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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show


October 14, 2009



Guests: Rep. Alan Grayson, Dr. Mehmet Oz, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam


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

Going after their antitrust exemption: The insurance cartel having pushed too far, now invokes the wrath of eight Democratic senators who propose stripping the industry of its right to fix prices.

Merged left: The meetings begin to merge the various Senate bills. Senator Snowe will get a seat. Waffling Democrats who would not block a Republican filibuster get a pass from the majority leader.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I nor any other senator has the luxury of passing a perfect bill. I wish we could.


OLBERMANN: Congressman Alan Grayson wants more than wishing, a 90,000-signature petition urging Democratic unity on reform on the public option. He will be our special guest.

Showing them the problem up close and personal. Free health care clinics in Vegas, New Orleans, Little Rock-you have now raised more than $800,000. You will be sponsoring the health fairs like the one in Houston at which Dr. Mehmet Oz volunteered and reported.


DR. MEHMET OZ, TV HOST: What it really comes down to is about being in the frontlines and looking someone in the eye and saying that we care about you, you matter to us, we're here for you.


OLBERMANN: Firsthand tonight, what these free health care clinics will look like-from Dr. Oz.

Ever seen a political party split itself in half before? Now the tea bags go after Republicans: Snowe, Susan Collins warned, Lindsey Graham called a traitor.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not going to leave the Republican Party. I'm going to grow it.



OLBERMANN: And bring out your dead, start singing the praises of "Spam," and make sure your parrot is still finding for the fjords. It's the 40th anniversary of "Monty Python's Blind Circus."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really didn't know whether it was going to work at all for anyone.


OLBERMANN: I'll be joined live by John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

All that and more-now on what thus might be the last episode of



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a flesh wound!



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

It is a concept so elemental to American capitalism that any child whose played monopoly can understand it, the competition necessary for free trade prohibits by necessity, abusive behavior by any one firm or a group or firms, namely fixing prices, rigging bids or otherwise colluding to dominate and control the market. That's why this country has anti-trust laws.

But if it seems to you that the health insurance industry has been allowed to behave outside of those anti-trust laws, that's because it has for the past 64 years.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The insurance cartel-it's not a nickname, it's a real cartel-it has finally occurred to the Senate that it might be the right time to do something about it.

The judiciary committee today is turning its attention to McCarran-Ferguson Act which has, since 1945, allowed insurance companies to dominate the market and reap enormous profits, that's according to today's witnesses to the judiciary industry.

Last month, Chairman Leahy, along with several co-sponsors having introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009. It would repeal the antitrust exemption for the health insurance industry.

The cartel itself, today, is claiming that the antitrust exemption allows it to keep costs down-which might be a better argument if the industry did keep costs down.

Senator Schumer of New York, among the many not buying that.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I remain committed to the notion that only increased competition is going to give insurers the incentive they need to keep the costs down. Removing the insurance companies' antitrust exemption is so important that I think we should all work with Chairman Leahy to make sure that it is part of our health reform bill.


OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, the cart that's been put before the horse, the health care reform bill that does not actually reform the insurance industry, Majority Leader Reid today gathering the group that will merge the Senate health bills in his office for its first meeting. Among them:

Finance Chairman Baucus, HELP Committee Chairman Dodd and White House Chief of Staff Emanuel.

A spokesman for Senator Reid confirming that Senator Snowe would be invited to future sessions, adding that that majority leader was prepared to go to substantial lengths to keep the support of the Republican from Maine. Senator Reid is already setting expectations fairly low for the final product, which is to be delivered from those meetings as well as for his ability to deliver votes. The majority leader is pushing back against progressives who want him to force conservative members of his party to vote with their party on the public option.

Public option-something that 77 percent of the public wants; something for which 51 senators, a majority, are prepared to vote.

The majority leader's office is saying in a statement, quote, "Senator Reid is focused on crafting a health care bill that will overcome a Republican filibuster. Stripping Democratic senators of their leadership titles is a decision that would be left up to the caucus, not Senator Reid. In light of this reality, it's unlikely that the caucus would ever go along with this idea."

And again, it is his job to make them go along. That is why it's called the leadership position. Not that we even know who they are, Senator Reid, allowing any Democratic senators now threatening to filibuster or not to block a filibuster to remain anonymous-the so-called silent filibuster of Democrats.

Lots to talk about tonight, thus, with Florida congressman and Internet sensation: Alan Grayson.

Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Thanks, Keith. The Republicans sound just like you, I can't figure out if they're trying to insult me or insult you.


OLBERMANN: I'm happier to have that assessment than any other.

