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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, November 5, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Clint Van Zandt, Clarence Page, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Richard Wolffe


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

The Bachmann health care protest.  A member of a U.S. House of Representatives endorses, applauds, enables this: “National Socialist Health Care, Dachau, Germany, 1945.”


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  You came for an emergency House call!

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  I saw a lot of signs.  I saw a lot of American flags, and I didn‘t see anything that I thought was disrespectful.


OLBERMANN:  The leader of Republicans in the House didn‘t think this was disrespectful.  Is it stupid?  Is it as stupid as a spray tan buffoon saying.


BOEHNER:  This is my copy of the Constitution.


OLBERMANN:  And then claiming he was going to read from it and then reading the preamble to the Declaration of Independence?

The Republicans jumped the health care shark.  And Boehner‘s alternate bill will ensure fewer Americans and cost $36 billion more than the Democratic bill.  Our special guest: Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

Nightmare at Fort Hood: How could a soldier kill at least 12 other soldiers and wounded at least 31 more?  And why?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a terrible tragedy.  It‘s stunning.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.


Defeat is victory.  And the other Orwellian conclusions of the conservatives after they lose the New York 23rd, a seat they had kept from Democrats for 150 years.

Congressman Joe Wilson is saying (ph), “I actually agree with Vice President Cheney that the president is dithering.  And I actually had to look up what ‘dithering‘ meant, and it‘s ‘indecisive.‘”  While you‘re at it, look up the word “doofus.”

And Rupert Murdoch‘s startling admission about FOX News: he tells them what they can and cannot say, and he orders them to use the network for personal revenge and payback.  He reports, he decides.

All of that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

An elected Republican official today is leading a protest on the west steps of the Capitol that compared health care reform to Nazi death camps and encouraged mindless harassment of and possibly violence against the government.  Not tea baggers anymore, not demagogic commentators, an actual congresswoman inciting a hateful rebellion against the rule of law and order.  Her name is Michele Bachmann.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: As if that were not bad enough, Ms.  Bachmann today joined by the House minority leader as well as countless other GOP representatives.  This orgy of veiled threat and not so veiled racism of white power minority rule now fully the province of the Republican Party.  Welcome to the coup!

Congressman Bachmann staging what she tried to claim was a spontaneous meet-up of opponents to health care reform, in 25 buses paid for by the AstroTurf group Americans for Prosperity, could be considered spontaneous.  An estimated 4,000 people today answering Ms. Bachmann‘s call, bringing with them on those buses, not just their misunderstanding of health care reform but also their hatred of President Obama, as well as pure hatred, period.

Lee Fang of taking these photographs of a sign that reads “National Socialist Health Care, Dachau, Germany, 1945,” superimposed over the horrific images of the corpses from Dachau.  Other signs are slightly less shameful but many in no way related to health care.

Congresswoman Bachmann urging these people to rebel.


BACHMANN:  It was Thomas Jefferson who said—a revolution every now and then is a good thing.  What do you think?


BACHMANN:  You feel so good right now, and we, the members of Congress that are gathered on these steps for this press conference, are so honored that you are here.


OLBERMANN:  Press conference?  The geniuses at the Republican study committee trying to rebrand today‘s event not as a protest, nor a rally, but as a press conference.  Urging House staffers in an e-mail last night to please make sure your boss does not turn this event a rally.

Does any of this sound like press conference to you?


REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA:  Who will kill this bill?  You will!  You will!  And we must.  The Constitution of the United States starts with three very powerful words: “We, the people.”  And we the people are speaking.  Nancy Pelosi, listen.

Fellow patriots, go tell your congressman you‘re not going to eat this rotten stinking fish that is Pelosi health care!  We are going to put a stop sign in front of her steamroller of socialism.  Go to it, Patriots!


OLBERMANN:  That man is a doctor.  And someone has an appointment to see him.  At least Congressman Broun knows how the Constitution starts.  The Republicans‘ top dog can‘t even cite the correct document.


BOEHNER:  I‘m going to stand with you and all freedom-loving Americans against this bill.  This is my copy of the Constitution.  And I‘m going to stand here with our Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


OLBERMANN:  If Minority Leader Boehner had read his prop copy of the Constitution, perhaps he‘d know that he was actually quoting the Declaration of Independence—or maybe he thinks that‘s the same thing as the Constitution.  Which might explain the Republican health care bill Minority Leader Boehner‘s office having falsely claimed that that bill, once it was finally revealed, would cover millions more Americans than the Democrats‘ bill would.  In fact, it would cover fewer millions Americans, making the nation‘s health care crisis that much worse.

