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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, December 21st, 2009

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Natalie Morales, Rep. Maxine Waters, Markos Moulitsas, Chris Hayes, Margaret




LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The Christmas miracle in the Senate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The motion is agreed to.


O‘DONNELL:  Road block after road block, Harry Reid finally finds 60 votes to keep health care reform alive.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The United States Senate knocked down a filibuster aimed at blocking a final vote on health care reform and scored a big victory for the American people.


O‘DONNELL:  Will Republicans keep the obstruction up all week and force a Christmas Eve vote?  And into the New Year, how will the Democratic coalition hold together as the House and Senate reconcile the bills?

Our guests tonight: Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Markos Moulitsas.

The GOP reaching all new lows and all new highs in the health care fight.


SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can‘t make the vote tonight.  That‘s what they ought to pray.


O‘DONNELL:  Seriously?  The power of prayer to wish someone harm? 

This as Republicans turn 2009 into the year of just saying “no.”

And the year in lies.





O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll bring you the latest political lie of the year. 

Here‘s a hint: It wasn‘t Joe Wilson‘s.

And from going bust.


SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  That‘s the quitter‘s way out.


O‘DONNELL:  . to going rogue.


PALIN:  Bingo.  You can‘t shut off my mike.  No, no, no.


O‘DONNELL:  COUNTDOWN‘s very special tribute to the year of Sarah.


KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST:  The governor of Alaska is a delusional lunatic.


O‘DONNELL:  And the latest sign D.C. is broken: a snowball fight breaks out and someone pulls a handgun.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Throw another snowball.



O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

Senate Republicans said today they will continue to fight every step of the way against the health care reform bill now making its way toward final passage on Christmas Eve.

But in our fifth story tonight, the vote after 1:00 a.m. today showed that Republicans have very little to say about anything else but the timing.

Senate Democrats had a zero margin for error, voting 60-40 for the first of several procedural votes leading up to final passage.  This vote, the first key test vote, getting the entire Democratic Caucus onboard indicating support is now there to pass the entire package through the Senate.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, reveling in his stunning tactical victory, embraced the charge made by Republicans in the minutes before the vote.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV), MAJORITY LEADER:  My friend, the Republican leader, said, it‘s going to reshape our nation.  That‘s why we‘re doing it, Mr. President.  That‘s why we‘re doing this.  We want to reshape the health care delivery system in our country.

Is it right that America has 750,000 bankruptcies a year?  About 80 percent of them are caused by health care costs?  Sixty-two percent of the people that have filed bankruptcy because of medical costs have health insurance?

We are reshaping the nation.  That‘s what we want to do.


O‘DONNELL:  This morning, President Obama embraced the bill, itself, and though the bill was held up by conservative Democratic holdouts, President Obama took aim at Republicans.


OBAMA:  I want to say a brief word about the historic vote which took place early this morning.  The United States Senate knocked down a filibuster aimed at blocking a final vote on health care reform and scored a big victory for the American people.  By standing up to the special interests, who prevented reform for decades and who are furiously lobbying against it now, the Senate has moved us closer to reform that makes a tremendous difference for families, for seniors, for businesses, and for the country as a whole.


O‘DONNELL:  Specifically, the bill is designed to bring 15 million people into Medicaid and another 15 million plus onto private plans, but would leave at least another 15 million with no health insurance at all.  It would provide $10 billion for community health centers, end annual and lifetime caps on what insurance will cover, and denial of coverage for those with preexisting conditions and prevent companies from cutting people who develop costly health conditions, and require insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their revenue on actual health care.

In what some have interpreted as a direct shot at House Republican Leader John Boehner, the bill relies now on a tanning booth tax rather than a tax on cosmetic surgery.

But companies could still charge older people up to three times the rates for younger people.  Americans would still pay up to 8 percent of their income for insurance, and possibly much more for actual health care or face a tax of up to 2 percent.

And while the federal government would enforce that law, many of the insurance company rules, like not cutting sick people, would be enforced by the states, in theory.

“The Hill” newspaper reports President Obama will try to get the House and Senate negotiators to come up with an actual final bill to add something new, that‘s letting people buy cheaper drugs from outside the country.  What else might change remains to be seen.

Let‘s bring in Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat of California.

Thanks very much for your time tonight, Congresswoman.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA:  You‘re welcome.  Delighted to be here.

