Guests: Sheldon Whitehouse, Anthony Weiner, Wendell Potter, Arianna Huffington, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The bill: The first vote, cloture, Saturday night, about 8:00. The childish Republican threat: Read it aloud. Senator Coburn may back off.
The childish Republican complaint—not so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: It‘s 2,074 pages. Give me a break.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And no pictures.
The Democrats hit back. The bill reduced to normal print would be as long as Sarah Palin‘s book—now available for $4.97.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We will reach out to our Republican colleagues. We would like to work with them. But everyone should understand we‘re going to do a bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But is there enough there there? Our special guests:
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Anthony Weiner, insurance industry whistleblower Wendell Potter.
The Anti-Defamation League crowns a new fearmonger-in-chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And suddenly, the fearmonger-in-chief‘s boss is denying he ever defended the fearmonger-in-chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT MURDOCH, NEWS CORP. CEO: On the racist thing, that caused a grilling. But he did make a very racist comment.
REPORTER: Mr. Murdoch, can you be more clear about what racist comment the president allegedly made?
MURDOCH: I deny that absolutely.
REPORTER: But you deny that, but you did—you did agree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the ex-governor finally answers the question just one year and 51 days after Katie Couric asked it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I read “Newsmax” and the “Frontiersman” and “Wall Street Journal” and—everything online.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The featured story in today‘s “Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman,” the indoor football team that‘s going to play in Wasilla. That‘s below the ad for the free copy of the book and up and to the left from the other ad for the other free copy of the book.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: The huntin‘ and the fishin‘ and the hockey moms...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Republicans have been claiming that in 2,074 pages, the Senate health care reform bill is longer than Tolstoy‘s epic novel, “War and Peace,” longer than the last two “Harry Potter” books combined, longer than the King James Bible, when, in fact, Democrats now pointing out, once you adjust to the size of the type of that of an actual book, the Senate health care reform bill is about the same size as the Sarah Palin memoir, which runs 413 pages.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: More substantial Republican arguments aimed at killing reform obliterated today, nothing doing more forcefully than the numbers from the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill.
You will recall that when Majority Leader Reid unveiled the score from the CBO, deficit reduction cited as $127 billion in savings over 10 years. But after that, it gets even better, the CBO projecting even greater savings—up to $650 billion over the 10 years to follow. The number of Americans covered, 94 percent. But actually Senate Democrats claiming now that almost 98 percent of all legal residents of all ages will be covered under the merged Senate bill.
As we mentioned, Senate Democrats are also claiming that the bill‘s 2,000-page length is deceptive. Alaska Democrat Mark Begich telling reporters today, the bill is indeed about the same size as the Palin coloring book once you adjust the type. “So, it‘s not that big,” Senator Begich adding. “There‘s a lot of show and tell and razzmatazz.” Sure, Senator, but which one is the better read? “Depends,” he says, “if you want substance or not.”
House Minority Leader Boehner doesn‘t like something that long without pictures in it or without a provision defining spray-tanning as a fully reimbursed medical procedure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: This is over $1 trillion. It‘s the same nonsense that passed the House. It‘s 2,074 pages. Give me a break. The American people have soundly rejected this. And I told you several months ago how popular it was. It‘s as popular as a garlic milkshake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Thank you for that clear and compelling analysis, in rerun form.
As for the new stuff, the congressman also today is claiming that the Senate bill would have all Americans paying, quote, “a monthly abortion fee,” which is not just false. It‘s absurd.
Back in the real world, as “Roll Call” points out, the Senate bill includes language to make sure that abortions would not be paid for with federal taxes, further, that public insurance plans would pay for the procedures only if the money could be segregated to make sure that federal funds are not being used. Call it Stupak light.
The Senate majority leader disputing the lie this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: First of all, this is a health care bill. It‘s not an abortion bill. And the language we have in the bill—I think it‘s something that‘s in keeping with what the tradition has been in our country for more than 30 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This afternoon, the majority leader filing for health care bill cloture, which means the Senate will vote on whether to proceed to debate. And that would be this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Saturday night, procedural motions on the Senate floor. It sounds like a party to me.
Conservative Democrat Evan Bayh told the publication “The Hill” today that he will vote yea to proceed to debate. Senator Ben Nelson having hinted yesterday he would do the same. Senator Coburn backing off his threat to have the entire bill read out loud to delay debate --
TalkingPointsMemo.com reporting that he exchanged that for a full day of debate on Saturday before the evening vote on whether or not debates can officially begin on the Senate.
Lots to talk about tonight with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat of Rhode Island, until recently a member of the health, education, labor and pensions committee, better known as the HELP committee, where he and Senator Brown wrote the full national public option in the committee draft of the bill.
Senator, thanks for your time tonight.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The opt-out. The CBO guesses it will end up with a third of the population being opted out by their states by legislative action in the states. Can you live with that?
