Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell
Guests: Howard Fineman, Howard Dean, Sen. Ron Wyden, Chris Kofinis, Chris Hayes, Gerald
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The high stakes over health care reform: President Obama tells Democrats in the Senate, it‘s now or never.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This reform has to pass on our watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: But as the president defends what‘s left in the bill, Governor Howard Dean says it‘s time to kill it and start over.
And Joe Lieberman, the senator who‘s helped defend the insurance cartel, still isn‘t quite ready to support the watered-down bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I‘m getting toward that position where I can say what I‘ve wanted to say all along, that I‘m ready to vote for health care reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Tonight, our guests: Governor Dean on why it‘s time for a dramatic shift in tactics to achieve real reform; Senator Ron Wyden on the state of negotiations in the Senate; and Howard Fineman on the political stakes for Democrats and Joe Lieberman‘s vendetta against his former party.
The tea party crowd brings its road show to health care. They tried to stage a die-in to protest future rationing of health care, oblivious to the fact that people are already dying because of rationing today by insurance companies.
Is it the end of Gitmo? A deal is struck for the feds to buy a prison in Illinois to house the detainees. Cue: the fear from the GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: They‘re going to try to paint this as a jobs plan, while making Americans less safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: And Tiger Woods was already in enough trouble, but now, there are questions if he used drugs to give himself an unfair advantage on the golf course.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from Los Angeles. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
The first campaign for president to suggest that people between the ages of 55 and 64 be allowed to buy in to Medicare was Gore-Lieberman in 2000. Four years later, that idea was picked up by Governor Howard Dean. Chairman Max Baucus included it in a preliminary outline of his finance committee bill.
But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Now that Senator Lieberman is blocking health care reform, even opposing the compromise that would have done away with the public option and replaced it with the Medicare buy-in he once supported, Dr. Dean has responded that the Democrats are left with a bill that is now worthless. Quoting him, “The best thing to do with it now is kill the bill.”
In a moment, our interview with Governor Howard Dean.
But we begin tonight with the latest details: Governor Dean throwing down the gauntlet, if not throwing in the towel in the face of Senator Lieberman‘s continuing threat to keep the health care reform bill from an up-or-down vote in the Senate. The former Vermont governor told Vermont Public Radio tonight that what‘s left of the health care reform bill is not worth supporting.
Meanwhile, Senator Lieberman fired new shots today. First, he blamed liberals like Congressman Anthony Weiner for being too enthusiastic about expanding Medicare, telling “The New York Times,” quote, “Congressman Weiner made a comment that Medicare buy-in is better than a public option. It‘s the beginning of a road to single-payer.”
Tomorrow night, Congressman Weiner will join us to respond to Senator Lieberman.
Senator Lieberman also claimed today that with his health care position, he is not betraying any Democrats who re-elected him in 2000, telling reporters, quote, “I didn‘t run for re-election, and no one here did asking the voters of my state to vote for me because I would always do what a majority of members of the caucus did. But that I, like each of them, had to do what I thought was right.”
But this is what Senator Lieberman promised voters in 2006, telling them in a debate, “What I‘m saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families to get something done to make health care affordable to get universal health insurance.”
Senator Ben Nelson said today that he is still looking for a stronger abortion restriction in the bill among other things. Moderate Republican Olympia Snowe said she is withholding her support and criticized the idea of trying to pass the bill before Christmas.
Lieberman, Nelson and other members of the Democratic Caucus met with President Obama for more than an hour at the White House this afternoon.
The president said he told the senators they cannot let their differences over portions of the measure kill the overall attempt to reform the health care system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If we don‘t get this done, your premiums are guaranteed to go up. If this does not get done, more employers are going to drop coverage because they can‘t afford it. If this does not get done, it is guaranteed that Medicare and Medicaid will blow a hole through our budget.
Those things are guaranteed. That‘s the status quo. That is the trajectory that we are currently on.
I don‘t intend to have that happen. And I believe that the Senate doesn‘t intend to have that happen.
I am absolutely confident that if the American people know what‘s in this bill, and if the Senate knows what‘s in this bill, that this is going to pass, because it‘s right for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: As promised, we are joined now by Governor Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Thank you for your time, Governor.
HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on.
