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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 20th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Dave Weigel, Alex Wagner, Richard Wolffe, Richard Socarides





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

Those fingers in the till, that anti-masturbatory will, that holier-than-thou shrill, it‘s witchcraft.

The newest skeleton—the complaint to the Federal Election Commission, from a second ex-staffer that Christine O‘Donnell turned campaign contributions into household income—like magic.

And she made herself disappear yesterday.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  Late Friday night, her campaign canceled, saying O‘Donnell was exhausted and had to return to Delaware.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS HOST:  She canceled on us yesterday.  She said she had scheduling conflicts and couldn‘t be here.


OLBERMANN:  And then there is the $1 million moment.


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE:  I dabbled into witchcraft.  I never joined a coven.


OLBERMANN:  She turned him into a Newt!

And there‘s Hong Kong animated news about her—and yes, that is her talking the kid out of choking a chicken.  And yes, the mice brain video has been found.


O‘DONNELL:  Mice with fully functioning human brains.


OLBERMANN:  So, after her, what‘s next for the Tea Party?  Repealing laws protecting gays and ending separation of church and state, what else?

The Bush recession, it ended June 2009, say economists.  Not really much comfort at this president‘s economic town hall today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I need you to the help us understand how you can regain the political center, because you‘re losing the war of sound bites.  You‘re losing the media cycles.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s Lady Gaga versus Mr. Magoo over “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”


LADY GAGA, SINGER:  I‘m calling to ask the senators to vote with Senators Harry Reid and Carl Levin to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” and oppose John McCain‘s shameless filibuster.


OLBERMANN:  And Rudy Giuliani goes to the most unfortunately named campaign venue of the year.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gosh, you‘d think we‘d learn.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Last week, to the Values Voters Summit, she compared Tea Partiers to the followers of a character from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the lion.  Friday night, we learned she dabbled with being the witch, and if Sarah Palin‘s past is indeed her prologue, our next news story will about the wardrobe.

In our fifth story—or maybe we‘re actually talking about “The Narnia” sequel, the silver chair, and how Christine O‘Donnell improperly paid for it with campaign funds.

The nonpartisan government ethics watchdog group CREW this afternoon filing a complaint with the Delaware U.S. Attorney‘s Office and the Federal Election Commission, to charge campaign finance fraud.  CREW submitting as evidence the sworn affidavit of David Keegan, O‘Donnell‘s 2008 senatorial campaign financial adviser and fundraiser.  Keegan, the second former O‘Donnell campaign official to say so, alleging that she used campaign cash to pay her rent, as gas money, to pay for food, and for a bowling outing.

CREW was asking for an immediate criminal inquiry and a full audit from the FEC.  According to the group‘s director Melanie Sloan, quote, “Christine O‘Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crooks, she should be prosecuted.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee‘s new ad does not name their own candidate, Chris Coons.  Instead, they focus on what they and Karl Rove considered to be Republican O‘Donnell‘s flawed fiscal conservative resume.


NARRATOR:  O‘Donnell spends money she doesn‘t have, hired employees she didn‘t pay, stiffed businesses, didn‘t pay her taxes.  One of Christine O‘Donnell‘s former employees summed it up, “We were constantly trying to hold her back from spending.  She was financially completely irresponsible.”


OLBERMANN:  And, of course, you may have heard something about this witchcraft, witch/Satan stuff or as one might call it, the witchy leaks.  The degree to which the bizarre has entered the politics of 2010 never more neatly summarized when Bob Schieffer had to explain that O‘Donnell had canceled as his guest on “Face the Nation,” because, quoting Bob, “We‘re going to play that tape that begun making the rounds Friday night in which she said she once dabbled in witchcraft.  I‘m serious,” unquote.

That, of course, HBO‘s program, “Real Time.”  Its host, Bill Maher, revealed the existence of the tape that could damager her November hopes.  In October of 1999, as the leader of the anti-masturbation Christian group SALT, O‘Donnell made an appearance on Maher‘s ABC show at the time, “Politically Incorrect,” and she revealed an experiment that even shocked co-panelist, Jamie Kennedy.


O‘DONNELL:  I dabbled into witchcraft—I never joined a coven.  But, I did, I did.

JAMIE KENNEDY, ACTOR:  Wait a minute, you were a witch?


O‘DONNELL:  I didn‘t join a coven.  I didn‘t join a coven.  Let‘s get this straight.

KENNEDY:  Wait a minute.  I love this.  You were a witch.  How long it‘s been?

O‘DONNELL:  I was a witch.

KENNEDY:  I mean, wait a minute.  How were you be a witch?

O‘DONNELL:  Because I dabbled into witchcraft.  I hung around people who were doing these things.


O‘DONNELL:  I‘m not making this stuff up.  I know what they told me they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do they do?

O‘DONNELL:  In one of my dates—


MAHER:  Wait, wait, wait.  I want to hear about this.