WHITEHOUSE: I think it‘s unfortunate, but I think the important thing is that the public option gets a foothold, because the public option is the device through which the private insurance industry is going to be held to account. It‘s going to be the device that takes the innovative, really experimental, bold steps to improve the quality of care and the way in which we deliver health care in this country.
And I think once a few get going and a few get doing it right, we‘ll find that there‘s a very big interest in following behind, because this is really important.
OLBERMANN: Of course, that won‘t happen immediately. The timetable of this: the public option in the House bill would not go into effect until 2013 and then in the Senate bill, it‘s not until 2014. A lot of people have to suffer even under optimum circumstances?
WHITEHOUSE: Unfortunately, that‘s the way it is. If there‘s a way to accelerate it, particularly if states show a willingness to step up sooner than that, I hope we can work with them to do that. But for now, this is where the bill is. And I think it‘s important that we get it passed and then work on it going forward.
OLBERMANN: That‘s something I‘ve not heard before. Maybe that‘s my fault. Is there a process by which states could start early?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, there‘s generally a waiver process relating to a great number of the federal programs that provide health care in the states. And I‘m confident that under this administration, we‘d be able to work with the leadership, if we had a good plan that stood up.
OLBERMANN: The politics of this internally—Senator Bayh says he will vote for cloture. Senator Pryor says he will vote for cloture. And as I just mentioned, Senator Ben Nelson hinted yesterday he‘ll vote for cloture.
Do you think the Democrats have now averted a filibuster fight at the start of this?
WHITEHOUSE: I think so. I think that there may be a last few wrinkles for Majority Leader Reid and for his leadership team to iron out. But I think we can be very confident about the vote. I don‘t want to say 100 percent but very confident.
OLBERMANN: We get a sense—and a lot of this comes from the Hatch version of the Stupak Amendment in the House, what Republicans want to do with their amendments in that process apart from, again, continuing to stall this as long as they can. What do you want to do with your amendments?
WHITEHOUSE: I think there‘s going to be some important amendments to get aired with respect to the pharmaceutical industry. I don‘t know why we should preserve a situation in which Americans pay more for the exact same pharmaceutical product than Canadians do just over the border. I think it would be good to fill the doughnut hole completely and allow the government to negotiate freely with the pharmaceutical industry rather than have to take whatever price they impose.
So, I think some of those things are important. And, frankly, I think we‘ll have a good debate on the public option. And I believe once everybody has had a chance to air their views and be heard and be voted on, that will increase people‘s familiarity with these programs and their support for the bill.
It‘s one thing to be against a bill when you haven‘t had your views aired. It‘s another thing to get a full hearing, everything you need to say said, a vote on your proposal and then not vote for it just to be a spoil sport. That‘s not—that‘s a much more difficult position.
OLBERMANN: Do you think at the end of this, the process by which insurers can avoid some of the more rigorous state laws by migrating to places where it‘s business first, last and always, that provision here might somehow be excised or toned down to control them a little bit better?
WHITEHOUSE: I think that it‘s important to control the insurance industry in that respect. We saw when we let the credit card industry migrate to the states with the worst consumer protection programs where it ended up, with all those tricks and traps and the credit card with contract 20 pages long, with 30 percent interest rates, with a filing date that they deemed ended at 10:30 in the morning and didn‘t open the mail until 11:00, so they could catch people whose mail came in that day. All that nonsense happens when you let there be a race to the bottom.
OLBERMANN: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat of Rhode Island, we‘ll be thinking of you on Saturday night. Many thanks.
WHITEHOUSE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: For the perspective from the other side the Capitol, let‘s turn to Congressman Andy Weiner of New York.
Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: My pleasure. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: You‘ve pushed for single-payer, for Medicare for all, for health care system of that nature from the start. About as far away from an opt-out public compromise as you could get, failing, you know, any bill passing—how do you feel what‘s become of the public option in this merged Senate health care reform bill?
WEINER: Well, it‘s not everything I would like but it lives, you know? We reached a period a couple of months ago where people are saying it‘s dead and dead for good. I‘d launched the Web site countdowntohealthcare.com. We have 130,000 people who‘d signed up and said let‘s have the public option.
And I have to tell you something, you know, you‘ve got to be careful what you wish for when people say they want an opt-out provision. Does that mean we‘re going to go to every single state and have this battle? I‘m not sure I mind that, and I think a lot of these red state Republicans might be—might not know what they‘re getting into.
So long—and Senator Whitehouse said this correctly—so long as there is a public option that people can get into, so long as the competition exists, we‘ll have an opportunity to see what works. Ands I doubt very many governors will opt-out. So, I‘m not nearly as afraid of the opt-out as a lot of people are.
OLBERMANN: Had you heard and if you had, are you encouraged about this—something else that Senator Whitehouse just mentioned there, the prospect that—as that opt-out is left in, there could be opt-ins, that some states could go early on this?
