Guests: Ezra Klein, Dan Savage.
HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
On the eve of the health care summit: the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Make no mistake about it. Every
single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the insurance industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Congressman Anthony Weiner forced to withdraw his remarks
from the record by the GOP, giving him the opportunity to repeat them in a
slightly different form.
The Republicans—Boehner talks of plans to “crash the party” and
“interrupt the infomercial.” And to try to get everybody to dial 1-800-
BRONZER instead, John?
And the insurance companies—double-digit increases, implemented or
pending in 11 states now, served by or enslaved by WellPoint Blue Cross.
And the president on the eve? High hopes. He‘s got high hopes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look forward to a
good exchange of ideas at the Blair House with some of the legislative
leaders. And I hope everyone comes with a shared desire to solve this
challenge. Not to score political points.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The next fight: the Senate majority leader walks out of
the meeting with Boeing-sized big businesses after they claim they are the
ones who create the jobs at the small businesses.
Newt Gingrich defines socialism as “big government: Government is
smart. You‘re stupid. Government should decide everything.”
So a government that decides everything and lies to you because you‘re
too stupid to let it go to war in Iraq, that‘s socialist? Newt Gingrich
just called George Bush a socialist?
The newest political science from a beauty queen. A contestant
seeking to succeed Carrie Prejean says some of her friends are gay, but,
quote, “the Bible is pretty black and white.” They‘re supposed to be put
And on the eve of the health care reform summit, a “Special Comment”:
a message to all those who enter tomorrow, from my father.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Heading into tomorrow‘s purportedly bipartisan health care summit,
only one plan is acceptable to the Republicans: scrapping reform and, so
they claim, starting over.
Yet on the floor of the House this afternoon, during a debate over a
planned vote to revoke the insurance cartel‘s anti-trust exemption, when
Democrat Anthony Weiner of New York declared that the Republican party is a
wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry, an offended Republican
invoked a rule that Mr. Weiner may automatically chastise and officially
chastise for his remarks.
Well, Mr. Weiner consented to withdraw his words and substitute other
words. The same Republican, Dan Lungren of California, objected to that,
too—in effect, obstructing his own effort to chastise the Democrat for
calling out the GOP on its obstructionism.
Congressman‘s Weiner unacceptable outburst of truth in a moment.
And good luck achieving bipartisanship tomorrow, Mr. President.
New details emerging about what it took to get Republicans to the
table and about the table itself. At tomorrow‘s summit showdown at Blair
House, across the street from the White House, “Politico” reporting that
the opposition‘s first demand was that the president not use a podium,
quote, “We don‘t want anymore of that Professor Obama lecturing to us
stuff,” an anonymous staffer telling the Web site.
You will recall that the last people to argue with a president of the
United States over the shape of a negotiating table were the North
The official White House schedule of event is showing that indeed
participants will be seated at tables at a hollow square setup.
The president is happy they‘re coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And tomorrow, I look forward to a good exchange of ideas at
the Blair House with some of the legislative leaders. And I hope everyone
comes with a shared desire to solve this challenge, not to score political
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Minority Whip Boehner telling members of his own
conference that he‘s going to crash the meeting to which he was invited.
An aide familiar with his remarks telling “The Hill” newspaper that Mr.
Boehner said, quote, “We shouldn‘t let the White House have a six-hour
taxpayer-funded infomercial on Obamacare,” as he calls it. “We need to
show up. We need to crash the party.”
Invited but not crashing, the Democrat Jay Rockefeller of the Senate
today is clarifying his opposition to passing the public option by
reconciliation, saying in a statement, in effect, that there is no use in
trying. Senator Levin is disagreeing, still trying to becoming the 24th
Democrat and the sixth chairman to sign the letter calling for the public
option by reconciliation.
Meanwhile in the House, lawmakers demanding an explanation from
WellPoint about its plans to institute huge rate hikes, and not merely in
California, proposed 39 percent rate increase there, but at least in 10
other states where it has subsidiaries. Chairman Waxman of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee revealing that his investigators had found
internal WellPoint documents which proved the company was raising premiums
merely to pad its profits to a target of 7 percent.
Yesterday at a hearing, in California, a company executive having
testified that the company had no interest in anything other than slimmer
profits of 2 percent to 5 percent, you know, nothing at all, next to
nothing—only $2 billion to $4 billion. WellPoint‘s CEO Angela Braly
arguing that her company‘s profit margins are modest compared to other
sectors of the economy—you know, like Europe.
As we mentioned, it was against that backdrop today that the House
also began debate on whether to revoke the insurance cartel‘s anti-trust
When Republicans essentially tried to scuttle that bill with a motion
to recommit, Democrat Anthony Weiner decided he had heard enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: You know, you got to love these Republicans. I mean, you
guys have chutzpah. You—the Republican Party is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the insurance industry. That‘s the fact.