O‘DONNELL:  One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn‘t know it.  I mean, there was a little blood there and stuff like that.

MAHER:  Your first date was at a satanic altar?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Yes.  We went to a movie and then like had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar.

MAHER:  Let‘s have a movie and a sacrifice?


O‘DONNELL:  Are you now or have you ever been a witch?  Mr. Maher says there‘s more where that came from.  So stay tuned.

As for O‘Donnell, after the clip aired, a scheduling conflict popped up and she was forced to cancel her Sunday appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS.  The candidate was so exhausted, she couldn‘t even speak through “FOX News Sunday, or something.


WALLACE:  Late Friday night, her campaign canceled, saying O‘Donnell was exhausted and had to return to Delaware.  Saturday morning, O‘Donnell called me and said this: “I got triple-booked.  I had been invited to go to church and then a picnic.  I have to keep my priorities to Delaware voters.”


OLBERMANN:  National TV, picnic.  Picnic, national TV.

So with no guest, FOX News went in house.  O‘Donnell‘s arch Republican nemesis, Karl Rove, addressed the witch problem instead.


KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  In southern Delaware, where there are a lot of church-going people, they‘re probably going to want to know, what was that all about?  My view is, she can‘t simply ignore it.  She‘s got to deal with it and explain it and put it in its most sympathetic light and move on.


OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin also tweeting in to help O‘Donnell, though not about the sympathetic light on the subject of witchcraft.  Quote, “C.  O‘Donnell‘s strategy, times limited, use it to connect with local voters whom you‘ll be serving vs appeasing nat‘l media seeking your destruction.”  Because that‘s what she always does.

And Palin has a story with those who thwart witchcraft, so she knows what she‘s talking about.  Maybe you recall this video of the 2005 sermon in which she partook as the mayor of Wasilla with Pastor Thomas Muthee.


THOMAS MUTHEE, PASTOR:  In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, every form of witchcraft, is what you rebuke in the name of Jesus.


OLBERMANN:  And somewhere, Christine O‘Donnell got a hangnail.

Back in Delaware, Sunday afternoon, the GOP picnic time—it was O‘Donnell‘s turn to rebuke every form of witchcraft herself.  The candidate gave her excuse for dabbling.


O‘DONNELL:  That witchcraft comment on Bill Maher, I was in high school!  How many of you didn‘t hang out with questionable folks in high school?  But, no, there‘s been no witchcraft since.  If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now.


O‘DONNELL:  So, let‘s put that to rest.


OLBERMANN:  We all hung out with questionable witches in high school.  What will not rest are the other comments and tapes of comments that have come to light.  Greg Sargent pointing out O‘Donnell‘s views on homosexuality circuit 2006.

From the “Wilmington News Journal,” O‘Donnell said, “People are created in God‘s image.  Homosexuality is an identity adopted through societal factors.  It‘s an identity disorder.”

And there‘s the trouble with being a cable news pundit.  They keep tapes of this stuff, you know.  Even this stuff, behold—a 2002 episode of “DONAHUE” on MSNBC.


O‘DONNELL:  Yes, the SALT is a Christian organization.  But, oh, I‘m biting my tongue during that whole—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell us what you want us to know.

O‘DONNELL:  First of all—first of all, the abortion lobby and the gay rights lobby had a much greater influence over Bill Clinton than any conservatives have over Bush, yet critics weren‘t whining when—whining about presidents catering to a base when the base was the atheistic left.  But when it doesn‘t meet their agenda, they do.  Second of all, about President Bush‘s stand against condoms—condoms will not protect you from AIDS.


OLBERMANN:  The Centers for Disease Control have the opposite opinion, and, of course, facts with which to back it up.

Finally, what once seemed so bizarre but now is almost an afterthought here, the missing tape of the O‘Donnell statement then had been considered the most ludicrous to date—scientists having created mice with fully functioning human brains.  Someone has released a bootleg version of the tape “The O‘Reilly Factor” doesn‘t want you to see.


O‘DONNELL:  They are doing that here in the United States.  American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals, and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.


OLBERMANN:  And guess who gets to follow that?

Alex Wagner, the White House correspondent for “Politics Daily.”

It‘s good to see you.

ALEX WAGNER, POLITICS DAILY:  Good to see you, too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The—we‘ll start with the serious part about this, the ethics allegations made by CREW.  Are they, indeed, serious and could they have anything to do with what we see in November?

WAGNER:  I think they‘re very serious.  I think the timing on them is a little irrelevant.  We‘re not going to see Christine O‘Donnell behind bars before November 2nd.  But if you read the allegation, it says in very plain language, Christine O‘Donnell is clearly a criminal.  They call her crook.  They call her an embezzler.  I mean, these are not things you want said about you six weeks before an election.

