November 9, 2009
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED
Guests: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Chris Hayes, Richard Wolffe, Margaret Carlson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
This is the first day of the rest of the life of the debate.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The bill is passed.
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OLBERMANN: Next, the Senate-next month or next March.
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SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: As a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.
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OLBERMANN: Doesn't one have to have a conscience in order to vote one's conscience?
Health care reform the next generation-with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Howard Fineman of "Newsweek."
And the push to fill up the bill with anti-abortion bureaucracy and to hit it with Sarah Palin "death panel" redux belligerency-and to pretend the Republican minority oppose to it is actually the silent majority.
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REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: I got to tell you, Democrats keep ignoring the American people, their party is going to be history in about a year.
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OLBERMANN: "Worst": Minority Whip Cantor condemns Orly Taitz Limbaugh's Hitler references but not this Hitler reference at the rally Cantor attended. Rupert Murdoch now says the president was racist. And the CEO of Goldman Sachs proclaims he's doing God's work.
Speaking of delusions.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Jersey went to Republican Chris Christie and that was the death knell for the Obama administration. It's official, Greta-no, he can't.
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OLBERMANN: And another singular honor for fixed news's fight against mental health-he's made the annual "Mad 20"-"Mad" magazine's list of dumbest people, events, and things of the year. What, him worry?
All of that and more-now on COUNTDOWN.
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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: Please DVR this program every day.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Ayes 220, nays 215. So, if the GOP or the conservative party had won the New York 23rd last Tuesday instead of managing to get a Democrat elected there, and if the rising tide of tea bags really mattered and the GOP had taken the California tent last Tuesday away from the Democrats, the deciding vote-the deciding vote-about health care would have been from Joseph Cao of Louisiana second, Republican Joseph Cao who voted for it.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: How is that "take back America" thing going for the GOP again?
Speaker Pelosi and Majority Whip Clyburn and Congressman Garamendi and Owens and Cao winning a hard-fought victory in the House late on Saturday night, passing the health care reform bill by that final vote of 220-215;
39 Democrats voting against that measure.
Among the rest of Mr. Cao's Republican colleagues, the debate going way past bordering on the absurd and landing straight in absurd's capital.
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REP. JOHN SHADEGG ®, ARIZONA: This is Maddie. But Maddie believes in freedom. Maddie likes America because we have freedom here, and Maddie believes in patient choice health care.
She asked to come here today to say she doesn't want the government to take over health care. She wants to be able to keep her plan. You see, Maddie knows that if this bill passes, it says that her mom's health care goes away and won't be around in five years. As a matter of fact, the bill says, if the bill passes, then no more health care for her mom, because it has to change.
Maddie wants patient choice. Maddie doesn't want her mom's premiums to go up. She doesn't want her mom's taxes to go up by $730 billion-do you, Maddie? That's too much money. She doesn't want a health care bill that'll cost $1.5 million.
She wants America's health insurance companies to have to compete with each other. She believes in choice, but most of all, Maddie says: Don't tax me to pay for health care that you guys want. If you want health care, pay for it yourselves, because it's not fair to pass your health care bills on to me and my grandchildren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman, your time has expired.
SHADEGG: Thank you, Maddie.
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OLBERMANN: Maddie is trying to turn off the microphone so the congressman shuts the hell up.
Maddie also believes in paying for wars of choice. Maddie believes in paying for Medicare Part D. Maddie believe in no-bid contracts for Halliburton. Maddie believes in underfunding No Child Left Behind. But most of all, Maddie believes that using babies as political props is the worst kind of exploitation possible.
Maddie is seven months old. And is this the oldest person in America to whom the Republican platform actually makes sense.
In a closed door meeting Saturday, the president having urged House Democrats to grasp the magnitude of the historical moment, telling the lawmakers they were on the cusp of achievement as big as Social Security or Medicare, urging them to look beyond their own self interests. Yesterday.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people, and I'm absolutely confident that they will.
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OLBERMANN: And as we like to say around here, good luck with that.
Majority Leader Reid is already hinting that senators may not be able to finish a health care measure this year. With pronouncements like that, it is hard to characterize Republicans, like Senator Graham, as overconfident when they declare the bill, quote, "dead on arrival," like, you know, Joe Lieberman's soul.
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LIEBERMAN: The public option plan is unnecessary. It has been put forward, I'm convinced, by people who really want the government to take over all of health insurance. They've got a right to do that. I think that would be wrong. If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.
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OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the health committee that co-wrote, along with Senator Brown, the public option that is currently in the Senate version of the health care bill.
