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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, September 17th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Dave Weigel, Ken Vogel, David Corn





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

Christine O‘Donnell and the tea hotties convene in D.C.  I‘m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  There are more of us than there are of them.


OLBERMANN:  “Politico‘s” report, the vetting process for O‘Donnell and the others?  There is no vetting process.  “If it was popular to be really liberal now,” says her former campaign manager, “maybe she‘d do that.”

“Governor Sarah Palin vouched for Joe Miller that he was the real deal and we took her word for it,” says the founder of the Tea Party Express.

Then there is the O‘Donnell treasure trove—Obama?


O‘DONNELL:  He is so liberal that—he‘s anti-American.

We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools.  Now, we‘re having weekly shootings practically where—


O‘DONNELL:  Forty-nine-forty-nine?  I call that a tie.

DAN GAFFNEY, RADIO HOST:  No, Christine, he won in votes.  You know that.

O‘DONNELL:  No, no!  What did—what did—what do the election results say that I got?

GAFFNEY:  They say that you got less votes than he did.


OLBERMANN:  With Ken Vogel of “Politico” and all the Christine O‘Donnell sound bites you can eat.

The Values Voters Summit—that‘s a brand name.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Like Speaker Pelosi, who has been busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she‘s flying.


OLBERMANN:  Except Nancy Pelosi doesn‘t drink alcohol and there‘s no alcohol on military flights in this country and there‘s no penalty for B.S.  Or is there?

A conservative icon calls this on a conservative strategist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shut up.  I listened to your racist (EXPLETIVE



OLBERMANN:  And the would-be president who would deny you insurance for preexisting conditions and compares you to a car wreck or a burned-out house.

And “Fridays with Thurber,” a story of panic and rumor as fit for today as it was “The Day the Dam Broke.”

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

If you were told Delaware‘s Christine O‘Donnell become a hero to the Tea Party not because she will win but because she will lose, or that Nevada‘s Sharron Angle because of all her baggage, was exactly what the Tea Party was looking, or that Alaska‘s Joe Miller got the backing of Tea Party Express exclusively because half Governor Sarah Palin had vouched for him - - then in our fifth story—you would at least be getting closer to the truth.

After all, the Tea Party Express doesn‘t care about vetting.  Who better to heed than the most startling product of non-vetting, the former vice presidential candidate, Ms. Palin?

The Tea Party Express‘ fierce backing of Christine O‘Donnell reported today, including $300,000 in advertising, crisply explained by Sal Russo, the founder of that political action committee, quoting, “I heard pretty candidly her strengths and weaknesses.  We knew what we were getting into.  Would she be a great a candidate in some years?  Probably not.  But in this year, she was a terrific candidate.”

In the extraordinary piece by “Politico,” Mr. Russo claims today that the Tea Party Express is adept at picking candidates who are aligned with the movement‘s core issues and is not so concerned with everything else.

But some Tea Party activists outside Tea Party Express PAC are lest than enthusiastic.  From the Maine state coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, that‘s in the state of Maine: “They aren‘t really looked into some of these candidates.  It‘s enough that they say they believe in freedom.  There are candidates in some states who are kind of gadflies who suddenly jumped on the bandwagon.”

The other darlings of the Tea Party Express include Alaska‘s Miller whose main claim to fame was a failed effort in 2008 along with then-Governor Palin to force out the state GOP chairman.  Miller also lost his 2004 bid to win a House state in—House seat rather in the Alaska state legislature.

But for Mr. Russo, quote, “Governor Palin vouched for Joe Miller that he was the real deal and we took her word for it.”

Pure poetry it is that Sarah Palin, the product of presidential candidate John McCain‘s non-vetting would recommend the 5:00 shadowy Joe Miller to the Tea Party Express.

Meantime, the Republican incumbent who Miller defeated, Senator Lisa Murkowski reportedly set to announce her intention to run as a write-in candidate as early as tonight.  Murkowski‘s decision would create a three-way race among her, Miller and the Democratic nominee, Sitka mayor, Scott McAdams.

Back to the Tea Party Express‘s favored candidates.  When “Politico” asked Mr. Russo if the Tea Party would claim success if both Sharron Angle and O‘Donnell lost, he answered, quote, “You don‘t always have to win elections to change the boy politic.  George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy had a profound effect on American politics and they both lost.  Goldwater lost but he gave birth to Reagan.”

Let‘s bring in the author of “Politico‘s” main piece on this today, senior political reporter Ken Vogel.  Ken, good evening.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO:  Hey, great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  McGovern, McCarthy, Barry Goldwater.  (A),”really?  (B), the premise is, if it doesn‘t matter, if they get elected, it matters who comes after them?  Is there more to it than that?  Are the backers of these candidates making personal gain off the candidacies by establishing themselves even if the candidates fall by the wayside?

