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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, September 17, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, Ted Kennedy, Jr., John Dean, Howard Dean


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

Health care reform lives.  The president at the University of Maryland.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now, I‘ve also said that one of the options in the insurance exchange should be a public insurance option.



OLBERMANN:  But he mentions the Baucus plan, the “Max Tax,” the stage version of movie “Saving Private Insurance”—he gets booed.

How to steer out of this skid: The first lady to pack her autumn with reform pitches to soccer moms.

And there is the memory to invoke.  Our special guest tonight, after the publication of his father‘s memoir: Ted Kennedy, Jr.

Boss Limbaugh and the continuing coarsening of American political discourse.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Kids shouldn‘t have been on the bus anyway.  We need segregated busses.  This is Obama‘s America.


OLBERMANN:  Howard Dean on racists, denying to each other that they are racists, and on the fears of Nancy Pelosi, who witnessed political anger turn into political assassination in the time of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  I saw—I saw this myself in the late ‘70s in San Francisco.  This kind of rhetoric was very frightening.


OLBERMANN:  “Worsts”: Birthers, deathers, and now, czar-ers.  Lou Dobbs drinks the Kool-Aid.  “The number of czars previous to the 34, 35 czars appointed by President Obama in his first eight months in office was during the Clinton administration and he had only 10 czars—a remarkable change of emphasis on czar-dom.”

“The Washington Post” reports: Bush had 46 czars in 36 czar jobs.

And new developments in—Watergate?  What John Dean found in documents produced in a lawsuit over a book published 17 years ago is nothing less than the answer to the question: what exactly were the burglars looking for inside Democratic headquarters?  What exactly did Richard Nixon want?

John Dean reveals it, exclusively—tonight on COUNTDOWN.


RICHARD NIXON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  Well, I‘m not a crook.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The South Carolina Supreme Court this week ordering a health insurance company to pay $10 million in punitive damages for its reprehensible decision to rescind the health insurance policy of a young man.  Why did the company Fortis Healthcare now Assurant revoked a policy of a teenage college student?  He tested positive for HIV a year after he had taken out the policy.  The company claims he had misrepresented his HIV positive status for a virus he did not know he even had.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: If there had been any doubt that significant health care reform were needed, those doubts have been shouted down—and not just by the justices of that South Carolina highest court.

President Obama taking his campaign for health care reform to the University of Maryland, where he told thousands of cheering college students that Congress must resist scare tactics and false accusations.  Their loudest cheers coming when the president spoke about the public option.


OBAMA:  Now, I‘ve also said that one of the options in the insurance exchange should be a public insurance option.


OBAMA:  Let me be clear—let me be clear.  It would only be an option.  No one would be forced to choose it.  No one with insurance would be affected by it.  But what it would do is provide more choice and more competition, and put pressure on private insurers to make their policies affordable and treat their customers better.


OLBERMANN:  The crowd at College Park also booed most loudly when he spoke about those determined to keep things exactly as they are—broken.


OBAMA:  There are still those in Washington who are resistant to change.  Who are more willing to defend the status quo than address the real concerns of the American people.


OBAMA:  What can I tell you?  They‘re still out there.


OLBERMANN:  More booing if not as boisterous when the president brought up Senator Max Baucus and his health care reform bill that does not reform any health care.


OBAMA:  The good news is, we are now closer to reform than we‘ve ever been.  After debating this issue for the better part of a year, there‘s now agreement in congress on about 80 percent of what needs to be done.  Four out of five committees in Congress have completed their work.  Yesterday, the finance committee, under the leadership of Max Baucus, put out its own bill.


OBAMA:  Each bill has its strengths and there are a lot of similarities between them.


OLBERMANN:  Governor Howard Dean all but booing in reaction to the Baucus bill, calling it, quote, “The worst piece of health care legislation I‘ve seen in 30 years.  In fact, it‘s a $60 billion giveaway to the health insurance every year.  It‘s was written by health care lobbyists, so that‘s not a surprise.  It‘s an outrage.  I wouldn‘t vote for it at all under any circumstances.”

More problematic, Democrats are saying nice things about the Baucus bill.  Senators McCaskill and Ben Nelson are joining the independent Joe Lieberman and Republican Olympia Snowe in commending him on it, quote, “While we each have outstanding concerns, we wish to see addressed, Senator Baucus has taken an important and critical step forward with this legislation.”  The insurance industry he has.

Senator Snowe saying of the president on CNBC today that she believes he‘s flexible on the public option.

More apparent flexibility on strategy, word from “Politico” that First Lady Michelle Obama will begin a packed autumn of events that aides say will include a dedicated focus—albeit a soft focus—on health care and reform.

And after that dose of political speech, I‘m joined by our own Lawrence O‘Donnell, contributor to “The Huffington Post,” former chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee.

Good evening, Lawrence.


