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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Howard Dean, Elizabeth Warren, Markos Moulitsas


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

The Medicare buy-in: As the Senate “Gang of 10” moves towards picking this option, instead of the public option, the Democrat Kent Conrad finds his objection anyway—a million and a half in donations from the health sector and you can find objections anyway.

Our special guest: Howard Dean.

And the abortion nonsense.  How (INAUDIBLE) undermining of Roe v.  wade, says Senator Boxer, and raise you one prescription for Rush Limbaugh pills.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Is it fair to say to a man you‘re going to have to buy a rider to buy Viagra?


OLBERMANN:  Obama and the economy, job losses taper off.  Now, he wants to spend returned TARP money for jobs creation programs and tax breaks for small businesses.

The Republicans howling for months for job creation programs and tax breaks for small businesses now say the president has no right to spend the TARP money for jobs creation programs and tax breaks for small businesses.

Afghanistan—is the Pentagon full of crap?  A week ago, the president said troop withdrawals by July 2011, latest by January 2012.  And then Sunday, per the secretary of defense, that “was not a deadline.”  Then Sunday, per the national security advisor, it was a “glide slope.”

Now, in Kabul, so the secretary of defense says to the president of Afghanistan.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY:  We will fight by your side until Afghan forces are large enough and strong enough to secure the nation on their own.


OLBERMANN:  Unfortunately, Hamid Karzai then says—maybe, maybe that will be in 2014.  But he won‘t be able to pay for it until 2024.

The Tennessee mayor who believes Obama deliberately preempted “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because he is a Muslim now says he was joking.

And FOX‘s answer to climate change—how many Americans think it‘s possible that scientists have falsified research?  A hundred and twenty percent.

And—another day, another mistress, another Chinese animation.


OLBERMANN:  So, he‘s taking pictures of his clubs.  So?  And why Tiger Woods is, too, a political figure.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You want to take that last shot, because it‘s in your hands.



OLBERMANN:  Good morning from New York.

The good news tonight, Senate Democrats close to reaching consensus on a plan to concede the public option in exchange for something that might be even better.  As we first reported last night, expanding Medicare if not to every American, at least to many Americans aged 55 to 64.  The bad news:

Senator Conrad, Ben Nelson and Snowe might not support that either.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Here we go again, presumably we will be—presently, rather, we will be joined by Governor Howard Dean, who had floated the idea of lowering the eligibility age for Medicare during his run for the White House in 2004, echoing a 2000 proposal by candidate Al Gore and he would have been V.P., Joe Lieberman.

But we begin with the latest details.  Democratic negotiators in the Senate are hammering out a deal to trade away the public option for several possible concessions.  The most appealing of which would be that plan to allow the otherwise uninsured to buy into Medicare at age 55.  But conservative Democrats who are not among the negotiators as well as potential Republicans swing vote, Snowe of Maine, are already speaking and freaking out.

Senator Snowe telling reporters that a Medicare expansion is something she is not inclined to support.  Adding that she has spoken to Majority Leader Reid about it, quote, “I told him I have concerns.  The Medicare buy in is problematic.”

Obviously, since the Republicans oppose Medicare cuts, expanding Medicare is really a problem for their campaign of political martyrdom on the subject.

Democrat Kent Conrad, the first Democrat to complain about the proposed plan, telling reporters last night that using Medicare rates of reimbursement would hurt hospitals in his home state of North Dakota—basically, this is what he always says.  Quoting him this time, “What‘s that going to do to rates?  What‘s that going to do to Medicare solvency?”  Senator Conrad having asked rhetorically, “We don‘t have answers to those questions.”

Senator Rockefeller, for one, having heard that one enough, “I‘m really very tired of hearing about that one from him.”  The senator from small state West Virginia responding, “It‘s always about North Dakota.  It‘s never about any other part of the country.  We‘re trying to do the best thing for the country as a whole.”

Our friend Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” attempting to answer the question of what—whether using Medicare rates really discriminates against rural hospitals, as Senator Conrad always claims.  Mr. Klein‘s conclusion:  No.  No, it does not.

He found his evidence on page 57 of Medpac‘s 2009 report to Congress, which revealed that relative to urban hospitals, Medicare‘s payments actually covered a slightly higher percentage of costs for the rural hospitals.

To repeat: Rural hospitals are not being paid less in Medicare payments than are urban hospitals.  They might not get any more money out of the Medicare buy-in, they might be struggling for other reasons—but as far as Ezra Klein could tell through all available data—rural hospitals are not disadvantaged in comparison to their urban counterparts.

Senator Lieberman—open to the Medicare buy-in, swaying for something for which he campaigned in 2000 apparently would be too much even for him.

Still no word on how Senator Ben Nelson feels about expanding Medicare, but his anti-abortion amendment was effectively killed earlier tonight when the Senate voted 54-45 to table the measure permanently.