WEINER: Well, I would like that to be the case. You know, the Senate bill is structured a little differently than the House. And we have one national—one national public option that‘s a little bit different in the Senate bill. But the most important thing in here is that we‘re moving incrementally towards the goal line, is that we let the majority rule.
You know, the real concern I have is in the Senate. You have one or two, three people who say, “You know what? I‘m not going to allow there to be a vote on these things.” Then you‘re not even allowing democracy to work.
So long as we have a chance for this bill to go through and people have a majority rule in the Senate and the House, I‘m convinced that the American people are going to get the bill that they want or at least not the one that they don‘t want, which is one without a public option.
OLBERMANN: You have—since this has been passed—you and I have not had a chance to talk about some of the particulars here. Can you explain how the Stupak Amendment happened? Because I would have never imagined something like that could get through a Democratic majority Congress.
WEINER: Well, the simple fact of the matter is, we are a pro-choice country with a pro-life majority in Congress. It‘s a small group of Democrats made the decision—it‘s a regrettable one—to essentially give control of the floor of the House to the Republicans in this case. I think it was unnecessary. And I think it‘s got to be stripped out.
Remember what‘s in the Senate bill, the Hyde Amendment, it‘s not perfect. A lot of us who believe in a woman‘s right to choose don‘t like it very much, but it‘s kind of a cold piece that we have on this. No federal funds will go towards abortions. Now, with the Stupak Amendment, not even private insurance plans that are in that exchange are going to be able to offer them. And that is going way too far.
OLBERMANN: Do you think—you said stripped out, it should be stripped out. Do you think it will be?
WEINER: I hope so. I mean, listen, the sad truth of the matter is that the anti-choice forces in the House have the votes, and we‘re hopeful that we can persuade them to try to do this as a health care bill, we should not be denying people health care in this bill.
It‘s also ironic—my Republican friends say, we don‘t want to let government come between people and their doctors except in this case and except for women. It really is another case of hypocrisy.
OLBERMANN: Well, and there‘s a second version of that, since we‘re comparing the Senate and House approaches to health care reform here. Your chamber approved the “doc fix” for Medicare today, which avoids this 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors starting month after next. It‘s said though that that has no chance of passing the Senate.
Is that—is this thing going to die on the vine in the House?
WEINER: Well, I think it would—no, we passed it in the House today and I‘m glad we did. And we‘re trying to put pressure on the Senate to do the same thing.
Look, one of the reasons Medicare is such a successful program is not that doctors get wealthy on the reimbursement rates but they do get a good steady income and it doesn‘t have the high overhead and all the problems. But Medicare rate—reimbursement rates are too low. I‘d be the first to admit it. We fixed it in the House. Hopefully, the Senate will do the same thing.
OLBERMANN: Representative Anthony Weiner of New York—as always, great thanks, Congressman.
WEINER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: So, that‘s the House and the Senate. What about the third branch that governs our nation? Of course, by that I mean the insurance industry. Breaking down this bill and what the cartel will do about it and to whom. Whistleblower Wendell Potter—next.
OLBERMANN: It is possible that the Senate health care reform bill contains about as much real change as replacing one frayed bolt on the Golden Gate while raising tolls. So, why is the insurance cartel still fighting it? Answers from whistleblower Wendell Potter.
Also, the Anti-Defamation League with a startling analysis of the work of one FOX host christening him the fearmonger-in-chief. And Rupert Murdoch now denies agreeing with the fearmonger-in-chief.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: A new Senate bill does more for Americans than many observers predicted.
But in our fourth story tonight: Does it give our endangered insurance overlords the help they so desperately need?
Rest easy, America. Karen Ignagni, president of the industry lobbying group AHIP, America‘s Health Insurance Plans, released a statement tonight saying they hate—just hate—the new bill in the Senate. Why? For one thing, it has only minor penalties for people who do not buy insurance.
Big shocker. Insurance companies love the part of the law that forces you to buy insurance. They just want the most painful punishment possible for not buying insurance. We‘ve got stockades left over from the 17th, 18th century, don‘t we?
So, what do they get from the Senate bill? Because the public option will draw all the sick people who can‘t get private insurance, public option premiums will be higher than private premiums. Not much competition there.
Courting conservative Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Reid gave states to ability to opt-out of the public option—as we‘ve discussed—but as Firedoglake.com points out, because the public option would not kick in until 2013, maybe 2014, insurance companies now have four years to buy and bully local legislators into rejecting the public option.
The Congressional Budgets Office guesses that about a third of all Americans will have no access to the public option, meaning that a third of all Americans will have to buy private insurance. But wait, there‘s more. The Senate bill lets health insurers sell nationwide plans.
So what, you ask? As we suggested with Senator Whitehouse—now, insurance companies can move to states like Texas where governors, like Rick Perry, will let them rip off customers around the country. No longer will consumers be protected by or the insurance industry bothered by the laws of their own state.
