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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Wendell Potter, Markos Moulitsas


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

With single-payer a forgotten dream, the public option gone, the Medicare buy-in now sold out to Joe Lieberman, the growing call to kill the bill, and go instead to reconciliation.


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  It costs too much money.  It isn‘t health care reform.  It‘s not even insurance reform.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  It‘s nonsense, and it‘s irresponsible, and coming from him as a physician, it‘s stunning and he‘s wrong.


OLBERMANN:  But two key unions meet to decide whether or not to agree with Howard Dean.  Anthony Weiner says, “We‘re approaching a tipping point.”

And in tonight‘s “Special Comment,” I will argue we are already there.

As Joe Lieberman says he started to hate his own idea for Medicare buy-in, as soon as Congressman Weiner said he‘d liked it, the White House response to the gathering storm, the president suddenly says: failure to pass the bill—this bill—means the federal government eventually, quote, “will go bankrupt.”

And the press secretary attacks not the Republicans, not Mr. Lieberman

but Howard Dean.



ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I don‘t think any rational person would say killing a bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point.


OLBERMANN:  The comic relief: Congresswoman Bachmann compares her Obama-haters to the “Charge of the Light Brigade”—evidently not knowing they lost and got slaughtered.

Tonight, health care reform and a White House in crisis, with our special guests: Congressman Anthony Weiner, health care whistleblower Wendell Potter, and Markos Moulitsas.

And tonight‘s “Special Comment”: a bill that requires you by law to buy insurance, without a public option, without a Medicare buy-in, must be altered or must be defeated.  And this man must leave or he will inherit the wind.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Dr. Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, chairman of the DNC, resuming his criticism of the Senate health care reform bill today—as a result, the White House and Senate Democrats today are assaulting him.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Not a single angry word spoken today against the insurance companies for whom what remains would be a dream bill, or against the Republicans who were still putting politics over people, delaying the bill and defense funding by any means possible, against Senator Joe Lieberman who has made it his mission to kill even the Medicare buy-in compromise that he supported only three months ago, meant to be the mere consolation prize after the abandonment of the public option.

Ahead in this news hour: my “Special Comment” on the latest version of the Senate health care reform bill.

First, we begin with the latest details.  Governor Dean, this morning, repeating the assertion he made on this newshour last night, that Democrats should just kill the bill entirely and have the House start reconciliation to enact reform, real reform, adding that this is what they should have done in the first place.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent of Vermont, tonight telling reporter that he thinks, quote, “reconciliation is an absolutely appropriate route to go.”  More on his day in a moment.

Senator Jay Rockefeller today is calling Governor Dean “irresponsible.”  The White House, meanwhile, suggesting Dr. Dean is being irrational and does not understand the contents of the legislation.


GIBBS:  I don‘t know what piece of legislation he‘s reading.  I would ask Dr. Dean, is it—how better do you address those that don‘t have insurance: passing a bill that covers 30 million that don‘t currently have it or killing a bill?  I don‘t think any rational person would say killing a bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point.


OLBERMANN:  No condescending words from the White House to characterize the behavior of two of the country‘s biggest labor groups which helped to elect the president, the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, each holding emergency executive meetings today to discuss whether they should still support the Senate health care reform bill.  No word yet on either union‘s decision.

Meantime, Senator Landrieu, the conservative Democrat of Louisiana, today offering her support for the compromise or compromised bill.

Republican Minority Leader McConnell is saying his caucus of 40 senators is prepared to vote to kill the bill for good.  Until then, the strategy is—delay, delay, delay, and repeat.

Senator Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, himself a doctor, today forcing the reading of a single-payer amendment presented by Senator Sanders—a 700-page document that would have taken an estimated eight hours to read aloud.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The senator from Vermont, Mr. Sanders, for himself and others, proposes an amendment number 2837 to amendment number 2786, beginning on page one, strike line six and all that follows to the end and insert the following.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  I ask the amendment be considered as read.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President, I object.  I object.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Objection is heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  B, table of contents.  The table of contents of this act is as follows.


OLBERMANN:  And so, it continued.  In the face of such inanity, and what would have forced the delay of a cloture vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill, current funding runs out this Friday at midnight, why do Republicans hate the troops, Senator Sanders late this afternoon withdrew his amendment—and let‘s say he was not happy about it.


SANDERS:  And the best the Republicans can do is try to bring the United States government to a halt by forcing a reading of a 700-page amendment.  That is an outrage!  People can have honest disagreements.  But in this moment of crisis, it is wrong to bring the United States government to a halt.