In the wake of tonight‘s defeat, Senator Nelson telling reporters he is less likely to support the final bill as a result.

In getting Nelson‘s anti-abortion amendment killed, Senator Boxer having argued that there is a double standard in play if health care reform would pay for Viagra, it should cover abortion procedures, too.


BOXER:  There‘s nothing in this amendment that says if a man someday wants to buy Viagra, for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider.  I wouldn‘t support that.  And they shouldn‘t support going after a woman using her own private funds for her reproductive health care.  Is it fair to say to a man you‘re going to have to buy a rider to buy Viagra and this will be public information that could be accessed?  No, I don‘t support that.  I support a man‘s privacy, just as I support a woman‘s privacy.


OLBERMANN:  As promised, time now to call in, Governor Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Thank you for your time tonight, Governor.

GOV. HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Thanks, Keith, for having me on.

OLBERMANN:  A Medicare buy-in for many Americans 55 to 64 -- is it an acceptable consolation prize for giving away a true—definitionally true anyway, public option?

DEAN:  Well, it is a—it‘s a very good idea.  A couple things that are good about it—first of all, it does give people real choice who are over 55.  It doesn‘t give them as much choice when they‘re under 55.  But it gives them real choice.

And the second of all, it takes off the table some of the real problems with the public option.  One of the problems that nobody was talking about is setting up a new separate bureaucracy inside an agency that hasn‘t run an insurance company before.  Now, this is where it belongs.  I mean, many people argue, of course, that we ought to have the availability of Medicare for everybody, because this agency does a billion claims a year, they know what they‘re doing.

And one of the great things about this proposal in the Senate is that you could start enrolling people in June of 2010.  The president will sign it in January, you start enrolling people right away.  That is a big deal.

So, this is a tough call.  But I think—using Medicare is such a big step forward that I—you know, I‘m glad that they‘re moving.  We‘ve got to get this bill passed.

You know, I was smiling when I got on the show, I can‘t imagine what it‘s like to have Harry Reid‘s job.  I mean, my Lord, this are just more grandstanding than I‘ve ever seen.  My state and my amendment didn‘t pass, so I might not support the bill.

This is an historic moment in America, and I think Jay Rockefeller is absolutely right.  Of course, these folks are supposed to support their home constituents.  What they‘re really supposed to do is to do what‘s right for America.  And I think we need a little bit of that in the Senate right now.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  On this topic, it almost seems as if Senator Conrad has one of those pull strings and it only has the one prerecorded answer for everything.

Back to the idea of buying in for Medicare—if it makes so much sense, could it be argued it‘s not likely to happen?  Is it likely to happen?

DEAN:  I hope it is.  You know, I‘m keeping pretty close tabs to this because I don‘t want to be hung out to dry on this one, and, you know, we‘ve had that happen before.  But so far, it looks pretty good.

I mean, you know, people—in the—at the end of the day.  I don‘t believe Kent Conrad is going to kill health insurance for all of these Americans because of this concern.  I actually don‘t believe Ben Nelson is going to do it either.  So, and—you know, honestly, it doesn‘t matter what Olympia Snow does, because she‘s not going to vote with us anyway.

So, I—you know, I‘m optimistic.  I‘m always optimistic.  And some days, you get optimistic, and this is one of them.  And some days, you don‘t get so optimistic.  We‘ve got to see the fine print in this thing.  But to be able to enroll people, especially over 55, who are the unemployed people who cannot find health insurance right now and will never find it with a private insurance company, that‘s a very big step forward.

OLBERMANN:  As we have been speaking, the “Associated Press” has reported the Democrats have a tentative deal to drop the public option.  They don‘t go into the rest of the detail.  But we assume that‘s an exchange for the Medicare buy-in because there was nothing else to that state of that “Group of 10,” what they were discussing.

To Senator Conrad‘s point, any health care plan tied to Medicare reimbursement rates would be bad to small rural hospitals.  You ran a small state.

DEAN:  Well, that‘s not exactly true.  I mean.


OLBERMANN:  I‘m just saying, you ran this.

DEAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Is there anything—if the numbers don‘t back up what Senator Conrad keeps saying, why does he keep saying it?

DEAN:  Well, they could actually both be right.  It is probably true that rural hospitals, in general, don‘t suffer more.  Actually, urban hospitals get paid more, but, of course, their costs are much higher.  But there are some states that do worse than others.  Interestingly, Iowa historically has done the worst.

So, I mean, you could fix that.  I mean, you know, basically, that‘s what Mary Landrieu did in exchange for her vote to allow the bill to come to the floor.  And so, maybe Ken is, you know, angling for a little extra dough for North Dakota.  You can‘t blame him for that.  That‘s fine.