Let‘s bring a former health insurance executive, Wendell Potter, once the communications chief for CIGNA, now a senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy.
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
WENDELL POTTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: AHIP put out this statement today criticizing the Senate bill. Does that mean they hate all of it or they just—they just want more in it?
POTTER: They just want more in it. They don‘t like a lot of it. They don‘t like the public option even though it‘s weaker, and certainly, the opt-out will be something that they‘ll try to exploit as the focus shifts to the states.
They don‘t like, as you noted, the fact that the penalties are not nearly as severe as they think they should be to force people to buy their products. So—and they don‘t like the additional regulations and accountability that‘s in the bill.
So, there‘s a lot they don‘t like. But they like a lot of it. They like the idea of having a lot more revenue. They just like to make sure that it‘s a little bit more to their liking than it currently is.
OLBERMANN: Other than this obvious point that they have four years to get ready for this, if states can opt-out and insurance companies have four years before the option kicks in, how else does that benefit the insurance industry?
POTTER: Well, it gives them the time to try to weaken the public option to the point that it would be really emasculated. And that‘s exactly what they‘ll try to do. In fact, they‘re already doing that. They‘re working at the state level with the candidates who are running for governor in various states to try to get them to already begin to speak out against the public option.
They don‘t want to have any new competition. They want to have the field all to themselves and everyone required to buy their policies and the federal government—and that means taxpayers‘ dollars to the amount of a quarter—excuse me—half a trillion dollars over 10 years flowing into their treasuries.
OLBERMANN: Can you assess from the industry in which you used to work, whether or not they are expecting that this is going to end up with a public option and that their best bet is either to go and buy the local politicians or prepare to back candidates who are willing to roll this back in 2010, 2012, 2014 even?
POTTER: The first option will be to try to kill it completely. They want to try to get it out of the bill. They‘ve already, over the past month, outspent the advocates for reform about two to one. And you‘ll see that a lot over the next few weeks. You‘ll see a lot of advertising, particularly in the states where there are Democrats, in particular, who are—who haven‘t pledged their allegiance yet to the public option.
OLBERMANN: Explain in some detail here why insurance companies pushed for this power to sell the nationwide plans that I‘ve just mentioned.
POTTER: Because they want to be able to go to the states with the least amount of regulations. They don‘t like regulations. They don‘t like the mandates because they make less money when they are required to cover certain things.
So, if they can go to a state that has very few consumer protections and the fewest mandates, they can sell those same policies that they create there in any state regardless of what the regulations are. So, in other words, they can sell policies that have very, very meager consumer protections in states—like New York and other states—and California, in particular, that have, over many years, worked to make sure the consumers are protected from the bad practices of these companies.
OLBERMANN: There had been a lot of people who responded optimistically to what the Senate passed in terms of—that Senate Democrats passing this final piece of legislation, at least among themselves, and now taking it to the floor, and presumably getting cloture on Saturday night now proceeding to the actual debate and perhaps not having to water this down that much more.
Even having said that, if this bill in the Senate passes as it is written now, will the insurance companies think it‘s a victory for them?
POTTER: You know, at the end of the day, I think they will, because they know that they can—they can circumvent regulations. Even the new regulations are going to be things that they will look at and try to figure out how they can—how they can make money. That‘s one thing they know how to do, is make money, regardless of what the competitive or regulatory environment is like.
OLBERMANN: If there‘s one thing that you‘ve seen or not seen in the Senate bill that you would change, what would it be?
POTTER: I would remove the opt-out and I would allow a lot more people to be eligible for it right off bat, and I would move the implementation of it up much sooner.
OLBERMANN: I was surprised to hear Senator Whitehouse say there could be opt-ins, in other words, states could come online early. If they—if they wanted to do that, they‘re going to waive certain start dates for some of these procedures in the Senate bill, anyway.
But did you know about that? Is that encouraging?
POTTER: That‘s encouraging. I didn‘t know about that. I didn‘t know that there would be a mechanism that would be in place that quickly to allow an opt-in or the creation of a public plan. But that would be—that‘d be good if that could happen.
OLBERMANN: We‘ll see if it does.
Wendell Potter, insurance industry whistleblower at the Center for Media and Democracy—as always, great thanks for your time.
POTTER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Whoever coined the phrase, “There are no easy answers here” might have been talking about health care reform or perhaps they might have asked Sarah Palin what news sources do you read? She has finally figured out what to say to a relevant question first asked of her on September 29th, 2008.
That and the Anti-Defamation League crowning a new fearmonger-in-chief. His initials are Lonesome Roads.
OLBERMANN: “Bests” in a moment. And were you married in Texas? Hey, it might not be legal.