OLBERMANN:  And there is Senator Joe Lieberman‘s singular role in stripping the health care bill of even its second-place trophy.  Asked today about Lieberman‘s chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in the wake of his decision not to support the expansion of Medicare, one he once proposed, Majority Leader Reid saying, quote, “You have to understand, I don‘t get frustrated with anyone.”

Not so much senator Lieberman himself, who, as COUNTDOWN reported last night, tried to blame his shifting position on liberals, like Congressman Anthony Weiner, for being too enthusiastic about Medicare expansion—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.”

Congressman Weiner joins us now from the Capitol.

Thank you for your time again, sir.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First of all, your response to Senator Lieberman?

WEINER:  Well, apparently, he expects something like the Stockholm syndrome to take hold here in Congress, where we all start spouting the views of our hostage holders.  I mean, the fact of the matter is, that amendment was included—that change was included to expand Medicare, not only because I liked it, but because Senator Lieberman himself proposed it.  And the idea that he would be so capricious to simply say, “Because Anthony Weiner likes it, I‘m going to ask that it be removed or not allow the bill to go forward.”

Look, this has most puzzling, this whole process is.  The very same people who say they care about containing costs are the exact same ones who say, “Take out the public option,” which the CBO said would hold down costs.  The same people who say they are concerned about choice for consumers, again, are the ones that they say they don‘t want the public option adding an additional choice.

So, this has been a frustrating experience.  And as I‘ve said this week, you know, we worship at the altar of Olympia Snowe and Lieberman and Stupak.  And I don‘t know why we‘re with outsourcing the writing of this bill to people who really don‘t reflect the Democratic majority.

OLBERMANN:  Do you support the Senate legislation in its current form?  And if that bill is one you were to vote on in the House, would you vote for or against it?

WEINER:  Well, we‘re going to go into a conference committee, and I‘ve

been reluctant to draw lines in the sand.  And I have to tell you something

there‘s a lot of good things that still remain in the bill.


But we‘ve lost on three important points here.  One, the woman‘s right to choose has now been diminished in this bill.  Secondly, there are going to be taxing health plans, which is, I think, the opposite direction we want to go, encouraging private health care plans.  And third, they‘ve taken out the choice and competition that comes with the public option.

This is—this bill has gotten steadily worse through this process and no one‘s really stood up at the White House to say, “Enough is enough, these are our requirements.”

Now, I‘m keeping an open mind.  I don‘t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  One of the things I think that we‘ve gotten into the habit of, we‘re holding a gun to our own head.  We‘re negotiating against people who don‘t want there to be any health care improvements, and that, unfortunately, is a difficult place to be.

OLBERMANN:  Is a possible solution to this getting rid of the mandate to purchase?  If that suddenly were out, would this Senate bill as it stands now be a more viable prospect?

WEINER:  Well, the problem is, I happen to believe that there should be a mandate.  I think that‘s one of the things that you do to spread the risk across a bigger body of people.  I think it‘s fair to say to people, “That just like we require you to get car insurance, we should require you to get health care insurance.”

But the problem is that we‘re doing some things now and saying, “You know what, if we only get this started, maybe we‘ll be table to make progress in future years.”  Well, we said the exact same things 44 years ago when Medicare was passed.  We haven‘t had any luck expanding that in the entire two generations since.

So, I think we really need to get it right this time, and that includes some of the things that are in the House bill that have now fallen out of the Senate bill.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, about Governor Dean‘s comments.  He‘s not saying “kill the bill and go home”; he‘s saying, “kill the bill and get the good things that you can get passed through reconciliation done that way,” and he‘s saying that that perhaps—with a clearer view of the past in the rearview mirror—should have been the strategy all along.

What are your thoughts about moving towards reconciliation at this point?

WEINER:  I agree.  Look, I don‘t—I‘m not sure I would go as far as Governor Dean as to whether or not we should stop in our tracks.  But one thing is clear, we‘ve heard that reconciliation, which, for the purpose of just clarity, means a majority rules.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes.

WEINER:  That‘s what it means.  It means what we‘re supposed to believe in this country and this Congress.  And we‘ve been hearing that reconciliation, that process that would get us to a straight 51-vote majority rule was a last resort.  Well, Keith, we‘re at our last resort time on the calendar here.  It‘s time to go get our best bullpen pitcher, which hopefully is the president of the United States, and say, “Let‘s get 51 votes.”