OLBERMANN:  So, you‘ve got CREW, you got the Democratic Senatorial Committee, you got Karl Rove, and now, two members of her old campaign staff going after her on the subject of finances.  How do voters even in the Tea Party era or year whistle past that graveyard?

WAGNER:  It‘s a fairly large tombstone.  You know, we know from polling and—well, if you‘ve been under a rock, then you don‘t know this.  But the economy is the number one issue for voters going into this election season.  The president spent hours today doing a town hall and talking about the economy.

For a candidate who, at best, has had reckless spending in her history, who‘s never had held a steady job and who‘s financial record is spotty, I think these are—this is dubious, for voters who care about the economy and who care about fiscal responsibility.  I‘m not quite sure because, you know, Christine O‘Donnell is their candidate.

OLBERMANN:  But given how willing people are to forgive when they want the candidate to be a success—

WAGNER:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  -- Vitter, John Ensign, whoever you want to name, anybody on the right, particularly, where it‘s like—oh, you don‘t do that anymore, we‘ll take your word for it.  If she got—she said, look, I was just saying what we all need to do in this economic crisis, creative means to my own economic problem.  Pull yourself up by your britches kind of—somebody would fall for that.

WAGNER:  Well, look—I mean, look, I think CREW is seizing this moment and saying, look, it can‘t just be about the battle of rhetoric.  We‘re going to bring justice into the equation.  We‘re going to bring in an actual—you know, we‘re going to—we‘re going to mount evidence.  We have affidavits, signed affidavits, from former campaign staff.  I mean, those are actual facts.

I mean, a criminal record is a very serious allegation.

OLBERMANN:  Does she need the state GOP at this point after the chairman now said that they‘ve endorsed her “whether I like it or not,” and Jim DeMint‘s PAC is saying they‘re going to give her a quarter of a million dollars to spend in Delaware.  Has she circum-routed them and does that say something to all the Republican state committees, like, you can be hijacked by the Tea Party, whether you like it or not?

WAGNER:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, I think—but I think, you know, I don‘t know that she needs the money from the state GOP, but I think she needs the veneer of acceptance.  And I think, you know, that‘s—the GOP is kind of coming around to this slowly but surely, Karl Rove even gave her a donation and an endorsement.  You know—and I think it‘s sort of, fall in line, GOP, because we‘re going to—we have to get behind her.

OLBERMANN:  OK, the witchcraft stuff.  Glenn Beck called this admission creepy, and that‘s a man who knows his creepy.  Does this actually do any damage to her?  Or is Rove wrong again?  And once again, the forgiveness factor on the right, if you say, I‘m a recovering witch-aholic, do they say, well, there‘s no zealot like a convert or what?

WAGNER:  Right.  Well, Halloween is coming up.


WAGNER:  Sweet—it‘s a sweet—it‘s sweet timing.  Look, I think, you know, Sarah Palin, as you showed, had dabbled in Pentecostalism, so did John Ashcroft.  We‘ve had sort of fringe religions in terms of candidates practicing them.  But going on a first date to satanic altar with blood is definitely out there.  This is a—the Tea Party has a very solid Christian base and we‘ll see if they accept, you know, Wiccan practices.

OLBERMANN:  Also, you might have another FEC problem because Halloween could then be one giant gift in kind if everyone dresses up as a witch.

But, lastly, even the witches today are upset with O‘Donnell, because they say they don‘t believe in Satan.  There would have been no blood on any altar that was connected with any real witch.  She even got the witch stuff wrong?

WAGNER:  You know what?  If she loses the witches—


WAGNER:  -- she‘s going to be dependent on the wizards.  And as we all know, wizards don‘t show up at the polls in midterm elections.

OLBERMANN:  Or at playoff time in the end.

Alex Wagner, the White House correspondent for “Politics Daily”—great thanks for bearing with us through all this.

WAGNER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Of course, Christine O‘Donnell‘s final seal of approval, or something, could only come from one place, “Apple Daily” animated news.  The newspaper is in Hong Kong, the computers are in Taiwan.  Warning: the following animation shows simulated scenes of simulated chickens being simulated choked.


OLBERMANN:  Keep choking that chicken.  Having already counted their chickens, the kingmakers behind the nomination of Ms. O‘Donnell and the other unspectacularly unqualified Tea Party candidates are now moving on to their next conquest, at making homosexuality illegal and unifying church and state.  Jim DeMint and the new theocracy—next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  The president got the recession to end in June of 2009, which is not much helping the unemployed in September of 2010.

It‘s Gaga versus McCain over “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

Could they have found a better name for the place he‘s going to be campaigning on Wednesday?

And the kingmaker‘s quote, “I think the slate of candidates we have for the Senate is as representative of America as we‘ve seen in a long time.”  That would be an ex-witchcraft dabbler living off her campaign funds, the anti-civil rights non-board certified ophthalmologist, the “God will help the pregnant girl raped by her father” candidate, and the dude with Don Johnson‘s 5:00 shadow.