But at the end of the day, let‘s not screw around with this bill anymore folks, we‘ve had enough grandstanding and theatrics, let‘s get the bill passed and do what‘s right for America.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, this latest chatter about ping-ponging, that the final bill might possibly be the Senate bill by bypassing the usual, the conference—House and Senate Conference Committee.

DEAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Would that be a good thing or bad thing?

DEAN:  Well, that depends.  One of the things that was mentioned last week on your show, and I think on—actually, a lot of the MSNBC shows, I know Rachel‘s show was Bernie Sanders talking about—if you can‘t get a public option, you ought to expand the public programs.

There was a lot of discussion which, I think, has stopped now unfortunately in the Senate about expanding Medicaid.  The reason for the dropping of the discussion was a very smart one.  States can‘t handle their share of it.  The feds can step up and do that.

The reason we have universal health insurance in Vermont for everybody under 18 is because we use Medicaid.  To get it, we had to raise reimbursement rates.  It works really well.  We did 15 years ago.  We‘ve had it for 15 years.  That is a good thing.

So, if you ping-pong this bill back and forth, you can add stuff that makes sense.  You can have a chance to revisit the Medicaid issue without harming the states.  It makes a lot of sense.

So, you know, conference committees are very complicated.  If they can get away with the ping-ponging thing and improve the bill, I think they should do it.

OLBERMANN:  Governor Howard Dean—great thanks as always on this issue in particular.

DEAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If the Senate bill is indeed the version of the bill that will President Obama‘s desk—and this breaking news suggests that‘s the case—at least this much would be guaranteed: no Stupak and/or Ben Nelson amendment would be in it.

Let‘s turn now to Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post.”

Good evening, Gene.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Ben Nelson‘s anti-abortion amendment killed earlier tonight, permanently tabled.  But my hypothetical aside, Stupak still looms in the House.  Is Senator Boxer correct?  Is it hard to imagine the same kind of moral imperative, the culture war, if it somehow targeted men‘s health choices instead of women‘s?

ROBINSON:  Well, it is hard to imagine that if men were the parties involved that it would work out exactly like this.  But the key word there, I think, is choices.  And those who are pro-choice see reproductive rights as a woman‘s choice, a woman‘s fundamental right to choose.  And those who are anti-abortion, don‘t see it as a—as a choice or at least as a choice that is properly—that women are properly allowed to make.

So, that‘s the—you know, we never really reached even a cease-fire on abortion.  We just—you know, the hostilities ended, and there‘s kind of a line of control of Roe v. Wade.  But the fight was never really resolved.  And who knows when it will be?

OLBERMANN:  All right. But even setting it aside as they tried to do,

I think to their credit for much of this debate, just the issue of women‘s

health insurance relatively to men‘s health insurance, which has not come

up a lot.  Even if it doesn‘t include maternity care, women‘s prices cost

35 percent more.  If it were the other way around, would the—I mean, how

·         would be celebrating, what, the 100th anniversary of Congress acting to make sure that disparity have been eliminated?


ROBINSON:  I am quite confident that we would—we would have insurance executives being, you know, subpoenaed and called before committees, raked over the coals, that, you know—sure, that wouldn‘t—that wouldn‘t happen.  I‘ve always thought that disparity is incredible, and the—you know, how can we have a system that perpetuates it?  But that‘s what we‘ve had.  We‘ve had a system that perpetuates a lot of crazy stuff.

OLBERMANN:  How is this part of it, though, not a civil rights issue?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think it is a civil rights issue.  And from my perspective, it certainly is.  And I think, you know, the women‘s movement certainly has been a civil rights movement.  I believe that abortion rights were very much a part of that movement, and to take—I really understand Senator Boxer and others who look at what‘s happening and say, “Hold it, this is—this is a step back from rights that were hard won.”

And it‘s—I have—I understand why that‘s very difficult for them to swallow.  It‘s one thing to say, oh, you progressives just go along with it.  It‘s more than a bitter pill.  It‘s a surrender of territory that was won long ago.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and it‘s a bitter pill that costs 30 percent more for women.


OLBERMANN:  Last point, the breaking news about this “A.P.” report that there is a tentative deal.


OLBERMANN:  One assumes that is a tentative deal to drop the public option in exchange for going ahead with the buy-in, a limited buy-in to Medicare 55-65.

Chime on this—is that a good idea?  Is it a good trade?  Is it the best trade under the circumstances?

ROBINSON:  It strikes me as a pretty good trade.  It‘s—I always thought that in the end, we‘d either get something called a public option that really wasn‘t a public option at all, or something that was a public option but we didn‘t call a public option.

I think this is the second alternative.  This is actually in some ways better than the attenuated watered-down public option that‘s been on the table that‘s won in name only.  You know, Medicare is a real program.  It really works.  And to expand that and to open it to those 55 and above, I think would make a real difference.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, there will be more to that “Associated Press” report.  We‘ll follow it throughout the hour.