VOGEL:  Absolutely.  The Tea Party Express and many of the leaders of Tea Party movement who have been instrumental in the victories of Christine O‘Donnell and Sharron Angle, two Tea Party candidates who won Republican nominations and reduced the Republicans ‘chances of retaking the Senate, these groups and individuals have seen their own profiles and their own earning potential on fundraising power boosted by virtue of critical roles in this campaign.

Of course, this is all music to the ears of Democrats who are saying,

“Hey, if you want to elect these people, pull the Republican Party to the

right, possibly reshape it for some future election 20 years down the road”

which is how long it took the Goldwater revolution to yield the Reagan revolution.  That‘s great by Democrats who are eager to run against these Tea Party candidates.


OLBERMANN:  Is the non-vetting of these candidates that you described today, is that reckless?  Is it knowingly indifferent?  Or is this like how the stock and bloom went through the play scripts and producers?

VOGEL:  Well, it‘s almost like they were intoxicated by the momentum.  They got a Sharron Angle win.  Now, to be fair, they did have a background with Sharron Angle who, in spite of them knowing more about her, has been revealed to have substantial pieces of her track record that are going to make her a target for Democratic attacks, and we‘ve seen from polls, make her something less than the best candidate to take on Senate majority leader Harry Reid in that race in Nevada.

However, once they won that, they were on a roll and they were looking for the next candidate, the next big upset.  Sarah Palin recommended them that they endorse Joe Miller, this little known candidate who had previously lost a state legislative race in which he ran sort of as a moderate according to his opponent.  They seized on that.  He won.  He beat Senator Lisa Murkowski in a huge upset in the Republican primary for Senate up there in Alaska.

And then they looked for the next one.  It was Christine O‘Donnell.  They endorsed her.  They subsequently acknowledged they were unaware that she had not been—she had not graduated from college.  She did not have a college diploma, that she had some problems with back campaign debts that were still owed.  They said they weren‘t aware of that but they still thought that she was the best candidate.

So, whether it‘s in the best interest of the Tea Party Express and some of the Tea Party groups that are endorsing these candidates, it may be a different calculation than what is in the best interest of the Republicans and perhaps of the Tea Party at large.

OLBERMANN:  There isn‘t consensus even among Tea Party-type organizations on some of the candidates.  Does that lend itself to kind of a French Revolution quality that today‘s pure extremist is tomorrow‘s old-timer who has to be, at least metaphorically, guillotined?  Or somebody had compared the Palin and O‘Donnell equation to the movie “All About Eve,” with the understudy, you know, basically cutting the throat, again metaphorically, of the star actress?

VOGEL:  Yes, there‘s definitely an element of—there‘s a lack of institutional knowledge within the Tea Party movement.  It‘s not just these big groups that are out there—many of which, we should point out, have been able to recast themselves and be successful within the Tea Party movement, because the activists aren‘t aware that they have a track record in Republican politics.

Tea Party express is a group that was formerly called Our Country Deserves Better.  It‘s a PAC in Sacramento, California, that supported John McCain, who is anathema to tea partiers.  They hate John McCain.  Nonetheless, this group was able to recast themselves as the leading group in the Tea Party movement because many of the activists in the Tea Party are new to politics and didn‘t know that this group had this background.  Or that Dick Armey, the leader of another prominent Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, was the House majority leader and then a lobbyist who worked for pharmaceutical companies.

So, the fact that many of these candidates who have seized the Tea Party mantle to great success were able to so in spite of having run different types of campaigns unsuccessfully in previous years, like Christine O‘Donnell who campaigned as a social conservative, and we now see her re-embracing that mantle.  It‘s a testament to the lack of sort of political savvy, frankly, of some of the Tea Party activists.

OLBERMANN:  But to get back in what amounts to breaking news from Tea Party citizen zero, Sarah Palin is at the Reagan dinner in Iowa rather than at the Values Voters Summit in Washington and has just said—either asked or has just made a statement about 2012.  I want to read it to you and get your reaction.

“If the American people were to be ready for someone who is willing to shake it up and willing to get back to time-tested truths and help lead our country towards a more prosperous and safe future and if they happened to think I was the one, if it were best for my family and for our country, of course, I would give it a shot,” she says about running in 2012.

There are a lot of “ifs” in that one.

VOGEL:  Yes, there are.  And she‘s positioned herself in kind of a nontraditional way if she were to launch a presidential campaign.

But there‘s no doubt that the option is available to her.  She has proved through some of these primaries that she has incredible clout within the sort of Tea Party wing of the Republican Party and of the conservative base.  And certainly, if she were to run, she would be formidable just by virtue of the Tea Party activists, whether they are spectacularly unsuccessful in the midterm elections and cost Republicans control of the Senate, or are successful and deemed to sort of have changed politics in much the same way that Mr. Russo from the beginning of the segment, of the Tea Party Express, predicts that they will.

OLBERMANN:  I wonder if there‘s been a presidential campaign that was in essence a book tour.