O‘DONNELL: Governor Dean, you have been on this cause of health care reform for decades. There has been no more energetic cheerleader for this legislative crusade this time around than you. You have reached the point now where the Senate bill which is well on its way to becoming the Lieberman bill is something you can no longer support and you want to kill it. Tell us why.
DEAN: Well, I don‘t—I‘m not going to give up on health care reform. I‘m still hopeful that something will happen in the House, but it‘s not very likely because the conference committee vetoed by Joe and the other pro-insurance company Democrats when it comes back as well. So, real reform in the House is a lot less likely given what‘s happened in the Senate.
This is not real reform. It‘s not health care reform. There are no choices.
The decision has been made without really thinking about it. It‘s been made because people are exhausted and they want to pass a bill so desperately they‘re not thinking about what they‘re doing here. It‘s been made to commit the United States to health care reform through the private sector.
Now, I don‘t think that‘s a decision that should be made lightly. In the previous bills, the Medicare buy-in, the public option, had the choice of—mixtures of giving Americans the opportunity to make their own choices. Those choices have been taken away by the pro-insurance folks in the Senate. I think that‘s a mistake.
Are there some good things in this bill? Yes. This is basically the Mitt Romney bill in Massachusetts, except it doesn‘t insure a higher percentage of people. The exchanges work well, although there‘s no cost control of any or any substance.
You‘re going to be forced to buy health insurance from a company that‘s going to take, on average, 27 percent of your money so they can pay CEOs $20 million a yearly and so they can return have return on equity in their shareholders. And there‘s no choice about that. If you don‘t get that insurance, you‘re going to get—you‘re going to get a fine.
So, this is—this is a bill that was fundamentally written by staffers who are friendly to the insurance industry. Held up so—and was friendly to the insurance industry by senators who take a lot of money from the insurance industry. And it is not health care reform. I think it‘s too bad it‘s just come to this.
O‘DONNELL: And, Governor, the compromising isn‘t over. There are days left in this process at least, where we can expect even more compromises. What would be your advice to a senator, a Democratic senator on the floor of the Senate, on passage of this bill? The choices to vote, yes or no?
DEAN: No, absolutely not. You can‘t vote for a bill like this in good conscience. It caused too much money. It isn‘t health care reform. It‘s not even insurance reform.
Take, for example, this—there‘s a lot of talk about people who have pre-existing conditions can get health insurance. Well, not exactly. The fine print in the Senate says about health care industry—the health care industry gets to charge you three times as much if you‘re older than if you‘re younger. And they get to write the rules. That‘s in the Senate bill.
This bill is no longer reform.
O‘DONNELL: Senator—Governor, after that no vote, strategically, where would you say the Democrats should go?
DEAN: Well, if it were me—I don‘t think this will happen, if it were me, I‘d kill the bill all entirely and have the House start reconciliation, which is what they should have done in the first place. To be held up by four senators—a minority of 40 who are totally uncooperative, which are the Republicans and then four senators beholden to insurance industry I think is wrong. But that‘s what‘s happened.
So, the other thing you can do is pass the good stuff, pass the exchanges, pass the money for the prevention and wellness, pass the community health care center money in small bill, don‘t run our children into debt and come back and do this two years later.
I disagree with the administration when they say the president won‘t take this on for another 20 years. We‘re in crisis here. This bill, I think, is more likely they make the crisis worse than it is better, because it‘s so expensive.
So, we can come back with a new Congress—which unfortunately as a result of all this will have fewer Democrats, but it will still have Democratic majorities. We can come back with a new Congress and we could pass a bill which we have on the Senate floor last week that would ensure people faster even though it‘s delayed by a year and a half than the bill that‘s going to be passed in the Senate.
O‘DONNELL: And, Governor, as to Senator Lieberman, you were chairman of the Democratic Party, you recruited candidates all over the country. Did you say to them, “When you get into that Congress, and on the Democratic side, you‘ve got to be with us on every single vote”? I mean, how do—how do you police Democratic loyalty once the election is over?
DEAN: You know, I‘m not going to get into that. Joe loves the attention, and just to make Joe the issue, I think, is a mistake.
The issue is: are we going to have real health care reform or are we not? And evidently, we‘re not. But we still got to fight for it. And this isn‘t the end of the fight.