OLBERMANN:  The Baucus bill pushing this idea of state exchanges as co-ops.  This brought—this remark from the Congressional Budget Office.  “The proposed co-ops have very little effect on the estimates of total enrollment in the exchanges or federal cost.”  So, if they‘re not going to lower cost or drive enrollment up, why co-ops?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, they‘re designed to have very little effect.  So, it turns out they work fairly well.

OLBERMANN:  Work well, yes.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s also, unfortunately, for the chairman, it has driven one Democratic member of the committee to already announce he‘s going to vote against it on that basis, on the basis of there not being a public option, Jay Rockefeller is already gone.  And so, this is a—this is a pretty soft way in terms of legislating to start a mark-up, going in there and knowing you‘ve lost one of your own Democrats already is pretty tough.

OLBERMANN:  So, with that vote counted against it, is it possible this bill never gets out of that committee?

O‘DONNELL:  Bills always make it out of the finance committee.  This is the only time you‘re going to be allowed to harbor a little doubt, because when Jay—Jay‘s gone.  So, that allows Chairman Baucus to lose no more.  He cannot lose another vote.

And Jay Rockefeller‘s serious.  He voted against the chairman‘s bill moving from the committee in 1994.

And we got it through.  I was working for him at the time.  We picked

up three Republicans along the way, because the process that you‘re going

to see is Republicans making inroads into this bill—as they did in 1994

·         through the amendment process in committee.  That‘s what Baucus means about—maybe it‘s not over yet on getting Olympia Snowe.


OLBERMANN:  Is it better for the cause of actual health care reform for the bill to die in committee or for it to be taken to the floor?

O‘DONNELL:  The best thing is to get something out, because if it

dies, panic will go through the Senate, and panic will through the House

because it will show that this committee couldn‘t do it.  So, you need to -

·         in order to get forward from here, you need to get something, anything, out of that committee.


The closest Jay Rockefeller can get it to the way he wants it is the

way he‘s going to try to do it through—his first amendment is going to

be, put the public option in.  It will lose.  There‘s no question it will

lose in that committee based on where the votes are right now.  And so, his

·         the dilemma for him is, do I vote to move this procedure forward?  Last time around, he didn‘t.  But that‘s the only vote Baucus can afford to lose.


OLBERMANN:  Michelle Obama to stump for health care reform.  We know that it‘s supposed to be more about health care and less about reform and it‘s this soft and all the rest of this political speak.  We also know what happened the last time a first lady got involved in health care reform.

Is this a good idea even in its—to the remote form?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, you got to do the delicate version.  It‘s very tricky.  What you can‘t have is Michelle Obama out there answering whether she‘s in favor of Charlie Rangel‘s three new top tax brackets, or whether she‘s in favor of Baucus‘ 35 percent tax on health care plans that are worth more than $8,000, which the unions opposed because an $8,000 plan is not a lot of plan, as we know.

And so, there are too many particulars now that are out there in the bills that you don‘t want her to have to address.  Now, Hillary Clinton did address those things.


O‘DONNELL:  . because she was an expert in the legislation.  She had written her version of it.

Michelle Obama doing the—you know, the brush your teeth version of this is the only way to go—and risky.  There‘s—her numbers will go down from doing even that.  She‘ll go from a 70 percent approval down to a 60 percent, but she‘s got some approval to spend here.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of spending your approval possibly in the wrong place, what is this from Senator Grassley saying that he resents the White House for calling him out—and his word was, associating him with extreme claims about the end-of-life situation.  He—I‘m missing—even exposed to as much politics as I‘ve been exposed to, this makes no sense whatsoever.

O‘DONNELL:  No, you haven‘t been exposed to Chuck.

OLBERMANN:  I guess.

O‘DONNELL:  Look, Chuck Grassley is a guy—he‘s been in the Senate since 1980.  He was in the House few terms before that.  So, he‘s been 30 years in the Congress in complete obscurity.  Nobody knew who he was a year ago and for pretty good reason.  He knows how to do Iowa politics.  He has no idea how to be in the eye of a national political storm.

And so, the truth of this is—knowing Chuck Grassley as I do—he really doesn‘t know why the president is mad at him.  He really doesn‘t—what was it that I said that was so bad?  He would pass a lie detector test saying, “I don‘t know why the president‘s mad at me for saying that thing about death panels.”  He really would.

OLBERMANN:  His TV series right now would be “Lost.”

O‘DONNELL:  Well, not used to the high stakes, high pressure, every-single-word-counts politics.  He‘s never been in that before.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  We‘ll get him a primer on the 21st century.

Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and “The Huffington Post”—always a pleasure.  Thanks for coming in.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One of the most emotional moments of president‘s special joint address to Congress last week, of course, came when he invoked the memory of the late Senator Kennedy and he revealed that he‘d recently received a letter from the senator written in May, three months before the Senator‘s death.  Mr. Kennedy had given instructions that the letter be delivered to the president upon his passing.  And in it, he expressed confidence that health care reform would finally pass this year, and he referred to health care reform as that great unfinished business of our society.