Ken Vogel of “Politico”—great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

VOGEL:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Few foresaw the perennial and losing candidate from Delaware, Ms. Donnell, catapulting herself to infamy via the Tea Party movement.  But a look into her rhetorical history would indicate that she was destined for this role.

Now, Christine O‘Donnell‘s greatest hits.  Donnell‘s many pronouncements rigorously complied by “Think Progress” cannot be fully detailed here.  I only have the hour.

But O‘Donnell fears that coed dorms will become orgy rooms; that handing out condoms in schools is like encouraging kids drive drunk or worse; that distributing condoms will further the spread of AIDS—think about that one.  That women should submit to their husbands.  That allowing women to attend military academies cripples our national defense.

And O‘Donnell also considers herself a feminist.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you consider yourself a feminist?

O‘DONNELL:  Absolutely, but let me qualify.  I consider myself an authentic feminist, not as defined by the modern movement.


O‘DONNELL:  And let me clarify that a little bit more.  I was an English major so I‘d break it down.  “Ist” means one who celebrates.  As a feminist, I celebrate my femininity.


OLBERMANN:  As we once mentioned, Ms. Donnell believes that in the United States, companies are crossbreeding humans and annals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.  No surprise that she says that factual evidence supports creationism over evolution, except obviously in the mice brain category.

Her belief or non-belief in science directly affecting her policy positions, cap-and-trade.


O‘DONNELL:  Cap-and-trade is the most destructive piece of legislation in American history.  I think it‘s the final nail in the coffin of pushing us towards becoming a socialist economy.  Not only will it raise utility bills, not only will it paralyze our economy, it affects the movement of goods.  It affects the creation of goods.  It kills jobs.  It‘s a bad bill.


OLBERMANN:  Of course, accusations of socialism much favored by Tea Party candidates—


O‘DONNELL:  America is now a socialist economy.  The definition of a socialist economy is when 50 percent or more of your economy is dependent on the federal government.


OLBERMANN:  Also, there‘s the un-American bit or as O‘Donnell says, anti-American.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who do Republicans want to run against, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

O‘DONNELL:  I would prefer Barack Obama because he is so liberal that

he‘s anti-American.  Let me—let me tell you a couple—



O‘DONNELL:  Let me explain why.


O‘DONNELL:  He‘s beating the change drum.  But let‘s look at the change.  He did not vote for English as the official language.


OLBERMANN:  O‘Donnell has also said that the ACLU is trying to, quote, “institute a communist country.”  But she returns again and again to what appears to an obsession, the declining morality represented by—just about everything.

“Britney Spears,” she said, “sends a dangerous message about sexuality to the girls.”  “Sex and the City” is very dangerous.  Even the sitcom “Friends,” quote, “is doing a disservice to society.”

Which might be no big deal, just her opinion—except that she praised the kind of censorship that prevalent in the Middle East.  “I‘ll tell you, I just came back from the Middle East, and it was refreshing.  With all that is going on, it is refreshing not to be constantly bombarded with smut all the time.”

And if you think she might have approved over time, there is this radio interview from September 2nd, 2010, that would be this month, in which she‘s caught in a lie with a conservative interviewer about how many counties she won when she ran against then Senator Joe Biden in 2008.


DAN GAFFNEY, RADIO HOST:  When you were speaking at an out of state group recently and you told them that you won two out of three counties in Delaware, what did you—what did you mean?

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think I ever said I won two out of three counties. 

But I certainly—

GAFFNEY:  Well, let‘s listen to the audio.  Hold on one second because I have the audio right here.

O‘DONNELL ON TAPE:  I was the 2008 endorsed candidate against Joe Biden and I won in two counties.  We didn‘t have the support of our liberal Republicans then.

GAFFNEY:  You said you won in two counties.

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  You know, what that probably was, you‘re on the campaign trail a lot, I meant tied.

GAFFNEY:  Well, you didn‘t tie—

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, they got a tracker following you, waiting for you to trip up.

GAFFNEY:  Yes.  But you didn‘t—

O‘DONNELL:  So, you know—

GAFFNEY:  Christine—Christine, I‘m just saying why—you didn‘t tie him either.

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, absolutely I did.  You look at the results.  We tied in Suffolk County and that had everything to do with your voters—your listeners, Dan.

GAFFNEY:  Hold on.

O‘DONNELL:  I mean, it was so exciting to see the results that

GAFFNEY:  Christine, Christine, hello, Christine?

O‘DONNELL:  -- against the vice presidential candidate.  We spent so much money.

GAFFNEY:  Christine, Christine, This is the easiest of the questions that I have.


OLBERMANN:  Didn‘t see something you were looking for at all there?  Like the rest of the business, we‘re still looking for the American scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains caught from a rally in November of ‘07 with no success.  And, obviously, FOX won‘t release it.  I think they might have it.

Having acknowledged that, there is still so much “A” material.  Ms.  Donnell has not yet released her first full-pledged campaign commercial, so we decided we‘d do it for her.


O‘DONNELL:  I‘m Christine O‘Donnell and I approve this message.

