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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show


December 9, 2009



Guests: Ezra Klein, Lynn Woolsey, Nicole Lamoureaux, Jonathan Turley, Chris Hayes


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

Health care reform, complete agreement on-something.


SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Until the package that was sent is scored, we really don't even know what's in it.


OLBERMANN: But at least we know that conservative Democrats like Senator Landrieu there and Senator Lincoln, they can support it for sure, right?


SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: Until we hear back from CBO, it's going to be hard to see whatever I can support for sure.


OLBERMANN: And even some Republicans might be OK with this. No more of this "pull the plug on grandma" nonsense.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: The last thing you want to think about when the Titanic is sinking is put grandma and more of your family on the boat.


OLBERMANN: Is the deal any good? Is there even really a deal? Does anybody really know?

The latest details snatched out of the fog by Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post" and the doubts of California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey.

No fog, no doubt, just people in need-live. Inside day one of the free health care clinic for which you paid in Kansas City.

In defense of the infamous author of the "torture is legal" memo, John Yoo defended in court by the Obama administration? Jonathan Turley joins us.

Goldfinger-gate. Lonesome Roads Beck says it's just a coincidence he warns his audience everyday the economy will collapse so they should buy gold-and so many of his advertisers just happen to sell gold. One of his own advertisers now says Beck's not telling the truth. "You pay anybody on any network and they say what you pay them to say. They're bought and sold."

And the climate change debate. In this corner.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: It's not a question of debate, it's like gravity. It exists.


OLBERMANN: And in this corner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every form of witchcraft is what you will rebuke in the name of Jesus.


OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary-now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

Permit me to begin our fifth story tonight by paraphrasing Churchill. On October 5th, 1938, a week after the Munich Agreement, I hope I'm in error (ph), I hope I am being wildly pessimistic, but I fear, if this is the health insurance reform which you will be required by law to buy into and to buy, that I am neither.

I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat without a war. The utmost that the Senate majority leader has been able to secure by all his immense exertions, by all the anguish and strain through which we have passed in this country, has been that the insurance industry, instead of snatching its vittles from the table, has been content to have them served to them course by course.

All is over, silent, mournful, abandoned, broken. Health care reform recedes into the darkness.

The people should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of the nation has been deranged and that the terrible words have, for the time being, been pronounced against those who fight against the corporate state. Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.

I do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of bitter cup, which will be proffered to us year by year, unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and independent vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom.

Majority Leader Reid tonight is meeting with the entire Democratic Caucus of the Senate to go over the tentative deal on a public option compromise. Senator Reid refusing to discuss those details publicly until the Congressional Budget Office has officially scored the changes, priced them out. Many of those details are leaking out, nonetheless.

An aide briefed on the negotiations fleshing out the most important aspects of the compromise, for Talking Points Memo, including the Medicare expansion. It would not start until 2011. That is three years before the insurance exchanges would begin. During that three-year interval, uninsured Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 would be allowed to buy into Medicare, but doing so would not be subsidized for them, likely making it expensive.

Once the exchanges are up and running, Medicare would be offered as one of the options in the exchanges where people could then pay into Medicare with their subsidies. As for the exchanges, if insurance companies don't step up to the plate to offer nationally-based nonprofit insurance plans in every state, a national public option would then be triggered. The so-called trigger option.

"The Washington Post," meantime, reporting that "private insurance companies would face stringent new regulations, including a requirement that they spend at least 90 cents of every dollar they collect in premiums on medical services for their customers." Right now, they spend as little as 66 cents.

Still, the mere prospect of no pure public option has some insurance industry insiders already declaring victory, crowing to Politico, one wrote, "We win-administered by private insurance companies, no government funding, no government insurance competitor."

Reaction today mixed, moving through it quickly. The president hailing the creative framework of the compromise, saying it clears the way for passage of a historic bill. Meanwhile, the folks at are starting an online petition to save the public option.

In the Senate, the independents, Senator Joe Lieberman saying he is likely to vote no because of the trigger option. Republican Senator Snowe originally proposed the trigger option, she is against expanding Medicare. Senator Conrad now says the Medicare expansion is not a deal-breaker for him. Senator Sanders believes a Medicare buy-in might be better than a weak public option. Senator Feingold appears to be on the fence, undecided right at the moment.

In the House, Congressman Weiner, liking the compromise a lot and calling it remarkable.

Senators Landrieu and Lincoln denying that a compromise has even been reached, waiting for a CBO score back before even passing judgment.


LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, there's no specific compromise. There were discussions, but until it's scored, we-we really just can't talk about the specifics, because the scores, you know, will have a great effect on what's ultimately done.

LINCOLN: We got to a point where we couldn't go any further, until we got CBO scores.


OLBERMANN: Senate Republicans calling the Senate health care reform bill a jobs killer. Chuck "pull the plug" Grassley adding to his list of things you should not do to grandma.


GRASSLEY: The last thing you want to think about when the Titanic is sinking is put grandma and more of your family on the boat. And this is really what this administration is trying to do.


OLBERMANN: I always assume he's speaking rhetorically, but whenever I hear him, I wonder what did happen to his grandma.

Time now to call in "Washington Post" staff reporter Ezra Klein, who covers economic and domestic policy and this.

Ezra, good evening.


OLBERMANN: You tell me. Senator Feingold said today, even a weak public option would have saved $25 billion over 10 years. Is that the key framework number? Is that why progressives and centrists are largely waiting before weighing in on this?

KLEIN: You know, I wish it were. I think that, you know, the key number here was actually for progressives, $110 billion. That's what the strong public option would have saved.

And the key number for centrists-and this gets a little bit unfair, and it's why progressives have a problem with the way negotiations have been going on-they just want these bids not to increase the cost of the bill. But if they don't save that $25 billion, as far as I know, there will be no repercussions. I mean, every dollar of subsidies here, progressives have had to claw for.

But if centrists knock out $25 billion, there won't be any repercussion for that. There may not even be a deal to get it back. You may just see a cut.

OLBERMANN: Insurance companies, as indicated that e-mail from Ben Smith, are already declaring, in some case or at least one case, victory. Is that not our answer right there, or is there some compromise in here that Harry Reid has now sent over to the CBO in which they win and the consumer/patient/victim also wins?

KLEIN: The insurance companies might see this as a battle between them and the country, which seems like a bad idea to me, and progressives may see it that way too. I don't actually think it is.

Insurance companies are, frankly, a lot more evil than they are important. When it comes to all of this, they're much more offensive. They're the 85th most profitable industry, give or take. Their margins or 3 percent or 5 percent. You can knock all that out and wouldn't have done that much for cost in this country.

Meanwhile, in other countries, you do have a semiprivate insurance industry, a lot of it is nonprofit and it works pretty well. You see that in Sweden and Germany.

So, you could see this working out.

But for now, the question is whether or not they'll be able to knock out the cost controls in the bill, the things that would make insurance cheaper. And as of yet, they've been somewhat successful in taking down the stronger public option, but the big test now will be Medicare buy-in. That's a pretty transformative policy. And, you know, they, I think, in the long run, would prefer it's not in there. But this may be a little bit too far along for them to stop.

OLBERMANN: In the short run, though, that Medicare buy-in pretty clearly is without subsidies, and a penalty grows to 750 bucks if you don't buy insurance you can, quote, "afford," unquote. How is that in the short-term-or if it says anything like that in the long-term-how does that help people who can't afford insurance? What am I missing?

KLEIN: So, this is a problem with the fact that they've sent all this to the CBO, but not actually released it. As it works, the Medicare buy-in from 2011 to 2014, which is before the mandate begins, doesn't have subsidies and is limited to people in those called sort of high-risk pools. That's my understanding. Then at that point, it kicks in to the exchange and it does have subsidies and you do have the individual mandate out there.

But, you know, I'm a defender of the individual mandate as a policy. The people who can't purchase insurance and need it are people who are fundamentally not all that healthy or not great risks.

And the people who tend to not purchase insurance and could afford it tend to be a fair amount healthier. The reason you want them in the pool, the reason you want the mandate is it actually makes insurance more affordable for the folks who really need it. If you don't have them, you know, the average risk in the pool is fairly sick so the insurer really can sort of basically charge you whatever he wants.

And-so, the individual mandate, the hope is that it actually makes health care cheaper for those of us who need and in the long run, that's all of us. The young now get old some day.

OLBERMANN: Is it not ultimately the efficacy of this bill, whatever it is-does it now not hinge on the nature of who writes the trigger? In other words, if that's something that is-that is set to bring in some sort of public option with the slightest provocation, then it's a great bill. And if it's written the other way towards the benefit of the insurance companies, it's a disastrous bill?

KLEIN: You know, I'm not really sure about that. I think the trigger

I wouldn't put too much hope in it. If you want my cynical take, I think the trigger is basically there so Joe Lieberman can take it out. That's sort of how I'd look at that right now.