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Ben Nelson got some very high priced concessions on the way to that final vote locking things up for Harry Reid.  He also said that he will not allow any changes in this bill when it goes to the House, when it goes to conference for the House.  If it comes back with any changes it will lose Senator Nelson‘s vote and thereby not be able to pass the Senate.

So, if you are from the conference, if you are in effect presented with the Senate bill, will you vote for it?

WATERS:  I have to know what‘s in that bill.  As you know, there have been a lot of changes from what we set from the House.  Aside from the Louisiana Purchase and the Nelson bill that—where he got, I guess, Medicaid in perpetuity, I don‘t know what‘s in the bill.

I‘m hopeful that I can vote for the bill, but you know I‘m one of those who was strong on public option and we had given up on single-payer compromise on public option, and then they said they wanted to move to expansion of Medicare.  And we thought, well, perhaps we‘ll have to go along with that.  But now that that‘s stripped out of the bill, I really have to se this bill to know what‘s in it.

O‘DONNELL:  The bill that you voted for is paid for with a tax on millionaires, a tax on individual incomes above $500,000, and joint filers, couples over $1 million dollars.  The Senate bill is paid for primarily with a tax on union health care plans.

Can you vote for the tax on union health care plans?

WATERS:  I don‘t know if I can or not.  Again, I want to see what‘s in this bill.  I want to understand what they were trying to do.  It does not sound like it‘s something I‘m going to be very happy with, but we‘ll see.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, that sounds like you can vote for a tax on union health care plans.  What about Medicaid?

WATERS:  Well, I‘m not sure.


WATERS:  What about what?

O‘DONNELL:  What about Medicaid?  You saw the state of Nebraska was—got its Medicaid—you know there is an expansion of Medicaid in this bill as there is in the House bill, and the expansion of Medicaid now in the state of Nebraska will be paid for fully, 100 percent, by the United States government instead of shared by the federal government and by the state of Nebraska.

What about California?  Should California demand now?  Will you demand for California that 100 percent of its Medicaid expenditures are covered by the federal government?

WATERS:  Well, when we se a senator like Senator Nelson hold up a bill and able to cut that kind of deal, it certainly makes us think that maybe we should be fighting harder, also, for our states.  Of course, we would like not to have the states have to pay their share of Medicaid.  Of course, we are in deficit here.  Many states are.

Now, he‘s got a special deal and some of us are not going to like that very much.

O‘DONNELL:  It turns out a lot of what Democratic senators and members of Congress have been saying all year has turned out not to be true.  There have been many, many promises that there would be a public option in this bill.  Nancy Pelosi promised a public option.  Obviously, the Congress is moving away from that.

Are you prepared to say tonight that there will be a public option in the final bill if the House can, in any way, get a public option in there and then somehow get it past the Senate?

WATERS: Well, I‘ll tell you—a lot of us will be fighting and encouraging our conferees to hold tight for a public option.  We have not given up on that.  That‘s extremely important to a lot of people, not just Democrats, but I mean Americans throughout this country.  They know that without public option there will be no competition.

We‘re going to turn over 30 million people to the insurance industry to increase their premiums and co-pays and deductibles?  I don‘t think that we‘re going to be too happy with that, and we‘ll have to fight as hard as we possibly can to get that public option.  Without it, some of us are going to have to not vote for the bill.

O‘DONNELL:  But—so that would mean, if the House held to their position on public option, that means this bill would die in the conference, correct?

WATERS:  Oh, absolutely.  If we held to our position, it would certainly die in conference.

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California—thanks very much for your time tonight.

WATERS:  You‘re welcome.

O‘DONNELL:  Also joining us tonight is Markos Moulitsas, creator of the DailyKos blog and author of “Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in the Digital Era.”

Good evening, Markos.

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILYKOS.COM:  Good evening, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Markos, the Senate bill, I think, to no surprise at this point, has no public option in it but it does have state-based exchanges and states policing of the insurance companies.  If that‘s the arrangement that emerges from the final conference version of this bill, should that bill get support by liberals?

MOULITSAS:  Well, you know, I‘ve been saying that this bill is not health care reform.  It‘s definitely not reform.  What it does is allows more people to buy into the existing, broken system.  And there are a lot of people who need insurance, but what‘s happening is that even people with insurance cannot afford health care because of the co-pays and high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

So, I‘d like to see something being done to address the cost side of the equation.  I mean, you have the federal government now on the bill, on the tab for the insurance of 15 million people.  You have a middle-class that‘s not going to get much relief in this bill, continuing to pay these out-of-control health care costs.  So, we need to see more work done on the cost side.