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Now that Christine O‘Donnell has won over the hearts of 30,561 Delawareans, the support is coming in from everywhere.

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  There‘s just a lot of nutty things she‘s been saying.

O‘DONNELL:  America is now a socialist economy.

OLBERMANN:  Christine O‘Donnell looking to touch the political world, but in a way it has never been touched before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Masturbation is the same as adultery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And so, you can‘t masturbate without lust.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know many sexual virgins who are not sexually pure.

O‘DONNELL:  I still hold the same positions.

ROVE:  You cannot expect people to get over these things quickly.

OLBERMANN:  Christine O‘Donnell has all the experience that tea partiers love.  Christine O‘Donnell has all the credentials that tea partiers need.

ROVE:  It turns out she never graduated from college.

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m Christine O‘Donnell.  I‘m kind of aware what‘s going on.

ROVE:  This is not a race we‘re going to be able to win.

OLBERMANN:  Christine O‘Donnell—when voting to abstain is just not enough.


OLBERMANN:  In a very real sense, O‘Donnell‘s modest success in Delaware has produced a kind of arms race of Tea Party belligerence and fabrication.

And if there is an escalation in the stupid, the safe money is always on Michele Bachmann.  Today, she made stuff up about Nancy Pelosi and alcohol on Air Force planes.  Next with Dave Weigel.


OLBERMANN:  At the Values Voters Summit, this speaker proves the most valued of values is making stuff up about Nancy Pelosi.  Complete cut from whole cloth stuff.

Speaking of cutting, he has thrown out the first pitch of the 2012 presidential campaign by mocking those with preexisting conditions who can now, only now, get insurance for them and vowing to end their chance to do so.

“The Day the Dam Broke.”  Another hilarious warning on “Fridays with Thurber.”

And for the second time this week, a veteran Republican has wigged out on FOX, swearing at a conservative and calling him a racist.  Get out your popcorn.


OLBERMANN:  This morning, the Values Voters Summit kicked off with a familiar refrain from the master of ceremonies.  The media is watching so, quote, “Don‘t be the weird one.”  Let your laughter die down before I resume.

In our fourth story: the overarching message from today‘s Tea Party revival—we can only restore the greatness of this country by electing ultra-conservative Republicans who will deny reproductive rights to women and civil rights to gays.

Today, marking the beginning of the fifth annual summit put on by the Family Research Council, the main attraction was a late addition, the new Senate candidate from Delaware wooing the crowd with her decidedly Palinesque stage craft.


O‘DONNELL:  Thank you.


O‘DONNELL:  Where are my fellow bumblebees from Delaware?  Hey.  You guys are doing an awesome job.  The small elite don‘t get us.  They call us wacky.  They call us wingnuts.

We call us, “We, the People.”



OLBERMANN:  Eva Carrington is in the house.

Other speakers included two presidential hopefuls hoping to win Sunday‘s presidential straw poll: Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, each scripting multiple jokes for the occasion.  Romney‘s material was apparently written by Uncle Floyd.


MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes, we have serious enemies and growing threats around the world.  Unfortunately, we have an administration whose idea of a rogue state is Arizona.


OLBERMANN:  Uncle Floyd is in the house!

And there was Michele Bachmann.  After fielding criticism from her Democratic opponent for Congress in Minnesota, Bachmann this morning electing to pull her name from the presidential straw poll.  Her speech however was not polled by anyone or anything.


BACHMANN:  Unlimited credit cards for our elected leaders have become an in entitlement.  Like Speaker Pelosi, who has been busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she‘s flying.


OLBERMANN:  The speaker‘s office today responding to that, quote, “Speaker Pelosi does not drink alcohol.  There is no alcohol service on the domestic flights the Air Force operates for travel from Washington to San Francisco for the speaker.”

Back in the rarefied area of the summit, Jim Inhofe lamenting the liberal agenda to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” “problems will happen,” says the senator, if you let openly gay activity happen in the military.

And there was Senator Jim DeMint‘s turn, the king of tea rubbing his record of primary victories in his Republican leadership‘s face.


SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  As some of you know I‘ve been working for the last year to stir up some vigorous primaries between establishment Republicans and—


DEMINT:  -- between establishment Republicans and Republicans who stand for those principles of freedom.

All over the country, we have candidates like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio in Florida.


DEMINT:  We have—we have Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle and Christine O‘Donnell.  I mean, we have some candidates, folks.


DEMINT:  This is no longer voting for the least worst on the ballot.


OLBERMANN:  Now, get out there and vote for the worst on the ballot.

In case you‘re interested, there‘s still more values action to be had this weekend.  The director of the American Family Association, Brian Fischer, speaks tomorrow.  We told you about him a few weeks when he proposed a ban on new mosques in this country.  According to Fischer, quote, “Each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.”  He speaks tomorrow.  There he is on the Value Voters Summit Web site, between the Duggars, who have all the children in the world, and Newt Gingrich.