This is a terrible disappointment. It‘s a disappointment to the American people. It‘s a disappointment to all of us who‘ve worked so hard for real reform. It‘s a disappointment, frankly, for people who thought they ought to have choices that the Senate shouldn‘t make for them and force them into buying insurance where 27 percent of the money comes off the top.
But, that‘s—we are where we are, and we‘re going to keep fighting.
We‘re not going to stop this fight.
O‘DONNELL: Governor Howard Dean, I know how difficult this decision has been for you today to come out against this bill. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DEAN: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: For more on where things stand in the Senate, let‘s turn to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and its subcommittee on health care.
Good evening, Senator.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Good evening, Larry.
O‘DONNELL: Senator, what do you say to Howard Dean‘s advice that you vote no on this Senate bill as it stands today.
WYDEN: I simply don‘t agree, Larry. You don‘t win the fights for social justice in round one. I think the governor makes a lot of points about areas that we need to strengthen, but let‘s go to the bottom line. If after we‘re done with the Congressional Budget Office and Senator Reid has worked on all the amendments, after we‘ve reached out to the Republicans, if this bill fails, there will be champagne corks popping all over Washington, D.C., in the offices of the far-right.
What we‘ve got to do is lay a foundation. Reformers are going to be at this for years to come. And let me tell you: we‘ll be at it long after cable news stops covering this 24/7.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Governor Dean has said that this is friendly—this bill is friendly to the insurance companies. Others are saying it is a complete, total victory for the health insurance companies. And Governor Dean—you just heard him say this is not real reform.
What is your response to that line of argument about it?
WYDEN: My response is, there are some reforms here that we have worked on for years and years, since literally back in the days when I was co-director of the Oregon Gray Panthers. The current way insurance is conducted is inhumane. It‘s all about cherry-picking, just taking healthy people, sending sick people over to government programs, more fragile than they are. That is outlawed.
We protect people from pre-existing conditions. We make sure that you can‘t rescind these policies, just cancel ‘em because somebody is sick.
The governor mentioned the exchanges, the new market place. I think we‘re going to strengthen those in the years ahead. I just want to get them in place. I want to see us get more choices. If that exchange doesn‘t hold down costs, we can add more competitive features in the years ahead, such as getting that public option that I feel so strongly about.
O‘DONNELL: Did President Obama say anything in the meeting with Democratic senators today that can change the momentum? This thing is obviously pretty stalled in the Senate right now. It seems very difficult to get it done before the end of this year.
Did anything happen in that room today with the president to change the way things are going on the Senate floor?
WYDEN: I thought there was a lot of common ground in that room. I thought you heard a president say, “Look, we are on the cusp of history.” We have been working on this since the middle of the last century, Larry.
President after president has tried.
The one point that I would disagree with the governor on, is, I think, if it goes down now—if the bill fails, if this effort tanks, the next president, the next Congress is going to say, “Look, this is just too hard, the special interest groups are too powerful, let‘s stay away from it.” We have got to lay the foundation now. We‘re committed to doing that.
O‘DONNELL: Senator, is there any line that you have, that if this bill crosses you won‘t be able to vote for it?
WYDEN: I think what we‘re looking at now, and we‘re all waiting for the Congressional Budget Office, and certainly the manager‘s proposal that Senator Reid is talking about, lays the kind of foundation that I can support.
We‘re going to see 31 million people get what amounts to a lifeline, Larry. These are folks who go to bed every night in a cold sweat, worried that they‘re going to be wiped out the next day if illness strikes. We have historic insurance reforms because of Senator Harkin. We‘ve got historic prevention reform.
We don‘t really have health care at all in this country. We‘ve got sick care. And now, we‘re making bold changes towards a new system based on prevention. That‘s real reform.
O‘DONNELL: Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon—thank you very much for your time tonight.
WYDEN: Thank you for having me.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: A lot of very different, very passionate views on the way forward for health care reform. We‘ll talk the political stakes for the White House, for the Democratic Party at large, with Howard Fineman.
And later, as if Tiger Woods‘ problems weren‘t big enough already, now, there are questions about performance-enhancing drugs. Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: The health care reform debate reaching critical mass. Howard Fineman analyzes the stake for Democrats and the personal vendetta factor driving some of Senator Lieberman‘s actions.