First on this date in the year 461, the Sardinian archdeacon of Rome was elected to the Catholic Church‘s highest office, and, thus, for about six years, with all respect to the faithful, there was Pope Hilarius. Hilarius was later canonized as Saint Hilarius and became the patron saint of the knock-knock joke.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry for everybody who believes in St.
Hilarius. I‘m sorry.
We begin in Beijing where hairdresser Huang Xin, he‘s busy creating his latest work of art. As it turns out, this masterpiece bears an uncanny resemblance—let‘s not split hairs about it—to Barack Obama. Instead of throwing away customers‘ hair after a cut, Huang decided to collect it all and sculpted into a likeness of our 44th president.
You may remember his first work, Tiananmen hair which was featured on this program. Although Huang was surprised to discover mere days after completion that the Obama sculpture had gone prematurely gray.
To Nouex (ph), in France, where the new edict is, when the metaphorical hamster wheel of life is simply enough for you, for $150 a night, you and a guest can stay in a room complete with a bed of hay and an exercise wheel.
Now, you may have seen this video all over your local news recently, but I don‘t know if anybody has let you in on the inside joke. This is being portrayed as some sort of silly French gag or novelty hotel. Uh-oh. There are adults who like to dress up in animal suits and then go to hotels with other adults dressed up in animal suits.
I‘m sorry, it‘s true. I know “Monty Python” did a sketch about this in 1969 about men dressed up as mice. It doesn‘t make it any less true. Continental hamster breakfast is included.
The fearmonger-in-chief. Wow, I never even called Lonesome Roads Beck that. And why is Rupert Murdoch suddenly denying he said about Beck on tape what he said to him on tape to his own reporter.
Plus, Sarah Palin answers what news sources she reads. It only took her 416 days to come up with a list.
These stories ahead.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Top Three Best Persons in the World.”
Dateline New York, NO. 3 Best total inability to understand the First
Bill-O and his superior mind and many advanced degrees and major awards, you‘d think he‘d know better, but in ripping into Richard Cohen on the Southern Poverty Law Center for having advocated CNN‘s firing of Lou Dobbs, he said, “You and your organization, while you do do some good, are fascist in your approach to people with whom you disagree, because Lou Dobbs shouldn‘t have been pulled off the air for his opinion...you should want a democracy, people to have freedom of speech and put stuff out there.”
Bill, seriously? Freedom of speech? Did the government come in and shut Lou Dobbs down? Because that‘s denial of free speech. Everything else is just journalistic decision or a business one. By the way, Bill‘s misunderstanding of freedom of speech permits us to remind you he previously promised to donate $10,000 in a charity in Mr. Cohen‘s name if Dobbs got fired for the birther crap. “There‘s no real bet there,” he said, “he‘s not going to get fired.”
Dateline New York, No. 2, best repeated self revelation, the tape room at Fixed News, another story about big crowds supporting another lunatic fringe thing that even most Republicans don‘t support. The first time it was the white power rally at the capital and showed video from another rally that had had 10 times the attendance. Now this video over which the news actor read, “Sarah Palin continued to draw huge crowds while she‘s promoting her brand new book. These are some of the pictures just coming in to us. The lines that formed this morning...” they were from a Palin rally during last year‘s presidential campaign. So, either Fox made an identical mistake that just happened to benefit the fingers twice in one week or they did it deliberately.
And Dateline Houston No, best comeuppance. Barbara Ann Radnofski is a Democratic candidate for attorney general in Texas and she found something interesting in subsection “B” of the 2005 constitutional amendment that was supposed to ban same-sex marriage or civil unions in that state. “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” Yep, among the possible legal statuses that are identical or similar to marriage would not just be gay marriage, but straight marriage. Oops. So marriage might not be legal in Texas. I understand John Ensign and Mark Sanford moving there anyway.
OLBERMANN: The ugly environment was not fostered overnight, but town hall opposition to health care reform and all those tea bagger rallies gave comfort to racism and even intonations of violence. The Birther movement was nothing more than extreme and desperate attempt to delegitimize a new president. And Congressman Joe Wilson‘s “you lie,” though a first should not have been a surprise.
Our third story on COUNTDOWN, a sweeping new report on anti-government rage in America not only connects the dots it refuses to let off the hook the most irresponsible voice in the mainstream media, the man it describes as the fearmonger-in-chief, Glenn Beck. Simply stated Beck creates an intersection between the mainstream and the extreme, according to the report by the Anti-Defamation League. It calls Beck, “The most important mainstream media figure who has repeatedly helped to stoke fires of anti-government anger...”
Even routine attacks by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity don‘t compare to Beck who along with his guests, “...have made a habit of demonizing President Obama and promoting conspiracy theories about his administration.”
Beck has compared Obama to Adolf Hitler. One of Beck‘s guests claimed that Obama was trying to create a civilian national security force. Beck once promoted the conspiracy that theory FEMA was building concentration camps to house dissidents, but he eventually backed away from it. But Beck has consistently posed Obama is “dangerous to America.” The United States, Beck say, “Is headed towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination.”