Unlike almost any other private insurer-private business in this company-in the country, health insurance companies are allowed to engage in what can only be described as price fixing. Do you think it might be time to change that? Is it time to strip that antitrust exemption?

GRAYSON: It's long overdue. We should do it right now.

OLBERMANN: Could you use it in some way? Is it better left partially intact? Would it be a good wedge against the insurance companies?

GRAYSON: Now, the insurance companies bought and paid for that favor from Congress. And now, we need to take it back.

OLBERMANN: Senator Snowe casts one vote in favor of the Baucus bill, just to get it out of committee. Her vote was not need to get it out of committee. She warns that she might vote no on the same material later on. And she gets a seat at the bill merger table, if not at the initial meetings and at subsequent ones.

What's your reaction to that?

GRAYSON: Her vote is coming at too expensive of a price. The public option would save America over $100 billion. The employer mandate, just making large corporations that have no conscience pay for their employees the way 80 percent already do, that would save over $200 billion. Isn't that a lot of money to pay for her vote?

OLBERMANN: And, presumably, there is not enough space at that table because only one senator who will be there is in favor of the public option. That's Mr. Dodd of Connecticut. No progressive members, truly progressive, self-identifying progressive members would be represented.

Why-why do you think Democrats in the Senate seem to have dismissed or abandoned the public plan, the public option without even really trying for it?

GRAYSON: I don't think the Democrats have it. I think the leadership is letting them down. The leadership is placating the Republicans and ideologues at the price of what's in the public interest.

OLBERMANN: There's a statement tonight from Senator Reid, Senator Baucus, Senator Dodd after these health insurance reform discussions today. It's mostly boilerplate, but one there's one line that's telling in its boilerplate-ness. "There was strong consensus that crafting a bill that can garner 60 votes is an attainable goal."

Is that the problem? Is it being looked at entirely within many elements of our government as a political issue-how many votes can we get for this-rather than an urgent, sort of, a crisis, ultra-critical health care problem?

GRAYSON: That's the problem. Nobody in America cares about 60 votes, and people in America care about saving lives and saving money. That's what we should be concentrating on.

OLBERMANN: Your four speeches have outlined quite eloquently, I think, how the Republican opposition is, in fact, the problem in health care reform. Are the Democrats in the Senate part of that problem just as bad, where do they rank? I don't mean for you to throw them all under the bus, but.

GRAYSON: They have to find the courage of their convictions or we have to find it for them. You know, for months now, it's like the Billy Idol song, "We've been dancing with ourselves." Now, let's just get on with it. Let's get the best bill we can. If the Republicans want to make it clear to the public they don't want better health care for America, that's fine. The public will remember that.

OLBERMANN: So, how do you it? How do you get them to dance?

GRAYSON: Well, look, the Democrats now have 60 votes in the Senate.

It's not that complicated. Get it over with. Vote.

OLBERMANN: But there are so many Democrats who are almost as beholden as Republican senators and many Republican congressmen to the insurance lobby. What do we do about the-about the pervasive influence in terms of campaign funds that have afflicted some of these smaller senators, even on the Democratic side?

GRAYSON: Well, we need campaign finance reform. But right now, we need people to call. We need people to go send e-mails. We need people to go to Web sites. We need people to insist on justice for the public-and that means comprehensive, universal, and affordable health care in America.

OLBERMANN: For some reasons, Stephen Douglas' words come to mind. Not Stephen Douglas, it's Frederick Douglas' words come to mind here-agitate, agitate, agitate.

GRAYSON: Right. That's right.

OLBERMANN: Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida, who contributed to that cause and greatly so-thank you for that and thank for your time tonight.

GRAYSON: Thank you, Keith. Thank you very much, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.

For more on the politics of this situation, let's turn to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: A number of people today who I found were astounded to learn that the insurance cartel-that's not just some clever, you know, wise ass remark that I made, it really is a cartel-the health insurance companies have this antitrust exemption. They've had it since 1946.

Somebody who testified to the Senate hearing today, testified that at least four previous occasions, the authorities have recommended-the federal government has recommended eliminating or scaling back the antitrust exemption, Congress has never taken that step, presumably because the industry owns the Senate?

FINEMAN: Well, partly that, they also own the states.


FINEMAN: And they prefer it that way.

By the way, it's not just antitrust laws-federal antitrust laws. It's the Supreme Court decision that was then followed up by that law in 1945, basically keeps the federal government out of the regulations of the insurance business.

And what's happened in this country, and we have talked about it a little on the show is that health insurance has grown out of life insurance. And partly because of that, a lot of these big companies that used to be life insurance companies have become health insurance managers. And, yes, they have taken advantage of that exemption from federal regulation to, kind of, have their way with the states for all these years. And that's a big part of the problem that Congress is confronting now.