And later, the tea party protest fizzles in D.C.; Gitmo is moving to western Illinois; and just when you thought things couldn‘t get worse for Tiger Woods, they just might.
That and more—ahead on COUNTDOW.
O‘DONNELL: With health care reform possibly on the verge of passing or collapsing today, there are still much to discuss.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Has President Obama essentially handed former Senate colleagues in his own party an ultimatum of “This is it—do this even if you have to hold your nose”?
And what will Democrats do with that? And as health care reform moves to its possible final act, how much has President Obama over-promised and under-delivered. Or was this all in the ballpark of what he campaigned on?
Of course, President Obama met with Senate Democrats today.
What about the House Democrats with a far more powerful Progressive Caucus? That caucus had already sent him a letter asking for a meeting, and that was last Friday—even before the Medicare buy-in went bye-bye, as it likely will. The letter—the letter cited caucus principles with the creation of a nationwide public option at the top of the list.
Let‘s call in our own Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” magazine.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Howard, it seems to come—come to that point for Howard Dean where he‘s just mad as hell and can‘t take it any more. He‘s been a cheerleader of this process all the way this year, optimistic all the way. Joe Lieberman has pushed this bill to the point where Howard Dean is advising Democratic senators to vote against it.
What effect will the Dean defection have on the Senate vote?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it could have a big effect, Lawrence. The interview that you just conducted with former Governor Dean was remarkable -- for a couple reasons.
First of all, he‘s a doctor. He‘s got credibility on this. Second, he‘s been a reformer for years, and knows it as well if not better than anybody as an issue. Third, he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Hello?
That interview that you did with him, could be cut in its entirety and placed in a Republican ad attacking the process right now. And I don‘t know how much weight Howard Dean has nationally any more. But in terms of a weapon the Republicans can use, I think he‘s very useful. I think it was utterly fascinating to watch what just happened on the show.
O‘DONNELL: And, Howard, when you have shaky votes on the Democratic side, and you have Governor Dean—physician, Dr. Dean, coming out against this bill, there have to be some Democrats in the Senate who are saying in effect, “You want me to cast this vote, which in many state is kind of difficult, and I might not get thanked politically by anyone. I might not get thanked by the base represented by Howard Dean. I certainly won‘t get thanked by Republicans, and I don‘t know what‘s going to happen with independents.”
It does—it seems to me, it does make the Senate vote much more tense.
FINEMAN: Well, I think it‘s symbolic, in a way, of this predicament that the president and the Democrats are in.
At the meeting at the White House today, Lawrence—from talking to people about it and people who were there, the kind of subtext of it was: look, you think things are bad now? “If we don‘t pass this bill,” the president, in effect, said, “You‘re going to be damaging me. You know, the economy is bad. Historical trends are against us in the midterm elections in 2010, but if we don‘t pass this bill, I‘m the one who‘s going to look bad, and that‘s going to make me useless to you as a vehicle to try to help you guys next year and the period after that.”
So, the president might be jawboning in a way, but he‘s not really threatening. In a way, he‘s saying, “Don‘t make me jump, because I‘m the one who‘s going to get damaged and that‘s not going to help you.”
Now, that‘s the argument that‘s being made. That‘s the argument that Harry Reid is making to fellow Democratic senators, as I understand it. He‘s saying, “Look, we need to pass a bill, because we can‘t afford to damage our president any further than he‘s already been damaged.”
That‘s kind of, you know, backhanded way to argue this thing, but that‘s what‘s going on behind closed doors right now.
O‘DONNELL: And, Howard, if you listen to Governor Dean, it sounds like the Democrats have no good choice to make here. They have to live with the politics of voting for a bad bill or live with the politics of not getting a bill.
Which of those outcomes do they think is worse for them in 2010?
FINEMAN: No, they want a bill. They want a bill because they—and I think the White House thinks that whatever is passed, there will be a core of things in there that they can sell: the regulations—the new regulations of the insurance industry about preexisting conditions, portability and limits on expenditures, the wellness provisions, the health care centers, the subsidies for tens of millions who will be getting insurance for the first time.