“Slate” political reporter, MSNBC contributor, Dave Weigel, attended today‘s summit.  Now he‘s backed down from the mountaintop.

David, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Big picture first.  What were—the tone there was what?  Was this their “mission accomplished” day?  Was anybody wearing a flight suit?

WEIGEL:  No, but it was jubilant.  It actually had a theme going through at it, exemplified by Christine O‘Donnell who you saw there and who we‘re all going to see for at least six more weeks.  She was the embodiment of everything these activists have been working towards.  She was the proof that Jim DeMint was talking about—that they were right all along that they could elect anyone at any time.

Pull somebody up from her bootstraps, you know, somebody who didn‘t have much political experience or much of a record at all of campaigning.  They could—they could make them into a real candidate.

And a lot of references to her—a lot of references to social issues too, but more to just the election around the corner.  They really feel like they‘ve got this one.

OLBERMANN:  Bachmann on Pelosi.  When she can pull something that—to borrow a word—untruthful out of her constituency, why did she pull her name out of the straw poll for president?  Does she sort of define—isn‘t she sort of the apex of this crowd?

WEIGEL:  Well, she‘s one of a number of Republicans.  Not so much Romney, not so much Huckabee, you can mention some others, who don‘t want to look like they‘re trying to run ahead of the pack.  The mission is defeating Nancy Pelosi.  The applause line is more getting Nancy Pelosi out of there and then getting Harry Reid out of there.  So, it was all about that.

I mean, the lack of focus on the presidency is kind of—kind of interesting.  Usually by this point in the year, we‘re close to people declaring it.  But they really—I mean, give them credit, they really have gotten into this holy crusade of getting rid of Democratic control of Congress.  That, if they fail, is the end of America and they believe it, less—much less interest in the presidential race than that.

OLBERMANN:  Does that explain this?  Sarah Palin is not there.  She‘s headlining—as we said earlier—the GOP Ronald Reagan dinner tonight.  And she has said.  I‘m going to read the whole quote now, there‘s more to it than I was given.

“If the American people were to be ready for someone who‘s willing to shake it up—she‘s talking about running in 2012 -- “and willing to get back to time-tested truths and help lead our country toward a more prosperous and safe future, and if they happen to think I was the one, if it were best for my family and for our country, of course, I would give it a shot.  But I‘m not saying that that‘s me.  I know I can certainly make a difference without having a title.  I‘m having a good time doing exactly that right now.”

For her to be addressing the 2012 campaign with comparative

seriousness, comparative detail, but not to be at the Values Voters Summit

is there anything in Congress about that?  Or are they comfortable with the flock being in one place and shepherd being in the other?


WEIGEL:  Oh, they‘re fine with that.  That mean—a lot of activists you talk to actually will say they love Sarah Palin.  They want basically clones of Sarah Palin.  Maybe that‘s in some way what Christine O‘Donnell is.  But they don‘t think she‘s got what it takes to be president.  I mean, it‘s a big worry.  They‘re not sure if they have a presidential candidate.

But, I mean, the way that Palin talks about that as a serious

candidate is revealing.  The way that Christine O‘Donnell reinvented

herself today, I thought was the most interesting story because this is a -

this is a candidate and a person who has struggled a bit.  She has used, you know, campaign funds to pay, for example, her mother.  She‘s—pay for her house.  She writes it off as grassroots campaigning and that‘s fine.


But it‘s interesting the way she reinvented all of this for this crowd which might not have been that familiar with it.  As an attack on her personally is like an attack on them.  Anything attacking her statements in the ‘90s was basically an attack on the Christianity.  And that was made clear from the stage.  To attack her is to attack everyone.

That‘s why Palin is less of a presidential candidate than the body of them all being attacked.  And there‘s real power.  If you—if you can get a movement behind you that are that sympathetic and that will follow you into fire because they think it‘s a personal attack, there‘s power there that only the Democrats have right now.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, history is dotted with such examples.  MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel—thanks for your time tonight.  Have a good weekend.

WEIGEL:  Thanks.  You, too.

OLBERMANN:  We‘re saving the worst perhaps for last.  Somebody at that summit not only seeking to repeal the most popular part of health care reform, insurance for preexisting conditions, but comparing those of you who have one to a car wreck or a burned house.  The speaker: a man who was -- and we mean this literally—once morbidly obese.


OLBERMANN:  The one part of health care reform liked by nearly everybody, insurance for those with preexisting conditions.  Mike Huckabee just came out against it. 

That‘s next.  First the sanity break and the Tweet of the day from repeat winner Steve Weinstein.  “Joe Barton just apologized to masturbation for Christine O‘Donnell.”  Say, is that a preexisting condition?  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Carthage, Mississippi.  Emmy the cat has just given birth to kittens.  You would think a herd of kittens would be enough for a mother cat to handle, but Emmy has acquired an adoptee.  A baby squirrel, in a brazen attempt to gain more lives, has assimilated himself into the group of kittens.  Surprisingly, mother cat does not seem to mind, even appears to have adopted the baby squirrel as one of her own.  I‘m guessing here mom just doesn‘t know.  It‘s a volume issue here. 