In the interim, Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC—always a pleasure, Gene.  Thank you.

ROBINSON:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One other note here: Tonight, we‘re on the eve of yet another free health care clinic funded by you, our COUNTDOWN viewers, the first ever two-day free clinics sponsored by the National Association of Free Clinics.  It begins tomorrow in Kansas City.

Log on to to schedule an appointment if you need one.  In addition to all the services offered before this clinic, we‘ll also have dental services, vaccination for H1N1.

So far, more than 1,700 patients have registered; more than 2,000 medical and non-medical volunteers are helping.  This all made possible by you our viewers, and your contributions which have now totaled $1.9 million.

So, the president may get health care reform.  What about the two other biggest items in his first 11 months?  The numbers of newly unemployed last month dropped to about 2 percent of what the figure had been in January.  And so much of the TARP money has now been repaid, they can use the way the Republicans had demanded, tax cuts for small businesses and job creation plans.

But then there‘s Afghanistan.  A week ago tonight, the president announced deadline for beginning an exit—and every military leader since has insisted, there‘s no deadline, just a glide slope.

Markos Moulitsas joins me to discuss whether it is the country now on the glide slope and whether the Pentagon just put us on it.


OLBERMANN:  Do we dare say this out loud?  Is the economy slightly OK? 

Did the president really avert an utter collapse?

Is the Pentagon intent on averting the president‘s plan to withdraw on time from Afghanistan?  That country‘s president said today if he tries hard, we can leave in 2014.

And all those women Tiger Woods was dating, turns out they may not have been—the golf term is “amateurs.”

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  We‘ll never see an average American with a t-shirt reading “I heart TARP.”  But Republican predictions at the program was the equivalent of tossing $700 billion into a black hole, have been proven wrong.  And nobody likes 10 percent unemployment, but back in January, nearly 600,000 jobs were lost.  Last month, it was 11,000.

So, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Is it time to say the president‘s policies have improved the economy?

President Obama today is taking on the subject of jobs on the economy for the fifth time in the past week.  In a speech to the Brookings Institute, he proposed further tax incentives for small businesses to go and hire people, more investment in infrastructure projects, and new incentives for Americans to weatherize their homes.  That has already earned the name “cash for caulkers.”

And while the president seized upon the recent positive signs of the economy, he acknowledged that the pains are still wide and deep.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are not yet creating jobs at a pace to help all those families who‘ve been swept up in the flood.  There are more than 7 million fewer Americans with jobs today than when this recession began.  That‘s a staggering figure and one that reflects not only the depths of the hole from which we must descend, but also, a continuing human tragedy.


OLBERMANN:  The president even suggested some of these extra initiatives could be paid for with some of the leftover TARP money.  So, since they‘ve insisted that the real roots to recovery are through jobs creation programs and tax breaks for small businesses, Republicans must like this new idea of jobs creation programs and tax breaks for small businesses.  Nope, here‘s the squealing.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I was there, all right?  I know all about TARP.  First, it was never intended that all this money would ever have to be spent.  But any money that wasn‘t spent was to go to the deficit.  And the idea of taking this money and spending it is repulsive.


OLBERMANN:  As for that detested TARP program, the Congressional Oversight Panel that monitors it will release a report tomorrow.  Some experts now believe the program will get back more than $500 billion out of its $700 billion funding—far better than originally predicted.  And the portion of TARP that went directly to the banks may actually turn out to have broken even.

Let‘s turn now to the chair of that Congressional Oversight Panel, Harvard University law professor, Elizabeth Warren.

Professor, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  The president said today, and let me quote it directly, “As galling as the assistance to banks may have been, it indisputably helped prevent a collapse of the entire financial system.”  This is a theme of his. But there are two obvious questions that are raised by this statement.  The first of them being—is that true?


OLBERMANN:  Then the second obvious question is: How can you prove the negative?  Can it be demonstrated that collapse was prevented?

WARREN:  Well, you can never prove the counterfactual.  But what we can do is we can look at every trend line we have, and it—this economy was racing toward a cliff and about to pitch over.  And the combination of TARP and the work from the Fed and the FDIC and the stimulus, together gave enough reassurance to the market to pull us back from the edge.  If nothing else, the U.S. government held up the equivalent of a giant sign that said we are not going to let this financial system collapse, and we will do whatever it takes to stabilize the system—and that calmed everybody down.

So, in that sense, it worked.

OLBERMANN:  Has it—has it missed the mark in any great measure?  I mean, with an eye towards common sense evaluation versus numbers crunching, has it come anywhere close to affecting average Americans enough?  Obviously, the start of this was the—was the issue of credit flexibility and looseness.  Has it—has it helped?  Does it demonstratively helped average Americans getting an average loan?