OLBERMANN:  Christine O‘Donnell is the future of the Republican Party, what does the past of the Republican Party have to say about it?

In our fourth story tonight: the pillars of GOP moderation came out tonight against the Tea Part-ization of the GOP, but as always, not in any way that might actually do something about it.

Senator Jim DeMint, who helped both O‘Donnell and fellow Tea Partier Joe Miller of Alaska upset mainstream Republican members of Congress in this year‘s primaries, took his victory lap on CNN yesterday, and pointing out, correctly, that his party ran up the deficit the last time they were in power, he reiterated his decision that he would rather have a Tea Party minority in Congress than the Republican majority made up of mainstream Republicans, like, you know, him.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST:  Will you take any responsibility if the Republicans don‘t take control of the Senate?  If, for instance, they should lose in Delaware, someone you backed?

DEMINT:  I‘ll tell you this, the only reason we have a chance at a majority now is a large part for the candidates I‘ve been supporting.  Candy, if the Republican Party in the Senate was now symbolized by Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, we would not have the energy behind our candidates anywhere in the country.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Bush‘s former political adviser, Mr. Rove, however, added to speculation that O‘Donnell‘s primary win could cost the GOP that seat in November by adding that in the case of Alaska, DeMint‘s support of Miller‘s victory over incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski has led Murkowski to launch her write-in campaign which could, in turn, split Republican voters, and thereby benefit the Democrats.

Of course, some Tea Partiers want more than just tax cuts.  They want right-wing victories on social issues as well.  Senator Judd Gregg telling “The New York Times” that launching into social issues, quote, “will be overplaying our hand.”  Cue overplaying the hand.

Congressman Joseph Pitts telling the newspaper “The Hill,” GOP leaders have assured him abortion will be part of the Republican wish list to be released later this month.  Social conservatives are pushing for anti-gay measures as well and more government endorsement of Christianity.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC contributor, Dave Weigel, also political reporter for

Dave, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Senator DeMint claims the energy that his candidates are going to bring will make up for whatever support they lose from the moderates and the independents.  Is there any evidence for or against that yet?

WEIGEL:  Well, you just presented some of the evidence against that.  The thing that irritates some people about what DeMint‘s doing, and let‘s give him some credit—I mean, flip the script.  How much happier—how unhappy are Democrats with Joe Lieberman?  How unhappy would Republicans be with a Senator Mike Castle?

The problem Republicans have with DeMint is that it doesn‘t—we don‘t—they don‘t know how much research he put into these candidates and these states and these races before jumping in.  In Delaware, I know that he talked to Christine O‘Donnell a couple of times, but, you know, he didn‘t seem to understand or care about the reality on the ground there.

And that‘s happened with—the Tea Party Express and DeMint, Palin to a lesser extent, have kind of dive-bombed into states without much regard for what voters there might actually want to elect.  And that‘s why some of these Tea Party candidates are doing well, but they‘re doing worse than the moderates they beat were doing.  You know, Alaska‘s a great example.

OLBERMANN:  To that point, Susan Collins of Maine told “The Times,” “It is a new and shocking development to have a member of our conference,” and by that she means obviously Senator DeMint, “opposing incumbent Republicans.”

Is it, in fact, shocking at this point, or is it mostly shocking to her, because now it might be hitting close to home?

WEIGEL:  Oh, no.  It should have—the shock should have come in May, when Bob Bennett went down to Utah.  That wasn‘t a secret.  And that was a safer situation, though.  Republicans like her were not quite as worried about Utah, because that didn‘t endanger their risk of taking the Senate.  Someone like Olympia Snowe, someone like Susan Collins, stand some chance of power in the new Senate and they‘re going to lose it if Delaware goes or Alaska goes to Murkowski and she caucuses the wrong away or if it goes to Crist and he caucuses the wrong way.

And, you know, it is unusual.  I mean, Democrats may be—have a little bit—for all their messiness, have a little bit more ideological discipline, you know, the DNC spent a lot of money propping up Ben Nelson during the health care debate.  They kind of—they don‘t want to eat their young.  They‘re going to spend a lot of money defending Blue Dog Democrats.

I think she‘s shocked at the way the Republican Party has shifted in the past few years, because she came out—you know, she was elected, Snowe, in the ‘94 sweep.  She was elected as one of these candidates in that year that Republicans thought they had to nominate to have a chance.  She‘s not used to this new reality where you need to check out 10 points on a list to be credible to these voters.

OLBERMANN:  What happens, both to him, and more generally to that side of the political football if Senator DeMint is proved wrong?  What if the Tea Party candidates, at least to a majority, take a shellacking in November?