They say that—well, this isn‘t going to do enough, but when we
propose an alternative to provide competition, they‘re against it. They
say that, well, we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and
they‘ll do the job. But when we did that in our national health care bill,
they said, we‘re against it. They said they want to have competition, and
when we proposed requiring competition, the Republicans are against it.
They are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. That‘s
the fact. And now, they stand up and say that—
REP. DAN LUNGREN ®, CALIFORNIA: Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker, I ask
the gentleman‘s words be taken down.
WEINER: You really don‘t want to go here, Mr. Lungren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. Gentleman from New
York will please take a seat. The clerk will report the words. The
gentleman seeking unanimous consent to withdraw his words?
WEINER: I request unanimous consent to substitute other words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would involve a withdraw, does gentleman
WEINER: I request unanimous consent to withdraw my words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there an objection to the request?
Objection sorted. Gentleman from New York is recognized.
WEINER: Make to mistake about it—every single Republican I have
ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance
industry. That is why Americans—
LUNGREN: Mr. Speaker, I ask the gentleman‘s words be taken down once
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will suspend. The gentleman from Oregon has two
minutes and 50 seconds remaining.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A minute and a half, go for it.
WEINER: I thank you very much.
Look, the point is very simple. There are inequities in the present
way we distribute insurance, the way we distribute health care. There are
winners and there are losers. The winners are the insurance industry.
And our efforts to reel in the insurance profits, not just because
they shouldn‘t make profits, they‘re doing what they supposed to. But what
they‘re doing is driving up taxes, they‘re driving our economy into the
ground, and we need competition and choice to deal with that. That‘s what
this legislation does and the motion to recommit undermines it.
And I‘ve heard a couple of times today—well, we have an effort for
bipartisanship here. No, there is not bipartisanship on this fundamental
issue. And that is the people who sit on this side at the risk of
offending anyone generally support the idea of standing up for the American
people in their daily battles against high insurance. And the people,
generally speaking, who sit on this side of the chamber, and specifically
speaking as well in a lot of cases, simply won‘t permit that to happen and
haven‘t for a generation.
Well, that‘s going to end now. That is going end to because we are
going to have competition. We are going to make sure that there are
regulations, and we are going to make sure that the American people aren‘t
gouged. That‘s what the American people stand for.
And time and time again, people say, well, I don‘t really mind this
bill, I just want to weaken it to the point it‘s meaningless. And then I
heard my good friend from Texas say, well, this doesn‘t do anything.
But every single time we‘ve tried to do something, like a tiny sliver
of competition called the public option, said, no, we can‘t withstand
competition, we can‘t have that.
Enough of the phoniness. We are going to solve this problem, because
for years, our Republican friends have been unable to and unwilling to.
Deal with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the gentleman for those remarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The House tonight voting to repeal the insurance cartel‘s
anti-trust exemption by a vote of 406 to 19.
Time now to call in Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and
“Newsweek,” who blogs on economic and domestic policy, including,
especially, health care.
Good evening, Ezra.
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It‘s funny. There aren‘t 406 Democrats in the House.
That must have been bipartisan. Is there any chance McCarran-Ferguson
finally meets its timely death in a bipartisan way in the Senate?
KLEIN: I think it‘s going to go through. I think you saw Reid‘s jobs
bill the other day, too. The Democrats are getting good at doing something
the Republicans didn‘t expect them to do, modulating their ambitions and
creating small bite-sized bills that nobody can afford to be against. They
can try to kill them procedurally so you can‘t detect their fingerprints on
the death, but they can‘t vote against them.
OLBERMANN: Here are the day‘s highlights as near as I can—I can
One, despite the 406 yay votes, the GOP tried to kill the vote, as you
said, procedurally, on the anti-trust—killing the anti-trust exemption.
Then, two, a Republican obstructed his own effort to chastise a
Democrat for calling the GOP out on obstructionism.
And three, the GOP says that heading into tomorrow‘s summit, scrapping
the current health care reform plan that was passed in different forms by
both houses is the only acceptable means of bipartisan reform.
And four, the House minority leader claims he is crashing the summit
to which he was invited.
Five, at that summit, the public option will not even be there on the
table, and it‘s a table, not a podium, because this is like trying to
resolve the Vietnam War again.
Six, the senator who wrote the public option legislation says the
Democrats should try to stop—should stop trying to pass the public
Explain to me, if you can, Ezra, why are they holding this summit
KLEIN: They‘re holding the summit because two or three weeks ago,
they needed something to do two or three weeks from then.