WARREN:  Well, that‘s where the real problem is.  And that is that it did the first part, it stopped us from the crash.

But this was not a system that—for which the money was supposed to just go to the big financial institutions so they could kind of stay afloat.  It was really put into these big financial institutions so that it would help the entire economy, so that it would help us deal with foreclosures, so it would restart credit, so that small businesses wouldn‘t collapse, and in turn, so that employment could stay up, because people would be working at those small businesses, to clean up the balance sheets for the banks.

Those things—they just haven‘t happened.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, nobody is jumping for joy if the mark is still 10 percent unemployment, even if that figure is down from the preceding months.  But is there something dynamic about stepping back and looking at all this and saying, “Yes, the economy is improving, and this administration‘s policies have, in fact, contributed to that”?

WARREN:  I think that‘s the right way to look at it.  Look, we‘ve been at TARP now for a over a year, just a little over a year.  And this is the moment, with the report we‘re doing right now, to say, let‘s take a deep breath, let‘s back up, and say, the first part was accomplished.  TARP is part of what helped us avoid a depression.

But it‘s time to reassess the rest of those programs.  We don‘t want to be in a situation where we get really good at shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars into large banks that we can do that on a—you know, on a seconds notice, and not be able to help stabilize the economy for the American family.

We need to rethink some of these programs, and we need to put some real energy and some real dynamic thought between how—into how it is that we‘re going to use this money to get it into the hands of community banks, to get it into the hands of small businesses, to get ahead of this mortgage foreclosure crisis.  That‘s where we have to turn our attention.

OLBERMANN:  And, Professor, does the president and in terms of doing something like that, does he need congressional approval to take some of that TARP money and use it on new initiatives?  Or is that within the original purview of the idea?

WARREN:  OK.  I‘m going to be—I‘m going to be a lawyer on you for in a minute here.


WARREN:  And the answer is, to the extent that this is—that what he wants to do is stimulate jobs, for example, through the shot of working with the financial institutions in the financial significance system, for example, put more money in the small business loans, which in turn will stimulate hiring.  Then the answer is, he absolutely can do it, TARP already has the authorizations in place.  All you‘ve got to do is design a program that does it.

But for anything else, it‘s simply a case of, if he wants to do some kind of stimulus program, not spending the money in TARP means there‘s more money available, but it‘s up to Congress to decide how that money gets spent.

OLBERMANN:  Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, also of Harvard University, and for a minute there, a lawyer—great thanks for joining us tonight.

WARREN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And the second half of the “Associated Press” report has just come in on our breaking news of the hour that the Democratic group, at least the 10 senators working on a revision to the health care bill, have indeed agreed to drop the public option—but the “Associated Press” reports, according to its sources—that federal Medicare health care programs for the elderly, would be opened up to uninsured Americans as reported beginning at age 55.

There‘s no measure on how many people that would affect.  But as we have been reporting to you for the last few days, that was the idea on the table.  And according to the “A.P.,” that is in the final version.

We‘ll continue to follow the developments from health care and the rest of the day‘s news as COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN:  The Tiger Woods‘ story re-detonates; those other 10 women, some of them appear to have been employees.  Greens fees.

First to a Burger King near San Clemente, California, where a woman called 911 from the drive-thru line to complain about her BBQ Western Burger.  Yes, her order was messed up, so she spent a full two and a half minutes discussing this crisis with the emergency dispatcher, saying, in fact, everything except let‘s play Oddball.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ma‘am, we‘re not going to go down there and enforce your Western Bacon Cheeseburger. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What am I supposed to do? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is between you and the manager.  We‘re not going to go enforce how to make a hamburger.  This is not a criminal issue.  We can‘t go out there and make them make you a cheeseburger the way you want it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, that is—you‘re supposed to be here to protect me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What are we protecting you from?  A wrong cheeseburger?  Is it a harmful cheeseburger or something?  I don‘t know what you want us to do. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just come down here.  I‘m not leaving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I‘m not sending the deputies down there over a cheeseburger. 


OLBERMANN:  It‘s a socialist cheeseburger.  Afghanistan; my point last week was the president might believe he‘s establishing a deadline to begin withdrawal, and the Pentagon will never hear a word of it, which is perhaps why the secretary of Defense says it‘s not a deadline, and why the president of Afghanistan today says five years, if we hurry.  Here we go again.


OLBERMANN:  Commander in chief sets a deadline in Afghanistan, but his top military commander doesn‘t view it as a deadline.  His national security advisor calls it instead a glide slope.  His Defense secretary says the troops will be there as long as it takes.  The president of the country where the troops are being sent just mentioned 2014. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the president commits to a strategy while the Pentagon seems to remove the goal posts.  A week after President Obama laid out the plan to keep troops in Afghanistan through July 2011 -- at the least the withdrawal would begin at that point—Defense Secretary Gates made a surprise visit to that country.  At a joint news conference with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in Kabul, Mr. Gates reasserting there is realism on our part that it will be sometime before Afghan forces can stand on their own. 