We‘re joined now by the late senator‘s oldest son, Ted Kennedy, Jr.

Thank you for taking your time, sir.  And this being my first chance to say this to you directly—my great condolences.

TED KENNEDY JR., SON OF LATE SENATOR:  Thank you, Keith.  And my father was a huge fan of this program.  And it‘s great of you to have me on tonight.

OLBERMANN:  I remain speechless at the thought.

In the words of your father, the work goes on, on Capitol Hill, and health care reform.  Right now, though, it‘s getting hard to see where that work ends.  How do you think your father would view the current state of the health care debate?

KENNEDY:  Well, I think, you know, at times like this, I really do miss my father because, as you know, health care was one of the causes of his life.  And, you know, he was the master of bipartisan compromise.  He was the guy who could—really could manage a national health care crisis like the one that we‘re in.

And, you know, I just think—you know, I‘ve been to spending the last week talking about my father‘s new book, which is in stores right now called “True Compass.”  And in it, he really talks about not just his love of health care but in all the major legislative battles he went through in his 47 years of public service.  And it‘s remarkable some of the anecdotes and lessons that he learned as a result of all of these experiences.

OLBERMANN:  I want to go to one of those in a moment.  But I have one other bit of news from today that I‘d love your reaction to.  The state of Massachusetts got a step closer to getting another vote in health care debate and everything else in the Senate.  The statehouse fulfilled your father‘s wish.  They approved a bill for an interim senatorial appointment.

What‘s your reaction to that?

KENNEDY:  Well, you know, my dad did write that letter to the president of the Senate, the legislature and Governor Patrick, wanting to have an interim person there, just in case.  He knew the stakes were so high in this health care debate.  I think that‘s one of the reasons why he felt that it was so important for somebody to be able to fill that seat on an interim basis, just because of this situation that we find ourselves in right now.

OLBERMANN:  To the book, and one thing in it that is extraordinarily

important at the moment, it‘s about health care and about empathy.  Let me

·         I‘d like to read this passage that he wrote about the time he spent with you in the hospital when you were fighting cancer.  And I hope I can get through it.


“While Teddy was asleep or in treatment I wandered the halls and waiting rooms and sought other parents who, like me, were keeping vigil over terribly ill sons and daughters.  These were mostly working people, salesmen, secretaries, laborers, teachers, taxi drivers.  Their long hours and modest savings allowed them to raise their families comfortably and with hope—until catastrophe struck.

It was in these conversations that the inhumanity of our health care system truly hit home to me.  I began directing my Senate Health Committee‘s work toward the realities of lives such as those: the uninsured and the underinsured.

I held hearings—but not always just ordinary hearings.  Whenever feasible, I would take my committee and witnesses to hospitals, in rural and inner-city neighborhoods.  I wanted my colleagues to be taken out of their comfort zones, as I had been taken out of mine.  I wanted them to experience the ravages of preventable illness and death—not as abstractions on a printed page, but as blood, and bandages, and needles, and wails of pain down hospital corridor, and tears, and mourning.”

Is that ultimately what‘s missing from the debate right now, the empathy—I mean, this abstract talk about process and about fights and very little mention of people and the reality of suffering?

KENNEDY:  Yes.  Well, Keith, you know, my dad was incredibly compassionate person and, you know, had empathy for—as you just mentioned—working people, schoolteachers, New Bedford fishermen, the union carpenters.  He didn‘t really see policy in the abstract.  He really wondered, you know, how those policies would impact real people.

And that‘s really why you‘ve seen, I think, such an outpouring of affection for my dad in both—not just from his Democratic colleagues but, indeed, from, you know, his sometime political adversaries on the other side, because I think the way he saw through some of these different legislative issues.  But, you know, I think my experience with bone cancer at age 12, his own experience of having nearly lost his life in the plane crash, his own sister Rosemary‘s experiences with intellectual disabilities impacted him in a great way.

And one of the things we really learn in the book is, you know, what an emotional man that my father really was.  And, of course, he had to keep all of his emotions pretty intact because all of us in our family were depending on him.  And he had to stay strong.  But he reveals his strong emotional and very spiritual part of his life.

Many of these stories were stories that, quite honestly, I had never even heard before.  I felt like he was really speaking to me from the pages.  And I‘m grateful that he has produced this memoir, which I consider a real gift to me.

OLBERMANN:  If you can stay through the commercial break, I‘d like to talk more about the book—if that‘s all right.

KENNEDY:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  More with Ted Kennedy, Jr.

And, 37 years after it happened, John Dean has just found out what it was exactly the Watergate burglars were looking for when they broke into Democratic headquarters.  He will reveal that exclusively here tonight.  Wow!