The Congressional Budget Office in its analysis of the bill, determining that the Republicans would leave will 52 million Americans uninsured.  Right now, there are 46 million in this country without coverage—which means under the Republican plan, 6 million more Americans would become uninsured.

And the GOP‘s bills impact on the deficit?  It would be $36 million worse than the impact of the Democratic bill.

Time now to call on our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post.”

Gene, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Today, we saw a member of Congress encouraging harassment of the government, fomenting—her word was revolution.  And her behavior was sanctioned by her colleagues, the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives.  And I recall that during the previous administration, if you disagreed with policy and just said it, let alone staged some sort of protest with banners and references to the Second World War, you immediately got branded a traitor.  There seems to have been some kind of a shift of terminology in these times.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Your recollection is correct.  I think it was more of a shift of party and control of the White House, and both houses of Congress.  And I think that the outrage that was displayed at criticism of the president of the time of war a few years ago was situational.  And it seems to no longer apply when a certain party is no longer in charge.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Did the wars end?  Did I miss that?  Did I not get the memo (ph)?

ROBINSON:  You know, I missed the memo if they did.  The wars—the wars did not end.  And it really was quite a spectacle.  I mean, this was an elected congresswoman who presumably was sent here to make laws, out there doing this ridiculous—what do they call it—a press conference?  I‘d love to know the media organizations that all those people represented who were out there bused in by the Astroturf group.

It was a—it was frankly appalling.  But that‘s Michele Bachmann.

OLBERMANN:  But it‘s always been appalling and it‘s always been Michele Bachmann, and I don‘t think she has any idea of what she‘s doing truly and its possible impact.

But today was when the Republicans say, “We own this.”  There is racism in here.  There is bigotry.  There‘s refusal to acknowledge the outcome of an election that was a pretty clear-cut decision.  There is a misunderstanding of a vital health care issue.  There are a lot of things going on here.

But they‘re being stoked up into a rage and this was not—correct me if I‘m wrong about this—but this was the day the Republican Party said, “Yes, we‘ll take this.  We‘ll run on this.  We‘ll become the party of hate.”

ROBINSON:  Well, it seems to me that they gave up any pretense of deniability today.  When you have the minority leader out there joining the protest, the rally, whatever it was, with this horrific and frankly disgusting imagery that attended it, I—there is a certain amount of ownership that they take.  And I think this is something that should be remembered.  These are video clips that should be kept and should be played.

OLBERMANN:  On an associated point with this, how did the organizers of this not realize, you know what?  We had better get somehow, even if we‘ll have to pay them to show up, some black faces, some brown faces, some Asian people, or somebody in this crowd, other than the crowd that we‘ve seen at every piece of videotape that looked like—that looked exactly the same.  This is otherwise going to look like a pro-apartheid rally in South Africa 35 or 40 years ago.

ROBINSON:  Well, now, this is going to sound tendentious, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.

ROBINSON:  But I went to the Republican National Convention last year, and you did not see many minorities there.  And it—look, this is a—this is a party that has been more and more hostile to minorities, to Latinos, to African-Americans.  It certainly perceived that way and this didn‘t help that image at all.  That—you know, that seems to be the hand they‘ve decided to play.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s terrifying.

Gene Robinson of MSNBC and “The Washington Post”—as always, great thanks, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the other side show, not the madness at the Capitol, but the madness in that Republican health care plan—let‘s turn to Clarence Page, “Chicago Tribune” editorial board member and our second Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of this segment.

We‘re very honored, Clarence.  Good evening.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  You just load with us tonight, Keith. 

Thank you very much for having me.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s terrific.

The first time the Republicans rolled out what they called a health care plan, it was in June.  It was four pages long and didn‘t have any financial figures in it.  Now, the plan is 52 million Americans uninsured in 2019, 6 million more than uninsured now and premiums for many people, mostly the less healthy, will go up.

Do you think maybe they should have stuck with that four-pager that didn‘t have any numbers in it?

PAGE:  Well, you know, it does make you wonder.  You know, John Boehner was asked today how much his plan would cost, how much the Republican plan would cost, and he didn‘t know.  So, it makes you wonder how much time they actually spent on this.

It turned out that it would be about $60 billion with about a net cost of $8 billion because they figured most of that would be saved.  But the fact is, you‘re right.  The main thrust of this is to reduce the cost of premiums and provide lower cost and more choice to—mostly to people who are already covered.  It would only increase coverage to about 3 million people.