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  Our troops are here only as long as it takes to help you defeat your enemies.  We will fight by your side until Afghan forces are large enough and strong enough to secure the nation on their own. 


OLBERMANN:  As for President Karzai‘s commitment to his country‘s security, he warns Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own defense for 15 to 20 more years, later amending that statement to at least five years, provided  there is maximum effort.  This coming on the heels of a weekend of Pentagon message massage.  Mr. Gates maintaining that come July 2011, six or 6,000 troops could be leaving Afghanistan, based on conditions on the ground.  National Security Adviser Jim Jones pointing out that strategic interest should not be measured in finite terms. 

Meanwhile, on Capital Hill, General Stanley McChrystal and the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Carl Eikenberry testifying to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.  Ambassador Eikenberry saying the July 2011 time line is a very good forcing function to get the Afghans to stand-up.  As for General McChrystal, he says he  will know within the next 18 months if the troop buildup was enough and whether the president‘s deadline will be met. 


GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, US ARMY:  I don‘t view that as a deadline.  I view that as a point at which time the president has directed we will begin to reduce combat forces.  But we will decide the pace and scope of that based on conditions at the time. 


OLBERMANN:  Joining me now, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, author of “Taking on The System, Rules For Radical Change in a Digital Era,” Markos Moulitsas.  Markos, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  I know you‘re not a doctor, but I‘m getting a sinking feeling here that the president said one thing, and the Pentagon has spent the week since saying, pay no attention to him. 

MOULITSAS:  I‘m not getting that feeling, to be honest, Keith.  I mean, the president‘s been very clear that 2011 was the start of a draw-down, based on this surge.  It‘s a limited surge.  That‘s what he‘s claiming. 

I think where there a little bit of dissonance is that Obama sort of implied that this is going to be a quick withdrawal after 2011.  Yes, he said it was going to be based on conditions on the ground.  But the implication was that it was going to be quick.  While the Pentagon sort of wants to say, maybe not so quick.  It‘s going to be a little longer. 

I don‘t think they‘re necessarily undermining what Obama said, but I think there‘s a little bit of an interpretation gap here. 

OLBERMANN:  What happens in domestic politics, given the strength of the president‘s statement and seemingly the strength of his stance, if the troop withdrawals are delayed past the end of the window, barring the largest and most easily interpreted of events on the ground?  What happens politically here? 

MOULITSAS:  I think Obama bought himself some time.  I think the polls are very clear that people are willing to give him a chance to sort of improve the situation on the ground.  But the assumption has been that once they‘ve had a chance to surge and pacify things on the ground, we‘re going to get our boys and girls home, safe and sound, to their families.  If that doesn‘t happen relatively quickly after that initial pullout date, I think people are going to start getting restless, and it‘s going to have implications for his re-election campaign.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m going to switch over now to our breaking news, if you don‘t mind, because I know you know this topic as well as the one about Afghanistan.  That one will be discussed endlessly. 

But just at this hour, Harry Reid has gotten before the microphones in Washington, confirmed the Associated Press and the political reports that there is a deal, at least among the Democrats.  He will only say that it‘s more choice for consumers, more competition for insurance companies.  The AP says the public option is out.  The Medicare buy-in is in, and also possibly something along the lines of that private insurance—some vague private insurance supplied by the same people who brought you lawmaker care.  And “Politico” reported that the thing is being sent over to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring.  Give me your initial reaction to all of this.

MOULITSAS:  I think I would have to see the details to really have a full understanding of what‘s going on.  But I‘ve been under the assumption for a while that the Senate is a non-functioning governmental body.  It cannot do its job, which is to reform and improve the lives of Americans.  It is broken.  It is completely bought and paid for by the insurance companies.

I think it‘s indicative that we found out today that the insurance companies are claiming victory on this battle, supposedly not over.  They‘re already claiming victory, because you‘re going to have a mandate forcing people to buy their crappy products, with few restrictions on their ability to do the sort of business practices—the unethical business practices that have created this problem in the first place. 

OLBERMANN:  Any hope in that Medicare buy-in? 

MOULITSAS:  The initial reports are that it‘s 55 years old?  Yeah, 55.  I mean, it doesn‘t do anybody under 55 any good.  What it seems to do is it takes away some of the most potential expensive customers for the insurance companies, the older, and give them—basically fobs them off to the government.  We need something that applies to all Americans, not just the elderly. 

OLBERMANN:  Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, great thanks for your time tonight. 

MOULITSAS:  Thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  The admittedly minor political relevance of Tiger Woods.  Plus a cascade of new details, reports that many of the women were, you know, escorts.  And, of course, new Chinese videos. 