I mean, the summit has done one thing that‘s been very important,
Keith. It has given everybody something to focus on. Do the Republicans
come? Does Barack Obama present a bill, while Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi
have been working to get their ducks in line, working to talk about
compromises, working to figure out who goes first, how does reconciliation
And beneath all of this, you‘re hearing in “Politico” today the story
where very moderate Democrats, the Landrieus and Lincolns of the world were
saying, yes, I think maybe we need to do reconciliation. And over in the
House, you‘re getting to see it takes shape, you know, what sort of
compromise you would need.
So, the process is moving forward and the summit was a pretty good job
at getting the press to look over there for a little while.
OLBERMANN: How about reconciliation? Senator Rockefeller has claimed
that there‘s no use in trying for the public option on that. Was not the
start of this debate, as it was scaled-down from single-payer before it was
even introduced, was there not some phrase that went something like
whatever happened to the idea of not letting the perfect be the enemy of
KLEIN: Sure. I think—I‘ll give Senator Rockefeller credit on
this, though. When I‘ve talked to offices they‘re saying, yes, we‘re
signing this, but we don‘t want to do this. And Rockefeller came out and
he was at least up-front with liberals, right? He at least said, look, I‘m
with you on this, I don‘t think we get it done and I‘m not going to try.
And I think that there are a lot of offices right there that are doing
something a bit cowardly and saying, yes, sure, it‘s easier for us to say
we‘ll sign the letter than it is for us to say we won‘t, but we‘re not
going to do it and we‘re just going to give you another crushing
So, frankly, I prefer Senator Rockefeller‘s up-front approach to the
in-name only support you‘re getting from some offices right now.
OLBERMANN: And cowardice, oddly enough, takes us to Ben Nelson, who
criticized the part of the president‘s health care plan that calls for a
federal panel to monitor rate hikes. And he told “The Wall Street
Journal,” “I don‘t think there‘s a need for the federal government to step
in on this.”
The state of Nevada has already approved a 12.8 percent rate hike for
WellPoint. Ten other states are going to get theirs. How can Ben Nelson
be taken seriously?
KLEIN: Ben Nelson gets taken seriously because he is—was the 60th
and now is the 59th vote. And he‘s going to be—he‘s going to be around
as long as the math works out that much in his favor.
OLBERMANN: OK. I think he‘s Stimpy? Yes.
Connected to this, the job bills passed the Senate this morning. Big
business then had this meeting with Senate Democrats, tried to sell them on
the emphasis on small business misses the role—their conclusion was it
misses the role that big business has to play. The Boeing CEO apparently
argued that when big business does well, small business does well, creates
the jobs, the big businesses do, in the small businesses.
His argument got him a chewing out from the majority leader, Mr. Reid,
who then got up and left. That sounds an awful lot like trickle-down
economics. Was what they actually tried to sell Senate Democrats on?
KLEIN: I think they may have given it a shot. Look, I mean, what are
these meeting incentives for these constituency groups if not for them to
raise their hand and say, look, you‘ve got to give me mine, too. But I
think that, you know, Senator Reid has figured something out here, right?
Democrats have figured out a bit more populism and a bit about how to pass
a jobs bill and, you know, maybe big business will be in for it down the
But for now, what they have got is they got Republicans voting for
their initiatives on this. And big business would like to get in on the
game. But, for the moment, what‘s going to pass is what‘s good politics.
That jobs bill was very small, but when‘s the last time we were talking
about Democrats getting 70 votes on a piece of legislation?
OLBERMANN: And is that what happened there? Were there any of the
minority party who sort of voted—dare I use the word—conscience on
KLEIN: What you have there were eight—or four Republicans, I
believe—so 62 people voted for cloture on the bill, so voted to break
the filibuster. Ben Nelson voted to keep the filibuster going on the jobs
bill, incidentally. And then, when the actual bill came forward, you had
eight Republicans, some more Republicans come out for the bill.
So what you had here was a moment where you really saw clearly, there
was a difference between procedural votes and how you vote on a bill, which
Republicans have been saying over and over and over again, on health care,
is not true, that procedural votes and final votes are indistinguishable.
They‘re not. And this is one of the reason why Democrats tomorrow are
going to push very hard on reconciliation, because at this point you just
need a 51-vote process to get rid of these shenanigans.
OLBERMANN: They finally figured that out, after only a year since the
inauguration. Ezra Klein of the “Washington Post,” thank you. Ezra, have
a good night.
We‘ll have complete coverage of the Blair House Summit on a special
two hour edition of COUNTDOWN tomorrow night, replaying and analyzing
extensive portions of the dialogue, or the monologues. Chris Matthews will
be here for certain. I hope to join him. I‘ll explain that later on.
President‘s question time begins tomorrow night at 9:00 pm Eastern
If anything is to get done tomorrow, our political leaders, all of
them, will have to spend five hours doing the equivalent of holding their
breath. They‘ll have to think about other people, not their careers, not
their posturing, and they damned well better. And why you need to summon
your own life panel—life panel. Two messages from the hospital bed of
my father in tonight‘s Special Comment.