The triggers don't generally work. They don't generally get polled.

There's one in Medicare Part D. It never went anywhere.

I think this bill has a lot in it already. I think the sort of the 900 billion bucks to help people get subsidies and help people get insurance is going to be a big progressive win. But in the long run, we're still going to have to need to do a lot on cost. And, you know, the Senate and the House dodged a lot of the hard decisions in part because there was so much Republican obstructionism.

So, our work isn't done. This is the end of beginning of reform, but not the end of reform.

OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post"-as always, great thanks for elucidating this for us.

KLEIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: In the House, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, suggested this afternoon that unless the compromise offers more competition, her caucus could, indeed, vote against it.

Chairman Woolsey is kind enough to join us right now.

We thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: What specific part of this Senate deal-at least as much as we know of it-what part of it concerns you the most?

WOOLSEY: Well, the lack of competition. The only way we're going to keep premiums down is to have competition against the private insurance industry. And they are-from what I can see-they are offering nothing over in the Senate that will compete with private industry.

OLBERMANN: I know they are waiting. Obviously, this is the current hinge-this is the current stop on information for the Congressional Budget to score this, to price this out.

Has anybody started to price out how much more money the insurance companies are going to make now, because having health insurance will, to some degree, be legally mandated and some-you know, tens of millions of customers, presumably, will be shoved at them, whether the customers want to be shoved or not?

WOOLSEY: Well, we don't even have to price it out. No, I don't have those numbers. It's just common sense tells you, if you provide a private industry the private health care insurance industry with 30 million more customers that they aren't going to have to compete on price because we are not going to have a public option, then we are just handing them greater profits.

OLBERMANN: Do you know anything about this Office of Personnel Management idea-this component in this? Is this-it sound-it would be sounding great if it were exactly the same policy you and members of the Senate and other federal employees get, and that level of coverage, and having, by the way, a doctor in everybody's office would be nice, too. I can't imagine that's what it is, is it?

WOOLSEY: Well, it's an exchange to be put into the exchange. So, it's just more-more private insurance. And those that are nonprofit, that would be a good idea, but we have nonprofits in our plans. You know, we have a choice of plans.

And our-the average was 8 percent of increase in our health care premiums this year, so I don't know what that saves. We need to save money. And in order to do that, the public option-I don't care if we call it a public option-I want competition. And I want competition where we set the base rates.

And when it was Medicare plus 5 and then when we got the weaker one that we actually voted out of the House, we actually kept the public option premiums down because we said what they would be based on. They would be based on Medicare and some average of the insurance companies. I preferred Medicare plus 5.

OLBERMANN: If this is as troubled as you and I see it, at first blush, why-do you have any idea why Congressman Weiner would be enthusiastic after being such a proponent of public option, or why Governor Dean would be so agreeable after being a similar advocate?

WOOLSEY: Both of those reports stunned me, but they must have their reasons. I can tell you that the Progressive Caucus, and there's 85 members.


WOOLSEY: . of the Progressive Caucus. We are waiting, not only to find out about competition, we want to know about affordability.

OLBERMANN: How cohesive is your caucus? And are you and your colleagues OK with ultimately, if that's what the thing is, passing nothing at all? And should liberals be OK at that very real possibility?

WOOLSEY: Well, absolutely not. We wanted a single-payer. We would have been very happy to support a single-payer than we.


WOOLSEY: . than we compromise for the robust public option and really worked on that, and got less than that in the final House bill, and then now, that's being taken away.

And it isn't about pride. It's not about invented here. It's really about, what does this country need.

And if we want health care reform, we have to have some competition in the mix for the independents-the private insurance companies. That's-we just have to have that. Otherwise, the premiums are just going to spiral right out of, you know, out of the sky. There will be no controlling it.

OLBERMANN: Lord knows how much it's gone up since you and I started talking.

Representative Lynn Woolsey of the California 6th and the Progressive Caucus-great thanks for your efforts and great thanks for your time.

WOOLSEY: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And if you are not one of the people for whom functioning fairly priced health care is about as realistic the thing as the trip to the moon on gossamer wings, we will introduce you to the people who are. The third of the free health clinics for which your contributions of nearly $2 million paid.

We'll go live to Bartle Hall in Kansas City-next.