Keith, how many uninsured do we have right now?  Over 40 million depending on.

OLBERMANN:  Forty-six, yes.

PAGE:  . what estimate you look at.  Forty-six million.  Well, 3 million would be covered by this.  So, this plan is not designed to close the gap as far as the uninsured are concerned.

OLBERMANN:  To your first point, of course, Mr. Boehner showed he does not know the difference between Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  So, we‘re really—we‘re out on a limb here trying to get him to understand anything else.  This.

PAGE:  I‘m embarrassed here, Keith.


PAGE:  By the way, John Boehner is from—I grew up in the district John Boehner was educated in, as well.  And I thought we learned that in the eighth grade in Ohio civics class.

OLBERMANN:  Well, yes.

PAGE:  So, I don‘t know what‘s happened to education back there.

OLBERMANN:  Well—yes, you got a Pulitzer Prize and he doesn‘t know the difference between the Constitution and the declaration.  I think the simple solution to that one was, one of you went to class and the other one didn‘t.

PAGE:  He is higher ranked than me on Capitol Hill though.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s a mistake that might be corrected in time.  But in any event, this plan is supposed to expand coverage and choice by allowing insurers to ignore, quote, “all of the consumer protection laws and restrictions on rate changes.”

Is there anybody besides the insurance companies that that would help?

PAGE:  Well, you know, they sell this as providing more choice to consumers.  But it‘s really a provider-oriented plan, because—as I said, we were talking mostly about people.  Those of us who already have coverage, we‘d be able to shop more across state lines, for example.  But you wouldn‘t have anything like a public option.

This would be kind of like the Democrat plan, if the Democrats don‘t have a public option.  Only, the Democratic plan, as I mentioned, is aimed at closing the gap for those who don‘t have coverage now, the uninsured you now; whereas, the Republican plan is not.

OLBERMANN:  One last thing detailing that Bachmann rally at the west steps of the Capitol.  The minority whip, Mr. Cantor, promised not one Republican will vote for this bill, referring to the Democratic health care plan that‘s about to begin debate.

Is that still ultimately the true Republican plan here?  Just kill any reform?  Just stop it in its tracks no matter what it means for—for people?

PAGE:  Well, ostensibly, what they say their plan is, is to slow the process down.  They believe the Democrats are moving ahead too fast and they want incremental, Republicans wanted incremental changes.  That‘s why their first step is to reduce the cost of premiums, not to expand coverage to that many people who are not covered now.

But ultimately, I mean, what you call a hurry, Keith—I mean, this country has been, since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, we‘ve been debating having health coverage for the entire population.  I will say, this is not a rush.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  As the president said when he introduced a reference to Congressman Dingell, his father was involved in the last great push in the late ‘30s, early ‘40s.

PAGE:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  Boy, we‘re just—we‘re moving way too fast here.

Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of the “Chicago Tribune,” who studied—great thanks, Clarence.

PAGE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  About the practicality of the House vote now scheduled for Saturday, Congressman Cummings of Maryland is with us.

But first, let‘s just be clear about this.  Health care reform is not the Holocaust.  The Holocaust is the Holocaust.  Health care reform is not 9/11 -- 9/11 is 9/11.  To blur those realities, to cross those lines, is to default on your argument to lose before you present your evidence.  And it is to contribute to a climate of fear and violence in a country that does not need another ounce of either.  It is shameful, manipulative, pathetic, dishonest.

The latest on what could have gone so horribly wrong at Fort Hood today.  Not just a soldier killing other soldiers, but a military psychologist, a supposed problem-solver for the stressed, doing so.  Next.


OLBERMANN:  As General Barry McCaffrey says, it is outside the experience of even the most experienced of military men, not just a soldier shooting and killing other soldiers, not just an officer, but a psychiatrist.  A medical doctor trained to help soldiers with the stress of combat, the stress of deployment, failing to control the stress in himself in the most disastrous and murderous of ways.  What happened today at Fort Hood, Texas—next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Where shooting at a U.S. military base in American history appears tonight to have been the doing of an Army mental health professional, a psychiatrist who specialized in combat stress.  Tonight, he and 12 other soldiers, his victims, are dead.  Thirty more people were wounded.

In our fourth story tonight: The shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military base on American soil, home to more than 50,000 people—people who, tonight, are in mourning and in shock.

The shooting began early this afternoon at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where soldiers were preparing to deploy overseas were getting last-minute medical check-ups.