Now, I‘m really encouraged by the notion that maybe Obama now thinks it‘s OK to allow cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada.  That‘s a huge first step, because I think the insurance companies have gotten a lot of the venom, but also a lot of the reason for the high cost is the drug companies and also the health care providers.

So, at worst, this could be a first step towards full health care reform, not just increasing access to insurance.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, the biggest cost-containment measure in the Senate bill is the tax on union health care plans, which the CBO, in its analysis, says will force those health care plans to cut benefits.  That‘s the method that the Senate bill is using to contain costs, forcing a cut in benefits through a 40 percent tax, a confiscatory tax in effect, on these health care plans.  That‘s one of the issues that has been listed as a reason to oppose this bill by liberals online in certain places.

Is that something that you could support?  Obviously, I‘m getting the feeling the House of Representatives now is going to flip-flop on this completely, based on what I just heard from Congresswoman Waters.  They‘re going to vote for that thing.

MOULITSAS:  I think it‘s unconscionable, because a lot of the people who enjoy this kind of plans are blue-collar workers who are in high-risk fields, like police, firemen, or are blue-collar people who have given concessions—union workers—who have been given concessions on wages in order to keep good benefits.

Now, if anybody thinks that concessions on the benefits are somehow going to lead to higher wages, it‘s high (ph), because that‘s not the way the business world works.  People have negotiated those.

Now, if you create a cap, let‘s say everybody making over $125,000 or $100,000 with a so-called “Cadillac” insurance plan, if they get taxed, I‘m less concerned about that.  But when you‘re talking about blue-collar, working-class people being penalized for having good benefits, when their wages have sure not been increasing in recent years, I think that‘s unconscionable.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, it is one of the reasons, along with several others, that Firedoglake lists in their top 10 reasons to kill the bill.

What‘s going on in the liberal blogosphere?  Is this, in effect, stunting in the sense that they‘re trying to continue to push the bill in what will be conference now in a liberal direction?  Or do they really mean, “Kill this bill if it has these elements in it”?

O‘DONNELL:  I think it means improve—improve the bill.  We‘re not done fighting.

I have to say there is a fairly big split in the progressive, online community, between those who just want to take a deal, anything, and move on to the next big issue, and those of us who haven‘t quit fighting.  I have to say, the reason Obama that is now talking about drug re-importation, cheaper drugs from overseas, is because we are continuing to fight.

If you laid down arms, you know what?  The Ben Nelsons and Joe Liebermans, they keep extracting concessions.  We cannot, at any point, lay down our guns and stop fighting.

Once we have a final bill, and things are set in stone, then we can

re-examine that bill.  But right now, things can still change.  To stop

fighting for that change, to me, is patently ridiculous.

Any positive change from here on out is going to be because we keep pushing from the left not because we say, “Good enough.  Let‘s pass it.”

O‘DONNELL:  Markos Moulitsas of the DailyKos, the DailyKos never stops fighting.  Thanks very much for your time tonight.

MOULITSAS:  Thank you very much.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: In keeping with the spirit of the season, Republican Senator Tom Coburn asks Americans to pray—pray for what exactly isn‘t clear, but some senators believed he was hoping for divine intervention to harm a Democrat—any Democrat in the Senate that is.

And only Sarah Palin can say she is embarking on a national bus tour then use a private jet and still insist it‘s a bus tour.  The amazing year in Sarah Palin news—ahead on COUNTDOWN.


O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: The broken ways of the Senate.  The GOP, as the minority party, is offering no ideas and instead blocking bills in record numbers.  One senator even stooped so low as to pray something bad happens to a Democrat.

That and the top lie of 2009 -- that‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.


O‘DONNELL:  Republicans had already called for a public prayer for the defeat of the health care reform bill, but once the Democratic Caucus had secured its 60 votes, one Republican called for another prayer, this one with a bit more specificity.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: the laughable desperate hours of the United States Senate.