OLBERMANN: Any sense that you might yet maintain that significant health care reform in this country is as urgent and as life or death as national defense would be reinforced when we go live for the free health care clinic for which you and other COUNTDOWN viewers paid tonight in Kansas City-next.

Later, sometimes, I whine about FOX News tactics until I sound like Charlie Brown's teacher. Unfortunately, tonight's example of FOX News tactics was on "World News Tonight" with Charles Gibson. "Worsts" ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Recalling Senator Grassley's line about the Titanic, you're right, Senator, the Titanic analogy works as long as it's a metaphor, not for Medicare, but for the health care system as a whole. We should not be putting grandma or anybody else on that sinking ship, and we have again the field trip senators might take, not because it would be smart politics, but because they might actually learn something. Even those who think they know about compassion and other people's pain.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The free health clinic in Kansas City happening now, the third free health clinic made possible by your donations to the National Association of Free Clinics. The Kansas City Convention Center opened its doors today at noon. Nearly 1,000 people have come through so far and these volunteer medical services will be provided again tomorrow in this two-day event beginning at 10:00 a.m., prevailing, local time.

The clinic will also be streamed live to the COUNTDOWN Web site tomorrow between noon and 6:00 Eastern.

And joining me now from Kansas City, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, Nicole Lamoureaux.

Nicole, good evening.


OLBERMANN: How has today's event progressed? What are you seeing today in Kansas City?

LAMOUREAUX: Well, it's been a very busy day here in Kansas City. They had their first winter weather. And despite that, we've had an overwhelming number of patients and volunteers show up for today's clinic.

OLBERMANN: Are there any recurrent themes as compared to what we've seen in New Orleans and Little rock? And are there notable differences to compare these events?

LAMOUREAUX: Sure, Keith. As we've talked about before, the amazing support for the safety net providers, the free clinics and the volunteers in this area is exactly the same from whenever city we go. And the patients' gratitude and need is here as well.

Some of the differences we had seen as these clinics has been the expansion of services that we've been able to offer, such as dental care and expanded mental health care as well.

OLBERMANN: There's no-if you didn't know what this was for. If these were a-I don't know, if this was a convention of some sort, you wouldn't be able to tell this from the lines of people coming in. There's nothing that says to you-oh, these people are downtrodden or things are unavailable to them. These are people-these might as well be people you've selected randomly off the street.

Don't you-aren't you struck by that each time you go to one of these things?

LAMOUREAUX: Every single time I come to the clinic, I hear a story from a volunteer. And one struck me today. A woman came up to me and hugged me and said, "Thank you so much for letting me volunteer here today, because I am pushing a woman around in a wheelchair and she's my neighbor. And I had no idea that she was uninsured and in such a place."

So, I am always struck by stories like that. As we've talked about, 83 percent of our patients are working and they look exactly like everyone else. There is no way to tell that they are uninsured.

OLBERMANN: Yes, and other than the coats for the volunteers, you can't tell the difference between the volunteers and the people who are getting the help.

But as the leader of this group, of this effort, you have made this about care for people who truly, and obviously, sometimes, desperately need it. And this is-we don't check anybody's card on the way in. You come in. You need the help. That's about it.

But the reality, obviously, is, there is an intersection with policy. There is an intersection with people in Washington who think they know of what they speak.

What simple item would you have them include in this health care bill?

Step outside of politics and show the politics a little real life.

LAMOUREAUX: Well, I don't think it is a simple answer, because I don't think you can put into words that these people, the people that have to line up at 10:00 a.m. at two degrees, they need help. I don't know how you put in legislation the face of the uninsured or the people who are here.

The only thing I can say is that I would encourage every member of Congress to come to one of these free clinics or go to visit their local free clinic, so they can see what is going on. But if I had to put some pieces in the legislation, I would say-accessibility, affordability, portability, and access to quality and easily affordable prescription medications.

OLBERMANN: That would be an extraordinary start. I don't know if we're going to get it or not.

But in the interim, Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics-again, we thank you. You're doing as much as anybody in this country right now for this-on this issue. Thanks, Nicole.

LAMOUREAUX: Thank you. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: He was part of one of the sorriest episodes in American history. I'm not talking about health care reform right now. That could go into the list. This is so far this country's Japanese internment, or its Dred Scott decision, or its Alien and Sedition Acts, and he is being defended in court by the administration-by the Obama administration. Why?


OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment. John Gibson confirms the swift boat veterans were liars who demeaned and ridiculed John Kerry.