The shooter identified as 39-year-old Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, reportedly single with no children, born in Virginia, assigned to Fort Hood in July.  Himself—according to a U.S. senator and a military official—himself about to be deployed to Iraq, was armed with two handguns.  He is listed on the Web site for the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress as a fellow there in disaster psychiatry.

Military officials told the “Associated Press,” Hasan got a poor performance evaluation while he served at Walter Reed in Washington before his transfer to Fort Hood.  The “A.P.” reporting tonight, Hasan came to the attention of federal law enforcement six months ago for Internet postings discussing suicide bombings and other threats.  Today, at Fort Hood, he was killed by local police responding to the shooting.

Two other soldiers were taken into custody in the early chaos.  After the shooting, they were later released.  That, according to Congressman John Carter, whose district includes part of Fort Hood.  Also an information officer at the base said this.  Carter later said that a third suspect had been taken into custody.  We have no details in what role if any that person might or might not have had in the shootings.

About the issue of deployment: Tonight, a U.S. military official tells NBC News that Hasan himself was due to be deployed on November 28th.  Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said tonight that a military official had told her that Hasan was apparently going to be deployed to the Middle East, apparently to Iraq, and had made negative comments about his upcoming deployment.

A man identified as his cousin told FOX that since 9/11, being deployed was Hasan‘s worse fear, and that he came to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after speaking with returning soldiers.  But that he was not violent and did not enjoy even going to the firing range.

Earlier, the president said that he had been in touch with Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen about the shootings.


OBAMA:  My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood.  Now, these are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis.  It‘s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas.  It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.


OLBERMANN:  With us tonight on this story, still developing: Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler, now MSNBC analyst.

Thanks for your time tonight, Clint.


OLBERMANN:  Two obvious factors are being looked at tonight.  This upcoming deployment, which is pretty much been confirmed, and his own background in psychiatry—combat stress disaster psychology and such.  What do these things tell you together or in isolation?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, we‘ve got a man here, Keith, who earned a master‘s degree and then he allowed the military.  Now, realize, this is a guy who went to ROTC also when he was in undergraduate school at Virginia Tech.  And he earned a master‘s degree.  Then he let the military pay for six years of medical school.

So, you know, the U.S. government stood behind him.  They paid the freight on all this.  He came into the military.  And you now we said, “OK, Major, it‘s time for you to you pay back.  It‘s time for you to go overseas and help people.”

And realize, part of the challenge here is that we only have one mental health specialist per about 750 uniformed soldiers, airmen and others in the U.S. military.  So this is a challenge.

And as you say, Keith, his specialty was dealing with mental health, with post-traumatic stress.  Twenty percent of the troops returning from the Middle East, from combat, have experienced and/or treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

So even at Walter Reed, he would have seen and talked to a number of soldiers who had very potentially negative experiences in combat.  He knew what he was going to be dealing with when he got overseas.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any reason to suppose, Clint, that someone who was trained or even experienced in the dealing with the post-traumatic stress of others and other forms of stress of others, even in the military, in that specific a setting, would be any better at dealing with it in their own personas than the average soldier?

ZANDT:  You know, I think that‘s a very good question.  We‘ve heard over the years that in the medical community, that dentists have one of the highest rates.


VAN ZANDT:  . of suicide because of the pain they deal with.  We would think, here‘s a situation, a physician, heal thyself and he wasn‘t able to do it, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  When you consider how something like this must end, no matter what the motive was, no matter what the premise of it was, wherever he might have thought was rational as he did it—what leads a person, and I guess this the ultimate question in these scenarios, to take out other people‘s lives and other people‘s lives to cause such pain among—basically people who have nothing to do with him.  These are not direct victims, we assume.  Rather than, why do it that way when rather than just cut to the chase and if you say, “I can‘t bear to go and I‘m going to end my own life,” why not do that first, in other words.

I know it‘s crass-sounding, but why is that choice made to involve others?

VAN ZANDT:  I think one of his alleged Internet postings gives us a clue to that, Keith, where he suggests that a suicide bombing, in essence, the killing of innocents is the equivalent of throwing yourself on a grenade to save others.  In his mind.


VAN ZANDT:  . in his challenged mind, that mass murder may have been somehow saving the lives of Muslims in the Middle East.

OLBERMANN:  And there—is there—is there an expectation that at some point, his goals and his personal goals got merged with some anti-American point of view?  Is this going to wind up being classified as a terrorist act?  What do you think about that aspect that so many people want to know about?