And if the Republicans or the people in the 49 don‘t like that?  Hey, this is why we were elected—is to make these tough choices and to get a majority vote here in the House and Senate.  Let‘s go ahead and do that.  So, in that regard, I do agree with Governor Dean.

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Democrat of New York—as always, many thanks, and congratulations on being such a catalyst on this thing, and obviously, something that someone who has made Senator Lieberman change his mind about something he used to support.  What an accomplishment.  Thank you, sir.

WEINER:  Well, I—thank you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the politics, let‘s turn to our own Lawrence O‘Donnell, contributor to “The Huffington Post,” as well as a former chief of staff to the Senate Finance Committee and, of course, a regular with us.  He‘s in Los Angeles now.

Lawrence, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  The White House, not at all angry with Senator Lieberman.  Not any member of the Senate, Democrat or Republican.  Instead, it was seemingly focused—and understandably, this didn‘t just happen out of the ground, it wasn‘t organic, they were asked questions about Governor Dean‘s remarks—but that‘s what they spent the day dealing with.

How does that make sense that he‘s the bad guy in this equation?

O‘DONNELL:  Because they fear Howard Dean and fear what Howard Dean represents.  Howard Dean is speaking for a minimum of 100 Democrats in the House who think about the Senate bill exactly the same way that Howard Dean thinks about it.  They have to make up their minds, as you raised with Anthony Weiner, the question of, “How do I vote on this if this is what‘s going to come at us in the House after a conference with the Senate?”

And Howard Dean is saying to senators and congressmen who faced that vote, the vote to cast is no.  Howard Dean is a serious man of government, a governor, a physician, former chairman of the Democratic Party.  This is not some flake outside of the political establishment who‘s saying this.

It‘s a—it‘s a very scary crack in the Democratic wall on this bill at this time.

OLBERMANN:  A variation of one of the questions I just asked the

congressman, the White House and others have acted today as if Governor

Dean was advocating giving up the whole process, bailing out, going home,

saying, “We‘ll try it again in two years, five years, 50 years.”  What he

really said was—and you know, you did the interview with him last night

it‘s time to change strategy, move towards reconciliation, with those things you can legally do through reconciliation.


Is Governor Dean‘s point of view being willfully—is he being willfully misunderstood?

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, absolutely—because they feel themselves in the White House and in the Senate one, two votes away from getting this thing through the Senate.  And that feels very close to the finish line.  And the finish line becomes its own temptation and people—as Howard Dean made the point last night—people stop looking at what‘s in the bill, what it is they are actually trying to carry over this finish line.  Howard Dean is saying: take another route, not abandon this thing.

I think the conceptual problem, Keith, began with the notion, as it did in 1994, “How do we preserve the for-profit health insurance industry?  How do we do that legislatively?”  That is the driving force of the legislation.  When that is the driving force, this is what it ends up looking like.

OLBERMANN:  The president guaranteed tonight in an interview with ABC News, done late this afternoon, that the federal government—his phrase was—“will go bankrupt.”  He didn‘t mean it was going to happen tomorrow, but he said it would go bankrupt if health care reform is not passed, this bill.

He‘s never been that blunt before.  He‘s talked a lot about the repercussions throughout the country, but he‘s never said anything quite that strong.  Is it coincidental that he‘s suddenly using language that could have come out of the selling of the bank bailout to try to sell this version of this bill today?

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s turning to scare tactics.  The federal government is never going to go bankrupt.  We‘re not going to let that happen.  But this is the kind of scare tactic that the president seems to be resorting to at this point, trying to convince people that there‘s something of extreme urgency here.

It must be done by Christmas Eve.  If there‘s anymore details you want to examine, sorry, we don‘t have time to do that.  It has to be done by Christmas Eve.

That‘s another point of Howard Dean‘s, this does not have to be done by Christmas Eve.  This is—this is a thing that you get right.  I mean, if someone has a broken leg, you set it correctly.  You don‘t just give them a cane and say, “Start walking.”

And so—so the president wants to speed this up.  And people always

look, when I was trying to run legislations through the Senate, that‘s exactly what my strategy would be.  I want to speed this up.  I want to move it as fast as I can.


I mean, you‘re moving like a runner downfield in a football game, Keith.  You just constantly going as fast as you can.  But in this situation, it could produce a very bad result.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, you got to do it tonight and, also, don‘t remind anybody that they took all of August off and let all that stuff happen then.

Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSBNC and “The Huffington Post”—as always, great thanks, my friend.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A “Special Comment” on the bill and the awful but

unavoidable next step we have to take.  Howard Dean called it a bailout for

the insurance industry.  Insurance whistleblower Wendell Potter‘s analysis




OLBERMANN:  Health care reform that lets insurance companies move to states with the weakest consumer protection laws that lets them charge the old four times what they charge the young, that allows them to charge 50 percent more for a preexisting condition, that makes it law that you have to buy their product.  Insurance industry whistleblower Wendell Potter—next on COUNTDOWN.

Also, Markos Moulitsas on the impact of flawed health care reform on the 2010 elections and the one in 2012.

And then my “Special Comment” tonight on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  With the White House arguing that the health care reform bill is not a dream bill for health insurance companies—in our fourth story tonight—after the poor, the sick, and the uninsured have lost single-payer, the public option, Medicare for 55-plus, it is time to checklist what the insurance companies get.

The language that would have ended insurance companies‘ longstanding exemption from antitrust laws, laws that protect consumers against companies, that‘s gone.  They would now face fewer controls.  The law would let insurance companies start selling policies across state lines, meaning they could now flock to states with weak consumer protection, then do an end-around stronger state regulations across the country.  They could charge people up to four times the premiums of young people.

And remember how preexisting conditions no longer matter?  According to our next guest, the Senate bill would let insurance companies charge you more if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or who knows—a high tolerance for sticker shock.  The ban on annual limits is gone.

And now, Democrats are about to pass a law forcing you to buy this product, forcing families to hand over, how much?  Ten percent, 15 percent of their annual income, 17 percent, to insurance companies who make more than that in profit.  The result: American families face a de facto income tax hike that will be paid directly to the richest people in history.  And then they will still have co-pays and still face bankruptcy if they max out.

And for those who can‘t afford the new insurance company tax, the insurance companies will be paid with government subsidies, $450 billion worth over 10 years—yet another transfer of wealth from taxpayers to insurance companies.

Let‘s turn now to Wendell Potter, once the head of public relations for CIGNA, today, a senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Welcome back to the program, sir.


OLBERMANN:  We‘ll do specifics, but first, that generalization.  Dr.  Dean called this bill a bailout for the insurance industry.  As it is constituted now, is it such?

POTTER:  It certainly is.  It contains everything the industry wants and it‘s been stripped of things the industry didn‘t like.  So, it‘s absolutely is a big gift, a big bailout to the industry.

OLBERMANN:  What about Mr. Gibbs‘ argument that insurance companies would not be fighting against this bill if they liked it so much?

POTTER:  You know, they‘re not stupid.  They love this bill.  They can certainly think of ways that they would make it even better for them by making those of us who are older pay five times as much for our policies.  They could do a few things like that; penalize us even more for not buying their product.

So, yes, they could fight for a bit more.  But they‘ve been fighting to shape this bill and they‘ve been very successful in doing that.

OLBERMANN:  Well, tell me if my thinking is right on this, having experienced it every day firsthand for much of your live.  If fighting it has resulted in 75 percent of the meaningful reform being stripped out of the bill, surely, the lesson of the industry is: keep fighting it in just the same way and maybe you can get the other 25 percent.

POTTER:  Well, you‘re exactly right there.  That‘s what they‘re wanting to do.  They‘re strategy has worked and it‘s been a strategy that‘s really outfoxed the White House, outfoxed the Democratic leadership.

They knew exactly what the end game would look like.  They knew who they had to go after to try to make sure that they got what they want.  They‘ve got Senators Lieberman and Landrieu being out there shilling for them.

So, they‘ve gotten what they wanted.  They knew what would be happening, what they need to do to get the bill passed the way they wanted to.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Some of the specifics—can you explain a bit of the status of caps and how much customers would pay and where the bill stands, in fact, on pre-existing conditions?

POTTER:  Yes.  With pre-existing conditions, that would be outlawed.  But the way that the insurance companies would get around that would be—they would be enabled to charge people who have certain health factors—as it‘s called in this bill—up to 50 percent more, if you‘ve got high blood pressure or high cholesterol reading.  So that is, you know, just one way to get around doing that.

Plus, charging people who are older much, much more than people who are younger is another way—because, clearly, people have more medical bills as they get older.  So, it‘s just giving up one thing, knowing that they can make up the money some other way.