OLBERMANN: The party that claims to stand for a balanced budget
produces the most debt in the modern political era. But that contradiction
is somehow not enough. So former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defines
socialism, aiming at President Obama, but landing squarely on his
predecessor; George W. Bush was a socialist?
Professor Gingrich recently explained that President Obama is, indeed,
a socialist, quote, “in the tradition of the French socialists or the
Italian socialists or the German socialists.” Without tackling the
multiple distortions necessary to make that statement true, Gingrich
offered a simpler measure of Obama socialist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: I think he represents a strain of
left-wing, big government—government is smart, you‘re stupid.
Government should decide everything, you‘re not capable of it. But if
you‘re asking the question, does he think the overwhelming dominance should
be government? And does he think government is smarter than the rest of
us? The answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This from a man named Newt. Where to begin? The sneering
“we know better than you” attitude of the Bush/Cheney administration does
tend to leap to mind. But it was, of course, so much more than attitude,
such as President Bush‘s signature achievement, his so-called preemptive
war in Iraq, which was famously described by Chief of Staff Andrew Card as
akin to rolling out a new product. And when that war could not be sold
with marketing alone, the lying was kicked up a notch or two, you know,
because government is smart, you‘re stupid, government should decide
everything, you‘re not capable of it.
And when shock and awe did not usher in a speedy conquest, American
casualties escalated under the shockingly arrogant reign of Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld, who of all of President Bush‘s men may have most
epitomized this part of it: government is smart; you‘re stupid.
Of course, the same administration brought us torture and warrantless
wiretapping, so that even Constitution-shredding maneuvers were predicated
on the notion that a particular cluster of government men knew better.
Ah, but lets harken back to the golden years when an administrations
sold arms to Iran in direct contravention of stated US policy, and when
that president‘s subordinates came up with the genius idea to use the
secret money from those arms sales and funnel it to the Nicaraguan Contra
rebels, despite legal prohibitions. After all, it is a patriotic act when
our own government breaks the law, because government is smart, you‘re
And by the way, why don‘t conservatives pay more attention to the
words of the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower? “We must guard
against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or
unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the
disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Government is smart, you‘re stupid.
We could devote an hour to wasteful military contracts throughout the
years, but when the current Pentagon is struggling against pork barrel kind
of Congressmen to cancel further protection of C-17 transport planes, which
it already has, in surplus, and needs no more of, that pretty much says it
To be fair, Mr. Gingrich cited other items in calling Mr. Obama a
socialist, like the bank bailout, which was President Bush‘s act, and the
automotive bailout, which President Bush was pushing as his term expired,
and this health care reform thing of Obama‘s. But in the modern era, the
greatest redistribution of income, supposedly the specialty of socialists,
was in fact produced by President Reagan, redistribution from the lower and
middle classes to the upper class.
And the recent bank bailout, of course, began under President Bush.
And the biggest new entitlement since the hey-day of Social Security and
Medicare was the Medicare Prescription Drug Program from the Bush
administration, under-funded, therefore deficit financed.
But through Mr. Gingrich‘s eyes, it is President Obama who believes
that government is smart, you‘re stupid. And, of course, he believes in
the unsaid Gingrichian corollary: Gingrich is smart, you‘re too stupid to
notice that his definition of socialism defines George Bush.
Big changes to the segment formerly known as “Worst Persons in the
World” next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The new beauty queen who says, “gay people will be visited
with death ordained by god.” And my Special Comment about health care
reform and my father.
That‘s next, first, we are tonight changing the title of one of more
popular segments. The premise is the same, but since some of the people
did not get that the title was ironic, ladies and gentlemen, here are
tonight‘s inductee and the two runners up for the COUNTDOWN Hall of Shame.
The bronze to the website Media-ite. Can‘t figure out why I called
them gullible last night. They offer a few conspiracy theories about it,
never recognizing that to simply take a look at a Tea Party video and pair
it, without questioning or even checking its claim that it “highlights the
remarkable lack of diversity on MSNBC‘s lineup. Judge not, lest yeah be
judged.” Ain‘t journalism. There is not remarkable lack of diversity on
MSNBC‘s lineup. There are at least 23 minority newscasters, hosts, part
time hosts, paid contributors and correspondents from NBC on MSNBC‘s
lineup. Perhaps the reason that Media-ite took a Tea Party‘s word for it
is that this is the same site of a fired MSNBC employee, and in his attempt
to implant his bitterness towards this place, to plug or weave it into his
website, he has wigged out. He would like us to sweep his failure under
the rug, as if it were a bald-faced lie, or there will be hell to pay.