David Axelrod and company down at the White House, the president
himself, and the Democrat leadership—Democratic leadership believes they
can sort of scrape away the mess and sell the good features of this up
front. The problem they‘ve got is, that in order to make the thing deficit
neutral, they‘ve had to kind of backload it so that taxes and fees go in
first, but some of these great benefits, some don‘t kick in until later on
some at the beginning, but others later on.
O‘DONNELL: And, Howard, quickly, it would be a bill filled with things that were not in the Obama campaign, filled with taxes that were not mentioned in the Obama campaign, an individual mandate that President Obama campaigned against and other items.
So, how do you score the Obama campaign promise versus the way this bill looks at this point?
FINEMAN: That‘s ancient history for all the Democrats now, Lawrence. They want a bill, almost any bill. If it has some of those core provisions in it, they‘ll gladly take it, if they can get it.
And, by the way, at this very minute, you know, I thought all along that thing was going to pass. It probably still is going to pass. But it‘s more tenuous tonight, I think, than it‘s been in a long, long time.
O‘DONNELL: Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—great thanks for your time.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: The tea party crowd descends on Capitol Hill yet again—this time to show how bad government run health care would be. Is this crowd really going to be an electoral powerhouse?
And later, shuttering Gitmo for good. This prison in Illinois will be the future home of detainees—but not if the Republican Party can do anything about it.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: The tea party is the most visible vocal representatives of the health care reform opposition to which Democrats are yielding showed up in Washington today—and in our number three story on the COUNTDOWN:
Their goal was to demonstrate vividly, dramatically—well, melodramatically—what would happen to average Americans if health care reform were enacted.
Last Wednesday, tea party organizer Mark Meckler posted the plan on his Web site. I‘ll read it while we watch how it played out.
“On Tuesday, December 14th, at 8:45 a.m., thousands of us will meet in Washington, D.C., at the fountain in Upper Senate Park. From there we will march to the Senate offices, go inside and demonstrate our opposition to the government takeover of health care. The intention is to go inside the Senate offices and hallways and play out the role of patients waiting for treatment in government-controlled medical facilities.
Meckler then wanted protestors to pretend to die while waiting. They didn‘t. Instead, they illustrated the real effects of government health care even better. They were invited in, treated well, and kept hydrated with refreshing beverages. “We know it‘s a sacrifice to do this right before Christmas,” Meckler wrote, “but throughout history, American patriots have made far greater sacrifices than this to protect our liberty. Now the burden and the honor falls on us.”
In the course of the day, Meckler first rallied spirits by doubling turnout in a previous rally in only eight seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MECKLER: We put over a million people in DC on September 12th. How many of you were here. Really, roughly two million people came out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Later, Meckler riled up the crowd by telling them that politicians were too cowardly to meet with them. You will see a woman on the right correct him. Then watch how UN-phased he is, amused even, by having to change his whole argument in less than 15 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MECKLER: Of course, no senators would see us, because we‘re just citizens. We‘re not important enough.
No, there are senators that were excellent and met with us. Obviously, there are folks on our side and we appreciate them. That‘s an important thing. We don‘t want people to believe that we dislike or distrust every politician.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: But the day‘s biggest whiplash came from their loudest cheerleader endorsing socialized medicine with a scheme to cover all of America‘s uninsured. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We‘ve run the numbers, 30 billion dollars a year. Do you think we could raise 30 billion dollars with a one dollar check-off on an income tax return?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Well, let‘s see, 30 Billion. Um, there are 300 million Americans, and I‘m not as good at math as Rush is, but that is about one percent of 30 billion. So no, Rush, we can‘t do that. You‘re going to have to go back to the drawing board on tomorrow‘s show. And I will be listening once again.
Joining us now is Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Chris, thanks for your time tonight.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Chris, I‘m laughing at these people. Have they pushed their cause to the point and their image to the point where they are actually laughable? That there is no political force to fear in the Tea Party movement?
KOFINIS: Well, they are becoming kind of a character of themselves. And they were out there to begin with. These die-ins are pretty offensive on multiple fronts. I was looking—trying to find the statistic. Harvard did a study; 45,000 people die every year because they don‘t have health care insurance. And the notion that somehow it‘s a public option or government run health care that is making tens of thousands of people die from not having health care—let alone the millions who don‘t have health care today, let alone the millions who do have health care today and can‘t afford to get sick. The notion that somehow that is public health care or government‘s fault is just a complete misunderstanding of the problem.