Senator, good evening.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good evening, Keith. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and same here. Your reaction to the House vote?
WHITEHOUSE: We're very excited. This is farther along than the country has ever been on health care. I think we're a little jealous at how quickly the House can move through its procedure. As you know, the Senate takes its time on these things.
But the fact that the ball is now in our court, the fact that we're this far along, and the fact that the House has done its work is very, very good.
OLBERMANN: All right. Now, the bad news. Lindsey Graham says the House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. It is written by liberals or for liberals by liberals. Joe Lieberman has promised to filibuster, as we've heard.
Does it now feel to you at all like you're starting from scratch on this?
WHITEHOUSE: No. The House bill was always going to be dead on arrival in the Senate. We've had our own process that has gone on for a considerable amount of time. We had the health committee bill that I worked on. We had the finance committee bill. The leader is in the process of melding those together and we will pass a Senate health bill.
The moment where the House bill and the Senate bill get melded into a single piece of legislation is after this, further on in the process, when the two bills are taken to conference, to put together the bill that will come back for us to pass and for the president to sign.
So, people shouldn't be discouraged that the House bill is so-called DOA in the Senate. This isn't the point in time when that bill would be considered by the Senate. That awaits conference. We still have some work to do first.
OLBERMANN: Well, and well before that, obviously, and in that list of work that you have to do-I mean, even your fellow Democrat from Rhode Island, Mr. Reed, said that there is active debate among senators about a trigger or about an opt-out as I mentioned. You co-wrote the public option. It's a pretty good public option.
Is it still a public option if there's a trigger or an opt-out connected to it at some point?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, obviously, not for the people in the states in which the trigger doesn't pull or in which the opt-out is exerted. But I think that those of us who believe strongly in the public option believe that in those states in which it goes forward, it will set such a good example and create such a good lesson and create-perform such a valuable function that the rest of the country will follow.
And so, it's important to put that opportunity out there. If what it takes is a trigger or an opt-in or opt-out, those are all points of negotiation. But I think there's pretty strong belief that there should be a public option.
I'm not even discouraged by Senator Lieberman, who is concerned about the debt aspect, because as you know, Keith, the way we wrote this protects the federal treasury. It has to be fiscally, financially, self sufficient and solvent state by state. So, if his true concern is, in fact, protecting us from the growing federal debt? Well, then, we can meet that. We can certainly meet it far better than the Iraq war.
OLBERMANN: But certainly, you are taking him at face value there, because there's another line of thinking, which is that Senator Lieberman is an opponent looking for a reason to oppose.
WHITEHOUSE: Well, he's made this reason public. And I think if we can assuage him on that, if he starts to come up with other reasons, that will have an effect on his credibility. But for now, I take him at face value.
OLBERMANN: Last point, the pace of what we expect here. The majority leader warned today there might not be a bill in the Senate before the end of the year. Lawrence O'Donnell said the murmurings he was hearing last Friday were March.
WHITEHOUSE: I'm still hopeful that we can have a bill by Christmas. The Thanksgiving recess and the Christmas recess give the leader a lot of leverage to move the Republicans by keeping them in, keeping them in, keeping them in.
It's interesting how when people don't care much about the policy, don't want to listen to reason, aren't interesting in engaging in collegial debate, the prospect of being kept from going home focuses the mind immensely.
WHITEHOUSE: So, I think he'll be using those levers of leadership authority and I'm still very hopeful we will get our work done in the Senate this year.
OLBERMANN: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, paraphrasing Ben Johnson's favorite line about execution in the morning concentrating the mind wonderfully-as always, sir, a great pleasure. Great thanks for your time.
WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on the politics, let's turn to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. We'll see who he paraphrases in the next four minutes.
Good morning, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If many before this speaker have not gotten anywhere this far-as Senator Whitehouse just made reference to and praised-how big an accomplishment is this balanced against how irrelevant might the whole thing be, what kind of failure might it be, unless there is a final and comprehensive bill that gets to the president's desk?
FINEMAN: Can I say it first that the senator is a very smart guy? So I don't think he takes Joe Lieberman at face value.
FINEMAN: He was just saying that, OK?
FINEMAN: Now, as to the House, it's-it would be worse than irrelevant if the Senate doesn't pass something, if the whole thing falls apart now. First of all, you'd have Democrats descending in anger upon each other. You'd have a lot of what really were for some Southern Democrats and other blue dogs, a courageous vote in favor of the bill that would go to waste. You'd have Nancy Pelosi being even more of a symbol of both a success and failure. You'd have an angry president.