First on this date in 1930, Henry Zuckerman was born. He changed his name slightly, wrote "The Graduate," "What's Up, Doc," "The Day of the Dolphin," co-created and co-wrote "Get Smart," and hosted "Saturday Night Live" 10 times, including once when he continued after being hit in the head by John Belushi's sword. And if you'd like to see him brilliant and against type, he's also Colonel Korn in "Catch 22," which he also wrote.

Happy birthday, Buck Henry.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin at the Buttercup Farm in Sterling, Connecticut. And, holy cow, that's a holy cow! This little guy was born just last week with a white patch of fur on his forehead in the shape of a cross.

The neighborhood kids call him "Moses." And his owner thinks the mark on the beast is actually a sign from above. This is getting worse and worse. The Buttercup folks think the divine bovine might bring good tidings to the farm or steaks.

To Jakarta, and the tribute to the leader of the free world-behold young Barack Obama, the statue. The six-foot-tall statue depicts the president as a 10-year-old boy wearing shorts and a T-shirt with a butterfly perched on his thumb. Mr. Obama, as you may have heard, spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and the local officials say the sculpture is intended to inspire children. It offers a stark contrast to Wyoming's statue of young Dick Cheney who's shown pointing a shotgun at a butterfly.

Speaking of Mr. Cheney, we know why he would be defending the lawyer who wrote the memo saying torture was just dandy. But why is the Obama administrating doing so?

These stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN's Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Dateline New York, number three, best interviewing cliche, Gretchen Carlson from Cluster Fox. "Is cap and trade dead here in the US? A lot of people would say yes because of climate-gate."

Let's try this. A lot of people would say yes. When she slobbered all over Derek Jeter during an interview and never mentioned that her husband is Jeter's agent and a large percentage of his income is based on how buffed up Jeter's reputation is? Is Gretchen's career dead here in the US? A lot of people would say yes. That was fun.

Number two, best amnesia, porky pig. Goes on fox to do what he always does, and says, "since President Obama came to office, the federal deficit has grown by 1.46 trillion dollars. That is 1,460 billions of dollars."

What he left out was the first 1.2 trillion dollars for 2009 was already on the books courtesy of the Bush administration the day President Obama took office. That is 1,200 billions of dollars.

And dateline New York, number one, best inadvertent admission, John Gibson. Remember him? Guy used to do TV before he was fired by MSNBC and Fox Noise. He's written a book called "How The Left Swift Boated America." As a guest on the last channel to fire him-must be pretty embarrassing to need the money from the book that much-he said the left, quote, were "lying through their teeth and they got away with it." And Steve Doocy said, "they looked at the game plan that the Republicans and the Swift Boaters did back against Kerry, and they said, OK, it worked."

And that's when Gibson gave away the store. He said, "the formula is demean and ridicule and repeat it as often as possible, until people believe it."

In other words, Gibson is saying that the left did that by emulating the Swift Boaters. And thus, in other words, the Swift Boaters' formula is demean, ridicule, and repeat it as often as possible until people believe it. Thanks for confirming that, John.


OLBERMANN: He called water boarding, sleep deprivation, sexual degradation the Bush system. But now the case against torture memo author and legal fig leaf creator John Yoo might be dropped. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, more tortured logic about torture. The Obama administration coming to the rescue of Bush-era justice.

The DOJ is asking an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit against John Yoo, filing a briefing support of Mr. Yoo of having authorized torture of a terror suspect, filing an amicus brief in support of Mr. Yoo, claiming federal law does not allow claims against counselors who advise the president on national security issues.

Their concern, the lawsuits force courts to second-guess presidential decisions, posing, quote, "the risk of deterring full and frank advise regarding the military's detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict." The lawsuit at the heart of the matter, Padilla versus Yoo, Jose Padilla, often known as Jose Padilla, now serving a 17-year sentence for conspiring to aid Islamic extremist groups.

He's has accused Mr. Yoo of providing legal cover for what Padilla claims was abusive interrogation. Yoo authored a now infamous memo that concluded that it's only torture if it causes the same kind of pain as, quote, "organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death."

Meanwhile, Justice is pointing to its internal ethics arm for more definitive word on Mr. Yoo. The Office of Professional Responsibility has been investigating Mr. Yoo's advice to then President Bush since 2004. Its conclusions have yet to be made public. Although, as we reported on this program in May, its report will recommend disciplining Yoo through his local Bar Association.

Let's turn, once again, to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Why is the Obama Justice Department doing this?