OLBERMANN:  How Senator Kennedy kept himself dedicated to keeping faith in what Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature,” despite the exposure of 37 years in the Senate.  The late senator‘s new book, more with his son Ted Jr.—next.

Later, a Texas congressman voted against $150 million in emergency repair funds for the Washington subway.  Now, he‘s complaining that over the weekend, there was not enough service on the Washington subway for his tea party friends.

And John Dean‘s exclusive, he can now confirm for the first time exactly what the Watergate burglars were looking for during the break-in.



OLBERMANN:  In 1963, when he was serving his first year in the Senate, Ted Kennedy walked into a debate and listened to Senator Willis Robertson of Virginia, the father of the TV evangelist, speak very ardently in favor of a certain bill.  Impressed with the Virginia senator‘s passion, when the time for the roll call came, the junior senator from Massachusetts cast a “Yay” vote.  When the call got to Senator Robertson, he voted no.

Senator Kennedy could not believe his ears.  He went up to Senator Robertson and asked him about it.  The Virginia Democrat old him, “In my state, the people are evenly divided on this bill.  To those who favor it, I send my speech.  To those who are opposed, I send my vote.”  Senator Kennedy thanked Robertson and as he walked away, told himself, “I think I might be able to make it here after all.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Senator Kennedy would do more than make it in the Senate.  After half a century of public service, he would be remembered—in the words of the President Obama—as “the greatest legislator of our time.”

That anecdote part of Senator Kennedy‘s wonderful memoir, “True Compass” published this week, posthumously and his son, Ted Kennedy, Jr., is kind enough to have stayed with us.

It is a truly entertaining book.  And as you said, there were things in it that surprised you.   Can you give me an example of one of them?

KENNEDY:  Well, I had never heard the story of how my grandmother had written to the Premier Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis, asking him to sign some books to the various members of the Kennedy family.  That was a really funny anecdote.  Meanwhile, it was in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis and the KGB and the Russian government are trying to decipher, what does this all mean?


KENNEDY:  But, you know, he also never told me, Keith, about, you know, how difficult it was to tell his own father that my Uncle Jack had been killed and what a deeply emotional experience that that was for him.  And he never really spoke—I knew my dad was a faithful man and he took his Catholic faith, you know, very seriously.  But, you know, we just didn‘t talk about our faith.

I don‘t think Catholics really, you know, spend a lot of time really reading the Bible and talking about their faith.  My dad really put his faith into practice, which was, you know, working on the—you know, for refugees—pardon me—you know, focusing on, you know, health care for all, and minimum wage and things that he thought—feeding the poor and the hungry and providing housing and proper pay for people.

So, that was his—he felt that that was more or less his moral obligation to try to forward those goals that he was brought up to believe in his family.

OLBERMANN:  This has very little to do with the book in a sense, but I‘m just wondering, because I just experienced this today.  We‘re talking about health care and fathers and finding things out.  My dad‘s in the hospital.  My dad‘s name is Ted.  And I saw him 4 ½ hours ago.  And I‘m finding out things about him and his life right now that I had no earthly clue.

Did you—because he‘s just opening up on things.


OLBERMANN:  Did he—did your father do that in the last year to you?

KENNEDY:  Well, you know, Keith, as my dad got older, he got more emotional.  And he was able to get more in touch with his—with his feelings.  And in the last year, really able to share in I much more intimate way a lot of the feelings that he had, not just towards people and his family, but to his friends and the gratitude.

You know, my father just was incredibly grateful.  You know—I mean, I grieve today in what might have happened had my father been in the Senate today and be able to participate in this health care debate.  But I‘m really grateful for his incredible staff, the life that he had, and he thought that he had the greatest life in the world.

And his was a life about perseverance, Keith.  He did not believe in the Hail Mary pass, so to speak.  He really believed in just showing up, getting up early in the morning, showing up to work, working each and every day, and he never, ever gave up.  And that is really the essence of my father‘s life.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Three yards and a cloud of dust will get you a lot of yards if you try it often enough.

KENNEDY:  That‘s just it.

OLBERMANN:  You mentioned getting—reaching across the aisle and bipartisanship.  Did the dedication to Lincoln‘s first inaugural address, and the last line from it, and how he felt that way from the start of his time in Senate, and to quote the book again, “I decided to put faith in ‘the better angels of our nature.‘  I would work with anyone whose philosophies differed my mine, as long as the issue at hand promoted the welfare of the people, and I would continue to await those better angels, and to remain confident in ultimate justice.”


OLBERMANN:  This had to survive—the Nixon administration tapping his phones, a Bush administration would essentially double-crossed him on funding for No Child Left Behind after he was.


OLBERMANN:  . key in getting that thing passed.  How did he—how did he wait those better angels under those temptations to look the other way?