The owners of Emmy have decided to keep the squirrel as a pet.  They‘ve given him a very unoriginal name of Rocky.  Everything seemed to be going smoothly until Rocky invited his other animal friend over for a meal.  Bull something. 

And then to the Internets, where we tune into the popular Slovenian news show “24 UR.”  Just in time for the credits.  Now the point in the broadcast where the anchorman appears to be having an intense conversation with somebody all seems normal until you take a closer look.  Apparently, hello!  The anchorman decided that pants were optional.  Well, it was just a brief update.  Or it was a fake. 

I don‘t get it.  Anchorman without pants.  That happens every day. 

How often did you see Walter Cronkite‘s pants, huh? 

Only in America.  The transcendent part of health care reform; you can‘t be denied insurance just because you have a preexisting condition.  Mike Huckabee doesn‘t just want to just repeal it.  He‘s mocking it and those who have one.   


OLBERMANN:  The theory of the lifeboat goes thusly: boat sinks, you swim to the lifeboat, you get in, you grab the oars, and you immediately use the oars to keep anybody else from getting in with you.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the latest proof of this former Governor Mike Huckabee.  He once weighed 300 pounds, which is kind of the ultimate medical preexisting condition. 

Today, having lost 110 pounds, he compared your preexisting condition to a beat up Ford Focus.  Back at the Values Voters Summit, a window into a prospective Huckabee White House.  First, he warmed up the crowd with a light hearted humor about death panels and Jeremiah Wright.  Then out came the shiv, the requirement that insurance companies can‘t deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions. 


MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS:  It sounds so good.  And it‘s such a warm message to say and we‘re not going to deny anyone from a preexisting condition.  Look, I think that sounds terrific.  But I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective.  Suppose we applied that that you can just come on with whatever condition you have and we‘re going to cover you at the same cost we‘re covering everybody else because we want to be fair? 

OK, fine.  Then let‘s do that with our property insurance.  And you can call your insurance agent and say, I‘d like to buy some insurance for my house.  He‘d say tell me about your house.  Well, sir, it burned down yesterday, but I‘d like to insure it today.  And he‘ll say, I‘m sorry, but we can‘t insure it after it‘s already burned.  Well, no preexisting conditions. 


OLBERMANN:  While try and figure out just how denying coverage to the sick is a Christian value, Mr. Huckabee isn‘t quite finished.  This time comparing human health to a car.  Maybe it‘s just his way of endorsing the individual mandate. 


HUCKABEE:  How would you like to be able to call the insurance agent for your car and say, I want you to insure my car.  Tell me about your car.  Well, it was a pretty nice vehicle until my 16-year-old boy wrecked it yesterday.  Totaled the thing out, but I‘d like to get it insured, so we can get it replaced. 

How much would a policy cost if it covered everything?  About as much as it‘s going to cost for health care in this country. 


OLBERMANN:  Joining me now Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones Magazine,” columnist with, David Corn.  David, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  The one part of health care reform that transcended the attacks on health care reform, insurance access for those with preexisting conditions.  People who were totally against it say, no, keep that.  Why did Huckabee go there? 

CORN:  There‘s only one explanation.  He believes what he‘s saying.  I know that‘s hard for people to fathom.  But, I mean, think about it.  Republicans, when they were going against Obama-care, they said, oh, there‘s all these things that we do like, and why don‘t we just do these things.  And they would include the preexisting conditions in that.  And these conditions actually are kicking in—or this provision is kicking in next week for children.  It will take longer for it to apply to adults. 

So if Mike Huckabee is serious about running for president, I can just see the president, President Obama, running against him, should Huckabee become the nominee in 2012, saying to crowds, how many of you have preexisting conditions?  How many of you have insurance?  Now, how many of you would like to lose that if Mike Huckabee becomes president? 

I mean, there‘s no gain here.  It‘s just I think an ideological notion of his that he‘s just being very liberal in explaining to us.  I mean, I salute him for telling us what he really believes. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, but even if that‘s the case, then the candidate, whoever it is in whatever the race is, can read those quotes and say why are you comparing—it‘s a bad sale to compare human beings to burning houses and wreaked cars. 

CORN:  And it also doesn‘t make sense.  If you want to come up with an analogy, you‘d say that‘s like getting insurance for someone who is dead.  If your car gets into an accident, you still get to have insurance on it later.  And the whole thing about preexisting conditions, the real nefarious side of this is that you can have something like Hay Fever and then the insurance companies say we‘re not going to take you on for anything involving, say, your lungs or your respiratory system.  So we won‘t cover you for pneumonia or things like that. 

So it‘s not as if people are coming and saying pay for the broken leg I broke yesterday.  They‘re using this as a crutch to keep as many sick people off their rolls, because they don‘t make money on those people.  They don‘t make money on insurance if you don‘t have to provide the service. 