WEIGEL:  Well, it doesn‘t look likely right now and they‘re riding on a big wave of optimism because, you know—actually, Ralph Reed has kind of tended to jump into the Tea Party movement.  His organization, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, maybe he‘s being very optimistic, but he points out what DeMint points out—you get more excited voters, you‘re able to expand, possibly, the base of people who turn out.

So, as far as they‘re concerned, they might—they might end up winning with all these people.  The question is: what happens in the Senate if they end up winning?  If there‘s a slight Democratic majority or a slight Republican majority, and really rock-solid Republicans who don‘t want to compromise on anything, the Senate‘s not really built for that.  I mean, Democrats discovered that.  A 59-seat Senate majority is not enough to get simple nominations through.

And the country doesn‘t quite get that.  The country—I mean, some of these Tea Party candidates who would otherwise be losing are going to be elected by voters who just wish Washington would work better.  And they want people to come to the table.  They want stuff done.

That‘s not what these ideological candidates are doing.  I mean, it‘s blowing up the way the Senate works in a really unprecedented way.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but then again, Tea Party senators would work with the opposition, Republican senators.


OLBERMANN:  Dave Weigel, MSNBC contributor, also, of course

great thanks, Dave.


WEIGEL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The president and the public on the economy and the aftermath of good economic news that does not immediately help anybody.  And nice name for that campaign stop, Rudy Giuliani.


OLBERMANN:  The good news: the Bush recession ended in June of ‘09.  The bad news: the unemployed or unemployed under this president and he had a town hall on CNBC this afternoon about it.

First, the sanity break, and once again for the tweet of the day, we turn to Carlton Farmer, complete with illustration.  “Christine O‘Donnell, yes, Wiccan.”  The Wiccans, of course, are completely and correctly offended.  Still, it was that or another “touch yourself” joke, though she is getting quite a lot of buzz lately.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”


OLBERMANN:  We begin in Brussels, where over 100 waiters and waitresses have gathered for the 23rd annual fastest waiter race.  Contestants had to run, or actually, walk at a strong pace over a mile and a half course.  Each was given three glasses of pinot to carry.  The first person to finish with the glasses still full was the winner.

And this year, just like last year, David Bohne finished first.  He gets to take home the 380 euro prize plus tip.

Dateline: Berrien County, Michigan.  Another scofflaw who thinks they can outrun the police.  I‘m not sure what kind of car this is, but the driver thinks it‘s a Dodge Ram.  Pow, right in the kisser!  Apparently, once is not enough.  So this female driver pulls up and then slams into the officer yet again.  Deciding not to stop and exchange insurance information.  The driver then turns around and attempts to hit the cop car head-on. 

Eventually, the chase continues with the wannabe demolition derby driver again ramming the police car, this time from the back.  The perpette (ph) was eventually tracked down and captured.  She‘ll have plenty of time to learn better defensive driving skills—yep, that‘s it.  Good night, everybody—in the big house!

Listvianka (ph), Russia, hello!  And we travel deep under the Baikal lake, where for some reason a group of divers are racing bikes underwater.  They don‘t seem to be moving very quickly or even staying on the bikes, but they‘re still trying.  Isn‘t that the most important part?  If you thought underwater biking was pointless, say hello to underwater-skiing.  I don‘t think this form of water skiing will become more popular than the surface version, but underwater biking is already the most popular form for people over the age of 12.  And time marches on.

Verification that good economic news does not a good economic town hall make.  And Rudy Giuliani shows you why you never, ever accept an invitation to a campaign rally before hearing the name of the place first.


OLBERMANN:  The good news for President Obama is that the great recession ended in June of 2009.  The bad news for President Obama is that the great recession has been over since June 2009.  And that, in our third story tonight, was the quandary the president was wrestling with at today‘s town hall.  The National Bureau of Economic Research, the people who call the shots on these things, announced today its finding that the recession that started in December of 2007 did not come to an end until June of last year.  At 18 months, it was the longest since World War II. 

Mr. Obama‘s problem, of course, is that, just as in the Bush era, economic growth does not mean the middle class is growing too.  Unemployment continues to hover just below 10 percent.  Yesterday, Obama endorser Colin Powell, Bush‘s secretary of state, said the president had overwhelmed Americans by trying to do too much.  At his town hall today, the president defended his record by pointing out how much of what he has done protects Americans from really being overwhelmed. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If you have a mortgage or a credit card or any kind of financial dealings out there, as a consequence of the changes we made, the credit card companies can‘t increase your interest rate without notifying you, and they can‘t increase your interest rate on your previous balances.  In terms of getting a mortgage, you can‘t have a mortgage broker steer you to a mortgage that ultimately is going to cost you more money, because maybe they‘re getting a financial incentive to do so.  Those things are now against the law. 

So there are a whole host of protections in there.  You are a parent who has children.  If your children, heaven forbid, had a pre-existing condition—before I took office, you were out of luck in terms of being able to get health insurance for that child.  Now insurance companies have to give you health insurance for that child.  And by the way, that health insurance company can‘t drop you if you get sick. 