I think this is where these groups, and these activists—I put that in quotation marks—this is where they get into problems. They don‘t reflect the reality of the problem. The problem is—it‘s the insurance industry that is the source of the problem. And so, unfortunately, I think these individuals, as well as certain senators, Joe Lieberman being one of them, have forgotten that it‘s not about them, when you‘re talking about the health care crisis and solving it. It‘s about how do we come up with a solution that actually fixes the problem? They don‘t seem to care about fixing the problem.
O‘DONNELL: And Chris, how do they fit in the politics of the health care debate now? I mean, when there was an August recess and the bill wasn‘t really formed yet, they were out there screaming and trying to scare senators and congressmen. Now that the senators are really at work, on the Senate floor, they‘re trying to go into their offices, trying to stage some sort of protest that ultimately just looks like a constituent visit. It looks like—you wouldn‘t know there‘s any protest going on there.
KOFINIS: The strategy here is basically an earned media strategy. They want to get free media attention. So that will exaggerate both their numbers and their significance in this debate. I mean, I‘m not sure if these folks got the memo or have Google News. But it looks like the public option is dead. And if that‘s the case, I‘m not sure what they‘re screaming about in terms of government health care. They can suffer like a lot of other folks without public health care. That may be what they want at the end of the day.
In terms of their role in this debate, where they really have an impact is fuelling the Republicans and freezing a lot of these Republicans, in particular, I would say, Senator Snowe and Senator Collins, from potentially working with Democrats, and working to try to find a way to move health care forward and get real health care reform. They do have an impact because they have, if you will, terrified the Republican party into paralysis, which is not that hard to do, to be honest.
O‘DONNELL: Michael Steele says he wants to work with these people, but can he? Are they an organized enough operation that they can help that party in some way?
KOFINIS: I don‘t think so. I think he‘s doing it more so out of fear that they will continue to do what they did in the New York 23rd, which is basically fuel these third party candidates. I don‘t think they can be worked with. But he has to work with them, because he doesn‘t want them to become a force. From the Democratic party‘s perspective, you want them to be a force, because it ends up serving the Democratic party‘s interests.
O‘DONNELL: Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, thanks very much for your time tonight.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, bringing about an end to Gitmo. The United States announces it will purchase a prison in Illinois to house detainees. The GOP is predictably still railing against the plan.
And later, the Tiger Woods saga takes yet another turn. Now he‘s facing questions about whether he took performance enhancing drugs from a doctor accused of providing drugs to athletes. Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Gitmo north; in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, a prison 150 miles east of Chicago will house some of Gitmo‘s detainees. And Republicans are already howling, even though the Illinois governor, both US senators and local politicians are all in favor of it. The under-utilized Thompson Correction Facility, in the small town of Thomson, Illinois, will be acquired by the federal government, according to the Obama administration. And a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba would be transferred there, roughly 100 according to Senator Dick Durbin.
But the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky attacked the decision. Quoting, “the American people and a bipartisan majority of the Congress have already rejected bringing terrorists to US soil for long-term detention.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn of the Judiciary Committee said, quote, “this move will put our citizens in unnecessary danger.”
And Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said, quote, “I have yet to hear one good reason why moving these terrorists from off our shores right into the heart of our country makes us safer.”
But not all Republicans are fearful of bringing detainees to an American prison. Republican Congressman Jim Sacia, whose district includes Thomson, and who is a former FBI special agent, said he had no concern about the prison‘s security. Quoting, “I do not share the concerns of some of my colleagues about having an al Qaeda cell moving into northwest Illinois.” The community of Thomson, hurting for jobs, generally favors this move as well.
Let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, “THE NATION”: Good evening, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Chris, didn‘t that republican congressman, a former FBI agent—so he knows what he‘s talking about—didn‘t he sum it up, that we don‘t have to fear al Qaeda creating a new encampment just outside that prison in Illinois?
HAYES: Yes, it‘s very difficult to take any of this really seriously. These concerns are being trumped up. It‘s demagoguery. If there‘s a single thing that the withered American state of the 21st century can do, it is build a prison that keeps people inside it. We‘re not great at doing a lot of other things at this point, but that‘s one thing we have down pat. There is already the super-max prison in Colorado, and it holds people convicted of terrorism. We held Timothy McVeigh, who actually committed a domestic act of terror. He never escaped.