It would be worse than irrelevant, this vote, if things don't go forward now.
OLBERMANN: Babies as political props-babies, by the way, who are trying to get ahold of the microphones as all babies do. Do we think this stage of the debate is over, or are we just seeing a sort of Senate version of the props and grandstanding that we saw at the town halls and even in the House?
FINEMAN: I got to say, just the thought of Mitch McConnell, the great leader of the Republican Party from Kentucky there, on the floor of the Senate holding up a baby, that passes all understanding. But I think the issue of the deficit is one that the Republicans are going to try to drive. Shadegg did it with the baby. The Republicans in the Senate are going to try to do it.
But as you pointed out, the Republicans don't have a lot of credibility on the issue. They really don't. That doesn't excuse the Democrats if they don't really come up with a deficit-neutral bill. But because of what George Bush did, that the Republicans waived through in terms of unpaid for tax cuts and unpaid for prescription drug benefits, in terms of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have cost so much money, they have no credibility on the deficit issue either.
They think it's going to drive them through 2010. I'm not sure that it will.
OLBERMANN: One final thought on the baby. Martin Sheen did that, a baby as a prop in the great movie "Dead Zone." So, it's a real bad thing. Hold the baby up in front of the.
FINEMAN: Probably not a great idea.
OLBERMANN: No, no. And speaking of movie analogies, into the Senate now, as we've gone through the House all this time, did I not see this sort of molasses-paced movie already, and I don't mean to insult the movie. But were not Bill Murray and Chris Elliot and Andie MacDowell in that version of it? Is it not "Groundhogs Day"? Or are we going to get passed by Groundhogs Day?
FINEMAN: Well, let's see, Groundhog Day is, what, February 2nd, something like that?
OLBERMANN: February 2, yes.
FINEMAN: February 2. I don't know. I think maybe.
Listen, the Democratic leadership in the Senate-and I talked to a bunch of Democrats today on the Senate side-they know they've got to get this thing passed as soon as possible, which, by the standards of this Senate, means-and I think the senator is right about this-before they go home for Christmas.
If they let the thing slop over into next year, it's going to become harder and harder to do just because of the natural drift of things, because of other events intervening, because the president is going to have his budget, because he's going to have the state of the union, because of all that stuff. There are plenty of reasons why it's imperative, if the president and his Democratic allies want to get this thing done, that they need to get it done before the end of the year. And I think they're still going to try.
To switch analogies to baseball, sometimes, you know, the pitcher is taking a slow windup and then he quick pitches. I think there's a little bit of that going on here. They're talking about next spring, we're going to let it go. I think what Harry Reid really wants to do is try to jam this thing if he can. By the Senate standards, jamming means two months.
OLBERMANN: Yes, because if you go to the winter recess, you also have the prospect of snowballs at town halls.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC-great thanks, as always.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This reminder that the first free health care that you, our viewers, helped fund takes place this Saturday in New Orleans. You can go to FreeClinics.us for information on how to schedule for an appointment or learn how to volunteer to assist at the event yourself. You can also find out more details at the upcoming health fairs that we have ready in Little Rock and Kansas City. Once again, that's FreeClinics.us or COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com.
None of which is to say that the House bill was perfect. There is with it is something that could reduce the Democrats' vote on a final bit of legislation from 219 to about 180. However, that something might be symbolic enough to shake out without much real protest.
Less real long term than the owner of a purported news organization that claims it is the home of the opposition coming out tonight and saying the president of the United States was racist.
OLBERMANN: The labyrinthine language curbing abortion access in the health care reform bill just grandstanding or a real sticking point?
Race is back in the middle of all this, too. The governor of Mississippi says the president and his policies are not popular, it's just that this nation is pulling for him because he's black. And Rupert Murdoch says his craziest commentator was right to call Mr. Obama, quote, "racist," unquote.
You're watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: There already was no federal funding for abortions in the House health care reform bill, but that was not enough for some conservative Democrats.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: An abortion amendment passed which would restrict, as a practical matter, a woman's right to obtain an abortion.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado decrying the overzealousness of that amendment, she has reportedly collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats who will oppose any final bill that includes in it. And in that letter-those signatures in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette promised. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. We're not going to let this into law."
The Stupak amendment named for Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan not only prohibits abortion coverage in the government-run insurance plan, it also prohibits abortion coverage in private plans that are part of the exchange for the uninsured, if the person is using any government subsidies to buy that coverage. And practically speaking, the amendment would also lead to a wider ban of abortion coverage among private plans in the exchange-meaning that working-class women who are buying insurance solely with their own money would not have abortion coverage.