OLBERMANN: The other notable industry that has this exemption-many of us know that that would be professional baseball. And over the years, as it was implying to the congressman, over the years, Congress has had modest, very rarely used success getting baseball to jump through hoops to keep that exemption.

Could that be the best use of this? Could that be strategy here, threaten the exemption, restrict it in some ways, but don't kill it so you always have that ax to go to? Or does it have to be axe time?

FINEMAN: Well, it may have to be axe time, but it's interesting that Chuck Schumer is leading the parade here, the senator from New York, because it's New York and other states like Connecticut and a couple of other states that have always played a huge role in the regulation of the insurance business. They don't want to give that up-and Schumer being from New York probably has some local interest who wouldn't want it to be given up. But the fact that he's pushing as hard as he can now means that all bets are off with the insurance business.

A lot of other stakeholders remain at the table with Rahm Emanuel. They are in that room at least by proxy. But the insurance industry has declared war on the Congress-and that's going to be a defining element from here on out.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of that table, why is Senator Snowe getting a seat at the bill merger table?

FINEMAN: By the way, in honor of "Monty Python," I want to say that looked like a video clip of "The Ministry of Silly Walks." But they-I think-I think that Olympia Snowe is going to be in a side room, at least initially, then she'll be part of it. She's part of it because, as Congressman Grayson was saying, she's gotten an inordinate role in this because of the mathematics of the Senate and because of the way the administration's approached this.

You made a great point earlier, which is: Rahm Emanuel said at the beginning of this process, remember he said, "Let's never let a good crisis go to waste." That was one of the reasons they pushed health care to begin with, but they haven't dealt with it or negotiated about it in crisis mode. They've negotiated it sort of backroom poker-style. And that's another reason why Olympia Snowe will be at that table.

OLBERMANN: The candy-a (ph) statement from Mr. Reid, and this later one from Mr. Reid, Mr. Baucus and Mr. Dodd, that makes the same point tonight about needing 60 votes, about crafting a bill that can garner 60 votes, and then he said this caucus would go along. Senator Frist never had 60 votes, and by the way, he's also a doctor, which would have helped if he had not been on this side of the equation. He certainly didn't care, never much needed them.

When did Democrats start looking for a new leader? Is this-is this it for Harry Reid one way or the other?

FINEMAN: Well, there's a lot of pressure on him. His answer and his aides' answer are these. The main one that they give is that 60 number that we're talking about.

But I would also say that Barack Obama, the president, has a responsibility here, too-as I was just saying. The way the White House has approached this, which is to turn it all over to the Congress, and keep hands off, at least publicly, and really for the most part privately, has made it for difficult for somebody like Harry Reid who has got enough problems in the leadership of his own.

If Barack Obama had had a clear, definitive and tough initial bargaining position for a public option, for a sweeping program of some kind that was clearly defined and marketable, he would have made life a lot easier for Harry Reid.

So, now, you got the combination of the president hanging back and Harry Reid trying to deal with an unmanageable Congress.

OLBERMANN: Herding cats.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC-as always, great thanks. Have a good night.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Fortunately, there is leadership to be found somewhere, like in your mirror. The numbers continue to skyrocket, your donations to our hope of staging free health clinics in the five key cities represented by the six key senators, who might yet put the insurance industry ahead to the people who elected them, we will preview the two or three health care clinics you have already funded with Dr. Mehmet Oz. Next.


OLBERMANN: The latest startling numbers of what you have so generously donated to our free health clinic tour and what these clinics will look like, courtesy of Dr. Oz.

Later, mindless protesting proves it needs to be fed constantly, the tea bag boys now going after Senator Lindsey Graham, calling him a traitor.

And 40 years ago today, Great Britain was still trying to figure out the first two episodes of a bizarre TV series which had already depicted Pablo Picasso winning a cycling race and shown an interview with a man who had three buttocks. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones join me to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Monty Python's Flying Circus"-tonight on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Approximately 83 percent of people who go to free health clinics nationwide do not fit the stereotype crafted so carefully by those who opposed reform. They are employed. They live in a country in which even that does not mean they-the ones who need it the most-can afford insurance.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: As Congress moves into the next phase of debate and dithering over health care reform, we revisit the ground war.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was a major volunteer and chronicler of last month's record-breaking health care in Houston will join in a moment and will update you in the truly impressive amount of money you have donated to help the National Association of Free Clinics stage more events, like the one in Houston.

Nationwide, free clinics treated 4 million people in 2008 in this country. This year's total is expected to double. Two thousand people got free care in that one day Houston alone. That is a record. Seven hundred nurses and doctors volunteered their services that day, including Dr. Oz, whose show on that extraordinary event will air tomorrow.