I think the people of Thomson and the congressman are a bit more sensible than some of his colleagues.
O‘DONNELL: They know there‘s never been an escape from one of these maximum security prisons. They seem to be going for a theme here. They seem to be going for, you know, you bring these people to New York for a trial; you bring them to Illinois for imprisonment; and somehow, in doing that, you are making us less safe.
O‘DONNELL: They‘re trying to drill that in without any evidence whatsoever. Is there a way for them to make that work?
HAYES: I think, under different circumstances, there might be. It‘s real raw, basic, kind of Bush circa 2002, lizard brain kind of appeal. There was a time when that was effective in the country. I think in the wake of the trauma of 9/11, more so.
But I think, to be honest, there‘s so many issues the country faces right now. They tend to occlude this specific threat. And I just think it doesn‘t create the political returns that the GOP has been used to over the past decade.
O‘DONNELL: And there are issues with liberals about exactly what rights would these detainees have when they‘re moved to Illinois? I think that could end up being the longer term, more complicated angle on this for President Obama. How‘s he going to address that?
HAYES: I don‘t know. But that‘s exactly right. There‘s a real substantive case there, which is that the problem with Guantanamo isn‘t the fact that it‘s not inside the lower 48. The problem with Guantanamo is that you‘re holding people—there‘s indefinite detention, in which people have no legal recourse. In a letter sent by William Lynn, who is the deputy secretary of Defense, to Mark Kirk, he basically said, pursuant to Congress‘ authorization 2001 of military force, we will hold people indefinitely.
I mean, so what you‘re seeing—the ACLU—I saw this in a post from Glenn Greenwald. Anthony Romero from the ACLU said, you know, this is Gitmo north. It doesn‘t help at all to relocate the same sort of bastion of illegality and lawlessness from off the Florida coast to the heart of Illinois.
O‘DONNELL: Does it make it more politically difficult for the president in a situation where they‘re being held indefinitely in this country, as opposed to indefinitely somewhere else?
HAYES: Well, it does in this case. Under the bill that Congress passed, they could only be relocated to the states if they‘re going to be relocated for prosecution. I believe the president has to go back to Congress to get statutory authority for indefinite retention.
Think about that for a second. It appears that the current playbook is for the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who was a constitutional law professor, to essentially come to Congress and ask them for the authority—the first time in American history—for the authority for a law enshrining the right of indefinite detention.
O‘DONNELL: We‘ll see. Chris Hayes of “The Nation,” many thanks.
HAYES: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Tiger Woods popularity is plummeting in new polls because of his personal troubles. But now new concerns surface. A doctor tied to the golfer is suspected of giving athletes performance enhancing drugs.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Senator Tom Harkin on the negotiations over health care reform.
O‘DONNELL: A moving van is seen outside chez Woods. Wife Elan is seen without her wedding ring. The alleged mistress count reaches 14. And she‘s hired the same lawyer as another mistress. Our number one story, yet another embarrassing link for Tiger Woods.
His doctor is tied to performance enhancing drugs. “The New York Times” reporting the Canadian doctor who helped Woods recover after knee surgery is now at the center of an FBI investigation. Dr. Anthony Galia was arrested in mid-October after human growth hormone and the drug Actovegen (ph) were found in his medical bag at the US/Canada border. The probe was launched, in part, because of medical records found on Galia‘s computer relating to several professional athletes.
Galia says he has been using human growth hormone for ten-years, administers it to some patients, but not pro-athletes. Galia visited Woods‘ home at least four times this year to administer platelet therapy, after Tiger‘s agents were concerned by the golfer‘s slow recovery from knee surgery. Galia developed a blood spinning treatment, which helps speed up healing time.
Two days after the first treatment, Woods texted him. Dr. Galia said, “he said he couldn‘t believe how good he feels. He would joke and say, I can jump on the kitchen table. And I said, please don‘t.”
Meanwhile, Tiger‘s agent sent an e-mail to the “New York Times” regarding Woods‘ relationship with the doctor. “I would really ask that you guys don‘t write this. If Tiger is not implicated, and won‘t be, let‘s please give the kid a break.”