The first important procedural vote had to be scheduled at 1:00 in the morning as opposed to a more sane hour because of Republican delay, but since Senator Robert Byrd, at 82, is in poor health, and since the GOP knew the Democrats had their 60 votes, at least three Republicans had signaled an interest in voting for cloture simply as a proxy for Senator Byrd‘s vote so the longest-serving senator in history would not have to go to work in the middle of the night.  But those Republican votes never materialized.

Meantime, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma went to the Senate floor at 4:00 p.m. yesterday and proposed a very special prayer.


COBURN:  So, it‘s not being bipartisan.  It‘s about—you got to take this or leave it.  What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can‘t make the vote tonight.  That‘s what they ought to pray.


O‘DONNELL:  A stunned Democratic Senator Dick Durbin soon responded.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  I have been trying to reach Senator Coburn because he is on a committee that I serve on and I work with him.  This statement troubles me and I‘m trying to reach him to come back to the floor and explain exactly what he meant about a senator being unable to make the vote tonight.  I don‘t know if the senator from Ohio is familiar with the statement but I‘m reaching out to Senator Coburn.  I‘ll be on the floor in the next 45 minutes, and I hope that he will join me there.


O‘DONNELL:  Senator Durbin later added, quote, “When it reaches a point where we‘re praying, asking people to pray that senators wouldn‘t be able to answer the roll call, I think it has crossed the line.”

We may never know whether Senator Coburn was referring to Senator Byrd who is 92.  I believe I just said he was 82 -- 92.  But once again, prayer didn‘t work and all 60 members of the Democratic Caucus showed up, including Senator Byrd, who voted a little after 1:18 a.m., defiantly and happily.

And always at hand to offer a bit of hyperbole, there was Senator John McCain, who again complained that Republicans were never brought into negotiations on health care reform and that under President Obama, the political climate is the most partisan since President Clinton.

But Republican Senator Olympia Snowe disagrees, saying, quote, “The president, you know, and I have worked together on this issue and I applaud him for, you know, his knowledge, his grasp of the issue.”

Let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  How are you doing, Lawrence?

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, the workings of the Senate frequently get messy.  But how does this battle look to the viewing public?  Which party looks worse at this point?

HAYES:  Well, I think the public is probably experiencing some general fatigue.  I mean, I think one of the crucial questions here is whether the United States federal government is capable of actually doing anything other than starting wars and bailing out banks.  And I think that the blame that‘s leveled by the public at this point is probably more towards the institution itself than either particular party.

That said, when you look at the polling and you ask people specifically, who do you think is more obstructionist, who has reached out the more, they say Democrats are reaching out and Republicans aren‘t.  But I‘m not quite sure what all the polling will add up to come Election Day in the fall.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Senator Coburn besides that call to prayer also said that because of this health care bill, Medicare recipients are, quote, “going to die sooner.”  Now, was it inevitable that death would be as much used and often misused tactic in this health care debate?  Because it really is in essence a piece of legislation that is about life and death.

HAYES:  Yes.  I think that‘s astute.  I mean, I think that part of the reason that—part of the reason that it‘s been so difficult to reform the health care system in this country for 100 years is the fact that those who stand in the way of reform have this weapon they can use, which is this very visceral, intense fear that people have about the integrity of their own bodies, about their security, about mortality, and all of those entering to the mix.  We saw it with the death panels in August and we‘re seeing it now.  And I think it was in some ways unavoidable that the rhetoric would reach that pitch.

O‘DONNELL:  You know, as for this partisanship line of John McCain‘s, it‘s getting harder and harder to take him seriously.  I think his memory is getting weaker and weaker.  As tense as the relations are between the parties right now in the Senate and the House, there are plenty of other periods where things were this bad or worse.

HAYES:  That‘s exactly right.  We tend to always think in very ahistorical terms about the viciousness of our current polarized politics, and it‘s true, politics have grown more polarized in say the last three decades.  But there‘s have been other periods in American political history, the election of 1800, in which, you know, opponents were writing about Thomas Jefferson‘s dalliances with Sally Hemings and so forth that were incredibly, incredibly intense and partisan.

And I think the other thing that has to be stressed here is that the institutional breakdown of the Senate because of the filibuster becoming a de facto super-majority requirement lies at the heart of a lot of this.  I mean, the Senate is a barely functioning body at this point, and that—that is creating the kind of gravity that you‘re seeing that‘s making any kind of legislative accomplishment so difficult to get through.