And the other thing is they‘re shifting—continuing to shift more and more of the financial burden, the financial cost of health care, to consumers.  Under this bill, middle income people would have to pay an average of 17 percent of their income on health care.  If someone in the family is chronically ill, that would go up to 22 percent.

So, it‘s astonishing to me to hear the president say that the country might go bankrupt if this bill doesn‘t pass.  What is absolutely certain is that if this bill passes in this way, many millions of people will be facing bankruptcy.

OLBERMANN:  The mandate to buy this insurance—everything else of significance has been pulled out of this bill, I think, everything writ large, anyway, except this mandate.  Would it be—would the bill be palatable?  Would it be kind of small “R” reform if there were no mandate in here?

POTTER:  You know, the president, when he was campaigning, said he was against this mandate, because he said, why should we force people to buy a product they can‘t afford?  And he also campaigned—despite what Senator Landrieu was saying today, she was apparently trying to rewrite history—he campaigned in favor of a public option.

Yes, I think this bill is to the point that we are going to be forcing people to buy a product they simply cannot afford.  And going back to what the president said in the campaign, I don‘t think that‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  Wendell Potter, former insurance executive at CIGNA, who‘s done such great work on this throughout the months.  Many thanks, sir.

POTTER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Markos Moulitsas on the political ramifications for next year and 2012.

And a “Special Comment”: this is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform.


OLBERMANN:  The Democratic Party would seem to have painted itself into two corners at once, pass this bill, alienate the left, enrage the right.  Pass no bill, alienate the left, enrage the right.  Markos Moulitsas on the optimum political course now, if any.

And my “Special Comment” on H.R. 3590.

And unbelievably, even tonight, even on this topic of health care reform, there is comic relief.  Michele Bachmann has told a crowd of anti-reform right-wingers that they inspire her because it‘s like the “Charge of the Light Brigade.”  I‘m guessing she didn‘t get the final score on that one.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s not just the policy of passing a potentially bad health care bill versus passing nothing at all; it‘s also the politics, obviously.  In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, if the Democratic majority passes nothing, it might be swept out off office in the 2010 midterm elections.  And if the Democratic majority passes this health care bill, it might be swept out of office in the 2010 midterm elections. 

It‘s not just the president who has taken a slide in the latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, though his approval rating has dropped to 47 percent, down from 51 in October, with 46 percent disapproval, the health care reform bill takes a huge beating.  Only 32 percent think it is a good idea.  Only 41 percent think it is better to pass it versus keeping the current system.  And for the first time in polling this past year‘s health care reform effort, more people say it is better to pass nothing. 

And that decline from previous polls owes mostly not to critics of reform, but to advocates.  Most respondents find a health care bill without a public option unacceptable.  And while respondents like the Medicare buy-in idea, that, of course, has been dropped too.  On the question of the 2010 midterms, and which party should control congress, Democrats holding on to still just a slim lead.  But among those who are highly motivated, the Democrats get clobbered, 47 to 39 percent.  Little wonder.

Let‘s turn now to the founder of the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, also author of “Taking on The System.”  Markos, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  First the Policy; which fact trumps the other—this is obviously the 64,000 dollar question—this has become a dreadful bill, or that even a dreadful bill might put a dent in the reality that Americans do die every day for want of insurance. 

MOULITSAS:  It‘s a very difficult question.  Passions are kind of running really high on both sides of this debate.  I don‘t think we‘re quite ready to concede that this bill has to be this bad.  I think everybody‘s resigned to the fact that we‘re not going to get a good bill.  We‘re not going to get good policy.  The Democrats have failed on that front.

But does it really have to be this bad?  I don‘t think we‘re ready to concede that yet.  The House still gets to weigh in.  And hopefully we can salvage something out of this.  Not making it better, but making it less bad than it currently is. 

OLBERMANN:  Saying that we get to that point, is that better, politically, a bill that might be tough to defend, but doesn‘t necessarily start eating through the floor the moment it hits the floor, or is it better going to the midterms having passed nothing in terms of health care? 

MOULITSAS:  Well, either way, it‘s a lose/lose proposition.  That‘s what makes it so difficult.  If you pass something—if you pass nothing, everybody‘s going to be angry.  Democrats will be accused, rightfully, of being incapable of governing.  That much is clear. 