KENNEDY:  Well, you‘re right.  You know, for many years, during the Reagan years and Bush years, you know, he—he really kept the flame, I think, of this health care issue alive for all of that time, and so many other issues.  But, you know, he really did see the good in people.

And, you know, he came from a different era, Keith.  You know, I can remember growing up, you know, where Senator Simpson and Laxalt and Weicker and even Donald Rumsfeld were dinner guests at our house—if you can believe that.

You know, this was a different age in which—you know, they played tennis.  They had dinner, played tennis and then went on the Senate floor and debated each other.  But they didn‘t hold each other—it wasn‘t a personal vindictiveness that I think exists in Washington today.

So, I think that there is a lot to learn from, you know, the way the Senate and politics used to be, you know, back when my dad first got involved in public service.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  I‘ve got to close this with something that I approached in the context of people‘s reaction to what you said at your father‘s funeral.  I understand you recently bought Jack Kennedy‘s old house in Hyannis Port.  It makes possible for you to become a Massachusetts resident if you so desire.

Are you sure you don‘t to want run for your father‘s seat?

KENNEDY:  Keith, yes.  I mean, I‘m obviously, really flattered by a lot of people who suggest that I run.  But, you know, I don‘t want to be a carbon copy of my father.  I don‘t want to run as his surrogate.

I made no—you know, people know that I love politics.  I‘m interested in politics one day.  You know, I have a young family.  I have an important—a business that I‘m running, the Marwood Group out of New York that I‘m committed to run.

And—but I want to go—if and when I do go into public service, I want to come at it with my own ideas and my own expertise and my vision for what I‘d like to do and contribute.  And I‘m—I‘ve been very active in the civil rights movement for people with disabilities.  It‘s a cause I really believe in.

And, you know—but it‘s a tough decision because, as you know, it‘s

·         politics can be a brutal business.  And it‘s extremely taxing on a person‘s personal life and their family.  So it‘s something that I‘m aware of, but, you know, it‘s something that I‘m obviously hesitant about because I know all that it demands.


OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll anticipate your decision greatly in the event you ever make it in that direction.

Ted Kennedy, Jr., your father‘s book is called “True Compass”—and once again, my most sincere condolences, and my thanks for being so generous with your time.

KENNEDY:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

Meantime, a foggy part of history will clear up before your eyes tonight.  What exactly did Richard Nixon expect the Watergate burglars to find when they broke into Democratic headquarters in 1972?  John Dean has just found out and is here to tell us.

And in “Worsts”: Republican leadership is trying to circumscribe Michele Bachmann?  No!

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Best in a moment.  First, Rush Limbaugh takes one fight on a school bus, and decides it defines America.  Since it enables his racism, maybe it helps to define America.  But when does the hate in hate radio stop?  Howard Dean next. 

And history revealed John Dean has figuratively tripped over the answer to one of Watergate‘s most vexing mysteries.  What exactly were the burglars looking for? 

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Dateline, Washington, number three, best irony, Republican Congressman Kevin Brady and his pals among the 912 folks.  He has written a letter complaining that his tea party friends found travel on Washington‘s subway system, the Metro, difficult, that insufficient facilities for the physically challenged riders required them to take cab.  In other words, the socialist government fulfilled the protesters demand to get out of health care.

There is also an irony about Congressman Brady complaining about a poorly funded mass transit system, since he voted against the stimulus bill and its million for mass transit.  And an even greater irony in the fact that this summer a bill supplying 150 million in emergency maintenance for the Washington subway came before the House and Congressman Brady voted against it. 

Dateline Washington, number two, best false equivalency, columnist Cal Thomas, writing about Obama and racism and Condi Rice and Colin Powell.  She, Rice, has more street cred than others who claim to have it, but she got no points from liberal Democrats when she ascended the ladder of power and influence.  It was the same from Colin L. Powell.  Were those who opposed Mr. Powell racist?  Using the formulation now being applied to Mr.  Obama that opposition to any of his policy, from health care to record amounts of debt, constitutes racism, they were. 

Nobody said any opposition to any policy is racism.  More importantly, Cal, no liberal put up a poster depicting Powell as a witch doctor, or called Dr. Rice, quote, uppity.  Come on, Cal, you‘re smarter than this.  Don‘t let yourself be used by racists. 

Dateline, Edmunds, Washington, number one, best reality check, Henry Gasparian.  When he saw the Larouche-bags with a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache, his reaction was, in his words, personal and emotional.  And he tried to grab the fliers the Larouche-bags were handing out.  Shoving ensued.  People arrested Mr. Gasparian, which they will probably regret.

He was born in Armenia in 1939.  He was there and saw the Nazis invade and kill two of his uncles and wound his father and induce a famine that led to his brother starving to death.  Right now, they‘re calling this fourth-degree assault.  Mr. Gasparian, who has seen actual Nazis, is calling it an attempt by an old man to say, you cannot insult the president with this outrageous campaign. 