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.  We all—we always want to know motive.


VAN ZANDT:  A jury always wants to know the motive, why someone did something.  And most of us, Keith, were relatively complex creatures.  We have multiple motives.

So, even though this is a man who told no relative of his that he was going to be deployed, he was so angry, he was so upset, there may have been something else—something in his Internet communications, something in his religion, in his politics, that gave him a secondary motive for doing what he did.  That‘s the job of investigators.


VAN ZANDT:  As they go through his Internet, they go you through his mail, they try to understand what terrible trip this man took inside of his mind that led him to take the lives of others, whereas a medical doctor, he swore that he would save lives, not take them.

OLBERMANN:  Clint Van Zandt, former profiler with the FBI—great thanks to you for helping us begin to understand what happened today.

VAN ZANDT:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN continues—next.


OLBERMANN:  Back to health care and the prospect of a vote Saturday, Congressman Cummings of Maryland joins me.  He‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. 

Dateline, Santiago de Cuba, number three, best sports accomplishment you‘ve never heard of, Alexei Bell, right fielder of the Santiago baseball team.  On opening day of the Cuban Major League season in the first inning, Bell hit two Grand Slam home runs.  First inning of the first game of the season.  He ended the day with 12 runs batted.  In he added two more in the next game and two more today. 

Dateline Washington, number two, best revelation, Joe Wilson, the moronic Congressman from South Carolina, and Armstrong Williams, the “Washington Times” columnist who used to take under the table bribes from the Bush administration to give them favorable coverage.  I snapped this a week ago.  The headline over Williams‘ article: “Is Republicans Ready to Lead?”  Is that perfect or what?  Well, is they?  I doesn‘t know. 

Then Congressman Wilson decided to comment on Afghanistan.  “I actually agree with Vice President Cheney that the president is dithering.  I actually had to look up what dithering meant, and it is indecisive. 

That‘s what the president is being.” 

Do you want to just stick to the mono-syllable words there, Wyl-E-Coyote?  Am I asking too much that Republican congressman can show proof that they completed the sixth grade?  Am I setting the bar too high somehow? 

And dateline Rhode Island, number one, best seen from the movie “The Big Lebowski” come to life; two unnamed 15-year-olds in high school cut class to break into a house there and steal video games.  Police discovered their identities, went to the school and arrested them. 

How did they crack the case?  Like in Lebowski.  One of the kids left his homework in the house they broke into. 

You see what happens, Larry?  You see what happens when you, you know. 

This is what happens?  You see what happens, Larry? 


OLBERMANN:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today said that, 48 hours from you now, she will have the votes to pass a sweeping health care overhaul, including a public option, when it goes for a vote on the House floor.  But, in our fourth story tonight, we‘re apparently not there yet.  The president, now stepping up his public role in all this, will visit the hill tomorrow for a closed door meeting with House Democrats, some of whom remain opposed to the bill, some of whom remain on the fence. 

At today‘s White House briefing, Mr. Obama tried to boost support for this bill and provide coverage for those who already support it by trumpeting today‘s news of new endorsements of it.  One from the American Medical Association.  The other from the AARP, representing 40 million Americans 50 years old and up. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Endorsing this bill because they know it will strengthen Medicare, not jeopardize it.  They know it will protect the benefits our seniors receive, not cut them. 

So I want everybody to remember that the next time you their same tired arguments to the contrary from the insurance companies and their lobbyists.  And remember this endorsement the next time you see a bunch of misleading ads on television. 

The AARP knows this bill will make health care more affordable.  They know it will make coverage more secure.  They know it is a good deal for our seniors.  And that‘s why we‘re thrilled that they‘re standing up for this effort. 

The same is true for the doctors and medical professionals who are supporting this bill today.  These are men and women who know our health care system best, and have been watching this debate closely.  They would not be supporting it if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors. 


OLBERMANN:  The Speaker today said no decision on which amendments members may get to offer before Saturday‘s vote has been made.  Among the issues on the table, a mechanism for ensuring that only premiums, not actual government subsidies, are used to pay for patient abortions, and whether illegal immigrants would be allowed to use their own money to buy insurance through a government exchange. 

We‘re joined now by Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, also a member of the House Task Force on Health Care Reform.  Congressman, thanks for your time tonight. 

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND:  Good to be you with you. 

OLBERMANN:  The Speaker said you‘ll have the 218 votes needed for passage by Saturday night.  How many do you think you have tonight?  Do you have a number? 