Our runner up, Lonesome Roads Beck. Critics are not happy with his
speech to CPAC last weekend, right-wing critics. Bill Bennett says Beck is
projecting his own past drug problems on to the political scene, quote,
“taken to our politics a cosmologizing of his own deficiencies. This is
not a baseless criticism. They are his own deficiencies that he keeps
publicly redounding to and analogizing to. It is wrong and he is wrong.”
Rush Limbaugh, “I would not have said that the only people who can
stop Obama should be excoriated for being just as bad.”
Mark Levin told him to “stop dividing conservatives,” and added, “I
have no idea what philosophy Glenn Beck is promoting. Neither does he.
And now Glenn is learning the problem with a movement predicated on
purity tests and purging the infidels: sooner or later, you become impure
and get purged.
But the enshrinee tonight, someone called Ann Warren (ph) of a website
called “Post Chronicle,” Who writes, “Keith Olbermann has decided to take
the easy way out of facing those he denigrates, and bagged out of a Dallas
Tea Party invitation to come and meet them. Like the school bully hiding
behind his mama‘s skirt when it‘s time to face the principal. In fact, in
his comments, he tries to evoke sympathy for himself by using his
hospitalized father as an excuse to avoid travel. He‘s been in intensive
care apparently for six months, as Olbermann claims he hasn‘t been able to
leave NYC but once in all this time.”
Ms. Warren, like Anne Coulter, you just invoked my recently deceased
mother and called my father‘s illness the easy way out and an excuse.
Who‘s the bully? But thank you for letting America know why your ilk
opposing health care reform. Check that space where your heart is supposed
to be, just there. The rest of us can see right through you to the other
side. Ann Warren, welcome to the COUNTDOWN Hall of Shame.
OLBERMANN: A Miss California USA hopeful aspires to inherit the tiara
once worn by one of her favorites, dethroned beauty queen Carrie Prejean.
But while the former Ms. California‘s narrow world view stopped at her
support for opposite marriage, the current Miss Beverly Hills cites divine
law as reasons for gays not to marry and as a reason for them to die,
although she does seem to think God takes care of that rather than people.
The city that she claims to represent has renounced her. Miss Beverly
Hills, Lauren Ashley, telling FoxNews.com‘s blog, “Pop Tarts, “the Bible
says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, if
man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have
committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their
blood shall be upon them. The Bible is pretty black and white.”
Ms. Ashley is elaborating on God‘s supposed position: “if he says that
having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon
you, that‘s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about
Ms. Ashley‘s prophesy angering, among others, the mayor of Beverly
Hills: “We are dismayed by any potential association with the city of
Beverly Hills, which has a long history of tolerance and respect. The city
maintains it does not sponsor a beauty pageant and has no association with
Miss California USA.”
While TMZ reports that pageant officials say, “contestants are allowed
to choose which areas they represent, and as long as they add the letters
USA to the end of the title, it doesn‘t have to be approved by the city.”
Adding insult to injury, a city spokesperson says Ms. Ashley is not even
from Beverly Hills. She‘s from Pasadena. Geographical differences aside,
Ms. Ashley is not backing down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUREN ASHLEY, MISS BEVERLY HILLS: It‘s nothing against people that
are gay. I have friends that are gay. And I just—I just personally,
from my beliefs—I‘m a Christian and it‘s in the Bible. So --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, the author of “The Commitment: Love, Sex,
Marriage, and My Family,” columnist Dan Savage. Dan, good evening.
DAN SAVAGE, AUTHOR, “THE COMMITMENT”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So some of her friends are gay, but they deserve death
because they‘re gay. Do we think Miss Ashley fully comprehends what she‘s
saying or the slight danger that her friends appear to be in?
SAVAGE: No, I don‘t think she fully comprehends what she‘s saying.
And I would like to see her gay friends produced for the cameras to give a
quote, too. I don‘t think she understands that even though there are very
hateful things in the Bible about gay people, there are very hateful things
in the Bible about a lot of people. But by promoting those passages that
call for the deaths of gay people, she encourages people who might commit
violent acts against gay people to feel justified.
So she is putting her friends, who may visit West Hollywood, who are
gay, in very real danger of being gay bashed when she injects this into the
OLBERMANN: I think that‘s a very good point. Speaking of injections,
we‘ll explain why she‘s sitting there with a doctor holding some sort of
cattle prod in a moment. But also from Leviticus is this, “love thy
neighbor as thyself.” When is someone going to come out and cherry pick
the Bible, and pull that one out, as opposed to this, maybe pull out the
explanation of how the elders of the town are supposed to stone some male
relative of her, maybe, because he shaves.