TURLEY: I don't know, Keith. The timing could not be worse. The president literally has gotten on a plane this evening to go to Norway to accept the Nobel Prize, while his Justice Department is effectively gutting a major part of Nuremberg. This is actually the anniversary of the judge's trial. It's December 4th-so it just passed -- 1947.

As appoint out on my blog tonight, if you go through the defendants of that trial, three of them held positions very much like John Yoo's. They were legal advisers to the Ministry of Justice. We insisted on their being prosecuted. And now the Obama administration is arguing not only that they shouldn't be prosecuted, because the administration has basically blocked any prosecution for torture. But it's now saying that Yoo shouldn't even be able to sue them civilly.

It's not just a national disgrace to do that on the eve of accepting this prize. It's an international disgrace. This was something that was fought hard for. The brief they filed in this case could have been used for people like Gurt Joel, who argued the same thing. He argued he was giving full and frank advice to that regime. And we rejected it.

OLBERMANN: Domestically, by this argument, how will any Justice Department lawyer ever be held accountable for his or her actions of any kind, let alone pertaining to something as important as this?

TURLEY: Keith, you just hit the major point here. When you read this brief, there is no limiting principle here. John Yoo was essential to this torture problem. They picked him and other people, like Viet Dinh and others, because they wanted them to reaffirm the ability of the administration to commit something that was against our laws, and would, in John Yoo's case, involving torture.

He was essential to that program, just as these other people were essential to their war crimes. If John Yoo cannot be sued for an alleged war crime, what possibly could a justice official be sued for? You really went to the top of the list on this one and said that even that is not good enough to bring a Justice Department attorney to court.

OLBERMANN: What is a lawyer's responsibility in everyday, ordinary, not protected by president's life, if he tells a client that an action is legal when it isn't?

TURLEY: As you know, I'm a practicing criminal defense attorney and it's not real hard. You're not allowed to commit crimes, because you're an officer of the court, because you took an oath. When you passed the Bar, you took an oath to uphold the law, to be part of it, be a part of that system.

John Yoo broke that oath. So did so many others in the Bush administration. It's not a hard standard when you consider war crimes. What the Bush administration did was they tried to roll back the law to pre-1945. And I'm afraid what this brief that was just filed by the Justice Department does, it does precisely that. It is turning back the clock.

OLBERMANN: I appreciate the possibility that somebody at Justice is saying, and maybe has a little corner of the moral room to be standing in, you never know when one of Mr. Obama's attorneys may not be able to hide behind, in essence, executive privilege when there's nothing wrong that they've done and it's a political prosecution. Lord knows what else is being actually protected here.

Is there no legal way that an executive can protect himself and his attorneys against that without standing completely and unequivocally on the wrong side of the ethical divide over torture?

TURLEY: Well, Keith, there is. There's a great number of ways to protect attorneys. Courts are very sympathetic. They're lawyers. These judges are lawyers. They're sympathetic to giving legal advice.

We're talking about the most extreme case. This is a case of-this is an example of a bad case making bad law. If they succeed here, then it's hard to imagine what a lawyer could do. Now, the Justice Department's prosecuted lawyers who give advice to mobsters, and say, well, you're part of the criminal enterprise. But apparently if you give advice to advance a war crime, that's just full and frank advice.

The problem here is they didn't have to do that. And by the way, we're paying for his private counsel. The Department of Justice pulled out of this case. So they didn't even have to come back into this case. So they're carrying a lot of water for John Yoo.

OLBERMANN: Judgment at Nuremberg, but never judgment at the White House. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, great thanks for making it intelligible to folks like me.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin admits climate change emails were stolen, admits there is climate change, proposes as its solution do nothing, not even an exorcism and stuff.

Fox News tactics on ABC; you will not believe the breach of journalism committed this evening by "World News Tonight." You'll especially not believe it if you are Jon Stewart.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, if you're having trouble fathoming Congressman Weiner's support of the health care compromise, hear him explain it to her.


OLBERMANN: The politician who quit her only elected post, even at just the state-wide level, and who has had a semi-cult like religious figure shout in her direction to ward off the affects of witchcraft on her, is now trying to instruct the country on the correct mix of government and science.