O‘DONNELL:  And the president seems to be getting absolutely no thanks from either side on his moves toward bipartisanship this year.  He clearly wanted a bipartisan health care bill when this crusade started and most of the way through it.  But now, you have criticism from the left saying he tried to compromise too much with Republicans, and Republicans saying, “He never tried to compromise with us at all.”

Who‘s going to win that argument?

HAYES:  Well, I think the truth is on the side of the Democrats, certainly, and on the side of the left.  I mean, there‘s no question that this White House did everything possible to reach out to Republicans, time and time again, despite the fact that people were saying there‘s no—there‘s nothing to be gained there.  They‘re not going to listen to you.

You had the long, extended negotiations with the “group of six” and Senator Max Baucus‘ finance committee trying to hammer out a bipartisan deal.  And yet nothing—nothing to show for it.

I think the public—you know, they may blame Republicans more, and I think they probably will, but I also think that the Republicans are right that politicians aren‘t punished for a lack of bipartisanship on Election Day.  It‘s going to be much more substantive issues.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—great thanks.

HAYES:  Thank you.

O‘DONNELL:  Even the massive winter storm showed the lack of civility in our nation‘s capital.  A snowball fight breaks out and someone has to pull a handgun.

Later, the “Thrilla from Wasilla”—she was picking fights everywhere she looked this year, from David Letterman to Levi Johnston.  We‘ll have a sneak peek at COUNTDOWN‘s 2009 whack job jamboree.


O‘DONNELL:  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN: It should have been a moment of fun and games.  After a mammoth snowstorm passed through Washington, D.C., this weekend, a sizable snowball fight was organized and it was all proceeding normally until someone took it a bit too personally and that someone had a gun.  Raising the question: who brings a gun to a snowball fight?

Our correspondent is NBC‘s Natalie Morales.


CROWD:  You don‘t bring a gun to a snowball fight.

NATALIE MORALES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  “Don‘t bring a gun to a snowball fight” was the chant from hundreds of young adults at a snowball fight gone terribly wrong. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Throw another snowball.  Throw another snowball. 

MORALES: After a snowball slammed this red Hummer, the man inside got out and, as you can see, drew a gun. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At first it was unclear that he was affiliated with law enforcement at all.  So people were just kind of confused and said, he‘s got a gun.  He‘s got a gun.  And people started freaking out. 

MORALES: Tensions flared in the freezing temperatures, as yet another snowball pelted the man, an off duty detective, in the face.  Uniformed officers soon arrived on the scene. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A uniformed police officer came on to the scene and he also had his gun drawn, because he had gotten reports that there was a man there with—you know, an armed man, and he didn‘t realize that it was a plain-clothes detective. 

MORALES: Once police realized it was one of their own with the gun, they put their own guns away.  While no shots were fired, strong words were exchanged between the detective and the crowd. 

The incident, all captured on tape by Reason TV, which was on the scene because there had been a viral call to action on the Internet for a good old fashioned snowball fight, a snowball fight that is now drawing a crowd on the Internet, because it clearly got out of hand. 


O‘DONNELL:  Natalie Morales reporting. 

Coming up, Orly Taitz was the driving force behind the birther moment and the people who insisted Barack Obama was not born in the United States.  Find out if she got top honors in the race for the lie of the year. 

And later, the writers of “Saturday Night Live” look into their crystal ball with Sarah Palin as the president elect.  That and all your Palin 2009 headlines ahead on COUNTDOWN.


O‘DONNELL:  Two words turned the health care debate on its head this summer.  Now those words have earned their rightful place in history.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, and the lie of the year goes to Sarah Palin‘s unforgettable phrase: “death panel.”

“Politi-Fact, the truth squadding website of the “St. Petersburg Times” naming Sarah Palin‘s death panel whopper the lie of the year.  Palin posted the myth about government-run end of life care on Facebook back in August.  “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with down‘s syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama‘s death panel, so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgement of their level of productivity in society, whether they are worthy of health care.” 

One problem; none of the reform bills included the kind of rationed care Palin warned of.  The death panel lie beat a slew of other tall tales.  Runners up included birther queen Orly Taitz claiming she found a birth certificate proving President Obama was born in Kenya, Congressman Joe Wilson shouting “you lie” in response to the president‘s assertion that health care reform would not insure illegal immigrants, and Glenn Beck claiming Obama‘s top science advisor has proposed forcing abortions, and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population. 