OZ: We scheduled our doors to open at 7:00 a.m., we were surprised by what we saw. People began arriving in the middle of the night. Some traveled for hours. Some came from just down the street. The first one in line was a single mother named Karen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work every day, you know, but I still got to make ends meet. I can't even keep health insurance on my children.

MEHMET: For the next 12 hours, we were ready to see anyone who walked in. None of us could be completely prepared for the stories we would hear.


OLBERMANN: And the latest update on our call to donate to the National Association of Free Clinics: More than 10,500 people have responded, that you have donated more than $817,000. That would pay for three free health fairs, depending on whether or not venues are donated, and the biggest cost is securing those arena-sized venues. Right now, New Orleans and Little Rock are the focus. Any help securing a large facility in either city will go a long way and the money will go thus much further.

The goal is to hold the health fairs in five key cities, in five key states represented by Democratic senators who have not yet said they will oppose a Republican filibuster of the public option. More details or you can give what you can at, or

And joining me now-as promised-cardiac surgeon, author and host of the "Dr. Oz Show": Dr. Mehmet Oz.


OZ: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The uninsured and the underinsured, you called this a national catastrophe. Is there a story-that's big picture-is there a story that epitomizes it for you?

OZ: To bring one alive (ph) actually that shocked me. And I-as a heart surgeon, I also take care of kids sometimes. Baby Aniliyah (ph) is 14-month old child, her mother Victoria works, as you mention, Keith, like many of the folks that we saw-like almost everyone we saw-the working mother, five kids, Baby Aniliyah has a hole in her heart. I was taking care of her, doing an echocardiogram on the rodeo floor where of the Reliant Center, where the Houston Texans were to play next day.

It's a shocking reality to me because I thought I'd be practicing in tents once in a while in my life, I didn't think it would happen in this country. And just to make it clear, this was a catastrophe at many levels. But it wasn't a natural catastrophe. And what hurts me the most is when we are dithering, as you use the phrase, trying to finds a health care plan, when we really should be putting a face on the reality that uninsured Americans represent to us.

OLBERMANN: We mentioned that the event in Houston, that was a one-day record and you have understandably called that a dubious honor. As great as that was, to-is there a way to quantify the shame that is involved in this, that we are-we are, as wonderful and outpouring as these things represent, from the donors to you guys in the field-is there a way to quantify how far behind we are relative to where we should be on this?

OZ: Well, just to put the numbers on it. You pointed out that we'll probably take care of 8 million people in free clinics. Last year, when I first started doing free clinics, it was about 4 million. Even before, no one heard of them, because we took care about 2 million. The social state of our nation has become through free clinics.

Now, in fairness, I was incredibly honored and I want to celebrate the 700 people who donated their time, who realized that they had to help their fellowmen. But it's an embarrassment, it's shameful when you have almost 1,800 people coming out when we didn't do all that much to get the word out to a free clinic because they're so desperate. They just clinging to any help they can get.

And, Keith, when they look at you in the eyes, they're ashamed. They feel invisible. They feel that they have been forgotten by society. You cannot have a wealthy society if you're not a healthy society.

And it's this very upshot-we're not getting value for the money, because these people are like ships crashing into the shore. That we're still going to have to pay to put the pieces together. But if you give them a dock to come into, it would make a lot more sense.

OLBERMANN: The whistle blower, Wendell Potter, who was the P.R. man for CIGNA and then has gone completely to the other side and is unlocking the mystery to what the insurance industry has done all this time, the insurance industry, was turned essentially by going to a free clinic.

Would you-if you had your choice of doing one thing with every legislator for an hour in the rest of their lives, would it be to take them to one of these things?

OZ: Without question. And, by the way, I know a fair amount of health care because I studied it my whole life, and I'm very passionate about doing the right thing. What I want our legislators to realize is the challenge we face is not in which health care plan to choose, we have to pick a plan and then move on.

Because you know what, the biggest mistake we can make is not providing support to these folks who don't have any other hope. We can always readjust the plan. We can always micromanage programs, because no one really knows how it's going to work. But if we don't help people to provide the care that they themselves need, we're going to end up paying a lot more than we would have in the beginning.

OLBERMANN: What specifically that we don't know-should we know about the importance of the health care clinics in the field? What last word do you have on it?

OZ: The last word, is when we have these folks wandering into free clinics and they're costing us a lot money once they get ill, we're not giving them chance to get back on top. Most Americans think that people who go to free clinics are very different from them. Ed Adams was one of the first people we talked about in the show tomorrow, he had a six figure job last year, he made one wrong turn-one wrong turn.


