OLBERMANN:  Oh.  That last one—that‘s going to be trouble right there.  OK, sorry about that all you 21-year-olds.  If you were in charge of representing her if something happened—if perhaps as compensation for what you just said, you had to do that as community service or something. 

MUSTO:  I would rather go to hell. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  What would you pick as her biggest selling point? 

MUSTO:  That people—that people might confuse her with Tina Fey and think that‘s who they‘re going to see.  In fact, I think Sarah should go along with that, get a fake Emmy award, pretend to be Tina Fey.  And as people crack up over everything she says, she can just say, well, it‘s supposed to be funny, wink, wink. 

OLBERMANN:  Is part of the excitement to potentially booking her to speak at your wedding or your Bar Mitzvah is the whole guessing game of whether she‘ll actually show up?  Because she has not shown up at a number of events this year.  It sort of turns your event into this instant surprise party. 

MUSTO:  You‘re thinking of Liza Minnelli.  With Sarah Palin lately, you rattle the cash, she‘s there.  She need that‘s money to pay extra day care for her out-of-wedlock grandchild, and to help special needs adults—special needs children. 

The problem with her actually is that she‘s starting to show up and talk.  Learn from Liza, stay home and practice her arm gestures. 

OLBERMANN:  We learned this week that her first big paid speech a week from today in Hong Kong will be closed to the press.  And it‘s to Chinese communist investors.  What could possibly be wrong with that? 

MUSTO:  I think they wanted to close it to the press.  Then they found out in China even the press doesn‘t care, except for the Chinese Bureau of “Mad Magazine.”  So it‘s basically just closed to the Chinese Bureau of “Mad Magazine.”

OLBERMANN:  Some other political career shifts while we have you.  Tom Delay taking to the dance floor on “Dancing With the Stars.”  He‘s been whining about being injured.  He has a stress fracture.  Turns out it‘s actually a pre-stress fracture.  Pre-stress fracture would be a pre-existing condition.  Is it not going to get him his insurance canceled? 

MUSTO:  Well, I think Obama‘s going to take care of that with his new health plan.  Believe it or not, part of the plan calls for if former politicos go on a reality show and deal with pre-stress, it‘s covered.  And don‘t say you lie, Keith, because I‘m truthing. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sure you are.  But were you ever an immigration lawyer? 

MUSTO:  I‘d rather do that than work for Sarah Palin. 

OLBERMANN:  Karl Rove, a guest appearance as a voice on “Family Guy.”  He has issued a statement in which he called the original script tasteless and the creator of the show mindless and that the show—

MUSTO:  Duh.  That‘s why I love it. 

OLBERMANN:  But is it possible to have lived in the last decade and not realize that Seth McFarland and “Family Guy” were far more successful than the Bush administration, and certainly were drawn much more realistically? 

MUSTO:  Well, Karl‘s favorite show is bugs bunny, so he‘s not that plugged into the “Family Guy” world.  And he‘s really going to wet himself when he finds out that little Stewie is gay, and the dog drinks martinis. 

But I think his other offer lately was to do a kind of brokeback Texas two-step with Delay on “Dancing With the Stars,” and he had a whole bunch of pre-stress over that. 

OLBERMANN:  I was going to say, pre-stress, indeed.  The one and only Michael Musto.  Thanks as always, Michael. 

MUSTO:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  And send your complaint letters to me.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,330th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  As Julia Child used to sign off, this is Keith Olbermann, bon appetit. 

And now one-third of New Jersey Republicans believe Obama might be the anti-Christ.  To discuss whether, considering the source, he should be offended or complimented, ladies and gentlemen, here is the 14th most influential pundit in America, Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Keith.  I‘m still sort of hung up on the Brokeback Texas two-step. 

OLBERMANN:  Michael will do that to you. 

MADDOW:  I might ask him to stick around to elaborate on that.  Thank you very much, Keith.  Appreciate it. 



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