But it was Palin‘s death panel lie that really stuck.  Politi-Fact reporting that the term was mentioned in news reports 6,000 times in August and September.  Playing his part, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa—he took the death panel meme and turned it up to 11. 


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  We should not have a government program that determines if you‘re going to pull the plug on grandma. 


O‘DONNELL:  Time now to call in Margaret Carlson, political columnist with “Bloomberg News” and the Washington editor of “The Week” magazine.  Good evening, Margaret.


O‘DONNELL:  Margaret, how does Sarah Palin manage to spin her way out of this one?  Being associated with the lie of the year is normally a problem for any politician‘s resume, isn‘t it? 

CARLSON:  Well, there were so many lies this year, and so little time on the show to do them all justice.  But here‘s how she tried: she tried when her book was coming out—which by the way had its own series of falsehoods—to say that she was like Ronald Reagan in using death panels, because he used the term “evil empire” and it was nowhere on the map.  Therefore, her use of death panels was not a real lie, and she used it in the same context as her beloved Ronald Reagan. 

I don‘t know that anyone really believed it, but that‘s what she tried to do.  You know, the other lies you mentioned didn‘t quite get the grip on a political discussion that this one did, with like 40 percent of Republicans at one time thinking there were death panels. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, what about Palin‘s fans?  I mean, don‘t they believe this death panel thing?  And how—or does this—will this suddenly convince them that Sarah Palin was lying about death panels? 

CARLSON:  No.  Her fans believe whatever she says.  And they never give up on it.  It‘s like that saying where a lie gets around the world before the truth catches up.  That little asterisk that she put beside death panels, I don‘t believe caught up with anybody, nor was it a full blown apology for it. 

We live in a time when, you know, politicians are not just entitled to their own opinions.  They‘re entitled to their own facts.  And we live in this world.  It‘s one reason why there was so much confusion about the health care bill, which, granted, was a huge pile of amendments. 

O‘DONNELL:  Careful, Margaret, careful. 

CARLSON:  -- and earmarks.  I know.  Thank you, Lawrence.  In the Christmas spirit, you helped me out there.  But we were all confused.  And so the idea that you want to add confusion, as a public figure, it‘s unconscionable in the end.  Bob Dole never did that.  You know, even Everett Dirksen, who was very partisan, didn‘t do that.  Republicans of old didn‘t do it. 

O‘DONNELL:  We mentioned some of the runners up on the list.  It‘s a bipartisan list.  It includes Joe Biden for saying when one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft.  Joe Biden is always very quick to correct these kinds of stretches in his comments.  But with Sarah Palin, it seems that loving her means she never has to say she‘s sorry. 

CARLSON:  Yeah.  You know, Joe Biden did a public service in that we all started doing the Count Dracula cough, with our capes drawn up around our faces.  He also said, don‘t get on Amtrak.  But he took—you know, he sort of amended that, so that we did get on Amtrak. 

Sarah Palin is Teflon when it comes to her base, which you can see by the sales of her book, which I think are over five million now.  They are ardent.  They will put down their 25 dollars.  There is nothing she can do, and no amount of catching up with what she says on the part of media or her political opponents that‘s going to change that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg News” and “The Week” magazine, thanks for your time tonight. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Lawrence. >

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, Sarah Palin had more time to misrepresent the truth after she quit her day job, of course.  Tonight, COUNTDOWN‘s very special tribute to the year in Sarah Palin. 

O‘DONNELL:  And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Thomas Friedman, on all the big issue items facing the Obama White House.


O‘DONNELL:  In 2009, Sarah Palin quit her job, picked a fight with a late night talk show host, and fibbed everywhere from her Facebook page to her “Going Rogue” book tour.  In our number one story, there is no chance the 2009 COUNTDOWN Whack Job Jamboree could ignore the contribution of Sarah Palin this year.  That full hour broadcast premieres the Tuesday after Christmas. 

Tonight, a sneak preview.  We give you the year in Sarah Palin, through the eyes of COUNTDOWN.  And it all begins with her dust up with David Letterman. 


DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  Top ten highlights now; Sarah Palin‘s trip to New York. 

Number two, bought makeup at Bloomingdales to update her slutty flight attendant look. 

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Don‘t disparage flight attendants.  They work hard.  We love them. 

LETTERMAN:  One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the 7th inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez. 