So there are a whole host of things that we‘ve put in place that do make your life better. 


OLBERMANN:  Listening to the real people asking today—questions at today‘s town hall, though, seemed to suggest that for many Obama supporters, the problem is he hasn‘t done enough. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m one of your middle class Americans.  And quite frankly, I‘m exhausted.  I‘m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.  I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class.  I‘m one of those people, and I‘m waiting sir.  I‘m waiting.  I don‘t feel it yet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was really inspired by you and by your campaign and the message that you brought.  And that inspiration is dying away.  It feels like the American dream is not attainable to a lot of us.  And what I‘m really hoping to hear from you is several concrete steps that you‘re going to take moving forward that will be able to reignite my generation, reignite the youth who are beset by student loans. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives.  But quite frankly, it‘s starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we‘re headed again.  And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly.  Is this my new reality? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is the American dream dead for me? 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also the author of “Renegade, The Making of a President.”  Richard, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  How do you run a political campaign in a country that seems to be polarized between, for god‘s sakes, stop, and for god‘s sakes, get going? 

WOLFFE:  That‘s a good question.  One thing you hear from those kinds of questions is not just how tough the recession was, but how hard it can be to run politics after a recession.  Ask the first President Bush.  Ask President Clinton in the first few years of his term.  It‘s—the memory of the pain is so real that people don‘t see what‘s happened to the economy, how far it‘s traveled. 

What you have to do, in the start of your question, is how do you campaign—not how do you govern in that situation.  And there‘s a scenario that many of Obama‘s supporters won‘t want to think about, but it is relevant here.  In 2004, President Bush was faced with a very difficult political situation.  The war in Iraq was going badly.  A civil war starting up.  There were no weapons of mass destruction.  The economy wasn‘t doing so great. 

What did he do?  He demonized the other side.  He made John Kerry absolutely incompatible with the American dream, the American spirit.  He was unacceptable as an alternative.  And that‘s where some Democrats are taking this midterm election now, saying the other side is totally unacceptable, even if you‘re unhappy with what you‘ve got right now. 

OLBERMANN:  The president‘s own answer about his accomplishment, it amounted to, as it has amounted to for more than a year, I protected you from things that did not happen.  This is somewhat akin to someone walking around claiming that he keeps the tigers away and you should keep him on the job doing so.  That approach works.  Talking about President Bush, you can ask him about how he protected you from things that didn‘t happen.  But even if he does keep the tigers away, if most Americans never saw the tiger in the jungle or don‘t believe there was a tiger, how do you make that pitch? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I think people actually saw the tigers.  These weren‘t fake tigers, OK?  These are real people who really lost their jobs.  And I bet you that most of the people watching the show tonight will know of people who are unemployed, who have struggled between jobs, who cannot find work right now. 

So this is a real lived problem.  It‘s not fake.  It‘s not some threat that you never see.  And what the administration hasn‘t done and what it likes to think it has done is tell the stories of the people who have been saved.  And part of the problem is there‘s stimulus money that was spent, 800 billion dollars, a huge amount of money, was really devoted to people who were on the front lines, who saved their jobs in public schools, the firefighters, the police officers.  The state governors are basking in the glory of that, or they‘re not telling the story at all.  The administration has not rolled out those people and said, these people would not be working were it not for our policies. 

There‘s no human face to this.  There‘s the president who is talking about his policies in a rather abstract, intellectual way.  And that‘s why it‘s not connecting. 

OLBERMANN:  From the politics of it to the actual policy and the continuing attempt to resuscitate the economy to full strength; most Americans don‘t have a grasp of how widespread the economic stagnation was during the Bush administration.  That was the first time in decades that the next generation actually was expected to be less well off than its predecessor.  If this president can only claim to have stopped things from getting worse, does he have a chance now of not just making things better, but of starting to reverse that stagnation from the Bush administration? 

WOLFFE:  It‘s going to take a very long time.  And we have to realize that there are structural shifts in this economy that has been going on through western economies for many decades, and they‘ve finally caught up with us.  So if you look at the administration‘s projections, high unemployment is here through the next election, and well into the president‘s term, should he get one—a second term, should he get one. 

So I hear a lot of revisionists from the Bush people, who say that things were a lot better than this situation.  They kind of air brush out their own recessions.  But when you look at it—look at the kind of hole that we got into here, it‘s going to take a very, very long time, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC contributor Richard Wolffe.  As always, Richard, great thanks. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Lady Gaga campaigns against Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell in a state with two wavering senators, one of whom tonight says she wants more debate and more time. 

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona must now—I apologize for that.  Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has now lied in interviews in two different languages.  Worst Persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a look at what Christine O‘Donnell‘s website does not tell you.  I hear bells.  Bells.