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

The bronze to Lauren Petterson (ph), executive producer of Cluster Fox and Friends. After one of the otherwise comical, but sadly politically propagandistic, quote, mistakes, unquote, one of her bosses over there established a zero tolerance standard. But when this graphic went up on her show, suggesting 94 percent of people believed it was likely or very likely that climate change scientists had distorted facts, and one of the hosts said the number could easily reach 100 percent, and also that 120 percent said believed it was possible, Mr. Petterson said there was no error in that graphic. "We were just talking about three interesting pieces of information from Rasmussen"-the pollsters-"we didn't put on the screen that it added up to 100 percent." Thus no one at Cluster Fox will even be reprimanded. So the zero tolerance policy must mean that when it comes to how much journalistic integrity they must maintain at Fox, they'll tolerate zero.

Our runner-up, Lonesome Roads Beck, speaking of which, Gold-gate is gathering momentum. Now the "L.A. Times" questioning why he's telling his audience that the economy is about to collapse, and they should buy gold, while many of his advertisers just happen to sell gold, and one of them uses a convicted felon as a spokesman.

Beck mocked the reporting, claiming the advertising and what he says in the non-commercial parts of his shows are unconnected. Well, not according to one of the advertisers. Reading from, "Peter Epstein, president of Merit Financial Services, which advertises on Beck's shows, says gold retailers expect favorable coverage from commentators on whose shows they pay to advertise. You pay anybody on any network, and they say what you pay them to say, said Epstein. They're bought and sold."

So Beck is saying his argument for gold is organic. But one of the men who sponsors his program is saying he's paying Beck to say that, that Beck is, quote, bought and sold. Maybe more sold than bought; Beck's ratings have plummeted 30 percent from the first week of November to the first week of December.

But tonight's winner, correspondent David Wright of ABC's "World News Tonight," with the same kind of selective editing and dishonesty usually reserved for the cesspools of the "Wall Street Journal" and the right wing blogs. Tonight, Mr. Wright of ABC tried to make Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" look like a climate change denier. This is the sound bite they played in Mr. Wright's report this evening.


JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Poor Al Gore, global warming completely debunked, via the very Internet you invented. Oh!


OLBERMANN: This is the fuller clip, not edited to stand Jon Stewart's meaning on its head.


STEWART: Poor Al Gore, global warming completely debunked via the very Internet you invented. Oh! Oh, the irony, the irony. Actually, the real story is not quite that sensational. Now, does it disprove global warming? No, of course not!


OLBERMANN: No, of course not, unless you have, A, no journalistic qualifications, B, no journalistic ethics, or C, you are falsifying the news to fit a personal political agenda. At Fox, when they do that, they make an excuse. At "The Wall Street Journal," they don't even bother to do that. At ABC, when they do, they're supposed to fire somebody. Might have been a producer, but the piece has his name on it. David Wright of ABC News, until we hear otherwise, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Having given her slight of hand stamp of approval to the birthers, Sarah Palin is now moving on to an almost equally popular far right mythology, climate change denial. In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Sister Sarah goes op-ed, and former vice president and Nobel Peace prize winner Al Gore refers to her, quote, era of unreality.

Getting her facts wrong and misrepresenting her record as governor of Alaska, again, not enough for Palin's latest foray into opinion piece, this one for "The Washington Post." So she went into full-on denial, climate change is all political mode. Referring to the president's role in the upcoming international climate conference in Copenhagen, quote, "instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante. He plans to fly in at the climax of the conference in hopes of seeing a deal. What Obama really hopes to bring home from Copenhagen is more pressure to pass the Democrat's cap and tax proposal. This is a political move. The last thing America needs is a misguided legislation that will raise taxes and cost jobs, particularly when the push for such legislations rests on agenda-driven science. The president should boycott Copenhagen."

Since hackers have uncovered the emails of one climate research unit, which let its ambition for publication lead to massaging of data, change deniers like Palin are crying climate-gate. When our own Andrea Mitchell asked the former vice president about Palin's claim, Mr. Gore drilled, baby, drilled.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Global warming deniers persist in this era of unreality. After all, the entire north polar ice cap, which has been there for most of the last three million years, is disappearing before our eyes. What do they think is causing this?


OLBERMANN: Mr. Gore also cited the long list of other recent tangible effects of climate change, like record storms, droughts, fires. And when asked about Palin's claim on her Facebook page that these are, quote, doomsday scare tactics pushed by environmental priesthood-


GORE: The scientific community has worked very intensively for 20 years within this international process. And they now say the evidence unequivocal. a hundred fifty years ago, this year, was the discovery that CO2 traps heat. That is a principle in physics. It's not a question of debate. It's like gravity. It exists.