Senate Democrats, including Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, are reportedly working to incorporate the same restrictions in the Senate version of the bill. President Obama telling ABC News tonight, quote, "This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill." And referring to the principle of federal funds not going to abortions, quote, "There needs to be some work-or some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."
Let's turn now to the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine, Chris Hayes.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, a health care bill that is supposed to increase choices and not get in the way of individual health care decisions passes with that amendment attached. A little odd?
HAYES: It's-it's really infuriating. And I think that everyone-the members of Congress, the members of the Democratic Party, women across the country, feminist men like myself, have every right to be really-really, really frustrated and angry at the Democratic Party, at the people that engineered this, and I think for the sort of tepidness that's come from some of the leadership about it.
You know, it's very easy to second-guess strategic decisions by the leadership. And if the people that were threatening to vote against it really were going to vote against it. It's unclear whether Nancy Pelosi could have called the bluff. But if this is in the final bill, I mean, I think Congresswoman DeGette is really right, that there's going to be a very significant backlash. And the Democratic Party has to think long and hard about whether they want to precipitate that.
OLBERMANN: At some point in this process, Mr. Stupak, who had the original amendment, had seemed to indicate that he wanted his-essentially his day in court, his moment on the soapbox here, and whether or not this was in the final legislation was less of an interest to him than was the process and getting his view aired.
Is that-was that by itself grandstanding? Or is the reason there's not such a huge backlash against that because they're letting him have his moment of grandstanding?
HAYES: It's really hard to game out. I talked to some sources on the Hill who seemed pretty confident it was going to get stripped out in conference. But, you know what? Conference is a huge black box right now. I mean, first of all, we don't know what's going to be in the Senate bill. And then it's very-going to be very interesting who will be appointed to the conference committee because they're going to have tremendous power.
So, you know, it's very hard to say, "Trust us," right now after this has happened. I hope it is the case that the long-term strategic vision of the leadership in Democratic Party in the House and in the Senate is to strip this out in conference. But, you know, right now, all we have to go on is essentially a kind of a wink and a nod. And that's not quite enough.
OLBERMANN: And then in the Senate, Senator McCaskill said today, she
was not necessarily opposed to some sort of provision like the Stupak
amendment, and certain other Democratic senators will actually be writing -
as we indicated-language like the Stupak amendment in the Senate version.
But how about the procedure in the Senate and how that might play out
would it be significantly different than what we just saw in the House?
HAYES: Well, the Senate is the place where sort of mediocre legislation goes to be made terrible. And so, I'm-I would not be surprised if something, you know, equally odious as what happened in the House happened in the Senate.
And let me just point out. You know, I don't want to sort of peer into the souls of these legislators-and some obviously, I think Bart Stupak has strongly held convictions about the issue.
From a pure political standpoint, I think it's just politically idiotic. I mean, the idea that this is going to win a single vote from a single pro-life voter is just crazy. I mean, if-you know, I don't think that Claire McCaskill is going to sort of hedge herself or protect herself on her pro-life flank by supporting this kind of amendment because, at the end of the day, they know that, you know, she's not with them on judges. You know, they're not stupid.
So, I think the political calculation here is just massively, massively flawed.
OLBERMANN: And since the president reintroduced this subject of standing up here and you're on the verge of launching Social Security essentially, Mr. Cao, the Republican of Louisiana, got the message on that. Why are Senate Democrats and some House Democrats not getting the principal message as clearly as a congressman from Louisiana who happens to be in the GOP?
HAYES: Well, I mean, in Cao's case, you know, he's got to-he's voting his district and he's got about 65 percent Democrats in his district. And so, he's voting his district.
And I think, look, if you look at the 40 House Dems, the 39 House Dems that voted against this bill, I think about half of them you can say, you know, it was a cowardly vote, but at least they were voting their district, they really didn't have a whole lot of choice. But about half of them either are from districts that Obama won or in districts where they themselves have won very recently by massive margins. And so, if you've been in the Congress and you can't go home and sell this to your constituents, something is very, very wrong.
OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes of "The Nation"-something is always very, very wrong, as we know. Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Keeps us in business. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: Yes, indeed, sadly.
To this point, Rachel's guest at the top of the hour, the congresswoman spearheading the pushback on this, Diana DeGette.