The mayor posted that Obama was a Muslim and he deliberately went on TV so he could preempt “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Now his town has posted that the mayor does not speak for the town.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania on the economic good news and the curious truth that however much of it there really is, the Republicans chose not to help.


OLBERMANN:  The political relevance of Tiger Woods, along with a new theory that most of the women involved are actually professionals, more Chinese videos, and the sight of somebody else being removed from the area of his mansion by paramedics.  Crying out loud, they ought to just keep an ambulance parked out front.

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to Brett Stevens of the “Wall Street Journal,” trying to extend the right‘s believe it‘s found the Holy Grail in these emails stolen from climate change experts.  It‘s holy something.  He employs the classic ploy, I‘m not saying what I‘m obviously saying, but those who acknowledge climate change have, quote, “what I would call the totalitarian impulse.  This is not to say that global warming true believers are closet Stalinists, but their intellectual methods are instructively similar.  For the anti-Semite, the problems of the world can invariably be ascribed to the Jews.  For the Communist,” he writes, “to the capitalist.” 

And as the list above suggests, global warming has become the fill in the blank explanation for whatever happens to be the problem.  I‘m not saying Mr. Stevens is an intellectual midget who has prostituted himself out to Rupert Murdoch, who will do anything to defend big polluters, and whose myopia could lead to the destruction of the atmosphere.  I‘m just saying—

The runner up, the fine folks at Cluster Fox and Friends again.  A poll from the right wing manipulated Rasmussen Reports, it wasn‘t good enough for them.  “Did scientists falsify research to support their own theories on global warming?”  Fifty nine percent somewhat likely, 35 percent very likely, 26 percent not very likely.  That would be 120 percent who believe it‘s possible, 94 percent Of whom believe it‘s somewhat or very likely. 

So this poll question follow-up: does Fox falsify the news to support their own theories on everything?  One hundred percent of the respondents were unable to stop laughing long enough to answer.

But our winner, in an all time first, the same guy as last night for the same thing, Mayor Russell Wiseman of Arlington Tennessee, the man who posted on Facebook that President Obama is a Muslim and that‘s why he spoke to the nation last Tuesday at 8:00 Eastern, so he could preempt the showing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the 45th year in a row. 

He‘s it again, because I wasn‘t finished.  When the Memphis news paper called him for comment, Mayor Wiseman said they‘re making a mountain out of a mole hill.  The mole hill, sir, is in your ears.  They‘re showed “A Charlie Brown Christmas” tonight and they‘re showing it again next Tuesday.  And if you were a real American, sir, you‘d have seen it so many times already, you‘d be able to cite it from memory.

His city has now disavowed this mayor.  Posted on its official website, “the mayor‘s comments were not made on a town computer or using town computer services.  The town recognizes Barack Obama as the president of United States, and in accordance with the Constitution, recognizes both the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  We welcome all law abiding people to our town.  We do not discriminate.  We provide essential services to all town of Arlington people, without regard to their religion, race, color, age, gender, sex, or national origin.” 

Ample parking day and night.  People shouting, howdy neighbor.  Now, Mayor Wiseman has sent a statement to local media: “regarding all the reports about my recent Facebook remarks, I want to take this opportunity to say how much I regret that I offended anyone with my poor attempt at tongue in cheek humor amongst friends.  While my comments were certainly blown way out of proportion, I do recognize that I allowed things to go too far.  I trust we have probably all experienced things getting out of hand from time to time.  And I do regret it.  I also take some measure in comfort in knowing that the people who know me best understand that I am a progressive and tolerant person, who believes wholeheartedly in the rights and equality of all people.” 

Ample parking day and night, people.  So it was a joke?  It was a progressive joke.  The president‘s a Muslim; he preempted “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because it has Bible readings in it; his supporters should all move to a Muslim country.  Ha, ha, ha, a joke.  A joke, mayor, would be: do you know how stupid the people who think Obama is a Muslim really are?  They‘re so stupid they think he went on TV at 8:00 so he could preempt “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because it‘s got Bible readings in it.  I mean, there are a lot of stupid sons of bitches in this country.  But those people would have to be so stupid that they‘d be serving as he local chairman of the National Stupid Sons of Bitches, club. 

That, Mayor Wiseman, is a joke.  Mayor Russell “Yes, the Name is Meant Ironically” Wiseman, of Arlington, Tennessee, once again, today‘s worst person in the world. 


OLBERMANN:  To briefly recap the breaking news of the hour; Majority Leader Harry Reid confirming the Democrats have a final agreement on a health care reform bill.  He will not detail it.  The Associate Press reporting it drops the public option for a limited buy-in for Medicare at age 55.  Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont join Rachael Maddow for reaction six minutes hence.  