OLBERMANN: Well, now we're going to bring in gravity, huh? By the way, Sister Sarah, even if all you anti-factualists were right, and climate change is entirely cyclical, not at all man-made, what would be the agenda, as you call it, carried out in its name? As Thomas Friedman noted recently, our nation's economy would be powered by more energy sources, wind, solar, cleaner biofuels; new electric cars would run on batteries;

America would become less dependent on foreign oil dictators; our trade deficit would improve. Agenda-driven insanity, indeed.

Let's turn now to the Washington editor of "The Nation," Chris Hayes.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, "THE NATION": Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Why did "The Washington Post" let us get lectured about science and politics by someone who quit her only state office, and has a pastor who runs these precautionary exorcisms on her so she can stave off witchcraft.

HAYES: I thought it was a really atrocious decision on the part of "The Washington Post" to run this op-ed. What exactly it contributed to the debate-there are people like Greg Mankiw, who worked in the Bush White House, an economist at Harvard. He's a very conservative guy. He strongly opposes the cap and trade. He wants to see a carbon tax. There is a debate to be had.

But to give over your op-ed page to someone who makes, essentially a conspiracy claim, it would be like if they turned it over to someone who wanted to argue that 9/11 was an inside job. "The Washington Post" would never, in a million years, do that and they shouldn't be doing this.

OLBERMANN: From Mrs. Palin's point of view, from the GOP point of view, is this at all about getting elected anymore, or is this just kind of political cover for big business? Keeping the country safe from polluters for another hour, another month, another year, whatever it is they can manage?

HAYES: Luckily, they go hand in hand. I actually think what's motivating Palin-and you can actually see, she has moved, you know, in the direction of the conspiracy theorists on this issue. What's motivating her is the fact that the polling on this is really disturbing, because it has become an article of faith among the right wing base that this is a grand socialist conspiracy to usher in state control.

So I think she's really, as she is want to do, pandering to that base right now. I think what's driving that kind of op-ed, more than any kind of business shilling, is the fact that it has become one of these issues, like the birth certificate, that you can sort of win points with the base with.

OLBERMANN: And by the way, the video we're seeing right now, that was taken in July in Washington, D.C. All right, that's-bad joke, I'm sorry. But let's put all these points together now about the predilections of the far right and what they believe and what they don't. What is the Palin explanation for polar ice melting, which she acknowledges. If it is witchcraft, why has she not sent Pastor Moothy (ph) to fix it. A slightly more serious version of that, and if this is not man-made, if it is part of the right-wing agenda, if it all should be theocratically interpreted, if it's all in God's hands, how come Sister Sarah, with her direct line to God, has not instructed God to fix this?

HAYES: You know, what's really interesting about this op-ed is that it's not even internally logically consistent conspiracy mongering. There are two alternate theories of the conspiracy the denialists make. One is, yes, the world is warming, but it is not caused by humans. The other, the science that says the world is warming is fake and part of the conspiracy. And she endorses both. Those both cannot obtain.

The fact of the matter is, she governs the one state in the union that is most immediately seeing the effects of climate change. The permafrost is actually melting. There are houses that have cracked because of it in the state of Alaska. And because of that, she was forced to kind of acknowledge the fact that warming is happening. She can't have it both ways.

And the editors of "The Washington Post" didn't see fit to make any kind of intervention, to at least have a logically consistent piece of work on their pages.

OLBERMANN: Which brings up the idea of an end game for the GOP and Palin. What is the end game? Let's say they are 100 percent right, that climate-gate exists, that this is a scam, that changes in climate are natural. Do they have a plan for how to keep the government together, to criminalize abortion during the rapture and the upcoming ice age and/or universal sweat lodge, whichever comes first?

HAYES: You know, I don't know what the right-wing government's plan is. But I will say, on an extremely serious note, that this-you know, we've talked about this in a million different ways-and Al Gore-and there are a lot of messengers who are better at this than I am. But it's hard to over-state the stakes right now, in Copenhagen, in the climate change legislation moving through Congress. We are at a sort of pivotal moment in the fate of the Earth, but also as a test of the moral fabric of American democracy. And history is going to look extremely, extremely unkindly on this op-ed and the people that are using their platform to sort of propagate this very monstrous deception.

OLBERMANN: But, remember, the city of Washington and the "The Washington Post" will be completely under water within ten years. On that cheery note, Chris Hayes of "The Nation." Great thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,414th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.

Now to discuss his support of the health care reform compromise with Congressman Anthony Weiner, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.



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