Beck‘s obsession with so-called czars is one example, decrying a term proudly launched by the Republicans under Nixon and Reagan and not actually used by the current administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: We already know of at least five radical leftists currently advising the president of the United States. And these are just the ones who are open about their radical beliefs and far left ideas. We have our own czar, but it goes by a different name here. Oh, here he is, “president.” Remember in history the czars were absolute rulers who answered to no one. That‘s not a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Beck is just part of the ADL report which takes stock of the ugliest aspect of those town hall meetings and the tea bagger rallies, the birther movement and Joe Wilson‘s “you lie.” But the September 12th rally in Washington, the report notes, featured the worst in racist, violent imagery since Obama was elected. That event, heavily promoted, of course, by Beck, a man who projects his own hate onto others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don‘t know what it is. I‘m not saying that he doesn‘t like white people. I‘m saying he has a problem. He has a—this guy is, I believe, a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s bring in the co-founder, editor in chief of the “Huffington Post,” Arianna Huffington.
Good evening, Arianna.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It would be nice to think of Glenn Beck just as a joke, as fodder for this show and the “Daily Show” and others that point out how stupid some of this stuff is. But this report, you know, suggests something else, this is—fearmonger-in-chief term is frightening.
HUFFINGTON: It is frightening. Well, I would say the fearmonger-in-chief title should still be reserved for Dick Cheney, even in retirement. But barring that, there is something that we need to really pay attention to with Glenn Beck. We cannot just dismiss him. Because the truth of the matter is that there is a good reason why we have an exemption to the free speech protection by the first amendment when we say you cannot shout fire in a crowded theater.
And he‘s doing that every night. He‘s basically using images of violence to bring together with all that he‘s accusing the Obama administration of, which varies from racism to communism, Nazism and everything else in between. So, all that has definitely an impact. I believe words matter, language matters and he‘s using it in incredibly irresponsible ways night after night.
OLBERMANN: What do you say to the argument that this country has always self corrected, that whether Father Coughlin on the radio in the ‘30s or Bo Carter (ph) who was a newscaster who presented literally stuff that was made up on the hour in CBS News in the ‘30s or the columnist Westbook Pegler or Senator Joe McCarthy? All these people a finale in which they exited the stage and suddenly. What is to say that that‘s not going to happen here?
HUFFINGTON: Well, I hope it‘s going to happen, but it‘s not going to happen without people pointing out what Glenn Beck is doing. I mean, we saw how it worked with Lou Dobbs and John Klein. You know, John Klein in the end, fired. Lou Dobbs from CNN. Pressure makes a difference. So, we all have a part to play here in pointing out what Glenn Beck is doing. And even though he may not be legally liable if violence ensues from what he does, he‘s morally liable and so is Fox and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes for keeping him on the air.
OLBERMANN: Some of Beck‘s claims, according to the report from the ADL, let me quote it again, “play an important role in drawing people further out of the mainstream making them more receptive to extreme notions and conspiracy theories.” And without going into Sociology 101, isn‘t the point here that people like Beck enable some of the wildest, most paranoid notions about what the U.S. government is doing and instead of people thinking, as they think these things, for whatever they think them, no, that‘s crazy, he says, no you‘re not crazy, come with me down this path?
HUFFINGTON: Yes. But, on top of it, Keith, what makes it possible for Glenn Beck to enable and even take advantage of what‘s happening is the fact that there‘s a lot of misery out there, there‘s a lot of legitimate anger. People are losing their jobs. They‘re losing their homes. Or they‘re afraid of losing their jobs or losing their homes, so it‘s in this climate of often legitimate rage that Glenn Beck comes in and provides scapegoats.
I mean, traditionally throughout history, these are the dangerous times. And that‘s why various establishments also need to become much more sensitive to what is happening out there and not leave it up to the Glenn Becks of the world to take advantage of what‘s happening.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, the new component to this is the race of the president. And a lot of this rage that we‘re discussing here is rooted in racism, something we certainly knew before the ad put out its analysis. But Beck tried unsuccessfully to turn that one in the other direction, claiming that Mr. Obama is the racist. Is that the twist by which he and the other actual racists are rationalizing their own prejudice simply project it on to the other people?
HUFFINGTON: It is a classic case of projection. But, even worse than Glenn Beck saying that is the fact that Rupert Murdoch endorsed it, all though then he took it away. Or to have people like Senator Chuck Grassley giving away books of Glenn Beck. So, this is really what the ADL report is talking about, this sort of intersection between the mainstream and the extreme. There are always extremes. There are always paranoids who sound like Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” you know, connecting everything and scaring everyone. But, it‘s when that becomes part of the mainstream that it becomes dangerous.