OZ: These aren't people who've been on the dole for their whole lives. They're just like you and me. And we're not there watching. All they want is to be seen as human beings. It's what all of us as Americans desire. It's, I think, a very patriotic thing to provide them a support system.

OLBERMANN: And what we are doing here, and forgive me for including myself on this, but what you are doing here, what the people involve in this directly from the association are doing, is still just triage and that's the tragedy inside of it.

OZ: We're putting our fingers on the hemorrhaging point, waiting for allies to come. And by the way, there's no ownership on this.


OZ: Believe me, I really am embarrassed to set that record. Nobody wants to set that record. That's something all of us have to embrace together. The good news is that we can do it.

OLBERMANN: Maybe we get-we get to the point where nobody shows up, that will be an honor in its own way.

OZ: A big shame would be to desensitize this people.


OZ: If we don't see them as human beings and focus on the politics of treating.

OLBERMANN: Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of "The Dr. Oz Show"-his special on this is tomorrow-thanks greatly for coming in and for all you do with this people.

OZ: Thanks for what you do for the national association.

OLBERMANN: My honor.

One week ago tonight, we devoted an entire program to a "Special Comment" on the subject, "Health Care Reform: The Fight Against Death." Why there is such hysteria? The underlying issues, we are not discussing. We're going to re-air that "Special Comment" this Friday, day after tomorrow.

Tonight, the reform opponents appear to be like sharks, they must keep moving forward to survive. Thus they are now attacking conservatives. Lindsay Graham called a traitor to his face. Also, like sharks, the tea bag crew often lives in its own toilet.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and an art exhibit highlighting pitch black darkness can result in only one thing: head injuries.

First, on this date in 1586, Mary, Queen of Scots, went on trial in a charge of conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth, leading to the "Monty Python's" sketch in which her life is dramatized as a radio series called "The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots," which consists entirely of somebody asking, "You are, Mary, Queen of Scots," to which she says, "I am," followed by several minutes of sound effects of hammering gun shots, pounding and screams.

And there's silence, and the first voice says, "I think she's dead," to which she says, "No, I'm not," and the sound effects resume.

Let's play "Oddball."

Yes, their version is funny. We begin in Lincoln County, Maine. Alert the media, this pumpkin is at the end of its rope. Don't do it, pumpkin. Hundreds of folks gathering for an opportunity to watch giant pumpkins end it all into an old police car. That's your last speeding ticket, officer, damn it.

The pumpkin is suspended from the crane. A lucky bystander gets to pull the rope. And then it's a 200-foot drop to vegetable heaven. Splash.

A quick survey shows nine out of ten pumpkin-phobes agree, a great way to spend the afternoon, but a very inefficient to make pumpkin pie.

To Pruria (ph), India, where world renowned sand artist Sudarshan Patanayak (ph) is hard at work. His latest masterpiece a tribute to President Obama's Nobel Prize. He's buried up to his neck. Get him out of there.

The four-foot high sand sculpture of Mr. Obama's head embedded in a Nobel medal is on display at a local beach. Three tons of sand required to create the likeness. Mr. Patanayak hopes this sculpture will inspire others, at least until the tide comes in. Next up, an oil painting of Governor Mark Sanford being awarded frequent flier miles.

Tonight, the unexpected fun from the Tea Bag boys. Sooner or later, they would eventually have to turn on their own. Welcome to sooner, Lindsey Graham.

These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world. Dateline Jacksonville, number three, best misplaced priorities, the district manager for the Wendys on 103rd street there. Somebody put something, probably oven cleaner, in the assistant manager, Sarah Barahona's (ph), soda. So she got sick and she called 911. She was reprimanded. "I was told having the police there damaged the public perception of Wendys," not as much as having an employee who tried to poison the assistant manager damaged it. Nor probably as much as having an idiot as a district manager damaged it.

Dateline London, number two, best poorly thought out art exhibit, Miroslaw Balka's "How It Is" at the Tate Modern Gallery of that city. It is a 100-foot long steel box. It's pitch black inside, and it's lined with light absorbing material. In other words, you can't see a damn thing once you're inside it. One art lover, of course, promptly walked head first into the brick wall in the back, and was escorted to the nasal injury hall.

And dateline Washington, number one, best do over, Republican Chairman Michael Steele, who has changed the name of his blog from What Up to Change The Game. Apparently, they thought What Up made Steele sound like a 12-year-old kid. The new choice, Change the Game, won out over such other suggestions as from the movie "a Mighty Wind," Hey, What Happened?