Also, George Carlin's new book, Mike Huckabee's new shot at Sarah Palin, the Republican claim that they're actually the majority, and while "Mad" magazine fleeced Lonesome Roads Beck on Beck calling Obama a racist, Rupert Murdoch has just agreed with him.
OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment, and Sarah Palin's latest rally to restore "In God We Trust" to the dollar coin. It was restored two years ago. No one must have made it up to Alaska yet.
First, COUNTDOWN plug of the week. I'm delighted to be able to tell you that coming out tomorrow, the posthumous book of a great friend of this show and a great hero of mine, George Carlin, appropriately titled "Last Words." A warm, frank beautiful biography peppered with elements of George's finest work from the hippy dippy weatherman's days. "Tonight's forecast: Dark! Continued mostly dark tonight turning to widely scattered light in the morning."
To his 1997 assertion that "there's too much attention to children in this country. Leave them alone! They're going to be all right! They're smarter than you are!"
To his unfulfilled plan for a Broadway show populated by all the characters in and subdivisions of his extraordinary mind. "Last Words" by George Carlin out tomorrow.
Let's play "Oddball."
We begin at the Mountain West Soccer Semifinals between BYU and the University of New Mexico on the one chance that you are the only person on the planet who hasn't seen this. BYU won the match, but the real story here is New Mexico junior defender Jennifer Lambert superstar. She's caught on tape numerous times punching, kicking her opponents.
But the worst offense, the old ponytail yank. Down goes Frazier! Like the Addams family summoning Lurch, that move, along with all the other roughhousing has earned Lambert today an indefinite suspension. She's apologized to both schools for her behavior and is now going door-to-door around the world.
Finally, catching up on the old mug shot hall of fame, this is 20-year-old James P. Miller, arrested Halloween weekend on DUI charges, which means, of course, he didn't look like this. No, at the time of his arrest for DUI, Mr. Miller was dressed a breathalyzer machine. No, no, pal, blow here. Our deepest gratitude goes out to the Oxford Ohio PD for taking this guy off the streets, and especially for keeping him in costume for his picture.
Nice to know that in some places in this country, it's still early 1964. A Republican House leader thinks his party is the majority and the Republican governor of Mississippi believes the president is popular only because the country is pulling for the black guy.
That's next but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world.
Dateline West Alice, Wisconsin, number three, best political fail, Sarah Palin, who gave a no media allowed anti-abortion speech Friday. Only organizers still sold tickets to the media, so we know that she claimed there have been too much change lately, such as the relocation of the phrase "In God We Trust" to the edge of the new dollar coins. "Who calls a shot like that? Who makes a decision like that? It's a disturbing trend."
Apparently, it was someone in the Bush administration, because it was reversed by the Senate in 2007. And the bill to reverse it was cosponsored by Democrat Robert Byrd. Sarah, get a roll of stamps and mail it in.
Dateline, Allentown, Pennsylvania, number two, best political bitterness, another ex-governor, Mike Huckabee, quietly running again for president in '12, telling a reporter, "some of the people who had excoriated me and really been very dismiss of me for views that I had taken labeled me anything from a populist to ignoramus. The same people have been very defensive of and laudatory to Sarah Palin. I'm glad she's getting the props. I know I'm not nearly as attractive."
So I see it won't just be Democrats tearing Governor Palin limb from limb for the next three years. Come on in, kids, the water's fine.
And dateline, Washington, number one best hypocrisy, the House minority whip, Mr. Cantor of Virginia. Bloomberg TV host Al Hunt asked him if he agrees with Orly Taitz Limbaugh that Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate, and if he agrees with Limbaugh's once a week comparisons between the president of the United States and the insane dictator of Germany.
"So it was inappropriate for Limbaugh to say that?" Cantor, "you know, look, Al, I think Rush Limbaugh is a conservative voice for America. A lot of things he says I agree with."
Hunt, "but not that?"
Cantor, "right, I don't condone the use of the word Hitler."
Good for you, sir, and thanks. But why then, Mr. Minority Whip, did you appear at a rally-I'm sorry, a press conference-in which people were holding up pictures of the dead at Dachau bearing the legend, National Socialist Health Care 1935? Do you condone that? And if you don't, why did you leave it to a spokesman to call the sign inappropriate?
OLBERMANN: After years of writing their own reality, you might forgive Republicans for their reaction to a reality they no longer control, the passage of an actual health care reform bill. Our third story tonight, the Republican party's message: Americans are so outraged with President Obama, who they like, that they will punish Democrats next year the way they did last week, when they elected only Democrats to the only two national seats up for grabs.