OLBERMANN:  Lady Gaga tries to convince Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to vote for the Defense Authorization Bill that also repeals Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.  Senator Snowe asks for more time.  That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s Worst Persons in the world. 

The bronze to whoever is doing Rudy Giuliani‘s scheduling for him.  He‘ll be appearing day after tomorrow with an upstate New York congressional candidate at a local auto parts place in Castleton on Hudson, southeast of Albany.  The name of the auto place Mayor Giuliani will be visiting, Total Tool.  I mean, can‘t you try to make this difficult for me? 

The runner up, Republican and Tea Party New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Mr. Happy Paladino.  If he‘s trying to improve his reputation as a dyspeptic, condescending fringer, he is not doing it very well.  He sent Democratic favorite Andrew Cuomo another letter today challenging him to a debate.  It includes this memorable typo: “you want to cut out the black candidate and the woman candidate.  I imagine you don‘t want the Green Party candidate their too.”

I‘m assuming he means T-H-E-R-E there, not T-H-E-I-R there.  Although it could be T-H-E-R-E-T-O.  Paladino also questions Cuomo‘s, quote, cojones, four separate times, including, “So Andrew, for the first time in your life, be a man.  Come out and debate like a man.”

Because see a real man, he sends e-mail out with porno in it.  Got it? 

And pictures of dames mating with horses.  See? 

But our winner, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona.  When you got a winner, stick with it.  In an interview of Jorge Ramos of Univision, she repeated her previous assistance that a majority of undocumented immigrants are drug mules.  “I think that it has increased.  If you‘re coming across with the drug cartels and you‘re hauling drugs, then you are.  And they‘re probably not doing it willingly.  They are probably not doing it willingly.”

As to her other thigh slapper, her claim that headless bodies were turning up in the Arizona desert, presumably victims of undocumented, illegal, immigrant worker drug mule zombies, “I did and I apologized for that.  I apologized for that, and I did that immediately.” 

Seventy eight days.  She said it first on June 17th and apologized for it on September 3rd, immediately.  If I completed this farce by saying Governor Brewer also told Mr. Ramos that she has many Hispanic friends whom she loves from the bottom of her heart, you‘d probably think I was making it up.  But I‘m not.  She said that too. 

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  He had plenty of time to send a Tweet to Snooki over a federal tanning tax.  But when asked by a decidedly more credible pop culture figure to stand up against Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, John McCain went silent.  Our number one story, on the eve of a crucial Senate vote, Lady Gaga takes her equality show on the road to Maine, targeting two more Republican senators.  The repeal of the policy, which is folded into a larger defense authorization bill, will go to the Senate floor tomorrow for a vote.  As of now, the Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to begin debate, which is where Senators Collins and Snowe come in. 

Collins previously voted for a provision to repeal Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell in committee, but has not indicated how she will vote tomorrow.  Today, Senator Snowe says she wants more time, echoing the sentiment from Minority Leader McConnell, “let‘s wait until the military releases its review of the policy,” which just happens to be after the midterm elections.  “Given that the law implementing the Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy has been in place for nearly 17 years,” Senator Snowe said, “I agree that it‘s overdue for a thorough review.  The question is whether we should be voting on this issue before we have the benefit of the comprehensive review that President Obama‘s secretary of defense ordered.”

Which is where Lady Gaga come in.  The singer has been drumming up support for the repeal, bringing discharged service members with her to the MTV Video Music Awards, Tweeting in support of Majority Leader Reid‘s move to bring the bill for a vote, and encouraging her fans to call their senators and urging them to vote for repeal. 


STEFANI JOANNE ANGELINA GERMANOTTA, LADY GAGA:  My name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also known as Lady Gaga.  I‘m calling to ask the senator to vote with Senators Harry Reid and Carl Levin to repeal Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell and oppose John McCain‘s shameless filibuster.  We‘re not asking you to agree with or approve the moral implications of homosexuality.  We‘re asking you to do your job to protect the Constitution. 


OLBERMANN:  Late this afternoon, alongside the Service Members Legal Defense Fund, Gaga spoke at a rally in Portland, Maine, in an effort to pressure Collins and Snowe.  She called them out.  She called McCain out.  She even called Scott Brown out, and told soldiers who continue to serve with prejudice to go home. 

Gaga explaining that equality is the prime rib of America and everyone should have the right to wear the same meat dress. 


GERMANOTTA:  If the Senate and the president are not going to repeal this Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy, perhaps they should be more clear with us about who the military is fighting for, who our tax dollars are supporting, and ultimately how much does the prime rib cost?  Because I thought this was an all you can eat buffet.  This equality stuff, I thought equality meant everyone. 


OLBERMANN:  Here with us now, former special assistant to President Bill Clinton and the senior White House adviser on gay rights from 1997 to 1999, Richard Socarides.  Mr. Socarides, thank you for your time. 


OLBERMANN:  What happens if the Democrats don‘t get enough votes tomorrow? 