PALIN:  That‘s pretty pathetic, good old David Letterman. 

OLBERMANN:  Our number one story tonight, David Letterman has now admitted to being guilty of poor taste. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes, maybe these are questionable because the girl who actually—excuse me—but was knocked up is now 18 years old.  Am I guilty of poor taste?  Yes.  Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex?  No. 

OLBERMANN:  If you thought last night‘s apology from David Letterman to the Palin family would be the end of it, you don‘t know the Palin family. 

PALIN:  Then I found out later that the comment that was made about statutory rape of my 14-year-old daughter, Willow, knowing that crossed the line -- 

OLBERMANN:  Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska returning to national television to exploit her own daughters. 

PALIN:  You and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman‘s the other day.  He took a couple days for him to think of that excuse. 

OLBERMANN:  If by a couple days, Governor Palin means three and a half hours. 

PALIN:  No, he wasn‘t talking about my daughter who was there with me at the game, the 14-year-old.  He was talking about some other daughter. 

OLBERMANN:  The governor of Alaska is a delusional lunatic. 

PALIN:  It‘s kind of OK, accepted, and funny to talk about statutory rape?  It‘s not cool.  It‘s not funny. 

LETTERMAN:  I think everything is fine now.  I think everything is going to be great because she called today and invited to take me hunting. 

OLBERMANN:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  So breathless it takes your breath away.  Why the future ex-governor of Alaska, the panic of hyperventilation enveloping her every word, quits while insulting quitters. 

LETTERMAN:  Something I said?  ]

OLBERMANN:  There had perhaps not been such a combination of terror, panic, urgency and hyperventilation in a political speech in this country since the famous “You Won‘t Have Dick Nixon to Kick Around” address from November 1962.  Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, if that one is still resonating nearly 47 years later, of course Sarah Palin‘s bizarre resignation speech on the Friday of the 4th of July weekend, the ultimate bad news dump day, would still echo. 

And one question reverberates across the land.  What the hell was that about? 

PALIN:  Over the past nine months, I‘ve been accused of all sorts of frivolous ethics violations, such as holding a fish in a photograph or wearing a jacket with a logo on it.  Todd and I, we‘re looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills just in order to set the record straight. 

OLBERMANN:  Record purportedly straightened, let the dead fish analogies commence. 

PALIN:  It would be apathetic to just kind of hunker down and go with the flow.  We‘re fishermen.  We know that only dead fish go with the flow. 

OLBERMANN:  In case you were wondering, leaving office before one‘s term has expired would not be the same thing as quitting. 

PALIN:  And though it may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down and plod along and appease those who are demanding, hey, just sit down and shut up—but that‘s a worthless, easy path out.  That‘s the quitter‘s way out. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  Winners never quit—I mean, quitters never—never—quitters—we rejoin Governor Palin already in progress. 

PALIN:  Many just accept that lame duck status and they hit the road.  They draw a paycheck.  They kind of milk it.  And I‘m not going to put Alaskans through that.  I promised efficiencies and effectiveness.  That‘s now how I‘m wired.  I‘m not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.  I promised that four years ago and I meant it. 

OLBERMANN:  If by four years ago, you mean two and a half years ago. 

What‘s 16 months or so when you‘ve been sworn to support and defend?  Perhaps it‘s better that Governor Palin was point guard on her high school basketball team instead of say score-keeper.  Her nickname had been Sarah Barracuda. 

PALIN:  You are naive if you don‘t see a full court press from the national level picking away right now a good point guard.  Here‘s what she does.  She drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up, because she needs to keep her eye on the basket.  And she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. 

And it hurts to make this choice, but I‘m doing what‘s best for Alaska.  And I have explained why.  Though I think of the saying on my parents‘ refrigerator, a little magnet that says “don‘t explain; your friends don‘t need it and your enemies won‘t believe you anyway.”  But I‘ve given my reasons. 

OLBERMANN:  Reasons?  She gave reasons somewhere in there? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You haven‘t finished the job some would say. 

PALIN:  You‘re not listening to me as to why I wouldn‘t be able to finish that final year in office. 