OLBERMANN: Home video is now making the rounds of South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham being savaged at a town hall as a fake Republican. And so our third story tonight, we get to see what real Republicans, the new Republican party, looks like. The website calls Lindsey Graham, quote, a hardcore conservative. But that's not hardcore enough in the new Republican party. That makes you a RINO, Republican In Name Only.

So, mixing metaphors, Rino Hunters showed up with a toilet bowl outside Graham's home town-town hall Monday. Inside, the message was clear, sometimes Graham is bipartisan, and the new Republican party hates bipartisanship.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You keep wanting to reach across the aisle to the Democrats. It's you can you made a pact with the devil.

My question is-I have two questions-is A, when are you going-three questions-when are you going to announce that you're going to switch parties?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a great question.


OLBERMANN: Which would of course put the Democrats even further in the majority, genius. One hundred percent ratings from the Christian Coalition, and the National Right to Life Committee; sorry, 100 percent is not pro-life enough in the new Republican party, where you must oppose every pro choice judge, qualified or not.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I'll put my record of pro-life politics against anybody in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sotomayor. Sotomayor. Sotomayor.


OLBERMANN: Pushing back against Ron Paul supporters, Senator Graham reminded them that Paul called President Bush a war criminal, only to learn that, on some issues, some new Republicans have moved so far right they are now left.


GRAHAM: He said George Bush was a war criminal.



You are a joke.


OLBERMANN: And your mom. Ultimately, however, it is not Ron Paul, but their god who moves the new Republican party, a god who believes what they believe and wants those beliefs imposed over others, over the Constitution, over you. A God who's morality is absolute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to tell you, Senator, that god does not compromise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If something is evil, senator, it's just wrong.

You vote against it.


OLBERMANN: This is the new Republican party, rejecting a Republican senator, a military prosecutor, one who is pro-death penalty, pro-warrantless wiretaps, school prayer, drilling in ANWR, one who is anti-gay marriage, Kyoto Protocols, habeas corpus, gun control, one who led the Clinton impeachment in the House, co-chaired the McCain/Palin campaign, rated an 11 percent by the NAACP, and a zero percent by the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU, rated 82 percent by the American Conservative Union.

Not enough for new Republican party, All three guys, a lesson Arlen Specter and now Lindsey Graham have now learned, a lesson lost only now, it would seem, on those Democrats who still seek bipartisanship with a new Republican party that spits on it. But soft.

On to the people who brought us the original silly party. It is the 40th anniversary of "Monty Python's Flying Circus." A majority of the surviving members joins me here life.

As opposed to whatever that purgatorial state of half life is in which Lonesome Roads Beck lingers. After he insisted the president was not more concerned about Afghanistan, "Politico" did some checking on how often he has been more concerned about Afghanistan. Not pretty.

And when "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" begins at the top of the hour, Congressman Barney Frank on the new outrage over the latest round of massive bonuses, the ones set to go to the same people who brought us, yes, the financial collapse.


OLBERMANN: Next live coverage of the all-England Samurais Post Competition. Our commentators, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones to discuss the 40th anniversary of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and the hobbies of the Samurais, which include golf, strangling animals and-

First time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to elder Gowan H. Oaks (ph) of the Quorum of the 12 Apostle of the Church of Latter Day Saints. He told an audience at Brigham Young, Idaho that the backlash against the Mormons for meddling in the California Prop 8 vote last year was akin to the intimidation of blacks in the south during the Civil Rights movement. Elder Oaks also referred to, quote, the newly alleged civil right of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage. He also said, "those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights."

One would think that with the Mormon's history of having previously been on the wrong side of integration, and the wrong side of that pesky ancient order of one woman per marriage, that these are subjects about which Elder Oaks would want to shut the hell up.

Runners up, Bill-O the Clown and Brit Hume of Fixed News. Said Bill-O, quote, "when President Bush was in trouble in Iraq, this network and this program, and your program as well, routinely hammered President Bush on Iraq." Said Hume, "we were very faithful about covering all the bad news coming out of Iraq." Said Bill-O, "there was no cheer leading."

Which universe was this in, again? Hume said President Bush had put America on an amazing foreign policy path. He said this last year. O'Reilly said that the only reason news organizations were covering bad news from Iraq was, quote, "because they want to embarrass the Bush administration. Do you care if another bomb went off in Tikrit? There's little news value in broadcasting daily bombings."

He said that two years ago.

But our winner, Lonesome Roads Beck. This is terrific stuff. He installed a red phone on his set, supposedly so the White House could call and complain about Fox News, since it is, in his words, quote, "more worried about the war on Fox than the actual war in Afghanistan."