But if we do pass something bad, that means that every bad element of this bill gets basically put on the backs of Democrats.  They own health care, every rate increase and so on.  It‘s bad.  Not to mention that the kind of people that helped Democrats win the last two cycles, the people who knock on doors and make the phone calls and donate the money, those people are not that excited about this.  They‘re feeling burnt.  They‘re feeling betrayed.  And if they don‘t turn out, I don‘t think things are going to be very good for Democrats next year. 

OLBERMANN:  The enthusiasm gap; obviously, it‘s devastating at moment.  The spirit—dispirit, I guess is the correct term here, would be roughly what you describe it.  Is there something else that could be done to re-energize that Democratic base by that time—it‘s next year, 11 months away now, next year‘s midterms? 

MOULITSAS:  You know, Republicans are going to be energized no matter what.  They‘re raring to go.  They think that Obama wants a socialist country that wants to kill your grandmother.  They‘re ready to vote no matter what.  How do you turn out Democrats?  I guess that‘s the big question.  And I think the first thing you do is you stop pretending to negotiate with Republicans when Republicans have no intention of negotiating in good faith.  And you try to pass good bills.  And you may lose some of those votes, but that‘s OK, because then we know who are obstructing and we can make an electoral case why we need to elect better Democrats and more Democrats. 

That‘s what you have to do.  But capitulating and conceding and negotiating with people who have no interest in negotiating with good faith, that‘s a sure recipe for turning people into non-voters.  I‘m going to vote and probably most people watching this show are probably going to vote.  It‘s those people that are peripherally engaged in politics.  They‘re the ones most at risk of not turning out. 

OLBERMANN:  What, ultimately, the way this thing has—the word of the moment is trajectory.  The trajectory of this entire process, what do you see as the worst-case scenario at the end of that trajectory for the president?  Is it primary challenge?  Is it the base not turning out for him specifically anymore? 

MOULITSAS:  I think the danger for Obama is much nearer, is that people don‘t turn out in 2010 and suddenly he‘s faced not with Republican majorities—I don‘t see Republicans taking over—but I definitely see diminished Democratic majorities, and a very, very scared group of Democrats.  Because, you know, Democrats are a very scared bunch of people to begin with.  If you give them an electoral defeat, and things may become even worse. 

So Obama‘s unable to pass anything, and basically rendering him an irrelevant president.  And I think he aspires to much more than that.  And hopefully he sees the danger in the base not turning out next year and does something to help  getting Democrats excited about turning out and voting and defending our majorities. 

OLBERMANN:  Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, as always, great thanks, my friend. 

MOULITSAS:  Thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  Health care reform without the reform, without the care, and clearly without the health; a special comment tonight on Howard Dean‘s assertion that it is time to kill the bill and move to reconciliation, pass whatever you can do through reconciliation, and do so. 

The quote, “I hope President Obama didn‘t mean it the way it came across,” from the ex-press secretary, “when he suggested that President Bush was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war.”

There is loyal, but there‘s also just plain dumb.  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, Dick Armey was so mad at her yesterday he could not even pronounce her name correctly.  She has now found out the real reason he was so sputteringly angry.  It had to do with the answer to the great Zen question: if a former congressman holds a news conference and nobody shows up, was it really a news conference?


OLBERMANN:  Special comment on HR-3590 and a pivotal moment for a president, that‘s next.  First time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Jay Walder, this month‘s chairman of New York City‘s MTA, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the city‘s managers of subways and buses and stuff.  The authority today approved budget cuts, closing two subway lines, reducing trains, charging school kids more to take public transportation to school.  This is a result of the shocking, total surprise budget shortfall that the MTA has had every 18 months or so for the last four decades.  The latest, 400 million dollars they suddenly discovered last week they just didn‘t have. 

I know this is a local thing, but this has been going on since I was a kid.  It is the biggest running scam in this town since they caught Boss Tweed. 

Our runner-up, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann—although we really must thank her for unintentionally lightening the mood tonight—compared a Code Red anti-health care reform rally to a moment in history I guess she thought she understood.  “It‘s the charge of the light brigade.”  You know, like the poem, half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of death road the 600?  A little over 600 British cavalry men charged the Russian lines at Balaclava in the Crimean War on October 25th, 1854.  At least half of them were killed, injured or captured, largely because the 600 were attacking 20 Russian infantry battalions that had 5,240 men and 40 siege guns. 

Supposedly, Lord Cardagan (ph) was ordered to make the charge by Lord Lucan (ph), because Cardagan was his brother in law and Lucan had hated his guts for 30 years.  So, Congresswoman, if you want to compare your nut bags to the charge of light brigade, have a nice ride. 