SAVAGE: There‘s so much in the Bible who, quote, unquote, take it
literally choose to overlook and pretend it‘s not there. The Bible
justifies genocide. The Bible justifies slavery. The Bible calls on
parents to murder their disobedient children. All these literalists who
say, “hey, it‘s in the Bible, what can I do, I have to take it seriously,”
pretend that those verses aren‘t also in there.
If the verses that apply to me and my life and the way my life works
and the person that I am are going to be bandied about and enforced, I
would like to see the provision from Deuteronomy that calls for the deaths
of women who are not virgins on their wedding nights to also be enforced.
And if that‘s not going to be enforced—I don‘t actually want to see it
enforced—then maybe you could drop the anti-gay murderous crap from the
OLBERMANN: Oddly enough, a Fox News blog reports that Miss Ashley
parties with Paris Hilton. So Paris would presumably be out the window.
But she also appears in that series of videos that we saw for this website
calling “Buying Beauty TV,” in which she discusses—this is Ms. Ashley—
discusses liposuction, lip implants, breast augmentation, with that plastic
surgeon there, the guy holding the stick. Carrie Prejean got herself into
trouble by casting the first stone. And I guess, in response, she kind of
broadened where she was—where she had originally been. But—I‘m not
agreeing for a moment with what she did, but there was a sort of—sort of
an understanding why she escalated it. This girl comes pre-escalated. Not
only—she seems to be topping Carrie Prejean.
SAVAGE: She does. And you know, as we found out about Carrie
Prejean, as that unfolded, she was a very randy girl, a randier girl than a
figurehead for the religious right has a right to be. And if we‘re going
to bandy about Bible verses, Timothy one, “women should adorn themselves in
respectable apparel with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair
and golden pearls or costly attire.”
And really, breast implants and lip implants are the braided hair and
gold and pearls of our era. And if she believes that I should have to live
and die by the prescriptions in the Old Testament, I believe that she
should have to obey the prescriptions in the New Testament. She‘s a
cafeteria Biblical literalist, apparently. She should be called on it. If
she believes that Leviticus applies to me, I believe Timothy applies to
her. She should be stoned, and then I can be put to death, as soon as
OLBERMANN: Boy, it‘s going to clear out the whole country in a hurry.
Is there anything in there about cell phone photos? Never mind. Dan
Savage, columnist of “Savage Love,” a great thanks, as always.
SAVAGE: Thank you, Keith. >
OLBERMANN: When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, did you know
reconciliation is actually the dreaded nuclear option? It ain‘t. It
ain‘t. But the Republicans are telling their supporters it is. Her
special guest, Senator Barbara Boxer, says it isn‘t.
And on the eve of the health care summit, a special comment and a
message to all of the participants from my father.
OLBERMANN: We‘re running a little late tonight, all of us at MSNBC,
because of that epic curling overtime. Rachel will be with you for the
full hour starting in about 15 minutes.
It is impossible to imagine just how much hot air will be expended at
tomorrow‘s health care reform summit at Blair House in Washington. If only
the politicians could do something useful with it, like give it to those
struggling to breathe in our hospitals at this hour.
They can‘t. But they can give relief to those struggling to pay in
our hospitals at this hour.
Special Comment, next.
OLBERMANN: Finally, tonight, a “Special Comment” about health care
reform and tomorrow‘s summit at Blair House. If I prove to have trouble
getting through this, I apologize in advance.
Last Friday night, my father asked me to kill him. We were just shy
of six months since he was hospitalized and it was the end of a long day at
the end of a longer week. Not to get too clinical or too grotesque on you,
but he‘d had his colon remove at the end of September and that went so well
that it was no more complicated than an appendectomy.
But what followed was a series of infections, like storms in the
monsoon season, one arriving, blossoming, inundating him, my dad shaking it
off and cheerfully bouncing back, and then within days, another one coming
to flatten him once again. Pneumonia, three or four times, I‘ve lost
count. Kidney failure, liver failure—the liver failure got better,
remarkably enough. Dialysis, feeding tubes, drainage taps, drainage tubes,
He couldn‘t talk through that. Then he got strong enough and they
could put a cap on a breathing tube and one day, he scared the crap out of
a friend of his who didn‘t know, who came in and gave him the customary,
“How you doing, Ted”—only to jump out of his shoes when my father
suddenly and gleefully answered him a strong, full voice, “Surprisingly
Sometimes, dad swelled up and looked like he was puffy as a prize
fighter who had a really bad night and sometimes, he‘d get dialysis that
was so effective or an antibiotic so specific that he would look like he
did 25 years ago.
Three weeks ago, they have found extraordinary. A nurse noticed what
seemed like a minor infection just below the surface of his skin, a kind of
super pimple, if you will. It was actually the front edge of a series of
abscesses which would be drained and would produce all told about six
liters of infected stuff.
Six liters—you know how much that is? You know what that looks
like? You don‘t want to know.