CUMMINGS:  I think we probably have it now.  We have at least the 218 right now.  The reports that I‘m getting.  If we don‘t have them, we‘re very, very close.  I would expect, Keith, that when the president shows up tomorrow, he will have the effect of pulling some votes on the side of health care reform.  And I think we‘ll be able to by the time he leaves the Capitol. 

OLBERMANN:  Has anything to your knowledge been sacrificed or will anything have to be sacrificed in this bill the keep that 218 or 218 plus number? 

CUMMINGS:  I‘m not sure.  I think we‘re still going back and forth.  We have some folks in our caucus who are certainly very concerned with regard to money being spent, government money being spent for abortions.  I personally think that it has been pretty well covered.  But I know the Speaker is trying to make sure that we stay consistent with the Hyde Amendment.  And we believe that it is clear that no money will be—as the bill is written, will be used, no public money for abortions. 

But I don‘t think—I think we‘ll be able to resolve these issues.  I think all of us realize that we must have health reform—health care reform right now.  And we have a lot of people who are, sadly, suffering and they‘re looking at us right now.  They‘re suffering and they don‘t have insurance. 

And we have 45,000 people, probably plus, dying every year because they don‘t have insurance.  I can tell you, I‘m sure there are many cases in my own district that fit that description. 

OLBERMANN:  Did the two special House elections on Tuesday change this effort in any sense, in any way? 

CUMMINGS:  I don‘t think so.  I‘ve said it earlier on this network that I really think that the House elections was a very loud cry out or shout out to the Democrats.  Again, we have two conservative districts, one which was Republican forever.  And now they—both of these districts have now sent Democrats to the Capitol. 

Think about that, Keith.  If people were so opposed to what President Obama is attempting to do, and so opposed to what the Democrats are trying to do, the last thing that they would do is send two additional teammates to help you get the ball over the line. 

So I‘m—I was very pleased about that. 

OLBERMANN:  It is almost too logical to say anything against that, Congressman.  Although many of your colleagues on the other side of the chamber have done that.  To that point, I would like to get your thoughts, while we have you here, about this so-called Super Bowl of Freedom at the Capital that the Republicans staged today, with a poster equating health care to the Nazi death camp at Dachau, with those racist signs that were being held there.  Did the succeed in, as they put it, scaring you into protecting America‘s freedoms? 

CUMMINGS:  I don‘t think they scared anybody.  As you were saying that, Keith, I got a chill, really.  I mean, I just think this thing has gone too far. 

First of all, people need to understand what‘s in the bill.  I would guarantee you, Keith, that if people really knew what was in the bill, they would realize that the bill probably, more than likely, will benefit them and their families. 

But I think that there is an effort to create failure on the part of this president, who is trying so hard to do the right thing.  And then there are other people who have legitimate concerns.  And there are other people who just don‘t know what they are talking about.  They don‘t know the bill.  And so that‘s a real problem. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  And it is a shame about those with legitimate concerns kind of getting buried in there amongst the—

CUMMINGS:  No doubt about it. 

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, great thanks, especially for your time here in the evening. 

CUMMINGS:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  A reminder, the free health clinics that you so graciously have funded will kick off a week from Saturday.  For more information on the locations and the dates, more specifically, how to get an appointment you if you need health care, and know someone who does, and how to volunteer if you would like to help personally, please visit, or our own website, 

Dick Armey dismissed voters‘ concerns in upstate New York as parochial.  Now he blames the conservative loser, Mr. Hoffman, for not paying enough attention to the voters‘ concerns in the district. 

Orly Taitz Limbaugh has a problem.  He has now used the same analogy to a pornographic term about backside 13 time in the last two years. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the latest from Ft. Hood and how a military psychologist could suddenly begin shooting and killing his fellow servicemen. 


OLBERMANN:  “We will certainly come out on top again,” says the jaded, cynical, 107 year old man in Italy in “Catch 22” about his nation, “if we succeed in being defeated.”  Apparently, the cynical 107-year-old Italian man in “Catch 22” was the campaign manager for the conservative candidate in the New York 23rd.  Because even though they lost a seat that had been in Republican hands for 150 years, the conservatives are claiming they really won. 

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

The bronze to U2 and MTV.  You heard me, Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, even The Edge. 

As part of the MTV Europe Music Awards, they played a concert this evening at the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  To keep out people who didn‘t have tickets, somebody built a six and a half foot wall around the stage, a new wall in Berlin to keep Berliners out during the celebration of the knocking down of the Berlin Wall. 