SOCARIDES:  Well, they‘re very close.  This is the closest we‘ve ever been.  The thinking is that we have 59 votes for repeal tomorrow.  We need just one—probably just one more.  But the concern, of course, is that with the political dynamic so fluid and with the midterms coming up, that if we don‘t get it through tomorrow, that the math will change and it will be much harder after the midterms, if not impossible.  And this law may be around for a lot longer than anybody had hoped. 

OLBERMANN:  President Clinton was for open service, and Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell was considered a compromise.  Where did it go wrong? 

SOCARIDES:  Well, you‘re absolutely right.  And he wanted open service and this was the compromise that he thought he could get with Colin Powell and with Sam Nunn.  I think the problem was that the military didn‘t live up to their end of the bargain.  The deal was that if you were private about your private life, you were going to be allowed to serve, even if you were gay or lesbian.  And you know, I wasn‘t in the room, but reportedly Colin Powell, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, told Bill Clinton that you could go to a gay rights rally and still serve in the military, so long as when you went to work, when you were in your service capacity, that you were private about your sexual orientation. 

And they didn‘t live up to that bargain.  What they did instead was started these witch hunts against people. 

OLBERMANN:  So if the Pentagon support of the repeal now is one of the predicates of actually getting the repeal—and it has been in the slow introduction of this process by President Obama—once again, are the politicians relying on the promises of the warriors to do this correctly and to live up to their word on the subject? 

SOCARIDES:  Well, I think it‘s been a very delicate balance.  I mean, you know, the thinking has been that Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen actually do support a slow transition to open service.  But right underneath them with the service chiefs and some of the other senior officers at the Pentagon, these very entrenched interests have been fighting against this policy.  And they know they can‘t win, because almost 80 percent of the American public support repeal of this law. 

But I think the thinking has been—and they‘ve been very clever about this—that if they stall, if they delay, if they wait to see if the political environment changes, if the composition of Congress changes, that maybe they can stave this off.  If they‘re able to accomplish this, it will be a horrific fraud on the American people, and really a massive failure of leadership at the Pentagon, at Congress, and even at the White House, because they waited too long. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it interesting to you, apart from any investment in this, that one place that there has not been a failure of leadership would be somebody who would—entered into this as the least likely of public figures, not necessarily to take on this issue, but to be credible and forceful and obviously damned serious about it in Lady Gaga.  I mean, it sounds in Congress, but it seems to be, she really gets the A plus on the whole scoreboard. 

SOCARIDES:  She does.  Someone said, you know—and there‘s that line about President Obama, where‘s our fierce advocate?  Because he said he would be a fierce advocate for gay rights.  And “The Advocate” magazine wrote about her, that we have found our fierce advocate.  She has lent the power of her celebrity to this cause.  I think Americans—Americans who care about this and her fans have been very grateful, because I think she‘s made a difference. 

OLBERMANN:  I understand that she had a conversation with Senator Gillibrand this afternoon.  And does her pressure seem to be having any impact on particularly Snowe and Collins in Maine? 

SOCARIDES:  And Senator Gillibrand has been one of the leaders of repeal.  She‘s been really terrific.  She‘s been really out there.  Washington is a strange place.  I worked there for ten years.  I worked at the White House, and before that I worked in Congress.  It shines a light on what is happening.  It shines a bright light. 

It makes it much more transparent on what‘s happening.  But Collins and Snowe, who say they‘re for repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, are now—will probably vote against repeal tomorrow so they can vote with their leadership.  And that‘s what she‘s shining a light on.  That‘s what she‘s exposing, this horrible fraud that‘s happening tomorrow—that looks like it may happen tomorrow on the American public. 

OLBERMANN:  So if they don‘t have the votes tomorrow, do you think the Democrats would actually pull this out of the Defense Authorization Act?  Is that where it‘s going to go? 

SOCARIDES:  It‘s probably—tomorrow is the last best chance for this.  If it doesn‘t happen tomorrow, it‘s going to go away until after the election.  We‘re going to see what the new composition of Congress is.  The president is—President Obama since he was—became president, has had the ability to stop these discharges by either DOD regulation or by executive order, and I think if this does not go through tomorrow, the pressure on him will mount to do that before the election.  And I would urge him to do that.  I think it‘s very important that we take that stand for non-discrimination; 80 percent of the American public support it.  Most Republicans support it. 

It‘s now getting lost in this procedural maneuvering leading up to the midterms. 

OLBERMANN:  He might as well take it on himself. 

SOCARIDES:  I hope he does. 

OLBERMANN:  Things aren‘t going to get any worse for him. 

SOCARIDES:  It would him in the election. 

OLBERMANN:  It probably would?  Richard Socarides, former senior White House adviser on gay rights, great thanks for coming on. 

SOCARIDES:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s September 20th.  It‘s the 2,699th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,888th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and 154th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. 

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



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