Ben Smith at "" thought he'd find out how often Beck was more worried about the actual war in Afghanistan. He did a Nexus search of Beck's scripts since Beck went on Fox in January; 97 Beck references to Afghanistan, 38 more to the Taliban, compared to Marxism 127 references, community organizers 167, the SEIU 259, liberals 272, communists 330, socialists 404, Czars 533, and Acorn 1,224 references.

That's 135 Beck references to Afghanistan and the Taliban, and just 3,316 Beck references to Acorn and other sleazebag smears on the president and his supporters. So exactly who is more worried about the war on Fox than the actual war in Afghanistan? Lonesome Road's Beck, that's who, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: If you're not familiar with the members and the work of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," you've not only missed 40 years of brilliance, but you've obviously never seen this show before. In so much as the Board of Irresponsible People has concluded that I have stolen 13 percent of all of my material over the years from them.

Our number one story tonight, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones join me to celebrate the 40th anniversary, which will include a documentary, "Monty Python, Almost The Truth, The Lawyers' Cut," six episodes, beginning Sunday, on the Independent Film Channel, IFC.

Most instructive for the debut is the doubt of 40 Octobers ago, the doubt that this was all funny. The doubt coming from the performers.


JOHN CLEESE, "MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS": I still remember as Gray and Terry Jones did that very first of all our sketches, which was about the sheep who could fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lovely day, isn't it?

CLEESE: And I remember Michael and I had a conversation in the dressing room just before hand. And I said to him, do you realize, Michael, we could be the first people in history to do a 30-minute comedy show to complete silence. And he said to me, I was having the same thought.


OLBERMANN: As promised, and already having started the interview without me, in order, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam, three-fifths of the surviving membership of "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

It's beyond an honor for me, gentlemen.


OLBERMANN: Why another documentary. This is what, the 117th, rather than just a documentary on all the previous documentaries?

CLEESE: I'll tell you the real reason. His son was one of the producers and we couldn't bear to say no.

TERRY JONES, "MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS": It was arm twisting. I mean, I didn't want to do a documentary. Nobody wanted to do a documentary. But my son, Bill, said, oh, come on, dad. We have got to do a documentary.

OLBERMANN: If anybody had the right, I suppose, to push you into it, correct?

JONES: Actually, it's fantastic. It's a totally different take on the whole thing. It's a brilliant piece.

TERRY GILLIAM, "MONTY PYTHON FLYING CIRCUS": It's the first time we've gotten paid for talking about ourselves.


CLEESE: When somebody said do "Python Speaks," which was the interview, I thought, oh, not again. Actually, when it came out, I started to read it, and I thought, this is really quite good. I enjoyed reading this, because I learned a lot of stuff, because these people have such terrible memories. And hearing their version of events is hilarious.


OLBERMANN: I was reading about this. It's been a bowl of cherries for 40 years. Has it not?

JONES: John in the documentary says that when he was doing Lancelot and the Concord in "The Holy Grail," that we-that Terry and I said after the best performance-we said, there's not enough smoke. Of course, he was totally wrong. What happened was the-there's too much smoke. That's why we had to do it again. And we had to reshoot it.

CLEESE: We had to get the smoke right.


GILLIAM: Good comedy depends on smoke, John. Come on. Smoke and mirrors.

OLBERMANN: If they couldn't see you, it wasn't much of a shot.


CLEESE: All they want is to make me-


GILLIAM: -- some sense of gravitas.

OLBERMANN: So it is six hours of this?

JONES: Juvenile quality.

OLBERMANN: One thing I don't understand is there's this marvelous new documentary, using original source material, on the Kennedy assassination by the History Channel. It's spectacular. It's two shows. It takes two shows to go through the entire Kennedy assassination. You guys need six hours? I'm the biggest fan you have ever had, and it's six hours of this? Am I being paid to watch this?

CLEESE: You've just noticed the world has gone mad, Keith. It's very perceptive of you.

GILLIAM: But it's wonderful to hear us all having this dialogue completely separate from each other. It's much better than when we talk to each other in the flesh.

OLBERMANN: No, I-When there's cameras on, I disagree, because obviously it's much tighter and the production is much better. But I have to ask at least one serious question about 40 years of this. If you had doubts, as expressed in the clip that we played about your concerns about the first recording, why, not specifically, did all of it work-why did it work here? It certainly isn't timeless. The TV show was not timeless. And there were political references. Half the people who saw it didn't get an Edward Heath joke in 1974, let alone now. Why does it still hold up?

CLEESE: It's a mystery.

JONES: It is a mystery.

GILLIAM: to talk in America was necessary to translate the work to this great nation of minds formally.