OLBERMANN: And apparently, by the way, Mr. Murdoch has seen that bank statement and the losses that he‘s had at the “New York Post” because he‘s now backed off the backing off that you just mentioned, which we‘ll get to in a moment. It changes every day. I used to work for the man. I know. Arianna Huffington of the “Huffington Post,” always a pleasure. Thanks, have a good evening.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Amid an industry rumor that the book sold more than 500,000 copies in the first week, Sarah Palin finally comes up with a list of which newspapers and sites she reads. Turns out she read the ones that offer her books for $5. And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Ms. Palin says it‘s OK to profile Muslims.
And as I just mentioned Rupert Murdoch defends one of his mignons, but today denies he defended him. “Worst Persons,” ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin finally figures out how to answer a question asked of her on 29th of September 2008, while an approving councilman says in her plan book tops—try that in English—her planned book tour stop at Fort Hood is no more inappropriate than would be a visit by the Dallas cowboy cheerleaders.
First the worsts imbecility from a Texas congressman, false umbrage from Lonesome Roads Beck and the denial contradicted by his previous answer by his own reporter by Rupert Murdoch. Avast ye matey. Arghh.
It is a world record of one sort. It only took a woman once elected the governor of Alaska 416 days to come up with the answer “what newspapers and news sites do you read” and the answer was Newsmax. It‘s like answering “Beetle Bailey.”
That‘s next, but first time for No. 2 story tonight, “Worst Person in the World.” The Bronze, Rupert Murdoch. The Media Matters folks tried to pin him down today on his defense of Beck‘s claim that President Obama was a racist. Murdoch said he didn‘t think the president was a racist, but he did think Beck was responding to a racist comment made by the president. Now, he‘s apparently denying that. First what he said to his own reporter, then what he says he didn‘t say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT MURDOCH, FOX NEWS: On the racist thing, that caused a (INAUDIBLE), but he did make a very racist comment.
QUESTION: Mr. Murdoch, could you be more specific about what racist comments the president allegedly made?
MURDOCH: I deny that absolutely.
QUESTION: What? You deny that you did...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Looks like the pirate trolley has come off the pirate track, matey.
The runner-up, Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, one of the gang of six idiots complaining to FOX Noise about the terrorism trials in New York. “You got millions of New Yorkers who will be put at risk. Unless they‘re trying to create a new jobs bill by allowing terrorism back in New York. This is insane. And even that would be insane.”
Well, Gohmert knows he‘s insane. He claims he was joking, but by the way, Congressman, thanks to you and that troglodyte president you supported the last eight year, we‘re at risk all the time here in New York. When did you suddenly start caring?
But, our winner Lonesome Rhodes Beck. Norah O‘Donnell interviewed a teenage girl at a Sarah Palin book signing. The girl read what was written on her own t-shirt, “The U.S. Handed out $700 billion in Wall Street bailouts and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Norah correctly pointed out that Palin supported the bailout, to the surprise of the young girl. Beck took umbrage. Not with Norah‘s observation, nor with Palin‘s hypocrisy. The comical actor, “They gotta go after 13-year-olds...a 13-year-old, you gotta go after a 13-year-old?” His sycophant co-host asks, “And did they ever do this, did they ever do this to Barack Obama supporters during the campaign?”
“You gotta go after a 13-year-old—this is child abuse. I want to report this father to some sort of, you know, department health and children‘s service or whatever it is, for child abuse.”
What‘s the name of the young man who appeared in the pro S-CHIP ad, Graham Frost, the one Michelle Malkin attacked? How old was he, 47? No, he‘s 12. That‘s right, 12. How old was the girl with the heart condition that the “National Review” attacked for being in the other S-CHIP ad, Bethany Wilkerson? Twelve? No, she was two. How old was the gal that Congressman Shadegg brought to the floor the other day to complaining about health care reform? Held her up like a human shield. Maddie? How old was she? Two? No, she was 7 months old. Child abuse in politics, is a right wing requirement. Lonesome Rhodes “when we do it it‘s cool, when you do it, you‘re Hitler” Beck, today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”
OLBERMANN: Discussing the interview that changed everything, Sarah Palin writes in “Going Rogue” that all she wanted at that time was a minute to breathe and drink and icy diet Dr. Pepper, But that darned Katie Couric always bringing people down with pesky questions about books and newspapers and stuff other than Dr. Pepper.
We all thought she couldn‘t think of any. She sure showed us. Our No. 1 story, Sarah Palin finally reveals what she reads—Palin news digest in a moment, but first the “Going Rogue” book tour bulldozing its way thought Indiana, today. This afternoon at a Fort Wayne supermarket and at a Borders bookstore outside Indianapolis earlier this evening. Publishing industry rumors, first week sales more than half a million. No idea if any of them were not at these 50 to 70 percent discounts.
Meanwhile, Palin continued her media blitz on Fix News. Asked about the tragedy in Fort Hood, Palin remarking that Major Nidal Hasan should have been profiled. As it turns out she will next bring her book tour Fort Hood. Announcing via FaceBook that she will donate royalties earned in Fort Hood to the families of the victims of Fort Hood.