But our winner, former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino.  I‘ll admit it, when she was still on the job, I wondered, was she specifically selected because she had no clue?  Had she been trained to not have a clue?  Did she have one of those memory imprinting problems?  

But after the president told CBS last night that he didn‘t wave the flag at West Point about Afghanistan because he thought, quote, “one of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war,” Ms. Perino followed up on Fixed News by saying, “I hope President Obama didn‘t mean it the way it came across, when he suggested that President Bush was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war.”

Ms. Perino, over here, ma‘am.  I‘d like to show you a photograph and ask you if you recognize when or where it‘s from.  Hmm?  No?  No clue?  Any idea who the guy was?  Seriously?  You‘re hoping President Obama didn‘t think President Bush was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war?  I mean, even Mr. Bush has now said mission accomplished was now a mistake. 

Dana, is my head attached to my shoulders or did I leave it at home by accident, Perino, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of HR-3590, the Senate Health Care Reform bill.  To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: “I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war.”

Last night on this program Howard Dean said that with the appeasement of Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut by the abandonment of the Medicare Buy-in, he could no longer support HR-3590.  Dr. Dean‘s argument is informed, cogent, heart breaking, and unanswerable.   

Seeking the least common denominator, Sen. Reid has found it, especially the “least” part.  This is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform.  I bless the Sherrod Browns and Ron Wydens and Jay Rockefellers and Sheldon Whitehouses and Anthony Weiners and all the others who have fought for real reform.  And I bleed for the pain inflicted upon them and their hopes.  They have done their jobs and served their nation.

But through circumstances beyond their control, they are now seeking to re-animate a corpse killed by the Republicans, and by a political game played in the Senate and in the White House, by men and women who have now proved themselves poorly equipped for that fight.  The “men” of the current moment, have lost to the “mice” of history.

They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony.  This bill, slowly bled to death by the political equivalent of the leeches that were once thought state-of-the-art-medicine, is now little more than a series of microscopically minor tweaks of a system which is the real-life, here-and-now version, of the malarkey of the Town Hallers.  The American Insurance Cartel is the Death Panel, and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it.  Nor even to satiate it.

It merely decrees that our underprivileged, our sick, our elderly, our middle class, can be fed into it, as human sacrifices to the great maw of corporate voraciousness, at a profit per victim of 10 cents on the dollar, instead of the current 20. 

Even before the support columns of reform were knocked down, one by one, with the kind of passive defense that would embarrass a touch-football player—single-payer, the public option, the Medicare Buy-In—before they vanished, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the part of the bill that would require you to buy insurance unless you could prove you could not afford it would cost a family of four with a household income of 54-thousand dollars a year 17 percent of that income, nine thousand dollars a year, just for the insurance!

That was with a public option.  That was with some kind of check on the insurance companies.  That was before—as Howard Dean pointed out—the revelation that the cartel will still be able to charge older people more than others; will—at the least—now be able to charge much more, maybe 50 percent more, for people with pre-existing conditions—pre-existing conditions; you know, like being alive.

You have just agreed to purchase a product.  If you do not, you will be breaking the law and subject to a fine.  You have no control over how much you will pay for that product.  The government will have virtually no control over how much the company will charge for that product.  The product is designed like the Monty Python sketch about the insurance company‘s “Never-Pay” policy --  “which, you know, if you never claim, is very worthwhile.  But you had to claim, and, well, there it is.”

And who do we have to blame for this?  There are enough villains to go around, men and women who, in a just world, would be the next to get sick and have to sell their homes or their memories or their futures, just to keep themselves alive, just to keep their children alive, against the implacable enemy of American society, the insurance cartel. 

Mr. Grassley of Iowa has lied, and fomented panic and fear.  Mr.  DeMint of South Carolina has forgotten he represents people, and not just a political party.  Mr. Baucus of Montana has operated as a virtual agent for the industry he is charged with regulating.  Mr. Nelson of Nebraska has not only derailed reform, he has tried to exploit it to overturn a Supreme Court decision that is, in this context, frankly none of his goddamned business.

They say they have done what they have done for the most important, the most fiscally prudent, the most gloriously phrased, the most inescapable of reasons.  But mostly they have done it for the money.  Lots and lots of money from the insurance companies and the pharmacological companies and the other health care companies who have slowly, deliberately and effectively taken this country over.