If Mr. Gasparian really did push somebody first, I wish he hadn‘t.  But the rest of it, he not only had the right to do, but he is my hero for doing it.


OLBERMANN:  Whether he is a leader or just another sheep caught up in the frenzy, the rhetoric of hate radio‘s Rush Limbaugh has quickly evolved from tin eared naivete to insurrectionist fury.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, in a political climate tinged with both racism and allusions to violence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, in essence, that we as a nation need to be far more careful. 

As we first mentioned yesterday, Limbaugh has turned a run of the mill fight over who got to sit where on a school bus in Bellevue, Illinois into a racially motive beating. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  It‘s Obama‘s America, is it not.  Obama‘s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now.  You put your kids on a school bus, you expect—you expect safety.  But in Obama‘s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, yes, right on, right on, right on.  And of course, everybody‘s saying, the white kid deserved it.  He was born a racist.  He‘s white. 

Just return the white students to their rightful place, their own bus with bars on the windows, and armed guards.  They‘re racist. 


OLBERMANN:  See what he did there at the end?  He used hyperbole, evidently to make his point about how all white people are accused of being racists.  But at bottom it‘s just another way for Limbaugh to be racist.  When a caller points out that the police captain there was, after all, no evidence that the fight was racially motivated, Limbaugh‘s just having none of the facts. 


LIMBAUGH:  I think the guy is wrong.  I think not only was racism, it was justifiable racism.  That‘s the lesson we‘re being taught here today.  Kids shouldn‘t have been on the bus anyway.  We need segregated buses.  It was invading space.  This is—this is Obama‘s America. 


OLBERMANN:  Left unanswered is why Limbaugh‘s self-professed Ditto Head is expected to take anything Limbaugh says as anything other than literal? 

Meantime, while not specifically asked about Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck, or Bill O‘Reilly today, Speaker Pelosi was asked about the increasingly hostile political climate. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  I have concerns about some of the language that is—that is being used, because I saw—I saw this myself in the late ‘70s in San Francisco, this kind of—of rhetoric.  This was very frightening. 

I wish that we would all, again, would curb our enthusiasm in the statements that are made, understanding that some of the people—the ears that are—that it is falling on are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume. 


OLBERMANN:  The speaker‘s references to the ‘70s and what she said was a, quote, climate of violence, then, clearly alluding to the slaying of San Francisco mayor George Muscone and city supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk in 1978. 

Let‘s turn to the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, consultant to Mckenna, Long and Aldrich, as well as Democracy for America, former Governor Howard Dean.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir. 


OLBERMANN:  Speaker Pelosi also said we have to take responsibility for our words and any incitement that may cause.  Do you share her concern? 

DEAN:  I do.  I think that—you know, there‘s a lot of money to be made in passing out hate, the kind Rush Limbaugh is just doing.  Rush Limbaugh—look, he‘s always an entertainer, but he‘s way over the line.  There‘s a long, unfortunate American tradition to this, going back to Father Coughlin and people before that.  They appeal to the very worst in people.  They appeal to the side of all of us that is about anger and fear and hatred.  They empower it. 

And it is an evil thing to do.  And it‘s very bad for the country.  But for a long time, these people have put themselves and their wallets way ahead of America.  They pretend to be patriots but they‘re not patriotic at all.  They don‘t serve our country.

OLBERMANN:  The speaker didn‘t mention any names.  But essentially she was saying certain statements are falling—not falling on the ears of necessarily balanced people.  That seems to me to be sort of the overlooked essential part of this equation here, isn‘t it?  If they‘re beginning to talk like they want insurrection, somebody‘s going to take it seriously. 

DEAN:  I don‘t think we‘re going to get to that point.  I‘ve been through this before.  We were the first state in the country to do civil unions, which is basically partnerships for gay Americans.  It was a way to give them rights.  Vermont is thought of as a pretty progressive place.  We had they this very kind of stuff, people very angry, very upset.  It wasn‘t so much just all about gay rights, which was a foreign view for them, it was about change.  And there‘s always a certain population that‘s very fearful of change, very confused by change, worried about what it‘s going to mean for them. 

And I saw this in people that I knew well and liked.  There‘s an underside to human nature that that‘s—and that‘s what Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and all these people are taking advantage of.  They‘re appealing to the bad part in all of us.  We all have it.  No matter how many degrees we may have or how—what fancy our neighborhood is, everybody has this.  The problem is, do you want to incite it and what does that mean for the country, if you want to build a small—to build a great country? 

OLBERMANN:  Is this conversation sort of an extension, the one about intense animosity, its relationship to the prospect of violence—is this the natural follow up to what President Carter said about the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Obama? 

DEAN:  I think it‘s about—race certainly has something to do with it.  But this has gone on long before President Obama was president.  This is about appealing to the very worst instincts in human being beings.  I think it‘s fairly despicable.  I thought that hate radio on the right was pretty despicable because they make no bones about it.  They pad their wallets and they take advantage of other people.  It‘s not—these are not admirable people, these people.  They‘re mean people. 