CLEESE: There were two things we did. I think some of it was genuinely original. And I think that we somehow seemed to write sort of archetypes that people recognized in different cultures, and said we have funny people like that in our culture too.

JONES: Also, we were only writing for ourselves. And we were just making what ourselves laugh. And that got under the net. And fortunately, in America, there's a small-it's always a small percentage of people who sound funny. But in America, it's a huge amount of people.

OLBERMANN: But you raise a great point, because my other comedy heroes, Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding, Bob and Ray, the American group-

Chris Elliott was Bob Elliott's son. And he has a granddaughter on "Saturday Night Live." It's a family, essentially, of traditional comedians here. They said-Bob told me once that the whole point of their comedy team was to be on the radio live every day for three or four hours, and to try to make the other one laugh uncontrollably on the air.

So much of this is just sort of a side effect. The show is a side effect from a desperate attempt to set each other off in some way, a little bit of which has been demonstrated here tonight with you two gentlemen. Is that it? It's private, just put on stage?

CLEESE: You won't believe this, but my recollection-I'll have to check now, because I'm much too old to know really what I'm talking about. But my recollection is we did not have any idea what the viewing figure was.

GILLIAM: There was no interest. And there was also no managers, no agents, no executives.


JONES: It was only by show four or five that we got any feedback, and suddenly said there's a lot of letters coming in to the BBC from school children. That was the first feedback. Otherwise we were just doing it in a vacuum.

CLEESE: We made four shows before anything was transmitted.

GILLIAM: You know what's interesting right now in America? Every time I come here and talk to people who say their children, their son or daughter just discovered Python. The magic age seems to be 11. And I don't understand this, why at 11 bright kids suddenly-there's an epiphany. They suddenly see this world that-whatever it is we created. And it communicates to them. And they think this is the smartest, funniest stuff.

OLBERMANN: Also, formerly as an 11-year-old, although I was introduced to Python at about 15, the idea was always, from our perspective I think, was that you represented to kids a realization that some adults recognized how dumb the other adults were. And it was a crazy world. There was nobody to rely upon. You better figure it out fast because you're going to go into this.

CLEESE: Somebody once said that after they watch Monty Python, they were unable to watch the news.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, now, that begs the question-I have mentioned this many times. I found this last year during the primaries-co-anchoring the primary coverage one night-that we had gotten into the exact cadence of your election night sketch from 1970, with phones ringing and people yelling at each other, and pointless observations, and guys waving to their moms and all the rest of that.

I just thought, this must be a fairly strange sign of influence from the group after all these years. But there must have been something even weirder than that. Where else did you resonate that may have horrified you or worried you?

GILLIAM: That's a difficult question. I don't quite understand.

OLBERMANN: All right. But I gave it to John in advance. Remember, we talked about this before the show. It's an hour and a half ago.

Margaret Thatcher.

CLEESE: Oh, yes.

GILLIAM: Sorry, quite right.


CLEESE: Maggie Thatcher's foreign policy adviser, Brett Wood (ph) -- he's a friend. And I do know that at one point, Maggie Thatcher had a speech to make at the Conservative Party Conference. And she wanted to say that the third party, the liberal Democrats, were dead. So they rewrote for her the Dead Parrot Sketch. Yes. And, of course, she didn't think it was the slightest bit funny. She didn't even kind of realize it was comedy material. It could have been Mongolian to her. Then they had to teach her how to say, how to stress things, the cadences, and where to take the pauses.

And they really coached her, because when she did it, it was absolutely terrible, because when you have someone with no sense of humor at all, they just can't do it. So it did not-did not register very well.

JONES: We did think about suing her for using our material, breach of copyright.

CLEESE: Then we said to her-we figured that she was simply tired and shagged out.


OLBERMANN: Well-and then she got re-elected despite or because of your material?

CLEESE: I think despite it, I think. Yes.

OLBERMANN: Well, that's your cross to bear.

JONES: Satire doesn't work. They feed off it. They love it. The politicians love it. But I think what you do, Keith, is actually-


OLBERMANN: Gentlemen, you honor me by saying that. And all I can say is it's partially, at least, all your fault. John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, the documentary series appears on IFC at 9:00 on Sunday night. Congratulations, and enjoy the big reunion tomorrow, where you get the British award in an American theater, which tells us everything that is wrong. Congratulations on the Nobel Prize. Totally deserve it. I appreciate you coming in.

GILLIAM: He's much thinner when I watch him on Youtube.

CLEESE: I know.

OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN, for this, 2,358th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I used to be Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck. And now to discuss the latest round of bonus rage (ph) of the financial industry with Congressman Barney Frank, ladies and gentlemen, here is Alison Stewart, sitting in for Rachel. Good evening, Alison.



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