So his analogy is off.  He‘s wrong politically.  I don‘t know.  He still plays a pretty good bass. 

OLBERMANN:  Is he trying to Tea Party himself?  Is he trying to get tougher and more totalitarian, to fit in with the new crowd? 

CORN:  Well, I mean, I don‘t—he‘s always had the Christian right on

his side, which is what this Values Voters summit was.  It was more

religious right than Tea Party.  I don‘t know if Tea Party people out there

a lot of them who are older, let‘s put it that way, who are—who may have insurance issues—maybe a lot of them are on Medicare already.  I don‘t know if this is a winning issue to them.  Most people want the ability to get health insurance at a decent price.  He‘s saying to them, sorry, I just see you as a burnt-out car. 

OLBERMANN:  David Corn of “Mother Jones,” great thanks.  Have a good weekend and a nice drive home to your house. 

CORN:  Yes.  Thank you, Keith. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a look into Christine O‘Donnell‘s past history with—yes, there‘s something else—the ex-gay movement. 

Here, Fridays with Thurber, and another cautionary tale from the master, “The Day the Dam Broke.”  Your hint, it didn‘t break. 

Twice in three days, a veteran, often vitriolic conservative has a meltdown over somebody too conservative and too vitriolic even for him.  Al D‘Amato, you‘re my hero?


OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, Wall Street lost one today as Elizabeth Warren, the woman who monitored the Tarp bailouts, which ended up saving Wall Street, was named by President Obama to lead the creation of a new Consumer Protection Agency to safeguard taxpayers against credit card companies and other Wall Street lenders.  Mr. Obama said she will create an agency that starting next summer will end lending abuses. 

Progressives and Wall Street critics have championed Warren as the person to lead the agency once it‘s created, something to which the president has yet to commit.  She‘ll join Rachel Maddow in a few moments. 

On the BP disaster in the Gulf, almost five months after 11 people died and more than four million barrels of oil began gushing into the oil, BP last night intercepted the temporarily plugged well with the relief well.  The bottom kill permanent sealing with cement could be done as early as tomorrow. 

Worsts, and a conservative on conservative smack down you must see, next.


OLBERMANN:  Rumor, panic, fear, bad guesswork; sounds like the politics of 2012.  In fact, it‘s James Thurber‘s Columbus, Ohio of 1913 in “The Day the Dam Broke.”  That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches.  Time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze the bailiffs of the Federal Agency for State Property Management in the Russian region of Kamchatka, the place with all the bent trees.  They say a little old lady there owes some money, 350,000 rubles, or about 11,000 dollars, and she has ten days to pay that money or they‘re going to sell her puppies.  You heard me.  Pay the 350,000 Rubles, lady, or the doggies get it.  See.

They‘re Shar Peis.  They‘re cute as a button.  Since she breeds them, she has a lot to sell.  Pay the debt or we sell this dog.

The runner-up, Don Blankenship, the head of Massey Energy, the people who mis-run the infamous Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, where 29 miners were killed and two more injured in the explosion on April fifth. 

The early tests are back.  Mine Safety has determined that the death mine was filled with massive and illegally high quantities of explosive coal dust before the inferno.  Probably just fate.  Probably not corner cutting or ventilation and other safety systems by Massey to make more money.

And our winner, Jack Birkman (ph), a self-described Republican political strategist.  This is less about him than it is about what he precipitated on Fixed News.  For the second time in three days, a hard line GOP stalwart managed to get fed up with the nonsensical, virulent, uneducated hatred pushed by one of these flip Tea Party types, and he called BS on it. 

The first was Karl Rove wigging out over the lump of dumb and judgmental that is Christine O‘Donnell.  But now it‘s former New York Republican Senator Al D‘Amato, no shrinking violet he.  Only he literally called BS on this Birkman.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Most of these guys working in the Post Office should be driving cabs.  And I think we should start—stop importing labor from Nigeria and Ethiopia.  That‘s about the skill level. 

That‘s why I allege they should be bumped down to driving cabs and we should stop importing labor to drive cabs.

AL D‘AMATO, FORMER NEW YORK SENATOR:  you are a nasty—you are a nasty racist when you begin to—I‘m going to just make my observation.  I have a right to do it.  You brought in the fact a bunch of Nigerians.  Let me just tell you that‘s a bunch of bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  And you should be ashamed of yourself and have your mouth washed out. 

What the hell are you talking about?  It‘s one thing to say that they‘re out—wait a minute—shut up.  I listened to your racist bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). 

It‘s one thing to say that they‘re hiring people who are unskilled, that they‘re—that you can save money, that you can run it better, that it is inefficient, ineffective.  And I agree to all of those things.  But for you to bring in this bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about a bunch of Nigerians, et cetera, that‘s out of line. 