They make jokes about people that don‘t deserve it.  One of the

reasons I never go on Bill O‘Reilly‘s show—the only reason I don‘t go on

Bill O‘Reilly‘s show is because I saw him take apart a 23-year-old that

lost his father in the World Trade Center, and tell him he was unpatriotic

because he didn‘t support the war.  Those kinds of people I don‘t hang

around, because they‘re not good for the country and they‘re not good for -

·         they‘re not good human beings. 

OLBERMANN:  Well said.  Former Governor Howard Dean, as always, our pleasure.  Great thanks. 

DEAN:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  What Richard Nixon did that unleashed a chain reaction that resulted in Watergate political crisis and his own resignation.  John Dean with some just discovered remarkable evidence that he‘ll share exclusively with us. 

And Lonesome Roads shows he‘s not a Republican by calling for the voters to throw two Republican bums out, except those two bums were already leaving.  Worst person next. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the disconnect in health form.  Why do the legislators blocking reform the loudest come from the states with the worst health care? 


OLBERMANN:  John Dean was nothing less than the Rosetta Stone for Watergate, exactly what the burglars were looking for when they broke into Democratic headquarters.  He will reveal this exclusively just 37 years after the fact, next. 

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

The bronze to Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor.  “Politico” reports that during effort to moderate the wackier whack jobs in their party, quote, sources say they have been especially weary of the possible damage inflicted on the party‘s by bomb throwing Representative Michele Bachmann, who last fall called for an investigation into whether members of Congress are pro-American or anti-American.”

Listen to me, don‘t you dare try to moderate Michele Bachmann.  Franklin D. Roosevelt reincarnated could not do more for the Democratic party than Michele Bachmann.  Leave her alone!

Our runner up, from the university of I don‘t remember, it‘s Lonesome Beck with todays top lie on Fixed News.  To prove he‘s not a Republican shill, that‘s non-partisan, that he‘s just a patriot, he today called on his sheep to weed people out, like these two Republican senators who he says voted to fund John Murtha Airport in Pennsylvania.  The senators are Mr. Bond of Missouri and Mr. Voinovich of Ohio.  He said, show them the door. 

They‘re both retiring next year.  He either did not know this or did not mention it.  If you‘re actually out there praying for Glenn Beck‘s safety, pray that he be protected from his greatest enemy in the world, Glenn Beck. 

But our winner, Lou Dobbs of CNN.  We have deathers, we have birthers; now now czar-ers.  Lou‘s a czar-er now.  Incidentally, now being investigated, he says, by the “New York Post” to see if he has hired illegal aliens to work at his farm in New Jersey.  Of course not.  He doesn‘t hire illegal aliens.  He simply pays parts of their salaries on the horse show circuit that his daughters compete in.  But I digress. 

“To be clear, we should point out that the number in the Bush administration—the number of czars, in point of fact, the highest number of czars we were able to document in our own reporting here on this broadcast for the number of czars previous to the 34, 35 czars appointed by President Obama in his first eight months in office was during the Clinton administration, and he had only ten czars.  The remarkable change of emphasis on czardom, if you will.  How open and transparent of the DNC.” 

Your reporting there on that broadcast, Lou, is for the birds.  The “Washington Post” reported that during his two terms President Bush had 36 czar positions, and 46 czars filling those positions.  Bush 46, Obama 34, 35.  Lou, nothing.  Lou Dobbs, today‘s worst person in the—where are my teeth? 


OLBERMANN:  There are questions yet to be answered about Watergate.  The 18 and a half minute gap in the one Oval Office tape.  Didn‘t anybody think putting E. Howard Hunt in charge of the break in was a bad idea, given that he tied directly back to the White House?

But in our number one story tonight, the first two great still unresolved question about Watergate are now resolved.  When the burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972, rifled through the place, photographed it, planted listening devices, what exactly were they looking for?  Did President Nixon order the whole thing or just inspire it in some way? 

John Dean joins me with his exclusive answers in a moment.  He found all this during research for a new release of his 1976 best-selling memoir “Blind Ambition.”  In “Blind Ambition,” the updated addition, the end of the story, John find exactly how a Nixon desire translated into a break-in with a specific data target. 

From his book‘s text, “Nixon, who played hard ball politics, set in motion the activities that culminated with arrests of people working for his re-election committee at the DNC.  It was the quest to get the very information that Nixon had wanted and repeatedly requested that resulted in the bungled bugging and burglaries at the DNC.” 

John Dean joins us now.  Good to see you, sir.

JOHN DEAN, “WORSE THAN WATERGATE”:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to Nixon‘s direct role or indirect role in a second.  But cut to the chase first.  What exactly were the burglars supposed to get? 