Our runner up, Orly Taitz Limbaugh.  Here he goes again.  Commenting on an HBO documentary on the president, he returned to his favorite disturbing imagery.  “If a documentary could get anal poisoning, this one could.  I mean, it just kissed butt, kissed butt, kissed butt all over.” 

By our count, this is at least the 13th time in the last two years, just the last two years, that Orly Taitz has used this imagery of anal poisoning, combined with 19 other references in the same span to men bending over and grabbing their ankles.  There is, of course, no actual disease called anal poisoning.  The best anybody could come up with by explanation is that it is a term frequently used in pornography.  And as Al Franken once pointed out long ago in his scholarly text, “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot,” one of Limbaugh‘s explanations for his deferment from the draft was a palondial cyst (ph), a growth that is in the region. 

Every day, in every way, we understand Orly Taitz Limbaugh better and better. 

But our winner, Rupert Murdoch.  On a conference call explaining Newscorp‘s 26 percent drop in operating income at his TV stations and it‘s 81 percent drop in operating income at his newspapers, the website Media Memo, which he also owns, reported this exchange: question, “what‘s up with the MSNBC-Fox News truce, which appears to be broken?” 

Murdoch, “we didn‘t started this abuse, which we thought went way beyond.  Finally, we had to allow people to retaliate.  When they stop, we‘ll stop.”  Matey!

Fairly straight-forward sounding statement, until you analyze it a little bit.  Murdoch is claiming that his alleged news people at Fox, like Roger Ailes and Bill O‘Reilly, did not decide to do stories about MSNBC or NBC or GE.  He did.  And he did not decide to do stories about MSNBC or NBC or GE because it was any news value to them.  He decided to do them out of personal pique. 

When O‘Reilly spent hour after hour reporting fabricating stories about GE parts allegedly, possibly, maybe—well, I read some graffiti about it—in roadside bombs, he was not doing so because the story was true or Americans were in danger or just to fulfill any premise of journalism.  He did it because Rupert Murdoch had agreed to, in Murdoch‘s own words, allow people to retaliate. 

When O‘Reilly a stalker producer to interrupt a GE business meeting, it wasn‘t reporting.  It was, again to use Murdoch‘s term, abuse. 

And most importantly, all of it, from Fox‘s petulant, defensive name calling, to O‘Reilly‘s slandering of GE, Murdoch will stop all of it if MSNBC simply stops watch dogging Fox. 

Thus, simply, Rupert Murdoch has revealed his company‘s news coverage and the people who deliver it are there simply to pursue their own petty vendettas. 

Rupert Murdoch, not only doing his carnival fun house version of actual journalism, but stupid enough to admit it, in public, today‘s worst person in the world. 


OLBERMANN:  One way for conservatives to bear the loss of New York‘s 23rd Congressional District is to cast it somehow as we actually won.  And another is to cast aspersions on the conservative party candidate himself, because he was clueless on local issues.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the conservative carpet baggers of New York‘s 23rd special election are willing to employ both theories and simultaneously. 

You will recall that the conservative party candidate, Doug Hoffman, lost to the Democrat in New York‘s 23rd, despite the fact that a Democrat has never won in that district in its current form, and despite the fact that this so called grassroots push for party purity had forced the Republican candidate out of the race in his favor. 

Perhaps the richest explanation for the loss coming from former House Majority Leader and Tea Bag extraordinaire Dick Armey.  Quoting, “the fact of the matter is he, Hoffman, did not pay enough attention to the local concerns.  They were able to tag him as being unaware of the local needs and concerns.”

This from the same man who dismissed those regional concerns as, quote, “parochial,” when his pet candidate could not answer questions from a local editorial board. 

Mr. Armey‘s other spin?  “He, Hoffman, just got there late.  That‘s all.  We think small government conservatives had a big win last night.” 

Hopefully at poker or something.  Ditto from the likes of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, that New York‘s 23rd district was just the beginning. 

But from RNC Chairman Michael Steele a shot at those outsiders who tried to wrestle New York‘s 23rd into submission. 


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  If you don‘t live in the district, you don‘t vote there, your opinion really doesn‘t matter much.  New York 23 serves as an important lesson on how we manage the opportunity to win a seat.  Not mismanage it by putting in place a botched process. 

I don‘t see a victory in losing seats.  I don‘t get to do that particular dance, nor do I buy it, that we somehow find victory in defeat. 