The Republicans calling Saturday's health care vote a watershed moment that will lead to Democratic losses, presumably the same way the Democrats were tossed out of power in 1994 after they passed Medicare in 1965. Congressman Mike Pence, chairman of the Republican caucus, explained yesterday that while Democrats actually won the two Congressional races with health care reform explicitly on the line in both Congressional districts, it was the statewide races that the Republicans won that revealed the national mood.
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REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: I think the message from last night is that the Democrats didn't get the message in August or last Tuesday. I think from this past summer, we saw the American people express overwhelming opposition to a government takeover of health care. They attended town hall meetings, rallies across the country.
And then this last Tuesday, I mean, the historic reversals the Democrats saw in just 12 months in New Jersey and Virginia, again, was an effort by the American people to send a message to this party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Never mind the exit polls in which six out of ten voters in Jersey and Virginia said explicitly, this is not about national stuff. And the other four were split between registering support for the administration and voicing opposition to it. No, it was uninformed yahoos yelling, keep the government hands off my Medicare, who to Mr. Pence speak for America.
Forget Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's wishful response to them, quote, "we're not going to be a party of angry white guys. We're going to be a party of center right politics."
Too late, senator. Mr. Pence is one, because a new party has registered in Florida, the Tea Party, for real, comparing itself to the Tea Partiers who just cost Republicans that district in New York. Nice work, guys.
But it was Mississippi's Governor Haley Barbour who had perhaps the most incoherent read, explaining that Obama, the target of open racism from the right, remains popular not because of his policies, but because in this Donovan McNabb way, because of his color.
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GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: We shouldn't confuse the president being personally unpopular. Americans want our presidents to succeed, particularly the first time we ever elected an African-American president. I think there's great sentiment in favor of him. It's his policies that are unpopular.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, senior strategist at Public Strategies, author of "Renegade: The Making of A President." That one in particular. Thanks for being with us, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Do they, A, think that the Tea Bag crowd speaks for America? Or is it B, that they're desperately trying to convince the Tea Bag crowd that they do speak for America?
WOLFFE: Well, what they're trying to do-forget the delusions of grandeur here for a minute. What they're trying to do is face up to the reality that nobody feels enthusiastic about the Republican party. That people don't even want to tell pollsters that they're Republicans.
So what you have here is an effort to sort of capitalize on the only energy there is on the right, this independent movement, people who were waving the tea bags, and appropriate that for themselves. It's just not going to work. This is not a group of people who are going to fall in line. Otherwise, they would be calling themselves Republicans.
So never mind what they think about their real popularity. They know the only energy and momentum lies with this unruly tea bagging group.
OLBERMANN: So let's pretend for a moment that Mr. Pence knows that gubernatorial races are not referenda on Congress, especially when the exit polls are as blunt as they were. And we can pretend that Mr. Barbour knows that members of his party hate the president for being a black Democrat, no matter what outsider status they try to use as a euphemism. What's the point then of again creating their own reality about 2010? Is this the individual Republican politicians trying to preserve their jobs in the face of this enthusiasm, as you described it, coming only from this ultra right wing of their party?
WOLFFE: Well, I don't know how much respect we need to show for
Governor Barbour's comments. It's crass and it's stupid and it's
simplistic and it reveals a lot. But what they're really trying to do here
it's not about 2010. It's about now. They're trying to erode the authority of the president, to stop him in his tracks right now. to say, this guy has no authority. You don't have to respect him. There's no downside to opposing him. And to reframe the landscape right now.
Because they know that over the next several months, the president has the chance to really establish a framework to go into the 2010 midterms. If they can stop him now and say he doesn't represent change, he's not done anything, as well as obviously being a radical socialist Nazi-you know, if they can do both of those, then they tie Democrats up in knots. If, however, the White House, the Democrats go into 2010 with a record of change, with a record of accomplishment, it's a very different proposition.
OLBERMANN: But is this not ultimately what we long ago used to hear described as false feedback? don't You eventually have to break it to people that they are not the majority? When Lindsey Graham confronted his own town hall and he asked people there rhetorically how many senators there were, and only a few people even answered 100, and then he asked them how many of them were Republicans, and even fewer of them could answer, 40 -- there's a reality check that does come into play eventually, one way or the other, doesn't it?
WOLFFE: Well, you would think so. But if the Republicans cared about reality so much, then why is Sarah Palin so popular? What they have here is two old scripts. One is the Nixon script of the silent majority. The other is the Reagan script of this is really a Republican country, and the pendulum is just swinging in our favor.