But you do want to know it‘s been found because it means the man
hasn‘t been weak all this time, he‘s been incredibly, inhumanly strong.
The abscesses were like swimming pools for these infections. The strongest
one would emerge, then my dad, with the help of the antibiotics, would kill
it off. Then the antibiotics would be discontinued and the next infection
would pop out and challenge him. As he pointed out—you know, just like
the organized crime families.
Then last week they found another abscess of sorts in the chest. So
they need to put drains in there, too. This was Friday morning. His
surgical team came in to see him. He did his nonverbal caricature of their
chief. They all laughed like hell. They numbed him up, snip, snip, plug,
plug, and this infection starts draining and they leave him alone for a
Then in the afternoon, they changed a few of the plugs, the I.V.s
attached to and the respiratory therapist had been in checking the
ventilator and his tubes because there was a leak somewhere. And to
improve his dialysis, they changed his dialysis port. And then in the
evening, they needed a CAT Scan of his chest to make sure those drains were
in the right place and they had to change a dressing on some bad skin. And
every hour, of course, the nurse had to come in and draw blood to check how
well he was getting oxygen.
And then at night, it was time for dialysis using the new dialysis
port. And that‘s when I showed up after this show. My father was a little
annoyed, the way he often gets in there—annoyed about all the activity.
That day, it was like being Sisyphus with that boulder. Only at the top of
the hill, when he loses the boulder, it doesn‘t just roll back downhill, it
rolls over him first.
He‘s brave about pain, provided you warn him in advance and provided
the sheer volume of the activity during the day doesn‘t terrify him. As in
terrorism, it is not just when terror happens, it‘s terror that it might
So, he‘s annoyed, but in a good mood Friday night, and as I usually
do, I sit down to read to him, Thurber. I‘ve been reading a lot of James
Thurber short stories lately and he‘s insisted I should do it on the show
and see about that.
But a few pages in, the X-ray technician shows up. They have to take
one more picture of him to see if those new drains in his chest are
working, and I have to leave his room for, at most, three minutes.
And I come back in, and my father is thrashing his head back and
forth. You can‘t hear him, he can‘t speak at the moment, but you back a
lip reader in those circumstances. And this one word he keeps repeating is
not tough to discern, “help.” He‘s mouthing the word “help” over and over
and over again.
And I get his attention and he is in full panic. Maybe the X-ray tech
hurt his back or touched my dad‘s new chest drains or likely, he had
nothing very much at all, but it was just too much for my father. “Stop
this,” he mouths. “Stop, stop, stop.”
And I say to him, “I know for a fact they‘re not doing anything more
to you tonight.” And he looks at me and he starts thrashing his head
again, “Help, help, help.” I get his attention once more. I asked him,
“Do you want me to stop all of this?” And he looks at me and mouths,
“Yes.” And I asked him, “Do you understand what happens then?” And he
looks at me and again mouths, “Yes.”
And I ask him, “Do you realize you are not terminally ill right now?
If we do stop all this, it might not be quick.” And he mouths, “Stop
this.” And I say, trying to joke him out of it or through it, and trust
me, gallows humor is your best defense in this situation, “What, you want
me to smother you with a pillow?” And he mouths, “Yes, kill me.”
I told my dad that, obviously, I would not do that. But I would go
and talk to the doctors. When I came back, I told him they would really be
put out by this, because he wasn‘t sick enough and all the indications were
he could still fight off what remained of those infections. And he went
back to thrashing his head and mouthing “help” because clearly I was not
giving him the sense of relief, relief from the paradoxical truth that
people desperately trying to save your life sometimes manage only or also
to torture you.
Of course, I actually was trying to get him that sense of relief.
When I went to see the surgical intensive care unit resident, I told him my
dad had hit his wall, he couldn‘t take any other work, that it was now
terrifying torture, that he needed it to stop. But I said, look, I‘m his
health proxy, we had conversations about end-of-life care. We‘ve had them
in here, when he was home and well, I am not operating in the dark here. I
said, I think he really wants the one word he keeps mouthing, he wants
help. Is there any medical reason not to, I don‘t know, give him some
sedation, some sort of mental vacation from being the patient?
The resident thought that was a damned good idea and said it would
also help his breathing, which the respiratory therapist had noticed wasn‘t
quite right that night. So when I came in and gave my father the song and
dance about how put out the doctors were, really, I was just stalling. I
started to read to him again and he was still thrashing his head from side
to side in utter frustration and then he started calm down and enjoy the
story. And as he began to close his eyes and rest, the nurse slipped in
and injected a sedative into one of his I.V.s.
And as I left the hospital that night, the full impact of these last
six months washed over me. What I had done—conferring about the
resident in ICU, the conversation about my father‘s panicky, not in
complete control of his faculties demand that all treatment now stop, about
the options and the consequences and the compromise, the sedation, the help
for a brave man who just needed a break.