OLBERMANN:  Governor Sarah Palin is still resigned, and she still hates the main stream media so much, and her message is so impeded by its bias that, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, she invited reporters from the major networks, the definition of the main stream media, to join her at her family‘s private fishing grounds so she could talk about it again. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Some people have said that you saw the bright lights from the national campaign and came back and it was very hard to readjust to the nitty gritty work—

PALIN:  The nitty gritty, like you mean like the fish slime and the dirt under the fingernails and stuff? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, Juneau, the state capital, the hard legislative slog. 

PALIN:  No.  That‘s not—I—I am a fighter.  I thrive on challenge. 

OLBERMANN:  Except for when she does not fight and quits the job to which she has been elected. 

As for her future in elected office, Governor Palin telling ABC News, quote, “politically speaking, if I die, I die.  So be it. 

OPRAH WINFREY, “OPRAH”:  Even after finishing the book, I still don‘t know why you stepped down. 

OLBERMANN:  Never mind that her guy wiped the floor with you and your guy in the election last year in the election last year.  If you want to move product, you go on “Oprah.”

PALIN:  Bingo.  I didn‘t blink.  You can‘t shut off my mike.  Thanks to God and Todd. 

We‘re giddy happy.

No, no, no. 

There it is. 

Right on. 

Right on. 

I‘m a lover of books. 

Are you kidding me? 

I call that 24/7. 

She‘s not retreating.  She‘s reloading. 

That was false. 

You went rogue on us, Sarah. 

WINFREY:  Let‘ talk about the interview with Kate Couric. 

PALIN:  Must we? 

OLBERMANN:  Discussing the interview that changed everything, Sarah Palin writes in “Going Rogue” that all she wanted at that time was a minute to breathe and drink an icy Diet Dr. Pepper.  But that darned Katie Couric. 

PALIN:  And there‘s the perky one again. 

OLBERMANN:  Always bringing people down with pesky questions about books and newspapers and stuff other than Dr. Pepper. 

PALIN:  This is our first stop on the campaign trail. 

OLBERMANN:  The “Going Rogue” book tour bulldozing its way through Indiana.  This afternoon at a Ft. Wayne store and at a Borders Bookstore outside Indianapolis this evening.  Publishing industry rumors, first week sales more than half a million. No idea if any were not at these 50% to 75% discounts. 

LETTERMAN:  She was at Barnes & Noble today and actually had to take a break because she got a cramp in her wink. 

OLBERMANN:  Our number one story, the staff of Senator John McCain‘s presidential campaign has responded to Sarah Palin‘s book with Sarah Palin is a liar. 

PALIN:  I didn‘t know we pulled out of Michigan. 

OLBERMANN:  Surprise.  That‘s not what she told the reporter who asked her about Michigan. 

PALIN:  Well, that‘s not a surprise, because, you know, the polls are showing we‘re not doing as well there, evidently, as we would like to. 

OLBERMANN:  The Sarah Palin dishonesty tracking center working overtime.  Is that Andrew Sullivan next to the guys from the Associated Press back there? 

PALIN:  She is saying, I can see Russia from my house, pretending she was me. 

TINA FEY, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”:  And I can see Russia from my house. 

PALIN:  Of course I‘ve never said that. 

OLBERMANN:  You did say such a thing.  In fact, you said something far worse. 

PALIN:  And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska. 

OLBERMANN:  Saying straight faced that seeing Russia from your state made you qualified to deal with Russia‘s invasion of Georgia, which is nowhere near Alaska. 

PALIN:  They‘re our next door neighbors. 

OLBERMANN:  Steve Schmidt said months ago, if she were the Republican nominee, 2012 would be a, quote, “catastrophic election.”  “Saturday Night Live” decided to illustrate the motion picture possibilities of Mr.  Schmidt‘s remark.  Sarapocolypse Now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Good evening from capitol hill. 

What a day this has been.  The nation has a new president. 


PALIN:  People are scared. 

I don‘t know what I‘m going to be doing in 2012. 

As for my running mate, it was an honor to stand beside a true American hero. 

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I‘m sorry.  I‘m just a guy who cares an awful lot about my country. 


PALIN:  Thanks but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere.

OLBERMANN:  See, but that‘s not how I imagine it.  In my imagination it‘s really bad. 


O‘DONNELL:  Will Sarah Palin be named the whackiest whack job of the year?  COUNTDOWN‘s 2009 Whack Job Jamboree debuts next Tuesday, December 29th at 8:00 pm Eastern. 

That will do it for this Monday edition of “COUNTDOWN.”  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is up next. 



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