The problem is since 2006, it hasn't been a Republican pendulum at all. So they're stuck with two out-of-date narratives. And tracking that with the current policies is extremely hard for them. All they can do is live with the stories their grandfathers told them.
OLBERMANN: But now. when you hear that there is this actual Tea Party being registered in Florida, this is-Dick Armey just created supposedly a conservative movement that is now decided to eat the Republican party alive first?
WOLFFE: Yes. I don't think Dick Armey's intentions are in line with the Republican leadership. I've said for some time this is headed for a third party grouping. And ideologically, they are much more interested in being pure and true to whatever they think their ideals are than getting elected.
That for the Republicans is really dangerous. Never mind what they think about health care.
OLBERMANN: The irony is they'll wind up with the same percentage of votes that the Socialist Party used to get in the 1930s. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, Public Strategies, author of "Renegade," as always, thank you, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Saturday, I didn't realize "Saturday Night Live" was trying to be funny, because to me-mind you, just to me-it looked like a regular night on Fixed News.
Worsts, Orly Taitz Limbaugh says he can almost blame Obama for the Ft. Hood tragedy. Wow, such restraint.
OLBERMANN: With the title "Fairly Unbalanced," how a national satire magazine laces into Lonesome Roads Beck, while one loan Republican congressman derails the GOP's nonsense express. That's next, but first time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Orly Taitz Limbaugh. Those interstitial periods of vague rationality, they are getting shorter and shorter. "The Muslim shooter was being teased. He was really being teased. He's a psychiatrist. He was really being teased. I don't know if you talk to people in the military. It's like being in a professional sports locker room. Their teasing is merciless. Oh, it's part and parcel of it. Everybody gets teased."
They keyed his car at his apartment and had an "Allah is Love" bumper sticker pulled off his car, that we know of. And by the way, what in the hell does Orly Taitz Limbaugh know about life in the military? He got a deferral.
"By the way, I mean playing the game the way the media, the Democrats do, we could almost say this is Obama's fault, because this guy said that he believed Obama was going to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama hasn't done it. And that's one of the reasons why the guy cracked."
Except nobody's playing this that we could almost say that this was Bush's fault. This is Dr. Hasan's fault. The rest of the world is trying to be patient enough to find out what the hell Hasan thought his motives were, and then try him in court. But not this idiot Limbaugh, or these knee-jerk racist like Brian Fisher, of the American Family Association, who called for a purge of Muslims from the U.S. military. They are busily trying for the Jack Ruby route.
Our runner-up, Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, which, after you and I and two presidents bailed them out, reports a 3.19 billion dollar profit and expects to pay out just under 22 billion in salaries and bonuses this year. Mr. Blankfein has now told the "Times of London" that Goldman Sachs is providing an important social purpose and he is just a banker, quote, "doing god's work," unquote.
I don't know who that creature is you're working for, Mr. Blankfein, but I'll bet my soul on the premise that it ain't god.
But our winner, Rupert Murdoch, interviewed by one of the Australian networks he owns, questioned about one of the American networks he owns.
Question: "Glenn Beck has called Barack Obama a racist. He helped organize protests against him."
Murdoch's answer: "on the racist thing, that caused a-but he, Obama, did make a very racist comment about, you know, blacks and whites and so on, which he said in his campaign he would be completely above. And that was something which perhaps shouldn't have been said about the president. But if you actually assess what he was talking about, he-
Perfect! Beck was wrong to say it, but really, he was right, because Obama was racist in what he said, even though Murdoch offers no evidence of what was racist about it, and Murdoch can't even remember what it was Obama said. And that pretty much defines Fox Noise, doesn't it?
Rupert "Glenn Beck called Obama a racist, Glenn Beck was right" Murdoch, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: The Republican sheep herd once more having stampeded off the cliff, but wait, our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, one got away. Congressman Joseph Cao, to the emphatic dismay of his party and right wing punditry, voted for the House health care reform bill because people in his district need it. The Congressman calling it a matter of conscience. His vote bucked the incredible pressure from his party. In fact, RNC Chairman Michael Steele had issued a warning to Republicans who might be tempted to vote for Nancy' Pelosi's health plan. Quoting Steele, "we'll come after you."