On the potential perceived tackiness, one local councilman told the “New York Daily News,” “Her coming in will be no greater or lesser than the Dallas Cowgirs coming to Fort Hood.” Apt.
But inevitably the conversation turned to the Katie Couric interview, Palin telling Oprah Winfrey she had been annoyed by the question which is why she didn‘t answer it. This time Palin took the moose by the antlers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FMR ALASKA GOVERNOR: She asked about what I read and I read—I read “Newsmax” and the “Frontiersman” and “Wall Street Journal” and everything online I absorb the news via many, many sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, now a quick look at the Palin news digest to see exactly just what she is absorbing. The “Wall Street Journal,” nothing unusual here, Ginthner under fire on economy, House panel approves broad fed audits. And turning to her other two sources, the “The Mat Su Valley Frontiersman,” hometown paper of Wasilla, head coach of colony high football steps down, indoor football franchise introduced to Mat Su Valley and Wasilla to buy shopping center for expanded library. Turning to “Newsmax, “Obama chats with top Cuban blogger.” “Author: Obama letting liberals run the show.” And “Sarah Palin tells Hannity: I read Newsmax.” So, she‘ll read a story about herself reading a story about herself.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, columnist for CQPolitics.com, apparently not on the Palin news digest, Craig Crawford, co-author of “Listen Up, Mr. President.
Good evening Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM: Well, I don‘t know, since she says she reads everything online, maybe she reads my blog. I‘ll put a headline on there.
OLBERMANN: Try it and if it‘s not true you‘ll hear from her.
OLBERMANN: A year and six weeks and she can‘t come up with anything better than “Newsmax?”
CRAWFORD: It doesn‘t suggest a wide range, does it? I would like to see politicians where they talk about something like this to show a little balance that they try to get information both sides, lead people to do that. We‘ve got so many people just reading what they want to hear. And in this case, “Newsmax,” I actually read “Newsmax.” I read “Talking Points Memo,” “Huffington.” I mean, I like to get a wide range. That would have been a better answer, seems to me, but I‘m not telling her what to do.
OLBERMANN: The answer I was told always just say “The Economists.” No matter what, say “The Economist.” Oh, you know what you‘re talking about.
CRAWFORD: Well, I‘m for that now because “The Economist” now owns CQ-Roll Call.
OLBERMANN: Almost related to that, if she did and has in fact read the “Wall Street Journal” on a regular basis, why not just say that to Katie Couric a year ago? We might have—that‘s when an answer like that might have been some use to her politically, might it not?
CRAWFORD: Certainly. I think that instinctual response is the more accurate or honest one, in any case with human nature. She‘s had all this time to think about it. At least she didn‘t come up with a list that didn‘t seem at all credible. I mean, this sounds like the kind of answer she might have given at the time if she had thought about it.
OLBERMANN: Back to the book tour and this announcement she‘s going to go to Fort Hood. I mean, my instinct on this is if it will cheer somebody up there, I guess I‘m for it. But politically, isn‘t there an element of risk to doing this, a little sense of inappropriateness?
CRAWFORD: Well, I mean, even giving the royalties to the victims doesn‘t change the fact that it‘s part of her book tour and it does look very opportunistic. I just have a feeling that if Al Gore were to do this with a book, we‘d be hearing a very different side of the story from places like “Newsmax.” And if she goes there and talks to victims and tries to do something other than talk about her book, and if she gets very political, sure it can get backfire, even backfire on the folks at Fort Hood in the end.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. This battle with the McCain campaign staff over what‘s in the book, Senator McCain has not done so yet, but is he close to yelling at her?
CRAWFORD: I would imagine he would like to, Keith, but here‘s the problem for him doing that. Then he has to implicitly anyway acknowledge that he was wrong to create her in the first place. So, I think he‘s always going to have a tendency to want to defend that decision by not attacking her.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, that‘s the equivalent of saying, thank you for not voting tore me. Last point here, Oprah Winfrey announced tonight she‘s end the talk show in 2011. Is it a coincidence that this is a week after she interviewed Sarah Palin or is there some kind of cause and effect, rock bottom thing here, now I‘ve done everything or now I have to leave or are these just two simultaneous events?
CRAWFORD: After that, there‘s just nothing left for Oprah? If you have look at the ratings, though, it was a huge ratings hit for Oprah. After all, Oprah helped elect the current president. Maybe she‘s going out having put the next one on its path.
OLBERMANN: Well, you know, people answer chain letters and e-mails from princes in Nigeria to send money, so they do that, too. Craig Crawford of CQPolitics.com, MSNBC and possibly the Sarah Palin news digest. Great thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: I‘ll take it. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 2,394th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck. And now to discuss Ms. Palin‘s call to profile Muslims in America, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel
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