That conversation, that one, was what these ghouls who are walking
into Blair House tomorrow morning decided to call death panels. Your right
to have that conversation with a doctor, not the government, but a doctor,
and your right to have insurance pay for his expertise on what your options
are when dad says “kill me”—or what your options are when dad is in a
coma and can‘t tell you a damn thing. Or what your options are when
everybody is healthy and happy and coherent and you‘re just planning ahead.
Your right to have the guidance and the reassurance of a professional
who can lay that all out for you—that‘s a, quote, “death panel,”
unquote. That, right now, is the legacy of the protests of these sub-
humans who get paid by the insurance companies, who say these things for
their own political gain, or like that one fiend, for money. For money!
Betsy McCaughey told people that this conversation about life and
death and relief and release, and also about—no, keep treating them no
matter what happens, until the nation runs out of medicine. She told
people that‘s a death panel! And she did that for money!
It‘s a life panel—a life panel. It can save the pain of the
patient and the family. It is the difference between you guessing what
happens next and you being informed about what probably will. And that‘s
the difference between you sleeping at night or second-guessing and third-
guessing and 30th guessing yourself.
And it can also be the place where your family says, we want you to
keep him alive no matter what. We believe in miracles. And the doctor
says, yes. Nobody gets to say no except the patient or the family. It‘s a
life panel—and damn those who call it otherwise to hell.
And that brings up the other point of all this. They‘ve rolled my
father under every piece of machinery in there except an atom splitter.
They pumped him full of every drug and remedy and he‘s got Medicare and
some supplemental insurance and my out-of-pocket medical bills over the
last six months have been greater than my dad‘s have.
And why in the hell should that not be true of everybody in every
hospital in every sick room in every clinic in this country? What is this
country for if not to take care of its people? Because whatever I‘ve been
through these last six months and whatever my dad‘s been through, not once
were our fears or our decisions amplified by the further horror of
wondering, how the hell would we pay for this?
About families having these conversations tonight about kids or about
uninsured adults or what about the guy out there whose father is 50 and
he‘s mouthing the word “help” and the guy knows what his father doesn‘t
know, that the insurance company has just declared the illness the father
has is a pre-existing condition and he has no more insurance, and when that
son goes out to talk to that doctor about what to do next, even if there is
a chance of recovery, that son can‘t afford to pay for it.
That is the goddamned death panel, Sarah Palin.
Since Friday night, my father has been comfortable. He‘s been
breathing well, and there have been no sign of stress or discomfort. He
has also not awakened. His white blood cell count, the indicator of
infection, is now at about four or five times normal. Doubtlessly, in
removing that much infection from him, some of it got loose into his
bloodstream or it came in from another source.
He‘s not being sedated anymore, but he only has the strength to fight
off the infections or wake up, not both. We‘re hoping he does the first
and then the latter. We are prepared for the probability that he will do
His team and I had another life discussion, life panel discussion, not
six hours ago. And thank God I had those conversations with my father.
Thank God I got his instructions about when to use my judgment and when to
stick exclusively with his and when, if he‘s capable of recovery, to let
them use everything they have, and when to make sure they‘re not just
keeping him alive with no hope, when to listen to the instruction “help”
first and then the one about “stop” later.
So, considering that if he does not recover, you will not see me here
for a while, I have some requests. First of you, please, have this
conversation with your loved ones. Don‘t wait. Do it now.
It‘s tough. It acknowledges death. And it also narrows the gray area
you or they will face from infinity to about a foot wide. It is my
greatest comfort right now and I want it to be yours.
And to the politicians who go into Blair House tomorrow for that
summit, I have some requests as well. Leave your egos at the door. I
want, I demand, that you give everybody in this country a chance at the
care my father has gotten. And I demand that you enact this most generous
and most kind aspect of the reform proposed, the right to bill the damned
insurance company for the conversation about what to do when the time
comes, the life panel.
And I want all of you to think of somebody lying in a hospital bed
tonight who needed that care and needed that conversation and imagine that
is your father or mother or son or daughter or wife or husband or partner -
and if you cannot do that, if you cannot put aside the meaninglessness of
your political careers for this, my request to you then is that you not
come back out of that meeting, for you would not be worthy of being with
the real people of this country who suffer, and who suffer again because
you have acted on behalf of the corporations and not the people. If you
cannot do this, go into that room and stay there, and we will get new ones
to replace your worthless roles in the life of our country.
My father cannot speak for himself. He appointed me to do so for him.
I haven‘t the slightest doubt he wants me to say this tonight, right now.
He mouthed these words to me and I will now give them such voice as I have,
to you, going into that summit tomorrow: help, help, help, help.
Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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