OLBERMANN:  When Alfonse D‘Amato, who once filibustered a bill killing off jobs in his state by singing the lyrics to “South of the Border Down Mexico Way,” when he is the voice of reason and introspection in the Republican party—when Al D‘Amato is calling out the BS and the racists, all I can say is he‘s right.


OLBERMANN:  We know that good writing is timeless, but this is ridiculous.  Week after week, James Thurber keeps offering us warnings from his time about our time.  For my money, this is another of his classic perfect recollections of his youth in Columbus, Ohio.  The story is true.  Thurber would have been 18 on the March day this all happened, or in this case didn‘t all happen. 

It appeared first in “My Life and Hard Times” in 1933.  As usual, I‘m reading from the Library of America “Thurber, Writings and Drawings,” edited by Garrison Keilar, recently reprinted because you asked for it, and so did all those who ran first and thought about it second in “The Day the Dam Broke” by James Thurber. 

“My memories of what my family and I went through during the 1913 flood in Ohio I would gladly forget.  And yet neither the hardships we endured nor the turmoil and confusion we experienced can alter my feeling toward my native state and city. 

I am having a fine time now and wish Columbus were here.  But if anyone ever wished a city was in hell, it was during that frightful and perilous afternoon in 1913 when the dam broke or—to be more exact, when everybody in town thought the dam broke. 

We were both ennobled and demoralized by the experience.  Grandfather especially rose to magnificent heights which can never lose their splendor for me, even though his reactions to the flood were based upon a profound misconception, namely that Nathan Bedford Forrest‘s cavalry was the menace we were called upon to face.  The only possible means of escape for us was to flee the house, a step which grandfather sternly forbade, brandishing his old to Army saber in his hand. 

“Let the sons of mm-mmm come,” he roared. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of people were streaming by our house in wild panic, screaming, “go east, go east.”

We had to stun grandfather with the ironing board.  Impeded as we were by the inert form of the old gentleman—he was taller than six feet and weighed almost 170 pounds—we were passed in the first half mile by practically everybody else in the city.  Had grandfather not come to at the corner of Parsons Avenue and Town Street, we would unquestionably have been overtaken and engulfed by the roaring waters. 

That is if there had been any roaring waters.  Later, when the panic had died down and people had gone rather sheepishly back to their homes and their offices, minimizing the distances they had run and offering various reasons for running, city engineers pointed out that even if the dam had broken, the water level would not have risen more than two additional inches in the west side. 

The west side was, at the time of the dam scare, under 30 feet of water.  As indeed were all Ohio river towns during the great spring floods of 20 years ago.  The east side, where we lived and where all the running occurred, had never been in any danger at all.  Only a rise of some 95 feet could have caused the floodwaters to flow over High Street, the thoroughfare that divide the east side of town from the west, and engulfed the east side. 

The fact that we were all as safe as kittens under a cook‘s stove did not, however, assuage in the least the fine despair and the grotesque desperation which seized upon the residents of the east side when the cries spread like a grass fire that the dam had given way. 

Some of the most dignified, staid, cynical and clear thinking men in town abandoned their wives, stenographers‘ homes and offices and ran east.  There are few alarms in the world more terrifying than “the dam has broken.” there are few persons capable of stopping to reason when that clarion cry strikes upon their ears, even persons who live in towns no nearer than 500 miles to a dam. 

The Columbus, Ohio broken dam rumor began, as I recall, at about noon on March 12th, 1913.  High Street, the main canyon of trade, was loud with the placid hum of business, and the buzzing of placid businessmen, arguing, computing, wheedling, offering, refusing, compromising. 

Darius Cunningway, one of the most foremost corporation lawyers in the middle west, was telling the Public Utilities Commission in the language of Julius Caesar that they might as well try to move the northern star as to move him. 

Other men were making their little boasts and their little gestures.  Suddenly, somebody began to run.  It may be that he had simply remembered, all of a sudden, an engagement to meet his wife for which he was now frightfully late.  Whatever it was, he ran east on Broad Street, probably toward the Maramore Restaurant, a favorite place for a man to meet his wife. 

Somebody else began to run.  Perhaps a news boy in high spirits.  Another man, a portly gentleman of affairs, broke into a trot.  Inside of ten minutes, everybody on High Street, from the Union Depot to the courthouse, was running.  A loud mumble gradually crystallized into the dread word “dam, the dam has broke.”

The fear was put into words by a little old lady in an electric or by a traffic cop or by a small boy.  Nobody knows who.  Nor does it now really matter.  Two thousand people were abruptly in full flight.  “Go east” was the cry that arose.  “East, away from the river, east to safety.  Go east, go east, go east.”

That is where time requires us to stop for the first part of our story.  Remembering always that the dam did not break.  Part one of “The Day the Dam Broke” by James Thurber.

That‘s September 17th.  Monday something special here.  Those small businesses the Republicans keep talking about protecting, tax breaks and new jobs and such, we‘re making a list.  The funny thing, those small businesses really are not that small. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

Now to discuss the appointment of Elizabeth Warren with Elizabeth Warren, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 



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