Joining me now is chief investigative reporter for “The Daily Beast” and author of “Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power, a Dispatch From the Beach,” Gerald Posner. Thanks very much for your time tonight.
GERALD POSNER, “THE DAILY BEAST”: Nice to be with you again, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Gerald, can we give the kid a break on this story? Is it worth speculating? And we are now in the zone of complete speculation, aren‘t we? There‘s no evidence yet that Tiger Woods has had anything to do with human growth hormone?
POSNER: Yes, absolutely no evidence at all. As a matter of fact, I will say something—and you know I‘ve written some hard articles on him in the last two weeks. But this is one case in which I almost think you can give him a break. I‘ll tell you why. I‘ve been looking at this for today and a little beforehand.
Two things; first of all, this doctor is on the cutting edge of sports treatments. There‘s no doubt about it. He‘s the chief doctor for the Toronto Argonauts, the football team for five years. For eight years, he‘s been doing these plasma injections. Every Tuesday, if you want to see something, go up to Toronto during the NFL football season. And you‘ll see players arriving on the red eye to get, on their one day off, on Tuesdays, the treatment from him for this. What it is, they take their own blood sample out. They put it into centrifuge. They spin it around. It creates this very rich platelet based protein blood supply. About a teaspoon is shot into the injury site, in this case Woods‘ knee. Four times it was done. It is viewed as speeding up the recovery process.
The human growth hormone and Actovegan, which you talked about, which is a drug that‘s not approved in the US or Canada, but also used for speeding up recovery, are the two things the doctor is being investigated on, but are totally separate from Woods. I spoke to the agents from IMG, a representative tonight. They were very firm, much firmer than the e-mail Steinberg sent to the “New York Times.” they were all over this, saying it was only the approved proper platelet injections that were given to Woods, absolutely no growth hormone, absolutely no steroids of any type, nothing that was improper.
And I‘ll tell you, those were denials as firm as I‘ve ever heard from them.
O‘DONNELL: But it‘s fair to wonder how much would an agent necessarily know about this? I mean, the doctor is alone with Tiger Woods in the home. Anything could happen, right?
POSNER: Absolutely. But the interesting thing about this particular doctor, Galia, is what he‘s paid for is what is—what his therapy, by the way, is not automatically accepted by all doctors. There are some doctors who believe it has a largely placebo effect. Even the anti-doping society, which watches things like cyclists and others, are wary of it, but they haven‘t banned it. They don‘t know if it happens to have an effect that happens to be good.
But some doctors like him push this as a miracle healer for athletes who have injuries and need to recover faster. What you have in the case of Woods is somebody who had knee surgery for a torn ACL in June 2008. What he gets is a doctor from Canada, who comes in, who is charging a small fortune for what is viewed by some people as state of the art therapy. We know that some NFL players have had it, Chris Simms, Jevon Walker and others.
There are other people who flock to him. They pay a lot of money for this. I agree with you. We don‘t know what happens behind closed doors. This doctor doesn‘t mix his growth hormone together with his platelet therapies. They‘re two separate therapies.
O‘DONNELL: Now, his agents seem to be fighting this story harder, and with more energy, than they have gotten involved in the extra marital affairs story.
POSNER: Lawrence, you‘re absolutely right. The reason for that is I think they realize—they say, first of all, because this one‘s flatly wrong. But they also think that a lot of the other stories that are out there are filled with conjecture and innuendo and are wrong.
Here‘s the real reason, I think: Tiger can survive extra marital affairs, even if he was a serial philanderer. He can eventually admit that he has a problem, go to rehab, try to keep his marriage together, and come back as a pitchman, a different pitchman, but come back. He will not survive it if his fans, who follow him loyally, believe he‘s the best golfer in the world because he‘s taken performance enhancing drugs. That would be a career ender in many ways for him. He would still play, but he would lose legions of fans.
On this story, when it comes to this issue of drugs and Tiger, I agree with you. They‘re much more aggressive.
O‘DONNELL: Gerald Posner, investigative journalist for “The Daily Beast,” thanks for your time tonight.
POSNER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: That will have to do it for this Tuesday edition of COUNTDOWN. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
Up next, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” Have a good night.
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