OLBERMANN:  I‘m shaking.  Mr. Steele and I agree on something.  As to what Democrats should learn from Tuesday‘s elections, particularly the loss of two governorships, senior White House adviser David Axelrod acknowledged that his partied suffered a turnout problem, and that the White House needed to nationalize the 2010 midterm elections, because President Obama would be able to generate turnout in the Democrats‘ favor once again. 

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst, the author of “Renegade, The Making of a President,” Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior strategist at Public Strategies  Good evening, Richard. 


OLBERMANN:  Many of us predicted as much before that election.  But in claiming they won by losing, this crowd has no regrets about having splintered, confused, annoyed the largely Republican electorate just minding its own business there, and probably having been likely to put another Republican in Congress until they got involved in this? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘m tempted to say this is like several stages of the grief process here.  We‘ve got a bit of delusion and a bit of anger.  But, of course, there is something else going on here, which is that after the drubbing that Republicans took in 2006 and 2008, a drive for ideological purity is actually the natural course of events.  It, unfortunately, leads to another kind of defeat, but it feels good at the time.  So it is understandable that parties to it. 

There is another factor here, which is that the runaway train of change that swept Obama into power is sweeping through the Republican party and the right wing in general.  And they don‘t know you how to deal with it.  Obama knew how to sort of take control of this runaway train and take it in his own direction. 

Republicans have to figure this out.  And they‘ve not got the Obama-Clinton dynamic that we saw in the primary.  So this is kind of playing out in front of our eyes, and it‘s very messy. 

OLBERMANN:  To that point, I‘ve read a fascinating analysis.  I‘m not sure it was originating at Daily Kos or it had come from somewhere else.  The idea was that the conservatives are really showing that they‘re intentionally in a kind of Lemming period.  They are not doing what the Democrats did when they rebuilt in the last ten years, which is, first job, elect Democrats, any Democrats.  Second job, elect better Democrats. 

The conservatives, the Republicans, are just purging, no matter what it means as far as electing their own—seemingly their own people.  So this is why you would be seeing moderates like Tim Pawlenty suddenly acting like conservatives, and the conservatives acting like birthers.  It is more about appeasing this lunatic right machine and keeping their own jobs.  It‘s less about electing.  Is that what we‘re seeing?

WOLFFE:  It doesn‘t have irrelevance about elections.  But that also is part of the mood.  Let‘s face it, there are some of these similar pressures among Democrats also looking for ideological purity and who is the true Democrat, and committed to the actual ideals and principles the Democrats stand for. 

But what we‘re seeing is, certainly on the right, a lack of central control, a lack of grown-ups who can say, this is the way it has to be, because there is no other electoral path to victory otherwise.  And that‘s why—look, Michael Steele was saying reasonable things.  But he is a Maryland Democrat.  And he also said today that if there are any Republican candidates out there who said anything nice about the stimulus or maybe say anything good about health care reform, then they‘re going to go after them. 

Well, you know, he is taking part in this witch hunt as well, and that speaks to the lack of leadership within the party. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there any grown-up in that party, that takes the next step, beyond what he just said, which is, no, no, this is not a victory.  Sorry, no matter how you want to spin it, it is not.  And then going to the next stage of saying, we have to stop this or we are not going to be a viable national party in 2010, let alone 2012? 

WOLFFE:  No, I don‘t think that party—that figure has emerged for them.  It is a total misreading.  You look at the prism they‘re talking about.  It‘s small government versus big government, as opposed to change versus the incumbents.  The only common factor between the three races that we saw was the incumbents lost.  The incumbent party lost at every place.

If Republican don‘t understand that, if Michael Steele doesn‘t understand, they‘re going to get swept out too next time around. 

OLBERMANN:  Does David Axelrod understand that, in terms of this Democratic idea of nationalizing the political approach to the midterms?  Also nationalizing doesn‘t sound like it‘s going to be a successful term to use, is it? 

WOLFFE:  Socializing?  They have to figure out that they can convince people that they are, in fact, the change factor, the change engine.  In a sense, the president has to be more like an insurgent than an incumbent.  That‘s not an easy balancing act to pull off.  You know, they have to demonstrate that they actually have delivered on the change message, while also being commander in chief and filling out the presidential office, where people are questioning whether the president is even American.  Not easy. 

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of “Renegade,” also of Public Strategies.  As always, Richard, great thanks. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,380th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  See you tomorrow night, I hope, with analysis of the self-destruction of Carrie Prejean.  Until then, good night and good luck. 

Now with the latest from the nightmare shoot-up at Ft. Hood in Texas, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel.



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