J. DEAN:  Very clear.  And this is based not on speculation.  It‘s based on documents, tapes, before the break-in and after.  Nixon is looking for one thing.  He‘s looking for financial information to embarrass the Democrats.  What he‘s learned—he‘s gotten a tip that there‘s a kick-back scheme in Miami with the Democratic Convention.  He believes this.  He wants them to get dirt on the Democrats.  He pushes this before. 

There‘s only one place you can get this information, Keith.  It‘s in the DNC.  And so while he doesn‘t—I have no evidence that he gave a direct order to go in there.  He, in essence, put in play the only place you can find the information he was looking for was in the DNC. 

OLBERMANN:  And he had this assumption that political corruption equaled money.  And, therefore, this was worth some investigation? 

J. DEAN:  No.  It‘s a little more specific than that, because what happened is, he comes back from China.  The ITT charge that he had settled an antitrust case with the ITT corporation in exchange for a large campaign corporation, he‘s being battered with that after he get back from Canada—or China.  He‘s convinced that the Democrats are using this to try to hurt him and tarnish the centerpiece of his campaign. 

And so he writes memos on this and says, this is a problem.  They‘ve obviously planned this.  As it happened, that wasn‘t true.  There wasn‘t—hadn‘t been a corrupt settlement.  So he‘s looking for something that he can use to counter this negative publicity he‘s getting, that is tarnishing his centerpiece of his campaign, the China trip. 

OLBERMANN:  Was there a kickback scam going on? 

J. DEAN:  No evidence of it.  I can‘t believe the man who was in charge—a man named Richard McLaren (ph) -- is not the type who would have settled an antitrust case for anybody, if it weren‘t justified. 

OLBERMANN:  I gather your conclusion is it was a kind of Thomas of Becket thing, who will rid me of these meddlesome documents, or these meddlesome Democrats in this case.  What do you think Richard Nixon expected would happen when he put out word that he wanted this information, and the only place you could find it was in, in the famous phrase, down here in Larry O‘Brien‘s desk? 

J. DEAN:  I think you nailed it.  He knew that a little fishing they might find some negative information.  After the break-in occurs, while amnesia sets in at the White House as to who was doing what, when and why, occasionally Haldeman and Nixon slip on the tapes, and acknowledge, well, the only thing that was worth in there was the financial information we were looking for. 

So they recall it.  They remember it.  They know.  But they try to—they forget that they‘re being recorded and they catch themselves and don‘t pursue these at great length.  But I think, as more tapes come out and historians start looking for this when they match up this information I have gathered, they‘re going to find even more of this. 

OLBERMANN:  How did you gather it?  Where did it come from? 

J. DEAN:  What happened is—what prompted it was I was falsely accused of ordering the Watergate break-in on a tip from my wife, who has no knowledge of Watergate whatsoever. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m not laughing at you, I promise. 

J. DEAN:  And this provoked a lawsuit.  The lawsuit went on for nine years.  I learned more about Watergate than I knew when I lived through it.  And I also had a subpoena that helped surface a lot of information.  And I thought, well, it‘s time to share this information.  Not only what the revisionists are doing, in trying to write bogus accounts of Watergate, but also what Nixon knew and answer some of the unanswered questions. 

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, Nixon is not guilty of foreknowledge of the break-in or sort of guilty?  What is your conclusion in retrospect, knowing this? 

J. DEAN:  I would say not guilty of ordering the break-in.  Very clearly demanding information that there‘s only one place you can get it.  You go to the Democratic headquarters or inside the Democratic organization somehow. 

OLBERMANN:  Presumably, the 18-minute gap on the tape is the last big one to be decided.  Is it conceivable that something about this is on that 18-minute gap or—

J. DEAN:  It‘s possible.  There‘s just no doubt—there‘s a mystery as to what‘s in that 18 and a half minute gap.  There‘s no mystery to me as to why we have an 18 minute gap.  There‘s only one guy—

OLBERMANN:  You can see it, can‘t you? 

J. DEAN:  Who would take eight, nine times to get that machine to erase.  It wasn‘t Rose Woods.  It wasn‘t Steve Bull, who had access to the machine.  It was a man who barely could get the top off his medicine bottle where you had to push it down and turn it. 

OLBERMANN:  Play and record, play, record.  I‘m sorry to laugh at it.  But this is extraordinary stuff.  And it‘s so kind of you to share it with us.  This will be in the revised version of the book, right? 

J. DEAN:  It is in the revised version. 

OLBERMANN:  The re-release of “Blind Ambition” starts hitting bookstores tomorrow.  I can‘t wait.  John Dean, great thanks, as always. 

J. DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Great to see you in the flesh.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,331st day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, play and record, play and record. 

Now, to discuss the disconnect between the fact that the states whose representatives are the loudest and most irrational against health care reform are the states with the worst health care reform, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening. 



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