So a woman comes up to me on the street and says, so how come you‘re doing segments on Tiger Woods?  What does it have to do with politics?  What do you have against him?  Just because he serial cheats on his wife; just because it looks like she was hired because his sponsors thought he needed a wife to make his reputation look better, so he could sell more of their stuff; just because he swears at his fans for making noise while he tries to hit a ball that isn‘t moving and nobody is trying to stop him from hitting it; just because he‘s living a double life. 

I said, yes, madam, all that‘s true.  But I said, in my number one story tonight, my beef with him is that he‘s been a holier than thou fraud for a decade, and it‘s politically relevant.  In 2000, the only two unions I belong to, SAG and AFTRA, went out on strike against the makers of TV commercials.  And quietly, the union executives said to people like Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong, you know what?  We know you‘re not really commercial actors.  So while we would love it if you would honor our strike, we‘ll understand if you won‘t. 

But on May 2nd, 2000, through his agent, Woods said there‘s a strike going on, and we are abiding by it.  He very loudly cancelled the filming of a Nike commercial near his home in Orlando, and expressed support for the SAG and AFTRA commercial workers, whose average annual income is about 6,000 dollars.  Then in July 2000, Tiger Woods shot a Buick commercial in Canada.  He explained, he didn‘t think that counted as strike breaking because it was in Canada. 

So, I told this woman, yes, that‘s why I have no sympathy for Tiger Woods.  That‘s why he has something to do with politics, even if this sad story of him being a common weasel doesn‘t.  She said, oh, I see, and then she added, you know, I had an affair with him too.  All right, I made the last quote up. 

Still, it seems like your odds of having someone come up to you and saying they had an affair with Tiger Woods rose again today.  Another woman, a British pornographic actress—and if there are more women, there are more computer generated news speculation videos from our friends, the evil geniuses at AppleDaily in Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

Once again, time for edited highlights and translations, including alleged photography by Mr. Woods, his mother-in-law being rushed to the hospital, complaining of stomach pains because of all of this.  Like we all didn‘t have stomach pains because of this.  The sixth AppleDaily animated opus translates to English, on Youtube at least, as Fear Level Three Tigers.  So you know this one‘s going to be good. 

Tonight, we meet Jamie Jungers (ph), who allegedly partied with Tiger Woods in Vegas, and then bragged about it to her fiancee. 

OLBERMANN:  Woman meets Tiger Woods at Bellaggio dance-atorium.  They convene back to room of Woods for you know. 

Woman‘s fiance playing Tiger Woods Gold.  wife says, hey, I know that guy.  See, he‘s on my phone.  Fiancee say, I shall too brag to my work friends. 

Hey, work friends, you‘ll never guess who my future wife has platonic relationship with, Tiger Woods. 

Then there‘s the story of Cory Risk (ph), the woman who allegedly took home the Tiger‘s clubs.  That is not a mistranslated Chinese euphemism.  Literally, took home one of his golf clubs for golf shots, nothing but golf shots. 

Woman enters hotel sweet, which connects with room of Tiger Woods.  Woods and lady sit on bed.  Tiger Woods shows woman his driver.  Woman never removes hat, takes club home, presenting to seven-year-old son.  You have no idea, junior. 

You have no idea, junior.  That brings us to today‘s events, reporting by, that these are not all affairs Woods has had, that these are professional women provided for him by the likes of Rachel Uchitel, which may explain the hospital visit for the mother-in-law of Tiger Woods.  Barbaro Holmberg (ph) is the governor of Yalvorborg (ph) County in Sweden. 

Barbaro?  The martyred race horse?

Anyway, she apparently got so sick to her stomach that she had to be rushed to the hospital at 2:30 this morning.  Take a fricking number, lady.  Maybe she found out about the 11th woman, the second porn star to be linked to the son-in-law.  Meet Veronica Suick Daniels (ph), AKA Jocelyn James. spilled the beans on her. 

As for mother-in-law Holmberg, Barbaro, she has since been released.  And according to the hospital, she received no special treatment while in their care, although the same was not true, when her famous son-in-law checked into the same hospital nearly two weeks ago. 

Night of the crash, Tiger didn‘t feel so hot.  This is pill of Vicodin.  Ouch, I fell on my keys.  Tiger Woods and wife check into hospital.  Woods uses clever name to hide celebrity, William Smith.  Police wonder, now there are two pills of Vicodin? 

Seriously, you want to remain anonymous, and you check into the hospital as Will Smith.  Another tip if you want to remain anonymous: don‘t take pictures of yourself that may wind up in “Playgirl.” 

Anonymous woman has naughty photo.  Look at naughty photo.  Go into lady‘s pony tail.  Tiger Woods takes picture.  That looks good.  We can sell this.  There is much rejoicing. 

Dude, Levi Johnston is going to be so upstaged, allegedly. 

Now, to again try to follow that, with her special guests, Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Bernie Sanders on the breaking news on a Senate health reform update and deal, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 



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