Which brings us to Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, the one man at the center of this farcical perversion of what a government is supposed to be.  Out of pique, out of revenge, out of betrayal of his earlier wiser, saner self, he has sold untold hundreds of thousands of us into pain and fear and privation and slavery, for money.  He has been bought and sold by the insurance lobby.  He has become a Senatorial prostitute. 

And sadly, the President of the United States has not provided the leadership his office demands.  He has badly misjudged the country‘s mood at all ends of the spectrum. 

There is no middle to coalesce here, sir.  There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature “bipartisanship,” you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both.  You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party.  Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out.

Mr. President, the line between “compromise” and “compromised” is an incredibly fine one.  Any reform bill enrages the right, and provides it with the war cry around which it will rally its mindless legions in the midterms and in ‘12.  But this Republican knee-jerk inflexibility provides an incredible opportunity to you, sir, and an incredible license.

On April 6th 2003, I was approached by two drunken young men at a baseball game.  One of them started to ask for an autograph.  The other stopped him by shouting “screw him, he‘s a liberal.”  This program had been on the air for three weeks.  It had, to that point, consisted entirely of brief introductions to correspondents in Iraq or to military analysts.  There had been no criticism, no political analysis, no commentary.  I had not covered news full-time for more than four years.  I could not fathom on what factual basis I was being called a “liberal,” let alone being sworn at for being such.

Only later did it dawn on me that it didn‘t matter why, and it didn‘t matter that they were doing it.  It only mattered that if I was going to be mindlessly criticized for anything, the reaction would be identical whether I did nothing that engendered it, or whether I stood for something that engendered it.

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist.  You could be further to the right on this than Reagan—and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, that sure invites the comparison.  And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full, unfettered freedom to do what you know is just.  The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises.  The firestorm will be the same.  So why not give the haters, as the cliche goes, something to cry about.

But concomitant with that is the reaction from Democrats and Independents.  You have riven them, Sir.  Any bill will engender criticism, but this bill costs you the left, and anybody who now has to pony up 17 percent of his family‘s income to buy this equivalent of Medical Mobster Protection Money.

Some speaking for you, Sir, have called the public option a fetish. 

They may be right.  But to stay with this uncomfortable language, this bill

is less fetish and more bondage.  Nothing short of your re-election and the

re-election of dozens of Democrats in the House and the Senate hinges in

large part on this bill.  Make it palatable or make it go away or make yourself ready, not merely for a horrifying campaign in 2012, but for the distinct possibility also of a primary challenge.

Befitting the season, sir, these are not the shadows of the things that will be, but the shadows of the things that may be.  But at this point, Mr. President, only you can make certain of that.  There is only one redemption possible.  The mandate in this bill under which we are required to buy insurance must be stripped out.

The bill now is little more than a legally mandated delivery of the

middle class—and those whose dreams of joining it slip ever further away

into a kind of Chicago stockyards of insurance.  Make enough money to take care of yourself and your family and you must buy insurance, on the insurers terms, or face a fine.

This provision must go.  It is, above all else, immoral and a betrayal of the people who elected you, sir.  You must now announce that you will veto any bill lacking an option or buy-in, but containing a mandate.

And Sen. Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both, or single-payer, for that matter.  Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 “ayes.”  Let them commit political suicide instead of you.

Let Mr. Lieberman kill the bill, then turn to his Republican friends, only to find out they hate him more than the Democrats do.  Let him stagger off the public stage to go work for the insurance industry.  As if he is not doing that now.

Then, Mr. Reid, take every worthwhile provision of health care reform you legally can, and pass it via reconciliation, whenever and however you can.  And by the way, a Medicare Buy-In can be legally passed via reconciliation.  The Senate bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House.

Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable.  And there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported.  And if still the bill and this heinous mandate become law, there is yet further reaction required.  I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight, to use the only weapon that will be left to us if this bill becomes law.  We must not buy federally mandated insurance if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy.

No single payer?  No sale.  No public option?  No sale.  No Medicare buy-in?  No sale.  I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice.  And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health care reform.  Pass this at your peril, Senators, and sign it at yours, Mr. President.  I will not buy this insurance.  Brand me a lawbreaker, if you choose.  Fine me, if you will.  Jail me, if you must.

But if the Medicare Buy-In goes, but the Mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and so sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated, ugly version of their dream, because those elected by us to act for us have forgotten what must be the golden rule of health care reform.  It is the same one to which physicians are bound by oath: First do no harm.

Good night and good luck. 

Now here is my very dear friend Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 



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