But Congressman Cao brushed that off and recalled that Steele and other Republican leaders had celebrated his win over the then-indicted Democrat William Jefferson as a symbol of Republican party diversity. Besides, Mr. Cao's logic was unimpeachable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOSEPH CAO ®, LOUISIANA: I had to vote according to my conscience, according to the needs of my district. My district is extremely poor; 25 percent of my people are uninsured. We are recovering from the devastations of Hurricane Katrina. And I have to do whatever I can in order to bring health care down here to my people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But news model Gretchen Carlson asked, quote, "how do you put the two things together in your head then? Being a Republican who would be against putting the country into forever debt"-forever debt-
"and how do you rationalize that in your head then?"
The Congressman said he had a Constitutional duty to represent the people in his district. News to her. As to the media arm of the Republican herd, it was spoofed on "Saturday Night Live" regarding Tuesday's big event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're watching Fox News. Continuous coverage of the 2009 election, end of an era. Now Greta Van Susteren.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. I'm Greta Van Susteren. It's hard to believe that only one year ago, Barack Obama entered the White House promising a new era of government. And yet on Tuesday, it seems that era came to a definitive end.
Carl, how do you see the rest of Obama's term?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he's a lame duck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Trippi, you've been pretty quiet over there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't asked me any questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brit, the significance of Tuesday.
We have to cut away to Fox's own Glenn Beck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, and Greta, I also realized, you could rearrange the letters of your name to spell "A Great."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And a COUNTDOWN exclusive, "Mad Magazine's" yearly list of the dumbest people, events, and things of the year, the Mad 20, number 13, just out, "fairly unbalanced, an apt and even epic phrase." They even got serious, "we don't think Beck is crazy. We think he's a conniving self-promoter who will say anything for his own enrichment, with little regard for the consequences of his incendiary rhetoric. And that is not just done, that's crazy."
Let's bring in the Washington editor of "The Week" and political columnist with "Bloomberg News," Margaret Carlson. Margaret, good evening.
MARGARET CARLSON, "THE WEEK MAGAZINE": Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Back to Congressman Cao, I know he pointed out his district is something like 65 Democrat. But he still sort of stands here as a rational Republican. Who knew?
CARLSON: Who knew there was one? There is one and we discovered him. Congressman Cao may be in trouble with the Republican party for finding the courage to do this. And he did not have the courage, however, when the stimulus bill was up, and he voted against it. Arguably, the stimulus bill would have done as much for his district as the health care bill. But better late than never, he did find it.
And his problem may be he's in a no man's land where his Democratic constituents may still fault him for the stimulus bill, not be grateful enough for the health care bill, and he has Republicans like Michael Steele vowing to come after him.
OLBERMANN: But he seems to be unfazed by that threat from Chairman Steele. What does Steele plan to do with him and do we just say Cao at some point going, all right, chase me out of this party, I can just go over to the Democrats and get re-elected.
CARLSON: Right. Well, there is an opening for a full-time person at the RNC to remove Michael Steele's foot from his mouth. He's repeatedly done things that just make the party look really stupid. I think they've taken down the what up blog site for the RNC.
He could switch over, and he's one of the ones, because he's in a-this was William Jefferson's district. It's majority African-American. It was devastated by Katrina. You know, every once in a while you look at somebody and say, you know, you're in the wrong party. Come over. And maybe that's what he'll do. Michael Steele will drive him out.
OLBERMANN: But in the interim, he turned out to be exactly what the Republicans don't need right now, because he drew every bit of attention away from this solid Republican opposition, with that disarmingly simple, unanswerable statement that his constituents prefer this, voted him in to do things like this, and, you know, need this. What do you-how do you answer that?
CARLSON: Yes. I mean, what a manner he had in telling that story. You know, it's-it-one thing about the caucuses is, you know, it's like high school. You don't want to be in a caucus where you're the odd man out. It must be-it's painful. This is why, especially Republicans, are able to keep such discipline, because they're very mean to people who go outside. The Democrats have a bigger tent in that way. You can't-I mean, look at how Joe Lieberman has managed to stay in the Democratic caucus and keep his Homeland Security Committee, despite what he-all of his heresies. And now he's threatening-he's listening to his conscience, as if nobody else has one, vowing to filibuster.
But for Congressman Cao, it is a courageous thing to do in that party, to be the one lone person who did it. And he was eloquent in a very simple way, in which he said what, you know, most Congressmen should live by, which is, I did the right thing.
OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of "Bloomberg News" and "The Week Magazine," always a pleasure. We'll see how long Congressman Cao retains his GOP parking spot and membership card. Thanks, Margaret.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,384th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss the new sticking point and/or the end of health care reform, this issue of abortion restriction, with the Congresswoman leading the backlash against this provision, Diana DeGette, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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